How Hackers Skim the Till at Amazon and Steal From Authors

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I’m not a big fan of Bernie Sanders. I think he’s a cool guy and means well… but socialism? ugh. It’ll never happen. I’m not against helping the less fortunate or the needy (cripes, I give away over 10% of my income every year ad have statements to prove it–benevolence giving brings my income below the poverty line if it wasn’t there already, so don’t attack my politics; that’s not what this is about.) This isn’t even a political issue for me, it’s a human nature issue. Because we are unique individuals, we will never be satisfied with every person getting an equal share/percentage take of a communal pot. Mankind is fundamentally flawed and someone will always try to skew the system in their favor so that they get more.

So that was perhaps a risky segue into this great article I read recently about how there are people scamming authors (the majority of them self-published) out of the money due to them from the Kindle Unlimited program. Essentially, scammers have successfully pulled of the Superman 3 money hack, only they didn’t target banks who have fiduciary responsibility to deal with the problem: the target of the theft has been authors, and so nobody has really cared until enough people have learned of the scam because (like in the movie Officespace) it has risen to such large proportions that it can no longer go undiscovered.

It was crafty how these scammers figured out how to steal a portion of the community pool which is distributed each month to participating KU authors. This article (below) is worth the read, and I echo Ann Christy’s sentiments: this is “probably only of interest to indie authors, but it does impact readers who shop Amazon… though readers sure are noticing the impacts of the scams.”

Her article is here:
http://www.annchristy.com/ku-scammers-on-amazon-what-you-need-to-know/

Here’s the long and short of it until the problems are resolved: if you use KU to read unlimited books, make sure you jump to the last page before you are completed with the book. It supports the author and helps him or her reclaim lost “reads/money” from “KU click farmers” and helps them continue their efforts.

Author Interview: Michael J Sullivan

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I had a chance to interview Michael Sullivan recently. He’s a super cool guy who also happens to be a well-known fantasy author. Of all places, I met him at a Wattpad online forum, proving that you’re never too big of an author to hang out social writing sites that are want to churning out sparkly vampire fan fiction and written in aggressively passive verb tenses. Picking his brain about writing and promotion was great and he’s got some amazing things to share with writers of all stripes.

What are your books about?

Because I write the kind of books I want to read, there are some common elements across all fifteen of my novels. Each are about people I would like to have as friends, doing deeds and going on adventures I find exciting, and taking place in worlds I’d enjoy visiting.  So in general my books are light-hearted, witty, and fun rather than grim and dark. I wouldn’t want to escape to a post-apocalyptic hell scape nor would I want to be surrounded by rainbows and butterflies. There has to be challenges and setbacks but any setting that would require Prozac before reading isn’t for me. My characters have less than ideal pasts, and a lot of excess baggage, but they are generally on a path of redemption—striving to be better men and women. They are also the types that rise to the occasion when needed rather than sinking to the depths of depravity. A common aspect about my books is that you feel good when reading them and are sad when finished because you miss the time you spent with your new-found friends.

How would you describe your writing?

My books are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid set in a fantasy world like Game of Thrones. I like writing about duos where the bonds of friendship are forged through years of watching each other’s back.

What project(s) are you working on now, what specials/sales/etc. are upcoming on your works, and where can readers go for more?

 The first book in a new series will be coming out on June 28th. I’m still doing final review of printer’s proofs and listening to the final recording of the audio book for that title. It’s called Age of Myth and it’s being released by Del Rey (fantasy imprint of Penguin Random House). All five books of this series (Legends of the First Empire) have been written, and I’m currently working on a last-pass edit to the final book. I hope to have that done by the end of April or mid-May, and then I’ll be able to start a new project while those four books go through the various post-writing phases (cover design, beta testing, publisher structural editing, etc.).  What that new project will be, I just don’t know yet. I’m trying not to think about it until I’m done editing Age of Empire. I don’t want to distract myself.

As for sales & specials, I’m going to be joining eight other authors in a joint promotion from April 15th – 20th. I’ll be significantly discounting the ebook version of The Death of Dulgath and selling it for $2.99 rather than $9.99. We haven’t officially announced that sale, but if you go to any of the major retail ebook sites on tax day you’ll see the discount.

Also, my publisher and I are going to be doing a big pre-order promotion for the book coming out in June. For it we’ll be giving away signed bookmarks and bookplates as well as a bunch of digital material including an extended preview of Age of Myth, access to high-resolution maps, screen savers featuring the amazing cover artwork (created by famed fantasy-artist Marc Simonetti), an extensive author Q&A, and character profiles to show people what inspiration I was drawing from. I’m not entirely sure when we will be announcing that promotion, I’m waiting for bookmark and bookplate designs from my publisher, but I think by the end of the month.

Can you tell us about your early writing career and what things you did/are doing that help you get your books in front of readers?

New or aspiring authors often lament about not having a following and how hard it is to establish one. The thing to remember is we’ve all started from that exact same place. When I began writing, Twitter and Facebook weren’t around, and I didn’t even have a blog or a website. The hard truth is a lot of the heavy lifting to get a book noticed is going to be done by the author. Even someone like myself (who has the marketing backing of big-five publishers) only get the spotlight shined for a few months. The publisher will always have a “next batch” of books to promote. So authors are going to have to pick up the slack when it comes to marketing, and it’s much easier than when I started out.

In the early days, you really are getting readers one at a time. For me, I utilized bloggers on goodreads—a logical choice since those sites are where readers congregate to find out about new books. Sometimes it’s a matter of reaching out to someone who likes a book similar to yours and offering them a free copy in the hopes they’ll post a review. Once they do, then others start hearing about the book, and if you keep “priming the pump” with new readers, the word will start to spread. Now, of course that requires that you’ve written a book that is so good that people WANT to tell others about it, and that is the hard part.

In many ways, you need a “body of work” so in the early days concentrate on writing mor books than promoting the first book. Once you have three books released, then you can start thinking about marketing, and before you market, make sure you have a good number of reviews…at least 12 on Amazon and 50 on goodreads. Once you have those, then you can think about spreading the word and there are whole books written on the subject, many by some great authors who have done well. I highly recommend Joanna Penn (both her blog and her books) as well as David Gaughran. For those consider going the self-publishing route I would definitely check out Guy Kawaski’s book: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a book. It has a wealth of really great information in it.

If you had to start over right now with no established name and three rough draft novels on your hard drive–what are the first things you would do to pursue a life as a writer?

The “writing gig” is so much easier now than when I started out. Heck, e-books weren’t even a thing back in 2008. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that is you have to write a really good book…then do it again, and again, and again. As I mentioned before, until you have three books out, it doesn’t make much sense to do a lot of marketing. Think about it, if you “hook a reader” through constant promotion, they’ll read one book, like it, but then have nothing else to buy. But, if you have three books out, then they’ll move right in to your next one and you’ll get more money from a single customer.  So my suggestion is to concentrate on polishing the three rough drafts until you have the best possible books you can. If you start out with a quality product, then the marketing efforts are going to go so much better, so that is where I would suggest concentrating your efforts.

Writers Must Avoid Copulation

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Noooo… not that kind of copulation! I read a great article recently about the Copula: “the connecting link between subject and predicate of a proposition.” It is the bane of all green writers out there and especially notorious among indie/self-published authors. A copula is usually when you use a form of “to be” in your writing: was, is, will be, was, were, had been, became, was, was being, was. I just hate “was” so badly.

If there is any single piece of writing advice I could ever give it is this: reduce passive verbs to no more than one per three pages. It’s hard, especially if you write nonfiction. A passive verb is the functional equivalent to the one second rest between weightlifting reps. But don’t fall into it–tighten those sentences up.

This really is the worst thing an author could do and I’ve spent years trying to reduce my own tendencies towards it. I edited a piece for a person on absolutewrite‘s forum last year with a LBL (line by line crtique) and had no choice but tell them they needed to scrap the whole thing and go write five new works between 500-2500 words with the intent of honing their skill at editing, style, and removing “was” and passive verbs. The forums erupted with hate for me, like I was some grammatical Prince Joffrey (never let your close friends be your final editors unless you want to be lied to). I highlighted the passive verbs in the first four sentences and did the math: 27 verbs (one sentence was a really long) and 21 of them were passive!

The first response by another critiquer after I explained why this is a problem and how to fix it? “That’s not what passive voice means!” I copied/pasted/posted the definition and muttered “millennials” under my breath. Needless to say, I don’t spend much time on AW anymore.

Anyway, here’s why we need to fix this: if indie authors are going to get any respect, we’ve got to drum out poor writing–that means begging with, pleading with, or murdering the worst offenders who are dragging down the quality quotient in the self-publishing world. I just might be in favor of eugenics when it comes to this topic. That’s how important it is.

Here’s a great article about “copula spiders” that helps people see them for the scourge and terror that they are: http://woodwardpress.com/2016/04/04/the-case-of-the-copula-overdose/

Free Fiction Tuesday

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Here’s another superhero story for you to get your eyes on. Superable tells the story of a girl who discovers she is a time traveler after a “sexy and sarcastic” superhero tells her so. While still trying to make friends at her new school, Audrey must navigate a path filled with heroes, villains, the space-time continuum, loyalty, a killer organization, and flirty guys with dreamy eyes. “What would drive you to rip a hole in all of time and space?”

I know, I know… its a YA with obvious gratuitous romance. But come on! It’s got a super interesting premise (pun intended). Read the story at the below link:

https://www.wattpad.com/29510377-superable-synopsis

Author Interview: Caleb Wygal

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I caught up recently with Caleb Wygal through a writing group online and asked him about his new book, coming out at the end of the month: Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.

Tell me what your book is about.
A three-hundred year old mystery from one of the world’s most notorious pirates, an unsolved murder from 1982, and a treasure map uncovered by museum archivist Darwin Trickett leads to the adventure of a lifetime for two friends which could lead to fame and fortune, or to their deaths. Using a blend of real events and settings from the past fused with a modern murder mystery, Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure takes readers on a believable quest where they will want to take a shovel to the various locales depicted to see if it is real.

What book/movie/etc. is it comparable to?
This novel is greatly influenced by the writings of Clive Cussler with his Dirk Pitt and Fargo series’ in mind, particularly Atlantis Found and The Kingdom.

Where can readers go for more?
Currently, I am offering a free download of my last novel, A Murder In Concord, when readers submit a proof of purchase. You can find more details about this promotion here. Also, if you pre-order from Black Rose Writing by April 27, 2016 readers can save 10% with the promo code PREORDER2016 at checkout.
Readers can find me at my website, calebwygal.com, on Twitter @calebwygal, or Like my Facebook Page.

State of Writing

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Feeling pretty good this week about my progress. I got another entire edit in on a novel after a beta read (plus a new beta who will read both novel WIPs). I also wrote like 6 new pieces for John in the John meaning I’m more than half-way done.

While I work on cover art and other stuff, I’m getting excited for those couple releases and I’m itching to get back into Fear in a Land Without Shadow and complete part 2 (of 3) over the next couple months

5 More Things Successful Indie Authors Do

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As promised, here are some more things successful indie authors do which I stole from: http://insights.bookbub.com/book-marketing-ideas/
Almost everything on the list is gold–these are the things (between the lists) that I either think are most important or need most to implement in my own life.

Here are the next top 5 (and incidentally, regarding the first one, this blog was written at least 1 week ago):

Pre-schedule social media content. Doing social media marketing doesn’t mean spending all day online. Use tools like Buffer, TweetDeck, or Hootsuite to schedule your day’s or week’s social media content in advance. This will free up your time for writing and other marketing efforts.

Run a fan art contest. Get fans to upload their designs of one of your characters or a scene from your book on your blog or Facebook page — or have them share it using a hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Choose a winner to receive a prize (and then get permission to use that fan art in your marketing).

Run a participation contest on Facebook. Have fans share your post, comment on a post, or like a post for a chance to win a free signed copy of your book or a gift card, and cross-promote the contest on Twitter, Instagram, and any other social channel where you have a presence.

Make each social media post visual. Tweets with images get 150% more retweets, and Facebook posts with images account for 87% of total interactions. Instead of text-only updates, include an image photo of the book’s cover or a teaser quote. This will encourage fans to click, share, or like. Tools and image libraries like Canva, Shutterstock, and iStockphoto can help.

Partner with other authors to run themed promotions. For example, if your publishing imprint or group of friends has three fantasy books featuring fae, coordinate price promotions, themed blog posts, and social media parties. Packaging these books promotionally helps each book gain exposure across the other authors’ platforms.

Free Fiction Tuesday

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I wanted to jump back into the normal swing of things with a story of my own: the next installment of Dekker’s Dozen. I’d intended to button it up my run on superhero stories with one of my own, and then I went through my old records and discovered Shadows of the Superhero was never published… I had an offer on it but the publisher wanted some revisions… I guess I never did them and returned the story. Oops. So it gave me a chance to revise and query someone new… eight years later. Anyhow, here’s the next in my sci-fi

https://www.wattpad.com/242810653-dekker%27s-dozen-the-last-watchmen-salvaged

State of Writing

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I find myself writing less and less as I do more and more promo for stories I have written and published. I wish I knew a publicist… who worked for free… and brings me coffee.

While I met my goal last week (finish rewrite of Dekker’s Dozen) I dropped the ball again on my nonfiction. I’ll catch up again and get two pieces in for next week. I do think that John in the John has great potential, but I might shorten it and exclude the other pieces submitted by other authors simply because I haven’t seen a single submission in weeks for it. Instead of a daily devotional book, I think I will make a weekly reader with my own content. I can do multiple versions over a couple years and keep the multi-author collection for either New Testament in the John, Gospels in the John, or The Bible in the John.

Here is what I’m thinking about putting together as a series (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the website at http://johninthejohn.my-free.website)…
John in the John 4thQ 2016
Luke in the John 2017
Gospels in the John 2017/2018
New Testament in the John 2018/2019
Old Testament in the John
The Bible in the John
Celebrities in the John (in the early stages, I was able to secure some verbal commitments from a few “celebrity Christians” including famous athletes, media personalities, etc. this edition might be fun to stick somewhere within the lineup as an exclusive.)

One thing is certain, I need to get some more original content down or I’m going to go nuts. Promo is fun (sometimes), but I’d much rather be creating something new. Back to Writing!

More Things Successful Indie Authors Do

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I’ve been running this in a series, and this is the final list, most of which was taken from “98 Book Marketing Ideas That Can Help Authors Increase Sales.” This list is not a “Top 5” but rather a concentrated list relevant to marketing and actually selling books. It’s perhaps a little more business focused than writer focused, but these things are important. If your writing goals are to establish this as your career, then you should be mindful of this and act as if writing is a business.

Build and manage your platform well. Okay, this one is mine—I didn’t swipe it from the original list. Here’s the deal with online platforms—if you only use it to promote your books it is doomed to fail, fall, and help birth Skynet. Stop destroying humanity. Use platforms properly. I’ve had to axe sooo many people from twitter and other media because I only ever see one thing from them, usually several times a day: buy my book (with a graphic of a poorly designed cover and copy/pasted blurb which fails to connect.) Use media to connect to readers, not push your agenda; only push your books in about 10% of posts. If you want an example of someone who’s mastered this, check out https://twitter.com/BrianRathbone

Create an author website. Your site should be a marketing tool that serves as the hub of all your online activity, from blogging to selling books to emailing a newsletter to participating in social media. Use a platform like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix to easily build a site.

Continue publishing new books. Nothing sells backlist like frontlist! Continually publishing new books will help you garner a wider audience that will be interested in your other books.

Measure the ROI of your campaigns. Analyze your return on investment for each campaign so you know what worked and what didn’t. Crunching numbers might not be as fun as writing your next masterpiece, but wasting money on campaigns that don’t work isn’t fun either.

Coordinate your marketing efforts in a single week. Bestseller lists are based on the number of units sold in a single week. Target a single list so you can optimize for its cycle. Focusing all your marketing efforts, including price promotions, social media campaigns, and emails to your mailing list in a single week can help boost your book on that list.

Run targeted social media ads. Sites like Facebook and Twitter let you target ads to a fine-tuned audience based on preferences users have expressed on those social platforms. This lets you advertise the discount to people interested in similar books or genres.

Submit a post to Buzzfeed. Write a clever or funny tie-in to your book. The article you write can either be entirely about your book, a “which character are you” quiz, or a listicle indirectly related. For example, a romance author can write a post on “10 Sizzling Beaches to Read Steamy Romances On” and incorporate her book into the post.

Write and syndicate a press release. Create an informational press release announcing your new book. Link to both the new release product page and your own website for SEO purposes. Use a free press release distribution service to syndicate your press release to news websites and blogs.

Create a permafree gateway book. For example, the first book in a series can be permafree as a gateway to the rest of your series — BookBub readers are 10x more likely to click on a book that’s offered for free than a discounted book.

 

Here is a link to that original article http://insights.bookbub.com/book-marketing-ideas/