Monday, April 4, 2016

Are you an AMAZON & KDP basher?

Are you an AMAZON & KDP basher?



  
Every day I receive dozens of emails from sites for authors, and every day, somewhere on the list is a recurring theme—complaints about Amazon. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one that had something good to say about any of Amazon’s practices regarding things for writers.
     Are you among the many authors who constantly criticize KDP and take your books out every time Amazon does something that you don’t approve of?
     It’s important to take a step back and examine the big picture here—Amazon’s KDP does authors a huge service.
     Don’t think so?
     Then take an even further step back and think about what life would be like without Amazon's assistance. Realistically, chances of getting your work published the traditional way, through an agent and then a publishing house, are similar to your odds of winning your state lottery.
     And even if you do manage to get a publisher to pick up your work, then guess what? The publisher expects authors to do their own marketing. Now, you’re making considerably smaller royalties, while doing the same amount of endless marketing chores.
     Maybe this phenomenon of complaining is a natural thing; Amazon is, after all, our employer, and everyone loves to complain about their employer. Unlike a traditional employer though, there are no touch-bases, no monthly or even annual dialogue to discuss how the employer/employee relationship is going. Admittedly, our Amazon employer is not easy to communicate with.
     KDP does answer email questions, although it takes one to two days to get an answer. Their answers are canned, and are usually not specific enough for your problem unless you happen to ask just the right question. If it were up to me—and I know many of you will violently disagree—I’d be in favor of Amazon charging authors a minimal fee for publishing in order for them to pay for an easy-to-access support system.
     Most of us have a love & hate attitude toward Mother Amazon.
Where is the love?

Ten things to love about Amazon and KDP
1.     Any writer can publish his/her eBook on Amazon in only 2 days.
2.     There are now millions of Kindle owners all over the world buying eBooks.
3.     Amazon has made it easy now for people with other digital readers to download AZ products.
4.     An author can get as much as a 70%  royalty from his/her book sales.
5.     KDP pays authors for eBooks lent to Prime members by paying for pages read.
6.     Profits are deposited directly into an author’s bank account.
7.     Amazon sells eBooks to a worldwide market and shares the profit.
8.     KDP’s Select program offers authors free days to help promote their books and many other options for promotion.
9.     Amazon is continually adding new ways for authors to market their writing.
10. Author profile pages give writers a platform for all their books, their trailers, their blogs, and other information they want to supply to their readers.

My personal experiences with publishing on AZ have been over a period of five years. I’ve seen their promotion choices go from offering free days to many different options. Formatting instructions for uploading books are improved regularly, making the publishing process simpler.
      For an indie author Amazon and KDP remain—the best game in town.

Dear Readers,

You’re probably wondering if I ever add my complaints about Amazon to the long list that others whine about daily. Like any employee, yes, I have my criticisms. 
Right now, I love the profits I’m receiving from their pages-read system of rewarding those who put their books into Amazon Prime. I write long books and people tend to read the entire thing, so pages-read has been a bonanza for me. I know that system most likely is not something that Amazon will use forever and when it’s changed, I'll probably complain. But I believe that Amazon wants to keep their authors happy and when it is changed, I trust that it will be to something equally profitable.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and successful spring,

Marla

Saturday, March 5, 2016

WHAT’S LUCK GOT TO DO WITH IT?

FIVE WAYS TO GET LUCKY



March, the month of four-leaf clovers and little green leprechauns, is right around the corner, and along with it come visions of green beer and the famous pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and all of us want to be showered with that famous luck of the Irish.
         The word luck, beaten and bastardized, gets tossed around like a day-old doughnut whenever Indie authors discuss success (or lack thereof) of their book sales.
         The first time I ran a KDP free book promotion, and placed my suspense eBook, She’s Not There, free on Amazon.com, I only had 8,202 downloads at the end of the first two days. This result was disappointing compared to those of an author friend, who had 26, 000 downloads for her book when she used the same promotion.
When I asked her about it, she said that her huge number of her downloads were a matter of luck, due the fact that a popular eBook site noticed her promotion and highlighted it for their readers. I know firsthand that her success is not all due to luck. She is a devoted marketer and spends every available moment working to maintain her book’s sales momentum. Me, I’m addicted to things like playing bridge, reading, and watching soap operas; my marketing ethic is not nearly as fierce!
I’m going to let you in on a secret about luck.

         This is a universal truth:
Luck is more likely to happen to those who go after it.

None of us want to hear that luck takes effort. We would all prefer to cling to magical thinking: I’ll get rich when I win the lottery, the perfect man will come knocking at my door, a stroke of fate will send my book sales through the roof. And with rare exceptions:
         It ain’t gonna happen!


HOW TO GET LUCKY
  -  Secrets of Lucky People

1.    Believe you will be successful.
Research shows that if you believe you’ll succeed, your odds of hitting a lucky streak go up. There is no magic involved—expectancy is a true driver of results. Expecting something, as opposed to wanting or hoping for it, will enhance your decision–making and you’ll put in more of an effort than you normally would. Expect success and find ways to stay positive—it works!

2.    Pay Attention! Notice What Others Miss.
Lucky people are open to random opportunities. They notice chance situations and act on them. Curiosity, courage, and diligence are traits that prepare you to recognize opportunities and act on them. Put down your cell phone and turn off the computer games. Look around and keep your eyes open for opportunities—they’re out there!

3.    Be Willing to Take a Chance.
If you try more things, more good things will happen. Serendipity is more likely to occur if you take risks and move outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to accept occasional failures. If you only try things that guarantee success, you will miss out on many opportunities to succeed.
When chance encounters occur, don’t over-think them, act on them!

4.    Switch Things Up
 Lucky people increase their chances of positive opportunities by meeting new people, experiencing new places, activities, and information. They are constantly trying new things.
Luck won’t come looking for you or call you on your Smartphone.
The more you put yourself out there, and experience new things, the more likely it is you will find luck.

5.    Practice Bouncing Back 
Lucky people don’t let failure sidetrack their road to success.
Unlucky people tend to be data collectors for bad experiences, constantly dwelling on every detail of negative events. When you let a bad break get you down, you close the door on new situations that could lead to a lucky break.
Learn to let it go.
Closely linked to the first trait, expecting the best, bouncing back means you will have a greater chance of success with each failure, because you’ll be trying new experiences more often.
Regard every bad break as an opportunity to find the right course for you.


Dear Readers,
         So many of us, myself included, wait for that magical break that will mean success for our writing, or success in love, life and career. But magical thinking delays success. Practice these habits of lucky people and reap the rewards.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
Marla

Note: I seldom repeat a blog, but this one on luck has been so popular that I repeat it every March when the luck of the Irish is on our minds and in the air!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Valentine's Day Story

A Heart Full of Chocolates
A short story

     The only thing more depressing than Valentine’s Day itself was having it fall on a Saturday night. It didn’t matter that Jorie spent most Saturday evenings at home in front of her computer. What got stuck in her craw was the principal of the thing—Valentine’s Day honored three kinds of women: mothers, grandmothers, and the very slender. Thirty-three-year-old women with size eighteen bodies did not receive  roses or red satin heart-boxes filled with chocolates.

      “Hey Jorie,” she heard when she opened her phone after hearing the opening notes of Adam Lambert’s Mad World.  “What are you doing tonight?”

     Crap. It was Heather, her least-favorite friend. “I’m just hanging out here—no big deal.”

     “On Valentine’s Day? Don’t you have a date?” The little bitch knew Jorie didn’t have a date. If Jorie didn’t get rid of her fast, she’d have to listen to Heather brag about her latest Mr. Wonderful.

     “Heather, my front door buzzer just went off. Gotta go.” Jorie closed the phone and hit the off button. Then turned the phone back on. You never knew who might call.

     Chocolate hearts. Roses. Gushy cards. Jorie hated them all. The sleazy satin hearts filled with chocolates were the worst of the phony love stuff and were advertised everywhere you looked, even on the side of busses splattered with street slime.

     In need of a distraction, she went to her computer and opened her favorite site for writers. The site allowed fiction writers to display their work, get feedback from other writers and even publish poetry or topic rants. Jorie was ready to fight back. No hearts and flowers or melodramatic poems from this writer; she’d write a Valentine’s Day rant!

     The thousand-word rant turned out sarcastic, sharply witty, and brilliantly hilarious. Hah! She placed her razor-sharp words on a pink background and added a  picture of a lovely woman—a size-two woman—holding a bouquet of roses and a box of candy. Perfect. Jorie hit the button, posting her rant for all to see. Well, anyone who was sitting in front of his or her computer on Valentine’s Day. Pandora, was Jorie’s username on the site. No one would know who was the pathetic writer, home alone on Valentine’s Day writing rants.

     The phone again. Now what? Her mother? She should have left the thing off.

     “Hey, Jorie, it’s me.” Damn. It was Joe, a loser boyfriend from her recent past. The creep had only dated her because he was always broke, their dates usually paid for by guess-who. Until guess-who got sick of supporting their dates and dumped him.

     “What brings you out from under your rock?’ She was in no mood for games.

     “Is that any way to talk? I thought maybe we could get together tonight, you know, do something for Valentine's Day.”

      What a total ass. Do something—sure—something she would be willing to pay for.
“I don’t think so, Joe. I have to stay in and wash my hair. See ya!” Jorie closed the phone and hit the off button. She’d heard from enough annoying people tonight.

     Maybe it was time to toss the pepperoni pizza she'd bought into the oven as a consolation gift to herself. But just as she was about to get up from in front of her computer, she noticed a review for her rant had already popped up on the writer’s site. She wondered which other dateless loser was home alone tonight. A five-star review. Could have been worse. At least someone understood. Jorie opened the review. Nothing but praise for her writing. She noticed she’d also gotten a message from the reviewer.

From Edukator;

A Valentine’s Day rant! Original, Pandora. What can I say? Well-written rant? Sorry you are so unhappy tonight. It was amusing to read, though, and well written; your writing is always entertaining.
Rick

     So, username, Edukator. He’d given his real name. Or, maybe he had. He and Jorie never failed to review each other’s work on the website. One of the good ones, Jorie always took his words to heart. Grateful for his message, she typed in a response and added her name.

Thanks for the nice review, Rick. And for the kind words. This night will pass.
Jorie

     Jorie put the pizza in the oven and opened a can of soda. Funny, but the message from Edukator had tweaked her attitude a little. Maybe she hadn’t said enough in her answer. She returned to her computer to expand her response and, back on the website, she found another personal message waiting for her.

Jorie,
I was thinking about you and noticed on your profile that you also live in the Chicago area. Not sure where you are, but maybe we should meet tonight. No pressure, of course, we would simply meet as kindred writers no longer alone on Valentine’s Day.
Rick

     Wow! She didn’t think people from the site ever got together. Not that there was anything wrong with it. She hated blind dates about as much as she hated satin hearts, but he said this wouldn’t be a date.

Rick,
Your note surprised me. As long as we’d be meeting just as friends, maybe I’ll consider it. FYI, I’m thirty-three and I’m full-figured. But you’re right; we could meet as fellow writers. I’m in Waukegan, IL, just south of Chicago.
Jorie

     The delicious odor of baking pizza had lost some of it’s enticement. She told herself she was stupid to get excited about meeting a stranger. Many of the writers on the site were retired people; this guy could be in his seventies. Jorie pulled the pizza out of the oven and set it on a breadboard. Maybe she’d have a piece or two. The cheese was bubbly and the crust lightly browned. She could decide what to do while she munched. After adding a few pieces to a plate and grabbing a Diet Coke, she returned to the computer and found another message waiting for her.

Jorie,
Staying in the full-disclosure mode, I’m forty-eight and have never been attractive to younger women. So like I said, no pressure. Let’s meet.
I have to go out tonight anyway. I’m in Schaumburg. That big bookstore in Gurnee, which is close for you, is having a poetry reading for Valentine’s Day. I planned on stopping in to listen to some of the poets, and I also have some shopping to do while I’m there. If that interests you, I’ll be there by about eight. I’ll be wearing a dark blue jacket with khaki pants. I’m about six feet tall and wear wire-rimmed glasses. (I’m a teacher and I look like one.)
 As you know, I love mysteries, so you’ll probably find me browsing the mystery aisle.
Hope you to see you there,
Rick


An hour later, Jorie walked into the bookstore wearing her favorite outfit—black jeans with a fuzzy black cardigan sweater over a white turtleneck, topped by her favorite black wool jacket. The outfit was slenderizing and complemented her long, golden blonde hair, definitely her best feature, if you could call hair a feature.

     As promised, she spotted him in the mystery aisle, a youngish, forty-eight-year old, with thinning, light brown hair. Just as she was about to walk his way she saw a woman approach him. Older than Jorie by at least ten years, she was all glammed up like she was going somewhere fancy. Hair styled to perfection, an outfit that probably cost more than Jorie’s weekly salary, and fingernails, blood-red daggers. Rick—if the guy was Rick—looked uncomfortable, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

     Jorie, remembering he didn’t know what she looked like, moved close enough to eavesdrop. And close enough to smell the woman’s cloying, floral perfume.

     “Rick," the woman gushed. "I’m so glad we ran into each other! Maybe we could have coffee or something.” She batted eyelids heavy with mascara and smoky eyeshadow.

     “Yes, it’s nice to see you, Madeleine.” His body language revealed his discomfort as he backed up into the shelves, holding a book in front of him like a shield. His eyes were everywhere but on the woman in front of him. He looked around the aisle, and met Jorie’s gaze. “Uh, I’d really like to but I’m meeting someone here.”

     Madeleine’s brown eyes narrowed, clearly doubting the truthfulness of his excuse.

     Impulsively, Jorie walked up to him, and slid an arm through his. “Hi, sorry I’m late!”

     His eyebrows raised, startled, then he recovered and said, “No problem, I haven’t been here very long.”

     She held out her other hand to the stylish woman, hoping to avoid the dangerous nails. “Nice to meet you. I’m Jorie.”

     Rick cleared his throat. “Jorie, this is Madeleine. I’ve probably mentioned her, she’s our assistant principal.” He returned his book to the shelf, and casually placed an arm on Jorie’s shoulder. Madeleine sniffed, mumbling something unintelligible while she turned on an impossibly narrow heel, and flounced out of the aisle.

     “Aren’t you a surprise.” Rick said, his blue eyes twinkling. “You certainly undersell yourself, don’t you?”

     Jorie had been thinking the same thing about him. He didn’t look his age at all, and the shy smile below the blue eyes made her heart flutter.  She shrugged, flattered. “You said no pressure—you’re too old for me—I’m too…” Unsure how to end the sentence gracefully, she said, “young for you.”

     He chuckled. “Yes, no pressure. We’re here as fellow writers.”

     They spent the next two hours browsing, listening to the poets, and talking over a cup of coffee in the coffee bar. Jorie could have sworn she saw Madeleine circling in the distance like a bird of prey. Was the woman a stalker? Jorie was starting to wonder if she’d misread Rick's signals. Maybe he would have preferred the other woman’s company and had only been uneasy because he had promised to meet Jorie.

     “I think your friend Madeline is still here.”

     He sighed. “When you’re my age and get divorced, everyone tries to fix you up. Some well-meaning friends invited her over for dinner one night, trying to get us together. Well, you know how that is.”

     A single woman her age wasn’t very marketable. Things like that never happened to her. “Sure. Happens all the time,” Jorie lied.

     “I went to a school function with her after that dinner and now she thinks we’re dating.” He smiled, but only the corners of his mouth moved. “Thanks for helping me out. I think she got the message.”

     “Maybe.” Jorie wondered why it even mattered to her since she wasn’t interested in him as a man, just as a friend to share Valentine’s Day with. He was kind of cute, but not her type. She preferred the tall, dark and jerky type, unfortunately. Maybe it was time for a change. But even forty-eight-year-old men didn’t like overweight women.

     Jorie took the last sip of her coffee. “I’d like to find out who wins the poetry contest. Do you want to go back?”

      “You know, I have an errand next door. If you don’t mind, I’ll run over there and meet you back here. I’ll only be a minute.”

“Sure.” For a moment, Jorie wondered if Rick would come back. But he didn't seem like that kind of person—not like the men she dated.

      He met her a short twenty minutes later at the area where the poets were now doing book signings. “Mom gets a dreaded heart of chocolates,” he laughed, and held up a shopping bag bearing the logo of a local candy store.

     When they left the bookstore, they walked into a winter wonderland. Large, heavy flakes were drifting onto the pavement, covering it just enough to make it slippery. “Let me carry your packages,” he offered, taking her bags. As usual, Jorie hadn’t been able to leave the store without buying a stack of books.

     At her car, he asked for her snow brush, and cleaned the car off for her as she warmed it up. Damn. She liked him. But their meeting was strictly no-strings, probably a pity thing on his part. Although this had been one of her better Valentine’s Days, thanks to him. They’d still be friends on the website, anyway, that wouldn’t change.

     When he finished clearing the snow from her car, she opened the window to thank him. Before she could say the words, he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Pandora,” he said, grinning.

     Jorie smiled back at him and drove slowly out of the parking lot, glancing in the rearview mirror as he walked to his car.

     When she got home, Jorie changed into her pajama’s and robe, her mind and imagination still on Rick. A kiss on the cheek meant nothing, she told herself. Friends did that all the time. And he hadn’t said a work about seeing her again. Well, she had her new books. Reading always made her happy. She’d go through the books, pick one to start on, and be asleep in no time. She plopped the bag of books on her bed.

     When she looked inside the large bag she found a smaller package that wasn’t one of her own purchases. Rick must have mistakenly added one of his packages to hers when he was carrying their purchases. She looked inside and saw a bright, red satin heart box. And a card. Could he have left the gift for his mother in her bag by mistake? But on the front of the envelope—in heavy, masculine handwriting, was written—Pandora. Her heart raced as she opened the card.

Jorie,
Your rant was not accurate. Valentine hearts filled with chocolates are for all lovely ladies.
Will you have dinner with me one night this week? But, no pressure!
Rick

     Jorie picked up the heart box, running her fingers over its smooth satin exterior. A velvety, red rose, its petals tipped in white, was centered on a red bow on the heart's surface, the red-satin box rimmed with a red-ribbon-and-white-lace ruffle. She grinned. As she lifted the lid, the rich, mouth-watering scent of chocolate wafted up to her nose. Inhaling the heady scent, her eyes scanned the assortment. All milk chocolates. How had he known?

     Picking up what looked like a chocolate-covered cherry, Jorie popped the smooth globe of chocolate into her mouth. When she bit into it, the sweet syrup that cuddled the cherry oozed over her tongue. She chewed, savoring the luscious blend of flavors.

     After she’d enjoyed every bit of the rich piece of candy, a laugh broke out from deep in the center of her being, the kind of laugh she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Jorie laughed until her eyes watered, then hugged herself as she pictured Rick’s smiling blue eyes and relived the kiss he’d planted on her cheek.


     This was the best Valentine’s Day ever!



Dear Readers,
I've stepped out of my suspense-writer mode to entertain you with this brief, feel-good Valentine's Day Story. Hope you enjoyed it. Have a happy, loving day, and don't forget to do something nice for the person most important in your life . . . yourself!

Marla

Saturday, January 16, 2016

GOAL MANAGEMENT FOR WRITERS




Are your New Year's Resolutions already forgotten?
Are you wishing you hadn't made a list of everything in 
your life you'd like to change?

A resolution is defined as a firm determination. Like “self-control,” a resolution sounds like something we’d only do with a whip held over our heads. That is why they fall aside so quickly.
     Goals? Not so much. A goal represents something positive a person wants to achieve. Positive is good. Resolution bad.
      A goal can be as simple as a mental picture of something you want to accomplish or can be a formal outline for how you plan to accomplish the goal. The most important thing about setting goals is to choose goals you are excited about achieving, excited enough that you will stay motivated to complete them.

Goal guidelines:

1.   Write the goal down. Give goals the added formality of typing them and printing them out. If you’re a writer, or an entrepreneur, you might want to have a separate list for your those goals for the week, month, and year. Anthony Robbins even advocates having a five-year plan! Think about what you’d like your life to look like in five years—it’s an eye opener!

2.  Display your goals for the week somewhere you will see them every day.


3.  Be sure each goal is something you are excited about accomplishing.

4.  Don’t try to do too many at once. Pick two or three, or only one if it is something important to you.


5.  Make a list of action steps you will do in order to achieve your goal. Divide the steps into long and short-term solutions.

6.  The action steps must be specific.  Add dates for their accomplishment too if you find that helpful



Procrastination can feel overwhelming, thus emphasizing the need to have increments toward the achievement of your goal. Begin with a tiny, baby step—but begin! Many years ago, I was stuck in a job I found unfulfilling and my goal for the year was to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement plan it offered and go back to school for my Master’s degree. It felt like an impossible task that involved a lot of work just to get started. I took very simple first step and contacted a local university for information about the programs. I began classes that spring and graduated three years later.
Make that first step a small one and make it today—it is the most important one. You’ll be surprised how it will inspire you to keep going.


Dear Readers,
       I wish all of you a healthy and amazing 2016! If you have any great tips for goal achievement, please share it with us in the comment section. I find my weekly goals most helpful and tape them (on an index card) to the bottom of my computer so I have to face them every day. What works for you?
Till next time,
Marla

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A review of The Murder House, by James Patterson and David Ellis

A review of The Murder House, 

by James Patterson and David Ellis





The Murder House has an oceanfront view, a private beach—and a deadly secret that won't stay buried. When Landon James, the police chief of the small town of Bridgehampton, hires his niece, former NYPD undercover detective, Jenna Rose Murphy, her first assignment is to investigate the brutal murder of a Hollywood mogul and his girlfriend whose butchered bodies were discovered in the mansion. Six more barbaric murders soon follow. Jenna arrests Noah Walker, a self-employed handyman, for the murders when the police unearth proof that the couple is undeniably linked to Noah's past. To prove his innocence, Noah must uncover the house's dark secrets—and reveal his own.

 The Murder House has been given more accolades by Patterson’s followers than anything he’s written in some time. What’s different about this story?

1.     There is a lot more character history and development.
2.     Although there are hints that Jenna and Noah will eventually get together, their relationship builds slowly and tumultuously, keeping the reader eager for when it will happen.
3.     The story ties to the history of the house and goes back into the past of the house and its connection to the main characters.
4.     The ending is satisfying, and the reader is kept guessing how it will end until the last minute.

The Patterson/Ellis collaboration worked its magic in this one.  

 Dear Readers,

For me, the evolving relationship of Jenna and Noah was what I found most engaging. They are definitely characters that readers will want to meet again.

Have a wonderful Christmas,

Marla