Amazon Alternatives

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around strike action against Amazon because of their horrific workplace practices and their treatment of employees. There are horror stories from warehouse workers and delivery drivers about low wages, unpaid hours which push the wages below the minimum, ridiculous productivity demands and penalties meaning that workers pee in bottles because they don’t have time for toilet breaks, and the fact that vast numbers of employees are living in abject poverty while the CEO is worth over a hundred billion dollars, which is more money than a person could ever hope to spend in their lifetime.

Amazon’s profit margins are so high that they could easily pay all their employees a living wage and still be making billions, so there is no excuse for this mistreatment of staff.

As such, there have been calls for strikes. There has been some confusion over dates, but the current information is that strikes will be taking place over Prime day, to hit a major promotional event, with the strike between the 15th and 17th of July. Customers are being discouraged from buying from Amazon during the strike (and boycotting longer if you can do, until the company makes some changes).

As an author, so much of what I do is based around trying to get people to sites like Amazon to buy my books, but I don’t want to support Amazon during this strike action, so here are some alternatives if you’re looking to buy my books.

Shadows of Tomorrow and its sequel Between Yesterdays are both available from Waterstones and other mainstream bookshops.

The Codename Omega series, Omega Rising, Traitor in the Tower, and Hidden in the Signal, can be bought directly from Lulu as both paperbacks and ebooks.

My latest novel, Wolf Unleashed, is available directly from the publisher, Guardbridge Books or through Waterstones and other major bookshops.

The ebook of Child of the Hive, my first novel, can be bought from Smashwords.

My superhero parody, The Adventures of Technicality Man, is only available for purchase from Amazon, so to support the strike, I’m giving this book away through Instafreebie. Through until the end of July you can get a copy of this ebook for free.

I hope that if you want to buy my books, you will consider buying them from somewhere other than Amazon until the demands for better treatment of workers are met.

The evolution of a cover

Child of the Hive coverOne question I get asked whenever I give a talk about writing is how much control I have over the cover art so I figured I’d put my answer in full here. This is one of those things that varies considerably from publisher to publisher, and from book to book. I’ve spoken to authors who’ve had no say, or almost no say, in cover designs for some books. I’ve met authors who’ve hated the covers they were presented with. I’ve been lucky. For all of my books, I’ve been given a lot of input and I’ve been delighted with most of them.

I was astonished when Child of the Hive was published how much input I was given. The publisher sent me about a dozen different designs for the potential cover – and I hated them all. I don’t want to imply that they were bad designs, but they were bad for the book. The designer who’d created them hadn’t actually read the book, he’d just been given the text to go on the back cover and a couple of paragraphs of description. The end result was some designs that would have been great on someone else’s book (there was a creepy one with a child coming out of mist that would have been great for a ghost story) but that were completely wrong for mine. Shadows of Tomorrow draft cover

We had a few emails back and forth and then I was put on a phone call with the designer and I talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the different designs, what the disconnects with the book were, and so on. He went off and came back with a different design, which I liked a lot more. I asked for a couple of minor tweaks and then was given a cover design I was thrilled with.

When Shadows of Tomorrow was published, the publisher gave me a form to fill out with my ideas for the cover. I suggested a figure silhouetted against a portal holding a sword. They sent me a couple of drafts and, once again, I wasn’t happy with either of them. The covers showed what looked like someone standing at the edge of the sea, which didn’t fit at all, but I did like the font on one of them. The designer went away and came back with the final cover. Shadows of Tomorrow cover

When Shadows of Tomorrow came out, I really liked the cover. In person, it’s really dramatic. I’ve come to the conclusion though that it doesn’t work as well as a thumbnail on Amazon. It doesn’t look as interesting as other covers. So when it came to Between Yesterdays, I wanted to go with the same general idea but with more happening visually. The design they sent me was pretty good, but I wasn’t sure about the image they’d chosen for Abby. For one thing, in the book, Abby has quite dark colouring, which isn’t obvious in this image. For another, this young woman looks dressed for a party rather than a battle.

I went back to the publisher and asked for a different Abby for the cover, and was thrilled with the final cover design they offered me. Between Yesterdays cover draft

The same sort of thing happened with the Codename Omega books. I gave ideas, they sent designs, I asked for changes. The Codename Omega books are self-published so I was given a lot of say in the design because I was effectively hiring the designers to work to my specifications. I wasn’t surprised that I was the one calling the shots with those covers, but I was surprised how much control I had with the others, especially having heard stories from some other authors about how little say they were given. I guess I’ve been lucky so far when it comes to covers.

 

Codename Omega background snippets

omega rising coverThe first-person narrative style of the Codename Omega books, Omega Rising and Traitor in the Tower, is fun and an interesting way to tell the story, but it does mean that everything is from Jenny’s perspective. There are ideas I have for the other characters that are almost certainly not going to make it into the books because there’s no reason for Jenny to know and most of these things aren’t going to have any noticeable impact on the plot. I thought it might be fun to share some of these little bits of character background, so here is a list of background details. Most of these are never going to be mentioned in the books but one of them is surprisingly important. I’m not, however, going to tell you which of these things is the important one.

  • Thomas started playing D&D because he misunderstood what Matt meant when he said he liked roleplaying. Thomas has a reputation to maintain, and explains these evenings as a “discussion group on combat theory”.
  • Navy picked his codename as a tribute to Captain Scarlet, but he lets the rest of the team assume he’s named for the military force.
  • Bats and Navy still argue about the fact that Navy vetoed Batman as a codename.
  • Nuke’s codename was originally meant to be Nucleus, but Navy called him Nuke in combat because it was quicker to say, and the shorter name stuck. Traitor in the Tower front cover
  • When he was in his first year at uni, Navy successfully cooked Christmas dinner for twenty people using only two Baby Billing ovens, a microwave, and a kettle. He’s more proud of this accomplishment than he is of successfully teleporting a person to a moving spacecraft.
  • On the first Mother’s Day after they became a couple, Thomas sent Matt’s mum flowers and a card. Matt forget it was Mother’s Day.
  • Nuke doesn’t have a bed.
  • Princess chose her codename years before she met Nuke.
  • Blaze used to be in the army.
  • When Navy first found out about Nuke, Nuke didn’t want anything to do with him. Navy just kept bringing him food until Nuke accepted that he now had a partner whether he wanted one or not.