Monday, 8 August 2011

CARVED - an ebook is born.

Things are now at a crucial phase of my writing 'career', I say career but its more of toe dipping experiment to see how my wares will be received. My book "CARVED" is complete and has been edited by Joe Konraths editor Diana Cox, its now currently being formatted by a very close friend of mine, Paul Rhodes who runs Orb Entertainment here in the UK. Paul's publishing experience is second to none and since paul heads up the digital book side of things over at Walker Books I know I'm in good hands. I've decided to start small, the book is a novella of sorts so its fairly easy on the eyes.

The book is all about my personal experiences and the subsequent criminal investigation into the Thames torso case that happened almost a decade ago when I discovered the butchered torso of a 5 year old boy floating in the River Thames. As a story I think it has a very unique pitch. I say unique because its story could quite easily be percieved as fiction, but its not, in its very real sense its a personal journey, a bid by me at finally getting closure in what what was one of London's worst crime for over 40 years.
Writing about this traumatic experience has been somewhat cathartic, a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Guilt is a terrible thing to live with, the guilt of wondering if you did enough, the questions and blame you place on yourself eat away at you for years, gnawing away when you're alone in thought. For me the book reinforces certain facts, the doubts I had are now erased and all from putting words on paper.

Carved will be available from September on all major e-reader formats such as Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, Createspace,B&N and Overdrive.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


However long it took you to write your book the chances are you've spent a lot of time on it, you've read through what was initially a tangled mess of structure, formatting and grammatical errors to get to a stage where you're now ready for an editor to add that last little bit of polish.
When this blog started several months ago I wrote about how important it was for ebook authors to give their book the best possible cover they could afford in order to attract potential readers.
So why is it that authors are still making the same mistakes despite the likes of Joe Konrath, the veritable king of epublishing underlining the same critical factors on his blog which has hundreds of followers.

I'm a regular on Kindle boards and I'm still horrified by some of the book covers people are putting out there, the very same people who complain about the lack of sales on the boards at a later point. Remember this is a book that might have taken over two years to write, I find it strange that people who would dedicate that amount of time to writing a story for others to read completely ignores the importance of the cover design to promote it to their potential readership.
The key to a good cover is content, specifically content that hints at the main story elements or characters that appear in your book, however, before you set your sights on that content there are other factors that you must consider before finally deciding on what image or design is going to represent your book.

The first factor you need to consider is how you are positioning your book to the marketplace, that is to say, what sums up your book to your audience in terms of genre, can you explain what the synopsis of the book is within two sentences or less so that you can position it as something people can relate to?- for example "  A taught hi-tech thriller of modern intrigue and action set in Dubai". Positioning your book allows you to see where you fit within the marketplace, because the first thing you'll want to know is how many other thrillers are there that are also set within the Middle East.

The second factor you need to consider is what is the single biggest draw for your book, is it the title of the book, the story or your lead character. I've lost count of amount of covers I've seen on Kindle Boards that feature a bland photo depicting field with clouds or just clouds and really bad typography. There's absolutely nothing compelling in covers that are so vague that they say nothing about the content of your first book,hear me when I say that readers want to be engaged with your story the second they lay eyes on your cover, the last two years of your life have been spent hunched over a PC and you're killing your chances stone dead with poor design choices.

The third factor is competition - what are competitors or established authors putting on their front covers in terms of design? If you're writing sword and sorcery fantasy novels then you're going to need to look into that genre to see what has gone before, yet another wizard and a dragon on the cover aren't necessarily the best choices to run with. Picking out a dramatic or core story element involving the protagonist might be what works in separating your book from the myriad of others within the genre. Researching this area is essential and you really need to invest the time here. The chances are you already read books in the genre you decided to write in, its a good idea to gather all those books and have them in front of you so that you can see how effective their typography and design layout is. What colours are prominent, what fonts work better than others, is the authors name big or small, illustration or photographic media?, its the pieces that all come together to create a cover.

Finally you need to be brutally honest with yourself, before you decide on the cover get feedback from friends or family and if you have a choice of two or more designs get a vote. Just because you like the cover doesn't mean that someone else will, this book isn't written for you its written for others and you need to realise that more than you probably think. Ask yourself the question"Is my cover design giving my book the best possible chance in the marketplace?". If you have even the smallest amount of doubt on the answer then you need to rethink your design. There is no point in releasing two years of effort with a cover you don't believe in.

Some people will complain they can't afford a designer for their cover, sorry, but thats bullshit, if you can afford an editor then you can throw some money at a designer too, and if you can't then you should save the money and hold off releasing the book until you can afford it. Remember this is time you invested in the story, don't throw all that away with a shoddy cover you spent 30 mins on. Sources like Devianart have hundreds of designers who also freelance at vastly reduced fees, local art colleges or searches on the forums will also point you in the right direction.
Design programs such as Photoshop Elements is a cut down version of its more expensive big sister product Photoshop but still contains a comprehensive graphics package at a fraction of the price, coupled with the awesome step by step book Photoshop Elements book for Digital Photographers you should be able to get something together fairly easily.
I use both Photoshop Elements and the above mentioned book to create images for my zazzle store, I'm no whizz kid by any means but the simple step by step instructions on image manipulation will help you get the most from your images or photos for your book cover.
Alternatively you can consider book design packages if you want to save money and have total control of the books look and feel, there are many programs out there and one that comes highly recommended is Book Cover Pro, its easy to use, even for the novice and you can either use the background templates they provide on their own site over at or click and drag jpeg and tiff formatted files into your book cover pro templates.

Look at competitor covers
Research your genre
Spend time positioning your book
get feedback on your chosen cover from friends and family
invest in a designer to create your cover

Use images that are vague more than they are 'arty' or alluring
Slap text on a stockphoto as an easy, cheap fix
Use small script fonts you can't read when the cover is reduced in size
Use standard fonts, experiment with new ones.



I love finding new blogs, especially ones done really well with lots of stuff to dive into - Superhero of the Month is one such blog, it's a superhero redesign site. Each month a superhero or villain is chosen for readers to put their imaginations to the test, pencil to paper, and come up with their own take on how they would design the character.

Contests are judged by a revolving door of contributors invited by SHotM. These include sponsors, past contest winners, and those involved in the comics industry. Each month's entries are narrowed down to the "top five" entries by the judges for the month's contest. Judging is based on originality, quality, reader comments, and following the guidelines. The winner is then chosen by a popular vote poll.

Superhero of the Month has been lucky enough to be featured on MTV Geek, Project Rooftop, and Big Shiny Robot! On July 20, 2011, they were named Bloggers Blog of Note.
Check it out here

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

$45 Million of nothing

Once upon a time there was a company called Midway Games, they made computer games, in fact they made a lot of video games, big expensive cash soaked video games that ran up huge development budgets. They had a creative talent pool that contained  some of the best people in the games industry, everyone from coders to development leads to artists and modellers.  It's probably worth noting that the whole "fewer,bigger,better" concept to video game output that CEO David Zucker was pushing as a mission statement all those years ago sort of fell short of delivering 'better' on more than one occasion in the time I worked there.

If ever there was a need to learn how to fill bin bags with cash and throw it out of a window on a windy day then Midway would be your tutor, well educated in the process of ramming as much cash into a shredder as it possibly could with no real control of how to stop it. Studios like Surreal in Seattle, Midway Newcastle and Midway in Austin Texas had burn rates which ran in to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to maintain the development and churn required month in and month out. MAG (Multi Action Genre) games were all the rage for the Midway Luminati who's only real strategy was to throw a ton of money at several large games and reinvent the action genre with a Hollywood twist, in order to do that you need people, lots of people, studios were staffed with headcounts in excess of 80+ people full time to crank those projects out.

Chicago was busy on John Woo's Stranglehold and Ed Boon was putting the late nights on Mortal Kombat Vs DC, Midway Austin had pretty much wrapped on Area 51 Blacksite but not before kicking it's creative director Harvey Smith out the front door after comments he made about the game to press at the Montreal Games Festival. Midway Newcastle was busy dealing with Hollywood diva Vin Diesel who, much to everyones irritation, didn't bother showing up to pre booked VO recording sessionson several occasions (and even when he did he'd stay there for 3 hours rewriting the VO script so no work got done anyway). As for Austin they had also been chipping away on a semi open world heist game called Criminal, a title it had been working on for 4 years to the tune of $20 Million spent on "research and development". The only major problem was, after 4 years, it had very little to show for it save for huge amounts of stunning concept art pinned to its office walls, Terabytes of pre rendered sequences, a script with Hollywood director Tony Scotts semi approval and  a protagonist that could walk around sections of the open world  but couldn't drive anywhere or use the vehicles in it.

Jump ahead to around mid 2009 when the money woes began to kick in, the decision came to scrap Criminal and close Austin despite the thousands of man hours spent on the game. Surreal Studios on the other hand had been busy for the last few years trying to figure out where to position This is Vegas, yet another attempt at an open world product that had been given the moniker the 'poor man's Grand Theft Auto' but with added gambling and a fucked up story involving Pandas and hotel room buggery. These guys were on full churn and burning through cash like it was going out of fashion.
The release date was a fluid one in that it kept changing after quarterly product reviews and the game went back at least 3 times in the space of eighteen months when I worked on it, finally I took myself off the project and dumped it on the new guy who started in my dept. I couldn't focus on it anymore and I didn't have the same enthusiasm as when I started on it and the only persona it had was that of a turtle on its back flailing its limbs about...stuck. This is Vegas looked pretty good to be honest but the longer it went on in development hell the more features got cut, things went from bad to worse when Midway Chicago decided to release a trailer that confused the hell out of everyone with an IGN exclusive. This in turn caused the forums to light up and totally rip it apart, on and on it went, "we need more time and money" came the cry from the studio over and over again. By now the budget had gotten way out of control, $35 Million dollars out of control to be precise, and in the final days when Midway was scrambling around for a buyer the game still needed another $15 Million dollars and another eighteen months in order to wrap it, by then of course most of the game was out dated. Its kind of like the guys who paint the Golden gate bridge, by the time they finish it they have to go back to the start to repaint it again because the first coat is flaking off.

To cut a long winded story brutally short, Warners bought Midway for $33 Million, about the same amount Midway had pumped into John Woo's Stranglehold as a dev budget back in 2007. For this fee they got all the studios and I.P and complete control over back catalogue, much of the studio staff were either let go or integrated into the current Warner Bros development teams.
By E3 2010 Warners had long since broken up what was left of Surreal and called it quits for This is Vegas, an act that highlighted the power of Warner Bros but also an incredible waste of time,money and talent. The waste was pretty prolific because invested properly it could have been spent on smaller dev projects for better returns had Midway senior management been much more akin to what the market actually wanted rather than what they thought it needed (which wasn't a poor mans GTA). The real gem of course was Mortal Kombat, Warners only really had eyes for the ultra violent beat em up to add to its catalogue which it was expanding having also bought the rights to Lord of the Rings when EA decided to walk away from the franchise. Midway destroyed itself with bad management, the tactic of throwing lots of money at a problem doesn't always fix it, sometimes it over complicates it. Midway had excelled at recruiting good studio talent, something it was very proud of, it employed some of the best the games industry had to offer at studio level, in the end these people were badly let down by decisions that never made any sense, the problem was there just wasn't any direction or accountability. The mounting cash spend was  a mutating mess that had been locked away in a backroom which everyone chose to ignore hoping it would go away. It didn't and it grew so big that it busted out of the room and became a monster everyone couldn't help but notice and was far too late to do anything about. And that ladies and gents its a super abrigded version of how to blow $45 Million dollars on absolutely nothing.

Sidenote: What else can you get for $45 Million?

Talking of bridges-I've since found out that $45 Million was the amount that California was proposing to spend erecting an anti suicide net on the Golden Gate Bridge to deter jumpers from throwing themselves off it -there's probably a hidden message in that somewhere.

Its the net worth of Rob Drydeck

Its the per season budget of Game of Thrones

Its what NBC paid Conan O'Brien off with

Its the total cost for upgrading the Royal Norwegian Air Forces radar systems

Googles main man Larry Page bought a yacht called 'Senses' with it

It buys you this house