Saturday, June 30, 2012

No news is not good news

I just checked Sony, Kobo, and Blio ebookstores, and The Sixth Discipline is still not free on any of them. I can find plenty of free Smashwords book in the Sony store, so I think they are just slow to make the change. The Kobo store doesn't seem to have any Smashwords books below 99¢, so I think they simply don't support price matching to $0.00. Blio doesn't have a good way to search or sort for free Smashwords books, and they are very new, so I have no clue what their policy is.

I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

There is no grass growing under Mark Coker's feet!

Mark Coker is the founder and head of Smashwords. He recently cut a deal with Baker & Taylor to provide Smashwords content to them for distribution to libraries and for the Blio platform, and now I see that another vendor has appear in the Distribution Channel Manager screen:  Page Foundry. It doesn't look like my books have shipped yet, but unless I opt out, they will.

I never heard of Page Foundry, but more places to sell books has to be a good thing!

Addendeum: Smashwords has posted more info about this new (Android) platform on their blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: The Hare with Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden InheritanceThe Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t read much nonfiction. I like books that are stories, with a plot and a climax, and characters I can empathize with. Nonfiction often drags for me, with its insistence on sticking with real events and real people. I do read historical fiction because I like to read stories in distant places and long ago times. The Hare with Amber Eyes is the rare nonfiction book that worked for me.

Edmund de Waal is an English potter with a Dutch last name, but his grandmother was born into a fabulously wealthy family of Jewish bankers and grain merchants. The Ephrussi were contemporaries and equals of the Rothschilds, related by marriage. Originally from Odessa, they moved to Vienna and then some of the younger sons moved to Paris. Through this family, de Waal inherited a collection of 264 netsuke, small carved figures that Japanese gentlemen used to wear on their obis, rather in the manner of a watch fob. The collection included the eponymous hare with amber eyes. De Waal decided to tell the history of the various Ephrussi who had owned the netsuke, starting with his great-great-uncle Charles Ephrussi, who was, among other things, a patron of the arts and a critic in late 19th Century Paris. If you are familiar with the famous painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Charles is the man in the background, looking slightly overdressed in a top hat and black frock coat. He was a friend and patron of Renoir and other Impressionists, right at the peak of that movement in art.

In fact, as it turns out, the history of de Waal's netsuke is largely the history of the 20th Century. Charles eventually gave them as a wedding gift to a nephew who lived in Vienna, and they made the journey across Europe to take up residence in the incredibly grand Palais Ephrussi where eventually they became the playthings of de Waal’s grandmother and her siblings. From post-war Vienna they eventually made their way to England and then, amazingly, back to Japan.

Obviously, netsuke cannot speak, but de Waal has researched his well-documented family, and he describes their lives and times beautifully. When a visual and tactile artist tells a story, you would expect a level of detail that makes you feel like you are there, and de Waal does not disappoint. He clearly sees more than many of us; he never says “tree” but always linden, or elm, or oak, or whatever kind of tree it was. His history immersed me into first Paris, and then Vienna, and then Tokyo. I even forgave him his extensive use of present tense, a thing I do not forgive easily.

I should mention that I read the Kindle version, which was very clean and had only two tiny formatting errors (an excess hyphen and a space in the middle of a word). The photographs of people and places came through very well; I suspect they were all (or almost all) taken in black and white. The only thing missing from the Kindle version was the book cover! Oh, and the netsuke themselves, which do not appear in the book (not even the printed version; I know because Michael Dirda mentioned it in his review). Luckily, you can see some of them online, as well as Mr. de Waal’s pots. One thing he never mentions is that he is not just any potter, but a world-class potter with gallery showings. [Edmund de Waal page on Artsy]

All that and he wrote this fabulous book, too! I am so happy he did.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Friday, June 22, 2012

Borrowing books from the Kindle Owners Lending Library

Amazon has some interesting benefits for Amazon Prime members.  Amazon Prime is a membership program that costs $79 a year. The most-often used benefit is that you get free 2-day shipping on physical items you order from Amazon—print books, DVDs, whatever—so long as it's sent to you by Amazon and not a retail partner.   There are also movies and TV shows you can watch online for free, and there is the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KLL or KOLL).

The KOLL is more limited because it can only be used by Prime members who also own Kindles (either e-ink Kindles or a Kindle Fire). I think one reason a lot of Kindle owners don't know about KOLL is that not that many of them have Prime; when your books are digital, you don't care about 2-day shipping. Also, borrowing books is one of the few functions that can't be done from the web; you must initiate borrowing from the Kindle itself.

If you are browsing or searching the Kindle store and you see a prime symbol  like the one above, that tells you that the book can be borrowed for free by Kindle-owning Prime members. To borrow the book, you will have to find it in the Kindle store from the Kindle itself.

To browse the KOLL (assuming you qualify)  do the following steps:
  1. Turn on the wireless on your Kindle
  2. Go to the Kindle storefront
  3. Select the Browse — All Categories option
  4. That brings up a pick-list; select the last item, Kindle Lending Library
  5. Once you are in the Kindle Lending Library, you can browse by genre and then sort by what's new or what's popular; be prepared for a huge amount of porn if you don't pick a specific genre
  6. You can also search as usual using the search bar and specifying an author or title.
Once you find the book you want, if it's in the KOLL there should be a Borrow for Free option next to the Buy button. Select that, and the book will then be downloaded to your Kindle.  The limitations are that you can only borrow one book per month and you can only borrow books that are permitted to be in the KOLL by the publishers; however, you can take as long as you need the read the book. All the Happy Potter books are included, as well as any book that participates in the Kindle Select program.  Also, Amazon will keep any notes and highlighting, so if you buy a book after borrowing it, you won't lose your notes.

Of my books, only Shades of Empire and Where Magic Rules are in the KOLL. If you're eligible, check them out (literally!).  Did I mention Amazon pays the author a fee every time the book is borrowed?

Note:  As of March, 2013, only my latest book King of Trees is in the KOLL. I don't leave books in the KDP Select program forever because to do that, I would have to not sell them anywhere else. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Diesel catches up!

The Sixth Discipline is now free in the Diesel bookstore, too! That puts them in third place in the price-matching race, behind iBooks and Nook (only one day later than Nook). No change yet on KoboSony or Blio.  Blio is so new, I don't know if they will price match if the book is free on Smashwords. Sony will, but they seem to take a while to make changes.  But considering I made the book free on Smashwords on June 11, I think this is a vast improvement over what response time was last year.  I don't know if it was Smashwords or the vendors who made the changes, but it is definitely faster now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Sixth Discipline is free on the Nook!

I just checked Barnes & Noble, and The Sixth Discipline is now free in the Nook store! That means Nook came in second to iBooks in the race to match the Smashwords price change. Also, it means you can make a book free on Nook if you use Smashwords to publish. You cannot do that via the Pub-It platform, which, like KDP, sets 99¢ as the lowest level price authors can charge.

Any Nook users out there, head on over and pick it up now!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Where Magic Rules got a celebrity review!

The giveaway is over, but one wonderful result of it is that Where Magic Rules got a review from musician Janis Ian, who is known for her love of science fiction and fantasy (a love that is returned, by the way; she is a popular guest at conventions). She starts the review by pointing out that she had never heard of me and downloaded the book only because it was free; she says next that she was pleasantly surprised by it. I will quote her last sentence here:
“I've downloaded so many books lately that start off well, but disintegrate a little ways in - it's a real joy to discover a new author who holds her ground throughout.”
It's a short review, but she gave the novella five stars!

I know what you're thinking: How do I know this is the real Janis Ian? Well, for one thing, her reviews have an Amazon “real name” badge, which means the name on her credit card matches the name on her review. Also, her profile shows her birthday and that she lives in Nashville, and Wikipedia shows those as a match for Janis Ian.

I gave away well over 500 copies of Where Magic Rules, but that one really paid off!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Last chance!

Today is the last day that Where Magic Rules is free in the Kindle store. Get it now!

It's also free in the Kindle store in the UKGermany, Italy, Spain, and France. Of the non-US stores, I've given away the most copies in the UK (naturally), but Germany has taken several and even Italy and Spain have had a couple, but France is a total no-show. Come on, France!

Friday, June 15, 2012

iBooks won the race to be free!

I have been checking the Smashwords retail platforms every day, to see if The Sixth Discipline was free yet. I made that book free on Smashwords on June 11th and as of today, it still costs 99¢ everywhere except on iBooks where it is now free!

That means Apple price-matched Smashwords after only 4 days!  That is much faster than it used to be. Mark Coker did not lie!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where Magic Rules is free for a few days

My fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is free in the Kindle store starting today. I might let it stay free all the way through Saturday if it looks like it's catching on.

To tempt you to try the story out, here's a quote from one of the Amazon reviews:
“Whatever you have been expecting of a dragon, except for being large, winged, and reptilian, it probably isn't like this dragon. He's one of the most charming characters in the story. I won't reveal any more of the plot, except to say that I enjoyed the book and its twists. While its not a humorous tale, there is quite a bit of humor in it, which was one of the main charms of the story.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sibling rivalry

In some ways, my books are like my children. I decided I was spending too much time on my Amazon offspring and not giving enough attention to their other-platform siblings. Ergo, I made The Sixth Disciple free on Smashwords. The new "price" takes effect right away on Smashwords but it can takes days or weeks for the change to filter out to their affiliated retail sites.

I'll monitor the other platforms and report when TSD shows up as free on any of them. It will be interesting to see what happens on Blio. I don't know if they allow authors to make books free or not.  I guess we'll find out!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Smashwords has updated their Apple sales figures. For the first time, my US iBooks sales beat my Commonwealth (Canadian, UK, and Australian) sales. Oh, and Smashwords updated Barnes & Noble sales figures a while ago, but I never have as many sales there, so I don't stress about that.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would have given this 5 stars if Atwood had not made so much use of present tense. I understand she was playing with tense, and much of the novel is a series of flashbacks, but even in the flashbacks she sometimes used present tense and I hate that.

It's a brilliant book, but too literary for my taste. Atwood can spend three paragraphs on the metaphorical aspects of the act of sex and pages and pages on exactly how things look and feel for the narrator. She also leaves the reader with a highly ambiguous ending. Between that and her insistence that this isn't science fiction, she's lucky I didn't give her three stars.

But it is a chilling read, more so now than when it was written. Talk about a war on women! In this book, women lost the war. Offred, the title character, relates being virtually brainwashed and physically abused by religious zealots who feel compelled to make her accept her place as a man's chattel. And many of her abusers are women. All this is done in the name of God.

The one thing that bothered me in plot of the book is that Offred (for Of Fred, her protector; no other name is given for her, except in the notes at the end where it says she might have been called June) recalls her past of less than a decade before as if it were completely normal (i.e. much as life is now). And yet in the Republic of Gilead the birth rate is terrifyingly low because of pollution causing birth defects and sterility. It seems to me that kind of problem wouldn't happen overnight; it would have had a major impact on life even in a free society.

Still, a compelling story.

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My books as world travelers

I've blogged before about international sales. Of course, language is an issue. To some extent, iBooks has an edge over Kindle in terms of international presence. I see iBooks sales from Australia, Canada, and the UK, as well as in the US-- the larger English-speaking countries, in other words. Amazon has a Kindle store for the UK, but that's the only one in an English-speaking nation besides the US. There are Kindle stores in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France, but those folks are mostly not looking for books in English, so that doesn't help me a lot. I really wish there was a Kindle store in Canada! I do not know what the hold-up is.

iBooks also sells in non-English-speaking countries, but I only know which countries if I get a sale. I know they sell in the Netherlands, because I did get a sale from there (my first sale listed in euros). I think the giveaway of Shades of Empire must have helped make it more visible, because I also now have a few sales from the Kindle stores in Germany and Italy as well as the UK. More euros!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shades of Empire goes Continental

On this latest round of giveaways of Shades of Empire, I had the usual amount of takers in the UK, and another small handful in Germany, but I also gave away a copy to someone in Spain and someone in Italy. Still zero in France, though. Oh, well! C'est la vie!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shades of Empire is free this weekend!

In honor of nothing in particular, I have made Shades of Empire free in the Kindle store today and tomorrow, June 2 and June 3, 2012.  I just checked, and Amazon came through this time. The price is $0.00.

Get it now folks! Read it for free, and if you enjoy the story, consider posting a review on Amazon and telling people what you liked.