Self-Published Book Review: “An Inky Summer”

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:

an inky summer by fred and cheryl lowman

cipa evvy merit

An Inky Summer

by Fred and Cheryl Lowman

ISBN: 9781478777434

Synopsis*:

When 12 year old Freddie discovers Inky, an American crow, sitting on the fence near the back steps of his house, it is the beginning of An Inky Summer. Read this true story and laugh as this crafty and intelligent corvid upsets neighbors and relatives with his antics.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

A Wonderful True Story!

A delightful book! This book will not only be enjoyed by children, but by the adults who read it to them. The story will make you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry. It takes you back to a simpler time when kids didn’t have all the electronics in their lives. You will never look at a crow in the same way after reading this story. They are truly a very intelligent creature that we should learn more about. Also the illustrator, Dan Carsten, did an excellent job in bringing the story to life with his vibrant drawings. A must read for all ages!!!

– reviewed by Crowman on Amazon

Other Reviews

A Special Encounter to Enjoy.

A wonderful remembrance that is recalled and shared with the reader. It create’s our own wish to have an “encounter” with a creature to recall. It is a heart warming story that expresses much honesty and joy in the what may be if we are accepting. This story sparks the imagination and is made that much more special knowing it is a “true story”.
Well done!

– reviewed by Boppa on Amazon

Great Read!

I just loved this book. It really captured a perfect time in a young boy’s life. I was drawn in right away, and it made me want an “Inky” crow as a pet for myself. I learned a lot about crows. In the past, I would just see them as large, black birds; and now I am looking for individual personalities when I see them. The illustrations are wonderful and brought the book to life. A perfect read!

– reviewed by Gail V. on Amazon

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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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Tuesday Book Review: “Cursed”

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:

cursed jeanne blanchet

cipa evvy merit

Cursed

by Jeanne Blanchet, PhD

ISBN: 9781478747901

Synopsis*:

The year is 394 CE. Christianity has recently been declared Rome’s state religion, and the empire’s pagan temples are being shut down. When Christian Princess Serena accompanies Theofilus, a young priest, to oversee the closing of Vesta’s sanctuary, she pilfers a necklace from the statue of a goddess, inciting the head Vestal to call a horrific curse down on her and her family. Cursed traces the remainder of Serena’s life as she wonders if the curse will destroy her completely and attempts to cope with her gradually rising desperation. Meanwhile, Father Theofilus embarks on a lifelong quest to find the priceless antique Palladium, which had been housed in the sanctuary and which he plans to donate to the Church as a means of furthering his ecclesiastical career. Stilicho, Alaric, Theodosius I, Bishops Ambrose and Augustine, and Saint Jerome are among the fascinating individuals who return to life in this historical fiction thriller. Their exciting adventures are set against the background of the fall of the once-mighty Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, and the mass migrations characteristic of Europe’s turbulent fourth and fifth centuries.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

Jeanne Blanchet’s “Cursed” is an epic historical account of Christianity’s strong entrance into Roman culture, and how religion came to be more absolute than the power of even the emperors.

Christian Princess Serena and a young priest and aspiring Bishop of Rome, Presbyter Theofilus, make up two of the principal characters in the cast. Serena is pampered and used to living a life of luxury.  While her heart is often in the right place, she is easily misguided, however, by material aspirations and the beauty and allure of things, like jewelry.  Presbyter Theofilus started out as a promising young military prospect but turned his sights on the Church when religious traditions in Rome became overrun by Christian teachings and power.  What these two young people learned during their years, as did every other Roman citizen and intruder, was that Christianity’s power was to be stronger than anything else.

“Cursed” starts out strongly and is filled with rich details and obvious research.  The terminology which the author inputs into the story represents long hours of academic study, which help produce an authentic picture of Rome in its final century.  While the details remain strong throughout the novel, the pace staggers a bit as the story progresses.  It seemed that the author’s aspirations for the novel almost became a little too broad.  Whereas the synopsis of the book intimates at the book being about a young woman being evilly cursed by one of the remaining pagan priestesses, or Vestals, of Rome, and about Presbyter Theofilus’s journey to find the antique Palladium, these storylines become a little blurred.

While most of “Cursed” takes place toward the end of the 4th century CE, there are various chapters that almost randomly go back in time 30, 40, or 50 years.  One contains details about the coming of the Goths, while another provides backstory on the current Bishop of Rome.  While the historical details are strong, the context of why these chapters are included in the midst of the main story is lost.  I think the too-broad aspirations and outlook for the plot ended up overshadowing the intended theme and main point of the book, albeit unintentionally.

I am not sure I would consider this a read for the general audience.  The historical and technical terms may make the prose seem a little dense and hard to understand.  I am a history student and an aspiring historian, so the inclusion of the historical facts was perfectly normal, easy to understand, and even exciting to me, but it may pose as a barrier for those who aren’t as historically inclined.

“Cursed” certainly shows a lot of promise as a work of heavily research historical fiction.  The idea for the story is unique and captivating, and the characters are unique enough to make you want to know what happens to them by the end of the book.  In the end, “Cursed” by Jeanne Blanchet is a great example to aspiring writers of how important structure, pacing, and context are in contributing to the overall understanding, execution, and package that is a novel.

– reviewed by Megan Weiss on Reader Views

Other Reviews

History come to life.

The author has taken the historical account of early Christianity and the fall of Rome and woven together a most descriptive narrative to bring the events to life.

– reviewed by Nancy Redmond on Amazon

This book has inspiring attention to detail and emotional depth. The knowledge and research that went into the writing of Cursed has made it a real page turner that pulls you right in and won’t let you put it down.

– reviewed by MacLennan 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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Does Your Book Have a Book Video on Amazon?

Shopping and watching videos are among the most common activities people engage in on the internet. So it stands to reason that if you can combine those two activities, your chances for increasing engagement improve. Amazon has made that relatively simple by providing a number of different ways to add videos to help people shop for (and buy) your book.

The first way you can add videos to your products (or books) on Amazon is in a section on your Product Details Page called “Related Video Shorts.” This section appears directly below the “Product details” section. Next to the bold heading that says “Related Video Shorts” is a blue link that says “Upload your video”. When you click on that link you are taken to a category selection screen where you must choose the most appropriate category for your video.  

If you’re reading this blog, presumably your “product” is a book, so in most cases, the appropriate choice is probably “other” although if you have a non-fiction book and a “how to” video related to your subject (which you should), then the “how to” selection may be the most appropriate.

Once you select your category, a pop-up screen will appear showing a directory of your computer’s hard drive.  While not instantly obvious, this is where Amazon is expecting you to select your video file for upload, which it accepts in a variety of formats, although .mp4 is probably the best.  If your Amazon account is in good standing, your video will appear in the “Related Video Shorts” section of your product details page relatively quickly. Potential customers who are considering buying your book will then be able to see your video, which may help close the sale.

The next way to add a video is on your Author Profile Page. In the “Author Updates” section you will see the link.  This method doesn’t require you to select a category and appears to be less “restrictive” on the type and length of videos that are allowed.

The third way is using your blog and then setting up your RSS feed through your Author Profile Page. This is the least restrictive method, and you can upload any video you want this way, since Amazon doesn’t censor blog postings from 3rd party RSS fees. Of course, if you update your blog constantly, the video posting will quickly disappear from your Amazon Author Profile Page in preference to your newer posts.  A trick around that is to set-up a free blog (on WordPress for example) that is specifically meant for your Amazon Author Profile Page. Simply upload one posting of the video you wish to display on Amazon and don’t post anything else to that blog. Your video will reside permanently on your Author Profile Page because of the RSS feed setting.

Of course, all of this presumes you have a video (or videos) about your book to upload. There are a lot of methods to create those, but that’s a topic for a different blog posting.  Good luck!

youtube video illustration


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Self-Publishing News: 9.3.2018 – The Company Files!

september

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically news from or regarding self-publishing companies!

This week, as Ellen Duffer of Forbes notes, times they are a-changing when it comes to partnerships between e-commerce platforms like Dangdang and entrepreneurs and self-publishers. Dandang, a Chinese giant who counts Amazon as one of its biggest rivals, has partnered this week with the self-publishing platform PublishDrive, a company which is little known in America at present but likely a rising star. This means that, for the first time ever, authors in the West (including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom) will have the opportunity to make their self-published e-books available through the Dangdang & PublishDrive websites, opening up entirely new markets in China and beyond. Given the size of that market, this is good news for self-publishing authors–and as Duffer notes, this may be good news for readers in China as well. Says Duffer, “Beyond the fact that this partnership is important because of the fact that many books in China are the product of state-sponsored publishers, the Chinese e-book market is expected to grow around 30% annually for the next three years. That means a lot of potential eyeballs for writers in the West.” Read the full article at the link!

Did you know that Amazon recently banned a book from publication? This should have made very big waves on the Internet indeed, but many remain unaware of this act of censorship. Stephen Gutowski of the National Review is calling for greater awareness of the event, and of the company’s power to influence what gets sold and what doesn’t. As Gutowski points out, the book may or may not have included a downloadable file allowing 3D printer users to print guns on their machines … but we don’t actually know this, given that the book has been completely banned by Amazon, and Amazon has failed to give a reasoning for that ban. The hard copy, writes Gutowski, “consists of raw computer code for Cody Wilson’s single-shot, mostly-3D-printed firearm, a two-page assembly guide, and a one-page editor’s note.” The book’s publication has ignited controversy over the role of for-profit companies in censoring media. We’d love for you to weigh in!

On the positive side, Google’s done a good thing this week, according to Inc42. As the article explains, the tech giant has launched a new initiative called Navlekha specifically geared toward helping the many distinct linguistic and ethnic groups in India to “publish their content in regional languages.” They go on to explain: “Under this, a user is provider with a tool that uses AI to render any PDF containing Indian language content into editable text, which helps the publishers create mobile-friendly content.” (Emphasis theirs.) This is cool for a variety of reasons, not least the possible boost to preserving many languages on the brink of erasure, and to archival projects seeking to save and understand texts which have never been published in English. India, despite its long history with the English language and its robust English-speaking and English-publishing population, contains many cultures and people groups who deserve to see themselves on the page. For more on Google’s project, follow the link, above!


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 every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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Copyright Infringement Rampant on CreateSpace

piracy

I don’t think it’s any secret that Amazon owns CreateSpace. I also don’t believe it’s any secret—especially after the author uproar that occurred in April—that CreateSpace no longer offers “creative services” such as interior book formatting, cover design, editing, or the like. When they ceased offering those services, they severed the one last component that identified them as a “publisher” instead of a “content curator,” which is the role CreateSpace now plays, and is a far cry from meeting the goals of writers who dream of publication.

A perfect example appears in a recent article on the Publishers Weekly website, written by Kenny Brechner and titled “Pirating on CreateSpace,” in which he identifies very specific examples of flagrant copyright infringement by individuals (I wouldn’t call them writers) sharing (I wouldn’t call it publishing) content through the CreateSpace platform.  One objective of a publisher is to protect their authors, and also prevent circumstances like the ones reported by Mr. Brechner. Unfortunately, the exact opposite objective is true for a content curator like CreateSpace.  Since it’s “free” to “publish” content there, CreateSpace and Amazon value neither the content nor the authors who created it. Instead, their goal is to compile as much content as possible for the purposes of offering it—usually by giving it away or encouraging their authors to give it away through thinly-veiled “marketing promotions”—to lure new Amazon members into its Prime, Prime Video Streaming, and KindleUnlimited memberships (all of which require monthly/yearly dues, and none of which reward the content creators for their contribution).  

Since CreateSpace/Amazon uses content and its creators as loss-leaders for subscriptions, they are hardly compelled to prevent copyright infringement or acts of piracy. In fact, as you can see from Brechner’s Publishers Weekly article, it was only after the article appeared on a highly respected industry website that Amazon bothered to do anything about it … and the author himself was unable to get CreateSpace to take any action at all, though not from lack of trying.  And as you’ll see from the comments already piling up below the article, this wasn’t an isolated case, nor is it something that authors are willing to tolerate. Comments include phrases like:

“I’d say, Createspace should be embarrassed – beyond measure.” – GISELA HAUSMANN

“…this article is a wise word of caution to us writers.” – Carol Johnson

“Same thing happened to me. I discovered one of its CreateSpace books had pirated both some text and several of my photos from my website that included those texts and those photos selected from my traditionally published book.” – Mark Mathew Braunstein

In fact, the same thing happened with one of my own books, too: Publishing Gems. I discovered that it had been copied in its entirety through the CreateSpace platform without my knowledge or consent. Not only was CreateSpace selling the pirated version, but so were a vast number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers. When I contacted Amazon about the infringement, they were quick to remove it. When I asked them the name of the individual who was responsible for this act of piracy, they ignored me entirely. Then I started receiving emailed requests from all the Marketplace booksellers, notifying me that they had removed the stolen book from their virtual shelves, and asking me to “approve them” for continued business under the threat of cancellation from Amazon.  Here’s the interesting part – all their emails were nearly identical, as if someone from Amazon’s legal department provided them with the exact verbiage to use to request forgiveness.

Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that copyright infringement happens so frequently through CreateSpace that Amazon’s legal department has come up with an actual procedure to cope with it.

Is that the kind of publ—er, algorithm, you want handling your books?

computer piracy


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Self-Publishing News: 8.13.2018 – The Interviews!

august month

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically interviews with or articles written by self-publishing authors and experts!

&

Why pair these two together? Once in a great while, the letters to the editor can be just as interesting if not more interesting as the article which inspired them, and that is certainly true here. Which isn’t to say the original article, written by Atlantic contributor Alana Semuels, is somehow not good or not interesting itself; the article tracks book sales on Amazon and delves into the oft-fraught history of the relationship between Amazon and books, and between Amazon and self-publishing. Semuels writes about Mike Omer, an author whose books have sold more than 10,000 copies and been rented 10,000 times through Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Omer’s own thoughts serve as a tether, or an anchor, for this article, and as a reminder that all of these discussions are moot if they’re not rooted in the experiences of those who are most affected: the authors themselves. Semuels is interested in how Kindle Unlimited does and does not support authors, self-published and traditionally published. Interestingly–for Semuels, if not the authors themselves–Semuels dedicates the vast majority of her article to the ways in which Amazon, now a self-publishing giant, has undercut traditional publishing and the ways in which it exploits its authors. As Semuels puts it:

Omer’s experience has been like a dream, he told me. But for people in the publishing industry, it may seem more like a nightmare. He sidestepped the traditional gatekeepers to publish his books online on Amazon, gaining thousands of readers. He ignored big publishing houses in favor of an imprint run by Amazon, attracting thousands more. He has little interest in the traditional publishing industry at all, in fact. He’s a successful author, and his whole world is Amazon.

Authors had their own thoughts, though, and they made them known to the Atlantic, and the Atlantic decided to collect together these letters and release them on their own, from those which are mostly interested in amplifying the negative aspects of Semuels’ story, including one by Douglas Preston, to those who have found a home in self-publishing when traditional publishing failed them, such as Wanda Fries. As Semuels points out in an afterward to the letters, the problem isn’t that self-publishing is a success, but rather that traditional publishing has missed an opportunity and alienated a generation of writers instead. “Rather than just rejecting many of the works that come in,” she writes, “traditional publishing houses could have launched their own self-publishing platform, which would have allowed them to keep an eye on promising authors as Amazon now does.” There’s an opportunity in there, and we hope traditional publishing recognizes it.


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 every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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Self-Publishing News: 7.2.2018 – The Company Files!

july

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically news from or regarding self-publishing companies!

Like it or not, there’s a widespread cultural assumption right now that because bookstore chains are struggling, therefore so too must authors be. Mercy Pilkington of The Good e-Reader is here to complicate that picture with an article that opens with the above provocative question, and sets out to disentangle common misconceptions about the lives of self-published authors as well as their traditionally-published counterparts. So, what, exactly, “does the industry hold for the traditionally published authors, the ones who’ve managed to snag the Holy Grail of writing and find both an agent and a publisher?” Pilkington goes on to answer: “Here’s a hint: the clearance bin at your local dollar store is filled with books that had a traditional publishing deal.” Being traditionally published is no insulation against common market pressures, she infers. Being an author has always, except for the ultra-rare zero-point-one-percent-likelihood blockbuster breakout success, been more about the art than the money for obvious reasons. And Pilkington’s closing thoughts are just as hard hitting. She writes:

But is this a chicken-egg scenario? Are publishing contracts paying authors literally minimum wage because all deals are getting smaller, or are the deals getting smaller because authors are shunning publishers and they aren’t earning as much as they once did? Either way, this situation sheds light on the increased professionalism and credibility that now surrounds the indie author space, indicating that this is (still) a great time to self-publish.

What do you think?

If you haven’t heard about “book-stuffing” … well, don’t worry. Neither had we, until this latest Amazon controversy blew up. Apparently, the self-publishing wing of the website (Kindle Direct Publishing) quietly rolled out some new rules to prevent authors from bundling their books together to get around the page limits of its subscription reading service, Kindle Unlimited. But that’s not where the controversy stops. (This is Amazon after all.) In a turn which surprises no one, Amazon has failed to enforce any of these rules, according to a number of leaders from within the self-publishing community who are pushing for the industry giant to put some weight behind its regulations. The simple fact is that there’s little incentive for the company to do so; its sheer size and its often-accused-as-exploitative author contracts insulate it from many of the ill side effects that the authors themselves will face. The way that Kindle Unlimited is set up, everyone who elect to offer their books through the service is paid out of one shared pot, which is allocated proportionally to its most-read texts. Book-stuffing makes it possible for some authors to exploit loopholes at other authors’ expense, and is therefore not a neutral or mildly problematic activity; it actually threatens livelihoods. Here’s hoping Amazon listens to its detractors and does some enforcement on this issue.

Self-publishing is an emergent opportunity for game design companies these days, with Frontier (above), Bungie, and NieR Studio all making noise in the last few weeks over their intentions to start self-publishing games. Frontier, a British game design company, recently launched an entire self-publishing division after closing down its less successful work-for-hire division. Writes Christopher Dring of GamesIndustry.biz, “It completed its contract with Microsoft (which included the 2015 game Screamride and incubation work on HoloLens), built its own publishing team and now answers only to itself and its shareholders.” The company is now in the process of deciding on how to go about offering third-party publishing to game designers who want to break from the traditional games publishing process. “‘It has to speak to our values,’ [Frontier CCO] Watts says. ‘The games that we make, we want them to be remembered.'” The CEO and CCO of Frontier discuss the elements which make for successful video games, which sound an awful lot like the ingredients for a successful self-published book: authenticity, ambition, attempting something new, and attention to detail. The article serves as a deep dive into the history of one game design company which is “going indie,” but it might just serve as a template to follow for other such companies in the near future.


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 every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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