Monthly Archives: February 2013

Up for discussion: How I choose a free KDP book…or not.

imagesAs a reader I love Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. Almost everyday I scour the free book list (which in my case is eReaderIQ, but there are plenty of other aggregate sites out there). I’m  looking for new and interesting reads. I’m what you might call a power downloader…actually, I have been called a power downloader. (Yea, that was you Harv*.) As such, I’ve learned a few things about my own behaviour. I’m not claiming universality here. There isn’t any thing to say everyone does the same as me, but I thought it might be helpful to those authors who are putting their work up for free to know what a reader, if not all readers, is doing when looking at it.  I thought you might also like to know what is helpful or not. Honestly, I’ll admit to secretly hoping the everyone takes my advice as law and the whole system becomes my perfect whole. OK, I’m not holding my breath on that or anything.

Here are the things I deem worth mentioning, in no particular order:

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Not cool.

A good cover is key, but it has to be a real cover. A cool picture doesn’t cut it. Here is an example of what I mean: Last Hope. Nice picture, but not a cover (sorry Ms. Gardner). Everyday I look through hundreds of books, but I don’t have hours and hours to do this. So I scroll through the list looking for interesting covers. If one catches my attention I’ll read the description. Actually that’s not quite right. First I’ll glance at the listed genre to see if it’s one I’m interested in and then I’ll read the description. So it helps if all of the relevant genre/sub-genre etc are listed.

The book description makes or breaks my ‘sale’ but I’ve come across a few annoyances that effect my choice to grab a book or not. First off, this section is for a synopsis of the story, not for praise of the book. I read reviews for that. It really really isn’t a place for so much praise the reader can’t find a description of the book. This has actually become a pet peeve of mine. I’ll pass a book up on principle if I have to work too hard to find out what it’s about. Here is an example: HeartsBlood (sorry Ms. McCray). Someone tell me what that book is about. I actually suspect that certain publishers are more guilty of this than authors, but there it is all the same.

Second, I never have figured out why people think that just because it’s an ebook, and there isn’t a physical back-of-the-book to fit their synopsis on that they can write an essay here. Take a look at any one of my reviews and you’ll see that I often include the synopsis for readers. It annoys me to no end if that synopsis is more than a paragraph or two long. If it’s longer than my review is I’m likely to trim it, but then I feel guilty for altering the author’s work. I don’t need or want a breakdown of the plot. It ruins the story. Just a basic blurb and teaser is enough. KISS after all.

I read reviews, good bad and otherwise. If a book is a maybe, having a few reviews makes all the difference to me. I’ll take more of a chance on something that has obviously been read by others, even if they left bad reviews. Bad reviews don’t always put me off. Well, they will if the main gripe of the reviewer is poor grammar and editing, but if someone just didn’t like the story my interest is piqued. It’s almost a challenge to see if I agree or not. The point here is two-fold, don’t mourn over poor reviews, but it behooves you not to put the book up for KDP until you have a few stars under the title. 

goodreadsIt helps me if your book is on Goodreads. I get that this one is almost certainly not a universal. I have roughly 2000 books on my ereader. There isn’t any easy way to keep track of them, but I’ve found the GR shelves very helpful. When I go through eReaderIQ I keep a GR tab open at the same time and do this: click ‘buy now with 1-click’, copy the title, go to the GR tab, paste it in and mark it as to-read/lendable or not. If the book isn’t there I sometimes will add it, but that’s a lot of trouble and I have passed up books just because I can’t be bothered. (If you haven’t discovered GR as an author yet, shame on you. It is one of your best online resources for reviews.)

Familiarity increases the likelihood that I’ll download a book. This is one of those vague tricks of the mind that I don’t really understand, but I know that if I’ve seen a book ‘around’ I’m more likely to grab it. So, I guess all of those blog tours, giveaways, cover reveals, etc do make a difference somewhere. 

If a book is part of a series it is helpful to know this. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in the title, description or just prominent on the cover. But if I download a book only to then discover it is book four in a series and I don’t have book 1-3 I’m unlikely to ever actually read it. I especially like it when all the books go free at the same time but that’s asking a lot, I know. I’ll often try to piece series together, but that requires I remember that I have part of it already and can identify the books as part of the same series. It’s not always easy.

I buy sequels. If I like a series I am more than happy to buy the next one in the series. I have limits though. It’s always hard to rationalise buying more books when I have so many already available to me, so the more expensive a sequel the less likely I am to buy it and I just find it rude when they get progressively more expensive at the series goes on.

Annnnnd lastly, if you’re story is a short story please make it readily apparent. I have more than once downloaded what I thought was a novel and discovered it to be a short story. Just about the only time I read short stories is on car trips, so while it is nice to have a few available to myself, I like to choose them instead of having them surprise me.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of text-time on my own complaints, and lets face it, even if couched as information or advice every item above could be seen as a complaint in some way or another. I’m not so self-absorbed as to not see a few places where my own behaviour might be annoying to authors and I’d be interested in hearing from them. The first is that, though I have every intention of reading all of the books I download (and reviewing them), I download more than I can read in any reasonable amount of time.

I’ve heard authors grumbling that KDP isn’t worth it because lots of people download the book, but no one posts reviews. It might be true. I’m not looking at your download numbers, but I know that I have picked up, read, and reviewed a lot of authors I wouldn’t have come across or taken a chance on if the book wasn’t free. Not just because I’m cheap (which I am BTW), but because I wouldn’t have a reason to look at lists and lists of books I have to pay for. I have plenty of books on my wish list to choose from already. So, KDP gives me a reason to be exploring new authors that I might not have otherwise. 

Another bone of contention might be how eager I am to get a free book. The assumption is that I would pay for it otherwise and am therefore cheating the author out of their income. Fair enough. I do download books I wouldn’t pay for. It’s true. I admit it. I bet I’m not the only one who does this. I’m especially prone to download erotica in this manner.  My only excuse is that I do it with the eventual intent of reading and reviewing it and probably wouldn’t even know about the book without KDP. But is that enough? I’ve also always been a little curious to know if my download contributes to advancing a book to the too 100 list, and if so is that enough of a bonus to an author to forgive my tardy reviews or cheapskate ways.

So there is the basic breakdown of my own download behaviour. Is it familiar to anyone else or just seem a little too OCD and cranky? Are you a KDP author? I’d love to have your take on the whole affair. What do you do when exploring your fellow KDP publishers? What are your criteria? Anyone just want to bitch me out yet?

*By the way and completely unrelated, if anyone is a hard Sci-fi fan, Harv’s book Daughter Moon is a great one. I don’t know if it’s on KDP. I paid for my copy, but it’s worth picking up. 

Review of Adrianne Ambrose’s Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice

Confessions of a Virgin SacrificeI grabbed Adrianne Ambrose‘s Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice off of the KDP free list. At the time of posting it appears to still be free.

I occasionally comment on covers, usually just if I love or hate them. I don’t think I’ve ever made mention of the designer/artist, but this one is just too great to not comment on. It’s witty, funny, and the main reason I picked the book up in the first place. It was apparently done by Ted Naifeh. Well done, I say. Well done.

Description from Amazon:

Sound the alarm! Saddle the horses! Wake up the village elders! The Sacrificial Virgin has escaped!

Jezebelle’s voluptuous cousin Dizeray is slated for a sacrificial swan dive into the local volcano. Not if Jez can help it! She plots to rescue her cousin and find an eager candidate to ‘disqualify’ Diz from being this year’s Virgin Sacrifice. But things to horribly wrong and now the gals are on the run with the furious Village Elders in hot pursuit!

Jez sweeps her cousin on a whirlwind adventure through the jungle and beyond with nothing but her sardonic wit and bronze brassiere at her disposal. Along the way the two Glamazons attract a motley cast of characters including a brooding barbarian with a decidedly un-heroic phobia, an ill-tempered troll looking for love, and a deadly blue wolf with a soft spot for Jezebelle.

This unlikely troupe stumbles head first into one wacky adventure after another, encountering love, magic, monsters and mayhem. Throughout their travels, Jez untangles clues to her True Destiny. She discovers a Forbidden Secret that threatens to unravel the very fabric of her word–or at least ruin her day.

This saucy off-beat romp will keep you laughing as you follow Jez and her friends on their first adventure.

Review:

“I don’t believe in virgin sacrifice.  It encourages promiscuity at an early age.” How’s that for a first line? Great right? Or how about this one a few pages later? “Besides, she had large breasts, a trait frequently mistaken for beauty.” Yep, that one got a laugh out of me too. Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice is not a book to be taken seriously. It is a rip-roaring good time, but utterly and completely absurd. The main character, Jezebelle, is a paragon of dauntless sarcasm, but her wit often highlights urbane truths. It’s a hoot. I lost track of how many passages I highlighted just because they were so funny. 

Be that as it may, she wasn’t my favourite aspect of the book. That would be Thor and Tul’s bemused side comments. I could easily imagine the bewildered look on their faces as they tried to figure out the actions of others. Priceless. 

I was thrown off on occasion by modern references. There I was reading along and  visualising the characters as Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonia types, maybe even Beast Master and then the author would throw in a Mason jar or a frilly lacy pillow. What!? I couldn’t quite reconcile their presence in the narrative. 

The book is quite short and ends on a cliffhanger, though I don’t know if another is planned. I almost hope one isn’t. I really enjoyed this book. It works, but I could see the joke getting old if drug out for too long. I’d hate to see that happen. It’s a gem just as it is. If you’re looking for a laugh give this one a try. That awesome parody on the cover ought to give you an idea of what you’d be in for. 

Review of R.S. Hunter’s The Exile’s Violin

The Exile's Violin coverAuthor, R.S. Hunter sent me an e-copy of his steampunk odyssey, The Exile’s Violin.

Description from Goodreads:
Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.

Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her father’s guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.

With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before it’s too late.

Review (with spoilers):
The first thing I want to say, before even addressing the story, is that I love, love, love, love, love the cover. It’s awesome. I thought the airships where largely made of metal instead of wood, but who cares. The cover rocks. The story was pretty good.

For me, the tag team comedy of Jacquie and Clay really made the book. In fact I would read the whole thing again just for Clay. His ability to blithely flaunt and disparage his wealthy upbringing at the same time was endearing and his obvious affection for the brash Jacquie admirable. There was no rushed romance here, but you just knew. I adored him.

While I greatly appreciated Jacquie’s strong backbone – no delicate, wilting heroines to be found here – I did wonder why there so often can’t be any sort of middle ground between a soft, genteel, mannered woman and a tactless, violent, loose cannon like Jacquie. This is something I’ve noticed before, not just here in Hunter’s book. It’s as if in order to emphasise how not useless a female character is (thereby suggesting that normally behaved women would be useless) they have to exaggerate their lack of female characteristics. They all HATE dresses, don’t wear makeup or make any effort to be pretty, eat more than would be expected in an ill-mannered fashion, speak roughly, and are quick to anger. This is more of a theoretical observation than any real complaint. I really liked Jacquie, foibles and all…or rather, most especially because of her foibles.

Where the book fell down was in logic. There were a few things worth mentioning in this vein. First, the book was staunchly linear. Once a challenge was surpassed it was never revisited. Example: After successfully stealing a pair of expensive artefacts from an important auction-house, in the company of a person whose face would be well known to the patrons and employees, not a single police officer, private detective, or even admonishing relative came to ask questions about it. Jacquie even spent the rest of the book carrying these items about, practically on display. Still, no fear of arrest for possession of stolen property or accusations of theft. It’s like some referee threw his arms out and declared the two of them “SAFE!” I don’t know. Maybe the law of their country says a person has to be caught in the act to be arrested. 

Second, the antagonist seems to purposely invite Jacque into his plans. Seriously, why bring himself to her attention at all? If he hadn’t employed her she wouldn’t have been traveling to all of the exotic places she did and wouldn’t have put the pieces together or figured his plan out. I never saw any purpose for this. Even plain old arrogance doesn’t cover it.

Lastly, Jacquie spends most of the book looking for her key. That’s it, she’s after information about a black key with broken teeth. I don’t care how extensive a library is or how talented the researcher, that isn’t enough information to differentiate it from any other key in the universe. She doesn’t even suggest drawing a picture of it to someone until ~60% through the book. Then there is the question of why Jacquie’s family had both the key and the alchemically altered guns in the first place. This isn’t really addressed at any point, making it feel like a convenient coincidence in the end (even if it wasn’t meant to be).

All-in-all I liked The Exile’s Violin, but really had to suspend a lot of disbelief to get into it. Mr. Hunter is a talented writer though. There were a few editorial mishaps (mostly missing particles), but the language flowed wonderfully and I don’t remember even one example of stiff dialogue. I’d have no trouble recommending the book.