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the sea view cafe - smallSo,… what do we have so far?

Man leaves wife, flees his life and his dope-smoking offspring, wife has affair with her boss. Man meets woman, the woman meets a woman, the man discovers feelings for a woman-friend from way back. He loves all these women, even the woman who loves his woman, but he can only actually be with one woman because,.. well, he’s an old fashioned kind of guy. So who, among all these women will he choose? Or, more to the point, who will have him? Or,… actually,… does a man need a woman at all? Is he not better living on his own, sorting himself out instead of running round changing light-bulbs for women, arguing over the washing machine, and who makes lunch?

Given all the upheavals in the world and the stuff I could be writing about, this seems a bit trite, a bit “domestic”, and I don’t know what these characters are trying to tell me, if they’re trying to be funny, profound, or if they’re trying to tell me anything at all and I’m not just making stuff up as I go along, heading nowhere that means anything. It’s the usual creative impasse. To be original you have to write what you’re given by the voices in your head, not simply copy something else you’ve read. But to be original, doesn’t automatically mean you’re creating something worthwhile. I mean, after all, anyone can make stuff up.

But let’s think about it. No, I’m sure my characters are talking to me in the context of more weighty world affairs, and what they’re saying is this: our love triangles and love squares and love scares might seem trivial on the surface, but at least we’re seeking love in both its broad and narrow senses, rather than power. We’re also seeking a modest means of surviving these coming decades, rather than scoring grand fortunes at the expense of others less fortunate. And you know, it doesn’t matter to us, they tell me, what race or gender our friends and lovers are, or even if they’re like they say in the popular media: damned foreigners comin’ over ere and takin’ our jobs, because really that kind of language belongs to the stone age, and we’ve moved on, even if you haven’t.

My characters see through the machinations and the manipulations now; they laugh at the purveyors of “fake news” and “alternative facts” as at the antics of a newly discovered species which, although now the dominant predator on the planet, is actually of only passing interest because they (my characters) accept they cannot alter the way things are, that in order to survive they must make alternative arrangements than the ones apparently on offer which would otherwise do them harm. They are all refugees, economic migrants, waifs and strays, some native, some not, all washed up just the same on the shores of economic ruin, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations gone. They are all stateless, in that the state on which they formerly stood is disappearing so rapidly beneath their feet it might as well not exist at all, and in any case will not be there for their children.

Yet, they do not turn to drugs, or violence – I mean not like they would in the movies. Nor do they tumble into a twisted aspiration of an Endtimes, where we shall all be saved by “The Rapture”, nor a post apocalyptic future where we shall be saved by nothing. They reject the language of hate and despair, they do not conform to the media stereotypes of the ruined middle class, nor the workless working man, nor any of the million vain conspiracy theories. Nor are they racist, bigoted misogynists, so whatever the world throws at them (and it’s thrown a lot) the Sea View Cafe dares to tell a positive tale of plucky survival against the odds, of cleanliness and dignity maintained against an oppressively murky background.

They take stock, they brush themselves down, they bind their wounds, paint on a smile. Lacking kin they gather into improvised families, seek survival for themselves and the ones they choose to love. They remain steadfastly human in a dehumanising world, a world that sees people not as people, but as economic units of varying viability, to be switched on and off as the market demands, even if half of them starve to death in the process. They are Romantic figures, also pragmatic, but most of all they are Romantic. And I’m talking Samuel Taylor Coleridge here, not Mills and Boon.

Put it like that, the Sea View might sound like one of those worthy but laboured literary texts that’s trying to change the world, but it’s not. It accepts the world as its stage, even if it might not be the world you recognise, and it says: okay, so how do we work with this? And the characters do what they must in all stories, they start out in one place and end up in another, and in the process they either grow or they die, and the only weapons I’ve given them are compassion and a stubbornly infinite capacity for love. I know, I know, Helena Aynslea has just kneed Squinty Mulligan in the balls for being a lecherous misogynist, but no one’s perfect. And I’m sorry but he deserved it. And I rather like Helena’s fiery spirit.

We’re a hundred and fifty thousand words in, and there are doubts about direction as there always are at this point with so many threads running this way and that and all wanting their resolution before the novel can be steered safe into harbour and a new story begun. So I talk to myself, and I talk to my characters, like I’m doing here, and the way becomes a little clearer.

Hermione looks up from the counter as I walk in: “So, what can I get you darlin’?”

“Um,… Americano, please.”

She turns to the coffee machine, bangs the scoop works the levers, makes steam.

Whoosh!

Did she just call me darlin’?

Thanks for listening.

*The Sea View Cafe,… a work in progress. To be completed,… well,… sometime,… possibly.

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bookshopcoverAs a self publishing writer willing to give his work away in exchange for establishing a readership, Feedbooks is where it all began, back in 2007. You loaded your story up to the Feedbooks site, and it became available at once to a worldwide audience, downloadable directly to smartphones, tablet computers and kindles. If free fiction was your bag, reading it or writing it, Feedbooks is where you went.

In those early days, when the web was a little more anarchic with its dreams, Feedbooks was hot stuff, and I moved a lot of stories through them. But no longer. My Aldiko and Moonreader apps now link only to Feedbook’s paid content,  or legacy works that have entered the public domain due to copyright expiry. Contemporary, free, original titles are no longer accessible from the platforms they were aimed at.

You can still get at them from the non-mobile webpage version of the site, but the graphics are winking out one by one, and there’s a sense of something falling down, falling over and being left to rot.

There has been no announcement by Feedbooks, but this is not unexpected. Their support, indeed their interest in the free stuff we’ve given them over the years has been generally poor. In the early days independent authors provided a wealth of free content that got Feedbooks on the map, got their business model off the ground, and we’ve been ignored ever since the paid stuff came online. That they’ve finally ditched us comes as no surprise – my only real surprise being it’s taken so long.

I do feel a keen disappointment in this because their penetration of the market has always been really good. If you wanted readers Feedbooks found them for you. Smashwords couldn’t match it, and Wattpad was even worse. It’ll be a chillier place I fear in the search for readers from now on. But as authors we should not despair. Readers like free stuff, and they’ll get it wherever they can. Smashwords here they come?

I hope so.

Is Feedbooks dead?

For authors of free original content, sadly, yes it is.

 

 

 

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because you writeRoll up, roll up! Put your novels and short stories on Feedbooks, Lulu, Createspace, Smashwords, Wattpad. Don’t charge for them, then others can scrape your content freely like stinking great estuary dredgers. Then Google yourself. Go on, don’t be shy,… you’ll be amazed where your work ends up: Rapidshare, Scribd, Filesflush, Getebooksfree, ebdb.net,… the list is endless. The pirates will love you too. They’ll cut and paste your work and sell it on The Kindle Marketplace, publish it as you, cutting and pasting even your pseudonym in to the vast nefarious money making machine that forms the unregulated realm of cyberspace. But try it yourself and you’ll run into the opaque and somewhat circular regulatory labyrinth regarding income tax on your occasional 50p downloads.

Not satisfied yet? Then set up a blog too, put something up there a couple of times a week so the spammers know you’re still alive and can continue attaching their odious marketing limpets to your work by way of “likes” and comments and “follows”. Yes, Josh, I’m talking about you!

“Hi there click my blog and see how I got rich and handsome and incredibly successful using WordPress blogging.”

Groan.

“No Josh. You are an MLM spammer.”

To be sure, it’s a weird business – one in which a small number of crazy people go about creating genuinely original content for others to exploit and farm and pirate at will. Be under no illusion, dear frustrated, friendless writer, if self publishing online is something that interests you, this will happen to your work. You will be adding your muse’s sincerest outpourings to that vast ocean of words the web savvy tech trawlers crawl for content to make their own vacuous machine generated pap look worth pausing over.

And it can be really annoying.

So why do it?

Well why not? It’s not half so bad as sending your hundred thousand word manuscript off to a publisher, waiting six months in hope and expectation, then getting it back torn and creased and the front cover blobbed with grease from someone’s lunch – but otherwise no real indication it’s been read past the first page. Do this year in year out with every single thing you’ve ever written and you start to get the picture. Need advice on how to narrow the odds a bit? Spend a fortune on those trite and useless “how to get your novel published” books, but in the main just keep going, refuse to admit defeat – five, ten, fifteen years,… or worse drop dead with a pile of work going rotten in your shed, for your unfortunate executors to finally throw away.

Now that’s mad! And worse, it’s pointless. But the alternative,… giving your work away for free online? Really? Well, speaking as an unknown writer of otherwise unmarketable material, I’d probably go mad if I didn’t.

BTTCoverMy novel “Between the tides” – the seventh I’ve given away – has been live on Feedbooks now since the end of February. It’s had 1600 downloads. The rate has tapered off somewhat in recent months, and is currently averaging about 4 per day – not massive, but it’s out there, it’s being read and some of those readers have said nice things about it. Oh, it would probably benefit from an editor’s know-how – probably benefit from a proofreading eye other than my own – but if I’d gone down that route, “Between the tides” would still be sitting in the first of many editors’ slush-piles waiting for a long line of underpaid office numpties to stick it in the return envelope, unread.

For me, reaching a bunch of people who seem interested in actually reading your stuff – you know – readers – and reaching them directly – is better than holding out for a few thousand pounds in royalties and never getting your story published in the first place. Nobody will ever know who you are of course – how great, how cool, how handsome, how indisputably “A list” your demeanour, and you will never be invited onto that TV chatshow to pontificate and shamelessly promote yourself . But if that’s the sort of thing that turns you on, you’ve a lot of growing up to do and maybe writing’s not the best course for you anyway.  As for the dead weight of all those webscrapers and pirates and other hangers on,…

Who cares?

What’s that you say? Who is this guy? Well, my name isn’t really Michael Graeme and I write stories, for the people who read them. And to the people who have read Between the Tides and all my other stories, as always, I say thank you.

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Always on the lookout for any new catch free self-publishing avenues I’ve just discovered this outfit called BookieJar. They’ve been around since 2011 and deal only with ebooks. You can offer your work for free, or set a download price from which BookieJar will take their cut. I loaded my short story The Man Who Talked to Machines on there yesterday by way of an experiment and found the whole process to be very simple indeed. You just need a copy of your story in MS Word format, and away you go. Signup was very simple and the whole process took no more than ten minutes.

The one niggle I have with BookieJar is they don’t seem to offer their authors any stats, so it’s impossible to tell how successful their site is in reaching an audience for your work. I’m the slightly eccentric kind of indie who’d sooner reach a thousand readers by giving his work away than charge a fee and only attract the interest of half a dozen. But it’s impossible to know when or if I’ll ever reach a thousand readers with BookieJar, and that makes me hesitate before putting more of my work on there. Maybe I’m just a shameless stats voyeur but I like to know how many readers I’m getting – if I’m ramping up, reaching market saturation, tailing off or bumping along the bottom.***

On the plus side the site encourages social-media type interaction between readers and writers. If you’re active in reading and commenting on other BookieJar titles, you’ll find your profile appearing more frequently on the home-page, which in turn should raise the profile of your work, so to some extent you get out whatever you’re willing to put in. This is different and interesting, and fair.

Anyway, if you’re a writer exploring the self publishing options available online, then do check out BookieJar. And if you’ve not discovered them yet, check out Feedbooks, Smashwords and Lulu as well.

Respects and stay safe.

Graeme Out.

 

*** Update 26/08/12 ***

I’m wrong here. Bookiejar’s download stats are available on the author’s account page – my thanks to fellow writer and blogger Paul Samael for pointing this out. From this I was able to see that “The Man Who Talked to Machines” achieved just one download in the space of a week. By comparison, it’s been up on Feedbooks since 2010, and is still achieving around 5 downloads per day. Bookiejar’s not exactly set my world alight then, but it was worth a shot.

I don’t know how Feedbooks manage such an impressive download rate for their authors – it may be because they don’t require you to sign up, like other sites do, before you can download – you just click on the story, select your format and you’re reading it in seconds. I’m speculating, but the business of signing up which other self publishing sites insist on, may be deterring casual browsing, and thus eliminating a lot of potential readers.

So, BookieJar or Feedebooks? Well, obviously Feedbooks will deliver you the most impressive download rates, but any self publishing outlet is better than none, especially if it’s free, and you never know. Well done to BookiJar, anyway.

 

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