Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's up Sourcebooks Casablanca?

Sourcebooks is a publisher out of the Chicagoland (sounds like a theme park doesn't it?) Area. Not New York, but they're big, respectable and they have a romance line called Casablanca (one of my top three favorite movies by the way).
Today, as I was perusing through the free books I noticed two books up for free by these guys.  One from 2008 and one from 2009.

Having recently read a post by Kristen Lamb (of #MyWana fame) about why FREE isn't always a good idea (read her blog here) I wondered what was going on.
I mean, Sourcebooks Casablanca is a pretty big publisher (I'd die to get published by them) they sell zillions of Romance novels every year. Why are they offering free books? (both of which I downloaded as soon as I could possibly make it to the one-click button)
Click on the book covers to get these books free today (Don't know how long that will last, so click quick)

Lucky in Love50 Ways to Hex Your Lover

I'm ever curious and trying to learn about the publishing industry, so I put on my Sherlock Holmes Deerstalker hat, took up my pipe (not literally, gross, I'm at the library) and started investigating.

My first resource for new and breaking information. Twitter.
I looked up both authors, couldn't find either of them. Unless Linda Wisdom is a street photographer in London and Carolyn Brown is a Partylite candle consultant. They could be. Romance writers have all kinds of interesting day jobs but I just didn't think so.
Neither seemed to have a strong presence there.

Next stop- Facebook.
I found Linda Wisdom and her twitter link. (she's not a street photographer from London). She had a little blurb up about her book being free today on Amazon.  I asked her why.
Her latest release A Demon Does it Better came out on Jan 1, and she's got another one coming out in April.
Is this free book to entice me to download and pre-order those other ones? Is it to keep me entertained and the author at the front of my mind in between releases?  The timing seems off to me.

For Caro Brown I had to go back to Amazon and do a little sleuthing.  Turns out she's got a new release coming out in April (you can pre-order it now). Her last book came out in September. After using my super secret sneaky spy skills I discovered I'd actually met Ms Brown at RWA's Nat'l conference last summer and have signed copies of her books Hell, Yeah and One Fine Cowboy. (She writes cowboys. You know how I feel about them. Yum) Both of which are on sale for $1.99.

So I ask. What's up Sourcebook Casablanca? Do you know something about when to offer your titles for free to promote your authors that I don't? Authors, have you had a publisher do a promotion like this? Did it boost sales?
Gimme a clue here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Aphrodisiac Foods - It's research, I swear!

I'm a Romance writer. I do lots of research. (and yes, yes you can help)

I download a lot of the free books on dating, sex tips, relationships and this week, unexpectedly, food.  Hey, my characters need to be well informed on all the arts of love. The series I'm working on now is about sexy chefs.  So I could not pass up the free reads on sexy foods.

Titles: Mrs Nices' Sexy Vegetables (Sexy Foods: Eat your Way to Ecstacy) & Mrs Nices' Fruits for Fruitiness
Author: Judy Marks
Genre: Umm, Self-help Cookbooks?
Publisher: Self pub
Mrs Nices' Sexy Vegetables (Sexy Foods: Eat Your Way To Ecstasy)Mrs Nices' Fruits For Fruitiness
I certainly learned a lot about the aphrodisiac properties of  fruits & veggies (and other foods that we don't have a good category for like beans and mushrooms) and I now know a whole lot on the history of apples.
Some of the foods listed had some fun details from history on why we believe they have qualities to increase the libido, others had a couple of sentence blurb. I felt like the author got a little lazy with the veggie book in this, just wanting to throw in some recipes and fill up the pages.
My personal favorite entry was the bit about onions. Since today most people think of onions as a turn off (stinky onion breath is the worst), it was interesting to read about how Ancient Greeks and Romans used it like viagra.
Also, I love that I now know the ancient Aztecs call the avocado plant testicle tree.
I didn't like the authors punctuation/grammatical error in naming her books.  Her 'name' is Mrs Nice, thus her books should be called Mrs Nice's blah blah blah. But nobody's perfect. As I found when researching this semi-notrious author. To see more read this article in the Guardian. Seems our friendly author "was, until recently, married to the notorious drug smuggler Howard Marks..."
My guess is she's just trying to find a new way in the world by publishing ebooks.  She's got a whole series of Mrs Nice titles which are a priced a bit too high for what you're getting (unless of course you got them for free, then it's just right.)
My recommendations:
I can't tell you to one-click this one, it's only free for Amazon Prime members. But keep and eye out, Mrs Nice seems to be doing some promotional marketing work, and I bet these books will pop up again for free for everyone.
This little, quick read, is a nice start if you're interested in researching sexy foods, but don't pay for it, as you could get a bunch of the same info by searching the internet, watching a little Food Network and perusing your cupboard filled with cookbooks. (Oh, you don't have 42 -to the third power-  cookbooks in your kitchen where your food and dishes should be?  Well, come on over to my house. I'll share)
I give this one three stars.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I got no problem with FREE!!!!

If you're here, you know I love free ebooks (If you're here and you didn't know that look up a bit, yeah, right there, name of the blog... LOL).
I read an extremely interesting and useful post by Kristen Lamb, my own personal guru on the world of becoming a successful (and published) writer.
Here's what she has to say about FREE!!! Ebooks.

"FREE! has no power in the publishing world unless there is an impetus for consumers read then talk about our book so more books can be sold. "

True that.

Read the rest of the post here --> What's the Problem with FREE?
It's especially useful to published authors considering doing a free promotion, but it's also insightful for readers of free books soo.

I posted my comment on her blog (because, yes of course I want a FREE critique of a bit of my book), but as I posted I realized a great new truth.  By reading and blogging about FREE ebooks I've learned a whole ton about the publishing industry and the craft of writing.  I'm not sure I'm ready yet to join the Indie book revolution, but if I ever do, I have a pretty good understanding of how to put the book together, how to market it, and how to get some sales (and not because I read one of the free ebooks on How to Sell a Gajillion Ebooks on Amazon!)
You my readers, and hey, you, the authors giving out free ebooks have been my teachers. (Oh, and all those savvy commenters on Kristen's Blog)

I have a teeny tiny problem, in that I have maybe a good 500 books on my Kindle that I may never read, just like many of the people leaving comments on Kristen's blog.  So, I'm limiting myself to two new books a day from here on out.  That's gonna be really tough and sometimes I will fail, but let's see where it goes.

Here are the free books I'm debating on downloading today.
Click on the book cover to go to the Kindle page in Amazon. Remember if you aren't reading this the day I published it check the prices, as many free books are a promotion and prices go up later.

Leave me a comment let me know which two you think I should download. (and then pick a few for yourself). Happy Reading.

A Brief Moment in TImeGone West (Destiny's Dreamers)Finding Eden (The Eden Hall Series)
Mrs Nices' Sexy Vegetables (Sexy Foods: Eat Your Way To Ecstasy)THE REBEL AND THE RICH GIRLApocalypse of the Heart

Two Weeks At Gay Banana Hot SpringsHe Kissed Me Between the Geraniums and the DaisiesNight's Vampires and Werewolves
The OceanBlame it on TexasReplica

Master Of ParadiseShe-Wolf, An Erotic RomanceCrazy For Trying
Annie BeginsThe Mind Readers, A Young Adult Paranormal RomanceNorth Rim Delight (A Vet Tech Romance)

Scoundrels' Bargain (Historical Romance)Silent ScreamWindswept
Right Name, Wrong ManTouched by FireThe Mach Band Region

Love On the HighWay- a True Romance love story<--- I'm irritated this this one looks like a pretty good story, but the author couldn't bother to make the picture she bought look like a cover and put the title and her name on it. (So I probably won't download it)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Atta' Girl

Way back when I first started this blog (twenty days ago) I reviewed a short story I found on Amazon and gave it two stars.  I thought the writer and her story had a lot of potential, and I said so.  Who knew anybody actually ever listened to me?
A few weeks ago the writer contacted me and told me she'd updated the story and would I consider taking another look at it.

Writers, that's the way to do it. (if you are actually gonna look at readers reviews and do something about them. Which I don't recommend, but if you have to, do it this way) No inflammatory remarks, no twitter smear campaigns, no blanket emails to try and get a group of friends to make my reviews look bad.  Simply a polite convo letting me know she'd been working to improve her craft and would I mind reading her new and improved story.

Editors - you should sign this author up.  She'll be easy to work with, wants to be the best writer she can, and knows how to handle negative feedback in a positive, career boosting way. (I'm looking at you Harlequin editors)

Title: Text Order Bride
Author: Kirsten Osbourne
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Self-Pub
Length: a new an improved 15,000 words (about 44 pages)

Text Order BrideSix foot two, Texas Home-Ec teacher Amanda feels like love has passed her by, until she's set up on a text date with Jason, a dairy farmer in Wisconsin.

I'm pretty sure the author has captured the feeling of gajillions of unattached women in America. No, not everyone is looking to get married and have kids, but those that are, and haven't found the loves of their life will like both the hero and heroine of this story. We get a whole lot of the long distance courtship, way more of the characters motivations, and a teensy bit more tension. (I still want some more conflict.)

I like the improvements made in this updated version so much that I'm hoping the author works on it some more and turns it into a full length novel.  I'm thinking Harlequin's American Romance line here.

I would like to see a bit more on why Amanda feels like she and Jason would have a loveless marriage. And I want Amanda to be a little bit stronger female character. I still don't like the part where she asks him if she can use the loo before their wedding night begins.  Tell him sister, then go have a little nervous breakdown behind close doors.
I also think that by expanding the story into a novella or full length book it would help to eliminate the jumps in POV. There was quite a bit of head hopping, which is a no-no unless your Nora Roberts.  But if it's longer we can spend whole chapters in Jason's head, not just a few blurbs.

Oh, and I still think this is one of the better self pub book covers I've seen.

My recommendations:
If you like sweet romance and are looking for a quick read definitely one-click this.  If you already have it on Amazon (they won't let you 'buy' it again) you can also get it at AllRomance.com in their free section. (which is where I got it.
I give the new version of this story, not two, not three, but four stars.  You go girl.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Ultimate in Free Ebooks

I took a free class at the library today (Thanks, Sheena), and was reminded of the Carnegian awesomness.
I sit at the library almost everyday working, reading, blogging, I even got asked out there once.
I'll let you in a little known secret. The library is THE BOMB for free ebooks.

No, not paperbacks, not hardcovers, not encyclopedias. Ebooks.
Even if your library is some tiny one room backwoods library, if it's funded by the government they probably have something like Overdrive. Basically a giant online library where you can check out books to read on your computer or e-reader.

My local library is called Anythink.  I heart it.  It's not the kind with stuffy old ladies who have chains hanging off their glasses walking around shushhing you. Join the revolution (and the 21st century).
(Click on their pretty picture)------------------------->

One of the problems with the world of free ebooks is sometimes (always) it's hard to get the hot new bestseller. Every once in a blue moon, when the Jupiter aligns with Mars some publisher will do a promo giving away a hot new book for free.The chances are few and far between. Not so at the library. It's sort of their responsibility to make sure their collection is current and trendy (it's actually a real job called Collection Development, of which I can only dream) so patrons have access to the latest and greatest books out there. Sometimes you have to wait just a little while, since the library only has so many copies and with bestsellers everyone wants to read them.  My secret- I reserve it while it's still on order from the publisher. (Shh, don't tell)

This month I've checked out these three books from my library to read on my e-reader. Click on the pics to see them in Overdrive.

Click image to view full cover

There are thousands and thousands more titles. I'm thinking of putting a few more titles on reserve. 'Cuz I don't have enough to read. (No, don't look at the giant pile of books on the floor next to my bed. Hey, the 492 books on my Kindle totally don't count.)

"But you don't actually own these books, like you do the other ones you download for free." I hear you say.

Yeah, but 2 things.
A. We all know Kindle removes books you put in your archives (randomly as far as I can tell) and somehow, they actually still own these books not me.  I don't get it, I don't try to get it, it hurts my head.

2. Do you have any idea how many books I own? It's a little ridiculous. So if I borrow a book now and then instead of buying it (or begging for it, or stealing it) or downloading it for free, it's actually gonna help keep my shelf space (virtual or real) free for all the other books I want.

3c. If I tried to buy these books it would have cost me...let's see, add the 3, carry the 1...where's my calculator?  Needless to say too much money.  Whereas my library membership is ffffffrrrrrrreeeeeeeee.
When you download library books they are never late (it automatically returns itself after a specified number of days) so there is no chance of overdue fines. (Although, my cool library doesn't even have fines)
Another reason I like the library for ebooks...I think its way better than the Amazon Kindle lending library. I still haven't figured that out. What do you mean I'm a Prime member and I can only borrow one book at a time, once a month?  Whatever, I can borrow zillions of books from the library.

If you are disappointed with the array of free Kindle and Nook books, don't feel like being a pirate (yarr) and your Amazon gift cards from Christmas have all run out then head on down to your local library, get yourself a card and start downloading. (Once you have the card you don't ever have to go back to the library again if you don't want to.  They do have loads of books you can touch and stuff, if you like that sort of thing. Freak.)
What are you still doing here?  Go.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Romance-a-holic's Top 5 reasons to download a book

Hello, my name is Amy and I'm addicted to Romance. Yes, and free ebooks.  (and chocolate)
Trolling through the free ebook selection on Amazon I'm giddy with how many romances are offered every day. Thank goodness so many authors are getting the rights back to their books and are publishing their backlists. (I'm also thankful they want to do some advertising by offering a title here and there for free to entice me into buying more)
There are a ton of self pubbed free ebooks out there too.  I read plenty of those as well. Some I wish only for them to have the resources available, like RWA, a local RWA chapter or some other writing group to tell them to be patient, hone their craft, get some constructive criticism and professional editing before putting it up on Amazon or Smashwords. Some self pubbers are great and I wonder why they haven't gone the traditional publishing route and become Nora Roberts.

How in the world do I decide which books to download and which to skip?
Here are some of my criteria with some notes to authors who are looking for some insight into the mind of the reader
1. The cover
     Yeah, I know it's an e-book and when I read it on my kindle I'm not even gonna see that cover, but just like at the bookstore, I'm attracted to pretty, shiny things. I'll skip write over your book, even if it's got a great plot, amazing characters and the whole world is reading it, if you've had your six year-old kid draw some abstract picture of love for the cover of your book.  Get something professional done.  Even if you don't know any graphic designers or don't have a lot of money there are lots and lots of resources out there for inexpensive covers for your book. If you are designing your own, use a font I can read without squinting.
Make sure I know what genre the book is by your cover too. I don't want a picture of a flower. If you're writing Erotic Romance, show me some skin.  Regency, just the dress, I got it. Western, hit me with some boots or a horse or something!
If your cover looks like something I would pick up at the bookstore pubbed by one of the big six, you've got me.

2. Reviews
    Of course I read other people's reviews, but sometimes I'll download a book even if it hasn't gotten great ones depending on what they say.  If the reviewers say they aren't usually a reader of (insert genre) romance and they were turned off by (insert genre characters and habits) here I'm totally ignoring that one. You as a writer should too.

3. Genre with an interesting twist
    I'm a sucker for anything historical,(or Navy SEALs- hmm, historical Navy SEALs...) but especially an out of the ordinary historical. Don't get me wrong, I love Regency, but it gets tired sometimes (like paranormal vampires). But hit me with a historical romance set in biblical times. Yowza. I'm in, pretty much regardless of the reviews.
I love most genres, give me a contemporary that's not cliche with a hero whose been burned by his ex. I swoon for a good erotic, but don't want to read about how she'd never had good sex before this.  Paranormal? Please don't try to sell me another vampire book, unless you've got the greatest new and improved take on the genre (and your vamps don't sparkle).  YA? This heroine better be kicking ass and taking names if I'm gonna read another dystopian.
I guess I'm really asking authors here to write an amazing book. You can do it!

4. Writer's and Book's Credentials
Mention this in your blurb about the book. Was this book nominated for a RITA or a Golden Heart? Automatic download. Did this book or writer win any other awards. I'll probably try it out. Has the writer been previously published and is either putting up their backlist or is dropping out of traditional publishing?
Build my trust in you and your book (but not in a lengthy diatribe. Just one sentence will do)
Have reviewers and bloggers liked this book. Make sure to tell me, but do it short and sweet.

5. The Blurb
    I hate it when the blurb is so vague that I actually have no idea what the book is about.  Be specific, make sure I know who your characters are and what kind of situation they find themselves in.  Don't give away the ending, but also don't leave me with a cliffhanger question.
               Will Emma and Billy-Bob be able to defeat their fear of commitment and share a life together?  Blurgh.  Of course they will.  This is ROMANCE. (and if they don't, I'm gonna be pissed)
Don't fill your whole blurb space with an excerpt. I have a hard time understanding the plot from a one paragraph selection from the middle of chapter 47. Sure, gimme a little selection to see if I like your writing style, but if I really wanted to know, I'd hit the 'Look Inside!' to see.
Did you get great reviews on your book. Super, tell me (see number 4) but don't take up all the space. I still want to know what the danged book is about.

Bonus Tip
 Don't give me a warning about your book or you as a writer. (unless it's clever and funny - See Mel Schroeder's warnings for an example) I should be able to tell from your nicely detailed blurb whether this is an 18+book or a sweet romance.  Don't warn potential readers off your book, but do let them know what inside.

Based on these guidelines here's the books I chose today.  See if you can figure out what drew me to them.  I'm only giving you the covers here (since this is my number one criteria).

Wild Mustang ManSeduction on the Cards
Iron Palace Empress - A Romance NovelSEALed Justice - Book One Of The Jason Turner Saga
Fresh Powder (Irish winter romance)Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many
The Narrow PathHighland Mist (Druid Glen, Book One)
Dead Man's Tattoo A New Dawn In Montana
Marrying the Musketeer (All for one, and one for all)Amanda's Blue Marine
Golden Chances Book 3 - The DancerRUSHING

Did you figure it out?  I'll give you a hint, at least one of these books won a pretty cool award, one is backlist. One bought a cover from a model named Jimmy and one is Amish (which is totally hot right now)  That's enough hints.
Which ones are you gonna one-click?