Thursday, March 28, 2013

King of Trees got a nice review!

The book blog An Eclectic Bookshelf gave King of Trees a very nice review. Blogger/reviewer David King questioned some plot points, but overall had some nice things to say:
“This was another enjoyable story from Buxton that explores an alternate Britain that never got to embrace the industrial revolution. The plot itself had a good blend of excitement and action interspersed with politics, diplomacy and discussion. In addition, the writing was competent and flowed well which is something I have grown to expect from Buxton. . . 
Overall, I found this to be a entertaining and fun story that introduces some interesting characters who on the whole are likeable even if at times they can make some rather frustrating choices.”
David is truly an eclectic reader, and his blog has reviews for a wide variety of books. He likes to do book challenges, which involve things like reading books in many different genres or following one series (e.g., Star Trek books) in depth.  Check out his blog if you're looking for something interesting to read!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: The DaVinci Code

The DaVinci Code
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This wasn't as bad as I had led to believe it would be. The prose is uninspired, and Brown makes things up to fit the story, but isn't that what fiction is? Novelists are allowed to make things up. However, the nature of a thriller is to make the tension credible, and the lack of plausibility of some aspects of the story was noticeable. I had trouble believing an elderly man dying of a gunshot wound to the gut would work out and flawlessly execute the elaborate scenario described in the beginning of the story. The victim's granddaughter learning the details of his death and instantly understanding that she needed to save the chief suspect from false accusation was equally unlikely. I also had trouble believing the protagonist's (he's a Harvard professor of "symbology)" assertion that pretty much every fable or fairy tale ever told is actually about Mary Magdalene.

What bothered me more than that was the plot's dependence on the professor's repeatedly coming up with flashes of insight just as some crisis occurred. It was is if he were a magician whose hat had an inexhaustible supply of rabbits.

Still, the story was entertaining, at a certain level. It dared to aim for a grand story line, and if it didn't hit the target for everyone, obviously a lot of folks enjoyed it. This book will never win Dan Brown a Pulitzer, but on the other hand, it made him a boatload of money and guaranteed his next book would sell well. I would not sneer at that.

Kindle users's note: This book had a fair amount of French phrases. Some but not all were translated by the narration, so the translation feature on the Kindle came in very handy! I just had to highlight the words, and then select Translate from the More option on the Highlight menu. Also, the Kindle formatting was excellent. 

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Update on my books

Smashwords status for The Nostalgia Gambit:
My sixth book The Nostalgia Gambit is still for sale in the Kindle store, but it's no longer in the KDP Select program. I have therefore uploaded it to Smashwords, where it is now for sale. Smashwords is an ebook-only retailer that's a great venue for self-published authors, not so much because people buy books there (although some do), but because Smashwords allows authors to selectively sell their books through the iBooks, Nook, Sony, Deisel, and Blio ebookstores, too, just by clicking a few buttons. Smashwords handles the delivery, paperwork, and collection of royalties (they get a very small percentage).

Of course, the ebook has to be well-formatted for this to happen; Smashwords will not send an ebook to a retailer/partner site if it has crappy formatting. They review each book, and TNG is now in the review stage. Smashwords has gotten much faster about that; it used to take a week or two, but now it's usually a few days. The ebook also has to have an ISBN to be sold in other stores, but Smashwords will provide one if the author doesn't have one.

Smashwords used to accept only an MS Word file, formatted to their specific guidelines; their upload program (commonly known as “the meat grinder”) would take the Word file and convert it to Mobi/Kindle format, epub (used by almost all ereaders except Kindle), PDF, and even RTF. The meat grinder produced clean, readable ebooks, but every Smashwords ebook had the same (rather boring) style. On the very last day of 2012, Smashwords began accepting epub; if you upload an epub file that meets their standards, they will use that copy to send to all the vendor partners you select. Of course, if you also want folks to be able to get a Kindle, RTF, or PDF version of the book from Smashwords, you still need to upload a Word file with the proper formatting.

I had a delay of several days in getting my epub file uploaded to Smashwords, because in addition to proper epub coding they wanted specific text (“Smashwords edition”) on the copyright page. That's all taken care of now, and I'm hoping the review process goes smoothly and swiftly! Note added:  TNG made it to the premium catalog in only 3 days! It should be "shipped" to the B&N, iBooks, Sony and other ebookstores very soon.

Status for King of Trees"
I need to keep King of Trees (ebook #7) in KDP select until about the first week in May. After that, I plan to also load it to Smashwords, and push it out to Nook, iBooks, Sony, and all the available vendors. Until then, it is for sale on in the Kindle store, but if you have a Kindle, or a Kindle Fire, and you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Already in withdrawal

I have been a daily user of Google Reader for the past few years. It's been great! I have a whole list of 20 or so blogs I follow, and I can easily skim over their new posts and read the ones I want to read. But now Google has announced that they will kill Reader on July 1, and I can feel myself shaking with dread.

The general consensus is that Google couldn't find a way to make money from Reader, and so they're killing it to free up those developers to move on to something more profitable (more than zero is not hard to beat).  I'm looking for silver linings, and hoping this will mean opportunity for a smaller company to step up and fill the huge void in so many lives. A friend recommended Feedly, and I have been checking it out, but I'm not sure yet.

Feedly does let you import all our Reader subscriptions, which is nice, and they sent me an email with some useful info on using their product, so I have hopes.

But I'm still a little afraid.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Go ahead, make my day!

Have I mentioned how much I loved reading my own reviews? Naturally, I prefer the positive ones, but  even a bad review has some payback, in that the reader cared enough about the book to post an opinion. Lately my first (and still free) book The Sixth Discipline got some very positive,  brief, but sincere-sounding reviews, mostly on Amazon, which is where most of my sales are. Here are excerpts from the most recent:

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic ScifiMarch 15, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book, a thriller with kidnapping, murder and greed ...  I started the next book in the series the day I finished this as I had not had enough.

 I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last.March 2, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
The story is captivating and the writing suburb.... It was hard to put down. I hope Carmen has more for us avid readers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A keeper!January 28, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Sixth Discipline (Haven) (Kindle Edition)
First off, I have read many books, and this book is one of my favorites . . .  The main character, Ran-del, was awesome! The second book is just as wonderful, and I would like to read another.

Beyond the Kindle!
I get fewer sales (and thus fewer reviews) on other platforms, but I did recently get an excellent (and longer) review for  The Sixth Discipline on Smashwords. Here's an excerpt:

Review by: Dave Higgins on March 15, 2013 : star star star star 
Unlike some stories that culture clash as a motif, this novel both features action by characters from each culture in both cultures and portrays neither culture as ultimately lesser to the other.

The book tells the story of Ran-Del Jahanpur, a warrior from a forest tribe that focus on mental discipline and aim to live in tune with nature. ... With a plot that moves back and forth between the forest and the city, the novel skilfully balances the benefits and disadvantages of psychic and technological solutions and the cultures that have grown up around them.

I found Ran-Del to be a well-developed character. His social and moral choices are sometimes better and sometimes worse than others, making him neither the noble savage or the uncultured rural. ...

Now that you know. . . 
Now that you know how much authors love reviews, doesn't it make you want to write one? You could make my day! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is the future inventing more than we need or not enough?

I''m trying to decide if this new invention is incredibly clever or incredibly useless. Check out this trashcan that catches your trash. It uses Kinnect, part of the X-Box game system, to recognize that you're throwing something in its direction and then it moves to help you "make a basket" with the trash!

You could make a case for this being a good thing: people will be more likely to throw trash away properly. Or you could see it as a bad thing: people in the modern world already don't get enough exercise and this could make it worse!

I say, if they can invent this, they should just get going on a robot that picks up the trash by itself.

Monday, March 4, 2013

One thing that Amazon got right!

After my last post complaining about Amazon's policy change on affiliates and free Kindle books, I thought I would post on something Amazon got right.

One of the features that almost all ebook vendors offer is the free sample. You can download the first chunk of most books (the size varies, but it's usually at least the first chapter) and read it for free, to see if you want to buy the book. If you ask me (or even if you don't!), I think this is the main reason self-published authors have any chance at all.  It's also a benefit ebooks have over print books; in a bookstore, you can browse and begin reading, but you have to stay in the bookstore to make your decision.

After you download a free sample to your Kindle and then read it, when you get to the end of the sample, there are links to buy the book or to see it in the Kindle store.  Previously, when you bought a book that way, the book downloaded to your Kindle, but when you opened it, you were at the beginning of the book. To get back to where you were, you had to note the location number at the end of the sample, and then use the "Go to" menu to get to that point in the full book. It was very cumbersome, especially if you goofed and deleted the sample before you got back to reading the book, because then you didn't have a marker of where to go.

Now, when I use the buy link at the end of the buy sample, it not only downloads the book, it deletes the sample for me, and sets my "place" in the book at right where the sample ended.  When I open the book for the first time, I'm right where I stopped reading in the sample.  Exactly the behavior I would have asked for if they has asked me!  My only complaint would be, why didn't it do this to begin with?

Just to highlight how fast technology is changing, here's a photo of a panel on ereaders that I was on at the Baltimore Book Festival in 2011. Back then the way samples were handled after you bough the book would have been one of my peeves about the Kindle, but now it works great!

I don't know when they added having a button that says "See this book in the Kindle store" at the end of the free sample (as well as a buy button), but I like that, too, because I don't always remember how much the books costs. I'd be interested in knowing if all Kindles have these new features, or if the programming is unique to the Paperwhite. If anyone knows, please post a comment!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Has Amazon shot itself in its metaphorical foot?

Okay, so today, only one book is free, The Sixth Discipline.  It's free because of price matching, not because of a Kindle Select promotion, which is why it's free almost everywhere it's for sale.

This latest promotion was only moderately successful. In spite of King of Trees reaching #33 in free Kindle science fiction books, I still gave away only a few hundred copies, over the two days, with almost twice as many on the 28th of February as on March 1st. In addition, the numbers of free downloads for The Sixth Discipline have dropped by a little more than half since March 1.

Interestingly enough, March 1 was when Amazon started a new policy for their affiliates. Amazon affiliates are websites that have a formal arrangement with Amazon; they put links to Amazon products on their pages, and they get paid when people use them. The new policy says that if those websites have too high a percentage of customers clicking free ebook links, they will be penalized finacially. The Digital Reader blog post explains the specifics of it better than I can, but what it means at a very basic level is that links to free Kindle books are now poison for blogs that are Amazon affiliates.

My numbers for the past three days suggest that Amazon's new policy means that it will be much harder for authors to use free promotions successfully.  I don't think I'm the only author to notice this, either, because although The Sixth Discipline's numbers have dropped, its ranking is still about the same, which must mean other free Kindle books are suffering the same kind of lack of attention. One of the main benefits of the KDP Select program (which requires that you not sell any ebook versions for that title, except through Kindle) is the ability to do occasional promotions. Since it's now a lot harder to promote those giveaways, what Amazon has given with one hand, they have taken away (at least part of) with the other hand.