What’s the new book all about? OUT SUNDAY MAY 11TH!

A head full of knives KINDLE COVER BLACK

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet here on the website for a while … but it’s because I’ve been WRITING! And the new book is out THIS SUNDAY! It’s called A HEAD FULL OF KNIVES, and here’s the blurb:

Martin Hogan is being watched, all of the time. He just doesn’t know it yet.

It started a long time ago, too, even before his wife died. Before he started walking every day. Before the walks became an attempt to find a release from the whirlwind that his brain has turned into.

He never walks alone, of course, although his 18 month old son and his faithful dog, Scoffer, aren’t the greatest conversationalists.

Then the walks become longer. Then the other dog starts showing up. The big white one, with the funny looking head. The one that sits and watches Martin and his family as they walk away.

All over the world, the first attacks begin. The Brotherhood of the Raid make their existence known; a leaderless group who randomly and inexplicably assault both strangers and loved ones without explanation.

Martin and the surviving members of his family are about to find that these events are connected. Caught at the centre of the world as it changes beyond recognition, Martin will be faced with a series of impossible choices … but how can an ordinary and broken man figure out the unthinkable? What can he possibly do with a head full of knives?

Luke Smitherd (author of the Amazon bestseller THE STONE MAN and THE BLACK ROOM series) asks you once again to consider what you would do in his latest unusual and original novel. A HEAD FULL OF KNIVES will not only change the way you look at your pets forever, but will force you to decide the fate of the world when it lies in your hands.

Out Sunday May 11th!


 “You have nothing interesting to say.”

Yep! I’ve been interviewed by my good friend, Roland Hulme – raconteur, bon-vivant, dashing social media genius and a cad in every way but the bad ones – for his excellent blog over at militantginger.com. It’s an always interesting look at a very English (in the good sense) Englishman’s perspective on all things American; I recommend it highly. And even more so today, as it features a whole lotta ME! But don’t let that put you off. If you’re interested in m’thoughts and all things self-publishing and the potential career that is hopefully involved therein (uh…that make sense?) then go check it out HERE.


On a week when I’ve given all of the existing covers of my books an overhaul, I thought that I’d put up a piece about all of the recent changes involved with my covers, and of the importance of covers in general for the self-publisher.

“But Luke,” you may be saying, “hold it right there. If covers are so important, why did you do yours yourself?” Wellll, because it’s something I personally enjoy doing a lot, and take as much pride in creating as I do the contents. I love the idea of having a ‘uniform’ look to my covers, as well as the concept of having a different, bold single colour for each one combined with a central, minimalist figure/image; obviously, there’s no reason that I couldn’t tell a cover designer to make them that way, but I just really wanted to have a go myself. Perhaps unwise, but I felt strongly about it at the time.

Pictured: minimalism.

HOWEVER, I also appreciate that my covers so far have looked a touch home made; there has also been a major discrepancy in sales numbers for me between the US and UK Amazon sites. So why not try and make something that looks a little more ‘published’ – but still keeping the same single colour and uniform stylings as before – and see if it affects sales overseas? Especially on a week when I have my first reasonably expensive paid promotion coming up for any of my books (more on that another time.)

And if, after a few months, THAT doesn’t work, rhen I might have to look into busting the old coffers a bit more and digging up some money to pay a professional cover designer…and if I was going to do that, I’d give it to the excellent Paddy Green (@padgrn but more on HIM shortly.)

I’m currently reading ‘Self Printed’ by Catherine Ryan Howard (@cathryanhoward) and it’s been giving me a bit of a kick up the arse on a few issues book-wise, several of which should have been kind of obvious. I don’t agree with EVERYTHING she says (my readers rather seem to respond well to me  my fairly sweary and ‘unprofessional’ self, both in my afterwords and online presence, and she advises being otherwise. She’s probably right in most cases, but it doesn’t seem to be the deal in mine…I think she’d probably despise the state of this blog too, but one step at a time and all that) but the her book has, so far, been very inspiring, and I recommend it highly to anyone considering self publishing. Anyway, she makes some good points regarding covers.

After all, your cover is your shop window. The Stone Man currently has 94 reviews on Amazon UK, which is great, but if the cover lets people know that my book is self published, a lot of people out there simply won’t touch a self-published book; why reduce your potential market? The perfect timing of discovering Catherine’s book and a tweet from the excellent Paddy Green (later, later) have spurred me into action.

It may be more interesting to look at my own cover development through that of my first book, The Physics Of The Dead, as that is the only one of my books to have four different covers, three of which were all variations of themselves. Here’s the very first one, which I imagine the majority of you have never seen:

You may like it, you may hate it. Some did, some didn’t. Either way, it’s supposed to be in a very minimalist style, which always divides opinion. Or you might just think that it looks amateurish. Later, I changed it to this:

The idea, colour, and central image are all the same, but I prefer the font and the layout of the text. This is something I’d keep throughout all of my books for some time, and even when I overhauled everything, I kept the font and typesetting for my name. This styling then continued in the other covers:

I realised that TPOTD didn’t quite fit in with this, plus the white text was hard to read against such a light green when thumbnail-sized on Amazon, so I changed it again:
I have a lot of affection for these covers; but I recently realised that perhaps I’ve let that blinker me to the fact they do look home produced. So I’ve tried to do something a little more ‘published’ looking with their replacements (although, as with these, some people prefer them, some people despise them):

 And, of course, The Physics Of The Dead (the only one that’s kept its original colour):

You can hopefully see the new uniform styling (text on the left, artwork on the right) and to me, it looks a lot more professional. You might disagree; I guess we’ll see if sales are affected in any way. However, there’s also another option…
You see, he excellent Paddy Green (see: earlier) got in touch via twitter to say that he enjoyed TPOTD, and that he’d discovered it as it followed a similar subject matter to his own book, The Old Terra Vitae. It was looking at Paddy’s cover (also self-published) and realising how much more professional it looked that my own, that combined with Catherine’s book to spur me into action; I half-jokingly asked if he fancied having a crack at re-doing TPOTD. Proving that the ‘Excellent’ in his name isn’t just a clever title, he promptly sent back two conceptual covers for it that even tie in some of the elements of the story (you’ll know if you’ve read it.) And here they are:

Both great, but I particularly like the second one. I would have used it too, if it wouldn’t mean redoing all of my other covers to tie them into a similar look. But what do you  think? Do you hate them all, prefer the old ones, prefer the new ones, or even think that you could do better? Why not let me know in the comments section below? 🙂

You can find more of Catherine’s  self-publishing thoughts on her blog, Catherine, Caffeinated and you can follow Paddy Green @padgrn. 

To learn more about MY books (Woo!) visit www.lukesmitherd.com where you can buy them for the Kindle.


So, it appears that Amazon’s recent rumoured change in content policy (specifically not allowing stories of less than 2,500 words) has at least spread a bit further than that.
The word going around is that because of the success of the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that allows schmucks like me to get their work onto the biggest book-selling site in the world (unsurprising, really, that people would be into that, especially when getting published conventionally is getting harder and harder) the overall quality level of Kindle-only books has dropped. This, again, is unsurprising, because Amazon don’t vet each book as it goes up onto the site; anything can get on, as long as it’s doesn’t auto-flag for certain offensive keywords in its description, and no-one complains about it after it’s up.
(Wholesome, unbigoted titles about schooldays are still warmly accepted.)

As a result, more and more shitty books have been bought on a whim by brave punters willing to give a new writer a go (how do you think I get anywhere, eh? A-HA! A-HA! Thought I’d get it in there first) with the end result of those customers feeling burnt by Amazon. Not exactly the way a vast international mega corporation wants people feeling about them, you might say, and so Amazon appear to have done something about it.
The most obvious is the removal of the ability to tag the book with keywords outside of the ones a KDP publisher can add on the book’s information page. These means that they stand out less in the marketplace, and far more damaging, it means that the effectiveness of the free listing days (KDP Select publishers get five free listing days per quarter on the proviso that their book is only available on Amazon) that made the KDP Select program such a vital tool for people like me has been massively reduced (that and the fact that an number of available free listing title on any given day has almost doubled.) Before, a free listing meant that thousands of downloads were likely, massively increasing the visibility of your work and hopefully gaining you a great deal of vital customer reviews.
Pictured: the Luke Smitherd unsold inventory.
I did blog previously about my confusion over why The Stone Man, a book with far more reviews at the time that The Physics Of The Dead ever did, barely shifted any free copies in the US than TPOTD did back when it had no reviews at all. I didn’t realise about the tag removal at the time, and the similar free listing failure of The Black Room in both the US and UK was also baffling to me (and before you say ‘the books were crap’ it couldn’t have been, because no-one had read them at the time, yet the same was true of TPOTD and it shifted thousands of copies. The books may still be crap, of course, but that’s not the reason the free listings failed.) Now it makes sense; TPOTD seems to have gotten in just before the gate closed on the glory days of the free listing.
I hope that this doesn’t remain the case, but not just for my sake. That first free listing of TPOTD managed to get me my first batch of reviews, which began a steady trickle of sales than seems to be s-l-o-w-l-y increasing with each release by tiny increments. If it wasn’t for that, the only way that people would have discovered my work would have been through sheer chance and my own promotional efforts (hint: sheer chance alone would have had better odds of success.) So this makes me wonder how brand new writers without a supportive social circle or social media skills are going to get anywhere (I have neither either, apart from, in the case of the latter, the new friends I’ve made via my books, but at least I had KDP Select free listings when they were at full strength) unless Amazon returns the KDP program to it’s former tag-heavy glory. Plus, it does rather beg the question: if the big appeal of limiting your book to Amazon was the payoff of being able to have a successful free listing, why would anyone bother opting in to the Select version of KDP when now you only get a lousy few hundred downloads worldwide? My best hope is that Amazon is trying to do something about the increased number of simultaneous free listings, and will figure out an algorithm that can let all the free listings co-exist but be found perhaps by the right customers, rather than just reducing the overall amount that are found full stop. We shall see.
By the way, The Black Room, Part Three: The Other Places is now out on Amazon, which you can buy HERE.
To learn more about MY books (Woo!) visit www.lukesmitherd.com where you can buy them for Kindle.