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Month: November 2015

Do You Know This Author?

Amazon’s Heavy handed review Policy and What it Means

Amazon has gotten heavy handed with book reviews in a process that hurts a lot of Indie authors, and damages the very fabric of the initial book marketing push debut authors use.

It is said that the average indie published book only sells 100-150 copies in its lifetime. The reasons for this are many, probably most commonly low quality covers and editing and a lack of marketing. But how does a debut author market their book if they don’t already have an online presence and platform?

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The first step is to tell their friends and family, ask them for reviews, and ask them to help spread the word about their books. Because there isn’t a single Indie author on the planet who can make a living by selling books. They can only make a living if others sell their books as well.

There are a lot of arguments about how good Amazon is for Indie authors and books in general, but as the largest book retailer on the planet, at least at the moment, they and their policies can hardly be ignored by any business savvy author.

So what is the purpose of Amazon’s new policy? As a company, doesn’t it do them some good to have indie authors, with well reviewed books on their site? And how do they know who your friends are anyway? Here’s what is going on, and what you can do about it?

What’s going on? The policy, for those who don’t know, is eliminating reviews from people who “know” each other, in an effort to eliminate review swaps and “fake” reviews from biased friends and family in order to promote a more unbiased system. In other words, they know the review process is broken, and they’re trying to fix it/ But how do they know who knows you?

Goodreads Connection Amazon purchased Goodreads a few years back, and when they did not only did they gain access to cross posted reviews, but they also gained access to a lot more big data, including what people were reading, who their Facebook friends and connections were, and what they were reading, and so in a not so indirect way, who knew who, and what review swaps were going on.

Search-for-talentSome authors have suggested one way to prevent this is to disconnect your Goodreads profile from your Facebook account. This keeps the all powerful Amazon from having access to your friends list and Facebook activity.

Verified Purchase One thing that does seem to help, or at least cut down the number of reviews removed, is for the review to be an Amazon verified purchase. This metric shows Amazon and others that the reviewer purchased the product, in this case a book, from Amazon. While the retail giant is not as strict about this regarding other products, in the book category it is one way they are cracking down.

What can you do about this? Well, a few things. First, if your friends are going to review your books, let them buy them. If they really want to support your career, a few dollars won’t hurt, and keeps their reviews intact. If they won’t, or are just unable to purchase your books, you can give them one as a gift via email, and it will show up as a verified purchase, because you are buying it rather than them.

This also helps your rankings, which helps discoverability on Amazon. Not only does this make money for Amazon and for you, but it also increases how often and how Amazon suggests your book to others.

Change your marketing focus. How do you get others to share about your books? Once you have done your part, with a good cover and good editing, things work the same as any other product. Get people to try your work, and if they like it, get them to share it with their friends. This can be done by guest posting on blogs (you are the world’s leading expert on your book, and probably other subjects too), using social media, and sharing about your book wherever you go. (Business cards, bookmarks, flyers, and simple conversations).

Amazon is big, and there’s not much you can do to change their policies, although you can sign petitions like this one, and email them about your experiences. But along with fighting what is clearly a broken system, you can choose to operate inside the guidelines and make the most of the way things are now.

The one thing we know about Amazon and the digital publishing world is that change is constant. Once we adapt to this challenge, another is sure to be close behind.

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Guilty: One Writer’s Journey

You don’t become a writer. You can become a published author, a success, or find another way to get paid for your writing. Those things are all possible, and reasonable goals. But you cannot become something you either are or are not.

I wrote my first book at age six, and pretty much read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid. It’s a common writer story. Time alone, time at the library, a list of favorite authors as long as my arm. The story rolls on with the typical advice from adults of our generation who told us there was no way to make a living as a writer: it was an impossible dream and we should just go to college and train for a “real” job.

Read the rest of my story over on Lipstick and Laundry here.

Story

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Book Release: Marred by Sue Coletta

Sleeping Good Lately? You Won’t After Reading Marred by Sue Coletta

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Excerpt:

Monday, July 17, 2006 1:30 p.m.

I used to believe people were inherently good, if only at their core. I saw the brokenness of the homeless. I respected the overachiever in the football star hoping for Daddy’s approval even if he’d never get it. I saw the heart of sinners, the souls of lovers. Shattered dreams of an abandoned child. I saw good in evil, spirit in the unholy. I understood the complexities of love, marriage, life. Hell, I welcomed the challenge. I had hopes, dreams and affirmations. I did.

Then, that all changed. My views shattered, or my eyes finally opened.

That’s what Niko said, though devastation also filled his eyes. No longer did he think of me as his optimistic wife who loved life. I missed our blissful marriage. I missed our baby. I missed my blindfold. If only I could put it back on. Most of all, I missed…me.

Living on autopilot was the only way I could survive.

After my third shower of the day, I hobbled down the stairs, clutching a load of laundry. White-hot pain shot to my right knee and folded me in half. The basket of clothes tumbled to the floor—socks, T-shirts, jeans, shorts, and Niko’s sheriff’s uniform strewn about the living room.

I fell back against the stairs, twined my arms around the railing, and stared at the white lines on my forearms. I straightened, and a thick scar on my jugular tugged at the skin. After three never-ending years, hours and hours of counseling, one small reminder—scars from the knife—and I relived that night in Boston.

The phone startled me when it rang.

I didn’t want to answer, but for the Sheriff’s wife that wasn’t an option. “Hello?”

“Who’s this?” A man’s voice, distorted, disguised.

“Who’s this? You called me.”

“I think I have the wrong number.”

A dial tone sounded.

That was weird. I shrugged it off and reloaded the clothes in the basket. When I headed down the hall, the phone rang a second time. I’d had it with this guy. “Hello,” I answered, firm and harsh.

“Sheriff Quintano, please.” Same voice.

“Didn’t you just call here?”

“Sheriff Quintano, please.”

“He’s not home. He’s at work. Who is this?”

The line went dead.

“Jerk!” I slammed the handset in the cradle, and a chill sheathed my arms in goose bumps. I’d announced to a stranger that I was alone in the house.

Marred_by_Sue_Coletta-500Blurb:

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff.

Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller torments Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Buy links:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
Kobo
Apple iTunes

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Grande Tolerance, Hold the Whip

Starbucks. Despite controversy over how they treat employees, the company seems to have made big strides in many areas. No one who has ever worked as a barista for them or anyone else would say it’s an easy job. Hell, even hearing customer names and translating them into correct spelling, while a source of humor for the rest of us, does hold a certain amount of frustration for the person on the other side of the counter.

starvucksprotestSo when I saw the new red holiday cups, and the controversy it created within the “Christian” community, my hackles rose. What’s going on here?

Let me clarify. I grew up in a Christian household. My mom was a Christian school teacher, my grandfather a Baptist minister. I grew up hearing over and over “Keep Christ in Christmas” and was told to never abbreviate “x-mas” and certainly not to buy into the evil lie of “holiday cards.” We were taught never to lose sight of the “real meaning of Christmas.”

All of that fundamental bull [email protected] fell apart when I turned eighteen, left home, and started to ask myself what Jesus would really do. The only time the Bible talks about him getting really pissed off was at people in a church, who had commercialized his message. That sounded oddly familiar to me.

So did the controversy over a red cup with no clear religious message. What evil did Starbucks really commit here? They broadened their message to wish  everyone good this Holiday season? Clearly, Jesus would take issue with this.

Not that I need to defend Starbucks at all, other than that several of my friends either make their living from the company  or have in the past, and their caffeinated nectar of the gods often fuels my morning, I think the Christian community has lost sight of some really important things.

Starbucks does good in the community. It’s not just about the jobs they provide, the educational benefits they offer their employees, including paid college tuition, the charitable donations they make, or the causes they are involved in. Free wifi and a comfortable atmosphere provide a great meeting spot and workspace for students and others. Stores are often a community gathering place, and if nothing else provide a friendly face in the morning for regular customers.

Remember Hobby Lobby? What happens when the tables are reversed, and customers boycott a business because they stick to religious beliefs despite the potential negative impact it could have on employees? Christian groups rally to support them, and decry the actions of the boycotters as persecution, even calling them “haters.” The message sent is clear: we want religious tolerance for our beliefs, but we don’t have to tolerate those of others. It’s hypocritical at best, a different form of persecution at worst.

Customers are free to choose. The beauty of a free market is customers are free to choose where they buy goods regardless of their reasons. Companies are not people, but they are made up of people who live and spend in the communities where they work. Don’t like the new Starbucks holiday cups? Go somewhere else for your coffee. Protest with your actions, but in the meantime shut up about it and let others make choices for themselves.

 

Love thy neighbor. Since I’ve reached adulthood I have said it over and over: loving your neighbor isn’t offered with conditions. You don’t get to pick your neighborhood. Diversity is simply a reality, and loving someone does not mean I agree with them. This means people of all religious, ethnic, and sexual groups deserve respect. So an inclusive simple wish of joy, or leaving out a message specifically directed to one group hardly can be classified as persecution. In fact, the opposite is true.

At a time when we should be preparing to give thanks for all we have rather than buying into the commercialism of the Christmas season, complaining about a red cup devoid of religious sentiment seems to be a waste of energy that could be channeled toward doing good. So no, I won’t be boycotting Starbucks.

I might skip a week of lattes and grande dark roast, and take that money and donate it to a shelter or to help feed a family in need this holiday season.

When I do order coffee though, I’ll do it at Starbucks, to applaud their Grande Tolerance. But hold the whip, boycotters. You’re free to make your own choices, but don’t punish the rest of us for ours.

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Am I Going Crazy?

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This poem was originally published October 2, 2014 for national poetry day. I thought it appropriate for this Throw Back Thursday, the Fifth of November. Remember, remember.

Am I Going Crazy?
Am I going insane and dazed?
Am I too lost to face this?
And what will it cost to escape?
Nothing is right.
I am so scared.

–Korn

Surrounded. No way out.
Count the walls. One. Two. Three. Four. Where is the door? Someone please, show me the door. I don’t see it.
Everything is the same.
The light is bright. Pleasant, not harsh like before. What is this before? Nothing is before. All is now.
Now. Soon it will be later, but that will be now too.
I need something. Smell, taste, sound. All I do is see. Eye before eee, except after see. Not that see. See.
My arms will not move. Is imprisoned a feeling? Is immobile a state you can embrace? I try to turn my head, but I can’t. My neck is frozen in place, but I cannot feel what holds it.
Do you understand? I cannot feel. Do you know what that is like?

Inhale deeply. The only sound is my breath. Don’t fluorescent lights hum? I strain, but nothing. Silence.
I cannot scream to bring sound to this place of sameness.
Smell. Surely there is something. The canned air of an institution. Can you not smell air when it is stale?
Inhale again. Nothing. Not the faint smell of bleach, not the smell of cheap air freshener covering the scent of human waste and sweat. Those I have smelled before.
There it is again. Before.
But I do not smell it now. And all is now, now, now.
Now I smell nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, see only soothing, plain light.
Mellow light.
Haunting light.
Might as well be nothing light.

I cannot lick my lips. Something surrounds my tongue so it to cannot move. My lack of feeling extends to my mouth too. I don’t know what it is.
I cannot taste it. Cannot taste the sticky dryness of a morning after sleep induced by alcohol or pills, it matters not which. Nothing.
My one sense, sight, fills my world with boredom. Does time pass?
Well, does it?

Nothing is right.
I must escape this, no matter what the cost.
I am lost, too lost to face this.
I am going insane and I am dazed.
I am going crazy.
I am so scared.

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Good Shepherd Mulligan

mulliganLook at the word count to the right of the page. See the Good Shepherd? There were a lot of words on that bar. They’re all gone.

That’s right. I am starting over. Even though I have said before that going backwards is rarely a good idea. In this case I think it is. I have started and stopped this novel several times, and never been really happy with the results. So when NaNoWriMo came around this year, it seemed a good time to start over.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, a time when thousands of authors around the country come together and write novels at the same time, at the blistering (for some) pace of 50, 000 words in a month.  It’s tough, filled with meetings called “write-ins” where authors gather, put in earbuds or place headphones on their ears and write in the same room with goals like 1000 words an hour or other ludicrous games.  Coffee is consumed in copious amounts, and families are neglected.

In the end, a large percentage finish, a few publish, and all move on, with the goal of doing the same thing the following year. Some don’t even write, or write very little the rest of the year. While that is not the case for me, it has been a time of change and fluid schedules for me since the summer, and writing projects like The Seventy and Good Shepherd that I had hoped to finish have languished.

Not this month. Watch this space. Watch the word count rise and surpass its previous marks. It is a Good Shepherd Mulligan Month. Now shhhh. I am off to write about the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It’s dangerous out there. Excerpts coming soon.

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