October end-of-month roundup

As ever, toward the end of writing a book, other things get pushed aside. Not everything can be treated like that!

Projects:

Angel Stakes

The main beta panelists have received about 70% of the book. My sister, who is always first stop, has received about 75%. Lauren Sweet, my editor has received 70% + a reasonably full synopsis to the end. I have written more than 90% of the book.

Providing the book in chunks to the beta panel has been a very positive experience for me, and the feedback has been good. Each chunk has been reasonably self-contained and tended to end on cliff-hangers. Each chunk was only the new chapters, so there’s been no requirement for the beta readers to re-read from the start each time. And that methodology, I was starting to suspect last month, had obscured a problem with the book regarding the overall structure.

Lauren agreed after reading through the 70% and the synopsis to the end, although we came to the same sort of conclusion from different angles. Mainly, that the book doesn’t get going on the main plot early enough or strongly enough.

That probably sounds worse than it is. Certainly, I had a panic when I realized it. However, after a long Skype with Lauren, what it seems to come down to is about half a dozen extra scenes, an expansion of three existing scenes, a dash more relationship, a reworking of a sub-plot and … gosh, that sounds bad as well. What it really comes down to is I intend to have the book to Lauren needing only copy-editing work by the end of November.

So…prediction…Angel Stakes will be published in December.

Wild Card audiobook

Julia Motyka is hard at work at her studio in New York. I’ve heard the opening chapter, and we’ve had a long and hilarious Skype conversation where she nailed all the voices and accents required in the longest book of the series so far. Julia is amazingly versatile – have a look back through on the Bite Back Facebook page and listen to the Hidden Trump sample I posted. She gets the fussy Judicator Remy (think Hercule Poirot) alongside the slightly other-worldly, slightly Greek sound of Diana and the snarky, Mid-Western sound of Amber.

Anyway, Wild Card in audio will also be published in December.

Wild Card in German / auf Deutsch

Also due soon, very possibly at the same time as Angel Stakes and the audiobook. The name in German is Entfesselter Wandel, which sort-of translates as an ‘unbridled change’. Kinky! I just couldn’t find a title that had the flavor of Wild Card without using the word ‘Joker’.

Und so, dieses Buch wird im Dezember veröffentlicht werden. (Ich hoffe).

Book covers

I know, I know, I’m due to rework the covers, going back to the old format with new photos. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, the last photo session with Maria didn’t produce what I needed. I obviously need to arrange another for Angel Stakes anyway.

I’ll keep you posted.

Anything else:

Reviews

Most of you on this page and on Facebook have already provided me reviews, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you. I read every single one (even the negatives), and almost always take something valuable from them.

If there are friends you know who’ve read the books but haven’t reviewed, I would appreciate you giving them a nudge. I mean that whether they liked them or not. Amazon’s rankings of authors is based on not only sales and reviews but how recent those reviews are, and my new  reviews have slowed down quite a bit.

To be completely clear; I’m not asking for 4 or 5 stars or positive reviews, I’m genuinely wanting to know what people thought of the books, including what might have made them better.

Also, this isn’t just about Amazon. Goodreads is a great book-reading community (even if it has some strange nooks and crannies!) and many people look to their reviews and recommendations.

Plagiarism and Copyright Theft

You probably know my opinion, and you’ll certainly know my opinion if you have a look at my personal Facebook page or the Bite Back page.

Rant Mode ON

I can’t understand those authors who shrug off copyright theft and simply say “oh, it’s like promotion for me”. It’s a disease. Type the name of any of your favorite authors or books into Google with a tag ‘free’ or something like that, and I’m guaranteeing that within a screen or two, you will find links to download a copy of their books without payment. Some of these downloads are viruses, and frankly, I’m sometimes tempted to start doing that. Some of them you get free downloads in exchange for a monthly fee. In a huge number of cases, these are plain theft, and the author gets nothing.

Strangely, those authors who shrug off this kind of theft get more upset when their books are plagiarized. I have seen books for sale on Amazon, where the only effort the ‘author’ has put in has been to do a search&replace on the names of the principles, and slap a new cover on.

The cost of fighting plagiarism, even if it’s a slam-dunk case? Over $50,000 and the thief simply says “can’t pay” and walks away. Ask for links if you want a specific case.

Rant Mode OFF

I restrict myself to half a day a month to get upset over this, because even working tirelessly 24/7 as an internet masked avenger, I could not stem the tide. I have recently managed to alert an Aussie author to plagiarism and get the thief thrown off Amazon, and I have to take comfort from such small victories.

Next up

Once Angel Stakes is published, I have a long-standing commitment to make my late mother’s unpublished book available. It’s a colonial-era murder mystery set in the remotest bush station of Northern Rhodesia, and it’s a cracker. It only requires editing and formatting, so this won’t be a huge effort.

After that, Bian’s Tale book 1 and another short story/novella to weave Biting Cold’s Amanda and Scott into the Bite Back series.

Then Bite Back 6!

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

13 responses to “October end-of-month roundup”

  1. Deborah Jay says :

    Congrats on the approaching release – I put my novels through the writer’s group I belong to in chunks like that, and I can equate with the issue you’ve had.
    Re your rant – I recently came across a new site (free while in beta) which allows you to remove all sites illegally advertising your books from google pages, so they can’t be found in searches that way. Not a total answer, but possibly worth a go?
    https://www.blasty.co/
    And that address works, even though it doesn’t look complete.

  2. Krebs says :

    Hi Mark,
    quite amazing how far you are already with the book. So looking forward to December!!!!
    It is always nice for the reader that the waiting time for the next instalment is not measured in years.
    Also big thanks for the constant updates in your Blog section, to keep us updated of the progress and other plans/info’s …. much appreciated.
    Regarding the German title: I know how difficult it is to find an appropriate title or translation in another language, still the title sounds a bit strange/weird for me as a native German.
    The thing with the translations problems and the fact that is mostly done badly (haven’t read yours in German, so no offense or critic there) was the reason that I switched to reading basically all books in English if that is the original language.

    Keep up the good work!!!
    Bian’s Tale, want want want!!!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Krebs. I hope the weird title feels in keeping for the readers who read in German. It is quite a process, translating. There are obvious things where the translators tell me words and phrases don’t translate (especially jokes), and even after those, I keep wondering how much of the ‘feeling’ gets through. (Fingerspitzengefühl).

      As you will probably know from previous posts, I got 3/4 of the way with the first of Bian’s Tale, and had to stop because I’d lost the ‘voice’. Anyway, I’m now looking forward to getting back to it. 🙂

  3. XK says :

    I’ve run into the same issues with my (comparatively smaller) group of beta readers; I used to dole out ~30-75 page chunks but found that the usefulness of the quick and targeted feedback was often overshadowed by the fact that we had to do another round of feedback with the full book at the end (and even then, the fact that they’d already it in chunks sometimes blinded them to issues that might have been more apparent to fresh readers).

    I think of it as somewhat analogous to agile development in the software world; the ideal there is that you do short, iterative bursts of development, with each chunk QA’d on its own, obviating the need for a long regression period at the end. In my real-world experience, we’ve ALWAYS had to still perform integration testing (i.e. seeing how all the pieces work together) and regression prior to major releases.

    My thought with regards to fiction is to have two separate groups of readers… ones who get fed the book in dribbles, and others who read only the full manuscript. This seems to work out pretty well as different readers have different preferences (i.e. give me 1 chapter, give me 10 chapters, give me the book), but does require a fairly large pool of readers!

    Anyway, looking forward to the book in December, and your next crack at Bian’s tale. 🙂

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Ah! Complex software system development. Object orientation was supposed to allow you to develop from the base tools upwards, just as structured programming was intended to do the generation before. And it worked in a completely linear sense with one team. But yes, anything involving two teams required a third to do integration testing! 🙂

      My beta panel is becoming similar to what you describe. My sister gets the quickest delivery – a couple of chapters at a time, with the need sometimes to re-read the last installment because it changes. The main panel get it in chunks of 15-20k words, 10-20 chapters. Then my editor first gets it when it’s between 1/2 and 3/4 done. (And my daughter somewhere between the main panel and the editor, if she has time).

      Getting there.

  4. Daniel Dobbelstein says :

    Hello Mark,

    i can completely understand you being upset about plagiatism and the downright stealing of an authors honest work. Many of the selfpopulating authors don’t ask very much for their titles to begin with. With that system, the revenue comes through the number of sales i would imagine, and anything that cuts into those numbers, directly cuts into the revenue.
    Not enough revenue, the Author needs to divert time from writing to other ways of income. Really a devils circle.
    And plagiartism, i think is even worse. Selling something you didn’t put an ounce of work into, but changing out some names and keysegments.
    Very sad people even do that.

    At Krebs, completely understand you there, german here as well, i prefere to read my books in english as well, should the original be in that language.
    Too much gets lost in translation.

  5. Robert says :

    Your rant on ebook piracy inspired me to share some thoughts I’ve collected over the years.

    First off, I’m an “ebook pirate”. I download, for free, a lot of books. Some of which I read. I also buy a lot of books. In your case, both of these statements apply.

    Given the sheer number of books being published these days especially including essentially self-published books, it’s difficult to rely on traditional publishers to be some kind of gate keeper of quality, if you ever could.

    When I come across a new author I am extremely loathe to immediately buy a book from them. Like everyone else I have a budget and I want to spend my money in the way that’s most effective for me and there’s a lot of terrible books being published out there. So I look for their book for free and download it. A lot of these books I never even start to read. Many more are discarded after the first couple of chapters. But occasionally I find an author I truly enjoy and I start buying their books. I don’t object to paying money for quality things but I do object to essentially gambling money on whether or not I’ll enjoy a book after I buy it.

    As a side note every so often I’ll run across a book that sounds like it might be interesting, start looking for a free copy, not find one easily, and then move on entirely. Would I have liked any of these authors well enough to buy their books? Who knows, but I’ve since forgotten completely about them.

    Which brings me to this specific example. I keep track of new releases and new books being ‘shared’ and every so often your name and books came up, and I’d look at the description. I’m not trying to be hurtful when I say that “”Vampires are the flickering illusions of Hollywood. They don’t exist. We do. We are the Athanate.”” is one of the least appealing taglines for a book series. So every time I ran across your book I skipped it. At some point, somewhat desperate for things to read, I went ahead and downloaded it. After all, it was free. So I had the book and put it on my reader and at some later point I actually started reading it. And to my surprise, I quite liked it. So I bought the rest and read them. And now I’m sitting here daily refreshing your blog and waiting to buy the next book as soon as it’s available.

    We could argue morality and ethics but I find that those sorts of discussions are difficult to have since it’s nearly impossible to frame such things as objective and completely logical frameworks.

    We could talk about how books are protected by copyright which was created in order to make more art and literature available to the citizens.

    We could talk ‘what ifs’: what if I couldn’t download any book for free, would I spend more money on books or less? If I had to buy every book before reading it would I ever have found your books? Who knows.

    But all of that is really besides the point because it’s not the world we live in and given the way things are going it’s unlikely to change anytime in the future.

    Right now I’m extremely unlikely to spend money on an author if I haven’t read at least one of his books before and I doubt that will change. On the other hand, once I’ve found an author I love, I buy every book they publish as soon as I possibly can.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      If that was how all people treated it, there wouldn’t be a problem.

      It is the same concept behind making the initial book in a series free, or providing a free prequel. It’s the reason that SoH & RD are in KU. It’s the reason that Amazon provides a sample of 10% of the book. It’s the reason authors promote on BookBub and the like. Its the reason authors do giveaways on Goodreads. It’s part of the reason I love libraries and bookstores (including 2nd hand) and I wish my series was available in them.

      Unfortunately, it’s not the way the majority of people treat it. The proof of that comes empirically – there are roughly as many downloads on some illegal sites of my book 4 as there are of book 1*. Since some readers will not bother after reading book 1, even for free, I think I can validly make the following assessment: some people buy book 1 and then decide that $4 a book for the rest of the series is too much…

      Then there are the illegal sites that charge a fee…

      I’m delighted to have you as a purchasing reader, but if I could turn off illegal downloading (and plagiarism) with a switch, I would.

      Would that make me better or worse off financially? Neither of us know.

      *I regret the evidence I have seen of this is probably as illegal as the downloading itself, so I’m not about to provide it.**
      **No, I didn’t do it, but I have some amazing, talented friends out there.

      • Robert says :

        I’m certainly not in a position to argue that “illegal” sites actually help authors, I’m not sure if that sort of thing is even possible to prove, although my research did run across a few interesting studies on the subject:
        https://torrentfreak.com/0-more-on-content-than-honest-consumers-130510/
        http://publishing.sfu.ca/2013/01/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-piracy-drm-and-the-e-book-issue/
        http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/cory-doctorow/article/55513-cory-doctorow-how-writers-lose-when-piracy-gets-harder.html

        As for downloads of book4 vs book1, all I can offer is anecdotes, but lots of people heavily engaged in ‘piracy’ just download everything, regardless of whether or not they read/watch/listen to it. And personally I’ve downloaded book4 in a series and then went and bought it from amazon.

        By the way, are you familiar with the publisher Baen and their online ‘library’ they offer? It comes with a couple of interesting articles written by one of their bigger authors: http://www.baen.com/library/prime_palaver1.asp

        I’ve often wondered why there isn’t any kind of pseudo library website that encompassed more than just a single publisher, but then again, I’m not an author or publisher. I suppose ‘kindle unlimited’ is a sort of step in that direction, but just speaking for myself as a reader, I find it, well, awkward and annoying, to say the very least. I can’t help but think that if these “illegal” sites are indeed making money it would be easy for the actual authors to out compete them and get that profit for themselves, although I do have to wonder how much actual profit is involved in “illegal” sites, since the vast majority of the work is done by what are basically volunteers.

        Anyway, honestly, I wasn’t writing any of this in an attempt to justify piracy or anything like that, I think I just wanted to say that it probably isn’t worth getting angry about and that any effort spent combatting it probably has a fairly low ROI, although I realize it’s rather presumptuous of me to tell anyone what to get angry about.

      • Robert says :

        P.S.

        When is the next book coming out so I can buy it?

      • gallandro83 says :

        Interesting discussion.

        I want to add my own two cents in this argument.

        I have always, always looked for ways to read books free. But I try not to pirate books; though there are times when an favorite authors ARC is floating around that I just have to grab a copy.

        I have been a member of libraries for as long as I can remember and read 100+ books from them a year until the last couple of years. Some of this geographical and some of it is the fact that I have burned through most of the common titles in the sci-fi fantasy genre that most libraries keep hold of. Instead I started to spend the weekend at bookstores and would read the book there since both B&N and Borders wouldn’t care. While this is technically the same as pirating I have never heard an author address this practice. Granted this can only happen to large published authors and most bookstores would not expect someone to read a book in 2-3 hours in the store they expect that someone takes a hour and then would buy the book to finish at home but in the few years I did this I was never hassled.

        When the various bookstores started closing in the last decade most stores around me have closed and the indie chain almost never carried any titles I would want to buy as I browsed. This lead me to look for reading material outside of standard brick and mortar stores. The first thing I came across was online fanfiction. It took time to figure out which sites I liked and how to find stories that would entertain me but for a while there were more prolific authors that I followed in fanfiction that in regular print. However once e-readers and Amazon started allowing indies to publish their own titles the good authors all left to try and write their own books. (In fact I still follow and buy books from a couple of authors I have followed over from their online work). This reality has added impetus towards my own push to electronic copy for authors. However just as Robert said it can be incredibly hard to find the gems in the mass of titles that are now available to me.

        I take advantage of Amazon’s trial sections and the free books offered by authors but the sheer effort it can take to find that one book I like seems harder than ever. In fact I find Amazon’s search function through their catalog to be almost designed to showcase 20x-30x awful books for every possible book I could be tempted to try. And forget about any recommendations older than a year it will refuse to try and suggest a finished series or out of print books I might find in libraries.

        To help combat this and find books I would like to read I joined librarything and goodreads; this has helped a bit but it still takes me much longer than I would have thought possible to find books I would like to read from a near unlimited catalog that is around today. And the troll reviewers skew results sometimes so egregiously that it makes these sites worthless. It was though these sites that I found out about some of the pirate sites out there. While I try not to use these to download books it can sometimes be the best indicator of trending books that I would like better than anything else out there.

        I feel that until amazon and some of the other suggestion sites find a better way to match readers with works there will be more people like Robert willing to pirate a book copy simply to have the ability to make up their mind if its worth their time and effort.

        gallandro

      • Robert says :

        I’m certainly not in a position to argue that “illegal” sites actually help authors, I’m not sure if that sort of thing is even possible to prove, although my research did run across a few interesting studies on the subject:
        https://torrentfreak.com/0-more-on-content-than-honest-consumers-130510/
        http://publishing.sfu.ca/2013/01/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-piracy-drm-and-the-e-book-issue/
        http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/cory-doctorow/article/55513-cory-doctorow-how-writers-lose-when-piracy-gets-harder.html

        As for downloads of book4 vs book1, all I can offer is anecdotes, but lots of people heavily engaged in ‘piracy’ just download everything, regardless of whether or not they read/watch/listen to it. And personally I’ve downloaded book4 in a series and then went and bought it from amazon.

        By the way, are you familiar with the publisher Baen and their online ‘library’ they offer? It comes with a couple of interesting articles written by one of their bigger authors: http://www.baen.com/library/prime_palaver1.asp

        I’ve often wondered why there isn’t any kind of pseudo library website that encompassed more than just a single publisher, but then again, I’m not an author or publisher. I suppose ‘kindle unlimited’ is a sort of step in that direction, but just speaking for myself as a reader, I find it, well, awkward and annoying, to say the very least. I can’t help but think that if these “illegal” sites are indeed making money it would be easy for the actual authors to out compete them and get that profit for themselves, although I do have to wonder how much actual profit is involved in “illegal” sites, since the vast majority of the work is done by what are basically volunteers.

        Anyway, honestly, I wasn’t writing any of this in an attempt to justify piracy or anything like that, I think I just wanted to say that it probably isn’t worth getting angry about and that any effort spent combatting it probably has a fairly low ROI, although I realize it’s rather presumptuous of me to tell anyone what to get angry about.

        (Where is this comment vanishing off to?)

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