Tag Archives: Amazon Kindle

Using Archive.org to Research Your Novel

The Internet Archive, archive.org, has to be one of the most valuable resources for any historical novelist. The Internet Archive contains a lot of things from archived versions of internet pages, to audio and visual material including films. But for me the most valuable resource is the number of scans of old, out of copyright books. In particular the number of printed editions published in the 19th century of historical documents such as chronicles, registers, parliamentary documents etc, is simply staggering. A number of these books have been scanned from the collections of various libraries and in particular large US Universities, so if you want material from non-English speaking countries then other resources might be better. And sometimes they haven’t scanned every book you might come across. For my research of the Pontvallain campaign I did find that other repositories of material were useful as well, but by far the largest source has been the Internet Archive.

You might say – “hasn’t Google books” scanned a lot of out of copyright books? Yes you’d be right – as have Microsoft. But often the best place to find these scans is at the Internet Archive – for whatever reason Google Books often doesn’t display the full version of these scans and the Internet Archive is easier to use.

So how do you get started?

I am assuming that you already have your bibliography together. If you need to research titles then somewhere else might be a better place – probably a general history of the period with good footnotes and bibliography of primary sources.

For this example I am going to be searching and downloading the Issue Roll of Thomas de Brantingham, bishop of Exeter, Lord High Treasurer of England…, A.D. 1370, ed. F. Devon (1835)

1. Searching

I would suggest you search by the title of the document rather than the author name. The search box is pretty straightforward, but if you search for the Editor here, Devon, you get the following:

search - devon

But using the title you get:

search results

2. Which Title

There are likely to be different copies of each text – presumably because scan have been provided by different libraries. I would generally choose the one with the most downloads as its likely that other users have found this to be in the best conditions – some scans can be messed up – blurred images, bent pages!

3. Book summary page

This is where you see the metadata for each book. Key things you might want to check are the publication date, copyright information and language. On the left you will see a list of file types. Ignore this list! Go straight to the link for All Files. If you go straight to PDF for example here, you might be redirected to Google Books and then find you can’t get the PDF for some reason – but you can.

book page

4. All Files list

I would always select the file type ending .pdf as this will be the best version. Sometimes you will have the option to choose colour or black and white – the colour version looks pretty but takes longer to download.

All files

5. Download!

Be warned this can take sometime – each PDF might well be 50 MB or more in size. So be patient.


6. What about Kindle, ePub, text versions!

Well unfortunately as these are scans of books producing images the text is not particularly well rendered, so you may well get nonsense. Some of the text comes out fine, but some will be rubbish. See the example below:

text nonsense

This is from the text file, but the text is used to make the ePub, Kindle formats as well, so you will have the same problem.

PDF is the best option.

Check out the Archive

I hope this guide has been useful. The Internet Archive really is a great resource for any historical novelist or anyone with an interest in history and in particular primary sources.

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How Sustainable is the $0.99 ebook Price Point

inflation (Photo credit: SalFalko)

In terms of eBooks the $0.99 price point is still very common – its taken some criticism over the last few years, but by and large a lot of self-published and public domain classics still retain the $0.99 price point. I don’t use it for pricing my novel length titles, but I do have some short stories at that price.

But how long will it last? Surely with the effects of inflation we won’t always have the $0.99 price? The retailers will realize the costs associated with selling titles at this price are unsustainable at some point. When will that be?

I thought it would be interesting to see how much the revenue for indie/self-published publishers has declined at the $0.99 price point over the last few years and what might happen in the future.

I’m not economics expert, so if my maths is awry then let me know. I used a US Inflation Calculator to do the sums.

Let’s say you started publishing titles in 2010 at $0.99. If you are publishing via Amazon you get 35% of that back in royalties, which is $0.35/sale according to the reports I get from Amazon.

That $0.35 is now worth in reality $0.33, 6.8% less than it was worth in 2010. That’s quite a dramatic difference! Customers are paying effectively the equivalent of $0.99 – assuming of course their disposable income has increased at the same rate as inflation.

What would happen if inflation was a similar rate for the next 5 years say?

If you go with an inflation rate of 2% a year, then $0.99 in 2018 is worth only $0.89 now, the royalty is $0.32, not too bad perhaps, but still a 10% reduction. If you applied that over all your sales you can see that sticking at a $0.99 is unsustainable.

I think it’s likely that those sticking with the $0.99 will inevitably have to start putting up prices fairly soon. And I suspect there will be more pressure from retailers to decrease the royalties on books below a certain price.

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Tricky to give away eBooks on Amazon – and getting trickier

144/365 - Free Stuff
144/365 – Free Stuff (Photo credit: Loimere)

Sometimes giving stuff away for free can be a good way of getting publicity for something. We see it all around us as a common promotional tool. In the field of publishing its a common ploy – some authors have done well building up a fan base in the past by giving away free content, and free previews of content are a key way for readers to decide if they like something before they buy from an online retailer.

With eBooks, a lot of self-publishers have used Amazon’s Kindle Select programme to promote their books. The strategy being that if you get lots of downloads you’re going to get some reviews and also more “Others also bought/viewed” type related sales after the free promotion has finished. There is evidence out there that this strategy can work, but it seems that it’s getting more difficult.

Amazon only allows you to give 5 days free content for your book over a 3 month period (during which you can’t distribute your eBook with anyone else). In the past you could get a good number of downloads without really having to do anything – I’ve done this in the past and as soon as the free promotion period starts the free downloads start tallying up. However, I tried this with Hell has its Demons recently and hardly anything happened until I started unleashing some pretty serious promotion of my own – blog posts, email campaigns etc. Having read a bit more about this now online it seems that as a bare minimum you have to start using promotional sites like Bookbub and others to get your book out there.

What’s going on? Are Amazon simply trying to hush up free content on their site in order to get people to buy things? Is there such a large micro-market of publicity services available that Amazon feels they don’t need to to it.

In contrast if you want to give away free eBooks you can still do this in fairly good numbers on other retailers and get some stats on how many – such as Barnes & Noble and Sony for instance. I use Smashwords to distribute to these retailers and they provide monthly stats usually. Unfortunately you don’t get starts from Apple’s iBookstore or from Kobo – but your book is still free there as long as you want it to be.

Seems like a lot of things in self-publishing are changing – it’s actually getting harder to promote and get your work out there – and potentially more costly if you need to pay for advertising so that anyone notices. You can’t even give it away unless you pay!

Is self-publishing still a nirvana for the aspiring writer, or a money-making opportunity for the middlemen?

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Hell has its Demons – Free on Kindle this weekend

Hell has its DemonsMy new novel, Hell has its Demons, will be free on the Kindle this weekend.

The promotion should be starting today, Friday, 28th June, and will last until Saturday.

Get it while you can at Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | and their other stores!

Here’s a bit more about the book:

What if the demons portrayed in the Middle Ages were real and could be conjured by necromancers?

And what if those seeking power decided to use demons to get what they wanted? In Hell has its Demons a plot unfolds to use demons to take the ultimate prize of all – the crown of Edward III, King of England.

Investigating an infestation of demons in the town of St Brett’s is the last thing that Jake Savage wants to do this summer. But for his master, the controversial Oxford scholar Roger Sotil, it is a chance to prove that demons can be conjured and avoid charges of heresy.

In St Brett’s Roger sees demons possessing the townspeople. Jake thinks they are just acting very strangely. The people are scared and want answers fast. A beautiful woman, Isabel Haukwake, is accused of witchcraft. Roger feels sure that she isn’t guilty. Jake knows she isn’t. He was once engaged to marry her, until his father took her from him.

Hell has its Demons is the first novel in a trilogy.

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Self Publishing Pros and Cons: Distribution

A while ago I did a couple of posts regarding the pros and cons of Self Publishing, with the intention of doing some more posts at some point. Well this is the next one. It’s on distribution and an area that is bugging me quite a lot at the moment and where I think there is quite a big gap in the market to help self published authors.

On the eBook side self publishers have quite a good choice for distribution. They can get their eBooks published via all the main eBook retailers through a variety of means – either going direct with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble or Apple or using distributors such as Smashwords and Lulu to do part of it for them. It seems that of the retailers only Amazon demands direct engagement from authors and won’t let a distributor take some of the pain of multiple platforms away – but then Amazon don’t want authors distributing their work via other retailers anyway. Going direct to retailers has its benefits, but self published authors have the choice usually of doing that or using a distributor for their work.

On the traditional publishing side it really depends on what arrangements have been made by your publisher. Some publishers have a difficult relationship with Amazon for a whole host of reasons. And I think some others – more small to medium sized – are still only just getting to grips with eBooks. I was surprised to find that some recent Science Fiction books that I was trying to buy recently from well known authors were not available as eBooks. So it’s possible that to go the traditional route may inhibit eBook distribution if the publisher has a tiff with someone like Amazon, or just is slow in getting its systems together – worth taking into account when selecting a publisher.

Print is not dead – still the majority of the market

This is still true and I think a major problem for the self-published author. The one clear advantage of being published by a traditional publisher is that your book will appear in print and will get some sort of decent distribution to bookshops, book wholesalers and to library suppliers. Maybe even into book cataloguers/book clubs and supermarkets if it is a bestseller. Even if the shelf life is short there will be some exposure and book shop customers can place orders for a book through a book shop and have that order fulfilled.

For a self published author to achieve the same level of distribution is difficult. To get the same face time as a publisher sales rep with book shop chain buyers who decide whether to buy copies of a book is impossible.

On the logistical distribution side it seems that the main options for self publisher are to purchase a more expensive package than the standard ones from Lulu or Createspace – you need something like the Extended Distribution from Createspace or to go with Ingrams’ Lightning Source service to even get in the major bibliographic databases, otherwise online sales via Amazon are probably the only means for customers to purchase print.


For some bright spark there has to be an opportunity here. Either a start-up company or one of the book wholesalers perhaps could step in and offer enhanced sales and distribution for the self published author. They could produce a catalogue and actively sell these titles to bookshops. I think they would have to impose some sort of vetting process – the author would have to somehow justify why their book should get attention from the bookseller – previous eBook sales or direct online print sales history could play a major role here I think.

Interesting times and an area that’s still in development for self published authors.

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The Honour of Rome now available from a range of eBook Retailers

I have finally managed to get my short story The Honour of Rome distributed through a wide range of eBook retailers – previously it was just on Amazon. So if you like reading books on the Nook, iPad or any other device – see Smashwords – then you now have no excuse not to read The Honour of Rome!

You can now buy The Honour of Rome from these retailers:


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Demon River now free on Amazon for a limited time only

Until the end of Monday my short story Demon River will be free for download to the Kindle.

Demon River on Amazon US
Demon River on Amazon UK

Set in a fantasy world of dark magic, Benetus, the King’s chancellor, fears the return of a rival he had thought banished from court. Benetus turns to the help of demons to rid himself of his enemy. But things are not always as they seem in the spirit world.

“Recently I had even felt the beginnings of optimism. After years of cloud and storm, the sun had broken through and I could at last bask in the success that I deserved. After all, who else now stood between me and the ear of the King?”

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Demon River Promotion – Free on Kindle from 2nd March to 4th March 2012

My fantasy short Demon River is now free for Kindle for three days, from 2nd March 2012 to 4th March 2012. Enjoy!

Set in a fantasy world of dark magic, Benetus, the King’s chancellor, fears the return of a rival he had thought banished from court. Benetus turns to the help of demons to rid himself of his enemy. But things are not always as they seem in the spirit world.

“Recently I had even felt the beginnings of optimism. After years of cloud and storm, the sun had broken through and I could at last bask in the success that I deserved. After all, who else now stood between me and the ear of the King?”

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