Sep 292015

EggsBasketI love Mark Coker.
He’s one of my self-publishing heroes, who has been very inspirational ever since he founded Smashwords.

Mark writes insightful blog posts about the self-publishing industry, which in general are upbeat and positive in tone.
Lately, however, in his posts, but also in a podcast for the Indie ReCon, he has expressed his concerns about KDP Select and the power Amazon exerts with it.

Like me, Mark has never been a fan of KDP Select, but now more than before, he seems to be predicting doomsday if Indie authors keep choosing for Select.
As I believe Mark is a true visionary, his predictions have me very worried indeed.

KDP Select
Indie authors can publish their ebooks on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing, a very handy platform, which gets their ebooks on all the different Amazon sites. No problem there.
Since December 2011, however, authors get the choice on KDP to enrol in Select, or not.
From the beginning many authors were wary of this, as enrolling in Select meant that their ebooks could only be available on Amazon and nowhere else.

As ‘reward’ for this exclusivity, authors were able to price their ebooks for free, five days in every 90 days.
Pricing the first in a series for 99c or free, has always been a good marketing strategy, so authors flocked to enrol in Select, pulling their ebooks off other platforms, like Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble etc. And this while selling ebooks on as many platforms as possible, is also a good marketing strategy!
For some reason Amazon was able to lure them in, most likely as authors were selling most of their ebooks on Amazon anyway and thought, ‘what the hell…’.

Kindle Unlimited
I am firmly in the ‘never put your eggs in one basket’ camp, so I never enrolled in Select. There are other ways to price your ebooks for free on Amazon, so Select only had drawbacks for me. Even though most of my sales were also on Amazon.
But in the last few years, Amazon has added other ‘benefits’ to enrolling in Select, that non-enrollies don’t get.

In addition to Select, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service, which prices every ebook in Select automatically for free. Authors in Select are paid for every page that the subscriber reads. This might sound great, but it works out that they now get paid less for their ebooks than if they’d had a ‘normal’ sale and receiving 70% royalties.

On top of that it turns out that Amazon is changing their algorithms to make ebooks that are not in Select, less discoverable on the site, thereby ‘punishing’ authors that don’t enrol.
Then why not enrol in Select and be done with it?
Because Mark Coker is worried.

trainNot an easy problem, nor an easy solution
As Mark explains in his blog post and subsequent comments, what is happening at the moment with Select is a runaway train, that can only end in a huge wreck. For everyone – Select-Indies, non-Select-Indies and even authors who are traditionally published.
Yet their is not an easy solution to this problem. Some authors decided to enrol in Select even though they hate it. But as they are fulltime authors, they feel they don’t have another choice at the moment, but to enrol. Their families have to eat.
At the same time their are established authors who do fine without being in Select.

For a few years now, people have said that it is a great time to be an author. And I agree. But I feel the pressure of bringing out my books as fast as I can, as it seems that this ‘sweet spot’ is slipping away.
I believe in diversification, so I will keep going with Mark’s (and other’s) suggestion not to enrol in Select.
However, with writing my first ever fiction series, and under a penname, I simply am an unknown author, trying to find a market, in a self-publishing world where non-exclusivity is being punished. Will I ever be able to find readers for the series that I have put my heart and soul in for the last year-and-a-half?
Self-publishing was never an easy road to take, but it is getting harder and harder still and I am worried.

I hope that my fellow Indies will decide to go (or stay) non-exclusive as well. Unification among Indies is the only way to go!
Please take the time to read Mark Coker’s blog post and subsequent comments. Whether you’re pro or con Select.


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Jan 132015

writerHard to belief it’s already halfway January, but I think I’m still in time to post a quick update on my plans for 2015.

The most important thing I hope to accomplish this year is writing and publishing the first two books in my new cosy mystery series. The last six months I have been very busy creating a new world and characters. Now I am finally at the fun stage of plotting and writing the first book, which is where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
If all goes according to plan Book 1 is published in October and Book 2 in November. And if I’m lucky and everything goes smoothly, Book 3 in January 2016.

At the same time I’m planning to set up a new blog, aimed at Dutch authors. Self-publishing is still a relatively unknown thing in the Netherlands, even though it is now much easier to self-publish (e)books in Dutch. I have a feeling a lot of Dutch authors prefer to go the traditionally published way (looking for a publisher), because they lack the knowledge about self-publishing. There are few Dutch websites that guide and help self-publishers, unlike in the English-speaking world. On top of that self-publishing is still seen as ‘vanity’ and of ‘lesser quality’, which perpetuates the idea that to be a ‘real’ author you need the approval of a ‘real’ publisher.

With my new (Dutch) blog, I hope to dispel some of the self-publishing myths and create some clarity for Dutch authors. Hopefully they can then make a more well-rounded choice to either start looking for a publisher, or go the self-publishing route.
The plan is to use my current website for this blog. Although now only a website with some general info about me and my books, it is not difficult to add a blog to it.

I have however made the promise to myself that I won’t start this new blog until I have finished writing Book 1 and plotted Book 2, which in all probability will not be before July-August.

With all this going on, I will be plenty busy this year, but I know I will have loads of fun along the way!

What are your plans for 2015?


Related posts:

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Nov 242014

SuperdadJacob Hicks is the hero of my new series, and as such he needs to be an interesting character, who is able to carry the story through to its end. Even though the readers don’t actually need to like him (although I hope they do), Jacob has to be interesting and worth rooting for. And this won’t work without giving him a life of his own, almost as if he actually has lived the full 52 years of his life.

The creation of this virtual life is called backstory and writers spent a lot of time creating it and making it as believable and real as possible. The ironic thing is that in a way, the readers never sets eyes on it.
I can hear you think, Why waste so much time creating something that never makes it into the book? The answer is that it’s not a waste of time, but a chance for the writer to create a well-rounded, interesting character.

Backstory is basically the part of the hero’s life before the books starts. This life has shaped who he is. His morals and believes, the way he reacts in certain situations, the way he interacts with other people. Just like we do every day of our lives.
But of course Jacob hasn’t really lived his life. He’s just a made-up character that sprouted from my imagination, so it’s up to me, the writer, to create that life by inventing his backstory.

SurrenderingOther than making Jacob interesting, there is another important reason for backstory.
To have a remotely readable and interesting story, the hero always needs to learn something during the story. Ideally the hero is ‘broken’ and needs to be ‘repaired’. For instance, the hero can have certain phobias or insecurities that stop him facing and beating the bad guy. But as he is the hero in the story, he has no choice but to go through some personal growth, come to terms with his own weaknesses, in order for the book to have a happy end.
Phobias and insecurities might stem from things that happened to the hero in the past, which is why backstory is once more important.

I have written a lot of backstory in the past two months. At times it was easy, other times hard, but in general it has been fun. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I’m coming to the end of it, mostly as it means I get closer to actually writing my book!


Related post: Last Weekend I Murdered My Victim!

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Nov 172014

Основные RGBLast week, I mentioned that for the past four months I have been busy creating a world and populating it with characters.

Fact is that a story in a book has to take place somewhere and although it’s often made up, this world still needs to feel real to the reader. Actually, it doesn’t just have to feel real, it also needs to be interesting, so that the reader is compelled to stay around until the end of the book.

Creating a real and interesting world is even more important when writing a series. In that case you want the reader to fall in love with the world and eager to return to it time and again. So it’s important to think it all through before the writing starts.
Of course getting a reader attached to a story doesn’t only depend on the world the story is set in. It also depend on the characters and the story it self, but let’s for the moment focus on the world.

My new cosy mystery series is set in Milbury, a fictional neighbourhood of York, which is a real city in northern England. It might have similarities with the neighbourhood in York where I lived myself for four years, but Milbury for the largest part, doesn’t exist.

The world in a mystery series, needs to be thoroughly worked out, as it needs to have enough different settings within that world, where the murders can take place.
In a cosy mystery these settings often traditionally revolve around craft fairs, cricket clubs and the like, and for my first book I have chosen the local allotment society as the setting for murder and intrigue. For subsequent books I have already vague ideas for settings. These include the shop owners association, a cat show, the annual Viking festival etc.

The world in a series also needs to have a regular new influx of people, otherwise, what with the murders and people who commit the crimes, the village or neighbourhood would be quickly drained of it’s inhabitants.

And of course the world needs to be a good setting for the hero to be able to dig deep into the personal relationships of his neighbours and catch the murderer.

It took some time setting up Milbury, but I have a good feeling about it. The neighbourhood is large enough to feel like a village where tensions are kept under the surface with fake smiles and pretend civilities, while at the same it’s big enough to have different settings to accommodate the murder plots.
Now the ‘only’ thing I need to do is write it all down.

Which world in a book or other story has become your favourite?


Related posts: Last Weekend I Murdered My Victim!

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Nov 132014

On this rare occasion I have made a Dutch translation of this post below the English one.
NEDERLANDSE VERTALING ONDERAAN! Ik heb graag jullie ideeën over dit onderwerp, dus denk vooral mee!

newspaper2Yesterday, Amazon opened an ebook shop in the Netherlands! This is big news and as a Dutch writer, I have been waiting for this for a long time. Finally, I can now get my ebooks in the hands of more of my countrymen and make some money in return.
Reactions from the industry, readers and writers have been mixed so far, and I think I know why.

Up till now the Dutch readers have been reluctant to make the switch to ebooks, even though ebooks have been for sale since 2009 on, the biggest online retailer in the Netherlands. The reader’s reluctance to switch might stems from unfamiliarity with the product and the fact that ‘a gadget’ is needed to read the ebook. However, not only the readers are to blame for low ebook sales. Publishers and writers are as well.

Like in the English speaking world, the traditional publishers in the Netherlands want to keep a grip on what gets published and what not. They decide ‘what readers want to read’ and publish that. Prices for books and ebooks are high, because publishers have a lot of overheads and still want to make a profit. On top of that, there is a Dutch law that fixes the price for paper books, so that they are the same price anywhere, whether in actual bookshops, online or when self-published. Luckily this law does not count for ebooks, which I guess is the reason why Amazon is only selling ebooks in her new Dutch shop and no paper books.
If prices are high, readers don’t want to buy books, whether on paper, or ebooks, especially when ebooks are close to the same price as paper books and require a special gadget to read them. Understandable and this seems to be the same with traditionally published books all over the world.

But Dutch writers are a funny bunch as well.
I have moved on the fringes of the ‘Dutch writers society’ for a while now and have noticed that many Dutch writers still crave the recognition (validation if you like) of having a publishing contract with a traditional publisher. Self-publishing is quite rare in the Netherlands and on Dutch writers’ forums is often scoffed at as ‘vanity’, resulting in badly written books. Of course not that long ago the ‘English speaking world’ thought the same, but that rapidly changed when Amazon in 2007 gave writers their first viable option to self-publish their own books in return for some real profits. This resulted in an ever growing acceptance that self-published books are just as good as traditionally published ones (and often cheaper to boot).

Of course it is easy for me to talk. Although I am Dutch, I write in English and publish internationally on Amazon and the lot. Not all Dutch writers are able or willing to write in another language. Even so, since gave Dutch writers the opportunity to publish their own books on the website in June 2013, many writers still didn’t want to take the leap to self-publish. They still seem to crave publishing contracts and possibly don’t see the allure of ebooks, as many of them still preferred reading paper books themselves.
On top of that the royalties on are quite dismal compared to those on Amazon, leading to having to price an ebook quite high on Bol, just to get some sort of profit.

woman moneyFor example, my Dutch ‘Time Zones’ ebook retails at €4.99 on, of which I get €1.00. That looks like a 20% profit for me, but keep in mind that the one Euro pay-out is before tax, and I need to hand over 40% of it to the Dutch tax office. So I actually end up with only 60 Eurocents, which is about 12% of the price the book was sold for.
In comparison, on Amazon I get 70% of the retail price for that same ebook, if I price it between €2.60-€9.70 and below that I get 35%, which is still a lot more than the 12% on Of course this is before tax as well, but on Amazon my €4.99 ebook gets me €3.49 in royalties, which after tax is €2.10. A lot more than 60 Eurocents!
Above all, the Amazon’s royalties system enables me to price my ebooks lower while still getting 70%, something that doesn’t work on Bol, for the lower the retail price there, the fewer royalties I get. Pricing my ebook €4.99 was as low as I wanted to go, because I wanted at least €1.00 in royalties. And although pricing higher would leave me with more money, higher priced books sell less, especially when they get above five Euros. I wouldn’t want pay more than five Euros for an ebook, so why should my readers?

What do I hope will happen now that Amazon had set foot in the Netherlands?

  • I hope that fellow Dutch writers are going to self-publish their ebooks on Amazon and price them competitively.
  • I hope that Dutch writers will realise that self-publishing is just as respectable an option as ‘looking for that illusive publishing contract’. Self-publishers are business people, who take their craft very seriously and will do everything in their power to present a good product to their readers.
  • I hope that Dutch readers will start embracing ebooks and realise that loving them won’t meant they’ve renounced paper books.
  • I hope that Dutch readers will realise that it’s no longer necessary to be stuck to an e-reader to read an ebook. There are many different apps, often freely available to read ebooks on a tablet, iPad, smart phone, laptop etc.
  • I hope that Dutch readers not will be deterred by the fact that Amazon sells ebooks in a different format (Kindle) then (Epub), as due to the afore mentioned apps you can read ebooks, in whatever format, everywhere!

There is nothing spooky about ebooks, and now with Amazon, you can even buy them cheaper than ever (although keep in mind that the traditional publishers are slow moving dinosaurs, who even in the English speaking world are fighting with all their might not become extinct, even though what they should be doing is adapt, like the self-publishers have).

I am going to make sure that my Dutch ‘Time Zones’ book gets published on Amazon as soon as possible. In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, whether in English or in Dutch. (Please scroll past the Dutch translation to find the reaction box.)


Nu de Nederlandse vertaling van het bovenstaande. Normaal gesproken blog ik allen in het Engels, maar dit onderwerp is zo belangrijk dat ik graag wil dat lezers die minder goed Engels begrijpen het ook goed kunnen lezen!

Gister heeft Nederland er met Amazon een nieuwe webshop bijgekregen. Amazon is internationaal de grootste webshop ter wereld en dat ze nu in Nederland een shop hebben geopend is groot nieuws voor mij als Nederlandse schrijver. Ik heb lang gewacht op de kans die ik nu via Amazon krijg om mijn ebooks online te verkopen aan mijn medelanders en bovendien er nog wat geld mee te verdienen ook.
Niet iedereen heeft even verheugd gereageerd op het nieuws dat Amazon in Nederland is neergestreken en ik denk dat ik weet waarom.

catcrouchTot nu toe hebben Nederlandse lezer altijd de kat uit de boom gekeken wat betreft ebooks. De switch maken van papieren boeken naar ebooks blijkt een grote stap, ondanks dat ebooks al sinds 2009 heel makkelijk via te downloaden zijn.
‘Onbekend maakt onbemind’ en bovendien is er een ‘apparaat’ nodig voor het lezen van ebooks, wat lastig en duur lijkt te zijn.
Maar de schuld van lage verkoopcijfers voor ebooks in Nederlands ligt niet alleen bij de lezers. Het ligt ook bij de uitgevers en schrijvers.

Net als in de Engelssprekende wereld willen uitgeverijen graag een grote vinger in de pap hebben over wat er wordt uitgegeven en wat niet. De uitgevers beslissen ‘wat lezers willen lezen’ en geven dat uit. Over het algemeen zijn boeken en ebooks duur. Uitgeverijen moeten voor het uitgeven kosten maken en willen ook graag nog wel wat winst. Daar komt nog bij dat we in Nederland de ‘Wet op de vaste boekenprijs’ hebben. Deze wet legt vast dat boeken overal voor dezelfde prijs moeten worden verkocht, of het nou in een boekwinkel is, online, of via iemand die zelf boeken uitgeeft. Gelukkig geldt deze wet niet voor ebooks, wat vermoedelijk de reden is dat de nieuwe Amazon webshop alleen ebooks verkoopt en geen papieren boeken.
Als de prijs voor een boek hoog is, willen de lezers het niet kopen, of het nou een papieren boek is of een ebook, vooral als je voor deze laatste bijna hetzelfde moet betalen als voor een papieren boek en je er bovendien nog een ingewikkeld apparaat voor nodig hebt om het te lezen. Dit alles is begrijpelijk, maar bovenstaande denkwijze lijkt wel de norm te zijn voor uitgeverijen in Nederland, zowel als de rest van de wereld.

Maar Nederlandse schrijvers zijn ook wat raar bezig.
Ik bevind mij nu al enige jaren aan de grens van de ‘Nederlandse schrijvers samenleving’ en heb gemerkt dat veel Nederlandse schrijvers graag uitgegeven willen worden door een ‘echte’ uitgever. Een contract via hen zou de schrijver de erkenning geven dat ze ‘echte’ schrijvers zijn, die het waard zijn gelezen te worden.
Zelf boeken uitgeven gebeurd in Nederland niet zo veel. Op Nederlandse schrijvers forums wordt er over ‘zelf uitgeven’ vaak minachtend gesproken, en de resultaten ervan zouden slechte boeken zijn vol fouten.
Nu moet het gezegd worden dat nog niet zo heel lang geleden er in de Engelssprekende wereld net zo over werd gedacht. Maar dat veranderde snel toen Amazon in 2007 schrijvers voor het eerst een eerlijke optie gaf hun boeken zelf uit te geven met de kans op serieuze winst. Dit heeft in de Engelssprekende wereld geresulteerd in een acceptatie dat zelf uitgegeven boeken net zo goed zijn als die uitgegeven door een uitgever (en vaak nog goedkoper ook).

Maar ik heb natuurlijk makkelijk praten. Ik ben dan weliswaar een Nederlander, maar ik schrijf mijn boeken in het Engels en geeft deze internationaal uit via Amazon e.d. Niet alle Nederlandse schrijvers kunnen of willen hun boeken schrijven in een andere taal. Maar ondanks dat in juni 2013 Nederlandse schrijvers de kans gaf hun eigen boeken uit te geven via de website, hebben nog maar weinig schrijvers dat ook gedaan. Het lijkt erop dat ze nog steeds de goedkeuring van enkele uitgeverijen willen en wellicht zien ze ‘het nut’ ook niet zo van ebooks, aangezien ze zelf nog graag gewoon papieren boeken lezen.
Daar komt nog bij dat de royalty’s die de schrijver via krijgt belachelijk laag zijn in vergelijking met Amazon. Op Bol moet je je boeken wel hoog prijzen, anders houdt je er niets aan over.

moneynet2Bijvoorbeeld. Mijn ebook ‘Tussen containers en tijdzones’ staat op voor de prijs van €4,99. Daarvan krijg ik als uitgever €1,00. Dat lijkt 20% winst voor mij te zijn, ware het niet dat ik 40% daarvan moet overdragen aan de belastingdienst. Ik krijg dus uiteindelijk maar 60 cent voor dat boek, wat neer komt op ongeveer 12% van de prijs van het boek.
In vergelijking krijg ik op Amazon 70% van de prijs van hetzelfde boek, als ik de verkoopprijs zet tussen €2,60-€9,70 en 35% als ik het lager prijs als €2,60. Dat is nog steeds meer dan de 12% via
Uiteraard moet ik ook over die 70% nog belasting betalen, maar dan is de berekening als volgt. Van de €4,99 op Amazon houd ik bruto €3,49 over en netto €2,10. Veel meer dan 60 cent!
Daar komt nog bij dat Amazon’s royalty systeem dusdanig is dat ik mijn ebooks lager kan prijzen terwijl ik nog steeds 70% van de verkoopprijs krijg. Dat werkt op niet, want hoe lager ik het boek daar prijs, hoe minder ik er aan overhoudt. €4,99 was op Bol het laagste dat ik wilde gaan, want dan kreeg ik tenminste nog €1,00. Uiteraard kan ik mijn boeken op Bol wel hoger prijzen om meer royalty’s te ontvangen, maar duurdere boeken verkopen minder. Zelf zou ik voor mijn eigen ebook niet meer dan vijf euro willen betalen, dus waarom zouden mijn lezers dat dan wel moeten?

Wat hoop ik dat er gaat gebeuren nu Amazon voet heeft gezet op Nederlandse bodem?

  • Ik hoop dat andere Nederlandse schrijvers de stap zetten hun ebooks zelf uit te gaan geven, tegen concurrerende prijzen.
  • Ik hoop dat Nederlandse schrijvers zich gaan realiseren dat het zelf uitgeven van ebooks net zo’n echte optie is als een contract bij een uitgever. Schrijvers die hun eigen boeken uitgeven zijn ondernemers die hun vak zeer serieus nemen en die er alles aan zullen doen met een goed verkoopbaar product voor de dag te komen.
  • Ik hoop dat Nederlandse lezers ebooks gaan accepteren als normaal en inzien dat ‘houden van’ ebooks niet betekend dat ze nooit een papieren boek meer in handen mogen hebben.
  • Ik hoop dat Nederlandse lezers in gaan beseffen dat het niet langer nodig is om een ebook te moeten lezen op een e-reader. Er zijn verschillende gratis apps in omloop die het mogelijk maken ebooks te lezen op de tablet, iPad, smartphone, laptop e.d.
  • Ik hoop dat Nederlandse lezers zich niet laten afschrikken door het feit dat Amazon hun ebooks uitgeeft in een ander formaat (Kindle) als (Epub). De eerder genoemde apps maken het mogelijk ebooks in welk formaat dan ook, waar dan ook te lezen!

Ebooks zijn niet eng, en nu met Amazon kun je ze goedkoper krijgen dan ooit (maar houdt er rekening mee dat uitgeverijen logge dinosaurussen zijn, die zelfs in de Engelssprekende wereld uit alle macht aan het vechten zijn om zichtzelf voor uitsterven te behoeden, en dat terwijl ze eigenlijk zichzelf aan zouden moeten passen, net zoals de zelf uitgegeven schrijvers hebben gedaan).

Ik ga zorgen dat ‘Tussen containers en tijdzones’ zo snel mogelijk op Amazon worden gepubliceerd. Ondertussen hoor ik graag wat jullie ideeën zijn over dit onderwerp en dat mag in het Nederlands, zowel als in het Engels.


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