Thursday, June 26, 2014

Amazon and South African Authors

Let me start off by stating that I'm not an expert, or a high-up manager; I'm a bookseller and a writer, and this post is my own opinion and how I see things from my position.

Great, now that's out of the way - how about Amazon's new terms, eh? Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the link to the article over at The Guardian.

First of all, Amazon's new terms probably won't affect me and sales of "Betrayal's Shadow" or "A Song of Sacrifice" at all. I'm really not worried about Amazon's terms affecting me because I'm not published by or distributed by one of the 'big guns' in the trade. That puts me, and my fellow South African authors, in a very interesting situation.

The thing is, most of the writers I know write Speculative Fiction, and SpecFic isn't something that SA publishers directly look at, or even notice. Consequently, we've have to look elsewhere to submit out work for publication. This means that you probably haven't seen or heard of many South African SpecFic writers because we just don't get the deals or exposure that authors with the 'big guns' get. It doesn't mean we don't exist - it just means that you probably won't find out work on the shelves in SA bookstores.

But our work is available on Amazon.

See the weird situation we're in?

Here it is: what we write doesn't reach as many readers as we'd like and hope because we aren't with the 'big guns', but if we were with the 'big guns'...? Well, look at how the Amazon-Hachette argument affected authors published and / or distributed through Hachette; buy-buttons that were removed, upcoming titles that could not be pre-ordered. Which, of course, affected sales.

Our sales weren't affected.

If you check out this page, you'll be able to order awesome tales without having to worry whether there'll be a buy-button for you to click. We aren't beholden to the choices of any of the massive corporations.

So, you understand how the situation is weird for us?

But the actual problem comes in when you put Amazon's new terms up against the South African book trade as a whole.

Our trade is already suffering immense pressure because of the prices we have to charge - ordering a book from Amazon and paying for shipping will get the book for much cheaper than our stores can supply it. Regional pricing could conceivably make books more affordable for consumers, but our trade doesn't have that luxury. Not only do we have to purchase rights to get books in SA, but we also have to purchase the books at the pound or dollar price - South Africa's economy being what it is doesn't help, either, since the exchange rates push the prices up even more.

And because books are rapidly approaching the I-just-cannot-afford-to-buy-from-a-bookstore-anymore price levels, people are buying online and overseas. Makes complete sense, right?

The problem just gets worse - buying online isn't the problem, though. For example, you can purchase my book from Exclusive Books' website for cheaper than what you'll pay in a bricks-and-mortar store, and yes, I might get royalties, and yes, my publisher and distributor will make money, too. The same, in fact, applies if you purchase my book on Amazon.

But if you purchase, lets say, Patricia Cornwell's Dust from Amazon, your money is doing nothing to support SA's book trade. A book is a book is a book, you might think, but it just isn't the case.

Where you, as a South African reader, purchase the book, is what matters.

A couple of years ago the Kindle really took off here - and we in the book trade were really apprehensive of the effects it would have on the trade. Because we're insiders, we knew that every book purchased on or for the Kindle meant a loss of revenue for our trade. But customers were happy, because they could afford to read. It didn't -and doesn't- matter to a customer where they purchase a book from.

Of course, these customers, like most readers, love browsing in book stores. That has never changed. They're just not buying books in book stores because they can't afford it anymore.

Let me show it to you in this way:

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell will be released in November, which means that South African stores will probably only stock it from early or mid-December - that's if we don't get a same-day release deal.

So, Cornwell fans here in SA decide that they'll pre-order the book from Amazon because they don't want to have to wait; as soon as the book is released and payment goes through, the book ships to them and they begin reading the book before stock has arrived in South Africa.

(I'm not even going into rights-issues here because customers don't care about rights-issues)

Yes, this is an example of something that our publishers could try and work on, because fans are fans, but the point is every single cent of the money that Flesh and Blood will make before it reaches South Africa is a loss for our trade. We cannot force our customers to wait for books simply because we can't get the books on the official publishing date - so we give them a choice.

We will get the stock and display it and posters will be hung up and promotions will be run - but the price of the book in-store, versus the online price, will still be a problem.

So, fast-forward to Amazon's new terms (which may or may not actually be implemented): if Amazon is able to dictate that "books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon's anywhere, including on a publisher's own website", imagine what happens when Amazon offers a promotion on a big-name title that even US and UK retailers cannot compete with:

Customers will buy online - they're saving money and getting what they want. In fact, it's already happening. The knock-on effect, though, is what we should be worried about.

Increasing prices means less sales - Amazon sells cheaper so they sell more.

So, South African SpecFic writers who aren't published or distributed by any of the 'big-guns' will very probably enjoy on-going sales in spite of or even despite what Amazon does - BUT - Amazon's new terms could affect South Africa's book trade even more negatively.

Catch-22 - we have millions of readers in South Africa who want to buy books on a regular basis but can't because it's too expensive, so they purchase what they want online - putting our trade under even more pressure.

Mother of all Catch-22's, eh?

How do we go about trying to turn this situation around? I have no idea, honestly.

The average South African book-buyer cannot afford to purchase books in-store, so trying to drive people toward stores just won't work.

Added to that, the South African SpecFic's writer's books probably aren't available in book stores, which means the books are purchased online.

So, the weird situation for South African SpecFic writers in a nutshell:

Our book trade is under immense pressure, but our books are still selling, and are more affordable online than if they had to be purchased in-store.

One thing is for sure - reading is reading, folks. Customers will read where they can and as they can afford to.

How we, as writers, distributors and publishers, continue to give customers what they want needs to be either changed or radically revised, because, after all, publishers weren't strong-armed into selling their product on Amazon: publishers chose to sell their product on Amazon.

So perhaps, just perhaps, the 'big guns' need to be BOLD and REMOVE their products from Amazon. ;-)

Something to think about, however this all pans out.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Betrayal's Shadow - Interviews, Excerpts and Giveaways

Hey everyone, I hope your 13th has been as interesting as mine. :-)

Other than chatting about peeing with Adam Nevill on Facebook (seriously!), my day has been good so far. But you don't have to worry about the peeing bit... ;-)

I do have news - fellow South Africa author Sergio Pereira interviewed me for his website: you can read the interview here, and do check out Sergio's work, too. :-)

Onto the giveaways! 

First off, my publisher is running a Facebook-specific giveaway - head on over to their page, check out the details, and you could win every title that Fox and Raven Publishing has released since June 1st 2013. :-)

And to top it off, the wonderful people over at Short Story Day Africa have got an awesome hamper that they'll be giving away - a kickass selection of African Speculative Fiction, and they've included Betrayal's Shadow! :-) Check out the deatils here. :-)

Last, but definitely not least, KM Randall, author of Fractured Dreams (I'm running a giveaway for three copies of the book and have posted an excerpt from it on my review-blog), posted an exclusive excerpt from Betrayal's Shadow on her site - check it out here. :-)

So, there we go - wishing you all a kickass weekend!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I'm Interviewing Raymond E. Feist at Indulgence Cafe on the 24th of September!

So, this is what will be happening in September. :-)

Mr. Feist made this announcement on his website a while ago, and now we can confirm the date and venue for one of his appearances here in South Africa.


Date: 24 September 2014, Wednesday, Heritage Day

Venue: Indulgence Cafe - 225 Beyers Naude Drive, 
                                    South Africa

Time: 10AM 


I cannot express how damned excited I am to meet Mr. Feist - and a bit intimidated! I do think, though, that it will be one of the biggest events to hit South Africa's SFF scene in decades, so be sure to mark the 24th on your calendars, set your reminders and alarms, etc.

The event will be a Bookings-ONLY event (entrance charged in advance), so as soon as the details are finalized and go LIVE, make sure you book your place! There will be food and drink at the event and it will be a morning event. :-)

Tell your friends and fellow fans! This is an event that simply cannot be missed! :-) Check out the Event Page on FB and make sure you JOIN to be kept updated as further details are finalized. :-)

There's also another cool event taking place in August at Indulgence Cafe: author appearances to promote Bloody Book Week 2014 from the 6th to the 9th of August. :-)

Guests include Paul O’Sullivan, Dr David Klatzow, Peter James and Deon Meyer, amongst others, so this will definitely be another literary highlight! :-)

Remember, if you'd like to be kept up to date with the goings-on at Indulgence Cafe, connect on the Facebook Page, bookmark the blog, and follow them on Twitter. :-)


Friday, June 6, 2014

"The Bell" coming your way soon in "A Forest of Dreams"

Morning! :-)

Hope you're all well and have been writing up a storm, or a battle, or a pivotal dramatic scene, or something hilarious.

I enjoyed another good writing session last night - Book 2 is picking up speed nicely and I'm looking forward to springing the plot-surprises that I've had in mind for years... :-)

Anyway, let's get to the subject of this post:

Twenty established and up and coming fantasy writers, all members of the Fantastic Fantasy Writers Facebook Page, stretch their creative muses with 19 highly creative tales ranging from non-traditional dragons to mud maidens to a two headed centaur. Here imagination knows no bounds!

My tale, "The Bell" is in this awesome anthology, and you can pre-order your copies on Amazon via this link. The cover artwork was created by the supremely talented Druscilla Morgan. :-)

Indie Author Press, headed by Jorge Salgado-Reyes, is the publisher.

I'm really looking forward to reading the other tales in this anthology, and to hearing what you think about "The Bell". :-)

Until next time,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Recent Reviews and a Guest-Post!

Hey everyone, hope you've been well. :-)

I've been busy writing Book 2, finding my feet and getting settled into the world again. :-) Book 1 has been out in the world for almost two months now, and though there hasn't been an onslaught of reviews (for which I'm strangely thankful), there are a couple that I would like to mention. :-)

Wesley Anderson has reviewed both the prequel, 'A Song of Sacrifice' and the novel 'Betrayal's Shadow' and I'll be sending Wesley a physical copy of my novel as thanks for his support.

Nerine Dorman, author of The Guardian's Wyrd, Inkarna, Blood and Fire (with Carrie Clevenger),and much, much more, had this to say:

"Though there is a fair amount of exposition to get through, A Song of Sacrifice is nonetheless a story with a premise that is rather different from much of the fantasy fare I've encountered of late, that blends in a whiff of a SF element. I'll be watching De Burgh's career with great interest."

Check out the rest of the review on Nerine's blog. :-)

Lood Du Plessis, Editor of the great Exclusive Books Cover to Cover eZine, also reviewed the novel and you can check out what he had to say in the June issue of Cover to Cover. :-)

Monique Snyman, author of Charming Incantations: Enticed and more, posted her review of the novel this morning:

"As far as debut novels are concerned, Betrayal’s Shadow shows only the tip of De Burgh’s hidden talent. I’d like to see where he goes from here …"

Check out the rest of the review here. :-) I also wrote a guest post for Monique, titled 'Seeds', and you can follow this link to read it. :-)

There have also been more reviews, which you can check out on Goodreads - and while you're at it, why not add the prequel and the novel to your digital shelves? :-)

Before I forget, if you're on BooksLive, I now have a microsite there, thanks to Ben Williams, and my first post is a review of Hamilton Wende's 'Only the Dead'. :-)

So, that's it for now, see you next time. :-) And as always,