Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Beware the MANCHESTER Myth-Makers




Every day is a Learning Day, a chance to receive new information, but it’s rare you get a real, honest-to-goodness, slap-in-the-face piece of Inconvenient Truth. For me, it happened recently, the day I was busy telling people that I wrote the ‘Mickey from Manchester’ crime fiction thriller series of novels, and one man joked: ‘Oh, Manchester. I can imagine what that’s like!’


The point is, of course, that No, he can’t imagine what that’s like. He can’t. He can’t know what it’s like if he doesn’t know, and he can’t ‘imagine’ if he has to make it up, and anyway, I don’t write about the ‘real’ Manchester - so he can only guess what that might involve!


One thing at a time. For a person who lives in Southern England, they might think they ‘know’ about Manchester, in the sense that they hear about it, maybe on radio or in social media, and maybe see it, on The News, or other television programmes, (like the recent BBC documentary about the housing boom in Manchester). But, if it’s not housing, the ‘news’ about Manchester is likely to be only about drug gangs, shootings and stabbings, or perhaps, the occasional terrorist outrage, some bomb or other. These are the regular components of News bulletins. If you watch such stuff, you’re liable to see distraught residents, bemoaning the latest assault, and you’re liable to think, ‘Wow, I certainly don’t want to live in that War Zone’. In which case, you might be forgiven for forgetting that knife crime in London is higher than anywhere else in the country, and that violent crime in Glasgow is the highest in the United Kingdom. But Hey, we’re talking Facts here, and I’m as dependent on the media News as you are, for hearing about True Crime in this city. And, unfortunately for you, I don’t usually bother with such things, anyway. I write Crime Fiction, which makes my original Critic’s comment irrelevant. Even if Manchester was as gun-totin’ as 1930s Chicago, the only way he could be correct that he ‘knew’ what my books are like, is if I did him the honour of limiting my Manchester novels to reflecting life in this place, as it is. I don’t. Far from it.


But that’s talking about mere impressions gained from the Media. What about actual experience? What if you knew this city? What if you had actually visited? Well, I’ve had plenty of relatives come to stay, usually for short amounts of days, and I’ve spoken to people who have been here on business. All those people agree that they have only seen a small amount of the place while they were here, and, since Manchester is a city of a million people, it would be true to say that they hadn’t talked to anything but a fraction of the residents. So, visitors get a fragmentary idea of what the place is like, simply because they haven’t got time to do anything else. But, of course, it’s worse than that. I met a young man in Oxford who had been at University in Manchester. For Goodness’ sake, he was here for three years! And yet, he knew the Uni buildings, where to go for lectures and tutorials, he knew the sites of lots of bars, takeaway food shops and night-clubs, but his sojourn in the city hadn’t given him any information - as far as I could tell - about the culture, the history, or recent crises, conflicts and on-going issues. (Some student! I hope he learned something while he was here.)


But, the one thing my young student friend and I could agree on was where things were, not just shops, but also concert halls and football stadiums. Plus, he knew how to get around, the taxis, trams and trains. Well, as I’ve often said: ‘I always get the geography right’. If my hero Mickey walks down Chapel Street in Salford, passing Salford Central train station on his right, and crosses the road and walks up the steps of the URC church, you can be sure those places are there. They actually exist. Now, you might ask, is that because, Mike, you’ve taken advice from ‘How to Write 101’ and you ‘write about what you know’? No, not really. Not only did I learn from attending Writing Workshops, I went on to teaching them myself, and my advice evolved into something different. I told my pupils, ‘START by writing ‘what you know’, and make that the launchpad into your story, when your imagination runs free’. In my example, my hero Mickey walks into the church to attend an Art Exhibition, (which actually happened), but then someone asks him for help in bringing some tables down from the attic. The truth is that the building doesn’t have an upper floor, let alone an attic, (it was blown off by a falling bomb in the Second World War), but - in the story - Mickey gets trapped and has to break through into the building next door, then open a hatch to drop into an office there, much to the surprise of the workers. The sad truth is that the church has no connection with the buildings adjacent. In fact, there is an alleyway between the church and the nearest building. Mickey’s entrapment, AND his escape - dear reader - is total imagination.


I’m sorry, I can’t apologise for that. It’s true I write books under a series heading of ‘Mickey from Manchester’ and that most of the bits of the story that concern the city are fantasy, (apart from the geography), but then, I do advertise it as Crime ‘Fiction’, so I have never set out to mislead anyone. On the contrary, I seek to entertain. You might say I am basing my tales in a ‘Mythical Manchester’, a place that only exists in my imagination, but, you see, what I’m trying to say is that MY imaginary land is no more ‘real’ than the imaginary hell-hole of drug gangs that the first speaker assured me was the ‘true’ place, somewhere not worth reading about. In fact, it might be true that my stories set in HIS imagination would be depressing, since all his myths are the negative, threatening and violent kind. Luckily, my ‘mind palace’ is nothing like as downbeat as his. It’s made-up, which means that in my world the Good Guys win and Justice is served. As author, I’ve got the power to deliver that. Oh, and one more thing. Yes, my stuff is made up. So, my protagonist is called - Well, his name isn’t even Mickey! That’s just another ‘mystery’, revealed in a recent volume. ‘Mickey’ is his Dad. If you want to find out my hero’s real name, you’ll need to read Book 17 of the related series, the ‘Amelia Hartliss Mysteries’. Sorry, but it’s true!

 Author Mike Scantlebury takes a selfie with a friend 

Thursday, August 20, 2020


 "You're so wrong. You CAN tell a book by looking at the cover" (they say)


My mother had a saying, ‘You can’t tell a book by looking at the cover’, which seems like a sensible enough phrase or saying, and something that mothers might quote at regular intervals and hand down to their children. Unfortunately, she was wrong, dead wrong, and there a million people in Britain, for instance, who would stand up and disagree with her totally, (if she was here). How do I know? Because they are the people who go to an on-line book-store like Amazon and choose their ‘next book to read’ by looking at the picture on the front, first. How do I know that? Because Amazon gives people like me - an author and a self-publisher - that very advice: “Make a big effort to design or commission a striking cover or you may struggle to make sales”. That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? You can’t argue with that. However, it begs a question: who are these stupid people, and why do they behave so nonsensically?


You see, I’m not a philosopher, but even I can spot a False Association when I see one. What does ‘great cover’ have to do with ‘great contents’? Are people seriously saying that they believe that the artist who prepares the cover design has some kind of telepathic link with the author of the story that forces them to make a a top-flight product? One inspires the other (or vice versa). What universe does that happen in? Not this one! Most writers produce a manuscript and have it prepared for publication by a traditional publisher (self-publishers are still in the minority). So the reality is that the person who organises the cover designer is not the creator of the written work but the desk-bound organiser of printing and distribution. No, if you’re really interested in what ‘reality’ looks like, then you’ll soon be able to appreciate that the two things - cover and contents - may or may not both be wonderful, and the chances are that one of them is not so good, (and that could be either). So, if you actually look at the books on your shelf for one minute, you will soon find a great cover/poor story combination just as readily as you will find the opposite, poor cover/great novel, and that the winning team - great cover/great novel - are actually quite rare.


Sorry to be such a downer. But then, reading Fiction is all about inhabiting worlds of fantasy, so why not invent an alternate reality where covers and contents have a mystical link that has a causal effect: writing a marvellous manuscript will instantly create the conditions where the artist will move to the top of their game, and come up with the goods, a really nice, thrilling cover. Or maybe, it isn’t either of those two that makes such a miracle happen. Maybe the real Wizard is the publisher. Perhaps the sequence is - publisher discovers absolutely impressive story and goes out of their way to commission the best artist to give that work the launch it truly deserves, with a cover that matches the genius of its printed words?


Yeah, I agree. Unlikely. No, much more possible is the reality of the False Association. You’re given a really nice wine, it has a picture of a cottage on the label, and after that, you assume that all wine with rustic scenes on the bottle will taste good. Sound familiar? Maybe yes, once upon a time, you picked out a book featuring a man with strong arms riding a horse and, surprise, surprise, the story inside swept you off your feet. You seriously think that the next book with a picture of man and horse will be equally as thrilling? Why? Got any logical reason for assuming such a weird combination? No, what we’re really dealing with here is the way that Modern Life works. We watch television and see advertisements where glamorous models put gunk on their faces to make them attractive. We copy them, in the hope we’ll look good too - ignoring the fact they looked good before the make-up. We didn’t. After the mascara, they still look good. We don’t.


Or, we spend our time in the outrageously named ‘Reality Television’, where famous faces pretend to be camping out in the jungle, or pursuing romance with each other in Chelsea and Cheshire. This is actually a new genre, created in the last twenty years, called ‘Semi-Scripted Improvisation’. It certainly isn’t ‘real’, but we choose to believe it. We believe what we SEE. The pictures are there, and we accept - without question - the story they tell. So, it’s no surprise then that a glossy picture on the front of a book should be broadcasting a message that says, ‘This book is in the wonderful world of ‘Excellence’. You like the pic? You’ll love the tale’, and we choose to swallow the sales pitch whole, without question. Just like a pair of jeans wrapped in a celebrity endorsement, it’s much more fun entering into the make-believe existence, than having to walk the streets in plain old trousers. It’s much more exciting to accept that ‘good cover EQUALS good insides’, than having to live in a world where books are random, some good, some bad, and the only way to actually distinguish between them is to try them. That would be too personal. After all, how many people KNOW what they like? It’s simpler - and that’s the bottom line - to have guidance, and a striking cover is just that. It says: ‘Hey, Reader, pick me. I look good, but that’s not all - I taste good too’. Sure you do, Mr Book Cover. Sure you do.


Monday, May 18, 2020

The 5-star Fallacy

Why 'Five Stars' is not a buyer's Guarantee

I’m an author. I tell stories. So here’s a story for you.

Imagine that I’m at a Literary Convention or Crime Fiction Conference and someone comes up to me and says: “Oh, you’re Mike Scantlebury. You know, Mike, I’ve been aware of your books for many years, but I’ve never bought one. I’ve always noticed that you don’t have many 5-star reviews, so I’ve passed. Still, last week, I saw that you’d suddenly gained ten 5-stars on your new book, so I bought it. It’s great, I have to tell you.”

Okay, so what do I say, in this scenario? Do I say, ‘Well, I’m sorry you missed out for so many years. But hey, it’s good news that you’ve finally given me a try. Thanks.’ No, what I actually will say is: “You must be an awfully stupid person, to base your purchases simply on other people’s opinions, and to think that I’d actually be grateful that you’ve finally seen the error of your ways.”

Because that person - THAT person - is going to be the same person who goes to Korea for their holidays, (the South one, the free one) and goes into a restaurant with their family to look for something to eat. They find the menu a bit confusing, so look round, and see a family on another table having a good time, tucking into steaming stew and rice. ‘What are they eating?’ they ask the waiter. ‘It looks good. We’ll have what they’re having.’ “Oh, that,” the waiter says. “That’s curry. It’s very nice.” But the youngest member of the family, being suspicious, says: ‘What kind of curry is it? What’s the meat?’, and the waiter says: “Dog”.

Now, I don’t mean to criticise Korean culture, but the fact is that it’s different to most countries in the West, and here, here in the West, we tend to not eat dog for dinner. In fact, in Britain, you’re more likely to be lynched for killing a dog in a road accident than applying an axe to your Mother-in-law. It’s just our culture. Their’s is different. But on the subject of buying books, there seems to be a culture of precisely that, following others, no matter what. ‘I’ll have what he’s having’, is exactly what book buyers say, all the time. They see 5-star reviews and they assume, ‘That person likes it. Well, I’m bound to like it too’. Why? Why is that? What could possibly make you think that other people’s opinion would match your own? Are you still an impressionable teenager? Remember when your Mother said: ‘Why are you wearing that?’ and you said, “All my friends are wearing these things these days”, and your Mother said, ‘If your friends started jumping off a cliff, would you do that?’

Well, the answer is, if you’re a teenager, ‘Yes’. Yes, you would do what everyone else is doing. But listen, people, you grew up. You started making your own life. You got a job. So, what happened? Did you get the job everyone else was getting? Did you buy the car that everyone else is buying? Did you buy a house because everyone else is becoming a ‘Home Owner’? Did you start eating dog?

The point, of course, is that your Mother was right. There has to be a limit to copying. You can emulate the most popular kid in the class when you’re at school, but it’s a poor philosophy to take into the Adult world. Yet - and yet - most book buyers seem to have done just that. They scan the online book-stores and the only question they are asking themselves is: ‘What is everyone else buying, because THAT is what I want’. How sad. How pathetic. I always imagined that growing up would result in having a mind of my own, and having the freedom to make my own choices. That means that when I see someone walking down the street in a polka-dot dress, I have the maturity to say, ‘On them it looks nice, but I don’t think it’s the right thing for me’, and the same thing follows in the wonderful world of books. Let’s be specific. I was on a train a few years ago, going down to London. On my walk up to the Buffet car to get a coffee, I counted four people reading ’50 Shades of Grey’. Good for them, I thought. But it’s not for me. They’re choosing to read that unbelievable tosh, but it’s not a choice I’d make. I know my own mind.

If only. If only more people would wake up in the morning, brush their teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Human Being, not a sheep, and I refuse to follow the flock’. Unfortunately, that’s a rare quality. Because the statistics speak for themselves. A book is awarded 5 stars and its sales go up. People buy what other people are buying. People like what other people like. Let’s face it: most people really are sheep.

Click HERE for Mike's new novel

Saturday, May 16, 2020

More about 'The Reviews Rebellion'

2020 - The Reviews Rebellion comes of age

You might have heard of SEO - but you probably heard wrong.
You may have been told that SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and it’s something that all website owners and bloggers have to do in order to get found. They plant ‘keywords’ in headings and in meta-data, and there’s plenty of people out there who will accept your money and show you how to do it right. If you don’t know what meta-data is, think of a parking-meta, and imagine putting coins in it, over and over and over again.
However, there’s another definition of SEO, and that’s ‘Somebody Else’s Opinion’, and it’s the most poisonous thing on the internet.
You see, the World Wide Web is a wonderful thing and brings knowledge, information and goods into everyone’s living room. Whatever you want, it’s available. Whether it’s facts, cars, soap, books or songs, you can find it with a few clicks and buy it with a few more. Whatever you want, it’s there for you.
Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to know what they want, and have to be told.
They might know they want something to read, and are thinking about an Adventure or a bit of Romance, but which book? This is where SEO comes into its own. You don’t need an opinion when you can always use somebody else’s. All you have to do is browse the web and find out what everyone else is buying, then buy that. Find out what everyone else is talking about, and there’s your topic of conversation. Find out what everyone else is looking like, and there’s your choice of clothes, haircut, suntan and tattoo sorted. Use SEO and you’ll never have to think again.
It might seem outrageous to intrude on your democratic right to make a decision, but SEO rules in the online world. Why? Because it suits the big online shop owners. They need to know how many books, or CD’s, or bottles of perfume they need to produce this month, and there’s no better way of predicting the market than getting the so-called ‘Influencers’ to talk up the products, and Bingo, sales follow the graph. Otherwise, life would be wildly unpredictable. You’d never know what the public was going to like next - which fashion, which tune, dance or smell they were going to start to go for tomorrow. The ‘market’ couldn’t stand for that. So, the easy answer, is to tell people what to buy. It’s pure psychology. Those poor shoppers, dazed and confused, overwhelmed by choice, they’re suckers for an Authority, an authoritative voice, somebody who seems to know what they’re talking about, saying, ‘This book’, ‘That soap’, ‘That holiday’, ‘THAT is the one you want’. Yes, you do. You know you do. Take the advice and stop floundering. It makes the world more safe and predictable. You know you like it.
It might not matter so much in the madcap world of clothes, pop music and careers, but in the small universe of books, it’s completely disastrous. Especially as that arena is still home to a plethora of small producers - the individual writers - and small distributors, the Mom and Pop stores that are the small publishers. Here, SEO is killing diversity, originality and opportunity for new authors. Every new book, every new writer, has to be turned inside out, and examined in all areas by a self-appointed clique of Judges. Their verdicts are delivered in the same way as they do on TV Talent Shows - they award points, (and Points Mean Prizes). In the case of books, it’s Stars that get given, and it’s a matter of economic Life or Death whether you get a Five or a Two. Five means big houses, exotic holidays and a Guest Spot at the Literary Convention. A bunch of Twos means life continues at the school, Library or whatever Coffee Shop or Burger Bar that is willing to give you employment while you work on your new story.
It certainly wouldn’t matter so much if online book-stores like Amazon didn’t determine everything - placement, promotion, publicity and support - by a sliding scale dictated by the number of stars. It’s a ‘Tyranny of the Stars’. Your rating and ranking as an author isn’t decided by the Academy or the Nobel Prize committee in Norway, it’s solely a product of adding up all the little pointy things, looking around, and seeing who’s got most.
Some authors have known for years that this wasn’t helping them. The first ‘Reviews Rebellion’ started in the 1990s, when the internet was still a baby, or, at least, a loud-mouthed teenager. Now, in 2020, the era of the Reviews Refusers has really come of age. More and more writers are quietly declining the offer of a ‘free’ review, (on the understanding that the donation of a free book will result in a written review online). The promise of reviews is now seen as a poison chalice, which comes with too many unpleasant strings attached. Far better for the author to by-pass this deadly system and try and make contact with readers direct. After all, that’s why most people write books - to talk to an audience, NOT to a Jury of judgement makers and opinion formers. “Don’t take ‘Other’ people’s opinions” is a call to arms, a challenge to the existing iniquitous system. It’s time to let go of SEO, stand up and make up your own mind - while you’ve still got one that’s functional.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: Writing Crime fiction, part 1

Mike is back in the hot seat, but this time it's a chair, not the settee.
He wants to be comfortable because he has some experience to share. Like with 'Expectations'. No, it's not Great Expectations, but the little expectations that readers have when they pick up a book with the label 'Crime Fiction' on it. They're looking for a Detective? Maybe. Like a cop or a policeman. Or maybe a Private Detective, not a Private Eye or a handsome hero. Whatever, you, the writer need to be thinking like a reader too, aware of what your little story might be looking like, before it even starts telling anyone anything.
Luckily we've got Mike here to explain it all. He can do it much better than me.

Part 1 of the story

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: "Shrink the Social Media"

Wow, it's the same sofa, Man. Yes, Mike hasn't got up off that chair since the last lesson.
He's so keen to share that he's skipped lunch, dinner and tea, and is living off plain water with a hint of lemon. If he doesn't get a Ginger biscuit in a few minutes, he's just going to keel over with exhaustion. Go, Mike. Go! Give your message and get on out. Raid the fridge

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: "The answer is Yes"

If you like your education like a slap in the face, then this little lesson is for you.

Of course, you'll need to stand back a little, yes back, that's about it. Don't forget we need to keep six feet apart in these troubled times (and try to dodge those flecks of spit - they might be the end of you).

Anyway, author Mike Scantlebury has obviously learned a little bit in the years it took him to amass the dozens of books he's dangling in front of a snoozing public, so would-be authors need to keep their hats on, their masks on their faces, their sunglasses ready and their notebooks open.

I mean, this video is marked 'Entertainment'. Who would possibly lie?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Alternatives to being cut by Amazon

Amazon? It's 'Ama-zing!'  

What a great start to the day!

As you may know, I am a crime fiction writer. I construct chiller thrillers set around the metropolitan area of Greater Manchester in the North West of England. I’ve been doing it for years, but every day is different. Like today. Before I sat down and started on the latest chapter of my new novel, I just paused, and thought I would have a quick look at my books on Amazon. There’s a lot of them. Maybe over twenty. That’s quite an achievement, but hey, it’s not all down to me - I’ve had a lot of help over the years. Anyway, I was just scrolling down the list and noticed something odd: many Reviews had disappeared. They’d been cut.

Okay, it takes a while to notice that the train is going off the rails and careering down the side of the mountain, so I didn’t want to react straight away and panic. So I looked, and looked again. After a while, the picture became clear. Some books used to have lots of Reviews, but overnight they’d all disappeared. Other Reviews were still there. Why? Why were they saved? Ah, at last I began to see. The ones that were left were the Five Star reviews. All the others - the two stars, three stars, four stars reviews - had simply disappeared. It was like all the Avengers had vanished and only Robert Downey Junior was left. That was what had happened, I just couldn’t see any sign of Thanos. I didn’t know who the evil mastermind was behind the theft.

Now, don’t take this wrong: I’m not complaining. I mean, I could whine about Amazon and how they keep moving the goalposts, but then, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s not the boys and girls at the online shop that are causing problems - it’s the algorithms, right? Something buried deep in the computer has made a decision, and whoops - all over. These things happen. It’s like waking up one day and saying out loud: ‘Alexa, what’s the weather like today?’ and this voice says, ‘I’m not talking to you today’. But No, it’s no good arguing with Alexa, she’s just a robot. Who cut my Reviews? A robot!

However, after a moment’s thought, I realised one special thing: this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I mean, I still don’t know what caused it. Amazon, or the computer that runs the whole operation, had said to himself, ‘Hey, this Mike guy has got a jumble of two’s and three’s. Let’s just erase them, they’re getting in the way’. Zap, gone. Game over. Uh, No, actually. Because look at it. Look! The only things left are the 5-star Reviews. So, Mike Scantlebury, Crime Author, has got a shop-front with selves full of thriller novels. ‘Has Mike got any Reviews?’ you ask. Hell, yes. He’s got a bunch of them, and they’re nothing but Fives. High Five, Dudes!

However, it’s an illusion, of course. Sure, the 5-stars are left, but they’re only attached to a proportion of the books. Meanwhile, some of the books have got no Reviews at all! Lower star Reviews removed? Yes, some books lost all the reviews they ever had, and if they were lower down the scale, they simply disappeared. Uh, Mike, why is that a good thing for you? Because, my Friend, a lot of readers are not using a lot of focus when they scan through the books in the store, looking for something to read. They will catch sight of the 5-star Reviews, I guess, and skim over the books with no stars. Well, okay, I lost their attention for those other volumes, but that’s not a worry for me, because if said Reader likes the look of a ’5-star book’ and buys it, they might like it. If they do, they will get to the end and find one useful thing - a big list of all the other books in the series. They liked the one they’ve got? They’ll buy the next one, or the previous one, or the first in the series. Will they notice it hasn’t got any Reviews? Maybe, but not likely. After all, they’re on a mission - find the next one to buy. Why would they stop and examine Reviews? They know what they want!

So thanks, Amazon. You’ve created a pathway through the forest. We know that most readers are overwhelmed by the mass of trees in front of them, so they look for the ’5-stars’ and that’s like a signpost, an arrow pointing one way and it says, ‘Follow this track’. Once they’re on the track, they may become one of my readers. and then I love ‘em. They will get the chance to join my Mailing List and then they’ll find out about all the Special Offers I make available. They’ll find a link to my website and learn all about me and my world, (which isn’t the ‘Manchester’ you read about in the papers). Once they’re in there, in amongst the trees, they’re hardly likely to stray off the path. Amazon has done what it does best, coralled people into being repeat customers and making the bookshop money. Luckily, that’s also beneficial to writers. Well done, Alexa! It’s a great day.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Welcome to the New Pages

Let's talk!

Welcome to 'Publishing is Dead', a New Wave blogging web site devoted to the proposition that Traditional Publishing is in the process of being killed off by the Internet.

Whether you're an author, a reader, or an entrepreneur, our feeling is that you will benefit from New Technology.
The stuffy old duffers in dusty old offices are on their way out.
It's New Wave now.
It's Internet Publishing.
That's the way of the future.

Let's talk about it.

This web site is brought to you by magic.

After all, it's a published article.
Let's face it - most authors don't get published.
They languish, they faint, they suffer.
They send off their parcels, strong in hope, girded in faith.
Year after year.

We're here to tell you there is another way.
It's called Internet Publishing.
And it doesn't involve a slap in the face.

Think of this as a Forum, to contribute and discuss.
Let us know what you think.
But above all - move forward.
New Wave publishing is on the up.
It's the way of the future.

This web site is here to say -
Goodbye Traditional Publishing.

(It's dead. Did we mention that?)

Sure, some of the people joining the discussion are writers.
Some have been published (by Traditional Publishers).
Some are still hoping for that honour.
Some have given up, along the way.
Some have resolved to use Internet Publishing, only.
That's what the Forum is all about!

The guy with the face (above) is Mike Scantlebury,
(creator of 'Scanti-Noir').

Mike Scantlebury is an Internet Author.
You can go to and find his books available there.
Click here  for a direct link.

If you want real books, that's the place to go -
(Lulu prints books, for any author.
Highly recommended.)

Mike also has a Mailing List.
Join that and you will regularly get a few chapters free,
to read at your leisure.

For a chance to join,
go to Mike's website on

Comments, yeah, comments

If you want to say something about publishers, please think of this as your Forum page.

If you want to say something about this site,
use the form below.

We'll be happy to hear from you.

(If you want a reply, make sure you include your email.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Alternatives to Reviewing Books

Most authors who are trying to sell their books online have fallen victim to an obsession with Reviews. Above all, they dream and salivate over the prospect of that wonderful and longed-for ‘Five Star’ Review. Well, fine, you say. That’s the system, right? And it sells books. Doesn’t it? Aw, listen, guys, haven’t you ever heard of the phrase - ‘Think outside the Box’? Well, the Box is the Review system, and it’s a box with chains around it, and jaws. And spikes inside. And razor wire. It needs to change.

The current system of Reviews creates two problems. One for readers and one for writers. Let’s think about writers, first. If you’re new to getting published - cos maybe you’ve written a novel and you’ve put it up on line by yourself - then you will know that all the advice is to ‘get a few Reviews’. That’s the way you get noticed, they say. It will help you sell books. Sounds fine, but, as a new author, where are you going to get those ‘necessary’ Reviews from? Ah, I’ll ask people, you think. No, Chum. Online book-stores like Amazon are way ahead of you. They don’t allow that.

They have algorithms that will check. A Review appears and it’s by someone with the same name? Why, yes, you say. It was written by my sister. Not allowed! Amazon (and other bookshops are available) will delete it. It’s biased, they will say. Of course your family will think well of you. It’s not ‘genuine’, they say. Okay, so you ask your next door neighbour. That’s banned, too. How do they know? Because they know everything about everybody (of course) and the robots know that you, the author, and that person, the Reviewer, have the same Postcode. Right, banned, (because, after all, the woman next door is not going to insult you in print, are they? They won’t want you dumping on their doorstep. They’ll be biased, (the robots say - as only bots can). So you ask someone from your Writing Group. They know stuff about books, you think. They will give you a fair hearing. They won’t be biased. Anyway, who is going to find out? The bots! They check, and discover, that you the author and that other person, the Reviewer, are Friends on Facebook. No good, say the algorithms. Bias, again. Not allowed. Review posted? Review withdrawn, as only an online book-store can.

Baffling. I mean, you’ve been asked to come up with some Reviews but there seems to be some kind of ‘Rules’ operating here, something that’s hardly ever discussed and certainly not revealed by the website. Ever tried asking Amazon how they decide what’s a ‘good’ Review and what’s not? Good Luck with that! Likely, they won’t answer. More likely, they don’t know. After all, robots have their own rules, don’t they? Also, Big Publishers. Yes, the real killer is that all this discrimination only applies to small publishers and Solo Authors. It doesn’t apply to Traditional Publishers. After all, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, so you have to respect their way of doing things, even if it results in bias. Their favoured method is to cultivate a Mailing List of interested readers, who will agree to review the new titles as they come out. Imagine, a Trad Publisher sends out ‘review’ copies to their fifty ‘friends’ and get fifty five-star reviews. Not biased at all. No, and the online bookshops are quite happy with that. The favourable reviews have been bought with the offer of a free copy and the glow of being involved with a big name in the industry. You try that, as a small-time author, giving out a free book and expecting a review in return. Guess what? Amazon etc, (and all the others), have declared such practice illegal, immoral and harmful for small mammals (but only for small publishers etc, not for the Big Boys).

Still, that’s not the end of your unhappiness. You also have to cope with the behaviour of Readers, I mean real people, those who actually buy books (and pay for them). They’re unbelievable! Try it. Approach an interested reader and say to them, ‘Well, actually, I have been lucky and yes, I did get a Five Star review this week’. What do they say? ‘Oh, I never look at Reviews’, they say. Or, ‘Reviews are only one of the factors I rely on before deciding to buy a book’. Oh, really? The facts are different. As an internet author, I can check my sales regularly. Every day, if I want. So, I can see one of my books sold that many, that day. Then, the next day, so many. Then - Oooh, there’s a spike in sales. What caused that? I look at the online bookshop and see that a few favourable Reviews came in that day. Five Star Reviews? Sales go up, (just as the Gurus said they would). Problem is, you can never find the people who did that. Ask. Ask, ask, and ask again, and the readers you encounter will say, ‘No, not me’. Maybe those people don’t want to admit they’re so easily swayed. Maybe they don’t want to look shallow. But the fact is that I’ve confronted crowds and dared them to admit they buy a book simply because it has good reviews and guess what? Nobody holds their hands up. Those easily persuaded, sheep-like buyers, clearly don’t exist. They’re just imaginary. Real buyers are all really discriminating and make their decisions based on personal preference and their own tastes. They do. Or, at least, they say they do.

I call it ‘The Tyranny of the Stars’. Every writer, every reader, finds their future is in the stars. Sales come from stars. Five Stars, best of all. Well, that’s the way it’s working now, and don’t imagine things are going to get better. Recent experience shows that ‘The Rules’ are getting tighter every year - for small publishers and solo authors, at least. No, the Box won’t get more friendly or more open. Not until some enlightened person picks up an axe and smashes the whole sordid charade with a killer blow.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Alternatives to Self-Preservation

Alternatives to Self-preservation

If you’ve ever watched the TV series ‘Downtown Abbey’ you’ll know that the aristocracy were very kind, back then. Once a year Lord Grantham organised a massive FĂȘte in the extensive grounds and invites all those poor, poor people from the village to come and grab some free food and entertainment. Also, once a year, The Family allows the servants to sit at the big table and the toffs deliver the courses - Role Reversal for a night.
It’s a good idea. It means the lower orders are damn grateful for their lives, and harbour no resentments against those who are seemingly more important and higher up the social ladder than them. And if there’s even more - well, if the Lord gets off his fat backside and turns up at a hovel to deliver sustenance and support to the sick - that’s a bonus.
Actually, it’s a case of Self-Preservation. It’s the only way that British society has avoided a revolution for the last four hundred years. Strangely, the new breed of rich people, the so-called ‘One Per Cent’ seem to have no conception of this approach, which is why they are doomed.
The ‘Oncers’ may have made money, but they seem to lack basic Common Sense. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’ve read a book by Nicholas Taleb, the author of ‘The Black Swan’, amongst others, you will be familiar with the fact that he moved to New York in the ’90s and was confronted by taxi drivers whose favourite phrase was, ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ The assumption was that, since this was the Land of the Free, then everyone was able to start work and make themselves a fortune, if only they would apply themselves. Mr Taleb found the opposite to be true. He set up as a Trader, and worked in the Stock Exchange, the Futures Exchange, the Derivatives Exchange and the Commodities Exchange. He met plenty of successful traders. His question was, ‘If you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart?’ Because he discovered - much to his chagrin - that there was no relation between being clever and being rich. Some people made money in his business, some didn’t. It wasn’t the brightest who made the biggest fortunes. Far from it. In fact, it seemed totally random.
If you’ve read any books by Robert Kiyosaki you will know his Dad was a University lecturer, a very ‘smart’ man. But then he was made redundant at the age of 50. He enjoyed a comfortable but not poor life up to that age, and was struggling ever after. Robert called him his ‘Poor Dad’. But then the young man met the father of his pal, Mike. Mike’s Dad was a successful businessman, and owned shops, a transport firm, property, land and investments. He was the ‘Rich Dad’ who Robert was drawn to, and swiftly adopted his way of looking at things and working methods. Using Rich Dad’s methods in the world of business, Robert became rich - oh, after failing four times. Sorry, did you miss the bit about his bankruptcies? Yes, acolyte Robert didn’t have a smooth ride from ‘Poor’ to ‘Rich’. He tried, he failed. He tried again. Maybe he got lucky.
My point is this: people who start ‘with nothing’, might like you believe that they achieved wealth through their own undaunted efforts and sheer cleverness. The reality, as with most philosophies, is a little more mixed. As Tina Turner once said, ‘What’s luck got to do with it?’ Quite a lot, actually. If you’ve ever listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 called ‘Desert Island Discs’ you may or may not have noticed that MOST actors, singers, artists - and even business people - will, when telling their stories, get to a point where they say, ‘Oh, and then I was really lucky. I met this person, (or, got this part, or was offered a commission), and everything grew from there’. Right, they are being honest, but few listeners ever hear that part. They are too in love with the idea that effort, brilliance and talent is what makes people famous, when the reality is more murky. My point is - if you’ve been lucky, how about helping others? If you’ve got a lot, how about sharing? Just like ‘Downton Abbey’ !
The alternative? Well, London has seen protesters camping out and throwing bricks through shop windows. New York has seen ‘Anti-Capitalists’ on Wall Street. Well, if I was a capitalist, I’d start giving to charity, right now. Quick. Before anything else bad happens. Unfortunately, the new rich lapse into ‘You’re just envious’, while forgetting there are other Deadly Sins apart from Envy. Would these success stories admit, ‘Me, I’m Greedy, Gluttonous, Dissolute, Vainglorious and Sexually Depraved’? No, I thought not. The list is just too long.
As I said, Britain hasn’t had a revolution since 1642, but France did, in 1789. At that point, the poor - and even the Middle Class - who had had enough of being vilified and deprived, rose up and overthrew the Monarchy, then started murdering the aristocracy, one by one, on the guillotine. That wasn’t very clever, was it? No, the rich need to be less distant, less self-absorbed, and more generous - not because it’s a Good Thing, (which it is), but because it’s a matter of Self-Preservation.

I know, Jonathan, I know. You're stumped.