Posts Tagged ‘reading’

A Readers Dilemma

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I spent some time in the waiting room at the hospital emergency room last night, then later in an actual room in the ER. I brought in my wife’s Kindle for something to pass the time and while browsing through the items on it I had a few discoveries. No, not discoveries like some great reads, rather discoveries that alarmed me. I had a hell of a time trying to find something worth reading! On the Kindle screen the cover is too small to see much of it, plus it’s black and white. The title was all that stood out. So other than a few searches I conducted I mostly browsed through the top 100 lists. I selected a few that found away to pique my interest and downloaded the samples of them to check them out. That’s when epiphany number two struck.

A lot of the books on the Amazon best selling lists suck! Oh sure, there are varying levels of suckage, and in some cases he story was interesting but just not enough to compensate for the errors in flow or the technique (or lack thereof) in which the story was told. I even checked out a story from a Twitter friend of mine and found it to be close, but still a disappointment. How is this happening?!

A lack of control is the answer. Self-publishing is taking the literary world by storm but I can see how the near obsolete publishing companies of old laughed at it initially. It’s hard to believe people will accept the quality found within these self-pubbed books compared to what they’ve grown up on in properly edited print versions. To be fair, some of the problems are conversion issues. Some. The rest…not so much.

And that led me to a moment of controlled anger. Why are these books ranked so highly when mine, which flow far better and have a much more polished look, languish in lower ranks. Am I saying my books are better than these bestselling top 100 lists? Yes, yes I am. Sure, I’m biased, but amongst 11 published titles my lowest review is a 3 and no, I don’t have my wife and family posting reviews for me.  If you don’t believe me I’ll accept that challenge and suggest you try out a couple of my books and compare them to other books in the top 100 list for the same genre. No, not the ones written by the famous NY Times bestselling authors that have been around for years, but the other indie authors out there.

As for how those other guys got on the top lists with only average work, the answer, clearly, is networking. Some of these authors must have people on tap ready to snatch them up in quantities necessary to propel them onto the lists and then, once there, the titles often take care of themselves. My experience with the Kindle proved that the easiest way to buy a book is via the top lists. If it’s not on there an author is fighting for table scraps.

No, I don’t have a suggestion for people to help them find books in a better way. Well, aside from typing my name into the search box, that is. 🙂  Seriously though, I’d advise readers when they find a writer they like to share the word and give them as much of a boost as they can to help them get up there. Without sales we lose heart (and the ability to pay bills), and that means we can’t write and publish as much since we’ll have to get a real job.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at


Review: A Previous Engagement

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I read and reviewed a book. I don’t have time to do it often, but I gave it a go as a favor to a fellow writer. The book is called A Previous Engagement and it’s a romance. Not the smutty (read: fun) kind of romance either. It’s something that would merit a PG-13 rating in a theater. But who wants to read something on a screen that big? (sorry, bad joke)

So, without wasting anymore poor humor, here’s the review:

Either because of my testicles or because I’m just that way, I avoid romances. They seem to only be possible when incredibly stupid people are the characters. The main character in A Previous Engagement (a clever title, by the way), fits the category perfectly. I thought the male paramour did as well until I was most of the way through the book. Then I realized he wasn’t suffering from a series of major concussion, he was just overly sentimental and emotional for a man. Definitely not a man’s man, but perhaps he fits with the modern metrosexual kind of guy that’s become so popular. I prefer the 80’s action movie hero kind of guy. Or The Duke.

One other thing bothered me – the book leaves the impression that it’s unfavorable for a woman to have a successful career. The main character strives to do so, but she’s not complete without a partner and family in her life. I find that a flawed lesson. Why should a person be required to have a family to be complete?

That’s the bad, here comes the good.

The book was very well written. The main character amused me time and again (when she wasn’t aggravating me by being oblivious), thanks to the author’s skill with putting words together. I faintly remember one chapter starting with a sentence that was too long and made no sense, but I was able to move past it easily and find no other flaws. Coming from another writer, that’s a major success.

I read the book in a matter of hours, another feather in Stephanie’s hat. I abhor the genre yet she kept me reading. I wanted to reach in and strangle the characters because they seemed to be inexplicably stupid from the very beginning, but still I read on. I say ‘inexplicably stupid’ but that does not mean they are without precedent. Virtually any romance movie available or even some distant relatives of mine have displayed similar or near exact levels of ignorance and dumbassery. So yes, I thought they were dumb but it’s a dumb that I’ve seen many times before in fiction and in fact.

For someone who enjoys the genre, I recommend the book highly.

You can find Stephanie’s book here: A Previous Engagement.

The Psychology of Winning (aka Selling)

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment
Charlie Sheen Winning


August started out horrible for me, sales-wise. 0 Books for the first two weeks. Nada. Zero. Zilch. It was humbling and demoralizing. I hear that August is a rough month in general for book sales but come on. So I dropped my two best selling books (note: they are not “bestsellers”), Wanted and Voidhawk, to $.99 each and started tweeting the bejeezs out of them. In the last two weeks of august I boosted my sales from zero to 50 in the United States alone. 50 books, by the way, is a personal record for me. Almost as exciting as setting a new personal best in power-lifting. I’m weird – it’s okay, you can say it. The point is sales feel good, damn good. Even when they’re not bringing in the FU money it’s still a psychological boost.

So then September rolls around and my two books come off sale back to original pricing. I modify my tweets to reflect this and sit back, hoping that I can use August’s momentum. The first went by with nothing. The second went by and still the BBOS taunted me (Brown Bar of Shame – it’s the displayed image on the Kindle publishing page when there are no sales). So I caved and decided it was time for a new experiment. I dropped almost all of my books to that $.99 price point to see what would happen. This time tough no tweeting about it (well, other than this documentary blog post – but this is for posterity and to help myself and other writers out).

The results so far, after a day of the new pricing? Two sales already. Would they have happened if I’d have stayed the course and left the book at $2.99? I’ll never know. I’ve done research and concocted a few theories about the topic, but until I get results I won’t confuse myself or any readers with them.

When I see books ranked far within the top 2500 on Amazon that have pathetic covers and horribly written blurbs rife with typos and worse I start to get downright angry. Of course that doesn’t get me anywhere, but it does make me wonder what the heck the trick is. There must be a secret, some way to game the system to get a book that high in the rankings. Of course at that ranking does it mean anything? Being on a bestseller list is a bragging right and a way to not only market more books but it’s also easier for people to find and buy the book. Ranks 1000 and beyond are not bestsellers though, as far as I’m aware, but that does mean they are being purchased regularly. I’d wager somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 20 books a day, but that’s purely a guess.

So to myself and to other writers I suggest patience, even if it’s an unwelcome bit of advice. There doesn’t appear to be a secret trick or recipe to sales, or at least not one I’ve found yet. My current guess is that by offering my stuff at a lower price I can generate more sales and inch my way up the rankings. After a while they’ll have reached a point where the interest outweighs the cost and I can inch the price-point up.

It’s an interesting challenge thus far. I’ll be sure to document it as it unfolds!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

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