How Amazon Prime is now taking book sales away from indie authors. Seriously.

I kbook iconnow we are not supposed to speak badly of those who help feed us, but I want to tell you about the newest ‘benefit’ for Amazon Prime members–all 54 million of them in the U.S. Now those members can read free books–any or all–from a Thousand Book reading list for Prime Members.

This is separate from Kindle Unlimited’s all-you-can-read program of books enrolled in KDP Select where authors are paid by the number of pages read.

These are a Thousand Books selected by Amazon for Prime members only.  A closer look at this list reveals that over 80%+ of the works of fiction are published by Amazon imprints, like Thomas and Mercer.  And most of them appear to be Book 1 of a trilogy.

Very clever marketing by Amazon.  You get Book 1 for free and buy the next two. Book promoters like Bookbub, Read Cheaply and Free Booksy have been facilitating this type of marketing for years.  But it is not so good for us indies and traditional or small publishers and those book promoters. Even Bookbub, which is arguably the most important of the discount/bargain book promoters, does not have a list of 54 million would-be book buyers.

There are also non-fiction offerings in the Thousand Books, including Lonely Planet guides to practically every country on the planet, plus a lot of books about crafts. So if you were thinking about leaving your day job to live off your earnings as a fiction writer, maybe you should wait a little bit and see how this all plays out.

As for me…I abandoned writing fiction some time ago and two of my non-fiction guides, on the right, continue to sell.  The ‘How Seniors Travel for Fun and Profit’ is, in fact, a best seller and has been for over six weeks now. But I think this turn of events will seriously impact the writing future of many indie authors.

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My new book is about retiree travel jobs, but I am not going to do a Goodreads Giveaway this time.

In my previous post I wrote about doing a Goodreads Giveaway for a romance novel I published.  I’m not doing a giveaway with the new retiree travel jobs guide. The cost for the Goodreads Giveaway outweighed the benefits.

This best-selling guide to retiree travel jobs is now on Kindle, Nook and Kobo.

This best-selling guide to retiree travel jobs is now on Kindle, Nook and Kobo.

So here is a capsule version of what ‘How Seniors Travel for Fun and Profit’ it is all about:

Retired? Eager to travel but only have a shoe-string budget? In this guide you will learn, step-by-step, fun ways to make money while you are traveling. And find out how to live for free in National Parks in the U.S. and abroad as well as how to pay zero rent in big cities like London or Sydney and tropical beachfront homes.

More interested in enriching your spiritual life and earning the goodwill of others now that you are retired? Learn about ways and places to do it around the world.

And discover where age discrimination is no problem. There are vacation companies actively seeking Seniors. So read this guide and start packing. Travel fun and money are straight ahead.

NOTE: It is introductory priced right now…but not for long on Kindle,  Nook, and Kobo.


What happened with my Goodreads Giveaway–worth it or not?

L.A. Ladies ebook cover

‘L.A. Ladies’, a romantic mystery is available as an ebook and paperback now.

Like most indie authors I felt as if getting those first reviews for my books resembled climbing a mountain in a blizzard wearing lead boots–one slow step at a time.  Of course, some indies have a very supportive Writers group or belong to a book club or have some other circle of friends and acquaintances who will eagerly buy and review their new novel.  And lickety-split, the reviews pile up fast. (Although if Amazon discovers that the reviews are by relatives or close friends, it will take those reviews down.  And Amazon has been doing that with a vengeance lately.)

So I looked around for alternatives to the slow uphill slog and came across three well-known choices: 1) Kirkus Reviews  2) NetGalley and 3) Goodreads Giveaway.

With Kirkus Reviews the cost is $425 if you are willing to wait 2 or 3 months for a single review which can be published on their website–if you decide that you like the review. If the review is less than favorable, you can decide not to publish it. If you want rush service the price is $575. This all struck me as being a bit pricey for one review. (For heaven’s sake, I’ve heard that reviews used to cost $5 on Fiverr but Amazon put an end to that, too.)  Anyway for complete details about Kirkus go here.

NetGalley was recommended by a woman who publishes romance novels, so I checked it out.  So much better!  For $399 an indie author can post a book manuscript for download by thousands of potential reviewers who, in exchange for the ‘free’ book, are asked to post reviews on the NetGalley website.  Apparently some of these readers also post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. For details about NetGalley go here.

Then I looked into Goodreads Giveaway and it sounded great!  All I had to do was offer to send a  specific number of paperback copies of my new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’ to the winners of a drawing.  Goodreads information indicated that a month long promotion period would result in about 800 Goodreaders signing up for the giveaway.  Goodreads suggests offering 10 books and notes that about 60% of the winners will actually write a review. I noticed that not all authors were offering 10 books; one offered only 2 copies. For more details about a Goodreads Giveaway, go here.

Quickly I crunched the numbers.  The books would cost me 2.69 each plus rush shipping through CreateSpace.  Postage would add a little, I thought, but not much.  I’d send the books using the media rate. So I jumped right in, deciding to offer 12 books–signed copies.  I had already set up pre-publication orders on Amazon and B&N so my publication date was fixed–just two weeks away.  That determined the expiration date for my Goodreads Giveaway. And I decided to make the giveaway available in Canada because I’d sold some books through Kobo.

Oh happy days!  Those lovely Goodreads readers signed up in droves!  In 2 weeks 900+ women entered my Giveaway–twice what I had expected.  And within hours of its end Goodreads sent me a list of the 12 winners.  One in Canada, the others scattered across the U.S.  I bundled up the books and drove to the Post Office where I found that there is no media or book rate to Canada.  It cost $15 to send ‘L.A. Ladies’ to Alberta! In total my shipping costs were around $70.

And now for the results. There are now 4 reviews on Goodreads, three of which state that they received the book in a Giveaway.  The fourth reviewer didn’t say one way or the other whether she bought the book or got it for free, but her review was very positive and she posted it on Amazon, too.  In fact, all the reviews are positive–but there are still so very few. I’ve since heard from a fellow writer in my online writing group that Goodreads Giveaway reviews come in slowly so more reviews may come from this Giveaway.  But the cost for each review at this point works out to be about $30–a lot less than Kirkus Reviews.  I could, of course, reduce costs by not offering the Giveaway to Canadian readers and planning far enough ahead so I wouldn’t have to pay for rush shipping, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.

Now I wish I’d followed the romance publisher’s advice.  I’m going to check out NetGalley to see whether they allow books that have already been published to go onto their site.  Or I may put ‘L.A. Ladies” into Kindle Select and run a freebie sale. I’ll let you know what happens next.


L.A. Ladies now available for pre-order on Kindle and Nook

Tooting my own horn here!  My new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies‘ is now ready for pre-ordering on Kindle. You can find it here and read more about Robin, a ghost-blogger who is re-starting her life after the death of her husband. (And–Yes!–a collie is a character in the novel.)

The paperback edition will published on February 18th, too.

This romance-mystery is available for pre-order at other online bookstores, including Nook and Kobo. Coming soon on iTunes and Scribd.

L.A. Ladies ebook cover

The ebook cover of ‘L.A. Ladies’. It is now available for pre-order of Kindle


‘Speak’ and ye shall find ghost words, typos and other errors

Frog Gate to River Walk Studio City

In the romance novel ‘L.A. Ladies’ Robin goes for walks along the L.A. River. This photo is of the frog gate leading to one path along the river.

I spent all day yesterday listening to the latest draft of my novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’.  That’s right, I listened to it using a nifty feature in Word that I didn’t previously know existed.  The feature is called ‘Speak’ and I decided to use it to see if I could find any ‘ghost words’ in my manuscript.  ‘Ghost words’ are those little leftover words that accidentally end up in revised copy.  When an author re-reads the revised section, her eyes slide right over the ghost words because, after all, she ‘knows’ what the passage says.  The eyes and brain play tricks.

In one writers’ group online a fellow author suggested I read my manuscript aloud, but I wasn’t at all confident that the eye-brain trick wouldn’t happen again.

Instead I decided to use ‘Speak’ and sat here at my computer following the words with my eyes while Microsoft Anna (the voice of Speak and it’s a semi-mechanical sounding voice!) read to me.  Much to my horror, I discovered a ghost word in the first chapter. Somehow the word ‘handed’ had been left in a sentence right beside ‘handing’. I quickly deleted ‘handed’ and kept on listening to Anna. Two other ‘ghost words’ showed up later in the novel and in one other instance I discovered that I’d written ‘on’ instead of ‘of’.  All were fixed instantly. What is also important to note is that these four tiny errors in my manuscript were all properly spelled so they would have gone right through the Kindle Spell-Check and not shown up as mistakes.

Another discovery I made while listening was that in an early meeting between Robin, the main character, and one of her love interests, she sounded bitchy instead of surprised. So I re-wrote that exchange, too. Then checked it again with Speak to make sure there were no ghost words in my revision!

Okay.  If you’re interested in using Speak — and I highly recommend this approach–search Google for text-to-speech in Word and follow the steps to activate it. It’s really easy and can save you from serious embarrassment.

Later: When I posted about this topic on my FB wwriter’s group I learned from other writers there is also a text-to-speech function in Adobe’s pdf reader as well as several free programs available online. I might try them to see if those other voices are more pleasant than Anna’s.

Oh, one last thing.  Anna sometimes reads ‘is.’ at the end of a sentence as ‘island’. At other times she read ‘no.’ as ‘number’.  She apparently ‘thinks’ they are abbreviations.


Results of my search for beta readers–or even more ‘likes’–on Facebook.

As I wrote in the previous post, I decided to search outside my current Friends and Family for beta readers for my new novel.  As we all know, F&Fs will tell an author that they really like the book because that’s what Friends and Family do.  And they might even buy a copy of the book once it is published, because that’s what they do.  But an honest opinion–F&F aren’t good for that.

First I went to Goodreads for beta readers.  They have two groups of Beta readers and following their instructions I listed my novel about women of a certain age finding love and danger and eating very well in Los Angeles. I mentioned the collie, too. The result: Nada. Nothing.  No one in the beta group volunteered to read my novel. I found out, however, that there are people in a separate section of the GR beta group who will beta read and report back–for a fee.  One of them sounds good, so I may send my MS off to her. Soon. I will report about how this goes.

After Goodreads I moved on and sent a copy of the novel, which I’m now calling ‘L.A. Ladies’ to a friend who is a playwright.  Her first response: “Not noir?”  I swear the brilliant Raymond Chandler cast a noir spell over Los Angeles. Well, that was then and this is now. My novel has not an ounce of noir in it. It is a romance with a mystery, a big friendly collie dog and a kayak trip down the L.A. River.  Well, it will be interesting to read further reactions from my playwright friend who lives in Tucson and wants noir.  I’ve asked her to get back to me by mid-December.

Now about Facebook.  I decided that I should drum up some Likes for my FB Annie Carroll Author page before I solicited beta readers from the group.  I agreed to a budget of $4 a day and put a limit of $1 for each Like. Well those folks at FB apparently can’t do math.  My Likes started off at .90 per Like and steadily rose to $1.35 per Like.  In the end I spent about $28 over 7 days and now have 32 Likes–not all of which came from the FB promotion.  And about an hour ago I launched a second promotion for ‘Likes’. This time my budget is $3 a day and FB promises 2-4 Likes a day.

Working AFter Retirement cover

This best-selling guide provides realistic solutions to retirees who need more income.

Meanwhile my non-fiction guide to Working After Retirement continues to sell a year after it was published. It is concise, practical and only $3.99 now.


Test your book cover? 3 ways to do it for cheap.

new vampire online cover

The winning cover for the nontraditional vampire tale, New Vampire Online . The other version had a bright red background.

I have previously written about my Facebook test of 2 covers for my ebook novel, New Vampire Online.   There was an enormous difference between the 2 covers I tested–500%!

And it turns out I’m not the only cover testing geek. A week or so ago, Bookbub, the largest bargain book distributor, published a post in their authors’ newsletter about testing book covers.  Their report includes Facebook, but also adds two other ways to test a book cover.  Rather than recapitulate what they wrote, here is a link to the Bookbub post.

A few months before I did the FB test I had changed both the title and cover on my first self-published novel, currently entitled ‘Playing for Julia’, without testing it.  Originally it was entitled ‘San Francisco Summer ’69’. It is a sexy novel set at the dawn of sexual revolution.

San Francisco summer 69 cover

This is the orginal title and cover of San Francisco Summer ’69. It’s now entitled ‘Playing for Julia’ and the cover is different, too.

Like a gazillion other authors I had looked at the sales figures for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and decided I could write one of those, too.  Then a few months later,  I looked at the covers for Bella Andre’s novels and decided to imitate that graphic style, too.  ( The moral to this tale: don’t be derivative!) I’m now thinking of testing the first cover and title to see what changes it might make to sales.

For whatever it is worth…to juice up sales I decided to put New Vampire in Town ( number 1 in the series) on sale for 99 cents for the month of March, 2015.

Oh, I have another blog that may interest you.  It’s L.A. City Pix–photos of people and places around Los Angeles.