Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rebirth of the Short Read

How times change! By times, I really mean trends. Not two years ago, I emailed a well-known promotional site for eBooks and asked if it was possible to have my short story, Edge of the World, promoted.


The site owner’s reply was swift and to the point: he did not bother to promote shorts because no one wrote or read them any more. His opinion was based on his long-term experience in the business. He advised me to offer a full novel as a free download. It did not matter that I was willing to pay the same price as I’d pay to promote a full novel.

Fast forward to the present. Go into the Amazon site and click on Kindle Store. Scroll down on the left panel to Kindle Short Reads. In parenthesis, you will see the number 1,194,877.  That is the number of short reads being offered by Amazon at the moment.  That’s right. There are over a million shorts featured on Amazon!



Two years ago, the shorts on Amazon were mainly offered by self-published authors on non-fiction topics such as do-it-yourself soap making, organizing projects, cooking recipes, etc. I wrote my first fiction short with the idea that someone who might not be tempted to spend $3.99 on my full novel, would test the waters with a free or 99 cent story.



I have found many readers for my novels in such a way. My short story Edge of the World is an intro into my Daniel’s Fork series. My recent Vampire, Not Monster is the prequel to Angel’s Guardian. Readers who read these shorts, often become fans of the full-length novels. Others find my work not to their taste, and move on without having incurred the expense or the time investment.

It seems that since that “experienced promoter” gave me his take on shorts, the traditional authors have discovered the value of offering shorts as promotional tools. A quick scan of the Kindle Shorts menu shows that Amazon sorts them into groups by reading time and estimated by number of pages: 15 mins, 30 mins, 45 mins, 1 hour, 90 mins, and two hours or more. 

This is great because the reader might not want to invest three days on a book, but he or she might not care for a 15-minute read either. I personally like a two-hour read. If you want something to keep you busy on the commute train ride home from work, a shorter read might be your thing.

Now, go back and click on the “Two Hours or more” shorts (65-100 pages) and scroll down and over the next few pages. What do you notice? That’s right! Some of the top best-selling traditional authors are offering shorts. 

As I write this post, the #2 listing is J.K. Rowling (Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies). A few covers down is Catherine Coulter’s The Resident Evil at Blackthorn Manor. A few more scrolls down is Debbie Macomber’s The Apartment. On the next page is Diana Galbalon’s Virgins. Other authors that you will find if you keep scrolling will be JR Ward, John Grisham, Lauren K. Hamilton, Craig Johnson, and many others.




Short stories are not just for your high-school lit class any more. They are growing in popularity for many reasons. First, they do not require a large investment of time. Many of today’s readers like starting a story and finishing in the time it takes to get a suntan or ride a bus to work. 

Next, short reads normally entail a much smaller cost, anywhere from free to $2.99, with your traditional authors pricing them a few dollars higher than your self-pubbed ones and rarely offering free downloads. 

A short is also a great way to test the author’s style and quality with little investment on your part. I always know whether I like the author or not, or if the series is one I want to read, after reading only a chapter or two. 

My own short story Vampire, Not Monster introduces two important characters from the Angel’s Guardian novel, and it gives the reader an over-all feel for the series. If you don’t like the short, you will probably not care for the novel.




Finally, shorts provide extra material that often could not be worked into a complete book. Often, the story develops a side character that fascinates us; one we want very much to see again. An example of this is the short  Father Mine by JR Ward. The main characters are the vampire warrior Zadist and his mate Bella. These characters already have their own novel, but I wanted to see more of them. This story is one of my favorites because it fits seamlessly into the long series.



Now, having touted the virtues of the short, I must also touch on the commercial aspect of the Amazon lineup. The listings are peppered with a great number of erotica. It seems that anyone who can come up with a few pages of step-sister and step-father porn  (excuse me) erotica, has done so. 

This is not limited to just Amazon. The Smashwords listings and many other sellers are also crowded with short pornographic work masquerading as "erotica." Please, do not let this be an obstacle. Scrolling down is easy and costs nothing.

Many of the short reads are non fiction, not short stories. Many are manuals. For instance, there are shorts on recipes, Temple Run secrets, wilderness survival, Twitter use, blah, blah, blah. There is even a short on how to make your own Cannabis extract. Still, this is not bad because whatever your taste, you’ll find something to suit you.

Below are some FREE and $0.99 short reads I thought you might like. Most are Amazon links but not all. I chose stories with good reviews and some by authors whose work I like. My own Edge of the World is there too. Enjoy!


$0.99 at Amazon



FREE at Amazon. This is an anthology of shorts.



FREE at Amazon


FREE at Amazon


$0.99 at Amazon



FREE at Amazon


$0.99 Here


FREE at Amazon


FREE at Amazon


FREE at Amazon
FREE at Instafreebie


FREE at Amazon



FREE at Amazon
FREE at Instafreebie
$0.99 at Amazon









Wednesday, October 12, 2016

You Have Options!


Do you really need a specific eBook reader?
The most inexpensive eBook reader will still cost you around $80.00, and it will not have all the bells and whistles. Within a year, there will be a newer model out.



 It will be limited by the format it uses. You will be bound to buying from the source store, be it Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.
If you are a collector of electronic toys, you will find yourself juggling your personal cell phone, work phone (many agency workers are issued work phones), your eBook reader, and your tablet as well as all the assorted accessories that go with those.

Sales of eBook readers have declined in the last year. Traditional publishers have rushed to claim the death of the eBook and the resurgence of the printed book. The truth is far different. Readers are reading eBooks more and more on other devices!
My daughter tells me that her Nook lies somewhere in the house, forgotten. She now reads mostly on her iPhone. It’s big enough, doesn’t take much space in her purse, and books are at fingertip’s reach with the iBookstore. She has loaded the Kindle App on it, giving her access to Kindle books as well.




If you don’t mind the smaller screen, your best option may be reading from your phone, especially if you are a young reader with great eyesight, and you have a larger screen on your phone. I find it difficult to read from my phone.
Other readers are opting to use their tablets as eBook readers. With an ever-growing number of reading Apps available for tablets, you can actually access every format and eBook seller.
These alternatives allow you to download books from non-seller sites that are sources of Free books, sites such as openculture.com and gutenberg.org (Project Gutenberg). These sites offer free classics by authors such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens in PDF or ePub format.

The benefits of adding reading Apps to your tablet are many. The tablet is a multi-use device. Its screen is larger than a phone’s screen and easier on the eyes. A tablet is not likely to need replacement in a year. Storage capacity may be higher in a tablet. 
Most importantly, you can load several reading Apps to include every format available: in one device you can read Mobi, ePub, PDF, DOC, etc. Finally, you are not stuck carrying around a cell phone, a reader, and a tablet.
One reading App that is totally Free to download and extremely useful is Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). It will read both EPUB and EPUB3 as well as PDF. It works in multiple languages. It can be used to borrow books from many public libraries.  It comes in versions for Apple, PC, and Android. The only con is that it does not read Kindle formats.

A reading App you might try is FBReader. It is also Free and handles all the major formats to include EPUB and AZW (Kindle). It comes for all platforms: Mac, Win, Android, and Linux!

Another reading App for Android that is available totally free is PocketBook. It handles multiple formats to include both EPUB and Kindle.
CoolReader is free (with in-app purchases), no ads. It also opens major formats EPUB and Mobi.
You do not need a Kindle reader to download Amazon books.
You can load the Kindle App to your phone or tablet, and the App is available for Android, Win, and Apple.





Remember that most Apps will not open DRM protected books. The Apps I’ve mentioned are totally free to you. There are no purchases necessary, most show no ads, and all functionality is included for free. You can have as many as you want on your device. 
There are dozens of reading Apps available to you. Some are very good, but the FREE versions give you limited functionality, forcing you to pay for the fully-functional Apps. Most free ones are loaded with ads. The ones I featured are free, fully functional, and supposedly ad free.  


Adobe Digital Editions



FBReader



PocketBook



 CoolReader



Kindle App



Nook App



Kobo App

Saturday, October 1, 2016

I Vant Your Blood!




You can bleed for the American Red Cross. Some of us can't donate for whatever reason, but we can help in other ways.

We can read. That's right. If you can't bleed, you can read!

During the month-long October event to benefit the American Red Cross and the Canadian blood Services, you can buy any of the dozens of Vampire-themed books offered.

Every author featured has pledge a donation from the book sales to either the Red Cross or the Canadian blood Services or both.

My Angel's Guardian is featured. I will donate 15% of all October sales of the book to the American Red Cross. 







 

Please, join us. If you can't bleed, just read! Visit the VampBooks4Blood site any time during the month of October and make a difference.
 

 



 


 



 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Free Books or Not?

As the eBook has increased in popularity, it has been matched by a proliferation of Internet sites that offer you FREE books. To get these FREE books, you must subscribe to the site. This usually costs nothing to you but your e-mail address. 

How do these sites work? How are they able to get you the books for FREE? Are all the books offered FREE?





Many of these books are FREE to you, the reader. Other books are discounted. You'll find books listed anywhere from FREE to $3.99.

Rarely, you'll find a book listed at a higher price. It is usually one that is traditionally published. We, the authors, pay dearly to place the books on the listings. That is how the site makes its money and is able to get you the FREE book. 
Let’s say that I want to  draw readers to my Daniel’s Fork series. I choose the first title in the series, and I run a FREE promo on Amazon for 1 day.





I book the promo day on a popular service such as Ereader News Today. The Ad can cost from $30 to $135 on Ereader for one day, depending on the genre and price of the book.
A promo on BookBub, the most sought-after and successful promo site for eBooks, can run as high as $1800 dollars  for one day, depending on the genre and price of the book.

A cozy mystery being downloaded for FREE will cost the author $458 at BookBub for one day’s promo. There are many sites that cost a lot less but are not as effective.

On the FREE day, the promo site places my book on its newsletter and sends an email to all its members showing that my book is FREE on that day. It will post the book on its website also. Of course, my book is one of dozens featured  that day.
As a subscribed member, you are notified about the Free and Discounted books being featured. Using such services, you may download hundreds of free books a year.
The beauty of these sites is that they send you an email featuring many books on promo and the links to them. All you do is click and download. Below is a partial screenshot of an email I received from BookBub  this week.


This email featured twenty four books on promo. Most were priced at $0.99 to $1.99, but THREE were FREE!

Why would authors pay to give away their books? Simply because hope springs eternal.

Every author hopes that if you read that first book, you’ll fall madly in love with the characters and the author’s writing. You will then buy all his or her other books.

This strategy, one which a few years ago produced many self-published best sellers, worked extremely well for a while. I myself discovered favorite authors Monique Martin and C.L. Bevill when I read their "first in a series" for free a few years ago.

Presently, the proliferation of the Free book has produced a generation of readers who want to read only for free. They scope the sites daily, downloading every free book they find. They rarely buy.

Some download books they have no intention of ever reading, the virtual hoarders of the eBook age. An interesting post on Good E Reader reports that Kobo has found that 60% of its sold eBooks are never opened.

The more expensive a book is, the more likely it is to opened. If the book is FREE, it sits at the growing pile of unopened, hoarded books. 

The problem goes even deeper. Some readers ask for free review copies they will never review. Some ask for Free gift codes from an author meaning to spend the code in another author's title.

Last year, I hosted a Giveaway of Strongheart's Woman printed edition, giving away four copies at Goodreads. Within days, two of the copies were offered for sale as new at a fraction of the book's selling price. This forced Amazon to lower the price of my book across the board to match it!


     

Logic tells you that writers can not work for free anymore than Macdonald's workers or teachers or nurses can. As a result, many seasoned indie authors are no longer offering free novels. I believe that number will keep growing.

There will probably remain a small group who continues the practice, especially new authors just entering the writing market. Those still have not learned the lesson that if you want your work valued, you must place a value on it first.

I will no longer give away free novels. I have a short story,  Vampire, Not Monster which I give away to anyone willing to sign up to my VIP list. I have it listed as Free for a time at various seller links in order to attract readers to Angel's Guardian, my latest full novel.



I also offer samples of three chapters from my full novels at Instafreebie. I do promos on the sites mentioned, usually at a price of $0.99 or $1.99 but no longer for FREE.  

Now, you might ask, where are these sites that feature FREE and discounted books?

Here are the links to some you might like, but remember: sponsor the authors you like by buying their work. You would never work for free. Why should they? 







http://bookgoodies.com/mega-submit/

http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-readers

https://choosybookworm.com/free-ebooks/



Friday, September 9, 2016

New Vampire Romance

Try a Free Sample!



ANGEL'S GUARDIAN


The vampire Maxim makes his home in New York City. Self-exiled from the vampire nation, he spends his days in quiet solitude and his nights prowling the heights and hunting evil, his prey of choice. On a cold, November night, he chances upon a gang rape in a desolate back alley. He leaps at the chance to feed on predators of the worst kind, his favorite prey. But the situation takes a turn he never expected, and soon he finds himself wishing he'd made a different choice on that fateful night. 

Angelica has been on the run for years. Kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring at the age of fourteen, she escaped only to be relentlessly pursued by her enemies ever since. Tonight, they found her. As she lies dying on a cold, dark alley, her only fear is for the secret she desperately hid moments before they caught her. A secret she must protect with her life from her enemies and from the monster that destroyed them and now turns red, fiery eyes upon her.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Calibre is for Readers!


Calibre is a Free App that every eBook owner should have. As a reader, I get great mileage out of Calibre.

Kobo, Nook, iBooks, all use ePub format, but Kindle does not. If you own a Kindle, you might buy a book on a great sale from Kobo or Barnes & Noble, but Kindle will not open it. Likewise, if you own a Nook reader or a Kobo, you are limited to buying books from them because they will not open a Kindle book. 


      
There is a solution to this problem, as you will see. A book I wanted was on 50% sale at the Kobo site. No problem. I signed into Kobo and bought the book. The book was saved to the Kobo library for my account.

I went into my Kobo Library, selected the new book, and clicked on export. The book was downloaded to my download directory on my desktop. I signed off Kobo.

I navigated to my download directory. I clicked on the book. My FREE Adobe Digital Editions app on my desktop opened it. It now appeared in the Adobe Digital Editions library directory. Adobe Digital Editions is another very useful FREE app.


I opened my Calibre program and imported the ePub file from the Adobe Digital Editions directory into Calibre. I used Calibre to convert the ePub into Mobi, and emailed the Mobi file to my Kindle. The whole process took five minutes, and I was reading the book on my Kindle!


Books that you get from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and most sellers, (including Amazon), are often DRM protected. This is especially true of books from traditional publishers. 

This means that when you try to open the book in a reader for which it was not sold, the warning you see below pops up. You are unable to open the book.


The book I bought from Kobo was DRM protected. Since I paid for the book, and all I wanted was to be able to read it, I opted to remove the DRM.

In order to open the ePub book and convert it to Mobi, Calibre must remove the DRM first. It must have the right plugin installed to do so. Good news is that Calibre and its plugins are all FREE and widely available on the internet. 





You can spend money buying the DRM removal tools, but that would be foolish when the best of them are available for FREE as open source apps. DRM can be removed from Nook, Kobo, and Kindle books using these Calibre plugins.  

Calibre is also a fantastic reader, organizer, and manager for books. It can organize your books in just about any order you want. It can open dozens of file formats. It can convert from just about any format into another.



 If you try to convert from one format to another and you can’t, you can usually find a plugin that will enable you to do the task.

Another great advantage of the app is that you can use it to copy books from your Kindle to the computer or portable drive and vice versa. There are also internet instructions on how to transfer books from Calibre to your iPad.



Calibre is made for Windows, Mac, and Linux! If you are a user of, let’s say Ubuntu, you can download Calibre straight from your Ubuntu apps manager.




You can get a Dropbox account and back up your Calibre library so you can access it from any device. I have my Calibre library also stored in an external drive. You might think that is silly, but you never know what companies like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble may do in the future.

Your books should be forever yours. I am paranoid about sellers going out of business or denying me the books I paid for, in the future, for whatever reason. 
I have not even touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Calibre can do. I honestly can say that it is the most useful tool I can have both as a reader. I could write another post on how useful it is to me as a writer.

No, I do not work for Calibre nor make any money from recommending it.  I benefit from the app and feel every reader should too. It is an Open Source App; this means that it is totally FREEEE!!!!
                                        
         Adobe Digital Editions



                Great Site for DRM Plugins
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