News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #142…

It’s a reader’s world! If you’re an avid reader like me, sometimes you’re overwhelmed with all your choices. Some stats (I apologize for not remembering the source): 300,000 indie books were published in 2015; 75,000 traditionally published print books were published in 2013. How can we swim in this vast sea of opportunity to catch those extra special books that will entertain us and make us think?

First, price. I don’t know about you, but I won’t pay for an ebook that’s almost as expensive as a print book. That just doesn’t make sense. And I’m willing to wait for that traditionally published book to go on sale or be offered in one of those airport racks for a fraction of the original price—books are forever, but prices come down.

Second, genre. Yeah, on online sites, that’s just another key word. I use it more as a filter. I won’t read romance or erotica, for example. You might like those genres—more power to you—and maybe you hate mysteries and thrillers or sci-fi? We both might miss some good books that way, but with all the books out there, who cares? And we should all ignore books by celebs—they generally have nothing to say that will affect our lives, and, if they give advice, it’s highly suspect.

Third, read the book’s blurb and use sampling features on your favorite online site (“peek inside” on Amazon), and pay less attention to reviews. So many online reviews aren’t honest, or even they’re paid for by either publishers or authors, and those one- or two-line endorsements of a book by some “famous author” are practically worthless—s/he’s not you, the reader; s/he doesn’t know your preferences; so who cares what s/he thinks? Finally, along with reviews, forget about the rankings if you’re on an online site. A popular vote doesn’t work well with Dancing with the Stars or American Idol; it works less well with books.  Some books have thousands of four- and five-star reviews on Amazon. They might be great books, but they’re not that great!  Even hundreds of reviews are evidence for readers climbing on a bandwagon.

Use information available to make your own choice—don’t depend on others to make it for you. You’ll be a happier reader. And one last suggestion: if you start a book and find it doesn’t resonate with you—the extreme case being you can’t bear to even finish it—put it down, give it to some unsuspecting schmuck, or offer it as a gift to be used in a library or high school book sale. The next reader might like it. Or maybe not, but that’s not your problem.

Have great reading experiences this spring and summer!

Why traditional publishing? Why not? Some readers might have noted that my new novel, Rembrandt’s Angel, will be published by Penmore Press, a traditional publisher. First, I wanted the experience. My great relationship with Carrick Publishing (almost all my previous books) has been more of an equal collaboration, a more personal and friendly one than I think I could achieve with Draft2Digital, for example, but close enough that I have no desires to try that or any other online publisher, considering the long and productive tradition with Carrick. Second, I reviewed one of Penmore’s books, Aegir’s Curse by Leah Devlin, and liked what I saw, both novel and publisher. When a publisher has a good catalog, that says a lot.

The experience with Penmore has also been great. I’m glad I’m having that experience, and I’ve come to know some great people there. (Like Carrick Publishing, based in Canada, the relationship is an online one—the publisher is located in Tucson, home to some of the greatest scenery in the U.S. but far, far away from New Jersey.) I’m happy Penmore has had enough confidence in me to publish my book. Because it’s the one I’ve had the most fun writing so far (all of them have been fun, of course), that confidence is like frosting on the cake.

Will I sell more copies of Rembrandt’s Angel than I’ve sold with my other books? Who knows? I expect I will for multiple reasons. You’ll be able to order that book from any bookstore, for example. That’s one difference Penmore Press offers, so maybe I will sell more copies. Sales of that book can only help the sales of my other books too.

Authors have many options nowadays for publishing their books. They should try to experience them all. Life, including our writing life, can be full of adventures. Onward to new ones!

Have you missed the sales? Starting three months ago, one book in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” has been on sale at Smashwords every month. What does that mean? With the coupon code (you’ll also see it on checkout—or below), you will get a great discount from $2.99 to $0.99, or 67%.

You don’t like Smashwords? OK. These ebooks are $2.99 at both Smashwords and Amazon and at many online retailers that are Smashwords affiliates—these are still bargain prices (the new #7, Gaia and the Goliaths, is $3.99, still a bargain). Amazon only allows me to offer a special price if the book is exclusive to Amazon. I don’t play their games anymore, so none of my books are exclusive there now.

Of course, I can ask why you don’t like Smashwords. They sell every ebook format, unlike Amazon, which only sells .mobi (Kindle). They distribute to other retail sites like Apple, B&N, and Kobo, unlike Amazon, and they are also affiliated with many lending sites.

I like to offer my readers the most options possible, so I no longer have ebooks that are exclusive on Amazon. You can find them most anywhere, in all formats (I haven’t added a few yet to Smashwords, but they’re not exclusive on Amazon, so I can do that at any time).

This month the mystery/thriller/suspense novel Aristocrats and Assassins is on sale at Smashwords; use the coupon code VN74R at checkout to get it for $0.99.

Reviews. I’d like to remind readers once again that they can read any ebook of mine for free in exchange for an honest review—on Amazon, Smashwords, or your blog. Most of my books already have positive reviews, but rankings on retail sites increase with each new positive one. I do reluctantly play that game, although I think sites like Amazon do their rankings all wrong. Readers should pay more attention to the book blurb and use the site’s sampling capability and pay less attention to the reviews, but a more lengthy review offers more information to other readers and the author. Remember, books are like toasters as far as Amazon is concerned (and some of those Amazon reviews are by the same people who review toasters!).

In libris libertas!

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