Dominic H. King's Blog

July 23, 2015

PRESS RELEASE

Though separated by nearly 400 years, London-based writer Dominic H. King is hoping that bloodlines from ancestor Jonathan Swift are evident in his new release, The Reaper, the final instalment of his Twin Worlds trilogy. The trilogy follows Kal and Daine, a boy and a girl in their late teens, who are thrown together to battle the Reaper, an evil, menacing presence who started a war a generation before.

“When published in 1726, Gulliver's Travels was really fantasy, science fiction for its time,” said King, who is related to Jonathan Swift by way of his mother’s side of the family. “I think that he would be pleased in my following in his footsteps.”

Told in alternating chapters between the two main protagonists, the Twin Worlds trilogy is an epic tale of swords and sorcery; travel and adventure; love and loss; good and evil. But most of all, a tale of adolescence and growing up. The series has been well received by readers: The Chamber (2012) and The Black Gate (2013) have already received a number of positive reviews on Amazon.

King Continued: “The love of adventure and fantasy is in my blood. My grandmother on the Swift side of the family read The Lord of Rings to me when I was about eight and after that I was hooked. I grew up reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Deptford Histories by Robin Jarvis, my favourite board game was called Fantasy Forest. But I think His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is the best fantasy series I have ever read. His books are what I aspire to."

With Game of Thrones author George RR Martin admitting that the TV series may be finished before he ties together the last two novels, the pressures of pulling fantasy epics together has been in the spotlight. The world created by King is not quite on the scale of Westeros but he does credit Martin with dragging fantasy into the mainstream.

King continued: "Game of Thrones has been a real game changer. Before it came out lots of people I spoke with about my book simply said 'sorry, I don't like fantasy'. Then 'Thrones' hit our screens and these same people cannot stop talking about it. 'But it's historical fiction' they tell me. I have to inform that it can’t be as none of it ever really happened. Now they are giving my books a second chance."

To obtain a free e-copy of The Reaper or the rest of the The Twin Worlds trilogy for 'read and review', please go to: King's website

- ENDS -
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Published on July 23, 2015 08:16 • 69 views • Tags: ebook, fantasy, free, gullivers-travels, jonathan-swift, media, press-release, review, ya

July 17, 2015

Authors including Malcom Gladwell and Douglas Preston this week added their names to a letter to the US justice department antitrust unit attacking Amazon over its power in the book market. The group - Authors United - claim that Amazon benefits as monopoly seller of books and a monopsony buyer of books. In layman's terms, the assertion is that Amazon can buy at and sell at whatever price they want.

Pretty sweet position to be in, right?

But what would you think if the company in question makes virtually no profit? Amazon's revenues hit US$88bn last year, but it made actually made a loss of $240m. In other words a gross profit margin of -0.3%. By contrast Apple book just shy of 40% every quarter.

But what are Amazon doing with all the money?

Well, they plough almost all of it back into capital expenditure, primarily aimed at improving their delivery infrastructure: from bigger, more efficient distribution centres to drone delivery. In other words, they are trying to improve the customer experience - providing a better, faster service to attract more people to buy products there.

So are Amazon mean or misunderstood?

Traditional publishers were caught with their collective trousers down by the digital age. The authors and bookstores who benefited from the status quo continue to suffer. Amazon has trampled all over them like an elephant with an itch but technology has sped up the business lifecycle. The 'innovate or die' never rang truer.

Of course, I cannot be truly objective. I am a satisfied customer - I buy my ebooks on Amazon and I sell my own novels there too. But I do agree with Alliance of Independent Authors who suggest that the Authors Guild and others are worried about the competition provided by the new generation of self-publishers.

I have said before that I believe the cream rises to the top in the literary world. Traditional publishers and the authors under their roofs grew lazy. Like taxi drivers blocking roads because of competition from Uber - another tech 'upstart' with questionable business ethics - the customer has spoken and they have already lost.

They just refuse to accept it.
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Published on July 17, 2015 04:44 • 146 views • Tags: amazon, authors-united, douglas-preston, malcom-gladwell, monopoly, publishing, uber

July 15, 2014

The wrestling match between Amazon and the major publishers moved into new territory last week with news that HarperCollins has started selling books directly to readers again having relaunched its US website. The site will sell e-books to which HarperCollins holds rights across the world, as well as print books in the US. They have plans to launch sites in Australia, Canada and the UK in 2015.

This move puts the publisher in direct competition with Amazon, still one of its largest retailers, and comes at a time when the behemoth Jeff Bezos crafted on a road trip 20 years ago is feuding with Hachette over e-book pricing and revenue share. The argument centers on the desire of Amazon to relentlessly lower prices. The major publishers want to move towards an agency model with a minimum price for e-books, fearing that Amazon will use cheap books to pull people on to their site where they are persuaded to buy bigger ticket items with fatter margins. The argument is that if the price of e-books is driven down to 99c and lower, publishers will be unable to invest in quality content which might take many years to produce.

The rather crude upshot is that Amazon has been charging more for Hachette books, taking weeks sometimes to ship orders and removing the pre-order buttons for some forthcoming titles. For a company that prides itself on quick delivery and being the champion of the consumer, Amazon's actions seem heavy-handed at best.

But I have very limited sympathy with the major publishers. Let's not forget they were found guilty of colluding over e-book prices with Apple recently (Apple is still fighting the verdict, but the publishers all settled out of court). The nub of the problem is that the publishing houses are still playing catch-up. They failed to learn the lessons from the digital takeover of the music industry. It was arrogant and short-sighted to think that the literary market was 'different'. Yes, there is a certain romanticism to a novel and some readers might pay a premium for having a physical book in their hands. But not everyone. And certainly not if the book is five times the price of its digital equivalent.

The role Amazon provides in supporting smaller publishing houses (like the one I am signed up to: Novel Concept Publishing) should also not be understated. Amazon provides a huge, cheap platform for Indie authors like me to try to sell our wares and on better terms that traditional retailers. Martin Shepard, co-publisher of The Permanent Press says: "The charges (from the major publishers against) Amazon strike me as a smokescreen, the work of powerful incumbents who have grown fat in a market that they have controlled for decades, and now fear they may have met their match."

Far from crushing talent, Amazon is giving ever more authors an opportunity to get noticed and sell. Yes, this means the market for would-be novelists is saturated. And yes it means the major publishers are seeing their margins squeezed. But I am not going to complain. Competition breeds excellence. If you can't stand the heat...
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Published on July 15, 2014 04:15 • 92 views • Tags: amazon, apple, hachette, harpercollins, publishing

April 20, 2014

I recently finished The Legend of Finndragon's Curse (Tales of Finndragon, #1). You can read my full review of the book on Goodreads but I caught up with its author Richie Earl who agreed to answer a few questions about his work.

Hi Richie. I really enjoyed The Legend of Finndragon's Curse. You had me hooked very early on, with a nice balance between getting the children down to Finndragon's world, but not forgetting the plot. Was this a story that hit you in a flash? Or has it developed gradually?

Hi Dominic. I’m glad you enjoyed Finndragon and thank you for your kind words. I guess the answer to the question is both.

The three main protagonists, siblings Emma, Megan and Scott were born and bred in bedtime stories made up for my kids. They matured over a period of a couple of months, but when I decided to take the characters further, I struggled to come up with any sort of plot at first. The idea of a cursed kingdom suddenly hit me and I was away. I began book one with very little planning, writing it as if I was still telling the kids their bedtime story. However, I put considerably more planning into book two, as I didn’t want any loose ends as the story concluded.

I have done some of my best writing Pembrokeshire. Why is Wales such a good fantasy setting?

Wales is a land of castles, magic and legends, many dating back to King Arthur and even further.

As a new writer, I thought it easier to set my first book in familiar surroundings. The castle and caves are firmly based on the site of Morlais Castle, a 13th century castle which is no more than two miles from where I now live and less than a mile from the street where I grew up. Sadly, very little remains of the castle these days.

If you were going to liken the appearance of Finndragon in your mind's eye to one famous person today, who would it be?

Picture Stephen Fry with a long grey beard and wig and that’s how I see Finndragon. (The role is his if he wants it!)

Are the children based on your own offspring? If so, did they like how they have been portrayed?

Indeed the characters Emma, Megan and Scott are older versions of my own children, with similar personalities and abilities. I am currently reading the book to the two youngest, and they get pretty excited when their characters are involved.

Without wanting to give the whole game away, what can you tell us about Vol.II - Return to Finndragon's Den?

Return to Finndragon’s Den carries straight on from the cliff-hanger ending of book 1. The Davies children’s quest continues as they meet new challenges, helped by friends old and new and are faced by some of Finndragon’s even more fearsome creations. Emma, finds some new uses for her secret weapon as the story hurtles towards its conclusion.

[Minor spoiler alert] The citizens of Castell y Mynydd have been battling Finndragon's demons for 1,500 years. What would be your idea of a living nightmare?

I really don’t like the plethora of so called reality TV programmes which dominate the schedules these days. Our screens are constantly bombarded with so called celebrities performing inane challenges, falling on ice and just lazing around a house for weeks on end. Add the never ending round of ‘talent’ contests and there is very little entertainment to be found on the box.

Therefore, I rarely watch anything, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. However, the next day in work, I’m subjected to something far worse than the direst offering. I have to listen to the lowlights of whatever trash was aired the previous evening, being described and dissected by my colleagues. This is my living nightmare, but unlike the television, I don’t have the luxury of an off switch!

One final one: are you 'Dad'? If so, may I say, your wife must be a saint!

Yes I am and yes she is – thank you Dominic!

You can find out more about the Tales of Finndragon series via Richie Earl's website: One thousand worlds and he is also hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Published on April 20, 2014 01:21 • 121 views • Tags: author, interview, richie-earl, tales-of-finndragon

April 9, 2014

No doubt Lynn Shepherd knew exactly what she was doing when she penned her now infamous article for the HuffPo on JK Rowling, the reaction the article would cause. After all, Rowling is probably the most famous author alive. She has one or two fans. Demanding that she stop writing for the good of the industry is probably going to upset them.

The backlash was predictable, if still disappointing. Potterites have taken to giving Shepherd's books single star ratings on Amazon, accusing her of being a troll. The first point I would make is that if writing an article for a Pulitzer Prize-winning website is trolling, then I need to update my lexicon. The second is that Shepherd is merely starting a debate; a disagreement should not lead to character assassination or trying to sink her novels (true trolling, methinks). If I disagree with my wife about where to hang a picture, do I then proceed to question her mothering capabilities?

The point I would make is that Shepherd has clearly gone after Rowling to cause a stir. Telling her to stop writing books is so presumptuous that it makes my blood boil. Imagine at the World Cup this summer if Spain were asked not to perform at their best to give one of the other teams a chance. But then winding people up is exactly what Shepherd wanted, so she has won that one.

In some ways I agree with her. Yes, there is too much hysteria over superstars in all walks of life - from sports to banking to publishing. Yes, the superstars sometimes get away with producing rubbish just because of their 'names'. Yes, they probably have too big a share of the cake. But we live in a world where reality TV makes people famous for having luminous orange skin, or a big bum, or a potty mouth. Never has my Gran's favourite phrase, 'mutton dressed as lamb', been more poignant. To stretch the analogy, when real lamb comes along, should we accuse it of crowding out the mutton?

Unfortunately the advent of social media has exacerbated these trends, throwing the digital doors open to millions of voices, which, alas, often seem to be trying to place people, who don't deserve it, on pedestals, whilst knocking others off the pedestals they deserve. Like JK Rowling, you might say, who has introduced the wonders of the written word to a whole generation of young (and older) people, who might have otherwise spent their time in front of soul-destroying, mind-numbing 'real life drama'.

I made my thoughts on the whole Robert Galbraith saga clear in an earlier post (suffice it say, it was an ingenious, cynical bit of marketing that I wish I had in my locker) but Shepherd has been just as cunning. It was definitely a gamble but 60,000+ Facebook 'likes' cannot be bad. Even if most people are disagreeing with her, all publicity is good publicity, right?
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Published on April 09, 2014 08:52 • 126 views • Tags: author, harry-potter, jk-rowling, lynn-shepherd, marketing, publishing, reality-tv, social-media, trolling

November 18, 2013

The second instalment of the Twin Worlds trilogy – The Black Gate – was finally released this week, delayed only by the late, but of course wonderful, arrival of my daughter Elena. So apart from baby-proofing our flat and working out the most environmentally-friendly way of dealing with nappies, I have been trying, to borrow parlance from my day job, to amplify the release. In other words, get the word out as far and wide as possible.

However, without a major publisher behind me – and this is not a dig at NCP, who do everything I could expect of them - the question is how? Call it marketing on a shoestring.

The first port of call was to improve the product. There are only a certain number of times any sane author can go through his or her manuscript, so I enlisted some help. In terms of content I turned to the Terrier, a mate from school who has read every fantasy book under the sun. Importantly he is not the sort of guy to pander to my ego. If he didn't like something, he said so.

In my previous post I mentioned the importance of proofreading, so I was grateful to my Mum for stepping in here. Again, importantly, she did not shy away from criticising my work. Thirdly, all good fantasy books need a map, so I am grateful to Nish who runs Curious Agency here in the UK for taking time out of his busy schedule to doodle one up for me.

Thanks to the three of them, the content is a marked step up from The Chamber.

With the content sorted, the next trick was to build brand; not only that of the Twin Worlds trilogy but also my personal brand. There are lots of reviewers out there with fledgling websites – such as Tanya Watt, Ultimate Fantasy Books, Patrick Satters, and Richie Earl's 1000 Worlds – who will post an interview and/or review. How much traffic these sites get I don't really know, but it certainly can't hurt to get my name out there. I also think I am getting the hang of Twitter.

A couple of digital elements really got me excited too. Firstly, fellow Goodreads author Anne-Rae Vasquez produced a video trailer, for just USS$5, which you can see here. I am sure you will agree it's an absolute steal at this price. And Ed Hamilton pulled all this together on my website. Ed built the whole thing from scratch and has even added a CMS system to sit behind it which means I don't have to hustle him for updates.

The eagle-eyed will have worked out a I paid just US$5 for all of this. Not a massive marketing budget at all. Five sales and I have it covered.

Of course, I'm hoping we shift a few more than that.
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Published on November 18, 2013 03:47 • 139 views • Tags: author, editing, marketing, proofreading, publishing, shoestring, the-black-gate, the-chamber, twin-worlds

September 18, 2013

News this month that Terri Bruce has won her legal fight to stop her publisher selling Thereafter. This after she found 260 erroneous edits in the final copy which Bruce said made her sound like an "illiterate git". The court agreed that continuing to publish the novel would damage her professional reputation.

The thing which shocked me most about this story is Bruce's claim that Eternal Press refused to rescind their edits. Bruce explains that one of their 'corrections' – flipping a sentence from the imperfect to the perfect – changes the sense of the ending.

This just seems wrong to me. Surely the author should get the final say? Can you imagine a gallery touching up a painting before displaying it without telling the artist?

I have written before about the squeeze on publishers' margins driven by the rise of Amazon and the ebook. Proofreading takes time and money. An author coming back time and time again with little tweaks impacts on deadlines and ultimately on profitability.

But it's important to remember what a novel means to its author. Anne-Rae Vasquez explains it eloquently: "Writing is emotional...it is baring your soul to the world and waiting for someone to acknowledge and love it, or shun and hate it, or worse be indifferent about it."

I know this from bitter experience. I got caught out somewhat with The Chamber, Twin Worlds trilogy Vol.I. I mistakenly thought that my publisher used a proofreader. Alas no. The final edit was my own. Given Bruce's issues above, you might think this is a good thing.

But it is not. Authors are too close to their work. I must have read The Chamber close to fifteen times by the end. In truth, I was sick of it. I just wanted to get it out.

People who have read the book have generally been kind, but good friends and family have been sharper with their criticism. It hurts but I appreciate it. I'm a stickler for good grammar myself. People who confuse 'they're' with 'their' or say "I was sat…" are likely to feel the rough side of my tongue.

I have removed some of the more glaring errors in The Chamber, but the question now is what to do with Vol.II – The Black Gate – which is due out next month. I considered employing a professional proofreader but they charge around $1/100 words. This may not sound a lot but multiply that by 115,000 and you are left with a hefty bill. Remember I have only made around $80 from The Chamber so far!

So it has fallen to the staunchest critic of my grammar to take on the task once it comes back from the publisher.

Thanks in advance, Mum.
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Published on September 18, 2013 03:51 • 317 views • Tags: editing, eternal-press, grammar, proofreading, publishing, terri-bruce, the-chamber, thereafter, typos

July 24, 2013

I suggested recently that the decision by Stephen King not to publish his new novel in e-format might have been a cunning marketing ploy . Well, earlier this month there was an even bigger revelation from the world of publishing. We found out that Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo's Calling, was actually none other than JK Rowling.

The result has been a very predictable bubble of interest. His (or should I say, her) book had sold a modest yet very respectable (especially for an 'unknown' author) 1,500 copies. Since the news broke it has been propelled to the top of the Amazon chart. Her publishers have printed an extra 140,000 copies to meet demand. Sales of the hardback in the UK climbed to almost 18,000 last week, up from 43 the week before.

Now, I am not saying this was all a marketing ruse from Rowling. She has professed huge disappointment in the solicitor at Russells who let the secret slip to a friend (who promptly posted it on Twitter). I am also swayed by her desire to keep out of the spotlight following the Leevson Inquiry disclosure about the note placed by a journo in her daughter's backpack.

But the cold, hart fact is that this revelation has made the author and her publisher a ton of cash. More than she would have made publishing it under her own name? Quite possibly. And it certainly hasn’t harmed sales of The Casual Vacancy either.

There is also a slightly darker point to all this for those of us outside the big publishing houses. The lesser lights if you will. Are we all now fighting for an even smaller slice of the cake?

Yes, according to the Chief Exec of Curtis Brown who says the old 80-20 Pareto rule, that 80% of sales comes from 20% of contributors, has now widened to 96-4. In many walks of life, from sports to banking, there is an elite making an absolute killing. It is a trend which has crept into publishing too. Publishers increasingly place the full power of their marketing budgets behind a few 'superstar authors'. In an industry driven by recommendations, this skews bestseller lists .

By definition, JK Rowling (superstar) is no more talented an author than Robert Galbraith (unknown). But 'her' book sold a lot more than 'his'. Fact.

I am now in danger of sounding bitter and cynical. I'm not. One good novel often begets another. I'll read whatever Bernard Cornwell puts out. And the advent of ebooks and self-publishing means there are many more authors out there. Perhaps too many. It is difficult not to get lost in the noise. If I was a publisher, in a world where friendly bookshops are dying out and unfriendly Amazon is squeezing my margins, I would probably stick my house on a superstar too.

I just hope that a of few lesser lights will get a shot too. After all, the cream always rises to the top. It may just take a little longer than before.
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July 16, 2013

Regular readers may recall my December blog which reported that the US Department of Justice had accused Apple of colluding over ebook prices.

Well, the verdict is out: Apple have been found guilty. The ruling said that the company played a "central role" in a conspiracy with some of the biggest book publishers in the US to fix prices in violation of antitrust law.

Apple deny any wrongdoing and plan to appeal, but the case seems pretty clear cut: The publishers implicated – Hachette Book Group Inc, Macmillan, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster – settled with the US Department of Justice before the trial.

So what were they all up to?

In a nutshell, they wanted to pull prices up. Amazon's low cost-base was squeezing them. They wanted to eliminate price competition and so neutralise one of Amazon's key strengths. So they agreed to raise their e-book prices above the prevailing $9.99 price tag. Apple also agreed with the publishers to launch its iBookstore at the 2010 iPad launch – to break Amazon's "monopolistic grip on the publishing industry" – but only if these assurances over profitability were given.

There are a couple of things which strike me about this story. Firstly, it is another example of traditional publishers failing to keep up with the digital revolution. Amazon are fairly ruthless – they have as The Economist reports "long spurned profits in favour of growth" – but colluding to short change customers reflects badly on the publishers. And for Apple to be the ringmaster was a risky move for a company with so much invested in its brand capital.

The second thing is the price they are arguing over: $9.99 to transfer a file just seems too high to me. For those in the UK we're talking around £6.60. I have mentioned before how disproportionate this pricing structure seems to me. I believe an ebook should cost – at most – half what a paperback does. Publishers (and let's not forget the authors) have to make a profit, but let's not shaft the consumer in the process.
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Published on July 16, 2013 10:06 • 162 views • Tags: amazon, apple, conspiracy, ebook, hachette, harpercollins, penguin, publishing, simon-schuster, us

June 10, 2013

The release of Stephen King's new novel Joyland last week was preceded by the author's decision to release it in hard copy only. It strikes me as a bizarre move on a number of levels and one I cannot quite get my head around. After all this was the guy who released Riding the Bullet in 2000 in e-book only. People called him a pioneer.

What has changed?

One theory is that he wants to put two fingers up at the giant e-retailers like Amazon who have been squeezing publishers' margins. Indeed when interviewed about the decision he said: "I have no plans for a digital version. Maybe at some point, but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."

But Amazon sells paperbacks too. Joyland is available there – here is the link. There is no onus on people to walk into a Waterstones and buy one over the counter. Perhaps there is some clever pricing stuff going on behind the scenes but it seems to me the only people losing out are those using e-readers. What has Mr. King got against them (us)?

Another theory of course is that this is all a marketing ploy as dark (and about as subtle) as one of his horror novels. The decision attracted more column inches than his publisher could have dreamt for from a regular release. Perhaps I am being cynical. Perhaps I am just jealous how my namesake can dictate his terms to the industry whilst I offer people my book for free in the hope that they will write a good review. But I smell a rat.

Don't get me wrong, the guy talks a lot of sense when it comes to writing and publishing. His book On Writing was the single most important thing I read when I started taking writing seriously. But he knows the industry backwards. Can this all really be an ideological thing?

He's so successful it really could be. But I doubt it.
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Published on June 10, 2013 03:39 • 174 views • Tags: amazon, digital, e-book, hard-case-crime, ideology, joyland, marketing, price, print, publishing, stephen-king, waterstones