Of typos and ‘The Pretender’. Revised reprints from East Lane Books

Ages ago I promised to explain the title of my ebook publishing imprint, which I’ve used for several years to publish eBook versions of my out of print titles, along with eBooks of the work I publish with Nottingham’s Shoestring Press, which avidly resists publishing digitally (while Shoestring does have a website you can order physical books from, it doesn’t sell on Amazon and the publisher doesn’t use the internet himself or have an email address). My set up is simple. I only publish books that I’ve written and the recent ones have been digitised by The Book Typesetters an excellent team who also handle all of Shoestring’s typesetting and more.

I chose the name East Lane Books because it’s the name of the lane our allotment is on, part of Bagthorpe Gardens, one of the first two sets of public allotments in the UK, from the early 1840s. There’s a garage at the back of it where I store spare copies of my novels (mostly pseudonymous ones I wrote for the YA market) and there are numerous bookcases – many of which used to belong to a Booker prize winner – where we store our overflow books. Like the bookcases in our house, there’s no room left on them and there are books on top of books.

Anyway, I haven’t been active in e-publishing for a long time because Amazon suspended my account after a hacking attempt. This is a long, tedious story from which Amazon emerges incredibly badly, but unfortunately they remain the main venue for selling ebooks. I have everything available on all other platforms via Smashwords but that’s largely on principle. The money I make from that platform doesn’t justify the time I spent inputting the books, never mind what it costs to digitise them. However, I finally found a way to reactivate my Amazon account, without repaying the money that the hackers managed to steal, which Amazon knew all about beforehand but now refuses to acknowledge. So, although I can’t change the prices of any of the books I already had on there, I can now add new ones. The fourth Bone and Cane, Death in the Family (the LTD signed edition of which can still be bought for £12 post free, either by following this link or by post from Shoestring), will appear as an eBook in March.

Also available are the first five Beat novels (I’d love to do the other six, but it’s time consuming and, to be frank, sales don’t justify the time and cost), Provenance, my new and collected short stories, my Glastonbury novel Festival and my best seller – some would say my best novel – Love Lessons, as well as the first three Bone and Cane novels. Prices range from £1.99 to £3.99. All are less than half the price of the original book publications, which seems to me a fair price for an eBook and guarantees that I make more from individual sales than I ever did from publishers. Indeed, in the case of The Great Deception the only money I’ve made is from PLR and eBooks as the publisher went bust before it had paid my advance. Indeed, adding insult to injury, the liquidator made me pay to get copies of the remaining stock before they were pulped (a signed copy is yours for eight quid, post free, should anyone wants one).

Love Lessons remains in print from Five Leaves. They did a tenth anniversary edition (with afterword) but decided it wasn’t economical to do an eBook as well. Ironic, as it’s the only eBook I’ve published that’s comfortably covered its costs. It was also what led me to start ELB, so that’s worked out well for me. I have a new book coming out with Five Leaves later this year which we’re keeping quiet about for the moment but in the meantime, we’ve done some spring cleaning and I had the rights returned for several 5L books that are just about out of print. Most people’s favourite novel of mine is The Pretender, which turns 14 this year. If push comes to shove I’d probably say that, while the body of work I’m proudest of is the four Bone and Cane novels, the individual novel I’m proudest of is The Pretender with its great cover by Darius Hinks. It also links with the novel I’m working on at the moment, which is about Graham Greene in Nottingham. This old blog tells you more on both subjects. The Pretender is a coming of age novel about literary forgery and little magazines, with a cameo from Graham Greene and also features Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens.

However, one thing has always irritated me about the book. As anyone who I’ve ever taught writing to will tell you, I think names are important. It’s hard to settle on characterisation until you get the character’s name right. There’s one character in the book – he is, effectively, the villain – called Paul. But at various times in the various versions of the book, he was called Phil. Why did I not stick with Phil? Maybe because it reminded me of an old antagonist of mine from Grammar School. However, in the printed version, one use of the name Phil snuck in. Worse, it’s right at the end of the book. One of the Amazon reviews rightly called me out on this, though few other people noticed and I’ve never gone to the lengths that some authors have been known to go to, physically altering every copy I see. However, I did ask for the eBook to be corrected. This was a hassle, however, and it never happened (not slagging off 5L here. Compared to Hodder, who once published the wrong ending to a book that they’d persuaded me to change and never corrected their ebook either, this one was a very minor transgression).) I’m pleased to report that the typo has now been corrected and the new edition is on sale now. Note, by the way, that all Amazon links are to Amazon Smile which allows you to donate a tiny portion of the price to a favourite charity. Mine goes to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where I’ll be again this Sunday.

But wait, there’s more. One of the novels I’m proudest of is Secret Gardens which Five Leaves took over from Barrington Stoke when they were having some financial difficulties and did a fine job with. This story is mostly set on Hungerhill Allotments, the other oldest set of allotments in the world, where we shared our first allotment with our friends Rob and Sarah. It’s about an asylum seeker and slave labour and Five Leaves still have a few copies for sale. It’s a short novel, originally aimed at reluctant readers, so anyone with a reading age of eight or over can read it. I don’t own the illustration rights so these aren’t included but, because I want it to be read as widely as possible, I’ve kept it really cheap, less than the cost of a coffee. Check it out.
Finally, my novel Student is ten years old. This is another coming of age novel, following its protagonist Allison from ages seventeen to twenty-one and her final term at university. At the time of publication, there was talk of this being New Adult fiction, a category that seems to have fallen into disuse, perhaps wisely so, but there does need to be a word for fiction about late adolescence – a state that, for some people, let’s face it, often lasts well into the thirties. The story is harrowing at times and deals with drug use, sexual violence, suicide and other stuff that confronts many people during this period of their lives. It’s a novel I’m very proud of and one that does have a few fervent admirers. The paperback edition is flawed by using a font that some older readers struggled with, but that doesn’t apply to this ebook edition which, I hope, will find it some new readers. And it’s a third of the price of the print edition. Buy it here.

Quick buying links on Amazon Smile The Pretender Secret Gardens Student

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