Archive for the e-books Category

Giveaways!

Hello Friends!

This is just a quick update, mostly about a couple of free ebooks that are available—and to reassure my Jackson fans that I’m working on a new Jackson story that I hope to release in May. I started working on it in December, then had to travel to Costa Rica to rescue my grandchildren. I essentially did my own extraction, complete with real danger. A wild, but true, story! I’m home safe now and back to writing.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read my new psychological thriller, THE OTHER, which features my Extractor character, you can enter to win one of a hundred ebook copies on Goodreads. So far, the novel is garnering all 5-star reviews. You can enter the contest here:

You can also download a free copy of THE GENDER EXPERIMENT from Amazon right now too. This standalone thriller features FBI Special Agent Baily and the Readers Favorite Awards calls it “the best thriller of the year.”

If you miss the free giveaway, contact me, and I’ll send you a copy.

 

 

 

 

I’m also honored to introduce you to Teresa Burrell, a good friend and terrific writer. You may already know her as the author of the bestselling legal thriller series called The Advocate. But she’s also started a new series and is giving away ebooks to people who want to read and review. If you’d like a copy of MASON’S MISSING, you can contact her directly through a Facebook message, or let me know and I’ll send your contact information to her. If you want to know more about the story, here’s a link to the book’s description (and great reviews) on Amazon, I’m reading it now and love it so far.

Thanks for your consistent support of my work!

Catch 22 of Great Reviews: Thanks, John Locke!

This week we learned that John Locke—one of the first indie authors to sell a million books—paid for hundreds of reviews at a now-defunct paid-review site that didn’t require its reviewers to read the books, just to crank out the stars. Because the story made the NY Times, one expert estimates that a third of all Amazon reviews are fake.

This pisses me off, breaks my heart, and makes me—and the other terrific and honest indie authors on this site—look bad. That is, if we have too many great reviews.

GalleyCat weighed in on this issue with this blog post, listing several bestsellers that each have more than 150 one-star reviews. The point of the short piece is that real bestsellers have lots of bad reviews as well as many good ones. The unspoken point is that books with too many good reviews and few bad ones must not be a real bestsellers, that those reviews must have been paid for or written by marketers or friends.

I resent this! Without good reviews, you’re treated like a hack and can’t sell books. Too many good reviews and not enough dogs, and you look like a phony. Obviously some authors—and publishers—resort to these tactics. But many of the books on Amazon’s bestselling and top-rated lists come by their reviews honestly.

I know I did. Dying for Justice is the top-rated novel on two Amazon’s lists—police procedurals and mystery series—with 54 five-star reviews, 8 four-stars, and 1 one-star (idiot). Not one was paid for or written by a marketer. My sister claimed she wrote a review, but she loves my work. And I can’t find it, if she did. And I have many great reviews in print magazines—Mystery Scene, Crimespree, Spinetingler, and RT Reviews—to support those online “amateur” reviews.

Yes, I gave away the book on Goodreads, with the idea that readers would post reviews, but I took my chances that they would be in my favor. And yes, I asked readers in a blog to post reviews for the book—but always with the caveat “if you read and enjoyed the story.” I don’t want or need fake support.

Here’s a question for GalleyCat: If a book with a lot of fake five-star ratings wasn’t good, wouldn’t a lot of honest readers start to give it bad reviews? You can’t fool everybody forever. No author has that many loyal friends or fake online IDs—except maybe Stephen Leather, another example of how some big-name indie authors are making the rest of us look bad.

And I have to throw in one more issue. The site that Locke used was clearly corrupt. Reviewers were directly paid to crank out good blurbs without even reading the books. But what about sites like Book Rooster? For a $60 admin fee, the site lists your e-book internally, then their unpaid reviewers sign up to receive and read books of their choosing. In exchange for free books, they write honest reviews.

This process seems fine to me, and I used the site for The Suicide Effect, my least-read book, just to get some reviews. But there was no guarantee of how many reviews or what they would be. It was just an opportunity for exposure, and I got lucky, mostly. But now I’m wondering if that was a mistake, just because the exchange of money (for the administrative fee) might make people lump the service into a paid-review category—even though no money goes to the reviewers.

What do you think? Have you read John Locke’s work? Does he deserve his success? Are you skeptical of any books with almost entirely good reviews? Do you think Book Rooster is a legitimate service? Should Amazon take Locke’s work down to show it’s serious about the trust factor for customer reviews?

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

 



Birthday Mystery/Thriller Giveway

It’s my birthday, which means it’s time for a book giveaway. I should be reflecting on what this particular milestone means, but I’m too busy. I have a rewrite to finish and a baby granddaughter coming over later. And I’ve had lots of birthdays. This one is only special because I’m finally in a place in my life that feels about perfect.

First up, I’ll give away a print copy of my latest Detective Jackson book, Liars, Cheaters & Thieves to the person who gives me the best nickname name based on a last name. For example, my husband’s name is Steve Hutchison and his friends all call him Hutch. And I need the name to be gender neutral. This is for a character in my next series, and I’m excited to see what you come up with.

I also still need good Amazon reviews for Dying for Justice. The book is now #8 on Amazon’s top-rated crime fiction list, a separate list from the bestsellers, and it’s based on customers’ ratings alone. If I can get into one of the top three spots, Amazon will feature Dying for Justice on all its crime fiction pages—which would be huge for its sales.

So if you’ve read the book and liked it, please leave even a brief review and be sure to click the star-rating system. Anyone who does or who comments here about my name contest gets a free e-book of their choice. Be sure to email me to let me know which one you’d like and which format Kindle (mobi) or epub.

Thanks for all your wonderful support! Without, I wouldn’t be in this perfect place.

Amazon May Not Be the Bad Guy

The recent news about the IPG-Amazon struggle has people saying all the same things. “Amazon is flexing its muscle and hurting the little guys.” “Big bad Amazon.” Shelf Awareness ran the story with quotes from authors and publishers all complaining about Amazon’s tactics.

My understanding of the dispute is that IPG wanted better distribution terms for its ebooks—I believe it requested no discounting—and Amazon said no. Which the company has the right to do. Amazon already capitulated when the Big 6 publishers colluded to set their own high prices—a collusion that is now the subject of lawsuits and investigations.

So like all other retailers, Amazon wants to control the sale price of its inventory, and since it couldn’t get Independent Publishers Group to agree to its terms, it took IPG’s products off the shelf. (Caveat: There may be more to the issue than I realize, and if you know more, please leave a comment.)

The people hurt most by this are the authors whose ebooks are no longer selling at Amazon. But it’s important to remember that these authors have a choice. They chose to publish their work through a small publisher, which in turn, contracted with IPG for distribution. Or maybe some authors are working directly with IPG. Either way, these authors have chosen to hire middlemen for publication and/or distribution. Middlemen that take a chunk of the profit, and in this case, refuse to meet Amazon’s terms.

But this is the new age of publishing! Authors don’t need publishers, or distributors for that matter. Anyone can upload their ebooks to Amazon though Kindle Direct Publishing and to Barnes & Noble through PubIt. Granted, if you want to sell on Kobo and Sony, you need a distributor. But Kobo and Sony’s market shares are almost insignificant, and at the same time, they are the ebook retailers doing the discounting that, in turn, triggers Amazon to drop its price.

I pulled my books down from Kobo and Sony for that very reason. They caused me to lose far more money at Amazon than I ever made from either. And Amazon has never discounted my books except to match another retailer’s price.

I understand authors wanting to control the price the book is sold for, and thus, maximize royalties, but if your book is not selling on Amazon, you’ll never maximize your profit. From my perspective, it makes far more sense for IPG to pull its books from Kobo and Sony, and thus eliminate the discounting issue, than to give up its authors’ opportunity to sell on Amazon.

What is IPG offering its authors—besides getting their books pulled from the biggest retailer in the marketplace? I realize distributors may be able to get some print books into bookstores, but what can they do for ebook-only authors that those authors can’t do for themselves?

Of course, some—or many—may have signed contracts with small publishers (that in turn signed with IPG) and therefore, they no longer have the right to control their own work. But instead of complaining about Amazon, they should be contacting their publishers about finding a new distributor. Or if they work with IPG directly, maybe they should terminate that agreement and either find a new distributor, or better yet, simply join the indie revolution and upload their books to Amazon, B&N, and Apple themselves.

Another blogger has offered some excellent alternatives for IPG as well. I expect to take some heat for this, so tell me, what do you think?

 

First Book in Series Is Free

Secrets to Die ForI wanted to let everyone know that Secrets to Die For, the first book in the bestselling Detective Jackson mysteries, is free Wed. (22) and Thurs.(23) on Amazon. Grab one while you can.

 

If you thought The Sex Club was the first book, you’re also right. Here’s blog about that change.

Controlling Digital Content

The greatest thing about ebooks is the ease of selling and sharing them. It can also be the worst thing too, because it leaves authors with little control of their content. With print books, no one can sell your novel unless you supply them with products. With ebooks, once a distributor or retailer has your file, they can keep selling it forever—with or without your permission.

Why reputable businesses would do this makes no sense, and yet, they do. Take Sony for example. First, the retailer kept discounting my books again and again, causing Amazon to discount my books and me to lose money. My distributor would contact them, and they’d stop for while. Then out of nowhere, Sony would put my books on sale.

Then Amazon Select came along, and I decided I was done dealing with Sony permanently. So INgrooves, my distributor, had my books removed from their ebook store. A few days later, three of my Jackson titles popped up in the Sony store. They were old versions from my previous publisher, supplied by a different distributor. I contacted both my ex-publisher and the other distributor, and they quickly took care of the issue.

For a while, I had no books on Sony’s site, and everything seemed fine. Then suddenly, they were back, selling on Sony again. I know this because Amazon called to let me know I was not in compliance with my Select program agreement. They were very nice about it in person. But two days later, I started getting emails about each of the titles that was still selling elsewhere, with a 30-day notice to get in compliance or have the book removed from Amazon’s program.

Of course, I had already contacted my distributor and asked them to communicate with Sony, using a lawyer, if necessary. INgrooves sent an email to Sony and within two days, the books were down again.

But why did they start selling them again in the first place? What happened to the royalties during that time, since I no longer have an agreement with them? And will it happen again? Is Sony purposefully violating my rights to make a few extra bucks off my inexpensive e-books? Or is it an error? Does it have a computer program that keeps picking up files that should have been deleted?

Sony is not the only guilty one. I’ve heard authors complain about Kobo doing this as well. And several authors who were published with Dorchester have complained that the publisher made and sold e-books of their work—after the company gave the rights back to the author. The Amazon person who called me said many authors are experiencing similar scenarios.

This is such inexplicable behavior all around. Just because it’s an electronic file doesn’t mean anyone can sell it for profit. Authors are calling for a boycott of Dorchester, and it’s tempting to ask readers to boycott Sony as well. And Kobo too, if they’re guilty of this form of theft—also known as pirating.

Invest in Your Own Ebook

Note: I wrote this guest blog earlier this year but it’s worth updating and reposting.

After publishing ten books—two with a small publisher, the rest without—I’ve come to two conclusions:

1) Digital self-publishing is a straightforward process that isn’t particularly difficult or expensive.

2) There is nothing a small publisher can or will do for writers that they can’t do better for themselves. I don’t mean literally do everything yourself, but a writer can contract for production services as well as a publisher can.

Why? Small presses are often run by a few dedicated, but overworked individuals. They typically contract out most services, and they often pay bottom dollar. I know this because I’ve worked as freelance editor and turned down all of the work offered by small presses because they simply don’t pay enough. Small presses are trying to profit and survive like everyone else and they cut costs where they can.

A large publisher can offer distribution and promotional backing, but most small publishers don’t offer either, so what’s left for the author is the label of being traditionally published and the convenience of having someone else contract the production work. Giving up most of the profit for these small advantages is a hard bargain that I don’t recommend. As the author, you have to sell the book no matter who publishes it, so you might as well make the investment, publish it yourself, and reap the rewards

The three main elements to producing a quality e-book are editing, cover design, and formatting. Many authors are tempted to do all three themselves to save money. But unless you’re incredibility talented and have all the time in the world, it’s probably not a cost-effective decision.

Editing can be expensive, especially if you contract for content evaluation, but you can keep the cost down by sending your manuscript to beta readers or working with a critique group to fine tune the plot and structure. You should, of course, print and read the manuscript out loud before paying anyone else to proof it. After carefully reading it yourself, send it to a professional editor for line editing and proofreading. Many editors charge $1500 and up, but you don’t have to pay that much. You can find someone to proofread or edit your manuscript for $300–$800. depending on the length of the novel. If you pay less, your editor will be in a rush and probably won’t do a good job. If you pay more, it may take a long time to earn back your investment.

A good cover is also essential. Most cover artists charge a flat fee, and you can expect to pay between $150 and $500. Some charge a lot more than that, but why spend that much if you don’t have to? One way to save money is to find the right image yourself, so you’re not paying the artist for that time. One of the great things about self-publishing an e-book is that you can revise it as often as you want, including creating a new cover down the road when the book is making money. The best way to find a cover designer  is to network with other writers, including joining listservs that focusing on marketing.

Formatting: I originally thought I would learn to format my own e-books to save money. Other authors make it sound easy. But I quickly decided that the time and frustration spent on the learning curve was not cost-effective. Time is money. For me, it made more sense to send my Word files and cover jpgs to a professional for formatting. The e-book I got back was gorgeous. In fact, I received two files: a mobi file to upload to Amazon and an epub to upload everywhere else. I recommend working with a formatter who produces these two types of files.

Readers’ biggest complaint about e-books is the formatting. Getting it right is essential. Rates may vary, but if you’re starting with a Word document, it shouldn’t cost more than around $150, depending on how clean your file is. For authors who have a backlist and novels that are in book form instead of Word documents, those books will need to be scanned, and the cost of e-book production will be more expensive. The number of errors from the optical character recognition is also much higher. It might be cost-effective to pay a very fast typist to transcribe your published book into a Word document before sending it to a formatter. You’ll end up with fewer errors too.

Taking the lowest rates I’ve mentioned ($300, $150, and $150), you can conclude that it will cost at least $600 to produce a quality e-book. I raided my very small retirement account to publish my first six books, and I considered it a small business loan to myself. I now treat my novel-writing career as a business instead of a hobby and it has paid off for me.

How long does it take to earn back a $600–$1000 investment? That depends on many things, including how many novels you have on the market. The more books you have, the more credibility you have, which is why I decided to do mine back to back in 2009. Assuming you’ve written a terrific story and produced a quality product, the biggest factor is how much time you’re willing to spend promoting. I spent at least two hours a day for six months, plus one exclusive two-week period during which I promoted eight hours a day (blogs, press releases, reader forums, etc.). I continue to spend at least an hour every day on promotional activities. For the record, I made my money back by the end of the year, and going forward is all profit.

It’s your book and you’ve invested your money, you might as well invest your time too and make it pay off.

 

Name Those Characters Contest

I spent an hour looking through the phone book for names, then realized I hadn’t held my usual “Name That Character” contest for this book. I’m writing a new Jackson story with the working title Liars, Cheaters, & Thieves, and I need lots of names. Suspects, victims, and witnesses.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the story involves three men, friends since high school. I’ve settled on the main character’s name, Read more

Why $.99 E-Books Don’t Work for Me

I’ve gone back and forth for months trying to decide whether to price the e-book version of my new release, The Arranger, at $.99 or $2.99…for the launch phase. The thinking is this: At 99 cents, I’ll sell more copies, the book will go higher on the Amazon charts, and I’ll get more exposure. But I won’t make much money…unless it hits the top of the charts and stays there for a long time. But can I count on that? Read more

Summer Sale: Jackson books $.99 in July!

As a thank you to readers who’ve supported me and made it possible for me to write full time—and in celebration of my birthday—I’m offering all five Detective Jackson books on Kindle and Nook for $.99 for the month of July. If you own another type of reader and want to take advantage of this offer, contact me. Read more

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Five-Time Readers Favorite Award Winner!

LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
~Michelle Gagnon, author of Boneyard
The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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