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.


New! ‘L.A. Ladies’ romantic mystery novel is now available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo!

L.A. Ladies ebook cover

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

Today is definitely a happy day!  After working on this novel for a year–off-and-on–it went live on Kindle, Nook and Kobo at midnight. I have a ‘slight misadventure’ to report, however. Yesterday at a little after 4 p.m. I received an email from Amazon telling me ‘L.A. Ladies’ was live.  It was eight hours earlier than I thought, but I assumed that Amazon must function on Greenwich Mean Time–that’s near London–and it was just after midnight there.  So I activated two advertising campaigns. When I got around to looking at the actual page on Kindle, the order button still read ‘pre-order now’.

Did I lose some sales?  I don’t know.  This morning my pre-orders appeared as sales, so everything is running fine now.

In this novel Robin, who has lived a privileged life in Los Angeles,  begins anew after the unexpected death of her husband and finds herself in situations she never dreamed she would encounter. Love and danger seem to be turning her new life upside down. And the collie on the cover? Her name is Pretty Girl and she plays an important role at two turning points in the book.

Here is where you can find the ebook:




It is also available as a paperback on Amazon.

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.

I spent $40 for a beta reader and am glad I did! Read how this happened.

This post is definitely not about a ‘misadventure’.

I’ve been writing and publishing fiction for almost 3 years.  (After 35+ years writing for corporations and magazines.) I’ve learned a few things along the way and do many more things ‘right’ than I did back when I wrote and published my first novel, ‘Playing for Julia’. This is one of those ‘right’ things.

As I wrote in my previous post, I’m to the beta reader stage for my new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’, and decided to move outside the realm of Friends and Family for beta readers. F&F will almost always tell you that the book is good and they loved it–whether true or not.

So, with some trepidation, I joined the Goodreads Beta Reading group.  Following their instructions I posted a request for beta readers for my manuscript.  And waited.  While I was waiting I read other posts by authors and by beta readers and came across a message from a beta reader named Elle who charges $40.  There was a link to her site, AlphaBeta Reading, where I found an example of what Elle does as a beta reader.  Basically, she goes far beyond beta reading and provides a light edit for a lot less money than a typical editor charges for a line-by-line reading.  I was impressed, but not entirely convinced.  So I bookmarked her site and waited another day.  Still no response to my query on Goodreads.

After a third day with no responses from the Goodreads beta group, I took a chance and sent my MS  in .docx to Elle who I later learned had lived in L.A. for a while. That’s helpful since the book is set in Los Angeles and women are the target market.

Within less than a week she sent a reply with line-by-line comments as well as overall observations about characters and plot.  For example, her comment about using contractions: I should use more contractions in the dialogue because one character sounded too formal. She caught grammatical slip-ups. She noted overusage of words. She pointed out which conversational exchanges should be revised and why. And who she thought “Who done it” as the novel unfolded. (And what she thought when she found out it was someone else!)

She also made comments that I don’t agree with–primarily having to do with minor characters. She suggested that I eliminate some. I love minor characters in books I read!  I plan to keep them in the book, although one supporting character will probably be minimized.

collie dog

Pretty Girl is the collie owned by a triathlete trainer in ‘L.A. Ladies’.

Oh, she made no comments about Pretty Girl, a collie dog that plays an important role in the book.

Perhaps the most important aspect of her reading of ‘L.A. Ladies’ is how she seemed to regard the novel: more as a cozy mystery than a romance.  It’s both, but I have to admit it was easier to write the mystery parts of the book than the romance chapters.  I’m now trying to decide if I should revise the novel in that direction.  Well, I’ll decide that after Christmas.

Overall Elle offered much more than I expected. Take a look at the example of her beta reading at AlphaBeta Reading.

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.

Oh agony. I am suffering from Beta Reader envy but (maybe) finding a cure

Frog gate at Los Angeles River

Why the Frog Gate in Studio City? Well, key scenes in my new novel are set along the Los Angeles River.

I have been following the posts of author Sherri McInnis who, after publishing two novels through traditional publishers, is venturing into self-publishing and telling the world about her experiences step by step.  Recently, she reached the Beta Reader stage and, through a friend, reached out to the 900 members of the Toronto Book Club and Brunch group. 900!!!!  Can you imagine having 900 potential beta readers?  Way way too many. Stephen King recommends having 10 people read a MS and then pay attention only to issues that more than one reader points out.

Well, as it turned out, McInnis had 30 book lovers volunteer to beta read her new novel. As she reports in her blog, she was overwhelmed when the replies poured in. In one of her most recent posts she writes that she’s doing a major re-write, including a new ending.

Now this is where I tell how I am curing my beta reader envy.  I don’t have 30 beta readers–and actually don’t want that many.  I don’t have 10 either.  I have two: one is an online seller of children’s books, the other a playwright.  The bookseller I met at Sisters in Crime L.A. recently.  I beta read the playwright’s most recent play a couple of years ago and she volunteered to read my newest novel two days ago. I am also hopeful that I can convince my two sisters to beta read for me. None of these four lovely ladies, however, are part of my target market: 30-50 year old women who like romances that include mysteries with a rough collie dog as a character, too.

So I asked for advice about how to find beta readers at the two online authors groups I belong to and several people mentioned just throwing the request out onto Twitter and Facebook. Well, asking for beta readers on the wild world of the Twitter feed is scary, so I haven’t done it yet–although this post will go into the Twitter feed. Goodreads was mentioned by one person, but, alas, some of the beta readers on Goodreads have turned out to be trolls, according to a couple of reviews I read.  I still may go the Goodreads route for at least one beta reader though.

I am now seeking a solution on Facebook.

At this point I have to confess that although I have published several books, including 2 (‘Working After Retirement‘ and ‘New Vampire Online‘) that made it briefly to best-sellerdom in Amazon sub-categories, I had never done much with my FB author page. So I set up a promo for my Annie Carroll Author  page with a budget of $4 a day for 10 days. It’s now day three and it appears that each ‘Like’ is going to cost me .90-$1.

Okay. The next step in my plan is to spend a little money–less than $30–promoting a post asking for Beta Readers.  Hopefully some of the women who ‘Like’ me during this current promotion will be willing to volunteer to beta read.

If you are interested in beta reading my novel, contact me by using the Comment section near the top of this post.

I will let you know how this works out.

Before I do that, however I have to put on my Grammar Nazi hat and finish revisions of the novel.