sandyhill morning copy copyYou spend two years honing a manuscript to publishing-perfect and then you have to pay someone to give it away free. And you say you want to be a novelist?

Three months ago I uploaded my novels Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients, Spirit Bear and Eagleridge Bluffs to the Story Cartel site (all relevant links are posted at the end of the blog).

All books on Story Cartel are completely free for readers to download. The hope is a reader will return this gift from the author by leaving an honest review of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and blogs. The reviews help authors market their books and gives them valuable feedback to improve their writing.

I like this type of concept because you’re judged on the writing not on your ability to sustain artificial on-line relationships. This does not prevent some authors manipulating the process, but that’s not me – ever.

It cost $30 to upload a book, a one time expenditure and not unreasonable. But first I had to convert my Word doc manuscript to e-pub and mobli format. This turned out to be relatively easy with a free program I downloaded called Calibre. Along with the actual book and cover file I provided a log line, book blurb and a bit of a bio.

It took about three weeks before the books went live. Then the covers appeared on the site with a pop-up log-line. More details were available by clicking on the cover. It looked slick. I was guardedly optimistic.

Story Cartel launches last four weeks, three weeks where the book is available on the site and one extra week for readers to leave their reviews.

Story Cartel provides seven launch tips to maximize response:

1. Prepare your audience that your books are going to be free via Story Cartel. Which is odd advice since I don’t have an audience. If I did I wouldn’t be paying to use this site or giving away my books.

2. Share on social media daily. So I put my book on this site and then I have to promote the site so “my audience” will know where to download my book – for free. If I have to do all the marketing I could have offered my books for free from say BookLikes and saved myself $90. Fool me once…

3. Put and announcement on my blog. Ditto my response to points one and two.

4. E-mail my fans. Ditto my response to points one, two and three.

5. Run an ad. It’s not enough I give my books away free, I have to pay for an ad to tell people?

6. Send an email announcing only one day left. I can do that, who do I send it to? Oh yeah, my non-existent audience and fans.

7. Advertise with Story Cartel. For an additional $125 I can get a Newsletter listing, for $225 they’ll do some social media sharing. Okay, now I see where we’re going with this and what I’ve gotten into.

By the end of the giveaway thirty-one people have downloaded fifty-seven copies of my books. During the course of the promotion I sent every one of them a personal email asking them to please post a review. I did the same at the end of the promotion.

In hindsight, my most notable field of vision, it was a mistake to put up all three books at once. I may have had more reviews if I had limited the choice.

I got one response – for Spirit Bear. In a well consider and articulate article, the reviewer trashed the book.

Story Cartel provided me the email of everyone that downloaded my books. I now have a list of thirty-one names, of which only one had the integrity to fulfill the commitment of free book for an honest review. Ironically, she hates my work.

The only positive thing to come out of this experience is the knowledge I gleaned regarding converting a Word manuscript into a digital file. This will come in handy for my next novel, The Big Picture, which will likely be self-publish since no agents or publishers seem to be interested in it.

Will I be offering it free? Initially, yes, but I won’t be adding insult to injury by paying someone to do it for me.

Free – does it equate to no value?


Story Cartel





Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.


Read my current work(s) in progress at


Read ”Bubble” excerpts of my novels at


More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to:

View my flickr photostream at

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music