Sunday, May 19, 2019

What Makes A Great Novel?

The following post is one I did a few years ago. Going through my file of old posts, I re-read it and decided to recycle it, as I have so many new VIP members who might enjoy it. I did a little rewriting to update it. Hope you like it.


What makes a great novel? There are as many answers to that question as there are readers.


I once read a book that was chosen by my Goodreads group. From the start, the great reviews came in. The group members were having nothing but praise for the book. One woman did not think that 5 stars, which is the max, was a high enough rating for the book.


Several other gushed that a movie should be made about it, and it turns out that a movie was made about it. I was so excited about reading the novel that I set aside a whole weekend to dedicate to it. Imagine my shock when I could barely make it halfway through, and could not stand it any more. I set it aside for a week, and then forced myself to finish it.


I could not understand why people were raving about the novel. They went on and on about how the character would not give up. You see, he was stranded in Mars and had to survive until he could be rescued. I found it exceedingly boring. It had very little character interaction as he was alone in a desert planet.


There was very little description and no action whatsoever. There was no figurative language, no mood setting, no romance, and it was full of endless explanations of the constant rigging of battery systems, H2O synthesis, and the mixing of Martian dirt and urine and feces to make soil with bacteria for growing potatoes.


The main character’s biggest complain was about having only disco music available. He showed very little emotional depth. I would have given the book 2 stars, and the group would probably have lynched me, if they could.


I can also use the example of a quirky little detective story I recently read. It had nothing but raving reviews of nothing less than 5 stars on Amazon. It was full of action and modern, snazzy dialogue, but by the end of the story, I still did not have a clear image of the heroine because the author never got around to describing her. The storyline was all!


To some readers, the story line is all. They love this book, and they would hate the D.E. Stevenson (Miss Buncle) stories I love; nothing usually happens in them. Once again, what makes a great book? My honest opinion is that the reader makes a book great.


A while back, I read a list of reviews on Facebook, done by students, on great literary works. The person who posted the list dubbed it “Reviewers Who Missed the Point,” or something like that. Someone wrote about how stupid Hamlet was, and someone else wrote about Ulysses being a horrible book. Obviously, the Facebook member who posted the list was making a point about how ignorant some readers can be, and feeling pretty smug that he or she was smart enough to understand great literature.


Well, you know what? I happened to agree with the person who trashed Ulysses. I’ve always thought it was a horrible book. Today, it would have never been published. However, I totally disagree with the one who trashed To Kill A Mockingbird.


The point is that greatness is in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. Someone will consider a book great if it has dynamic characters who go through great transformations in the course of the story. Themes of redemption and sacrifice abound in such characterization. Characters that are neither black nor white but a little of each, flawed and yet attractive. Such is the tortured character Zadist, in J.R. Ward’s novels; he is a prime example of this duality. I absolutely love him!


Other readers will not find a novel great unless it has a strong story line as its main element; plot, plot, and more plot. Great detective stories are my favorites. I am addicted to the William Monk novels by Anne Perry because of that element. And how about Karen Marie Moning’s early Highlander series? Imagine falling through a crevice to find a be-spelled, gorgeous highlander who has been sleeping for centuries. You travel back in time to save him, but in the past, he remembers you not! Now, plot like that is hard to resist.


I, myself, need to be transported to other realms, other worlds. For me, it's Tolkien taking me to Middle-earth, or Ellis Peters sending me back in time to a monastery in the Middle Ages or Anne Perry dunking me in the dank, cruel London of late 19th century. I love Monique Martin’s books for that reason; time travel stories are great for this.


Finally, a great book for me must paint mental pictures and do it well. Description can not be sacrificed for the sake of action. A great story must place pictures in my mind, pictures of people, of feelings, of places, of light and dark, of sweet and bitter, of beauty and ugliness. The reason I write is to transfer to your mind the things that are in mine. How can you possible grasp the image if it is not painted for you with my words?


Many writers give new authors the advice of “show, show, show, don’t tell.” Yes, dialogue moves the story. I myself use dialogue strongly and hopefully, eloquently. However, setting, mood, atmosphere, and characters need to be defined with descriptive words; otherwise, you end up with a fast-moving play where at the end, the reader has no idea how to form an image of the heroine!


To answer the original question, "What makes a great novel?"  A great novel is one that gives you what you want. One that awakens the "eye of the beholder," taking you places where you haven't been before. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.



Tuesday, April 9, 2019

How to Load Non-Amazon Books Into Your Kindle

Recently, I gifted books to those loyal members of my VIP list who had  60% or higher open rate to my emails. My gifted books are downloaded through Bookfunnel links which allow you to select a preferred format: Epub, Mobi, or PDF by choosing your reading device. Remember that Epub cannot be read on a Kindle.

Claiming my gifted book from Bookfunnel is easy, but getting the book into your Kindle device requires a little know-how. There are 3 different methods you can use.
    a. You can do it the Bookfunnel way by installing the Bookfunnel App.
    b. You can do it the Amazon way by installing the Send to Kindle App.
    c. You can do it your way by Emailing the book file to your Kindle.

I find that the Send to Kindle App way is the easiest, but the Bookfunnel App is the nicest because it places your book in the Kindle's library along with all your other books.


Bookfunnel will ask you to download the Bookfunnel App to your Kindle. This App is very useful, as most free books given directly by authors are usually downloaded using Bookfunnel. The App places your book seamlessly into your Kindle library. 

However, you do not have to accept the App. You can also opt to download the Mobi file at the bottom of the list and use another method to transfer it to Kindle.

***Before you start the process, go into the settings of your Kindle, click on Security & Privacy, and TURN ON Apps from Unknown Sources. This allows you to install Apps that are not Amazon's property. Amazon makes it sound scary with the word "Unknown" because they want you to use only their proprietary or approved Apps.


Claim Your Book Using the Bookfunnel App.

Step 1
Click on Get My Book. The Bookfunnel process asks you "What do you read on?" It gives you a list of choices. Your choice here determines the format you'll get. If you want to save the book to your Kindle, choose Kindle Tablet or E-Reader.

Step 2
Bookfunnel gives you a choice of Kindle readers as well as a Mobi file. (I have a Kindle Fire, so I choose that.) If you choose the Mobi file, it will download to your computer or mobile device to be saved as a file.

Step 3
If you selected a Kindle device, you are now asked to download the Bookfunnel App. Follow the steps given to do that. 

Step 4 
Once the App is installed in Kindle, you claim the book, and it appears on your Kindle library along all your Amazon books. 

Once your Bookfunnel App is installed, you never have to do it again. Claiming your Bookfunnel books will be a simple step.


If downloading the App is something you don't want to do, then choose the Mobi File. You can still store it and read it in your Kindle by following the steps below.



Using the Send to Kindle App.

There is a wonderful App from Amazon  called the Send to Kindle App. You can download it for free HERE.

It's available for PC, MAC, your browser, your email, and your Android device. It takes seconds to install, and you can use it to send any file to all your Kindle devices. 

When you install Send to Kindle, you will not see an App shortcut on your desktop. The command "Send to Kindle" appears when you right-click on any book file or document, as if you were using the "print" command. Click on it, and the App opens.

Send to Kindle is super easy to use. Any book you send which is not Amazon bought, will be found in your Docs tab in your Kindle device (Not in the Books Library).


Sending a Book by Email to Your Kindle

You must first add your email address to your Kindle settings:

Step 1 
Go to your Amazon Account. With your cursor on your Amazon account, scroll down to Content and Devices. Click on it.

Step 2 

Select Preferences, and then select Personal Document Settings.

Step 3 

Scroll down to Send-to-Kindle Email Settings. Here you'll find the special email address of your Kindle. Write it down.

example: Mine is zeecelugo@kindle.com

Step 4

Scroll down to Approved Personal Document E-mail List. This is where your enter any email address from which your Kindle will accept mail. Enter your own personal email.

example: Mine is zeecelugo@gmail.com

Now you are ready to send files, including books to your Kindle.


Sending the book:

Step 1 

Open your Email App and start a new message. Make sure you are writing from the personal email address that you authorized in your Kindle settings.

Step 2

The Send to address is your Kindle's email address.

Step 3

Click on Attach and add your book file as an attachment. Usually, your newly downloaded book is in Downloads. I save mine to Desktop, where I easily find them.

Step 4

Make sure to write "file" or "book" in the subject line. You need write nothing in the body of the email.

Step 5

Click Send. Wait a few minutes, open your Kindle, and find the book under Docs. If you don't see it, do a quick sync of the Kindle. The book will show up.


The emailed books appear under Docs on your Kindle's Home screen. They do not appear in your books library. In your Amazon Account's Content and Devices, they also appear stored under Docs
You can click on any title and deliver it to any of your Amazon licensed devices.

Readers often think their book failed to transfer because it's not listed in the library. As in the Send to Kindle App, the emailed book appears in your Kindle's Docs tab.

Note: If you know how to transfer books to Nook or any other popular reader, I'd be glad to post your input.


Hope this post helps!




Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Kindle Unlimited: A Good Deal or Not?


I am almost done with my trial FREE Month membership of Kindle Unlimited. I had been fighting the urge to try it for a long time.  It only amounts to pennies a day, and Amazon claims you can read all you want for free. That is truly not correct. You can read all you want for $9.99 a month. To an avid reader like me, this could turn out to be a great deal.

Before trying the service, I took inventory of my reading expenditures. In the last six months, I spent $150.69 in paid books. That averages out to $25.12 a month (the amount does not include taxes). Compare that to $9.99 for KU, and KU seems like a great deal. However, a little analysis is necessary.

Of my total expenditure, $131.79 was for books by authors who are not offering their books on KU. Most of those authors are published by traditional publishing houses, but some are self-published authors too.

My entire collection of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody Mysteries is not available on KU. I paid for Game of Thrones, J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger books, etc. In fact, only $18.90 of the $150.69 would have been covered in KU. That’s less than $3.15 a month.

This month I have borrowed ten of J.R. Rain’s Vampire for Hire (at 4.99 each), four of Mark Dawson’s John Milton series (at 3.99 each), three of Alex Lidell’s Power of Five series (4.99 each), and five of Auryn Hadley’s Rise of the Iliri books (3.99 each).

Total read is $100.87. Subtract $9.99 monthly charge, and I had a savings of $90.88. The savings is slightly more because I did not include sales tax. I think I like the savings very much! Keep in mind that I can read a book in a day, depending on its length and how much time I can spare for reading.

If your favorite authors are self-published, you may be getting a very good deal from Kindle Unlimited. Do keep in mind that many self-published authors are not offering their books on KU. KU requires us to keep our books exclusive to Amazon. Many authors are unwilling to miss out on Apple and other online sales outlets. My own books are not available on KU at the present time. That may change from time to time.

An interesting point to mention is that because of the cost advantage of KU, I discovered two new authors I am really enjoying. Auryn Hadley and Alex Lidell are authors I’d never read before, but because I could read them without buying the books outright, I gave them a try. I loved both of them.

On March 7, I examined Amazon’s paid best-selling fifty books. (I took the top fifty from the best-selling one hundred).
--- Only four appear on the USA Today Bestsellers list. These four are published
      by traditional publishing houses.
--- Of the four above, none is available on Kindle Unlimited.
--- 34 of the 50 are offered on KU. They are exclusive to Amazon and cannot be found at
      B & N, iBooks, Kobo, etc.
--- Of the 34, eight are regularly priced at $0.99 cents.

So, is Kindle Unlimited a good deal? A better question would be, “Is it worth it for you?” Consider the following questions.
--- Who are your favorite authors?
--- Are they on Kindle Unlimited?
--- Are you willing to explore and try new, self-published authors?
--- How many books do you read a month?


I realize there are numbers of readers out there who are highly critical of self-published books. They refuse to accept that there are many authors worth reading who are self-publishing. They refuse to try those authors. The rhetoric is often fueled by some traditional authors and publishers who obviously fear the new competition and the way self-publishing has changed how readers buy.

If you are willing to begin exploring on KU, then you might find a great deal. It will depend on your expectations and your discoveries. My advice is that you try the One-Month Trial Membership. It costs nothing and you can quit at any time with a click. At the least, you’ll really get to read for “FREE” for one month! Every month after that, you will pay $9.99 per month, no matter how many books you read.

I will be keeping my Kindle Unlimited membership. For me, it's a very good deal. Some of my favorite self-published authors such as Rick Mofina and J.R. Rain have multiple-book series which are available on KU.  

I've placed the link below in case you want to try the trial membership.




Friday, March 15, 2019

Rose is Back!

The 3rd volume of Vampires in the Mist was released today, March 15th. If you have not yet read the first two volumes, Once Chosen and Veil of Mist, now is the time to hurry and pick them up.

In A Raven for a Crow, book 3, Rose is in more trouble than ever. Captured by the legendary witch Ygraine and delivered to the mad monk Savilla, our girl finds herself fighting a battle not only for her life, but for the survival of an entire coven of vampires!



GET IT NOW


Vampires in the Mist is a steamy, scintillating, action-packed, paranormal urban fantasy. Vampires, witches, terror, and passion are all in a day in the life of Rose from Miami.

Pick up the series, settle down with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and begin the adventure of your life!







Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Free Book?

Does the offer of a Free Book entice you to join a mailing list?
Once you get your book, what is your most likely action?

Pertaining to the book.
a.     I read the book immediately.
b.     I read the book in a few days.
c.     I add the book to my immense collection of freebies and may someday read it.

Pertaining to the membership.
d.     I immediately unsubscribe from the list because I agreed
to sign up, not to stay.
e.     I wait a reasonable time (a month) before I unsubscribe.
f.      I stay with the membership because I’m interested in the author.
g.     I stay with the membership hoping for more freebies.

Pertaining to emails sent from the author.
h.     I delete them.
i.       I have them tagged by the junk filter so I never see them.
j.       I click on some once in a while.
k.     I click on each one to see if there are more freebies.
l.       I click on them because I truly want to hear from the author.


Most self-published authors will likely be surprised at the number of options. I was when I began asking friends, family, and acquaintances about the topic. Their answers populated the above list.

I seldom join a mailing list in response to a free-book offer because I get my free books from Amazon’s Top 100 Free. I only download a free book if I already like the author or if the blurb and reviews really grab me. I don’t want three thousand books in my library. I prefer one hundred really good ones that I can re-read every couple of years.

However, I’m the exception, not the rule. I do know readers whose digital libraries have thousands of books, most of them unread. They take special pleasure in getting free books. It’s the equivalent of having a digital music library of thousands of songs. Most of us listen only to about 5% of our music.

As an author, I found this information rather unsettling. I have a few offerings on Instafreebie, a service for which I actually pay. Readers do not pay. They get the books for free.

Instafreebie says they have thousands of dedicated, loyal readers who will populate my mailing list and become avid readers of my work! An avid reader is great if he pays for my work. Otherwise, it’s like funding a reader’s welfare system.

I do understand the draw of freebies. I love Rick Mofina’s books and was thrilled to get several of them as free downloads in Amazon’s Top 100 Free. Now, I keep waiting for the next free offering from him. I’d be really irritated if I paid for the next book only to see it offered for free next week. It’s not that I won’t pay for a book; I buy most of my books. It’s that I feel cheated if I pay and everyone else gets if for free.

One author I fell in love with years ago is Monique Martin. Her first book, Out of Time, was a free download. She never offered the others for free, so I bought each one, some on sale. I bought them realizing that I could wait forever and never get another for free. I loved her work, so I spent the money.

As an author, my expectation is that every free book I give away, will quickly (or relatively soon) be read. Hopefully, one in five readers will love my work and actually buy the next book in the series or try another book by me. Another hope is that said readers will write reviews even if they don’t buy the next book.

Expectations are unrealistic where the numbers show otherwise. Several articles I read last year claim that a free book is ten times less likely to be read than a paid one. Also, the more a reader pays for a book, the more likely he or she is to read it. Amazon actually has numbers that support this. Their system keeps page-read counts for every book they sell/download.

Analyzing my mailing list, I learned quite a bit. It’s important to note that I send out very few emails. First, I was surprised by how many members stay on but seldom or never open a message. Those I believe are the ones that set the filters to send mailing lists emails to junk. They probably never see the email.

A small percentage unsubscribe as soon as the first email arrives. Interestingly, some sign up every time I offer a new title and unsubscribe shortly after. These only want the free books and feel no guilt about working the system.

A significant number do stay and open emails once in a while; these are the majority. Many stay as members and open most messages. I appreciate those and try my best never to spam them.

I have author friends who send out constant emails to their members. They do things like ask questions such as “What is your favorite fairy tale?” and “What topic do you want me to write about?” They claim that readers love to be engaged by their authors. Personally, I don’t want to annoy my readers with silly questions.

My lessons learned determine my marketing strategy. I only give away samples (a few chapters) of my books. A reader will know by the end of the 3rd chapter whether the novel is one he can’t put down. I usually know by end of 1st chapter.

I will gift full books to members of my Beta group. A good beta reader is worth his or her weight in gold, and most authors will be very grateful. I have found that offering books in return for fair reviews does not work either. If fifty readers respond and are given the book, maybe three or four actually keep their word and do the review.

What kind of reader are you? Are you likely to be swayed by the offer of a free book? Do you unsubscribe soon after? Are you likely to buy a book by an author who gave you a free one? Do you read the free books, or do you tend to hoard them?

I’d love to read your comments.

NOTE: If you’re interested in joining my Beta group, email me at zeecelugo@gmail.com.
Beta readers get the book before publishing. I ask them to read deeply and give me their thoughts on how to improve the book before the book is finalized. Beta books must be read as soon as possible so that changes can be made before release date.