A Wider Audience – At A Cost

Until recently Askance has tried to have all its titles available in as many forms and on as many platforms as possible, not least because giving any single outlet an exclusive right goes against the grain. Askance is inclusive, equal opportunity, and not always with money as the driving force – if that were the case we’d be long gone!

That’s changing now, and still not because of money. Because of readership. This applies particularly to ebooks. There are many ebook outlets and even wholesalers, although the world is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle with Kobo a distant second. Askance has for the most part made its ebooks available through all these outlets by using Smashwords as a wholesaler for everything but Amazon, where we’ve created our own ebooks.

But here’s the rub.

While that gives the maximum accessibility to readers worldwide, in practice it doesn’t get our titles read by so many people. Why? Because of Amazon’s aggressive tactics of making only titles which are exclusive to Kindle available via their Prime and Kindle Unlimited channels.

Is this moral? No. Do we like it? No. Is it anti-competitive? Yes. But a simple trial has shown that it gets a title read by more readers. We experimented recently and took a title off of all ebook outlets except Amazon and enrolled that title in the Unlimited program. In the first month of doing so, that book reached ten times the number of readers than it had done in the previous six months on Smashwords and Kobo. Yes, that small extra revenue (and it is small!) is welcome, but the readership is what matters most.

Are we selling our soul? It certainly doesn’t feel comfortable, but our writers deserve more readers, that’s the motivation.

The world is not as we would wish it to be.

(And if you’ve got this far and you’re a writer, please take a look at our Flash Fiction competition.)

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Who’s judging the Flash Fiction competition?

Caroline Jaine

As we’ve previously announced, Askance’s founder, Caroline Jaine, will make the final selection. Although Caroline is no longer formally connected with Askance, she was delighted to accept the invitation to choose the winners from the shortlist. Caroline is an accomplished artist and writer of short and long fiction in addition to being the author of the widely acclaimed A Better Basra.

Selecting the long and short lists will be two long-time friends of Askance, both skilled in the art of storytelling.

Grace Keating

Canadian Grace Keating has written many short stories, winning  and being short-listed in competitions in the USA and the UK. Her stories have featured in two anthologies, including Askance’s Positional Vertigo.

David Wiseman – Amtraking across the USA

David Wiseman is British, although now living in Canada, and has edited Askance’s Homes and Positional Vertigo to which he also contributed. He’s also won and been shortlisted for several competitions in the UK and the USA. Askance has published three of his novels.

2018 Flash Fiction competition

Ready To write

The Askance 2018 Flash Fiction competition is open!

We’re really looking forward to reading your stories, so don’t leave it until the last minute to send them in. There is no theme, just a good story well told, which is really what Askance has always been about. But we do like innovation too, whether that’s in the form or the content. Look at our competition details page for full details of how to enter. And if you have a question then please get in touch.

Flash Fiction Comp opens on 17th September

Our first flash fiction competition opens for entries on 17th September 2018.

Prizes? Yes, there are prizes! 1st £100, 2nd £50, 3rd £25 plus publication on the Askance website and as much publicity as we can muster.

How many words is ‘flash’? For this competition we mean a minimum of 250 and a maximum of 1000 words.

Any theme? Yes, any theme you like, we’re not telling you what to write.

So what are we looking for? Others express plenty of lofty ambitions about exciting new voices and stories that thrill and entrance etc etc but what it comes right down to is this: a good story, well told. We’re always open to originality of form or content just so long as you keep that basic premise in mind.

Any entry fee? Yes, the entry fee for each story will be £6.00.

We welcome writing from anywhere in the world, previous entries to Askance competitions have come from many countries including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, United States and the United Kingdom.

Check back to the website on September 17th details of how to enter. We’ll post it on Facebook too. Get writing!

Dr Abdulrahman Dheyab

abdulrahman photo black and whiteDr. Abdulrahman Dheyab is a London-based Iraqi journalist covering Middle Eastern and Western politics. He has an interest in cultural issues and very much believes in using culture as a soft power to build a bridge between the West and East.

Dheyab studied print journalism at Baghdad University in 1994. However, he did not work in journalism until the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. His media career began with the Iraqi Today newspaper – published by a British publisher – where he covered stories from all over Iraq, including US military operations in more unstable areas. This work put him at real risk from the military, militants groups, and especially terrorists – and he very nearly lost his life on a number of occasions.
In 2005 Dheyab moved to London where he studied for a Masters Degree in International Journalism at City University, specialising in TV journalism. During his studies he also worked as a freelance journalist for news organisations including Channel 4, APTN, BBC, Al-Jazeera English, and as a reporter for Alsharqiya – an Iraqi satellite channel based in London.

In 2007 Dheyab embarked on PhD research exploring the American role in shaping the Iraqi media between 2003-2005. He was awarded a Doctoral Degree in Philosophy from City University, London in December 2011. It is from this research that his book: The Media in Occupied Iraq is mainly drawn.

Dheyab is currently the Director of the Iraqi Cultural Centre in London – which he established in 2012. The Centre is sponsored by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.  In 2013 he founded a media production company, “Dima”, also based in London, which continues to work with Western TV companies in the Middle East and with Arab and Iraqi TV companies in the UK.

Why Short is Good – a review of “The Edible Anarchist”

Edible Anarchist cover for sharingIf a story is good, does it matter how long it is? Author, Peter Bendall has made me think that maybe it’s time I questioned how and what I read.

I’m not wooed by size, but a big fat work of fiction can provide a crude sense of achievement when its end is reached. A long book can flood the brain with a plot for weeks; a novel can span years of story; and characters can develop and play their part over generations. Some stories come in a series – I am told that authors approaching publishers these days need to convincingly pitch also for book two, three and even four.  We consume fiction as we do the television box-set.  Stories have to be long, and almost as ongoing as a soap opera.

And yet paradoxically, we are also transfixed by the brief.   Our lives are quick and fast.  We need information and entertainment that wastes no time. A 10 second Youtube clip will thrill us.  For our wisdom we read memes, not religious books or essays by philosophers.  We tweet 140 characters rather than writing a letter.

I have to confess that, unless it’s a racing car, speed is not my thing. I actually *like* box-sets, thick books (especially non fiction ones), taking weeks to make an oil painting, long slow walks (not runs), and to cook and eat a lengthy meal with friends rather than snatch a quick take away.

Which leads me to “The Edible Anarchist“.  This book has forced me to break my habits.  Previously I may have associated “brief” with inferior, “short” with less good -slapdash even. When I first heard of the genre of “flash fiction” I thought it a fad and a sad reflection of our times. However Peter Bendall has proved me wrong.  Every single one of his ultra short stories has been carefully crafted, he is like the painter of a miniature, or a skilled watchmaker.

His stories may be brief – most not more than a page long – yet the clear craft in their composition demonstrates a commitment of time in the writing. Not surprising, the writer is a English language expert – a teacher and publisher of grammar texts – his love of language is clear.

The back cover of the book asks, “Can an anarchist be edible?  Is it possible to apprehend yourself? Do radiators contain universes? Can irony kill?”  Bendall’s work is at the same time witty, playful, tragic and deliciously twisted at times.  Two stories that have been shared online are “A Sunny” and “At the Seaside” – one presents itself almost as a quirky grammar exercise, the other defining the end of a relationship – and yet both clearly written by Bendall’s hand.

The Edible Anarchist surely is edible, but despite the brevity of each story, I would recommend it is sampled in courses, and savoured slowly, like the poetic set of dishes that it is. This book of flash fiction is not to be rushed.


The Edible Anarchist is available in paperback priced £7.99 and on Kindle for £1.99