Christmas Past is Free Until Saturday!

christmaspastHey guys, if you haven’t read Christmas Past yet, it’s free today until Saturday. It’s a time-travel thriller set in the middle of a Victorian winter. It was the first story I published myself, and it started my Timewasters series. The story is pretty special to me, so I’d love it if you checked out out, and let me know what you thought.

You can read it on your kindle, or the free kindle app on your tablet or smartphone. Download it from Amazon.

More details below!

Time travel is easy, getting home is the hard part.

Annie and her friends are used to harsh conditions, but a Victorian winter still comes as a shock. They have a job to do, but it isn’t long before they stumble upon a corpse buried in the snow, and a new mystery to solve.

Are Free Books Finished

Two Cephalopods Cover
My free book. *cough cough*

The first is on the house.

I like to give my books away. Don’t get me wrong, I like to sell some too, but I’ve been running regular free days on my books since I published my first story back in 2012. I know a lot of indie authors that are very reluctant to use their free days, squirrelling them away for some rainy day marketing push, deploying them tactically like precision PR. I don’t have the patience for that, I’m haphazard. I drop freebies on people like British weather. You never know when the rain will come but you know it won’t be far away.

But then, I can afford to be haphazard. I love writing, I love putting my books out there, but I mostly deal in short fiction. It doesn’t sell steadily, or in the quantities novels do, so I can usually count on a good free day to put a nice spike in my sales, snag me a few more reviews and push a book a little higher in the rankings for a while. I don’t love more intrusive forms of marketing, so freebies have always been a nice way to give my books a little more life. Until recently, that is.

I noticed diminishing returns on free books last year. I scheduled a couple of free days with Amazon on two books, I submitted it to a few places ahead of time, posted at the regular spots and when the day arrived I tweeted and posted up on my author page. Crickets. It took until the book had been free for a couple of hours for it to get it’s first download, after that it wasn’t until the book started ranking in a few categories that it really gathered any momentum. Ever since then, the results have been the same. Only a paid promotion has managed to turn this pattern around, but if that’s going to be required every time, the freebie loses a lot of its appeal as a method of promotion.

The free book used to be the best marketing tool we had, but is it over now? It certainly doesn’t seem to have the same effect on the audience. If so, where do we go from here?

Before Select.

KDP Select is at the route of all this. Before Amazon launched select, getting your ebooks listed as free was an arduous task. First, you had to publish your book to two separate stores. Amazon restricted sellers from setting their price to zero, but other retailers didn’t impose that restriction. If you listed your book for free at one of Amazon’s competitors, and then reported the price disparity to Amazon, they would usually set your book’s price to match and you could benefit from all that freebie PR.

The disadvantage was that Amazon took a while to respond, though they’d usually get there eventually. Worse still, Amazon don’t like being undercut by their rivals, but they’re not so concerned about beating them; if you decided you didn’t want you book to be free anymore, it could take them a while to increase return to the original price. It was also against Amazon’s Terms of Service, which is risky if your income depended on books sales. The method is still used and is generally referred to as going “permafree”, bypassing the limitations on free days imposed by Amazon.

What Changed?

When Select came along, it gave free days to anyone willing to make their book exclusive to Amazon. This means that while there are less books going permafree now, the overall pool of free books is larger and ever changing. Worse still, permafree was usually exploited by authors who had a whole series of books to promote, usually something they had a lot of faith in. These days, any author can set their book to free at any time, meaning there’s a much larger slush pile of free books for the reader to sort through.

On top of that, the introduction of Kindle Unlimited is diluting the effect of free sales somewhat. Free books were a good sampler for new kindle owners filling up on books, with more and more freebies loaded into Amazon’s Prime subscriptions and similar services, readers have access to higher value books as part of their subscription. This has diverted attention away from indie authors, who were easily the group taking advantage of free days the most.

Lastly, probably the most significant change was Amazon splitting its rankings into Free and Paid. Pre-Select, Amazon’s Top 100s all contained both paid and free books in a single list. If you had a reasonably good Free day, you could expect to chart above some well known paid books, in the same list as established authors. The problem was, Amazon rankings spike and fall all the time on free books. Their algorithms are ever changing, and less reliable or books that have inconsistent sales. A book that sold twenty free copies in a day would suddenly rank higher than a book that sold a copy at £10 a day for twenty days. Splitting the rankings was the only way to correct that problem.

Why Amazon Aren’t Helping.

I know a lot of authors that are angry at Amazon for the various changes they’ve made to KDP over the years. I’m not one of them. Amazon’s business model has always been to bend over backwards to make things convenient, helpful and cheap for the customer. They don’t do it because they’re nice people, but because it makes them a lot of money. In the early days, Indie Authors helped Amazon achieve this by flooding the kindle marketplace with cheap, often high quality books, and Amazon fostered this by making their publishing platform easily the best for individuals and small publishers. It still is. It absolutely is.

The problem is that Indie Authors are often also voracious marketers. They need to be to survive, but they aren’t Amazon. Their priorities are the same, they want to make lots and lots of money, but they don’t often do it by putting the customer front and centre. (See LendInk, the Fake Reviews scandal and about a million other little storms self publishers have been involved in.) At the end of the day, Amazon wants the platforms that customers feel the happiest on, and when customers feel like they have to navigate pages of dross to find authors they’ve heard of… well it doesn’t create a happy customer.

Some, no doubt, are happy to be surrounded by new books by new authors, but too many people have been burnt by discovering the hard way that Amazon basically has no quality control on the kindle. Indie authors are still welcome on the kindle store, but they are certainly less necessary to Amazon as they used to be. From here on out, making your book free won’t be enough to rise up the rankings. Nor should it be.

The Future.

Going forward, indie authors are probably going to have to change their tactics. Free days used to be a guaranteed boost to your book’s fortunes, but now they are just one of a range of tools Authors can use for promotion. It just goes to show that in the long term, nothing beats cultivating an engaged audience that will support and promote your work for you. I’d like to see the self publishing community establishing a new relationship with Amazon, one that depends less on manufacturing sudden spikes in rankings, than in building a solid reputation through years of good work, but perhaps that is too much to hope for. Free days aren’t going anywhere, and maybe Amazon will add another few tools to Select as time goes by, but it all gets harder from here.

– Owen

p.s I still have a freebie going if you want to get in on that. 

Free Short Story Collection Available Now!

Two Cephalopods CoverHey guys, It’s freebie time again. Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar will be free until the 8th of Feb. The collection contains sixteen short stories, and you can read it on the kindle, or the kindle app on your phone, tablet or PC. Grab it from the links below, or read on for a few details about the book.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar: Sixteen Little Stories

This double volume contains both The Octopus of Suspense, and Octopus Returns.

The Octopus of Suspense

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Octopus Returns

From the author of Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The Octopus is back with another eight little stories. Visit the future in PILOT, discover the dangers of time travel in DETRITUS, don’t touch the glass in MIRROR, MIRROR, and many more.

Each story offers something a little different, but each will have you on the edge of your seat!

Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar: Available Now

Two Cephalopods CoverHello all! Just wanted to let you know that I have a new book available on Amazon now. It’s a double volume containing both of my previously published collections for a special price. Details below.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar: Sixteen Little Stories

This double volume contains both The Octopus of Suspense, and Octopus Returns.

The Octopus of Suspense

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Octopus Returns

From the author of Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The Octopus is back with another eight little stories. Visit the future in PILOT, discover the dangers of time travel in DETRITUS, don’t touch the glass in MIRROR, MIRROR, and many more.

Each story offers something a little different, but each will have you on the edge of your seat!

Octopus Returns: A Sting in the Tale – Coming Soon.

OctopusReturnsCoverGood Morning, folks!

I’m happy to announce that I will have a new book hitting Kindle this month. As you know, I’ve been posting more short pieces to the blog this year, and I’ll be collecting these together into a follow up to the collection I published this time last year. That volume is still available HERE if you’d like to get a taste of what’s coming.

Until then, enjoy the (probably) final version of the cover and let me know what you think.

Price Drop: The Octopus of Suspense

Hey Guys, if you’ve been itching to read my short story collection, The Octopus of Suspense, (and why wouldn’t you be?) then it may interest you to know that you can currently grab it for the low, low price of 99c / 77p.

The Octopus of Suspense CoverThe Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Amazon US / Amazon UK

Mirror, Mirror: A Short Story

IceCubesHey guys, consider yourselves lucky this week because I’m posting a second story to the blog today. This one is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while. I’ve been having thoughts about developing it into something longer, but I want to post the original piece up anyway because I think it works really well. 

In other news, I’ve just finished Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, and I really had a good time with it. I’ll probably be posting some of my thoughts about it in the future.

My big eBook Freebie is still running until tomorrow, so be sure to click here for details and grab some free books for the kindle. More info about upcoming books soon. Until then, enjoy my latest story, Mirror, Mirror. 

* * *

EDIT: Unfortunately, as this story has been published elsewhere, I’ve had to remove it temporarily. Sorry – Owen.

2014 Kindle Book Freebies

Morning folks,

I’ve been opening up the blinds and letting a breeze blow away the cobwebs in here this week. 2014 started out as a bit of a tough year, but now the worst of it is out of the way, I’ve been able to get back to writing. I posted a new short to the blog yesterday, so if you missed that be sure to take a look. Today I want to keep the ball rolling by telling you about my Kindle Store Freebies.

I like Amazon’s KDP Select programme, and I particularly like being able to set free days. It’s a joy having some of my fiction listed on Amazon, but for most short pieces I’d probably set the price lower than Amazon’s minimum of 99c if I could. I try to balance things out by using all of the free days Amazon provide me with, after all, most of those works were published for free here before they went on sale. With life getting in the way, I haven’t scheduled any free promotions this year at all, and so I’m making up for it with a big Free Promotion on all my books ending Saturday!

Grab them from the links below:

– – – 

The Octopus of Suspense CoverThe Octopus of Suspense
This collection of eight odd little stories has been very well received. Each story is different, but they all explore unique characters in unusual situations.
Available now on the Kindle Store.
Amazon US / Amazon UK

– – –

Christmas Past Owen AdamsChristmas Past
This was the first Timewasters story published. I wrote it originally for Christmas 2011, but it was a little late and didn’t go on sale until January 2012.
When three time travellers appear in the woods, they’ve arrived for a reason, but even they aren’t expecting to find a corpse under the snow. 
Amazon US / Amazon UK

– – –

time trial book coverTime Trial
The second Timewasters story arrived later in 2012. For my next adventure, I wanted to tell a totally different sort of story. I tried to really explore a different side to the characters than I had in Christmas Past.
Harbour has strict laws against time travel and ignorance is no defence. But when Annie and her friends are put on trial for their crimes, they suspect the prosecutor might have another agenda. 
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Self Publishing: Two Years On, the Pros and Cons.

Retro Self-Publishing.
Retro Self-Publishing.

In the first week of January 2012, I self published my first short story to Amazon’s kindle store. It was called Christmas Past, and it was a fortnight late. It was still the best decision I ever made, I’ve had some good feedback about the book since then and I’m still really happy with the way it turned out. In the two years since I’ve published two more books, that’s a bit less than I hoped, but writing is not an exact science and a good book never resolves itself quite as quickly as you’d like. However, the last two years has been educational. Here are some of the Pros and Cons I’ve learned about Self-Publishing eBooks since 2012 began.

Pro: Self Publishing has let me learn while working.

The modern image of the traditional published author is a very recent myth. It is only in the last twenty or thirty years that we have seen a literary market so focused around the Blockbuster Novel. This is because they are the cheapest to produce and the easiest to recoup the costs. Unfortunately, the age of the novel comes at the expense of other avenues like the magazine. Before the decline of the fiction magazine, young writers would be able to train their skills by submitting to magazines that took shorter works for smaller niches. This was a valuable experience that provided feedback and reinforcement to new writers, now it is almost impossible to break into traditional publishing without writing a standout novel. That’s a big thing to ask, leaving many young writers in a position of writing without publication or compensation for years into their career.

In many ways, the eBook market has replaced the genre magazine. It has become a haven for short fiction, aspiring writers and part time scribblers to offer up their work for modest financial compensation and this has been of enormous benefit to me. I am someone who likes to jump in at the deep end, I don’t like to work on projects that might languish forever with no tangible results. Publication, even without the independent approval of a publisher, provides me with an attainable goal and makes me a better writer.

Con: Free-Market Gatekeeping.

Nobody  wants to sell a crappy book. If you’ve put the time into a writing, rewriting, proofreading and formatting a book, you must have a little faith that it’s a book someone wants to read. Crappy books are out there though. A common criticism of Self-Publishing is that it is overburdened by the world’s awful first drafts. I don’t mind this so much, I have a lot of respect for anyone that takes the time to write a book, and I’ve read a lot of books that could have used a decent editor but were still great reads. The problem comes when we look at the methods available for sorting the good books from the bad. Often the books that rise to the top aren’t the best written, but had authors with the most to spend. A trip to a decent editor, a cover design from a talented freelancer, a few verified reviews from a black-hat marketer; they all play a part in helping books rise to the top and they all cost money. Traditional publishers aren’t the best Gatekeepers in the world, but money is a far worse filter.

Pro: Short Fiction has a better chance.

It is very hard to get Short Fiction printed these days. Sure, if you’re an established author you can usually get a book of shorts out there, but if Short Stories are your bread and butter then you’re never going to launch a career with a traditional publisher. Don’t get me wrong, Short Fiction isn’t an easy sell in the eBook market. Novels are still the preferred read of most customers, but with no entry cost and a royalty rate of 35% on Amazon, a Short Fiction writer has more time to find their audience and great financial rewards per sale by publishing this way.

Con: Self-Promotion can be expensive, draining and pointless.

Like I said, Short Fiction is a hard sell. Unfortunately, that’s what I write. If you’re lucky, you’re a novelist and you’re working in a fashionable genre. That will give your book a kick up the backside that it will sorely need. If you’re trying to corner a quieter corner of literature, you’re going to have a hard time. Promoting an eBook is a never ending process of freebies, finding review sites, posting updates and hoping for Amazon reviews.

And I hate it.

This is more of a personal problem, I suppose, but I have a real loathing for advertising. I don’t like it, I’m immediately suspicious of it, and I don’t like it inserted into places it doesn’t belong. I don’t like its manipulative language or its sneaky tactics, I don’t like hype or teasing. But I have a product to sell. So, marketing always leaves me in this Rationalisation/Shame/Desperation loop.

Take my most recent book, The Octopus of Suspense. I’m so proud of this book, I think it’s well written and original, the feedback I’ve received has been excellent. I think it deserves to do well. (Rationalisation.) So, I post a few tweets trying to push it a bit and end up feeling like a shill. (Shame.) I stop promoting it for a bit, enough time goes by and the book’s fortunes don’t seem to be improving so I start itching to promote again. (Desperation.) And so I remind myself how proud of the book I am. (Rationalisation.)

Of course, it shouldn’t be like this. With a traditional publisher, you can loathe advertising and completely ignore that side of things. As a Self-Publisher, you need to be writer, editor, advertiser, PR and a whole host of other jobs too. I’m learning to swallow my pride on promotion, I’m going to need to learn about selling my books and coming up with a good marketing strategy, but I will never be particularly good at it.

Pro: People will read and enjoy your books.

I don’t sell a lot of books. It’s no big secret or shame of mine, writing is hard and selling books is harder. I’m not making a regular monthly income from my eBooks and I won’t be paying my rent with them any time soon. However, it has been so rewarding to find that readers have been finding my books anyway. I have had Amazon Reviews, emails and tweets from people that have read my stories and enjoyed them. There haven’t been many, I’m not sitting on a massive pile of fan mail, but they exist. And that is so unbelievably rewarding that it keeps me working on the next book.

Con: You’re working a second job that has taken over your life and you aren’t getting paid much.

Writing is often a full time job for me. It doesn’t always feel that way. When I’m working on a first draft I might just write for a couple of twenty minute sessions a day and forget about other things.  Other days I need to write one story, edit another, design a cover, rewrite a blurb, format a manuscript and then go do my real-world job in the evening.  When you sit down and make the decision to write for a living, you are choosing to do hours upon hours of unpaid work in the hope of being adequately rewarded much further down the line. This can be demoralising too. There will be days, maybe weeks, where you never really give writing the attention it deserves. There will be times when you think of nothing else. But you free time will never really be your own again. Until writing is paying the bills and you can quit the day job, every minute you spend watching a movie or reading tweets is time you could be writing.

Pro: Every book is a checkpoint.

When  I first decided I was going to seriously invest time in being a writer, I tried to think of a reasonable, attainable goal to aim for. The goal I settled on was pretty simple. I wanted to earn enough money from sales each month to pay my rent. I don’t need to earn enough to quit my job (if I did, I’d probably turn into a scary hermit.) and I don’t need to be a millionaire, but I do need to pay my rent. It’s my biggest bill, the one thing that always needs to be paid on time. We all have financial stones around our necks, my rent is the heaviest stone. If I could cover it with writing books, it would free up money to save and enjoy. I’m nowhere near that goal yet, and often it feels like I take two steps forward and one step back, but publishing a book is like a checkpoint. A magic step that can never be removed. I published three books since January 2012, and if I never publish another book, that will not change. Unlike traditionally published books which can go out of print, those three books will always be there as a foundation to build upon. When times are tough and progress is slow, those three books are a permanent reminder that I never have to start from scratch again.


Self-Publishing has been very rewarding for me. It’s hard work, and it can often feel like the time and effort you put in is irrelevant to what you get out, but at the end of the day the results (good and bad) are all your own. You have to deal with your failures, but when your successes come around, you get to enjoy them completely. It can be a slog, but the motivating side makes it worthwhile.

If you’ve been writing and self publishing, I’d love to hear about you experience with it too.

Celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo 2013 with another Free Book!

NaNoWriMo 2013 is over, I’m in high spirits but still feeling exhausted from that last minute crunch. As usual, I couldn’t do it without my fellow WriMos. I don’t have much to give in return, but I am very happy to offer another eBook freebie.

The Octopus of Suspense CoverAvailable on: Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories with a very silly title. They cover a range of genres but are all between 1000 and 1500 words long. I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. It will be free until the 7th of December, and is available on Amazon’s kindle store. So, if you have a kindle or kindle app on your phone, check it out!