Maxwell 5 and Amazon’s new toy

Castalia author Peter Grant, the author of the post-Civil War western Brings the Lightning, has just published a new book in his Maxwell Saga, Stoke the Flames Higher. We don’t publish this military SF series in ebook, although I’m pleased to announce that Castalia will be publishing all five books of the Maxwell Saga in print and audio, as well as all three books of Peter’s Laredo series, the third of which we will be publishing in ebook as well. Peter has posted an excerpt from the new book, and I can confirm that you don’t have to have read the four preceding volumes in order to pick up the story here.

Peter had considerable military experience in South Africa and it shows in his writing; he knows whereof he writes.

Also, Peter has reviewed the input of his readers regarding one of his next projects, and he has decided to proceed with the space detective story, which he apparently intends to bring to Castalia. I’m delighted to hear that, since, as QUANTUM MORTIS fans know, I’m rather partial to space detective stories myself. In the unlikely event he would like to situate it there, instead of in the Maxwell universe, he’ll certainly have my permission. But regardless, we’ll be more than happy to publish it. And yes, this is actually how we work, with our publishing decisions not only being made without our involvement, but sometimes without our knowledge.

In other book news, I experimented with Amazon’s new KDP paperback system yesterday, and a paperback version of On the Question of Free Trade was the result. I chose it because a) we were never going to get around to doing it via our normal system, and, b) it struck me as the sort of book you might want to give someone or carry around to use as a reference in an economics course. I have to confess, I was VERY disappointed to learn that the system is nothing more than an integrated version of the CreateSpace system, as I thought it was going to auto-generate a print layout from the Kindle file. I expect that’s what Amazon ultimately has in mind, but they certainly aren’t anywhere near there yet.

Since some of our authors will no doubt be curious about it, here are the pros and cons I observed.


  • It’s pretty easy to use and the Cover Creator’s limitations should ensure that you can’t screw up the spine placement very easily.
  • It’s fast. It takes about one week to get a published book up on Amazon through our usual system. This took only 12 hours. However, it doesn’t automatically connect to the Kindle edition any more automatically than non-KDP-published books, which is a little odd.
  • The printing price is pretty good. $2.15 for a small book like that one, and eighty-five cents plus 1.2 cents per page for up to 828 pages.
  • You can upload your own cover images and use them in a variety of ways in the Content Creator.
  • It doesn’t cost anything and it’s integrated with KDP. This will take yet another chunk out of the mainstream publishers, and in combination with Kindle Unlimited, will probably cause the Big Five to shrink to four, and possibly three.
  • Although you can’t just use the Kindle file, you can provide either a formatted PDF or an unformatted Word document for the text.
  • They give you a free ISBN.


  • The 40 percent slice that Amazon takes in addition to the print charge is pretty hefty. This will preclude most independent publishers from using it. We’ll probably use it for some books, like On War and some of our less popular books that aren’t even on the print production list, but it will never be our primary option.
  • I’ve never heard anything good about the quality of the CreateSpace paperbacks and there is no reason to believe these will be any better. There was a reason we looked for a better alternative from the start. I’ll be very interested to know what people make of now On the Question of Free Trade turned out because I have absolutely no idea. So, please consider yourself warned in that regard.
  • Distribution is limited to Amazon. CreateSpace tried to claim otherwise, which wasn’t really true, but Amazon isn’t even bothering to try. Amazon is the big dog, but it’s not the only market out there and an increasing percentage of our book sales are print books sold though other resellers. Although we still tend to think of ourselves as an epublisher, and barely half our books are even available in print editions, 40 percent of our sales are now in print.
  • The ISBN is only good for use on Amazon.
  • There is no way to identify the publisher or imprint.

Conclusion: absolutely great for self-publishers, of minor interest to authors with publishers, a potentially useful second option for low-margin independent publishers, and a complete nightmare for high-margin traditional publishers. I expect most successful authors are going to increasingly gravitate to the Peter Grant approach, and making publication decisions based on a series-by-series basis. As for me, I think I will use it to publish all of my collected WND columns in a two-volume paperback set, which will be useful for my own reference, if nothing else.

And finally, in case you missed it over the weekend, Back From the Dead by Rolf Nelson is finally available in paperback and hardcover editions. Don’t think you’ve seen the end of the book shilling either, because we have no less than FOUR (4) big announcements to make before Christmas.

Speaking of which, I would like 10 volunteer reviewers who are familiar with ATOB. If you’re a) interested in reviewing ASOS and b) you’ve already reviewed ATOB on Amazon, please send me an email with ASOS in the subject and a link to your review on Amazon.