Reader Engagement to Be the Next Big Thing

Amazon ™ just today announced in a letter to its authors, that instead of their previous method of reimbursing authors for borrowed books, they are moving to a system that awards a certain amount per page of the borrowed book that was read. Few authors realize how often a book -in fact this is true even more so with bestsellers – does not get read.

People buy a best selling author because everyone else is buying it: word of mouth, reviews, and several obtuse factors (“I want it on my shelf”) can all lead to the purchase. But often there is not enough due diligence.  Too frequently there is not any questioning about whether you would actually enjoy reading that best seller. Indeed romance readers are far more likely to read to their HEA ending of a romance, than the typical best seller.

But as Amazon with its KU (TM) program and others move to reimbursing authors based on reader involvement, the question becomes, how will worth be translated into metrics like pages read? Will pictures count for 1000 words, or none? That will effect coffee tables and children’s authors.  Will dialogue-intensive genres like romance get a bonus (i.e, more pages) or, as I expect will happen with Amazon’s page count method, will they be penalized?

As a writer of mostly nonfiction, I wonder what will become of information intensive books in which chapters 10 and 13 may be more compelling than  Chapter 3? I have faith in technology to be able to eventually handle these issues, but in the interim, when retailers make business decisions based on imperfect technology, this could really impact the field, more than people imagine. Will the next James Joyce give up because his readers put the book down after 8 pages, only to pick it up a month or two later?

Overall, I think that big data will win the most from this, and it will be a way to commoditize writing content, that the distributors have only dreamed of until now. Will writers make two cents a word (at least for borrowed books) or three, and will an upstart company, paying more per word, be the next Amazon? It is a slippery slope that the retail giant has embarked on, and it depends on Jeff Bezos and his peers, and how well they play their hand, and whether a free market economy can bring out the best in writers. I believe this move could easily be the kind of over reach that opens the door to more competition, buy we shall see.

 

Independent Publishing in the Year 2015

I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning on self publishing my upcoming Non-Fiction book Overcoming Anxiety, and I noted the changed landscape of the publishing industry. I promised to update and share the information I learned as I picked it up. Reader beware, at the speed of a flash, these things are changing so everything I say here will be outdated by the time I push the publish button on WordPress.

One most noticeable difference is that Discoverability is now the buzz word. There are millions of digital books flooding the market and the gatekeepers have changed.  While previously you needed to send ARC’s to bookstores and newspapers, the gold standard was Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times. You also wanted your legacy publisher to buy you shelf space near the front of the store. Blogs were a nice niche place to get reviews, but they were often seen, with the exception of a few of the bigger ones, as rather frivolous and really nor important.

in 2013-2014 it became more necessary to get plenty of reviews, to get promoted on a site know as Bookbub (which reached over a million digital readers and could be targeted), and to write series, as they were the engines of online sales. For reasons I won’t go into now, even that changed and independent publishing got much harder. It no longer was a gold rush.

Bookbub‘s success (it now reaches over 2 million subscribers) meant that it had to get picky and expensive. You still made your money back and more if they “picked” your book but it was an expensive outlay for the struggling indie author. But getting picked meant, among other things, that you needed at least five substantial reviews, a certain length of book, and the most convincing book description, since you were often competing with 19 other authors for one opening (nowadays there is no specified number, but in a recent Q and A on Kindle boards Bookbub admitted that in a competitive area like contemporary romance, typically 100+ reviews were the norm

To make matters harder, how was a new independent author to get all those reviews? The multitude of authors with whom you are competing all turned to niche blogs to get reviewed, which worked for a while, but then all these bloggers were swamped with books to read after they came home from their day jobs.  Soon getting five reviews in the first few weeks became hard, and when the goal posts moved again (Bookbub‘s success squeezed your success out) – there was no way to get 100 reviews, except by giving away free books in the tens of thousands.  The free giveaway worked briefly for increased sales and definitely for more reviewers (including more negative ones) but Amazon changed the algorithms and the way affiliate referral were made, and so free books, while still a good idea with a series, became much less useful.

When I return to this topic I will talk about the trend to lend (especially on Amazon) instead of sell, and to other issues only briefly touched on here.

Review of See Bride Run by Charlotte Hughes

See Bride Run! is the latest book by Charlotte Hughes, and I enjoyed this book, which was a quick and funny read. It can be read in one sitting (it is 211 pages long) and is really a classical romance.

Charlotte has the ability to paint characters that are both funny and 3 dimensional. She writes great dialogue and keeps the plot moving. In this story she has a prologue in which the protagonist, Annie Hartford, steals the family limousine in order to flee a wedding forced on her by her father. She has lived under her father’s thumb all her life, since he raised her as his only family member.

The car brakes down in Pinckney Georgia, in front of Sam Ballard’s Café.. Sam and Annie go through many of the usual crises/conflicts before the HEA, but the reader has fun along the way.

The book is fun and a quick read, with several quirky characters. I can recommend this book with 4.5 stars.

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See Bride Run!: (Click here for more)

Published in: on January 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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General Hospitable- Soap Opera Surges

I am rather amused that everyone seems so obsessed about who General Petraeus is sleeping with or sharing his smiley faces by email.  This whole affair is more like a soap opera than a real issue, worthy of public debate. It is a reality show run amuck. I think they could have a Bachelor Pad type set up on a middle east base, with the top brass and their wives/girlfriends, complete with candid footage shot by drone.  American viewers could vote them off one at a time, until the last general and his partner get to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

I for one am pleased that the real surge included women in a support role, but I think we would be better off if we put the women in charge of the military ansd politcal choices, especially when it comes to conflict. Men can be so alpha, and the last thing the military needs is a few alpha men trying to “one up” each other. This is, I think, the best argument I have heard in a long time, for cutting military spending.

I really thought the days of J. Edgar Hoover were over, when  the FBI had dossiers on all the politicians and could use them as they please, to end or build someone’s careers. This was the slippery slope we started back down when we made getting a warrant unncessary during the Bush and Cheney era. Everybody said, “hey, don’t worry, it will only be used against terrorists.” 

I did not  really expect to see Petraeus and Ossama Bin Laden given the same protections (none) and now we know that the agencies with access to emails and other personal communications will use them to curry favor, and to tarnish rivals.

If they can snoop and blackmail when it comes to flirtations, custody battles, and affairs, who really believes that it won’t also be done for financial and/or political gain? I want my constitution back, especially my rights to privacy.

Emily Dickenson

I think this quote can be helpful. It’s kind of the opposite of anxiety, don’t you think? Psychologists have long understood that we typically find what we look for.

Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 8:53 am  Comments (1)  
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Stephanie Plum Movie

As someone who has met Janet Evanovich and read all of the Stephanie Plum novels, I am waiting with anticipation for the Stephanie Plum movie that is due out in a couple weeks, called One for the Money.

One for the Money stars Katherine Heigl in the role of Stephanie Plum, Evanovich’s bounty hunter protagonist of a series of novels. The first Stephanie Plum movie is based on One for the Money, the first book in the Stephanie Plum series. Irish actor and TV star Jason O’mara plays the male lead, Joe Morelli. Ranger is also played by an actor mostly known for TV roles.

I plan to review the movie when it comes out but wanted to discuss the casting issues here. The original offer for the role went to Reese Witherspoon who apparently turned it down. It is a big career decision to take on a part like this, and Katherine Heigl is likely to be as associated with the Stephanie Plum movie character as Sean Connery is with James Bond, even if she does only a few of the seventeen (at least) sequels that are inevitable.

Sandra Bullock was also discussed, especially by Evanovich fans, as the best choice for the One for the Money lead, but it is well-known that she was out of commission for some time, only recently returning to work on movies, after she had a bad romance.  

Debby Reynolds as Gramma Muzur was also not a first choice. Many wanted Betty White, and I would be curious to learn (does anybody know?) if the first choice was actually Debby Reynolds, or was it Betty White?

I also was surprised that the male chosen to play Ranger was not taller, and why he was not expected to wear his hair in a pony tail. He should have been cast as a contrast to the Jason Omara character, who might be expected to be comparatively more clean cut.

 As I mentioned above, I plan to review this when it comes out and expect I will enjoy it, and it will enjoysome  box office success as fans of the Stephanie Plum books will not be able to resist taking a look.

BookTour.com is closing

While on the subject of eBooks, and changes in technology, I just got an email announcing that BookTour.com is closing. I was one of the first to welcome them when they came on the scene a couple of years ago, and for a while they seemed to be striking just the right chord.

To quote from their email:

“We regret to inform you that BookTour will be shutting down….fewer author tours and changes in book marketing budgets have made our company financially unviable.”

While stores like Borders are closing and ceding territory to Amazon and other eBook vendors, the emerging market for eBooks has put a premium on online promotion and virtual book tours, not to mention social media in general.

For book publicists this is a new wrinkle in the terrain, and raises further the question of what role publishers, publicists, book chains, and Indies will be playing in the new market.

5 Star Review: Nutcase by Charlotte Hughes

As a psychologist I love the opportunity to read fiction that involves psychology. Nutcase is a romantic suspense by Charlotte Hughes. It features Kate Holly, a clinical psychologist from Atlanta. While it has a plot that centers on a serial arsonist, the book is really an ensemble story with a host of interesting and fun characters, and its central premise, that the life of a psychologist is enough to drive anyone nuts, rings true.

The story begins with Kate and her ex-husband in couples therapy. In the first book in the series (this book stands alone fine) Kate and her husband Jay “accdentally” go through with a divorce that Kate intended to call off. But what with a nitroglycerin explosion of her office and other madness and mahem from the first book, the divorce unfolded without protest. Now they are trying to get back together, but her Jay complains that she is using sex to avoid talking.

And there is a lot that kate is keeping to herself. Like that she is being evicted from her office because of the explosision and may have to move to share an office with a psychiatrist ex-boyfriend, who still wants her back. Her dog gets depressed from an empty nest syndrome. Her aunt (who is her mother’s twin and co-owner of a Junk art business) has run off with a con man who is also her patient. Her eccentric receptionist is dressing like a nurse as a dress rehearsal for nursing school, and one of her patients thinks she is Marie Osmand.

These problems and dozens of other unusual predicaments challenge Kate, who just happens to have a mild obsessive compulsive disorder (Monk light) and serve to entertain while the arson plot unfolds.

This is the second book in this series by Ms. Hughes, and in this series, one can see that she perfected the art of writing a series when she co-authored the FULL series with Janet Evanovich. This book is most like her ensemble romantic comedy A NEW ATTITUDE in that it’s also about the support and love you get from friends and family, when the going gets tough; it is also just as uplifting. There are several therapy scenes in the book, and as a psychologist I thought that they often (while obviously magnified for fictional effect)
not only true to form but also often potentially helpful to the casual reader who has not had the benefit of therapy. I especially enjoyed the vignette where she helps a young gang member sort things out.

I give this book my top rating, despite its relatively striaghtforward suspense plot. It still a novel you cant put down, and what it lacks in dramatic tension it more than makes up for in humor and inspiration. This is a book you will keep on your shelves, so your friends will just have to get their own copy. Charlotte Hughes writes incredibly realistic dialogue, makes her characters always 3 dimensional, and most important makes them so likable and interesting that you are sorry the book ends. The perfect setup for a series that will be a great success.

Book Review- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twighlight by Stephenie Meyer
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (September 6, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0316015849

The first book in the Twighlight Series by Stephanie Meyer is really two different books. As a book about teen vampires, it is essentially a comelling romance. The first 2/3 of the book deals with a forbidden love between an endearing mortal teen girl and the alluring teen male vampire she finds at her new school. Since vampires and humans dont mix well, this chasm between thier worlds serves to keep them apart, despite the fatal attraction they feel for each other. As thier feelings emerge and unfold, thier dangerous dalliance is heightened by the simple fact that Bella, the 17 year old girl, smells so delicious to Edward, her vampire suitor, that he can barely resist eating her. Therefore, because he loves her they cannot be too close. But he brings other virtues that make him the perfect (if unattainable) suitor. For one thing he is (excuse the pun) drop dead gorgeous. Also he has this habit of saving her life repeatedly. The early book is nonetheless a classic romance with very slow movement towards a requited love in which each is more than willing to sacrifice their own needs, for the other.

The last third of the book is a suspense/action/fantasy book in which two warring clans of vampires fight over Bella. Edward and his family are on her side, and a wily nemesis proves a worthy adversary. This part of the book feels so different from the first 2/3 that this evaluator got the sense it might have been better if it had been expanded and included as the second book in the series. It comes out of nowhere and detracts as much as it adds, although the plot is well enough written and a page turner while it is happening. It does not seem organically related to the romance, however.

Meyer has had great success with this series, and this, the first book of the Twilight series has a number of features that help explain her success. Foremost is how likable and believable Bella is, as a teenage heroine. The self-conscious intelligent clutz, who does not know how beautiful she is, is just enough of an outsider to be a compelling target of identification for the many women and girls who cherish the book. The interplay with other teens is often set in the lunchroom, and the rivalries, prom dates, and cars all ring about as true as any teen story ever penned by an adult; who hasn’t experienced these universal problems of finding a date, or a tablemate at the lunchroom? These scenes will make every reader that attended a public high school feel at home. But it is the juxtaposition of this homey, familiar angst with the dark dangerous vampire drama that makes both apsects of this novel special.

Meyer has written a memorable romance and uses the vampire angle to make the forbiden love theme especially compelling, and as a result she is able to keep her hero and heroine apart in a believable way, and consequently she sets up a series in a manner that will allow the relationship chasm to be crossed on a slow and believable way across several later books. As a first book in a series, the story works very well, but that means this single book loses something, since she can not have much closure in this one stand alone book. It’s designed to keep you reading.

Rated 3 1/2 stars

That Chemical Sense

I post once and a while on The Nervous Breakdown a literary site worth looking at, and this was a follow up to my previous article on pheromones, only this time I am writing of love rather than fear:

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/dberndt/2009/02/smellbound/

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment