The Saints are coming.

We have a special announcement to make – we’re quitting the writing business and taking up bank robbing. The pay is great and if we fail, we’ll have free board. Only kidding. Though our psychologist has asked us to work on a Plan B if/when the writing fails, and so far, this is our top suggestion. Admittedly, it’s not a great one, but we’ve been too busy to come up with a more workable plan.

On Friday it’s St. David’s Day in Wales and we want to celebrate it. We’re not sure how the other countries in the UK celebrate their patron saints’ day, (apart from St. Patrick’s Day when suddenly everyone is Irish and Guinness is drunk aplenty) but here in Wales, St. David’s Day is huge. There are Eisteddfod’s held all over the country and Cadw allows you free entry into every castle. In school, Eisteddfods are celebrated by dividing the whole school in four ‘houses’, usually red, blue, green and yellow. In primary school, we were in green house, in high school we were in blue. For some reason in primary school, red house had way more members than any other house, so always won. We suspected cheating was afoot. Everyone then does stuff that earns them points for their house, such as winning competitions involving drawing, writing, putting on plays, etc. In high school in year 7, we wrote and put on a comedy sketch involving Cinderella and Daz washing powder. There was also glitter. We don’t think we won. We blame the stuffy establishment. Plus our main competition had girls dressed in skimpy outfits. We never stood a chance. Originality and humour just can’t compete with short skirts and boobs, no matter how boring their performance was.

Anyhoo, so to celebrate St. David’s Day and to keep in with Cadw’s free castle entry scheme, we’re going to give everyone free entry into a Welsh asylum. No, we’re not committing you (we tried, they wouldn’t let us), we’re going to give away Soul Asylum FREE on Smashwords. It’s a book set in Wales, by Welsh authors, with a Welsh cover designer. It couldn’t be more perfect. It will only be free on Smashwords, not Amazon, seeing as when we tried to make Gunning Down Romance free on their site for National Short Story Week, they refused to join in with the festivities. And seeing as the book is hardly flying off the shelves, we might as well give it away. If you already have it, feel free to download it and pass it on to a friend.

So help us celebrate St. David’s Day by supporting poor, talentless Welsh authors before we end up in a Welsh asylum like Phineas Soul. But remember – night is when the screaming starts.

Protection Racket

We are probably about to commit career suicide but seeing as it’s not exactly a successful glittering career, there won’t be many people at the funeral. We can always change our name. But for those who know us well, you’ll know that we would be prepared to sacrifice everything we’ve worked hard for for the sake of our principals and what is right. And we’re aiming big. We’re going after the giant that is Amazon. We know we’re never going to slay this giant and will probably lose our lives on the battlefield but we’re drawing our swords anyway and running in with battlecries. It’s how we roll.

Yesterday we released Bad Romance, the follow up to Gunning Down Romance. Or, at least, we tried. We uploaded the file to Amazon at midnight. At 6am they emailed us saying they wouldn’t publish it until we’d filled out the contributors section – we’d already put our author name in and it doesn’t say the contributors section is mandatory – so we did this and saved the file, thinking as they’d already processed it, it would be a matter of quickly amending the file and publishing it. How wrong we were. NINETEEN hours it took them to release the bloody book. So once again, we had a book launch without a book. Thank you Amazon for fucking up yet another launch. Last time they put Soul Asylum up on their site at 9am but wouldn’t let anyone buy it until 2pm. If they think ruining our launches will make us fall in line and become obedient, they clearly don’t know us. That behaviour will cause us to rebel even more.

We knew something was wrong when Ryan texted at 8:15am to tell us to stay calm if the book didn’t go live for a couple of hours. He’d experienced the rage from Soul Asylum’s first hand and doesn’t cope well with our rants. After 19 hours, even we can’t maintain our calm. But did we rant, swear and brutalise Amazon like we did at Soul Asylum’s launch? No. After 4 terrible book launches, where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, we’ve now become resigned to the failure. So we spent the day incredibly despondent instead. It’s a good job we are seasoned in the art of depression! The Darkshines opened their painful, numbing arms to us and welcomed us back.

So we’d like to say this – Amazon, fuck you.

We are sick of Amazon treating Indie authors like shit and we are not going to sit back in silence. Most of you have probably read our ranty post about their tax system. While they now pay international authors electronically, did they let authors know about this change so they could change their settings and avoid a cheque charge? No. They put a tiny announcement in the Help section. Who visits the Help section once you’re set up? We only found out about it through a contact of someone on Twitter. See Amazon doesn’t seem to like authors very much and they appear to hate international authors even more. Smashwords on the other hand, pay by PayPal, like every other website. But Amazon don’t own PayPal so won’t use it. It’s not beneficial to them.

So after the 19 hour upload to Amazon, how long does it take to put the same file on Smashwords? Five minutes. We’re not kidding. In that time they convert it for sale across ALL e-readers. Five. Minutes. They also pay authors higher royalties on the cheap books. If you want to change your pricing, go right ahead, it’s your book. Hell, download your own book for free, after all, you own it. Amazon will not change your pricing. You also have to pay to download your own book. If you want to make your book free on Amazon and you’re NOT in KDP Select, forget it. If you’re not in the club, you’re not getting any benefits. Even if you tell Amazon the book is cheaper elsewhere. Even if you get all your friends to tell them it’s cheaper elsewhere, they won’t do it. They will not be dictated to by some nobody. But if THEY want to make your book cheaper, they will. Without telling you. Without ASKING you. It’s your book, why should you be involved in this decision?

Which brings us on to KDP Select. This is Amazon’s lending library. People can borrow your book for free. Except it’s not really borrowing because they never give it back. Basically they’re downloading it for free. And do you get paid each time this happens? LOL. Of course not. Amazon have a pot of money which they distribute between the authors in KDP Select after a period. Except when more authors join, does the pot increase? This is Amazon remember. They have increased it ONCE in the year we’ve been self publishing. Think how many authors have joined since then. We refused to sign up to KDP Select for one reason – Amazon demands once you’re in, you make your book exclusive to them for THREE MONTHS. If your book is already on another site, you have to take it down or they won’t let you in. We hate being forced into things so if anyone tries, they have  a fight on their hands. Getting us to do something we don’t agree with is the equivalent of stealing food from an angry badger. Can you imagine if libraries allowed you to stock your book with them providing you only sold through Waterstones? There would be outcry. But Amazon can get away with it. Why? Because they’re the online equivalent of a Mafia protection racket. And if Amazon want to sue us for libel on that statement, we have this to say – prove us wrong. What happens in protection rackets? You pay them money and they don’t trash your shop and destroy your livelihood. What happens with Amazon? Play by their rules and they won’t take your book off their site. We’re not joking. Why do authors put up with this? Because it’s Amazon. It’s the biggest bookseller. Everyone goes there. Smashwords is so much better for authors but hardly anyone knows of its existence. But sorry Amazon, we have swords, we can protect our own damn shop.

But what is pissing off most Indies is the reviews. Indie authors’ sales depend on reviews. If Amazon suspect that you are an author or in any way connected to a book, they will pull your review off other authors’ books. We’ve had reviews pulled off our books. Our writer friends have had their reviews taken down. Writers are readers. The two are conjoined. If you COMPLAIN that they’ve taken your review down, they tell you they suspect you have a financial connection to the book and they warn you that if continue to complain, they will remove the book from their site. Bear in mind, this isn’t your book, it’s someone else’s. They are basically saying ‘shut up or we’ll punish this innocent person.’ Protection. Racket. We read other peoples’ books, we know a lot of writers and read their books and if we want to leave a review, they will take it down. Because of ONE traditionally published author. RJ Ellory. He wrote glowing reviews on his own books and  terrible reviews on other writers’ books under a fake name. So now Amazon is punishing EVERY writer.

If Amazon read this, they will probably remove our books and ban us for life. But we’re not going to hide. In fact, we’ll tag Amazon in this post so they can find it. We’ll fight them alone if we have to. Most people will probably say ‘then leave Amazon, if you don’t like their terms.’ But this is where the protection racket side kicks in. It’s so hard to make a living as a writer. Without your books being on Amazon, you can kiss goodbye to your career. Which we’re probably doing now. Unsuccessful career, we’ve enjoyed you. So we’ll give you a kiss to remember and hope there isn’t a bounty on our heads.

Amazon, this is for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO9Lj0T93Xk

Under the covers

Bad_Rommance_Ebook_finalWe are so excited at Casa Raven! The cover for Bad Romance is so fresh off the press we scalded ourselves opening the email. And here it is! We love it so much we want to rip it off the screen and run around clutching it to our chests and laughing manically. It’s done by the jaw-droppingly talented Ryan Ashcroft of Fireclaw Films and this cover is even more special because it marks the one year anniversary since Ryan started doing book covers. His first one being Gunning Down Romance, the first in the Romance is Dead trilogy. Bad Romance is the second book in the series and is released February 14th – 3 disturbing stories about falling in love. And Trey from Gunning Down Romance makes a chilling return in Still Life. Has Sol survived a mannequin fate to see another Valentine’s?

If you’d like a high quality, low priced book cover, book trailer or logo, check out Ryan’s website http://www.fireclawfilms.com/

Robbing Hood

Whoever said ‘tax doesn’t have to be taxing’ has clearly never dealt with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Or his modern counterpart – Amazon. Our battle with tax was long, bloody and we trooped away from the battlefield exhausted, craving a Red Bull and dragging our muddy victory flag behind us. For those who missed our great tax adventure with the IRS, you can find it here. We thought we were done. We’d planted our victory flag on our battlements and showboated with the best of them.

We should’ve guessed Amazon would be plotting a second attack.

On Monday we finally received our first royalty cheque from Amazon USA, almost a year after we started self publishing. This is because British Amazon pay us electronically every quarter. American Amazon will only pay us once we’ve made $100 by the paying quarter and they will only pay us by cheque. We don’t have American banking numbers but despite having International banking numbers, this isn’t good enough. If you’re a ‘foreign entity’ Amazon USA don’t want to know. We stroked the cheque in wonderment then were quickly dashed in the face with cold water, the ice cubes hitting us in the eyes. They’d taken $44 tax off us. We’d gone through all the hassle with the IRS, obtained our EIN number, filled out the W8-BEN form to stop them taking our tax and they took it anyway. We’d danced through their traps and hoops and they still shot us in the arse. We donned our hooded cloaks, fetched our children’s archery set from the Gimpics and vowed to stage the biggest tax retrieval since Robin Hood first slipped on a pair of tights.

But flights are expensive so we emailed them instead.

While we waited for them to respond, we went to our bank to pay the cheque in, only to be told foreign cheques below £100 had to be sent off for ‘negotiation’. And we were going to be stiffed to the tune of £6 for the privilege. This was a currency exchange, not a terrorist standoff! £6 for them to release the hostages! Or in this case, our money. It’s hard enough making the royalties go high enough to get paid and now we will be charged £6 EVERY TIME Amazon USA pay us. But if the value goes above £100 we have to pay £12! Might need to take up bank robbing as a hobby. But that will probably come with charges too. We sobbed and shrieked and started throwing things like demented chimpanzees, causing an awkward silence to descend on the bank, broken only by the embarrassed cough of the pensioner behind us.

Today Amazon emailed us back. Did they throw themselves at our mercy and beg for forgiveness for stealing our tax? No. They said they didn’t have a W8-BEN form for us in their records. By now our fury was so great, Mars emailed NASA to enquire about the pulsing glow that was illuminating the Milky Way. That form was sent to them in September. Our mum posted it while we were off hunting ghosts in Cornwall. And our mum is the super reliable kind. Clearly Amazon have lost it and are too embarrassed to admit it. So we have now filled in another form and have to post it. Not email. Doubt they’ll compensate us the 87p postage. In the meantime, they’re withholding our tax. They’re slow enough to pay their own taxes but are bloody quick to hold ours to ransom.

And amongst all this we decided it was time we registered with HMRC for British tax. We don’t earn enough to pay tax but we are now registered as self-employed so we can do self-assessment. Joy. Admittedly, the only reason we signed up wasn’t out of fear of the Government finding out about us and sending the Inland Revenue after us (we live just across the street from the tax offices so can’t exactly hide), it was because we found out we can claim stuff on expenses. We got carried away planning all the printers, laptops, ink, paper, pens etc that we would buy with the Government’s money. A shopping spree in Staples was on the cards. But mum informs us they’re not just going to pay for everything we want. Then it’s false advertising, because due to the recent expenses scandal, we were under the impression we would be able to charge them for a duck pond and floating island, like a Conservative MP had done. Sorry Peking, the ducky jacuzzi will have to wait. She was looking forwards to her feathers being bubbly fresh.

So if anyone knows the whereabouts of Robin Hood, text him. We may have to join his band of outlaws when we seize our tax. Raven Hood the movie. Tax is about to get Gothic.