Ramblings part 3: comics, more specifically digital comics and Marvel Unlimited…

So, having now written a couple of these pieces, it seems likely that future posts will be on one of a few topics: writing and self-publishing, digital media, politics or another of my passions, comics. This week I’m discussing digital comics. Right, first things first, I love comics. I think they are a wonderful medium in which to tell stories that could not be told as well any other way, and I read and own a large number of graphic novels, my preferred way to purchase them. I adore big, beautiful hardcover’s that I can collect and store in a bookcase, alongside my other books but that is not the point of this week’s blog post. As with previous posts exploring books published via digital means, I want to talk about digital comics.

Now, until recently I didn’t read comics electronically, I only ever read physical copies. I went through a period, many years ago now, where I bought single issues, or floppies as they are known, and I thoroughly enjoyed my weekly sojourn to my local comic store. Over time I gradually built a small collection of these and I also bought the collected trades so I was actually double-dipping on the series that I loved. When my wife and I moved to Canada, money being tight, I stopped buying singles and only selectively bought trades and only the stuff that I really loved: Locke and Key, Astro City, Mind Mgmt, Saga, that sort of thing. Mostly I borrowed what I wanted to read from my excellent local library.

So I would buy or (mostly) borrow trade paper backs, or graphic novels as they are also known, and then tear through them at an astonishing rate. Seriously. My library allowed me to request up to ten items a month and every month I would request the ten graphic novels that I most wanted to read, everything from Batman to Fables, and Hellboy to Criminal and all that falls in between. In this way I read an astonishing number of trades, my guess being that the number was in the region of 500 a year. But I think that is likely a conservative estimate and that, between rereads and the ones I actually bought myself, I probably read much more than that. As I said, I love comics!

Then my wife and I moved and I lost access to that wonderful library and became reliant on a much smaller and less well-stocked local library and on my own, also relatively small, collection of trades. Then we bought a well-known brand of tablet and I decided to give Marvel Unlimited a try and, in their efforts to encourage me to purchase a subscription, I ended up getting three months worth of access for the price of one. This was a bargain too good to pass up and over time I realised that this is a phenomenal way to read comics. I was already something of a fan of Marvel’s output so this was not a difficult thing for me to enjoy but it’s even better than I hoped. In the past few years DC has lost my interest with the relentless negativity of almost everything in the New 52 stable and I think Image is doing a stellar job of supporting creator-owned projects, many of which I purchase in trade form. You can also purchase these issues through services like Comixology but none of these publishers offer a service like Marvel Unlimited.

And I’m so glad I gave it a try for I have to say that I love it! In order to get the value from the service that I wanted I imposed a rule on myself that I should try to read at least 2 issues every day. And what I found is that this works for me. I keep up to date with current series and I have time to explore some things that are new to me. I have access to an incredible back catalogue of issues and runs and every Monday they update their services with new releases. So, in a way, I have gone back to reading singles, which I find interesting. I still read trades that I own or borrow but for me one of the really great parts of the subscription, besides allowing me to read comics that I probably would not have bothered with before, was that I could read story arcs that were either out of print or would require a substantial hunt to find: series like Peter David’s entire X-Factor run, or Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain.

I have to say that if you are interested in comics or Marvel Unlimited, then you should give it a go. In my opinion it’s worth the cost and Marvel frequently offer cheap trial period so you can almost try it for free. The other major comic book companies; DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW; should follow Marvel’s lead and, were they to do so, they would have a customer in me. But then I would have quite a severe time-management problem so maybe it’s not a great idea. Actually, I hope they do but as ever, we shall see.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world which is out now at all electronic retailers’! Also, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!



Ramblings part 2: self-publishing, and ebooks vs. physical books…

Right, so it seems that I’m supposed to post a blog entry weekly, which seems like a lot of work to me so we’ll see how it goes, but for now I’m keeping up. Here is my second entry, surprisingly on schedule, and this week I’m rambling about self-publishing through websites like Amazon and Smashwords, my chosen method for publishing my debut novel, and the future of physical books and ebooks as it seems to me.

OK, so I’m relatively new to the industry having only self-published my first book, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, a few months ago. I have a second book in this series, entitled ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, in the works and I also plan to self-publish this book when it is eventually finished. But I also have another book, ‘Balancing Act’, which I am currently still trying to publish though the traditional route of finding an agent and having them represent me to a publishing house. So far I haven’t had any luck, but in my opinion ‘Balancing Act’ is a much easier sell to these houses than my other works. It’s a science fiction story set in a near-future dystopia (yup, one of those!) featuring a man whose defining characteristic is that he has a split personality and lives with a significant number of ‘voices’ in his head. These ‘voices’ help him navigate the difficult world he lives in and, for now, that’s all I’ll say about that.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I hope that I have more luck finding an agent to market this book, strange as it is, but if I am again unsuccessful I know that will not be the end of the matter, as it would once have been. And that is something that I like very much. I have to wonder how many great, unsold novels there are out there sitting in drawers, waiting to be discovered, never read by anyone besides the author. Now they can all be published on Smashwords (and other available providers) and the battle these days has shifted to getting your work noticed. I recently engaged with social media in my quest to find an audience and, if you are reading this blog that is likely how you heard about it. And though I may not yet be all that savvy as to its uses, I’m enjoying myself and exploring the medium and finding that it’s quite fun.

As for ebooks, well I think it’s becoming apparent that they are the future of publishing. My wife and I recently returned to the UK from living in Canada after almost 5 years and, having settled in, one of the first purchases we made was for a well-known brand of tablet that can be used to read ebooks. I also purchased a subscription to Marvel Unlimited at, in my opinion, a ridiculously low price and I can now read as many comics as I want on this device. Reading books in this way is new to me and I am of course still reading physical books, but I can now see a time when I might not. I’ve grown up reading physical books, I love them, I buy them, I borrow them and I keep them. I have a large collection of graphic novels but I can now see an end to this situation and also that ebooks are, undoubtedly, the future.

Ebooks sales have increased dramatically in the past few years (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/01/the-ebook-is-dead-long-live-print-digital-sales) and it’s looking likely that, as with physical copies of television shows, movies and music, physical books will likely not survive forever. When choosing between physical copies of the things we buy and electronic files that are easily accessible and do not require storage, the files will eventually win. And, despite my love for books and CDs, in my opinion, actual physical copies should not win. When there is a simple, easy and more direct route to reach your audience it is obvious that physical books eventually will no longer be produced.

However, one ongoing issue I have with buying ebooks is the price. It is not realistic, despite the wishes of the publishing industry, that an ebook, an electronic file that costs much less to make and distribute, should cost anywhere near as much as a physical copy. After all, you’re not paying for all that has gone into making the book: the paper, the printing, the shipping and the physical store (or online retailer) at which you buy the item. And if you take out all of those costs then the price inevitably should drop. The publishing industry knows this, but they do not wish to upset the stores that sell their merchandise, nor for the competition between physical and electronic versions to impact on each other’s sales. And, for the moment, the two seemed to have reached an equilibrium (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11335718/The-Kindle-is-dead-the-book-is-back.-Or-is-it.html).

I also realised, from seeing people using ebook readers while they travel, that this was my (potential) audience, even without the backing of a publishing company. Indeed, one of the lessons of the rise of independent authors is that publishing companies might not even be needed much longer. Authors will always require the services of agents, editors and publicists but publishing houses are no longer strictly required. They, undoubtedly, can still do things that indie authors, for now, cannot but we shall see for how much longer that remains the case. Until that day I shall continue to seek their services for my, hopefully much more easily marketed, science fiction novel. We’ll see…

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


Welcome to the blog of Matthew James, author of “Only an atheist can help God save the world”!

Hi there and welcome to the blog of Matthew James, author of ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’! Now, if you’re here because you have been redirected from either Twitter or Reddit then I hope you will give me a chance to convince you to give both my blog and my satirical novel a go. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. My blog is entitled ‘Rambings’ and on it you’ll find articles about comics, movies, politics, and of course my novel, as well as the self-publishing process and Indie authors, of which I am one. Anyway, onwards!

So, my novel asks the question of what does God do when he finds out the extent to which humanity is destroying the Earth? Well, He travels to Earth to talk to us and try to persuade us that we should stop what we are doing and save ourselves and our world. Unfortunately, Heaven has become a bureaucracy that He, due to His somewhat fiery temper, is no longer in charge of and now God must obtain permission from The Committee, run by His former voice, Metatron, to even come to Earth. And when He gets here He finds that the only person who can help Him is an atheist called Jeff. This is as much as I wish to say for I do not want to spoil anything.

I recently self-published this novel on Amazon and through Smashwords and you can find it at all electronic retailers for whichever device you choose to read it on. In an effort to convince you to give the novel a go, here is the opening lines from the book and a review from someone who follows me on Twitter who did just that and really enjoyed it. If you would like some more then there is a sample chapter (about the first 10% of the book) available to read for free at these sites and if you also enjoy that then I hope you will buy it 😉

“Chapter One

In which we meet God and explore the situation He now finds Himself in, we find out who the power behind the throne is, and a decision is reached

Meetings, endless meetings or how God got into this situation in the first place

God was in a meeting. God was always in a meeting and these days they seemed to stretch to eternity. And God could tell you a thing or two about eternity. But these meetings were necessary.

In the beginning it was just Him and He didn’t have to suffer meetings. But the Universe had continued to expand and God, even as all-powerful as He is, had needed help. So he’d created the angels and, for a time, they had all gotten on famously. The angels had carried out His will and pitched in with all of the necessary management tasks that continued to endlessly pile up. They had even helped Him to keep His temper when it all got a bit too much.

So the angels were necessary and God had accepted that. He knew that a smaller Universe would’ve allowed Him more time by Himself but a larger one produced so many more interesting things; worlds to explore, creatures and creations to investigate.”

And here’s the review that someone left me…

“I really enjoyed this book, it’s witty, intelligent, and it has a good pace to it. If you like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett you will probably enjoy this book. Don’t take this book too seriously though, it’s a comedy caper, not a religious book, but it might have you thinking about life the universe and everything in a couple of places.”

You can see the review, as well as a couple more, here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z

Now, I’m an atheist and this book is very much written with a sense of fun and only a pinch of seriousness. I hope that it combines a little of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with some of Good Omens and Kevin Smith’s Dogma thrown in. And thankfully that is what those who have read it have been telling me. My pen name is Matthew James, but this is not my real name, for when you publish a book that satirises religion, even relatively gently, it seems a good idea to maintain some distance between yourself and your work. So if you do like what you have read and you buy my book and you enjoy it then let me know on Twitter or Reddit or at the email address below. I’d love to hear from you! I’d also love it if you told your friends and family about the book and helped me to spread the word for that is the only way someone like me can succeed. Cheers!

You can find me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1 and I’m on Reddit as MatthewJames1. You can also email me at onlyanatheist@mail.com if you have something to say.