An Ebook Blog Begins – Katherine Roberts

A word from our founder today. Our usual blogger, Rosalie Warren, has suffered a family bereavement, and can't post today.  So, instead, here's Authors Electric's onlie begetter, Katherine Roberts...

Those of you who have been with this blog from its early days might remember me… later comers to the party won’t, because I’ve relinquished the reins since then and others have very ably taken them up to ride the electric horse onwards across pastures new. But I thought this might be a good time to explain why I am still with you in e-spirit, if not in e-body.

Originally, Susan Price and I set this place up as a joint blog to promote our backlists, which we were both in the process of converting to Kindle to rescue our out-of-print work from oblivion. A few others in our Scattered Authors group for children’s books were doing the same, but there weren’t very many of us. So we made an important early decision to open the blog up to adult authors with Kindle projects – or, rather, authors of books read by adults since (contrary to what it might seem at times) most children’s authors are adults, too. So “Kindle Authors UK” was born… and if you’re scratching your heads at this point, thinking “uh-huh?” then that’s because our choice of name, which seemed the most obvious one at the time for what we were doing, resulted in an early phone call from Amazon gently pointing out that “Kindle” was their brand name and we shouldn’t be using it.

Lesson One: Names are important, and you can’t go around stealing other people’s.

We were still quite small, so in a moment of blind panic I considered dropping the whole thing. But Susan Price – who as you probably realise from her posts here and on her own blog is far more determined (and less panicky) than me – said no, we’re carrying on, all we need is a new name and a new domain. So we brainstormed and agonised (at least I did) and put it to several votes, and came up with the Authors Electric name you see today and the quirky blog title inspired by Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Straight after dropping the "Kindle” from our domain name and title, of course, our hits plummeted, so the ten people I'd roped into the blog by then had an uphill struggle to get us noticed again... sorry, guys! Yet we’d obviously been noticed, even when we were just taking our first baby steps, so we thought we might have a chance.

Lesson Two: Even if you think nobody is taking any notice of you online, someone out there is watching, and you never know who you are reaching with your words (results can be good or bad… so this is double-edged sword!).

Shortly after changing our name, we decided to get rid of the flame design that had been suggested by the Kindle, and have a fresh look for our blog. Going with an exciting lightning theme chosen by Susan Price, we redesigned our banner and – with a Twitter account set up for us by Tweet Queen herself Nicola Morgan, who was at that time blogging with us, made an Authors Electric Twitter button:

At this stage, word of mouth was spreading as more adult authors joined us, bringing their own expertise of the Kindle and ebook market and social networking on the Kindle forums, which as a children’s author had rather passed me by. The blog became more popular and changed from a place to promote our backlist children’s/YA titles into something promoting indie adult/YA frontlist titles, with some authors not having a traditional publishing background at all. At this stage, I felt the blog had moved away from what I originally intended, and yet this shift was obviously working for people and fulfilling a need I hadn’t anticipated so I let the electric horse run. Yet, having just signed a four-book contract with a children’s publisher for middle-grade fiction, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with my readers stumbling across the more adult posts, so knew I was (selfishly) holding things back.

Lesson Three: Know when to let go.

Letting go wasn’t as easy as I imagined, because in the beginning I had tried to do almost everything, being a bit of a control freak (who? me?). But with Susan Price handling the group admin, and Debbie Bennett kindly taking over the guest posts, all I had left by then was the technical side and the book pages, which people were mumbling about moving to a proper website. So I stepped aside and waited to see what would happen. What did happen was a pretty much immediate move from the increasingly unwieldy book pages I’d set up on Blogger to the jimdo website you see today with all the ebooks and authors listed in a much more logical fashion - confirming my suspicions.

There followed another change of design, which was nothing to do with me (I notice the lightning banner and tweet button now look a little out of place… but I have let go! I shall not interfere!) And at about the same time Authors Electric found its way into Facebook, which is still unknown territory for me, despite the fact several other people called Katherine Roberts appear to be on there (they are not me, people, OK?), which in turn brought more followers to the blog. And I know bloggers who have joined since I left are, even as I write, taking Authors Electric onwards into new territories. So, while I sometimes mourn my sweet blog baby, I know every mother must let their child grow up, become a stroppy teenager and find their own way in the world... and Authors Electric is certainly doing that.

Lesson Four: Know who you are.

I am an author of children’s fiction, so for me ebooks represent an excellent way of keeping my backlist titles in print, when it would not be cost-effective for my publishers keep them going in paperback. I don’t see me publishing a new children’s book for the Kindle anytime soon, since I believe the Kindle market is mainly adult (you only have to watch amazon’s TV adverts… see any children lying on the beach reading Kindles?). There seems no easy way for children – at least not for my middle grade readers – to buy their own ebooks, and as yet there is no “gift” button on amazon’s UK site for parents and teachers to buy children’s ebooks for them. Until that day arrives, I will need to concentrate on the traditional paper publishing side of my career, which is why I am not blogging regularly here at present.

Lesson Five: Keep an eye on the future.

However, that day might come sooner than we think. With the surge in ebook sales over the past year, surely it won’t be very long before amazon (or someone else) opens a children’s ebook store, and sets up a way for parents to buy credits that children can spend unsupervised in a safe online environment with vetted titles and download ebooks to their own “kiddiereaders”, which might well be a more child-friendly, cheaper version of the Kindle. When that day arrives, my dream would be for Authors Electric to sprout two branches from its central website… one for adult books/readers (as now) and one for children’s books/younger readers, which is where I – and our original bloggers – began.

So what do you think? Is there a Kindle market for younger readers? Have you ever bought an ebook for a child? And would you let your children read this blog?

Katherine Roberts is a children's fantasy author.

Her Seven Fabulous Wonders series is now reavailable for Kindle
£1-99 each from amazon uk
$3-99 each from amazon us


CallyPhillips said…
Hi Katherine, Thanks for that interesting potted 'history' of the group/site. I didn't really know much of what happened or how it was set up before I jumped onboard end of last year. And it's interesting to look at how it started to see how and where (and why) it's moving forward. Maybe it's a good lesson for us all to keep in mind, that the epublishing (and digital world in general) is constantly changing and we need to build/evolve and refine our communities as we go. And maybe also that we all need to know when to leave a party and have clear ideas about what we are contributing to that party when we are at it. Certainly it's clear that AE has gone through more than one transformation in its short life and I'm sure there's more to come, but I think that's a strength and look forward to seeing where we go from here. I think the 'you get out what you put in' maxim is important. The community shapes the community and I've found it a very helpful and friendly community to date, though sometimes our communicative skills leave something to be desired for a bunch of writers (but I'll blame the myriad of technological options for that!)
madwippitt said…
Of course it's possible to read ebooks on devices other than Kindles ... which might appeal more to children who won't necessarily want to be seen using the same stuff as the uncool grownups ...

Nice to see you back, even if only temporarily! And looking forward to the second Pendragon book!
Jenny Alexander said…
As a fairly recent comer to the site, it's really interesting to hear how it all began, so thank you Katherine!
Debbie Bennett said…
Hi Katherine. I think I was the first "pure indie" author on the blog, so feel free to blame me for the changes! :-)

What surprises me is the number of young teenagers who I know have kindles. I don't know how or even if their parents police their book-buying. But I'm amazed nobody has written an app that deals with credits to buy ebooks - it'd go down a storm on the ipad.
Diana Kimpton said…
I've had an email from an American mum asking me to put my books on Nook, and lots of children seem to be getting tablets. So ereading is catching on slowly. But it's a chicken and egg situation - children's ereading won't take off until there are lots of children's ebooks to choose from.

I'm publishing my next children's book as an ebook but have decided that I'll need a print version too. So many children's books are given as presents and you can't wrap an ebook.
Hello Cally... sorry I "left" just as you were climbing on board! Yes, I think you're right, and the great strength of a blog community like this one is its ability (and willingness) to change with the times... and ebooks are certainly forcing a lot of people to change their thinking right now. I am trying to keep an open mind.

Yes, Debbie... and I think was the one who invited you! You've been very welcome from the start, and yours was the first "indie" book I downloaded on my Kindle.

As for children reading ebooks... is there a credit-app yet, does anyone know? (I too am surprised there isn't!) I think teenagers are a bit different from younger readers since they have online buying power, and there certainly seems to be quite a lot of YA out there selling very well. Most teenagers I've spoken to say they read ebooks on their phones... rather them than me!

There seem to be a lot of children's books too, Diana - many of them backlist titles like mine. But you've said it all: "you can't gift wrap an ebook" Children's books are mostly bought by parents and granparents, so I see children's print sales surviving for much longer than print sales of adult fiction.
Hi Katherine! Not bad for a change of name and domain. But that is an interesting experience though - Amazon calling you about the name issue.

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