Top-selling DS Productions Western writers
Nick Wales, ace publicist and expert in all things western, commissioned a painting of the top-selling western writers at DS Productions, and I was flabbergasted to be included. I’m the dude on the left in the purple shirt. Yee haw!
Choose The Correct Verb To Test Your Writing Knowledge – by Derek Haines…
A fun quiz to try.
Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog
on Just Publishing Advice:
With every sentence you write, you need to choose the correct verb.
You can choose between a strong or weak verb or an active or static verb.
Often it depends on collocation and an expectation of which verb will suit your sentence the best.
As with all aspects of writing, you are the decision-maker.
Continue reading HERE
From the blog Lucinda E. Clarke:
Choose The Correct Verb To Test Your Writing Knowledge – by Derek Haines… | lucinda E Clarke (wordpress.com)
Review of ‘Letters from my Attic
In Letters from my Attic, best-selling Aussie author, Gabriel Farago shows readers his creative process through the memories of a grandfather he only knew from the memorabilia left in a trunk in the attic. In this charming little book, Farago details a journey that most writers can identify with. A quick read that will stir your creative juices if you’re a writer, and just entertain you if you’re just a reader.
I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it unreservedly five stars.
Review of ‘3 Weird Marketing Secrets of Success For Authors on Amazon’
If you’re an author, whether you’ve just finished your first book, or, like me, are working on number one hundred, the one unavoidable chore you’ll need to focus on is attracting readers—and getting sales. There are tons of books out there on how to sell books, some of them are useful, but most offer suggestions that frankly aren’t worth the time it takes to read them
That, fortunately, is not the case for 3 Weird Marketing ‘Secrets of Success’ for Authors on Amazon by Shaun Hibbs. I like the way he hooks you into the book by offering to expose the ‘lie’ that most book promoters tell, and then, taking a ‘left at Albuquerque’ as Bugs Bunny used to say in the Saturday morning cartoons, he tells you that he’s NOT going to tell you a fail-safe method for selling tons of books. Now, that got my attention, and made me wonder if reading any further would be worth my time. Because I was intrigued with his rather unorthodox statement, though, I soldiered on, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was the wise thing to do.
Hibbs describes in detail three methods for leveraging your sales on Amazon’s platforms—in fact, the book is more or less a promotion for the giant in the publishing world, something that many of us indie authors already know. Some of the things he suggests, such as finding a genre that is popular, but not overpopulated with writers, I already do with a modicum of success. In my case, I came upon this strategy through several years of trial and error. But, some of his other suggestions were new to me—my trial and error style of marketing my books hadn’t stumbled across them yet, so I thank him profusely for providing them.
As the author says at the start of the book, nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes things work out as planned, at other times, they don’t. But, the race doesn’t necessarily go to the fastest, but to the one who never stops running. That sentiment is indirectly expressed in this book.
A worthwhile addition to your writer’s reference library. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. So, completely unbiased, mind you, I give it five stars.
Interviewed by Nick Wales on ‘Novel Ideas’
Read my interview with Nick Wales on his site, ‘Novel Ideas,’ talking about how I came to write westerns.
New Book Review Schedule for 2018
Throughout 2017, I have been doing a book review per day. I will end the year with a total of 365 reviews, which, when added to the reading I do just for pleasure, will mean that I will have read over 400 books this year. It’s been fun, and educational, but the press of other writing and non-writing projects have taken their toll. When I did my annual eye exam in late-November 2017, I was informed that, while my distance vision had improved, my lack of binocular vision, due to a childhood accident, meant that I’ve been reading with only one eye. Even with store-bought readers, that one eye was just reading enlarged text. I was given prescription reading glasses, which, to my surprise has made quite a difference. What it means, though, is that I need now to use reading glasses, not just for reading books, but when I’m on the computer as well.
Because of this, I have decided to set a new reading and reviewing schedule for 2018. Beginning in January 2018, I will only do one book review per week on this site. I still have to do a lot of reading as I research my own books, and I’d like my eyes to be able to reach the end of next year without any further degradation of visual acuity.
Thanks to all my readers who have reacted to my daily reviews, and here’s hoping you’ll keep reading the reduced schedule.
Review of ‘The Emotion Thesaurus’
Experienced writers know, after tedious trial and error, that it is compelling characters that hook readers on what you write. One of the best ways to get readers to invest in your characters is to be able to show their emotional state. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackermann and Becca Publisi is a handy list of ways to ‘show’ what your character is feeling, without having to expressly ‘tell’ your reader. Whether you’re a beginning wordsmith or a grizzled veteran, this book is a must-have for your writer’s reference library.
I purchased this book about four years ago from Amazon and made it part of my library. I’ve lately been going through these books and selecting those that I think would be of interest to those readers who are also writers. This one is a great time-saver that will give you loads of ideas to improve your writing.
I give it five stars.
Review of ‘The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy-Volume Three’
Writing is hard work. But, getting published, and getting your book read is even harder. The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, Volume Three: The Author’s Grimoire edited by Valerie Griswold-Ford and Lai Zhang is a comprehensive guide to the networking and self-promotion practices that will help writers, from tyro to experienced, gain maximum exposure. Detailed guidance on approaching publishers and agents is useful for those deciding to go the traditional publishing route, but most helpful in today’s publishing world, are the hints on generating buzz for your work, which is quite useful to independent authors.
I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and still refer to it from time to time when I’ve just published a new book, as a reminder of the work that needs to be done to attract readers.
I give this book four stars.
Review of ‘How to Write a Novel the Easy Way’
Because I know that a lot of the readers of these reviews are authors themselves, and because, as a writer, I happen to have a large collection of books on writing, I’ve decided to review some of them as a service to my readers. One of my favorite how-to books, and one that has been in my library for some time, is How to Write a Novel the Easy Way by Jim Driver with Jack Davies.
A brief book by an author, editor, and publisher in the UK, this book discusses the pulp fiction method of writing, harking back to the 50s and 60s, the heyday of pulp fiction, when authors cranked out book after book, not exactly literary fiction, but well-crafted stories for the broadest possible audience. The authors describe easy-to-apply methods for writing stories that will entertain readers, which, at the end of the day is what we writers really want to do.
From character development to outlining and writing your book, you will find this a handy reference for your own shelves. They take the mystery out of mystery writing, and put the romance in your bodice-rippers. I purchased this book from Amazon so long ago, it’s no longer listed in my purchases. While I spend most of my time writing, or reading books for review, these days, I hadn’t picked it up in a long time, but when I did, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were still things I could learn from it.
I give it five stars.
Review of ‘Writing at Work’
Writing at Work: Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job by Edward L. Smith and Stephen A. Bernhardt is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to improve writing skills at work. It covers everything from grammar to improving the appearance of your writing. I use this book in connection with a summer writing workshop on professional writing that I conduct for select college seniors interested in careers in foreign affairs. I’ve found it to be a handy guide, in conjunction with a style guide, to assist students in the task of improving their writing skills.
Whether used for teaching others, or as an individual self-help guide, for the young professional, this book should have a prominent place in the reference library.
I give this handy reference five stars.
Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!
There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.
When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.
I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.
A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.
Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.
The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.
PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.
Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.
At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99. Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.
The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.
Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.
I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.
Review of ‘The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Outsourcing’
If you’re an indie author, or are otherwise engaged in a solo entrepreneurial activity, you might think growing your business (or selling more books) means that you have to cram in more hours of work and learn a whole suite of new skills. Not so. With a minimum outlay of money you can do what many big businesses do; you can outsource the things you’re not good at and spend more time doing the things you do well.
Karen Banes’ The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Outsourcing is a brief tutorial that will help you in the task of finding skilled people to do things for you, leaving you more time to spend on doing the things you love doing. Written in plain words and crammed full of links to resources ranging from dirt cheap to expensive, and with a clear-cut guide to setting your solo business up to take the best advantage of the many resources available, this is a handy reference book for anyone who desires to grow their solo business.
Whether you’re just getting started, or you’ve been at it for a while, you’re sure to find a useful nugget or two of information in this book, so don’t delay; get it today and start taking advantage of all that it has to offer.
This one is a five star addition to your reference library!
Review of ‘Inspired Writer’
Bryan Hutchinson is a freelance writer who shares his views on writing in a blunt, no-holds-barred manner. In Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic With Your Words, he takes the gloves off with some down and dirty advice on everything from overcoming writer’s block to finding your muse (or perhaps it’s better to say, letting your muse find you).
This isn’t a how-to book. It’s a think piece for anyone who wants to write better. Hutchinson’s focus is on YOU the writer, and how to unlock your ability to get your thoughts across in the most effective manner.
If you want to write better, you’re the key, and this book can help you find the right keyhole. It is not the magic bullet that will guarantee your next book will be a best seller; just some no-nonsense advice on how to write what’s inside you in a way that will resonate with readers.
Review of ‘Marketing Your Book On Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free To Get More Exposure and Sales’
Have you written and published a book, but sales are depressing—or nonexistent. Maybe what you need is a way to get readers to notice your book. Marketing Your Book on Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free to Get More Exposure and Sales by Shelley Hitz is a short Kindle book that outlines in easy-to-understand steps a marketing plan for your book, using some of the handy programs on Amazon as well as other social marketing platforms. Hitz shows how authors can use the Amazon Author Page, use keywords effectively to enable more readers to see your book, and many other methods, some well-known to anyone who has published on Amazon’s CreateSpace or Kindle Direct platforms, and others perhaps not so well known.
Along with the handy hints, Hitz has also included in the book a link to a free video tutorial that takes you through the marketing plan—a great tool for the visually oriented learner. While these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll instantly become a bestseller, they will certainly improve your chances of selling more books, and building a following of readers for future books.
If you’ve been struggling to sell your books, this is a worthwhile investment. I’ve used several of the suggestions, and while not all have worked for me, I have seen an increase in book sales over the past several months, so I can say that some of them do work. The one thing that is definite, writing your book is just the first step; marketing it is the essential next step if you want to be read.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.