"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An Interview with Alan Rhodes of "The e-reader house"

Guru at The e-reader house,
Alan Rhodes
We all go there. 
We're all part of it. 
If you're not, then do so. 
Today. It's an essential.
Go on.  Do it.
Wiz is pointing his magic wand at you.

The e-reader house on Facebook

Alan Rhodes, a terrific fellow, who runs The e-reader house, doesn't read much fiction, has a technical, detached interest in writing and writers, and has virtually no ego (which is a rarity in our little nest of literary sparrowlings), and orchestrates, conducts and revs up his page, The e-reader house, for the sheer love of it, an almost futurist, academic concern.

I visit every day and he's been a great help to me and to many writers in our Social Litwork, such as Ruth, Toi, Wendy and n'gaire.

I know from conversation that The e-reader house is often the first port of call for these authors at the beginning of an arduous day of networking, political comment, the sharing of inspirational metaphors, images and motivational status updates. And that. Thus, I was keen on a chat over the Smorgasbord.

Here's what happened when Alan met Wiz somewhere across the Norwegian Fjords.

Hi Alan.

Hi Wiz!

You're a helpful, respected and knowledgeable member of the Indie team, Alan. Yet in some ways, you are the shadowiest of us all. Tell Wizardwatchers about yourself?

I love the idea of being a ‘shadowy’ figure but in reality it is all a lot less interesting than that suggests. I’m quite an old guy (59 next January). I was born and brought up in West Yorkshire near the World
Heritage Site, Saltaire 3 miles from Bradford but work took me all round England. For most of my working life I worked in the social care industry.
Saltaire Salt Mills - Bradford, Northern England

Bradford and places of interest

Part of that included working for a national association linked to services for people with learning disabilities and that included publishing a number of books linked to research projects we took on for
the government. 

I also started an internet business linked to e-learning so over the last 15 years I’ve seen and been on the edge of some of the developments in e-reading.

Last year I took on the editing of a book for a Norwegian-based author - Egle Skei and our relationship developed to one where I now live with her in Stjordal in Mid Norway.

Stjordal Norway - Alan's Current Encampment 

The e-reader house is a popular Facebook venue. How did it come about? What are your goals and ambitions for the site?

When I moved to Norway I didn’t have a job but having always been a hard worker and needing a small income to help life here we decided to start a business within the e-book world. 

The e-reader House is a key part of that. 

All my working life has had the elements of earning an income but also trying to do something useful. This is no different. I recognised that with all the new developments in the Indie author world there was a role for someone to offer support and information. 

These are the 2 cornerstones of The e-reader House.

"In the very near future (hopefully this Thursday or Friday) we are expecting to publish an e-book - 

"The e-reader House Book of Bits"

It will be an extended version of the page with short articles to help authors (drawing on my past as a management trainer), cartoons including a new cartoon character, info from a number of up and coming books and the odd short story. 

Our hope is that people will see it as useful, interesting and fun (in the same way we hope the page is) and that they’ll spend the $2.99 (£1.97) as a way of supporting The e-reader House

Have you ever wanted to write, Alan? Has goofing around with so many writers influenced you at all? Would you write in the future? Or is there another artistic passion in your life?

Throughout my working life I have always been seen as a good technical writer - I can write persuasive reports and project bids but I have no real creativity. I’m the guy who will write your advert, your back of book blurb etc but never the whole book

I admire someone who not only has the basic creativity but can also hold that together through 400 pages. I know it isn’t my strength but I value it and like being around people who have that creativity. Being around them these last few months has increased that admiration.

What do you do to unwind? What are your hobbies?

Since moving I am still trying to find good ways to do that. I’m a big sports fan - now from the armchair rather than the playing field. I’m a big Bradford City fan - that’s football (soccer for those in the US) though whether watching them could ever be described as un-winding I’m not certain

Jubilant Bradford City Supporters

Bradford City: Fast forward to 4.00 for happy memories

I’m a Notts County fan. I must have seen our teams play fifteen times!  Honours even, I think.  Anyway, for failing to adequately promote the High Magistrate's e-book, you are to be harshly sentenced by the Council of Independent Authors to ten years in a cyberspatial cube. 
As we are a kindly judiciary, you are allowed to take three books, two DVD's and one CD. What would they be?

I’ll start with the three books. These would be taken more for what they represent to me than for any other reason.

 Here I‘m likely to be in trouble in the fiction world as I‘ve only one fiction choice.which would
be Egle’s book -The Life and Death of Benjamin Brash.

My next book would be Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom - I admire the man’s ability to see the importance of reconciliation rather than revenge I hope I could gain a greater understanding of how he achieved that. 

Finally I would take an illustrated guide book to Tibet. I got as far as Nepal on my way to Tibet in 1987 before the Chinese closed the border due to trouble in Lhasa. It is still a major ambition for me to stand on the steps of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

The scarcely credible awe and majesty of Potala Palace, Nepal

I’m not one who has films that  mean a huge amount to me but I would take Cry Freedom and Brassed Off. 

The first to remind me of the amazing lengths people have had to go to to
overcome inequality.

The second harps back to my childhood in Yorkshire with the brass bands but also to the terrible injustice done to the mines in the 1980’s when I was living in the then mining area of South Yorkshire.

Orange Juice from Brassed Off 

Finally a CD - It would probably be a collection of Leonard Cohen songs. I like the combination of poetry and music.

Wiz's notes: Can't watch Brassed Off, Alan. Sends me into a pit of despair that I take weeks to climb out of. But its a great film. And look at the cast! Amazing ensemble, most of whom went on to great things. 

Who are your heroes and idols? Anyone in particular who has influenced you?

From what I’ve said earlier obviously the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King but the person who by a long way has had the greatest influence on me is my late father. He had a consistency and an ability to always do what was right that I can only aspire to.

In 1983 I got my MSc from Cranfield and at the graduation I found out that I had won the Social Policy prize for the year’s best piece of research. The pleasure and pride that that gave my father is still, almost 30 years on, one of my best moments ever.

 It's brutal out there, Alan - Independent Publishing is apparently one of the most viciously competitive free marketplaces in the economy - and I talk to many Independent authors who are disillusioned with sales, in particular.  Have you any advice for them from your reading and research?  

Yes it is hard but every sale is one more than was possible if you got rejected years ago and, even if you got published, if the first book didn’t sell you were likely to be cast out for ever. 

Enjoy the successes both your’s and those of other Indie authors - if it can happen for them it can happen for you. So one message is hang in there- you have a chance.

The second message is a very simple one - it’s a marathon not a sprint – I see too many authors keep switching marketing approaches looking for the immediate fix. To me it is about being part of a community - the world of authors and steadily forging the relationships that sustain you throughout your writing career.

The third message is a genuine one - you are already a success. I’ve said earlier how much I admire creativity that is sustained throughout writing a whole book. To achieve that is to me a major achievement - enjoy it and celebrate it.

Seriously minted Independent porn hack, E.L James.
Living proof of Alan's lessons of perseverance.

Finally we need to get smarter in our approach to marketing and selling - to start seeing the whole process as a business - with planning, good time management, targets etc.

Where do you think the e-book market is going? If you could film a documentary on what life will be like for an Independent e-book author in five years time, what would be the key elements of its storyboard?

I hope we will see a moving away from individual e-readers that can’t  accept each other’s books - getting rid of DRM.  I’m certain we will see different uses of the technology so that in some cases the book and video get merged.

So in a cook book you could see the item being cooked as well as read about it or the car mechanic manual will actually show you how to change the oil within the book.

Interactive cook books with famous TV chefs

Equally I like the idea of inter-activity between the book and the reader with all the possibilities it presents.

 Britain's most famous car mechanic, TV's
Phil Mitchell, storyboards an oil change ready for
September Kindle publication.
Alan awaits exclusive interview

Some of the new start-ups will fail but there will also be some major successes. I hope that one of the major successes - whether an author or a small company will be one that has been linked to The e-reader House.

I do too, Alan. So. Where next for Alan Rhodes? I understand there is a new website in development. What's that about? How will the Independent Author be involved? 

Yes - soon(ish) we should have a new website. 

"Part will be a ‘bookstore’ at this stage, just linked to the main e-tailers, with a page for each of the authors on The e-reader House Author Listing and pages for each of their books." 

There will also be pages for their characters or for their cover stories. The aim is that a reader can come and browse - looking at books, finding out a bit about the author, discover more about the inspiration behind the main characters etc. 

Making on-line book shopping fun - get a cup of coffee, settle in your favourite chair and browse through 100 books buying the odd one along the way!

Obsessive e-reader discovers Alan's new online bookshop.

The other half of the site I hope will be a help for authors in that it will have pages for different editors, small publishers, cover designers, promoters, reviewers etc. A place where the individuals and small companies that are growing up to support indie authors can showcase their services.

That sounds fantastic, Alan. Looking forward to being a part of that. Well, I know you're a busy man - thanks for talking to the Wizard's Cauldron and I wish you and Egle all the best with your new venture!

Thanks Wiz...enjoyed it!!



  1. Informative interview - thoroughly enjoyable.

  2. Oh....it is so wonderful to put a face to the name - Hey Alan!- You will always hold a special place in my heart because of the way that you give yourself to the many authors out there that are trying to find their way to the shelves. Thank you so much!This interview is excellent! And to have you and Wiz on the same page - WOW, now that is a scene to be written (wait, Wiz already beat me to it)! You two are both excellent in what you do! Mahalo!


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