Saturday, 18 March 2017

New developments at Kindle Press

Yesterday several Kindle Press authors had a surprise - they were told their covers were going to be updated, and were sent the new images. No notice was given, or permission asked for that matter. It has to be said that KP covers, provided by the authors and sometimes designed by them, run the full range from fabulous (like this one or this one) to dire - what my mother used to refer to disparagingly as 'loving hands at home'. It's encouraging that Kindle Press is showing itself willing to invest in its books, and we all know that the right cover makes a lot of difference when it comes to attracting readers.

I designed my own covers. Now, while I'd be delighted if KP commissioned substitutes that were clearly better, I'm incredibly picky about anything visual and to satisfy me, they'd have to be brilliant - Deranged Doctor or Damonza at their very best.  Also, I prefer a 2:3 proportion, rather than the skinnier rectangle Amazon favours.

Here are some before and afters. What do you think?

Monday, 6 March 2017

What is it with charts?

Since putting my first Time Rats novel on Kindle Scout, I've continued to nominate other authors' books on there. I'm a bit spasmodic about it, depending how busy I am, but I enjoy guessing from only the cover, blurb and first few chapters of a book whether Kindle Scout editors will select it. At the moment, I have a 20% success rate, which is exactly average (and not terribly impressive, now I consider it). Every now and then I receive a free copy of a book I've nominated which Kindle Press published, and get to find out what the rest of the book is like.

A few months ago, Scout Rankings appeared on the site. You can boost your rank by nominating, reviewing a chosen book, choosing a book that gets selected etc.. There is a Scout Leaderboard, displaying top ranked Scouts. I was at #31 when it opened. Now my rank is #191. The moment KS started a chart, people started caring about their rank and trying to improve it, even though they do not benefit one whit - Amazon, of course, benefits from their increased engagement.

I see the same thing with the Hot & Trending chart, which reflects the number of readers who have nominated each book. I have to admit the graphics on one's book page are beguiling; as you watch, gold bars shoot up, one for each day of the campaign so far, showing the number of hours spent on H & T. There's a graph showing daily views, and a pie chart showing where they came from. And none of this matters a jot. Experience has shown that a book's success or failure to clock up the hours on H & T have nothing whatsoever to do with its chances of being selected. Yet people go to great lengths attempting to stay on it, networking like mad and paying for adverts.

I used this idea, along with China's new Social Credit system, in Time Rats 3, which I'm writing now. Part of it is set in a 2135 where the Global Union runs the world, and everyone has a CCR. In this new timeline, Liam Roth's life is very different. Here's a snippet:

“In the other future you were rich. You had a house in De Beauvoir,” Floss said. “And when –”
“Wait – I was rich? And lived in De Beauvoir? With my own time machine? The alternative me must have had one hell of a CCR.”
“What’s a CCR?”
“Citizen Credit Rating.”
“What’s that?”
“You don’t know? Everyone on the planet has one. They score you for stuff like financial stability, criminal record, behaviour on social media, who your friends are, job performance, neatness of appearance, core values, attitude – hundreds of different areas, and your rankings fluctuate on a daily basis.”
“Bloody hell,” said Floss. “So what’s your CCR, or isn’t it done to ask?”
Liam laughed. “18%. That’s overall. My attitude rank’s probably hovering around zero right now.”