I’ve got a deal for you. Get 10 FREE fiction novels (ebooks) with national security and crime themed stories from D.T. Rylie, Anita Rodgers, Arleigh Jacobs, RJ Beam, M.L. Buchman, Jamie Davis, Kristin Helling, Paul Austin Ardoin, Patrick O’Donnell, and Natasha Bajema. Just answer a few questions about what you’re reading and watching.
There is a fine line between love and hate and Christine Logan has found it.
Distraught that her abusive and philandering husband won’t let her have the baby she is carrying, she comes up with a plan to get what she wants.
But the plans go awry in every way possible, leaving her fate in the hands of the gods—and Detective Emily Davis.
Fans of Body Heat and Sleeping with the Enemy, will love this fast-paced thriller of love, hate, betrayal, and murder. Find it at: Amazon – for Kindle & Print or KOBO – for ePubs
Resources while homebound
If you’re homebound and trying to work remotely, BOARDIST is a new productivity tool that lets you design a “board” space for lists, tasks, and more. You can create bookmarks, notes, lists, or files and schedule tasks. It’s designed to help keep your projects on track and hopefully get them finished.
Welcome to the wacky world of plucky waitress and pastry chef, Scotti Fitzgerald, where food is love and the answer to most problems. Except perhaps, murder.
After five years of working her tail off to buy Manny the Cuban’s diner, Scotti is hurtling down the home stretch to seal the deal. But her investor’s sudden death stops everything in its tracks—and the money she was counting on is gone.
Racing against time, scrambling for money, and competing against a secret buyer, Scotti’s once well-ordered life is now totally out of control. If she wants her diner dreams to come true, she’ll have to put on her big girl pants, step into a world of high society, deceit, and back stabbing in order to solve a murder. Piece of cake, right?
Fans of Stephanie Plum and Sookie Stackhouse will enjoy this fun and fast-paced mystery – starring quirky and colorful characters who’ll feel like old friends and you’ll find yourself rooting for at every twist and turn.
On this, the 18th anniversary of September 11th, I wanted to re-post the first tribute I wrote as a part of Project 2996. While I was honored to write all of the tributes I did, Steve Mercado’s always felt personal to me. Maybe it is because he was a first responder, a man used to running toward danger in the service or others, or maybe because he seemed like the kind of guy you’d want for a friend. But for whatever reason, Steve will always occupy a little piece of my heart.
I still remember – and I will never forget.
I did not know Steve Mercado, but he was my kind of guy. He was funny, handsome, made a mean chili and damn it, he was a hero. On September 11th he and eleven other of his firefighter brothers were lost in the World Trade Center. I imagine him charging up those stairs, intent on answering the calls for help. Intent on fulfilling his mission to save and protect. He was that kind of guy. He lived to help people. To make them laugh, make them feel like things were really okay. And I think that when Steve was around, people did feel that way.
He was born and raised in the Bronx and dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a kid. He played stickball in the streets with his pals – a game his father had taught him and eventually a game he would teach his own son and countless other children. A tradition he carried into adulthood.
He married his childhood sweetheart Jovianna and eventually they had two sons, Skylar and Austin. He was a dedicated husband and father and took great joy in watching his children grow. I imagine that he had a picture of his wife and kids taped inside his helmet – I don’t know it – but he seemed the kind of man who would. Who loved his life so much that he would want to keep the things dear to him close. I imagine too, that his last thoughts were of his family, what kind of men his sons would grow up to be and how very much he loved Jovi.
He was a modern day warrior, facing life and death as a matter of course. Charging in to whatever task life had dealt him – unphased and unafraid. And, I believe the world was better for Steve having been in it. He made the world a better place, a safer place, and a kinder place. He had a passion for life and it showed.
He loved stickball and dreamed of it becoming an Olympic sport one day. He was a legendary player and the President of the NY Emperor’s Stickball League. According to Steve, “Stickball is all about community. For me, I learned the game from my father, and others of his generation. They were my heroes, the role models we looked up to. Stickball was an important part in our tradition of teamwork, determination and community. My goal now is to reach out to the kids growing up today to make sure we continue to pass down these values.”
Stickball was a true calling for Steve. His wife said that he believed that there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be worked out by a game of stickball. I think he may have had a point. Nothing like whacking balls over the rooftops and running like the wind to give you perspective. He was responsible for creating many teams across the country, starting programs for kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to learn about the teamwork and tradition Steve so loved. What lucky kids to have had such a great role model as Steve. He made things better, not by words but by his actions.
Steve was a man who made a difference and I believe still does. In the words of Buddha, If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. I hope that I have in some small way shown you the miracle of Steve.
Steve’s poem to his dad:
Addendum: Sharon Cannone, Steve’s cousin was kind enough to share the eulogy she delivered at Steve’s memorial service in November 2001:
There’s only one way to deal with the pain of losing my cousin Steve and the thousands of other lives that were lost on September 11. There’s only one way to come to terms with the pain and fear we feel. The only way to get beyond this is to live our lives the way my cousin chose to live his. We must be brave.
I have a lot of memories of my cousin. We grew up in the same building together and always stayed very close. A lot of memories…. But one memory in particular has been playing over and over in my mind since I learned that he was among the missing. Among Steve’s many talents a long time ago he dabbled into the world of boxing. And with just about everything else he took on, he trained long and hard to hone his skills. Well, the hard work and training paid off, because Steve qualified for the Golden Gloves and had his big night at Madison Square Garden. Steve was well represented that night by family and friends. When he entered the ring for the main event, the Garden “rocked” with applause from his fans. After the usual introductions, the fight began. But a minute or so into the fight, Steve took a punch to the chin and hit the canvas with a thud.
The moment Steve fell, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming at the top of my lungs. STEVIE GET UP!! STEVIE GET UP! I don’t remember how many times I yelled to my cousin, but all of a sudden, Steve got to one knee, shook his head, got up and beat the living daylights out of his opponent. The Garden went wild.After the fight, we all went to a bar in the City to celebrate. Steve told me that as he was lying on the canvas he heard a voice through the haze screaming his name. And that’s when the haze cleared, he said “That’s Sharon – I gotta get up”. He told me that night at the bar that it was my voice yelling his name over and over that enabled him to win the fight. I never thought I could be prouder of my cousin as I was that night — the night he fought the fight of his life. But I was wrong.
From the moment I knew that Steve was missing, I thought about that night at the Garden. Over and over I prayed, Stevie please get up. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though I was joined in prayer by friends, family, the City and the whole Country. We all screamed your name Stevie, but this time your opponent was a dirty fighter who hit way below the belt.
I’ll never understand the twisted minds of terrorists who can cause pain like this. I don’t understand why some people choose to live their lives with pure hatred in their hearts instead of love. Their hatred defines who they are. Steve’s love for life, great sense of humor and truly giving heart defined who he was. He put his life on the line for his fellow man on a daily basis. And I’m very proud to have been a part of his life.
Note: For those of you in the NY area, PBS will be airing a documentary called “Bragging Rights” that covers the game and tradition of stickball. Steve is featured in this documentary and it will air Thursday, September 14th at 8PM.
Every year, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of novels are published in each of your favorite genres. In an earlier era, a new novel may only have had to compete for your attention with other recently released books and time-honored classics on the store shelves; however, in today’s world of near-permanent availability and infinite digital shelf space, any newly released novel is essentially in competition with every other book that’s ever been released in its genre. Without word of mouth, it can be almost impossible for a new writer to cut through the noise and gain traction.
That’s why it’s so important for readers to write reviews and share them on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, as well as their reader groups and their social media accounts.
I recently surveyed our VIP reader list to find out what they consider to be the top things they look for in a review when considering a new novel. Here are their most common responses, in no particular order:
The author’s unique voice.
Couldn’t put the book down.
Didn’t see plot twists coming.
A new take on the genre.
Would read more by this author.
Already purchased the next book in the series.
Great world building.
Total sensory experience.
The book reminds them of an author, book, movie, or TV show.
Can’t stop thinking about it.
On the other hand, there are the things readers don’t like to see in reviews:
Penalizing a book because it’s not in a genre you normally read.
Short reviews like “I loved it!” are fine but sharing WHY you loved the book is more helpful to a potential reader.
What to do if the book didn’t work for you?
Sometimes we give a book a shot and it turns out to be outside of our wheelhouse. Maybe you normally enjoy epic fantasy but thought an urban fantasy sounded interesting, but then found you just didn’t enjoy the book. That’s fine. Just note that in your review. Something like, “I normally prefer epic fantasy and wanted to try this novel. It didn’t work for me, but I can see how urban fantasy fans would really enjoy this story because of X, Y, Z.”
Just remember that if you’re reviewing the book of an up-and-coming author, they will likely see your review. So just remember there’s another person on the other side of the screen who invested months, if not years, of their time to create that story.
What to do if you have criticism for the author that you think might help them?
First, write it down and sit on it for a day. If you still think it’s useful, contact the author privately via email or a form on their website.
Letting them know about a weird spelling error or formatting problem might be helpful but editorial advice is likely worthless. They’re not going to rewrite the book to suit your tastes. If the fantasy novel you just read didn’t have enough romance, that’s your preference, not theirs. Every novel isn’t for everyone.
Once you’ve written that great review, spread it around
The best thing you can do with your new great review is share it on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads and tag the author. If you know their email, send them a link to the review. Not only does it give them a heads up that you reviewed their novel but if they’re smart, they will tag you on their list as someone they can approach to review their next novel.
Need some inspiration to help you write a great review?
I hope this short article has given you a useful perspective on the purpose of book reviews and how to write them to best help readers and authors find one another. Perhaps I’ll be reading one of your reviews someday soon!
Larry Froncek is the owner of Voracious Readers Only, a service that connects avid readers with authors in the genres they most enjoy. Since September 2017, Voracious Readers Only has made over 95,000 reader-author connections. For more information about Larry and Voracious Readers, please visit the Voracious Readers Only Website.
Self-publishing a book on Amazon is a big step for any author, but especially if you’ve never done it before. No matter how much research you’ve conducted or reassurance you’ve gotten from friends, putting your book up on Amazon is always an intimidating process — there are so many little details to remember, and therefore many little things that can go wrong.
Luckily, there are also concrete steps you can take to insure your self-published book as much as possible. And while no single measure will guarantee a successful launch on Amazon, doing all of these things will certainly maximize your chances! Here are four crucial tips for authors who decide to self-publish on Amazon, covering everything from uploading your files correctly to planning your marketing approach.
Tip #1: Polish and upload your manuscript effectively
Before you even think about putting your book on Amazon, you need to get your manuscript and cover in tiptop shape. Not only does this mean writing the best book you possibly can, but also hiring an editor or proofreader to sweep for inconsistencies and errors — not just proofing it yourself or asking a friend. Paying someone else to do the job, someone whose livelihood depends on their abilities, is a much safer bet than trusting inexperienced eyes.
You should also invest in a professional book cover design. Repeated tests have shown that a professional-looking book cover gets you way more clicks on Amazon, and you don’t want to lose up to 50% of potential buyers just because of your cover! So bite the bullet on the cost and get that gorgeous cover for your book.
Once you are absolutely, 110% sure that your manuscript and cover cannot be improved, you’re ready to prepare your files for Amazon. As you may already know, the Amazon Kindle Store uses MOBI files. This means that no matter what kind of file you upload, it will be converted to MOBI — which can have adverse effects on your formatting. So before you upload, ensure that your file is already a MOBI to prevent Amazon from converting it.
As for your book cover image, pretty much all you need is for it to be 1,000 pixels tall x 625 pixels wide, in the form of a TIFF or JPG. If one doesn’t work, try the other — the cover upload function can act up sometimes, so you may need to re-upload a couple of times.
Tip #2: Optimize your description and keywords
With your files safely uploaded and looking beautiful, you’re ready to write the description and set the Amazon keywords for your book! The more you can optimize these elements, the easier it will be for your readers to find you, and the more sales you’ll make. Annie’s already touched on how to write a great Amazon product description, but here are a few things you can do in terms of keywords specifically:
Try to get into your target reader’s head
It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many authors go straight to using keyword tools rather than thinking about it from a human perspective. Simply imagine that you were a reader looking for a book like yours, type all the keywords you can think of into Amazon, and check which titles are ranking for each keyword. If they’re similar to your book and have decent rankings, you can bet that’s a strong keyword, and you should add it to your own details.
Focus on high-traffic, low-competition keywords
Of course, though you want to be using some of the same keywords as your competitors, you’ll benefit even more if you can find a few niche keywords with high traffic but low competition. If lots of people search for a certain term, but not too many books are actually a good match for that term, this could be your chance to fill a gap in the market!
Use Amazon’s ad system to your advantage
This is a tip for after you’ve put your book up on Amazon, but it’s just as effective (if not more so) than trying to optimize your keywords beforehand. Once you’ve made some sales, you can go into your KDP dashboard and “create an ad” — but instead of actually setting up Amazon ads, just check the suggested target keywords for the ad that you would make. Amazon will tell you exactly which words and phrases readers have been using to find your book, meaning you can go back into your description and re-optimize to capture even more readers.
Tip #3: Weigh your options with KDP Select
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the various pros and cons of enrolling in KDP Select, the program that offers various promotional opportunities in exchange for Amazon digital exclusivity. As in, while enrolled in KDP Select (which lasts 90 days), you cannot sell your eBook anywhere other than Amazon — though you may distribute print copies if you wish.
The KDP Select program has several concrete benefits, including:
Free and discounted price promotions, which help you get tons of downloads and gain visibility by ranking on two different types of lists (the free store and the paid store on Amazon).
Having your book on Kindle Unlimited, which is basically Amazon’s “Netflix for books” that allows subscribers to pay $9.99 a month for unlimited ebooks. Authors take home a very small percentage of royalties from this (only about $0.0044 per page), but the massive exposure to millions of KU subscribers and subsequent rankings boost makes the actual payout more or less irrelevant.
70% royalties in extended territories such as Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico, as long as your book is between $2.99 and $9.99 (though with non-select, you still get 70% royalties in most Anglophone territories).
Of course, the program has drawbacks as well. For example, KDP Select is great for reaching readers in the US and UK, where Amazon overwhelmingly dominates eBook distribution — but other countries like Canada and Australia have a much less autocratic ebook market, with companies like KOBO and Apple Books taking 20-30%. Though this is still less than Amazon’s share of the market in those countries, it’s enough to potentially hurt you if you go Amazon-exclusive for your book launch.
You should also steer clear of KDP Select if you’re trying to get onto bestseller lists other than Amazon’s. Not many people know this, but one of the prerequisites for lists in publications like The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, etc. is that you sell your book on multiple retailers — i.e. Amazon exclusivity is a deal breaker.
The takeaway here is that only you, the author, can decide whether or not KDP is the right path. Carefully consider both sides, and whichever you choose, keep track of what works and what doesn’t so you can make an even more informed decision with your next book.
Tip #4: Prioritize getting reviews
Finally, once your book is up and selling on Amazon, you have one goal that should take precedence over all others: getting (legitimate!) five-star reviews. Naturally, five-star ratings in and of themselves are important, but you also want to have as many people as possible leaving written reviews on your book’s Amazon page.
Why? Because you have to anticipate poor reviews and have a buffer in place just in case. Nothing pokes holes in a buoyant Amazon ship like a burst of one-star ratings, and nothing sinks it like a one-star review, especially if it’s the only review on the page. The more glowing reviews you have, the less likely that a potential customer is going to see that one-star review and decide that your book isn’t worth their time.
To that end, maximize your reviews by asking everyone you know to leave one, publicizing your book through your email list, and utilizing promotional sites and services. Of course, you should never pay FOR a review, or even “review swap” with another author — if Amazon suspects anything fishy, they’ll come down on you hard.
But don’t worry: promoting your book in other ways should lead to plenty of organic reads and reviews. And while you can’t guarantee that everyone you ask will leave a review, the more work you put into this stage, the more reviews you’ll get out of it.
So there you have it: polish your book, optimize your keywords, calculate your odds with KDP Select, and focus on reviews. No matter what kind of book you’ve written, these tips should significantly contribute to your self-publishing success… and perhaps even equip you to make a name for yourself in the cutthroat world of Amazon.
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She’s very interested in the self-publishing industry and where it’s headed. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.
Today, I’m thrilled to be releasing a new stand-alone Domestic Thriller on Amazon. For today only the ebook will go for 99cents, so feel free to get it while it’s hot. The print version of the book will be available in the next couple of weeks.
Fans of the Scotti Fitzgerald Mysteries may be interested to know that this story is where Daniels and Davis were ‘born.’ Below is the blurb and the links.
The Line Between Love and Hate, is Murder
Christine Logan has learned to tread lightly around her domineering husband, Phillip. A man who uses his fists as much as words to express his anger. What little joy she has in her life comes from her volunteer job as a painting instructor at the Community Center and her visits with the artist aunt who raised her.
In the arms of her lover, Michael Shaw, Christine finds comfort and escape; for a few stolen moments at a time. Though, as much as she loves Michael, she knows she’ll never be free of Phillip and the hold he has over her.
Until she becomes pregnant.
When Phillip discovers her infidelity, he orders her to get rid of the child— underscoring his displeasure with fists and threats.
But rebellion awakens inside her. She wants this baby more than anything. How can she destroy the precious life growing within her?
Can she break free of Phillip’s iron fist of control? How far is she willing to go to gain her freedom? When love becomes hate, is murder necessary?
Fans of Body Heat and Sleeping with the Enemy, will love this fast-paced thriller of love, hate, betrayal, and murder.
PS: Up next will be another stand-lone novel domestic thriller, then another Lottie Stark book and another Scotti Fitzgerald book. Yup, I’m writing up a storm.
PSS: Also, I’m going to be getting back to blogging – I’ve been away too long and have missed it, so do stay tuned for at least a few laughs and the world according to Annie, as well as some guest posts and author spotlights, book and movie reviews.