My B

I pay a professional editor and scour my manuscripts before publishing, and still I make mistakes. Who doesn’t? But that’s part of why I love writing — mistakes can always be edited — even in a book that’s been published for years.

A few months back I had a reader write in and tell me about a “turn to page xyz” paperback error, where Z was one number off.

How many people had seen that and ignored it? Letting me know means I can fix it. And for that, I’m always grateful.

Which leads to my most recent mistake.

I found out via a 1-star review of MURDERED. Read for yourself:

beww

No writer likes a bad review, but I’m glad I got this one. It gave me the chance to fix it. Yet, I still haven’t heard back from that reader, and so I still haven’t been able to fix things with that reader. (If you’re reading this, please contact me.)

And if YOU find a mistake in one of my books, please don’t ignore it. I want to know! I might even make it worth your while…

In fact, I certainly will. That’s “My B” — An open bounty on errors! Find a mistake, let me know, and you shall be rewarded.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? How do you react when you find an error in a book? Have you ever found an error in one of mine?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Ding-dong, the Witch is Dead

Hey! Amazon deleted that 1-star review written in Dutch!

Haters need not apply

 

It would appear that the 1-star review of INFECTED was deemed invalid by Amazon’s filters, but… Why do you care?

I doubt you do. This post is a blending of narcissistic and cathartic, which I believe comes out to narcotic, and fits the definition of a substance offering a hollow, fleeting happiness that will consume your life if you let it.

But that’s what blogs are for, right? Sharing the good and the bad. Exposing shortcomings.

Like this one: I actually cared about a review written in Dutch that said my book “wasn’t for people with actual zombie experience” (according to google translate), whatever that means. In my dark hours I would see zonder inspiratie flash across my mind and I’d wonder if maybe this was the one guy who had it right. Maybe my writing is uninspired. Maybe he’s the only one with the guts to tell the truth.

The fact that the review was taken down (no, I did not “flag” it or anything of the sort) doesn’t eliminate doubt. Comes with the territory, I guess. But it helps.

I’m in trouble if and when my books ever go wide and–God forbid–thousands of people review it and some small percentage is negative. I realize that will happen, and I’ll be fine. Even if all those negative reviews get to stay up, I’ll know that all the positive reviews are unquestionably valid.

See? That’s what this did. It’s a good thing. Okay, enough narcotic. It’s Halloween! Time for a zombie author to celebrate.

Oh, and if you hear a scratching at your door, you may want to look through the peephole before you open up to give out candy:

    You never know what's lurking out there...
You never know what’s lurking out there…

Penny for Your Thoughts

Why YOU Should Care About Amazon Book Reviews

Please, leave me an Amazon review! It’s the best way you can help a writer succeed!”

See that? It’s the new battle cry of many an author, myself included. Amazon keeps its internal marketing algorithms a closely guarded secret, and thus many authors have tried cracking the code over the years. Somewhat of a ‘no-brainer’ has always been “The More Reviews The Better.” Well, there’s more to it than that, and I think I may have just figured part of it out.

And the primary beneficiary of this new knowledge is you, the reader.

What’s the breakthrough? What do you get by leaving Amazon reviews? Cheaper books. I believe that the more reviews a book has, the more Amazon discounts the price. And–this next part is huge–they’re only diluting their own cut. As in, the author keeps the same royalty and the savings are directly passed onto the reader.

Where’s the proof?

Here’s my book, which Amazon offers at a 10% cut. They only started doing so somewhere around the 30 review mark.

ICYP

Here’s another self-published book written by a friend. You can see, more reviews, bigger discount.

CoA

This is a traditionally published book, but you can see that it follows the same pattern.

SIWbI

And lastly, a mega-hit book. Tons of reviews, tons of savings.

WWZ

Note: This is merely a trend I have noticed. I do not have an inside connection at Amazon. But if you love books, leave a review.

Second Note: For whatever reason, this only applies to paperback editions.

So, how about it, penny for your thoughts? If you haven’t left a review yet, please do! It will discount the book for other buyers without hurting the author’s cut. It should go without saying, but I want nothing less than your honest opinion. If you thought the book was a 3-star book, tell me why. If you think it’s 5-stars, I’d love to hear what you loved about it too!

Click Here to leave a review for INFECTED and then go spread the word! More reviews; cheaper books.

Are ebooks second-class citizens?

I am a self-published author, an indie author, DIY writer; call it what you will. And as such, I know the power of reviews. So when I received this email from a major reviewer — The Midwest Book Review — through my PR rep, I was delighted.

Thank you for your information. Please send two copies of the published book for review, accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity or press release, to the attention of:
.
James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
As my book has no hard-copies, I quickly replied:
.

Good afternoon! Abby forwarded your request to me so I could handle it personally.

The book is published only as an ebook, due to the unique storytelling where you click embedded hyperlinks to make your choice and progress through the narrative. I can send you the book as an Amazon gift or in whatever format is convenient for you.

Thank you for your interest in INFECTED: Click Your Poison #1.   I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
James Schannep

This is where the delight ended. In the interest of transparency, I’ll post the response I received in full:
.
Thank you for your information and offer.
.
There is a charge of a $50 “Reader Fee” for reviewing ebooks, pre-publication manuscripts, galleys, uncorrected proofs, ARCs, and pdf files. If you wish to purse (SIC) this then let me know and I’ll send you the name and email address of the assigned reviewer. The check would be made out to the reviewer who would also tell you what information would be needed along with a copy of the title to be reviewed.
.
The reviewer would provide you with a copy of the review and you would have automatic permission to utilize the review in any manner you deem useful to promote and market the book. I will also be provided a copy of the review and it will run in our book review publication “MBR Bookwatch”, be posted on the Midwest Book Review web site for five years, and published in “Book Review Index” which is distributed to thousands of academic and community libraries throughout the United States and Canada.
.
Published books in a traditional print edition (paperback or hardcover) are reviewed free of charge.
.
Please let me know if you’d like to proceed further.
.
James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
Here’s what stuck out to me: “ebooks” was listed right next to “pre-publication manuscripts” and “uncorrected proofs,” and they didn’t want to charge for a “traditional” book. This was my response:
.

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in paying for reviews. Furthermore, I challenge you to reconsider your stance on ebooks. Lumping them in with other “incomplete” publications is insulting to authors, and ultimately short sighted. Ebooks are the future. Many authors (myself included) put considerable time, effort, and money into making their ebook a professional product. I believe your organization legitimately wants to help authors, but this policy flies in the face of that goal.

.Thank you for your time.

.Regards,
James Schannep

As of this post, I haven’t seen a response. This is not meant to be an attack on Mr. Cox or his group of reviewers, though it is an attack on his policy.
.
What do you think? Should I have paid the $50, happy to get whatever press I can, or am I right to be outraged? What would you have done?

The Paranoid Gamer reviews INFECTED

Product Spotlight: INFECTED by James Schannep
Posted October 2, 2012 by Daniel Flatt in Paranormal

If you’ve ever known the thrill of choose your own adventure books that were popular back in the 80’s and 90’s, then you’ll be familiar with the concept behind INFECTED. You are the main character and it’s up to you to put all your pre-made zombie apocalypse survival plans you made with your friends to the test. As you make your way through the story you’ll be asked to make choices at certain junctures that will change your overall plot within. The book is a more adult take on the idea though, your character will meet bloody and violent ends throughout the experience with a wrong decision. Most importantly and complimentary to the author, your choices never feel too forced with more sweeping impacts to the narrative than most choose your own adventure books.

Three unique overall storylines are presented throughout the book to mixed results. Each of them are pretty well written with the author’s previous military experience peeking through in certain points and legitimately witty references to pop culture throughout. However there are elements that just aren’t up to snuff pacing and plot wise to the rest of the book. In addition, characters often come off as one sided caricatures, which honestly in this type of book I’m not sure how much more development they could have seen with so many different balls to juggle. Both these issues add up to my one real problem with the book. Throughout the experience, in most cases, the narrative feels slightly rushed and you’ll go from in danger to saved or dead within the space of a good night’s reading. At times the swift pace is certainly appreciated and there are moments that will legitimately get your blood pumping, I just wish there was more time I could have spent with every story.

Honestly, that’s a compliment in and of itself as I just wanted to spend more time reading and making choices in this setting. The book, while perhaps not the next Lord of the Rings, is immense fun and can be enjoyed time and time again due to the variety of endings and branch offs that explore different facets of an overarching narrative. Some of the multiple narratives even weave in and out of each other and you often see hints of one story in another. Death scenes, usually a sentence or paragraph in most of these types of books, are well written and usually leave you wondering up till the last page if you’re going to meet your end. Impressively enough, even though the characters aren’t the most fleshed out, you’ll find yourself caring more about them and even more so your fate, simply because you are more invested in the story. I can proudly say that my first read through was met with unmitigated success as I survived the zombie apocalypse without dying once, and with my morals mostly intact. Maybe not so much the second time.

Even more impressive, and I never thought I’d say this with a book, is the fun you can get by adding in more people to the experience. I’ve read this aloud with friends and my wife and it’s simply a blast to play through together and make choices. There’s even a drinking game featured on his website that entails ways to turn the book into a real party experience and, though I don’t typically enjoy that sort of thing, it certainly seems like it would be lots of fun.

As a gamer I doubly appreciate the interactivity and re-playability (re-readability?) that this form of writing brings to the book. Before now I’d almost forgotten about the appeal of choose your own ending (or in this case called click your own poison), but it was back in full force with this book, and with the more mature themes, was even more impressive. It’s worth noting that the addition of using an E-Reader means you can click through the choices and go directly to the consequences of your actions instead of searching for a page; something I never would have thought of myself before this, but that makes the experience even easier to enjoy. I’ve gone through all three storylines now and comparing my stories to my brothers, who read through at the same time. Even though we saw some of the same storylines, ways we navigated them were different and we got to know more about certain characters or see more aspects of the full plot because of our choices. There’s even a website you can share zombie apocalypse survival stories with other readers if you so choose.

INFECTED is quite simply a welcome evolution to an old format that just begs to be enjoyed. The zombie apocalypse is an instantly identifiable and enjoyable setting to many, especially us gamers who have spent hours in conversations with friends about the topic. With the internet being leveraged to share stories, the e-reader bringing even more accessibility, and the more mature theme; James Schannep has truly managed to bring choose your own adventure into this generation. The future looks bright for this subset genre of books and I can’t wait to read more from this promising author, in this format or any other.

If you’d like to purchase this book you can do so at this link.

via Product Spotlight: INFECTED by James Schannep- The Paranoid Gamer.

My Reddit Experiment and the Troll Who Ended It

In case you’re not one of my usual readers, I recently self-published a book and I’m looking for ways to promote my work and spread the word. A couple of friends suggested I check out reddit.com and put up a few posts there to try and garner more interest. I’d never used reddit before, but I had heard stories such as the guy who got a screenwriting gig from reddit, so I thought it could be worth a try. After all, my book is a solely electronic experience and reddit is easily one of the largest online communities out there.

So I gave it a shot, starting out with an AMA (Ask Me Anything) detailing my recent life.

Looks so innocent, doesn’t it?

It was a fun experiment, but ultimately a failure from a book promotion standpoint as people were far more interested in picking the brain of a former nuclear missile officer than they were in talking about anything I’d written. Still, my blog got 25% of its page views for the year… in one day. So I figured I should give it another try.

My next time around, I decided to post specifically about the book. I posted an announcement in the zombie forum, put my book cover in their pics section, and asked a question in the writing sub-reddit. This is where my troll was lurking.

I asked if my self-published book looked professionally done or if there were any aspects that screamed, “Amateur!” and the answers started trickling in. I won’t give you a link to this post, and (hopefully) you can’t find it, because I’ve since deleted it.

Allow me to explain why.

One commenter praised my blurb, saying it seemed to keep in tone with the book. Another said the cover looked professional, but the fact that I have only five-star reviews on amazon made him suspicious. This latter point is what the troll jumped on. She/he immediately threw out accusations that I’d written all the reviews myself, even going so far as to create multiple reddit accounts to have a conversation with myself online. The troll then submitted their own accusations to the “worst of” reddit under the title “User schannepj submits own post to r/bestof, uses same shell account [“Brian”] to post fake amazon reviews of his book and sell it on r/writing.” Luckily, a moderator quashed this flagrant lie of a post.

In the light of recent sock puppetry scandals, I’d like to take a moment to address my glowing amazon reviews. INFECTED has only been out for two weeks, hardly enough time for the independent reviewers and bloggers I’ve contacted to have a chance to weigh in. As of right now, most of the reviews are written by friends, but of their own volition. I never asked anyone to post five-star reviews. And I certainly never wrote any reviews for myself.

Even after I explained this, the troll did not relent. One of the friends who suggested the reddit campaign even tried coming to my aid:

I’ll self-identify as one of the author’s friends, and FWIW, I’ll vouch that Brian is a very real perosn(SIC) and a very ardent promoter of James’ work. James debuted his book to our group by passing an iPad around a circle with a bottle of Jamison(SIC) in the middle. It’s no surprise that the participants of that drinking game wrote several of the rave reviews you see the very next day.

I’m gritting my teeth and trying to be polite here because, even though you insulted my friend, there are some truthful observations in your comment–even if you misinterpreted the information. You seem concerned with preserving the credibility of self-publishing. What would you have a fledgling author do? Ask his friends NOT to help?

The troll stopped claiming sock puppetry, but did not apologize. Instead, she/he shrugged it off with an, “[It’s] all the same to me because it has the same end result: game the system.”

Okay, so let’s drop the whole troll issue for a moment and discuss the core issue here: Is it wrong for friends to post online reviews without some sort of “I know the author” caveat upfront? Should I have said, “If you know me, please don’t review my book”? I don’t think so, I think I should tell everyone I meet to review the book, but I’d certainly love to hear some other opinions. These are only my *first* reviews and I hope to see many more from people I don’t know, like this one on Goodreads. It’s an interesting scandal-filled world out there, where reviews are of the utmost importance, and self-published authors will do anything to succeed.

I know my integrity’s intact, and I stand by my product. I’ll just be staying off reddit for a while. But the troll did bring up a good point, albeit in a roundabout and vindictive way: I need more reviews.

So… calling all reviewers–anyone care to give me an honest read?