Finding new Books to Read

Just about every one of you reads more than I do. At least I think you do. Which means you likely have to find new books and authors pretty often, unless you’re one of those readers who reads the same books over and over again like you’re living your life in circles. Then I have no idea what to tell you.

But for those of you who like some variety in your reading, I’d like to know how you go about finding new authors. I have maybe 20 different series on my shelves, which means I’m not running out of books in those series any time soon. And even when I do I have plenty of others that I usually have my eye on. Besides the books I’ve read from the Amazon list, I honestly can’t remember the last time I went out searching for a new series to read. Definitely wasn’t in 2015, and perhaps not even last year.

So how do you find new series or authors to read? Goodreads? Amazon? Ask your neighbor? Other bloggers?


On this day in 2014 I published The Handwritten Letter. I wanted a pen pal when I wrote that post and I think I found one. But I ultimately stop replying to the letters because I’m awesome like that. I still think it would be nice to have a pen pal who I don’t communicate with regularly via any other medium. But oh well.

 

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Is Amazon Good For Books?

Exactly one year ago today I wrote this post asking the exact same question. But if you happen to click the link you’ll find that there was no discussion at the time. One Like and no comments. Which is funny because the post I published just two days later currently has 109 Likes and 189 comments. Just how these things go sometimes. And honestly, I’ve wanted to revisit this particular topic for a long time now. Partly because last year’s post went unnoticed and because a lot has changed in the last 365 days.

Let me also say something very important. I know some of you will read this question as “Is Amazon good for publishing?” Don’t. I’m looking big picture here. Writers. Readers. Publishers. All of it.

First, I’d like for you to simply answer the question. A simple yes or no will suffice for now.

Got your answer? Great. Let me begin.

Now I’m going to list out all of the programs and things that Amazon has done related to books. If I feel a particular topic requires more information, then I’ll say what I want to say.

I’ll reveal my overall take at the end.

Amazon Kindle

The premier eReader. Period. I have the super old Kindle Keyboard and it works like new. The Kindle Paperwhite was a major step in the right direction and then it was followed by the Kindle Voyage. It’s hard to keep making these better, but they do.

And let’s not forget that the Kindle changed publishing and how books are accessed.

CreateSpace

Yes I used CreateSpace for my first book, but ask anyone and you’ll find that it is the most used and the easiest to use self publishing platform.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Want to publish your book on Kindle and see what happens? This is what you’ll likely use.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon’s eBook subscription service. You’ve likely read somewhere about how it’s taking money out of authors’ pockets and how all these authors are having to go back to their day job. Come on. The titles in Kindle Unlimited are self published or Amazon Publishing titles. These aren’t your super authors. The authors in the program are probably not making seven figures from their book sales. So let’s give it a rest.

Kindle First

Gives you access to four titles a month before their release date for a discounted price on Kindle. Or free if you’re a Prime member.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA)

The annual contest is no longer run, but it was the single most lucrative publishing contest in America during its time. The grand prize winner would receive a $50,000 publishing contract. And oh by the way, I’ve looked into some of the past winners and they’re very high in the Kindle store and have thousands of reviews.

Kindle Scout

This is why the ABNA is no longer conducted. It was replaced. Now Amazon has given the power to the readers. All an author has to do is enroll their unreleased book into the program and readers will be able to read a sample for a 30 day period and vote which books they believe should be published. If a book is chosen for publishing the author receives a $1,500 advance and a shortened timeline to publication.

Amazon Publishing

These are traditional publishers under the Amazon umbrella. Thomas & Mercer. AmazonCrossing. AmazonEncore. 47North. Montlake Romance. AmazonPublishing. Grand Harbor Press. Little A. Jet City Comics. Two Lions. Skyscape. Lake Union Publishing. StoryFront. Waterfall Press. Each imprint publishes different genres from the others.

Kindle Convert

You can convert your print books into Kindle books.

Audible

Audiobooks.

AbeBooks

The site on which you can find those rare books you can’t find elsewhere.

Goodreads

Bet you didn’t know Amazon owned this, did ya? Yep.

I think that’s it. I came up with this list off the top of my head, so feel free to tell me if I forgot anything. Now I think you’ve figured out which side of the fence I’m on. I’m Team Amazon. All the way. Let’s just go down the list real quick.

There’s nothing to be said about the Kindle. It’s great and continues to be great.

CreateSpace gives so many writers the opportunity to see their book in print. And who knows, there’s gotta be another Hugh Howey coming along. If you look at the other self-publishing platforms, there really is no match. Even if you think self-publishing as a whole is no good, it’s here to stay…might as well use the best platform.

KDP gives the writers who don’t care to see their book in print the opportunity to sell their book in the Kindle store, and they don’t even have to pay for anything if they’re comfortable with their cover and formatting.

Kindle Unlimited has the potential to be great, but not one of the Big Five has their titles included in the program. I’d say it’s just an eh for now.

Kindle First. I actually really like this. I’ve downloaded four new books for free in the last couple of weeks because I’m a Prime member. I’ll have more info once I read one of the books. But the idea is great and the books chosen for the program shoot to the top of the Kindle store immediately. People seem to like free and discounted books. Surprise, right?

ABNA was the most lucrative publishing contest during its run. Don’t tell me you have something negative to say, especially if you entered every year. And Kindle Scout is one of those programs that many writers dream of. Because let’s face it, there are A LOT of writers out there writing books who will never be published by a traditional publisher. I’m probably one of them. But you could have a blog or nice social media presence or some really cool friends and family members go and nominate your book for publishing. And guess what, there’s a chance that it actually gets published. The Amazon editors have the final say, but anyone who enters their book into this program has absolutely nothing to lose and the chance of a lifetime.

Amazon Publishing has a lot of imprints. For every kind of author. The downside of publishing with one of their imprints is that your books won’t be sold by Barnes and Noble or most other retailers. The plus side is your book will get a significant amount of Amazon marketing. I know because an author I really enjoy went from a Big Five publisher to an Amazon publisher and instead of having 50 reviews as he did on his previous books, he’s in the thousands. So he’s selling a lot of books.

Kindle Convert sucks and it’s stupid.

Audible. There are a few audiobook makers out there, and I haven’t listened to one in more than a decade. So eh.

AbeBooks is great. I once had a handful of books written by a favorite author of mine that I could not find anywhere. I even asked the author! He didn’t know. But then I was referred to AbeBooks and BAM I got my books.

Goodreads is actually Amazon’s second foray into the book social networking realm. Shelfari was their first, and if you’re still using that site….you’re behind the times. Way behind. And yes, I know Amazon didn’t create Goodreads. But they still own it so it belongs on the list.

All in all, if you look at what Amazon has done for readers, at the opportunities they provide authors, and at the newfound competition between traditional publishers that have had a stranglehold on the publishing industry for more than a century….I don’t see how one can conclude they’re bad for books. But I’m certain that this will be a mixed bag of responses.

Unleash your thoughts on the matter!

Publishers Giving Away Books?

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Photo Credit: Flickr/Missouri State Archives

That’s right. Publishers are giving away books. Over a hundred million of them. Just kidding. This is not something I can imagine ever happening again. I’m sure the major publishers have some kind of charity or school program that offers books for cheap or for free, but I highly doubt that it’s on the level of what I’m about to tell you.

Remember that thing called World War II? Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia and Churchill and FDR. I’m sure you’ve read about it in the history books, but there’s a part of the story you likely haven’t heard. Before I get into what happened during the war as related to books, you should know that they were not quite as available as they are now. Bookstores may be closing, but you still can get your hands on just about any book you want by way of Amazon or Abebooks or another retailer near you. With that being said, publishers took a chance in 1943. They began selling paperbacks for just six cents to the Army. These cheaply made books were manufactured using magazine presses.

You might be thinking so what. What’s it matter if publishers were selling books cheaply to the Army and soldiers stationed around the world. Well it matters because these books soon became wildly popular during the war. You can imagine the living conditions and the thoughts of never returning home of some of the soldiers. But then these books start arriving from America. I won”t exaggerate the role these books played during the war, but the Army eventually could not order these books fast enough to meet the demand of the soldiers and the publishers could not ship out a new batch of books soon enough. The books were often read until they were no longer a book, until they fell apart. Suffice it to say that a single book could be read by dozens of soldiers in lesser war torn areas.

Publishers gave away a grand total of 122,951,031 of these cheap paperbacks over the next four years. Read that number again. 122 million! Guess what the result of all their efforts was? Though paperbacks were sold prior to the start of the program with the Army, the titles weren’t the same as their hardcover counterparts and all books were hard to find because of how few bookstores existed at the time. During and after the war this changed. Rather than pay $2 for a hardcover, paperbacks were just a quarter. The everyday person could afford them and soon millions of Americans were reading.

So again, what was the result of all the work of the publishers during those few years? They helped create an America that wanted to read.

You can read a great article about all of this here.

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: 63. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Photo Credit: npr.org

Since I’ve decided to do my best to read every book on Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read in a Lifetime, I’ve now decided to also dedicate a full post to each book I finish. The first on the list is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I’ll first have you know that it isn’t my intention to review the books I read from the list, per se, but rather to offer up my thoughts in a manner that may not always be critical. Now let me tell you what I thought of one of the most well-known works of any author of the 20th century.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne begins the book at the fairly young age of just thirteen years, but you wouldn’t know it from her writing. She easily describes each of the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex, she describes the relationships that develop between all of them, she describes her longing for companionship during her first year in hiding, the feeling of coming to love Peter, experiencing puberty, and the great optimism that came with the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944. She puts you there in that annex and keeps you there for the 25 months she remained. She tells you what she thinks of herself and everyone around her. She writes of wanting to publish her diary after the war has ended. She gives the reader an account of what it meant to be persecuted as a Jew in German occupied Europe during World War II.

My Thoughts

I’m somewhat upset with myself for having waited this long to read this. I think I watched and/ or read one of the plays during high school, but it’s just not the same as reading her words. I was in tears once I was nearing the end because of the joy that had made its way into her final entries. I wanted the ending to be different this time. I wanted those eight people to make it through the war without being discovered. I wanted Anne to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. I wanted all of these things as I read about each of their deaths in the Afterword. If you have not read this wonderful work, then please read it. Though I’d never read it, I think I’ve read quotes and reviews that label this as one of the prime examples of the human condition, and yes, this is it. It is far and away the best book I’ve ever read. I’ll leave you with a quote from Anne.

“I want to go on living even after my death.”

If only you knew, Anne, if only you knew.

Officially Entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

Photo Credit: goodereader.com

I knew quite some time ago that I wanted to enter my book, Divided Within, into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. As I’ve stated in at least one previous post, this is easily the most lucrative writing contest there is. And a great opportunity for new writers. Most of the other major writing contests strictly prohibit previously self published books, but this one has no such limitation. Now, a little about the contest.

The Contest

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is a free to enter annual writing contest that allows for unpublished and self published entries. Entries must fall within one of the five genre categories which are: General Fiction, Mystery/ Thriller, Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror, Romance, and Young Adult. Entries must also fall within the word count limits of 50,000-125,000. And the contest is judged from now until the winners are announced in July. The contest is limited to 10,000 entries, which no other contest would even come close to reaching. For instance, I’ve been told by an author who won the Best Private Eye Novel competition that is sponsored by Minotaur Books and Private Eye Writers of America several years ago that in a recent contest there were only a couple hundred entries. And this contest regularly goes years without awarding a winner.

Expectations

In anticipation of submitting my entry I read my book all the way through for a fourth time. I had many things I went back in and corrected. There were no major rewrites or chapters eliminated but there were plenty of individual words changed or taken out, and some small details altered as a result of what I’ve been told by some of my readers. With that being said, I don’t think I’m actually going to beat out 9,999 other writers to win the top prize, or even to be crowned the winner of my category. I’ve said over and over how much I love my book and the characters I created, but 9,999 other writers is a lot. I’d be happy making it to the second round of judging, in which the excerpts of 2,000 entries will be evaluated. Then it’s down to 500. Then it’s down to just 25. Then it’s down to the top five, who will all receive a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing, one of which will be awarded the $50,000 grand prize.

In about two weeks the top 400 from each category will be announced.

If you’d like to wish me luck, then feel free. If not, that’s okay too.

My Letter to JK Rowling

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Dear JK Rowling,

I would first like to apologize on behalf of Lynn Shepherd for the piece that she wrote for the Huffington Post recently about you. I realize that people don’t always like others and feel that their personal opinion should be known, but I could not believe that a fellow author would tell another more successful author to stop writing because they have been unable to find a place in the market. It’s both unprofessional and saddening to see the lengths that she has gone to in order to make her very idiotic opinion known.

If you’re like me then you’re likely wondering who in the world is this woman who calls herself an author of ‘literary mysteries’ anyway? Well, to be honest, I had no idea before any of this came about either. She has apparently written three books, none of which have been well-received by her readers as evidenced by the rather harsh reviews that I came across on Amazon. I’ll tell you right now, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to this woman. She’s about as likely to become a NYT bestseller in the near future as someone who doesn’t write books at all. This woman, by writing the piece for the Huffington Post, has compared herself to you and her writing to yours. It’s a comparison that no other sane person would make.

Now to her point about whether or not you should continue writing for adults. I have to be honest, I have not read any of your books, though I’ve seen every one of the Harry Potter movies. And I also must admit that she’s right about your books becoming instant bestsellers as soon as they’re released, but I just don’t see what’s wrong with that. You’ve worked just as hard as every other successful writer to get to where you are today. How is it bad that you’ve built up a fanbase of millions that wants to read everything you write? How is it bad for writing that you get millions of people reading? How is it bad that you wrote a book under a pseudonym that only became a bestseller after it became known that you were the author and not someone else?

It isn’t. Keep writing. Because you have millions of fans asking for it.

Sincerely,

John Guillen

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: And the winner is…

One of the major questions new authors face upon completing their manuscript is trying to decide whether traditional or self-publishing is a better fit for them and their work. Some authors will never self-publish because of their own beliefs about the self-publishing industry while others will try to go the traditional route and then self-publish after countless rejection letters from agents and/or editors. But is it even worth it? Are there enough advantages to self-publishing to justify taking that course? Let’s see.

Self-Publishing

The self-publishing industry has taken the book market by storm in recent years. There are seemingly companies popping up everyday that guarantee this or that for your newly released title. Mostly these are just to get you to take a look at their site where you’ll be bombarded with their so-called ‘success’ stories. You’ll read about one author who has sold enough books to quit their day job. Then another who became a NYT bestseller within their first couple of years of self-publishing. By this time you’re starting to get more and more interested and you’ve now begun looking into the packages and services offered by this particular company. Because in your head your book is just as good as any out there so if someone else can become a self-published bestselling author then so can you, right? Wrong.

Before continuing on further I would like to ask a question of you. How many self-published authors do you know by name?

It’s a simple enough question. So think about it. I’ll answer first…two. Kinda. Cause the two that I know are Hugh Howey and E.L. James. Both of these authors started out in self-publishing and experienced such success that traditional publishers came knocking at their doors. But they’re the exception. There are likely thousands of other struggling self-published authors for each of the major successful ones. For the record, I could probably name 50-100 traditionally published authors just off the top of my head.

But back to the point of this post. There are plenty of advantages to self-publishing. The author is finally able to say “I wrote a book.” The author has far more creative control when it comes to the manuscript and cover than he/she would if it was being done by a traditional publisher. The author will likely have a book available from the world’s largest bookstore Amazon.com. The quality of the books printed by self-publishers today is often no different than the quality of traditional publishers. Remember, I’m talking about the physical book and not the story itself.

Traditional Publishing

If this were a David vs. Goliath sort of post then the traditional publishing industry would be Goliath, accompanied by a vicious dog. The big five traditional publishers of Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins maintain a stranglehold on the publishing industry that can’t be overstated. But in reality it’s not much more different from the top few companies in any industry. I’m thinking Wal Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Costco in grocery or ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX when it comes to broadcasting major sporting events.

Before going further let me define what it means to go the ‘traditional’ publishing route. The author queries an agent. The agent reads through and decides to represent the manuscript and pitches the story to editors and contacts that he or she may have at a traditional publisher. Eventually the story gets picked up, or it doesn’t.

The traditional publishing industry is loaded with gatekeepers to keep the lesser writers out of the industry, because it all comes down to the publisher making money from selling the books it publishes, right? It’s hard to make money not selling books or by publishing books by just okay writers. It’s a business and their business model has worked largely unchanged for a long time. I read recently that only about 2% of all authors are able to successfully go the traditional publishing route. 2%! If you ever wonder why there are so many self-publishers and self-published authors out there today then take a look at that number right there as partly responsible.

But let’s not forget that traditional publishers take all the risk when it comes to publishing. All of it.

My Take

This is coming from someone who self-published his first book through CreateSpace. It’s simple. Traditional publishing continues to rule the publishing world, and it’s not even close. Sure there are a few authors who have managed to gain critical acclaim and sell thousands upon thousands of books through self-publishing, but the more persistent trend is that the author will sell a few hundred copies of their book and then fall by the wayside. It’s just how it is.

So when you finish that manuscript you’ve been working on and you go through and rewrite and rewrite some more and then come to this particular question, I would suggest sending out a few queries to some agents before self-publishing. But that’s just me.