Monday Musings: “Your Books Are So Good, I Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Them.”

will-not-work-for-free-init-ig

This happened to an author of my acquaintance. She got an email from a “fan” and the gist of it was this:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

And, when the author in question blocked this “fan” (and it seems, reported her as an abuser of the return system on ebooks), she sent another email chastising the author for blocking her and forcing her to open a second account (presumably to harass the author further). She went on to say that other authors haven’t been this terrible to her, and in fact, have asked her to be a beta reader because she bought and returned their books, so why does this author think she has the right to do these terrible, terrible things?

Uh, WTF? Lemme tell you something, sweetie. This writing stuff? This is work. This is our JOB. It takes time and effort to write a book, edit and revise several times, get it edited and proofread by outside sources, a cover designed, and the e-book formatted properly. Not everyone has the skill set to do all that themselves. In fact, the outside edit/proofread is essential to producing a professional result. Many time, those things we can’t do ourselves cost actual money. Oh, yes, sometimes you are lucky and have a relative or friend who will work gratis or for barter or a small payment. But it still requires the effort from all involved. That 99 cents you paid? That gets the author a pittance of a royalty, but at least it is something. Again, to a lot of us, this is a job.

Now, I have no idea what this lunatic does for work, but for those of you who do have a job, how would you react if your boss came to you this morning and said: “Look, we love the work you do, we think you are a valuable employee, and you really do help us out a lot. However, we have decided that we shouldn’t have to pay you to do that work. We think it is so good, you should just give it to us.” You think that would fly? Yeah, no. And, yet, this is exactly what this person wants authors to do- give her our work without getting paid. Um, sorry. Ain’t gonna happen. Further, it shouldn’t happen. We put a lot of effort into what we write and we deserve to get paid for it.

She also most certainly should be reported for abusing the system. I worked retail for many years, and you can bet the chronic returners got shut down after a while. You can’t go into a store, buy something, use it for you party or whatever, and then return it, over and over, without being tagged as a problem customer. Oh, and by the way? Threatening to “never buy anything here again (or buy another of her books)” isn’t much of a threat. When you return it, we don’t make any money on it, anyway, so no big deal.

So, listen, honey, get a clue. Those “stories in our heads” are not a gift to you unless we choose them to be. We don’t owe you the chance to read them. We’re not offering them to you for your undying love and admiration. We’re working here, just like everybody else. And, just like everybody else, we deserve to be paid for that work.

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Available now: (and you’re gonna have to pay for ’em.😉 )

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Friday Review: Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)Prudence by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prudence is the first book in Gail Carriger’s “Custard Protocol” series, focusing on Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of Alexia Tarbotti, Lady Maccon of the “Parasol Protectorate” series.

Prudence, known as Rue to her friends, is a metanatural, the daughter of a werewolf and a preternatural. Where her mother simply strips supernaturals of their powers when she touches their skin, Rue not only takes away the power, but is able to use it herself, as long as she is within a certain distance. She is given an assignment by Lord Akeldama, the vampire who raised her. He is hot on the trail of a special new tea that he suspects is being grown undercover in India. He bequeaths Rue her own airship, which she has painted red with spots, and christens the Spotted Custard. With an assortment of her friends, some of whom are less than fond of others, she floats off, determined to find Dama his tea. What she finds is not only a grand new brew, but a plot involving a local uprising of possible supernaturals, a kidnapping, and a regiment of werewolves that she knows only too well.

Prudence is just as silly and wonderful as any of the original series. Some people do think Carriger goes a bit over the top with these steampunk comedy mysteries, and, to be fair, in many ways she does. The Victorian mores and fashions are exxagerated, the characters are larger than life, and the humor is rarely subtle. But the mystery is genuine, the plot moves along at a fast enough pace that you don’t have time to question the silliness, and it is just generally fun to read. I do enjoy good humor, and wouldn’t necessarily want a steady diet of this sort, but it’s a nice diversion now and then.

Steampunk, werewolves, vampires, shapechangers, airships, bloomers (or lack thereof), the distress of matching the perfect hat to one’s outfit, and, of course, a parasol or two- what more could you want in a funny, quick to read, delightfully humorous Victorian mystery?

View all my reviews
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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Wednesday Wanderings: The Librarians, World Ending Scenarios?, Winter in the Middle Ages, and Bad Lip Reading Takes on Star Wars

Quill

Do you watch The Librarians? I do and I think it’s one of the best things on Tv right now. This post on tor.com explains a lot of the reasons why:

The Librarians

The article is a bit sensationalist, but a lot of it is based on things that are really happening. And, even taking the attention-grabby nature of it, it is still rather scary:

Five Things That Are Actually Happening to Our World

This is an short, interesting article about surviving the winter months in the Middle Ages:

Winter Survival

Oh, those Bad Lip Reading folks! Here, they tackle the original Star Wars trilogy, in their own hysterical fashion:

Star Wars Bad Lip Reading

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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Monday Musings: Amazon Rankings: What Are They, and Do They Really Mean Anything?

Ranking

For this blog post, I am going to focus on books as relative to Amazon’s rankings, although all products sold on Amazon are ranked. But for my purposes, and for most of you who might be reading this, books are our main interest.

In one of the writing groups I am in, there was a discussion a week or so ago about Amazon’s rankings. In case you don’t know, at the bottom of the Product Details list (where it lists things like size, weight, number of pages, etc.), you will find that book’s ranking. As of my typing this, my novel, “Circle Unbroken,” had these rankings:

#2,263,828 Paid in Kindle Store 
#20277 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Science Fiction
#39184 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Science Fiction
#71956 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction

 

Depressing? Well, maybe. There were a number of differing opinions on those numbers, and if they are even significant, especially given the number of books that are available for purchase on Amazon at any given time. The other most asked question was whether running a pre-sale helps or hurts your rank- and, again, why is that significant?

Now, Amazon does not disclose details of exactly how their ranking algorithm works. But, there have been many studies and experiments done on the movement of rankings, and there are some pretty good articles and blogs about those. I will cite the references at the end of this post.

According to Amazon, rankings are calculated hourly, which drives some people to obsessively check their ranking. However, sales apparently don’t have an immediate effect on rank. For top-ranked books, the lag is generally not more than a couple hours, but lower-ranked titles may only be updated once a day, and bottom-ranked titles possibly even less often. Additionally, there are predictive elements to the algorithm, and this is where sales history will help you out. A title with a solid history of sales will not see a lull in sales hurt its ranking as much as one with little or no history. There is some evidence that a quick spike in sales due to a good marketing campaign followed by a lull in sales after the title’s release will make the ranking fall faster. A more spaced out launch, allowing the algorithm to collect data consistently over a period of time will give the algorithm something to base its predictive elements on and make maintaining a higher ranking easier.

In an article published in April of this year on the “How To For Authors” site, John Doppler explains fairly clearly how Amazon’s ranking system works for books. The key points, as I see them, are:

  1. Sales rank is relative. A book’s rank will rise or fall due to what other books are doing, not just its own sales.
  2. Higher sales do not necessarily mean higher rankings. Sales history is weighted more heavily than a one-day spike.
  3. It takes half as many sales to sustain a rank as it does to hit it first. Additionally, each day without sales halves the score.
  4. A release day spike can (again, dependent on what the other books in the category are doing) maybe get a book a high initial rank, but steady ongoing sales are needed to sustain it.
  5. Pre-orders count as sales on the day of the order, not the day of release. So, good pre-sales can get you early visibility and jump-start your rank. Remember, after that initial rank is reached, you only need half as many daily sales to maintain that rank.
  6. Kindle Unlimited downloads are counted as sales immediately and affect the book’s rank right away, regardless of whether the book is read.
  7. Reviews, ratings, and price do not affect rank. Neither does enrolling in KDP Select. Ranking is purely a measure of sales and downloads, with slight adjustments by the algorithms.

So, now we know (maybe) how the rankings work. For now. Because the other thing Amazon seems to do is change the parameters of the algorithm on a regular basis. Presumably, this is to counter those scammers who may figure out how to game the system, but it also makes it harder for legitimate authors to keep up. One example of this is the change in how Amazon counts free versus paid rankings. They used to both count toward a single ranking. Now, Amazon distinguishes between the free store and the paid store, and a free promotion that generates a lot of downloads can actually hurt the title’s paid sales rank once the promotion is over. It can, of course, create paid sales after the promotion if the campaign generates reviews and recommendations.

And, just to illustrate, here are my rankings for the same book, four days later, with no sales recorded:

#2,242,603 Paid in Kindle Store
#19957 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Science Fiction
#38943 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Science Fiction
#67442 in Kindle Store> Kindle eBooks> Science Fiction & Fantasy>Science Fiction

So, it appears my ranking improved very slightly, even though I didn’t sell a copy during those days. How? Remember, those rankings are relative to all the other books in those categories during that four day period. I have a small history of sales on this book, and that may have caused me to rise above a couple titles that don’t have that to back them up.

It’s confusing, and Amazon doesn’t help much by not telling anyone a lot about how the ranks work. Are they useful? To some extent, yes, of course. A high rank, especially around your title’s release date gets you exposure on Bestseller and Hot New Release pages on Amazon. A high rank can get you listed in recommendations and suggested purchases. But a quick spike in sales followed by a drop-off will see those benefits fall off quickly as the rank decreases. At the end, it’s another tool. Use it wisely and it can benefit you, now and in the future. At the same time, it isn’t something to obsess over and cause you to lose sleep if your rank isn’t at the top. At the end of the day, sales rank is still relative to all the other books available, and it only helps you on Amazon. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

References:

Doppler, John (2016, April 7) Amazon Sales Rank: Taming the Algorithm, retrieved from http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org

Nightingale, Rob (2014, April 28) 8 Things Most People Don’t Know About Amazon’s Bestsellers Rank, retrieved from http://www.makeuseof.com

McMullen, Chris, (2014, October 19), Amazon.com Sales Rank- How Does It Work (Research Based) retrieved from http://www.chrismcmullen.wordpress.com

Matting, Matthias, (2014, December 3) Test: How Amazon’s Algorithms Really Work- Myth and Reality, retrieved from http://www.selfpublisherbibel.de/

(Image from startupdaily.net)

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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Friday Review: I Got Nothing

Confused-emoticon

Well, that’s not precisely true. I do have things to review, I just didn’t get one done this week. It has been one of those weeks where I have been off by a day all week, and it was just confusing enough to leave me empty today. Next week will be better. I hope.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to my reviews here on the blog. Maybe you missed one?

View all my reviews

======================================================
Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Wednesday Wanderings: Scientists Discover Link Between Brain and Immune System, Librarians Parody Queen, Stephen Hawking Wants to Send a Ship to the Stars, and 21 Novels You Should Read

southernCross_beletsky

The discovery of a connection between the brain and the immune system means new insights to many diseases:

Immune System

I think we all love a good parody, and when it combines Bohemian Rhapsody and librarians, it is definitely worth watching:

Librarian Rhapsody

Stephen Hawking helps fund a project to send a tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years:

Breakthrough Starshot

According to the AARP, these 21 novels are ones you should find the time to read. (Oh, but they can’t be right. Mine isn’t on that list!😀 But you can find out how to get it below.)

Novels You Should Read

(Photo from nasa.gov)
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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Monday Musings: A Spring Bike Ride

Nashua River Rail Trail1

We took the bikes out for the first ride of the season yesterday. We didn’t ride much last year, and that was too bad because it is fun. We have TerraTrike Rovers, and they are really great bikes. I love the recumbent seats. It’s far better on my back than a conventional bike, and the three wheels make them really stable. In case you don’t know what they are, here’s a picture from a few years ago:

MakonBike

Yesterday, we did about three miles out on the Nashua River Rail Trail, starting in Ayer, MA. That gave us about six miles total. Not a bad start. I stole a few of the pictures the BaldMan took while we were out there. It was very pretty, even without the trees leafed out.

Nashua River Rail Trail4Nashua River Rail Trail3Nashua River Rail Trail2Nashua River Rail Trail1

We do plan on riding more this year. And, maybe, if we can spring for the harness attachment, get Lambeau out with us sometimes.

It really feels like Spring has finally sprung!

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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness Quartet #1) by Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook reading of the unabridged first edition of this book, read by Trini Alvarado

Alanna wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm. But girls are not allowed to train with weapons and warfare. Her brother wants to be a great magician. They devise a plan to switch places, with Alanna disguised as a boy and headed off to train as a knight, and Thom going to train with the magic wielders. Alanna soon finds that there is much more to keeping up her disguise and to training as a knight than she thought.

Tamora Pierce is one of the top names in high fantasy, and the Song of the Lioness Quartet (of which this is the first installment) is still one of her most popular works. I’ve just never gotten the chance to catch up to it until now. And, I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed. I’m not fully sure why, because the story certainly has all the high marks of good fantasy: swords and sorcery, believable characters, and plenty of action. Alanna is a strong character, and a truly wonderful example of how to do a powerful female character correctly. She is determined, she is stubborn, she is intelligent. But she is also, at time, scared, confused, and unsure. She just doesn’t let those things interfere with her goal. She works her way through them, and comes out stronger at the end.

So, what was my problem? Something about the story just felt flat. Maybe it was that much of the tensions were predictable in their outcome, but that in itself is not unusual in this type of story, and hasn’t stopped my enjoyment of others. There were slow parts, and they did bog down the story a bit, but those were surrounded by well-written action scenes. I can’t say it was a bad read. It wasn’t, and I do want to read at least the next installment.

I would certainly recommend this one to someone looking for an example of a good, strong female character in a high fantasy setting.

View all my reviews

=======================================================
Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Another Walk in the Woods in the Springtime

IMG_0898

Another gorgeous day, so Lambeau and I walked one of the woods trails here. It was cool and lovely, even with no leaves on the trees as yet. But the buds are swelling nicely, and the smaller branches are greening. And there are a few bugs starting to flit about.

 

Two views of the pond at the bottom of the trail. The water looks kind of scummy on the surface, but there’s no smell (yet) and it reflects the sky nicely.

IMG_0900

These pretty little plants were growing all over the trails.

IMG_0903

Mom! What was that?

A tiny garter snake, Lambeau.

Where did he go?

He’s gone about his snaky business, I’m sure.

IMG_0902

And- we found an Ent! We were, of course, very, very polite.

(Photos by me)

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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

Wednesday Wanderings: Einstein and Music, Antioch’s Gates of Hell, Umlauts, and Giant Spheres in Bosnia

giantshphere

It seems Einstein found music an important part of his scientific thinking:

Einstein and Music

The article is a bit sensationalized, but there seems to be some sort of pyschic phenomenon in the location of the ancient city of Antioch in Turkey:

Antioch Gates of Hell

The umlaut, that phonetic mark made up of two dots above a vowel, which has been used by so many heavy metal bands actually had a much humbler and more practical beginning:

The Story of the Umlaut

What is this giant sphere unearthed in Bosnia? Man-made or natural? Opinions are divided, but it’s pretty cool, anyway:

Giant Sphere

(Photo by Dado Ruvic for Reuters)
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Available now:

 

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

 

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

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