Twist in the Tale – Book review (& ebook article)

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Twist In The Tale, by Mathew Williams (available on Amazon kindle)

A great little collection of short stories, each with an unexpected ending that surprises or makes you smile, or both. There’s a nice variety of stories here, from the heart-warming to the slightly dark, so the reader is never quite sure what they’ll be getting next, but is never disappointed. One particular story, ‘Only Make Believe’ was as gentle and heart-warming as is hard to imagine, and, without giving anything away, the final line brought as wide a smile to my face as I can remember.

If I had to make one tiny criticism, and it’s nothing to do with my enjoyment, it would be that I would have preferred a slightly more informative description in the amazon blurb as there really isn’t enough grab the ‘potential’ reader’s attention. And on a purely selfish note, I would have liked a few more stories to make for a longer read. Well worth reading…

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 Ebook & Self-Publishing?  Some personal thoughts on the matter…

Despite its success, the whole ebook and amazon kindle phenomenon has not been without its critics, and concerns about its effects on the more traditional publishing industry. It’s true that the advent of the internet and the rapid expansion of free or relatively inexpensive self-publishing via Amazon, Smashwords, blogging, and a host of others has resulted in a lot of, shall we say, ‘less than professional’ writing to be made available.

Proponents of traditional publishing might well argue that with a traditional and well known publisher, the reader is assured of the quality of the writing in advance? I don’t know about your experiences but for myself, I’ve read some pretty awful stuff in traditional print too, long before Amazon was little more than a barely known webpage.

In answer to the last point though, if a title and cover grab your interest, then both Amazon and Smashwords provide the facility to browse through free samples of whatever you’re considering buying. And since many of the books, including most of the classics on both Amazon and Smashwords are either free or in many cases, less than a few pounds, such arenas have made reading a lot more accessible and affordable for a lot of people. I know my own reading has doubled, if not trebled, in both quantity and variety since I got my Kindle.

Much of the early criticism of self-publishing was by way of comparison to ‘vanity publishing’, where hopeful writers might be lured into parting with thousands of pounds following exaggerated praise of their work and promises of best-selling success. But today? Self-publishing is completely free with little more than a few basic internet skills, and even without those skills, it can still be achieved with for little more than a hundred pounds or so. Yet still there is criticism that any amount of money aspiring writers might spend promoting their work is at best, optimistic, and at worst, delusional. But why? Not every amateur writer has aspirations of becoming the next Zadie Smith or Harold Robbins. For many, it’s just an enjoyable hobby, so why shouldn’t they spend whatever they like on it if it brings them satisfaction? Apart from writing, other hobbies of mine include cycling, outdoor pursuits, keep fit, sports, all of which I’ve spent money on over the years; if it’s acceptable for golfing and motor cycling enthusiasts to spend hundreds, if not thousands on their hobby, without the slightest hope or intention of profiting from it, why not writers too? Even bloggers, for whom their writing platform is the simplest and freest of all, might well spend a small amount for a premium theme to improve the look of their work.

The evolvement of the self-publishing arena can in many ways be compared to that of the music industry. In the past ten or fifteen years we’ve seen the virtual disappearing of all the traditional mediums of music. Vinal and cassette tape are now largely collectors items; even the CD is losing ground to the ipod and digital downloads. Many of today’s biggest recording stars started their careers building their audiences on the likes of Youtube and Myspace. And even the traditional method of ‘gigging’, is that so very different from blogging?

Whatever one might think of ebooks, the Kindle, Amazon, Smashwords, blogging, and many other forms of self-publishing, they’re all here to stay in one form or another. Let’s embarace and make the very most of them….

About echoesofthepen

Middle aged man, aspiring writer and author, one grown up son and young grand son, currently working in the rail industry but actively working to develop a writing career.

Posted on December 8, 2013, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree with SL — when we put a price tag on our work (and I have, though I am not looking to get rich, I would like SOMEDAY to live off my writing if I so chose), we should understand a higher level of scrutiny than that of someone who just wants to share stories. Both are acceptable. I’d love to be an alternative to someone who can’t (or won’t) afford to spend $10, $15, or even $30 on a new hardcover book (Sorry I’m figuring in American dollars; you get the idea). I’ve gotten some criticism from that, but also support. Very much like this article describes.

    Like SL, I have been put off by people charging for products that lack quality. It makes the rest of us look bad. And while I can’t say that my published product was perfect — I have found a few typos over the years — I can say that it would pass an English teacher’s desk without looking like it was dripping blood. And to date, no one had asked me to provide a refund — though I would if they did. I want to share stories. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be paid for what I write just like Harold Robbins and Zadie Smith (I read WHITE TEETH in college and enjoyed it) do.

    Now that I have Twitter, I have been able to talk with some fairly famous and profitable traditionally published authors angered by publishers who “corrected” things “wrong” — including use of possessive forms, some quotation marks, and other things. Besides time, this was a big reason for me to seek self-publication — I wanted control and to have the buck stop at my desk. I am very pleased that it does…

    Even the best authors pay for marketing in one way or another. John Grisham bought 1,000 copies of his first book and sold them door to door before he released #2. One can have the most awesome story, but if no one knows of it, it might as well be written in a diary and locked away. So critics that use that argument fall short with me. JK Rowling has definitely spent time and money marketing her very popular product. Her rewards have been handsome, but Pottermore and fan experiences have not paid for themselves, and she has certainly worked hard for her customers to enjoy the experience.

    Overall, of course, I loved this article. It succinctly (which is such a hardship for me) addresses most of the criticisms with Kindle and the current publishing explosion. I’m glad you took the time to write it and share your views with us.

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  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. As you can probably tell, I’m a great believer in self-publishing, but the point you raise is entirely valid, and possibly one I should have addressed. I certainly wouldn’t be too fussy about typos and poor editing on a blog, but once a writer puts a price-tag on their work, the reader is no longer just a reader, but a customer too, and has every right and expectation of a well-written professionally finished product. It does irk me somewhat when I see obviously missing or repeated words in a text as this tells me the writer has done little more than run the spell-checker rather than re-reading/editing their work line by line. If you’ve written a full length novel this can be a daunting task, which is why I can fully identify with someone investing a small or modest amount in getting their work professionally proof read first.

    On a different note, the very best of luck with your debut novel, ‘Reborn.’ I have added it to my reading/review list. I’ve already posted two book reviews on goodreads: Beneath the Rainbow (Lisa Shambrook), and Mischief (Chris Wilson)

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  3. You make some really good points–some of them never occurred to me. It’s true that a writer should be able to spend as much as they want on their hobby/craft whether they hope to make a profit or not. My biggest pet-peeve is the poor editing quality of some self-published books. I mean, it’s one thing if you’re posting it on a blog or giving it away for free, but to ask six or so dollars for something full of errors just isn’t okay in my book. (I’m self-published, by the way, and I think my view on this differs from a lot of other self-published authors.)

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