Self-Published Book Review: Dear Folks — A Farm Boy Leaves Home to Fight in the Great War and Falls in Love with an English Lass

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

Dear Folks: A Farm Boy Leaves Home to Fight in the Great War and Falls in Love with an English Lass walt hazelton

 

Dear Folks: A Farm Boy Leaves Home to Fight in the Great War and Falls in Love with an English Lass

by Walt Hazelton

ISBN: 9781478793632

 

Synopsis*:

A true story of war and romance. Raised by devout parents on a Canadian farm, naive 17-year-old Walter enlists in the Canadian Infantry during World War I. After six months of training, his unit is active in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, where he encounters the horrors of warfare, poison gas, and rat-infested trenches. After being sent back to England to recover from illness, Walter falls in love with an English lass-and the relationship blossoms. They become engaged, but there are obstacles. She has been raised in a low-income community, while Walter’s father is a well-educated, practicing doctor. Amid all the uncertainties of war, the two lovers postpone their marriage and continue to see each other as often as possible. But when the war suddenly ends, Walter is shipped back home-alone. Can their wartime romance survive an ocean of distance? Take a step back into history and experience this true story firsthand through Walter’s letters to his parents. Dear Folks is a warm and wonderful read about youth, love, war, and commitment.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Reviews

Fascinating Read About Life in the Trenches of WWI
Great read. Fascinating to hear a first-hand account of what it was like to fight in the trenches in WWI.

Great book!

I am almost done reading this and have really enjoyed this. Its even more fun to read because I am related to everyone mentioned in the book. I love seeing all the letters that Walter wrote during his time away at war and hearing about how things were back then. Very good read!

– reviewed by LauraJ on Amazon

An intimate and compelling portrait of a young man in the throes of both love and war, drawn from his letters home, by his own son.

– reviewed by Carol Morris on Amazon

 

 


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Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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Self-Publishing News: 7.9.2019

July

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

(Proviso: This article is behind a paywall; subscribers of The New York Times can access the article in full.)

You might have seen this article around, being discussed both by literary elites and by the average Twitter user, in part because it says quite a lot of things about self-publishing, particularly as relates to Amazon’s self-publishing platform. On this blog we have over the years represented a range of opinions about Amazon’s offerings and customer service and central ethic, and we’ll refrain today from passing judgment on the whole—but it’s worth noting that for many of The New York Times‘ thousands of subscribers who trust the paper’s research ethic, opinions about Amazon and opinions about self-publishing are often one and the same thing. This June 24 article by David Streitfeld is intensely critical of Amazon, particularly how the company renders many of the authors who publish through it’s self-publishing arm vulnerable to copycats (and therefore copyright violators). The dangers are well-known, Streitfeld implies, but many authors and small presses feel as though they don’t have a choice other than to work with the problematic industry titan if they want wide distribution. Streitfeld makes no direct statement about the self-publishing industry as a whole, but the bread crumbs dropped throughout the article build to a general negative picture due to the widespread association between the two, and the assumption seems to be that self-publishing leaves authors and readers alike open to exploitation. Which … yes, that’s certainly worth keeping an eye on. But it’s not the only story worth telling on The New York Times broadsheet; it is, instead, a timely reminder that those of us who self-publish works outside of Amazon may need to help advocate for other authors, and raise the profile of alternatives for those seeking to break away from Amazon’s monopoly.

On a different note, this week’s article on Gulf Today by contributor Birjees Hussain serves as a different kind of reminder: That our access to works, whether self-published or traditionally published, hinges on a nascent awareness of what’s out there and how to find it. Hussain’s article serves as both an explanation of why some libraries are disappearing as well as a rallying cry for readers not to despair over the presumed fate of readership at large—routes to publication and options for purchasing and reading books are diversifying, Hussain implies, rather than simply dying out. Hussain’s argument jives nicely with industry reports on the percentage of readers who are sticking with print copies and the percentage switching to digital formats, and the continued relevance of indie bookstores to contemporary readers. Nothing has been lost, but a lot has been gained, Hussain implies. Now that’s an attitude we can support!

We’d bet that you can name at least one of them! Entrepreneur.com‘s Antar Atreya summarizes the changing definition and role of an author as such:

ow, who is an author? A couple of decades ago the definition of an author was purely one dimensional; a person who writes a book and is published by a publisher. However, the definition has now changed. Today an author creates his product; which is her or his manuscript, ensures that it will give readers some value and finds, connects and interacts with the potential target readers. So essentially this is how an author is an entrepreneur. This change is large because publishing tools, scopes and expertise are now easily available. Concepts of self-publishing companies and print on demand have also given an opportunity for authors to get their work published easily. But at the same time, they have to take greater control over their book and use different routes to reach the target readers.

What follows is a concise and useful list of reasons why entrepreneurs ought to be paying attention to self-publishing and authorship, as well as reasons why self-publishing authors ought to be paying attention to entrepreneurship. We highly recommend this read!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part III: The OTHER Algorithms)

First of all ….

happy 4th of july independence day

Hopefully this newest addition to my latest series of blog posts finds you resting at home, or on some lake shore, or on a deck somewhere, with a large glass of sweet iced tea at your elbow and the scent of grilled burgers wafting on the warm summer breeze. Wherever this finds you, and whatever country you might reside in, I hope that you’re having a splendid afternoon.

Over the last month, I’ve been slowing down and taking a close-up look at some of Amazon’s most useful––and oft-controversial––features when it comes to selling and marketing your self-published books. First, we looked at sales rankings. Next, we looked at pre-orders––and how pre-orders can affect sales rankings. Today, we’re going to spend some time with Amazon’s other algorithms––the ones that you might not even know about, but which are just as important in respect to sales.

First of all, before we get started, a quick proviso: I am neither a computer programmer nor a systems specialist. I’m coming at this subject as, I suppose, a studious and well-informed amateur. I don’t just read about these algorithms––whether we’re talking about Amazon or Google or eBay or any other profit-making enterprise that uses one––once and consider myself knowledgeable; if anything, the most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that the algorithms are constantly changing and being reinvented, so we all need to be constantly dipping in and out of the subject to stay abreast of the latest developments.

What algorithms are those?

An algorithm can be broad in its scope or more constrained; it will vary depending on the needs of its users and the business that develops it. In the case of Amazon, most of what I’m about to talk about are aspects, or mere elements, of what the larger algorithm is capable of. They can be talked about on their own, since they’re units of code with separate goals and applications, but they ought also to be talked about as part of a much larger whole. Amazon has a whole subsidiary––A9––that is dedicated entirely to developing search engine technology and coding architecture.

Amazon’s sales ranking algorithm feeds into its search engine and look-alike (AKA “recommendations”) algorithms in predictable ways: the higher your ranking (the lower your ranking number), the more popular your book is, and the more tried-and-true and the more likely it is in Amazon’s eyes that your book will be salable if it links it to other products. Therefore, if your book achieves a good sales ranking, it’s more likely to be boosted by these other algorithms (or units of the larger Amazon algorithm) and the more likely it will be to show up in front of new readers when they go searching for other products on Amazon.

Amazon’s algorithms are capable of cracking your book open and mining it for information, too. We’ve all heard about the insanity taking place over at Microsoft with its book platform in weeks past, and we’re all aware of the copyrights complaints leveled at Google for its book platform over the years, and Amazon is just as big and just as bad (or good, depending on your perspective) when it comes to picking through your original content for details it can use. This is particularly true if you enable the “Look Inside” feature when selling your book, or if you put up an e-book version for sale through Amazon. For the most part, this mining process is benign in intent, with the goal of figuring out what bits of what you’ve written are most likely to appeal to customers and making that accessible to them. It does, however, also mean that Amazon gets to use your content in ways that haven’t fully been mapped and analyzed yet––particularly since most of Amazon’s algorithm is, as a proprietary development, not transparent to public assessment.

The real value of reading up on Amazon’s algorithms is a heightened awareness of the balance between personal and public rights, between copyright protections and the engine of a profit-driven market. There are too many forces at work, and too many nuances to each of those forces in question, to truly “get to the bottom” of any one question we might have about how things work and how we ought to make decisions as authors, but it certainly pays to keep an eye on the headlines and one foot in the door of learning about advances in algorithms as they happen.

And ultimately, even when it seems that you’re just grist in the wheel of profit-making, you do have allies––us here on the blog, and all of your fellow authors in the business. We’re here for you!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 7.2.2019

July

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

We really do.

Maybe that’s all we need to say about this article?

But in all seriousness, Matthew Field of Go! And Express is onto something here when he writes that “It could be argued that we are living in a golden age for self-published writers. While it is true that traditional publishers are declining somewhat, it is also true that there are now a plethora of tools out there that allow writers to completely by-pass them if desired.” Self-publishing companies as diverse and varied as Outskirts Press and Amazon’s own platform offer readers and writers of indie books myriad opportunities to publish and discover new works, and the smaller companies are often on the cutting edge of developing ever-better ones. “Self-publishing is still viable today, probably more so than ever before, and the scene is ripe for upcoming writers to make their mark,” writes Fields, referencing various options available throughout the self-publishing process. Overall, Fields’ piece serves as both a bit of a manifesto for indie authors as well as a brief overview of the process for newcomers looking to, as he puts it, ‘make their mark’ in the self-publishing field.

And there are plenty one might choose from, especially as authors seek to take on more elements of the publishing process—from designing covers to formatting pages to editing manuscripts to selecting printing options—and are held to as high of a standard as traditionally published authors with the full force of their marketing and PR teams behind them. Writes Ashley Stahl of Forbes, “So, what do you do if you have a book living inside of you, and you don’t have such assets to sell yourself to publishers? How, in short, is the person with the story to tell but a lack of tools to tell it, supposed to take advantage of the fact that publishing a book pushes careers into the stratosphere?” In conversation with the CEO of one small(ish) self-publishing company, Stahl hammered out some of the biggest pitfalls to be avoided, including the oft-mentioned ugly cover and manuscripts riddled with errors, the less-often-mentioned limitations of an ebook-only release and refined category keyword selection process, and one new one we hadn’t stumbled across before—a warning not to have family and friends review your books on Amazon. Wait, what? Stahl warns that Amazon has developed an algorithm that scans reviews for bias and will actually remove those reviews that it identifies as being such. We’ll be looking more into this in the days to come. In the meanwhile, Stahl’s advice seems sound!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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Self-Published Book Review: My A.R.R.A.: Growing Into Me

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

My A.R.R.A.: Growing Into Me J.C. Sykes

cipa evvy 3rd place book award

My A.R.R.A.: Growing Into Me

by J.C. Sykes

ISBN: 9781478787051

 

Synopsis*:

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has a voice, it sings because it has a song”

  • Maya Angelou

A memoir of inspiring perseverance over misguidance.

In this inspirational memoir, we meet a young woman forced to grow up too quickly when she marries at sixteen.  After only five months of nuptials, she loses her husband to an extended prison sentence, and become a single mother who must quickly learn independence.  Under extreme adversity and depression, the teen finishes high school on time to become a college graduate of her hearts passion.  Carlen shares her life story in the hopes that others will be motivated to persevere in the face of overwhelming  odds.  Inspired by a quote passed down from her father, “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits”, Carlen attacks her obstacles head on.  Will Carlen continue to maintai her sanity against all odds?

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

Your strength and courage to get through every obstacle you encounter is simply Amazing!!
(Verified Purchase)

Other Reviews

Good Read.

Its hard to think that real people do actually experience hardships and tragedies like this but I Love that the author was able to overcome her obstacles and come out better for them. Interested in what the next book will bring.

– reviewed by MissBC on Amazon

Usually when I start to read a book I never finish it but this book was actually good. It’s like you could feel everything she went through just by reading the different chapters. It also brings out different emotions when you start getting deeper into the book, because it’s something you can relate to and I cried a lil while reading it, because it hit so close to home. I can honestly say I love this book and I think she did an amazing job 😍

– reviewed on Amazon

 

 


tuesday book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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Self-Publishing News: 6.25.2019

june

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

It’s always something of a special moment when a big entrepreneurial website—in this case Inc.com—picks up on the role of publishing in building a personal brand and in sharing ideas, and this week’s example is a very sweet moment, indeed. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, writes to introduce readers interested in writing a book to the basics of what they need to know in order to do so. Morin first asks the big question: should an author go with traditional or self-publishing, and how do they know which is best for their circumstances? Writes Morin, each choice has benefits and drawbacks, but “A self-published book means you’ll have more control over what goes in the book and how it’s designed. While that can be positive, it also means you have to make more decisions and it’s up to you to hire people to assist you along the way.” Morin also points out that self-publishing is faster and allows authors to jump right into the writing process without delay. Morin’s article is thoughtful and well-reasoned, and for those new to the process, totally worth a read!

In another strong showing from Thrive Global, author Prince Sanders writes that “For publishing my last children’s book, “The Extraordinarily Ordinary Life of Prince – Which Fork’s First,” I opted to go a different route. I didn’t follow the traditional path of publication but instead chose to self-publish my book. Like every choice, the option has both its advantages and disadvantages. I learned a lot through my journey to self-publishing, and you will too! Here are some of the skills that I learned during the process.” Sanders, who is of course associated with a current politician of some power in this country by name and employment, is something of an advocate for author/entrepreneurs—but no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, we’re sure you’ll find something of value in Sanders’ closing encouragement: “Publishing your first book is a roller coaster of a process, full of ups and downs. With perseverance, dedication, and self-awareness you will be able to produce a piece that you are proud of. I hope you’ve been able to learn from my journey!” That’s a sentiment that we can all celebrate!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part II: Pre-Orders)

online sales rankings ratings reviews

Last time I wrote, I sought to answer one very important question for self-publishing authors: What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author? I spent some time tackling the definitions of and usefulness of sales rankings to the average indie author, and set out to debunk another question as well: What about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings? Which, as it turns out, is a lot. Pretty much everything, in fact!

In summary, Amazon is a business and its sales rankings, like its search algorithms and its “if you liked [x] you might also like [y]” algorithms, are both private and proprietary. Which means they don’t have to disclose what human and algorithmic assumptions are built into the process—what fundamental things Amazon believes about the way you, and all people, work. Quite apart from the potential for unconscious (or sometimes conscious) biases to perpetuate things like racism, sexism, and other -isms—especially if leadership and oversight isn’t constantly and thoughtfully looking out for such things—the fact remains that algorithms such as those used to determine sales rankings can be helpful, but require a significant human component in order to work in your favor.

This week, I’m going to ask (and hopefully answer) another important and related question:

What is the relationship between pre-orders and your sales ranking—and how can you make this relationship work for you?

preorder

Pre-orders can actually have a negative effect on your sales ranking—at least during the first week or so after your book launches. This is because pre-order sales are more spread out, and their dates of transaction will not be lumped together with the other books sold during your first week, even though the actual physical or digital books will be distributed at the same time as your first-week sales. And the more you sell in a short amount of time, the higher your sales ranking will be during that period. Others have written and spoken very eloquently on this first-week problem, so I won’t go into detail about it here, other than this quick summary.

There are other reasons why pre-orders are a good idea, and these deserve a little bit of your time and attention as well. Just to name a few, opening up your book for pre-orders provides you with a promotional opportunity that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and provides an actionable way for readers to purchase your book right away when they first hear about it, rather than requiring them to wait and plan to buy your book later—as we all know, instant gratification may not be a human ideal, but it is a very human reality. If readers can’t buy your book the first time they hear about it, many of them are liable to forget about it altogether. A pre-order option means that during your heaviest promotional period before your book launch, you can get your readers to commit to a purchase even though they’ll have to wait for delivery. You can then spread your pre-order link around all of your various social media platforms and digital presences, ensuring that it’s easy to find your book paired with your name everywhere it appears.

And yes, a pre-order period also allows you time to refine your promotional materials. It’s one thing to edit and edit away before your book launch, but a soft release like a pre-order allows you to test your language in the field and see how readers and potential buyers respond … and then make changes as you go to better appeal to them. This holds true for any advertising or website monetization you might run during the pre-order period, as well.

The biggest benefit to a self-publishing author of making pre-orders available is the reviews! Normally, a book can’t be reviewed on Amazon before it’s available for purchase, distribution, and arrival. (Goodreads allows reviews as soon as a book is listed.) But with pre-orders, a huge chunk of your readership will receive your book on the first day it’s out, and you’ll start getting reviews immediately. Reviews are the most powerful marketing tool of all!

So, while your pre-orders can negatively affect your Amazon sales ranking, it’s only for a few days, and it will only truly make a difference if you don’t make use of the pre-order period for the aforementioned optimization. Pre-orders can in many ways prove a useful training ground for promotion and marketing, meaning that your book launches to higher acclaim and attention than it would otherwise. It’s wise to see the larger relationship in context.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about Amazon’s other algorithms—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

online sales shopping cart

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.