On Amazon Pricing Policies

When publishing a book, one of the big questions you have to ask yourself is: how much am I going to charge for it? And in an era where you will have two versions, a physical paper version and an electronic e-reading version, of which the latter is probably the most important product, this is actually quite a hard question. A lot of it comes down to the psychology of pricing.

For the new Game Night, and if Pigs Could Fly when it comes out, I’ve gone for a fairly simple policy.

Paperback (trade): $9.99 US / £6.99 UK

Ebook (Kindle + others): $2.99 US / £1.99 UK

I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t mention that those two ebook prices are the minimum price points at which Amazon will pay you a 70% royalty; anything below that pays 35%. That fact did help me pick the actual price points. But I genuinely feel that those prices are a fair price for a novel, with the Ebook prices especially hitting that point where I feel I’m getting a reasonable price for the work while the reader/purchaser feels that they’re paying a reasonable price for what is, at the end of the day, nothing more than a digital file.

Obviously, other people will come to other conclusions. It’s a confusing market. But then you see something like this:

MadKindlePrice

I’m sorry, but that’s just insane. Asking someone to pay £8.54 for the Kindle version might be reasonable if: a) the book has just come out and the only other, physical, version is say a hardback priced at £18.99, or; b) this is a very expensive textbook with the physical version being much more expensive.

But when it’s a book that launched more than three years ago, and the paperback version is barely fifty pence more, that makes no sense at all. In the US, this book is even more incoherently priced: you can buy the paperback new for $9.22 while the Kindle version will set you back $13.31.

What I think happened is that they originally launched a hardback version (there’s one now, priced at £12.95) and a Kindle version, setting the Kindle version to complement the hardback price. And then, when they launched the paperback version, they just, plain, damn… forgot to reduce the price of the Kindle version. Which in the Kindle era, in my opinion, qualifies as incompetence of the highest order.

It’s the poor author I feel sorry for.

 

Jonnycon I: Programme Grid

This is mainly just a bit of fun, but I thought I’d have a first cut at a “programme grid” for Jonnycon. It isn’t anything that anyone has to worry about. If you’ve never been to a con, you can completely ignore it – all you need to know is that we’ve got a couple of rooms in a pub and are holding a party in them from around 7pm to 1 am, and at a couple of points I – the author – might get up and talk. But this gives a bit of a structure to what will be happening, when, and hopefully makes it feel a bit more like a mini-convention.

ProgrammeGrid

Jonnycon I: The Launch Party For Wild Jester Press and “If Pigs Could Fly”

IfPIgsCouldFlyCover-FrontOnly-MediumLater this year, after a difficult gestation of more than seven years, I’m finally publishing my “difficult” second novel, If Pigs Could Fly, and creating my own publishing imprint (Wild Jester Press) to do it. To celebrate both of these events, Jules and I are holding a party, and we’d love you all to come.

The party is basically a book launch, with all the things you’d expect from a book launch (including a reading from the author, me, and the chance to get an advance copy of the book and have it signed). In addition, we’ll have a bit of food, some dancing as we work our way into the early hours, plus chat, and even a few board games.

Additional note: The official launch of the book is in October (we will be selling copies at the Irish Discworld convention in Cork from 2nd to 5th October, with the book then becoming available on Amazon on 6th October). So Jonnycon gives you a chance to get your hands on a copy of the book two months early!

Letting us Know

No invites are required. This is a public event, and it’s fine to just turn up on the night. But if you are coming, it would be good if you could let us know, either by commenting here or sending an email to jonny (at) jonnynexus dot com, just so that I have some idea of numbers.

When and Where

Jonnycon 1 is being held on Saturday 1st August from 7:00pm onwards at The Iron Duke pub, 3 Waterloo Street, Hove BN3 1AQ.

IronDukeMap

IronDuke

WildJesterLogo1WhiteBackground-20percent

Review: The Fat Controller’s Busy Day

One of the hazards of having a day job, a writing career on the side, and a two-year old daughter, is that it does rather cut into the time you have available to actually read fiction, let alone review it. But I do feel that as an author it’s important to try and “put something back” by providing reviews, so I’m going to start now with some thoughts on something I read recently.

* * * * *

FatControllerPic“The Fat Controller’s Busy Day” is a frankly disturbing piece of work, reading – as it does – like Animal Farm might have read had it been written by a reactionary conservative rather than a progressive socialist. The story’s essential plot is as follows.

The manager of Sodor’s railway system, the hereditary baronet Sir Topham Hatt, has been slimming down his workforce, promoting Thomas the Tank Engine to his own branch line while leaving his previous shunting position unfilled. Historically, tender engines have not been required to assemble the coaches that make up their trains. But Hatt now decides to eliminate this labour demarcation, and orders them to shunt.

Three of the tender engines – Gordon, James and Henry – refuse, working to rule, and performing only those duties that they have previously performed. They will pull trains, but not assemble them. On the first day of the work to rule, Hatt asks the fourth tender engine, Edward, to assemble the passenger trains. Edward, who Hatt sees as a “really useful engine”, but whom might less charitably be seen as a management lackey and class traitor, agrees, and as a result is ostracised by his workmates.

Upon hearing of this, Hatt – who is colloquially known as “the Fat Controller” – is outraged. He immediately institutes a lockout, barring the three protesting engines, and initiates an emergency passenger service using Edward and Thomas, a tank engine happy to serve as a strike-breaker. However, more labour is required, so Hatt now recruits a new tank engine, Percy. Percy, a young and naïve engine unaware that he is being recruited into the management side of a labour dispute, eagerly agrees.

The three engines successfully run the emergency service. There are fewer trains than usual, but the passengers are content as they wish to see the three “rebellious” tender engines punished. Eventually, the three tender engines – who have been confined to their engine shed – agree to comply with all Hatt’s demands. From now on they will accept the abandonment of their previous, protected status, and will shunt alongside their tank engine colleagues.

I feel this book is fundamentally misnamed. The Fat Controller has not had a busy day, being as he is a capitalistic industrialist born into inherited wealth who emotionally manipulates his workforce into serving him, and backs this up with an extensive propaganda campaign. I personally feel that this book would have been more honest, had it been titled “Edward the Scab and Percy the Strike-Breaker”.

On the other hand, my daughter loves it.

An Announcement

For those of you who’ve been wondering when I’d next have something out…

Wild Jester Press is pleased to announce that it will be publishing the next novel by English humour SF/F writer, Jonny Nexus. If Pigs Could Fly is the first book in the West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency series, featuring offbeat paranormal investigator Ravinder “Rav” Shah.

It will be published this summer, in both trade paperback and e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Kobo) formats.

Wild Jester Press will also be publishing a new edition of Jonny’s previous, ENnie-nominated novel, Game Night.

About Jonny Nexus

Jonny Nexus began his writing career in the table-top roleplaying field, with his cult gaming webzine Critical Miss. This led to monthly columns in the roleplaying magazines Valkyrie and Signs & Portents, and the publication by Mongoose Publishing of his parody gaming guide, The Slayer’s Guide to Games Masters.

His debut novel Game Night, the tale of a dysfunctional group of roleplaying gods, was nominated/shortlisted for an ENnie award.

Further information can be found at Jonny’s website: http://www.jonnynexus.com.

About Wild Jester Press

Wild Jester Press is a new small-press publishing house based in Brighton. Its target market is genre works (science-fiction and fantasy) with a generally humorous slant.

Further information can be found at the Wild Jester Press website: http://www.wildjesterpress.com.

http://wildjesterpress.com/announcement/jonny-nexus-if-pigs-could-fly/

A Twitter Account For Brighton

A little while ago I started1 following @ireland and @sweden on Twitter. Both are examples of what are termed Rotation Curation:

Rotation Curation, also #RotationCuration, is the concept of rotating the spokesperson on a broad scoped social media account. Such a scope can be a location, a country, an organization, a group, and so on. The concept is prominent on Twitter, but has also been ported to Instagram. The concept originated December 10, 2011, when Svenska Institutet and VisitSweden launched Curators of Sweden. The project hands the official Twitter account @Sweden to a new Swedish person every week to manage, with the expressed goal to manifest Swedish diversity and progressiveness through their own personality. [Wikipedia]

IrelandTwitter

Basically, it’s like Doctor Who. Each Monday, a new person gets to run the account for the next seven days. The Twitter handle is unchanged, but they change the name to include their own name, and the icon is their picture with a common graphic overlain.

They tweet what they like: sometimes stuff about themselves; sometimes things about their country. Each weekly curator brings a new angle, shines a new light.

I’m really enjoying reading them both, and it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be really cool if Brighton had such an account? Not only is it a vibrant city with a bucket load of culture and a strong and alternative identity, it’s got a pretty healthy tech scene to boot.

I’d love to see other people’s views of my adopted home, to get an insight into the other lives going on around me. I’ve only got the one life to live in Brighton, but it would be great to see how other people are living theirs. I think it would be interesting and informative, educational and entertaining2.

What does everyone else think? If you, like me, think this might be a cool thing then please either post here, or tweet me (@jonnynexus). I’m not volunteering to run this, partly because I haven’t got the time, but mainly because something like this needs to have proper backing and not be a one-man operation. But if there’s interest, I could try floating the idea to people who might be able to make it work.

It could happen. And it could be very cool.

1I was vaguely aware of both of them, but when my friend Brian (@natural20) got to be Ireland for the week, I ended up signing up for both of them. He talked about his work, his hobbies, about the importance of storytelling, and did an epic rant about the Catholic church. It was very cool.

2There is a similar Twitter account for the UK (@PeopleofUK) but I’m afraid that this account just doesn’t grab me. I’m not an outsider looking for a “look inside”, as I am with Ireland and Sweden, but the UK is so big that it doesn’t feel like this sort of account offers an insider’s view, either. If a person in Sweden talks about their bus journey to work being delayed, I’ll learn something about the Swedish public transportation system. If a person on our hypothetical Brighton account talked about their bus being stuck on Western Road, I’ll know to take the sea front instead. But if a person in Nottingham tells me that their bus is late, frankly, I couldn’t give a shit.

English is Stupid #1

One of the “charming eccentricities” of the English language is the way that verbs can be irregular. Regular verbs can be changed from present to past tense by adding “ed” to them. Lift, becomes lifted, kill becomes killed, and so on. But with irregular verbs, it’s pretty much anything goes. Sometimes, the vowel within the word changes. I run, I ran. I dig, I dug. I shit. I shat1.

And then there’s the bits where English goes totally off-piste. I go, I… went? And then you get the even more complicated bits when you take into account past simple and past participle2, such as sing, sang, sung. A linguist who’s studied the roots of English could no doubt tell you why this is, but I alas, am not such a linguist3.

But I recently came across a wonderful word where English doubles up on its stupidity. Imagine that the following past tense passage needs to be converted to present tense:

“I lift the pen. I write some words. I read the words.”

It would become:

“I lifted the pen. I wrote some worlds. I read the words.”

So that’s regular, irregular, and yes, irregular. Because read, pronounced “reed”, and read, pronounced “red”, are two words as different as lead and led, with the exact same change of vowel sound.

They’re just spelt the same way. Which is really, really stupid.

* * * * *

If you have any other examples, I’d love to hear them. And to the polyglots among you: English can’t be alone here, right? Do other languages display similar stupidity? And are there languages that aren’t similarly stupid, that actually appear to have some sort of overall design philosophy?

1There might be some who would claim that shit is a regular verb, and the the past tense of “shit” is “shitted”, as in “I shitted myself.” To them I can only say that sir you are an uncouth barbarian who does not deserve to be allowed near my language, and I will fight your dismissal of “shat” in favour of the abominable “shitted” with every fibre of my Anglo-Saxon soul for as long as fate allows me to live. Leave sir, and do not return.

2No, I don’t actually know what that is either. Given that I’m a product of the English education system between 1973 and 1987, at a time when “pupil centred learning” was at its height, my formal knowledge of grammar doesn’t go much beyond verbs being “doing words”.

3Like most of my fellow countryman, I am – shamefully – a monoglot. I recently spent a week in Istanbul, during which I managed to learn a grand total of one Turkish word: “fish”, which is the Turkish for “receipt”. Yes, I was there on business.

David Cameron’s Constitutional Crisis

“What we have is what I always wanted, which is one single question, not two questions, not devo max, a very simple single question that has to be put before the end of 2014 so we end the uncertainty.” – David Cameron, October 2012.

* * *

“If we get a No vote, that will trigger a major, unprecedented programme of devolution, with additional powers for the Scottish Parliament – major new powers over tax, spending and welfare services.” – David Cameron, September 2014.

CameronED2There’s an old trick politicians use when trying to force an unpopular option down the electorate’s throat. Don’t give them the opportunity to vote for the middle-of-the-road option they actually want. Instead offer them only two choices: an extreme option that you figure they’ll find too risky and radical; and your choice, that they’ll have no option but to vote for through gritted teeth.

Back in 2012, Alex Salmond wanted the referendum ballot to offer two questions that would deliver three options:

  • Stick with the status quo, with a limited, devolved parliament within the United Kingdom.
  • Stay within the United Kingdom, but have significant, further powers devolved to the parliament (a.k.a. “Devo Max”).
  • Independence.

People could have voted yes to independence and yes to Devo Max, no to independence but yes to Devo Max, or no to both independence and Devo Max. But David Cameron vetoed the twin question option, insisting on a straight choice between status quo and independence. I think it’s pretty clear that he did this thinking that independence had no chance, and by doing so he would torpedo the option that the majority of the Scottish people wanted, but he clearly didn’t: Devo Max.

The problem with this old politicians trick is that sometimes the electorate call your bluff, and it was when – two weeks ago – it looked like the Scottish electorate might be about to do just that, that Cameron was belatedly, “miraculously” even, converted to the cause of Devo Max (a.k.a. “The Vow”).

I guess we can’t know, but I think that if we’d had a two question ballot paper, with an explicit Devo Max option there right from the start to dilute and divide the yearning for self-determination, the yes vote would have been depressed. Perhaps 45% would have been 40%, or even 35%. Meanwhile, I think a big chunk – perhaps half – of the people who voted no yesterday would have voted for Devo Max, along with pretty much all of the yeses. I’d therefore see a Devo Max option, one that you could have voted for as well as independence, getting perhaps 70-75% support.

But, you might ask, how is that significantly different from the situation we have now, where a no option which mutated to a Devo Max option has won with 55% support? Well it is different, in two important ways:

Firstly, Scotland could now be uniting behind an option that three quarters of the voters had selected. Instead, we have a result so divisive that it cannot help but leave a legacy of bitterness and division.

And secondly, instead of voting for a Devo Max option agreed, defined and debated over more than two years, people have instead voted for an off-the-cuff, emergency lash up birthed in an atmosphere of panic and confusion. And not surprisingly, this spit-and-chewing-gum construction is already starting to unravel.

Scots voters were promised the best of all worlds: Cameron, Clegg and Miliband promised them increased devolution on an accelerated timetable with no strings attached, including a continuation of their funding under the Barnett formula; and Gordon Brown promised them that they could have draft legislation ready by May next year.

But that was pre-vote then, and this is a post-vote now.

This morning David Cameron alluded to the West Lothian question by speaking of “English votes for English MPs”, additionally adding that further Scottish devolution could only proceed in tandom with hearing “the millions of voices of England”. Meanwhile, this afternoon, when Alex Salmond phoned him, Cameron was now apparently saying that he “would not commit to a second reading vote (in the House of Commons) by 27 March on a Scotland Bill.” And that’s before we mention the 63 Tory MPs who have apparently already gone on the record as opposing Devo Max. Basically, Cameron promised something that he didn’t want, and probably can’t deliver.

My prediction is this. Devo Max will either be stalled indefinitely by arguments over English representation or devolution, and calls for constitutional conventions. Or it will come with unpleasant strings attached, such as a significant diminishing in power of the Scottish representation in the UK parliament at Westminster (by turning Scottish MPs into second-class MPs who can only vote on UK wide-issues), and possibly an adjustment in the Barnett formula that will lead to harsh spending cuts in Scotland.

Which will nicely open the way for the SNP to run in the Scottish elections of 2016 on a platform of a second independence referendum, on the grounds that previous one’s result has been rendered invalid by the promise and then effective withdrawal of a no-strings, “best of all worlds”, Devo Max.

Nice one Dave. You’ve certainly cocked this one up.

Scotland and Me: A Personal View

Firstly, to get the big question out of the way, if I was Scottish, I’d vote yes. Not because I’d think it will be easy. I don’t. I think it might be quite hard – worthwhile things usually are. I’d be voting yes because ultimately I’d rather be a citizen of a small democracy of five million people whose destiny I have a say in, than a citizen of a large democracy of sixty million people whose destiny I largely don’t.

But I would ask one thing of the post-Yes, Scottish people: can we keep Faslane and Coulport as Guantanamo Bay-style, leased sovereign enclaves. (In return for a currency union, use of the Bank of England, and first pick at the House of Commons wine collection).

It’s not about saving the several billion pounds it would cost to move the site, nor the undesirability of storing a shitload of nuclear weapons right next to Plymouth. (I know some might ask how come it was okay to store a shitload of nuclear weapons right next to Glasgow, to which I’d reply that pondering on that question a while might help them understand why so many Scots are keen to leave the union). No, it’s not about that. Personally, I’m in favour of abandoning Trident anyway.

No, the reason why I’d like us to keep Faslane is because it would create a wonderful new setting for stories. Stories need conflict, and nothing generates conflict like a few dozen megatons of someone else’s nuclear weapons stored right next to your biggest city. It only needs relations between the Scottish and rUK governments to deteriorate a tad and you have a wonderful Cold War-esque thriller with a twist.

“With the United Kingdom and Scotland on the verge of war, the last thing Redcap detective Jim Conner needed was a killer loose in Faslane’s nuclear submarine yards. With Prime Minister Farage’s visit only three days away and the five infantry regiments of the Scottish Army poised to attack the sovereign enclave, the clock is truly ticking.”

Tell me that’s not awesome!

The Parable of the Regency Anti-Slavery Campaigner and the Regency Health Freak

I’m a vegan, and here’s the thing: people who, for perceived health reasons, follow a plant-based diet and then refer to themselves as vegans – when they’re not, not really – kind of annoy me.

Why?

The Parable of the Regency Anti-Slavery Campaigner and the Regency Health Freak

Imagine it’s the 1810s. Slavery is legal in the British Empire, but a small group of abolitionists are fighting to stop it. Jeremiah is one such campaigner. He abhors slavery, and has vowed not to consume the products it produces. In practice, this means that he will eat no sugar, and wear no cotton.

If Jeremiah is attending a social gathering and is offered a dish that contains sugar, he will politely explain that he cannot eat it, and – if asked why – explain that he is an abolitionist.

Then we have Zachariah. Zachariah has no problem with slavery. He quite happily wears cotton clothing made with cotton sourced from slave-using plantations. But he has come to the conclusion that sugar is an unnatural product, and so refuses to eat it. And he’s decided that the best phrase to describe his avoidance of sugar is… abolitionist.

If Zachariah is attending a social gathering and is offered a dish that contains sugar, he will politely explain that he cannot eat it, and – if asked why – explain that he is an abolitionist. (If then asked why he has become an abolitionist and what an abolitionist is, he will give an explanation that is entirely about sugar’s unhealthy properties with not a single mention of slavery).

People’s reactions to Jeremiah’s polite refusal of the sugar dish will be significantly affected by whether or not they’ve had their understanding of the word “abolitionist” corrupted by people like Zachariah.

If they haven’t, if they immediately realise that Jeremiah’s stance is born of a moral abhorrence of slavery, then they will likely respect him greatly for making sacrifices in aid of people he will never meet, even if they do not personally agree with him. And deep down, they probably will agree with him, and his example may start them down a road that will lead to their rejecting slavery and its products.

But what if they have had their understanding of the nature of abolitionism corrupted?

If they assume that Jeremiah is refusing the sugar dish merely out of a desire to enhance his own health, they may react very differently. At best, they will be neutral – unbothered as to whether or not he wishes to eat the dish. But at worst, they may perceive him as rude, selfish, faddy, and perhaps even narcissistic – a man who puts his obsessive attention on himself ahead of the norms of social interaction.

Imagine how it would feel to Jeremiah if, every time he mentions that he’s an abolitionist, he receives the response: “Oh, is that for health reasons?”

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” – The Vegan Society (who created the word “vegan” in 1944)