Author services sites that don’t deliver – but still charge

DerelictHouse_14

It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t receive promotional material regarding some writing related program, service, publishing platform or marketing gimmick.

 

There seems to be no end to people who, for a price, will support my career as an author. Where do they all come from and considering how many there are how do any of them make a living?

 

You wouldn’t think there were that many suckers out there.

 

Here are three more sure fire suggestions to polish your manuscript, generate reviews and enhance your sales that don’t work.

 

Reedsy Discovery. Reedsy took umbrage when I described their new Discovery site as a “Another paid review, bogus up-voting book marketing site”, so I’ll let them describe it for you (how fair is that?). Visit https://blog.reedsy.com/announcing-reedsy-discovery/

 

Let’s assume you send your manuscript plus $50 and the Reedsy team smiles upon you. Your book gets a high quality review and your promoted on their Discovery Feed. Reedsy doesn’t appear to have any shortage authors ready to anti up $50. I receive at least two emails a week from them with a list of newly launched titles.

 

But does it work?

 

I’ve been tracking a few titles and here are the results to this date, July 10, 2019. The dates indicated are the Reedsy Discover launch date. Many of these books were actually published months before.

 

In Verse by Tex DeJésus was launched May 15th. It has no reviews on Amazon and one review on Goodreads posted by the author.

 

Nobody Drowned by Peter Kingsmill was launched on May 22 and has three reviews on Amazon (two are prior to the Reedsy release date) and two on Goodreads – one duplicated from Amazon and one from the author.

 

Martyrs al Sabra by Dan Kalin has no reviews on Amazon and three reviews and two ratings on Goodreads, the majority of which were posted prior to the Reedsy launch.

 

In Case You Forgot by Aubrey Stack was launched on May 23 and has no reviews anywhere.

 

The Alchemy of Noise by Lorraine Devon Wilke had its Reedsy launch on July 3 and has 32 reviews on Amazon and 40 on Goodreads, all posted prior to the launch.

 

One thing for sure, this site isn’t going to launch your literary career.

 

Following the Reedsy release most of the titles I tracked showed no increase in reviews on Goodreads or Amazon and no bump in Amazon book ratings.

 

BetaReader.io invites you to “share your unpublished manuscript to selected readers. Collect feedback and reading data to understand what works and what needs polishing. Private, secure, and easy to use.” I took advantage of their Basic Forever Free Plan which allowed me to upload one active manuscript, and get response from three readers for up 30 days. I got zilch response. Let’s face it, good beta readers are hard to find, why should they be more successful at it than anyone else?

 

Free email blasts. http://awesomegang.com http://pretty-hot.com https://mybookplace.net/ An incestuous cluster using “free” as a come-on to get you to buy up. Don’t know what you get when you pay, but it’s not even worth your time to fill in the meta data for the free option.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

30

 

Author Amazon Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1916252/author-services-sites-that-don-t-deliver-but-still-charge

White privilege and self-publishing

Reblogged from: Rod Raglin

 

The blurb that accompanies Lorraine Devon Wilke’s novel, The Alchemy of Noise, describes it as “a suspenseful drama driven by issues of privilege, prejudice, police profiling and legal entanglements, and the disparities in how those provocative themes impact the various and diverse characters involved.”

 

I received this book to review free from Reedsy Discovery, a pay for review site (my opinion regarding this service (?) was published in a previous blog which you can read at https://rodraglin.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/reedsy-discovery-another-paid-review-bogus-up-voting-book-marketing-site/)

 

I stated in my review that “The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.”

 

My opinion hasn’t changed. I gave The Alchemy of Noise five stars.

 

I like to research the path new authors take on the road to publication. I’m always looking for something I haven’t tried that might offer a modicum of success.

 

Wilke has self-published two previous novels with Create Space Independent Publishing platform, that’s Amazon’s publishing division for paperbacks. I know, because all my books have been published on that platform as well.

 

The first was After the Sucker Punch in 2014 followed by Hysterical Love a year later. Both garnered a number of positive reviews though some are from paid for review sites which, at least in my opinion, makes them suspect because of the inherent conflict of interest. Neither books achieved much acclaim though they appear to have done significantly better than any of mine.

 

This time, Wilke decided to go another route and chose a hybrid publisher, She Writes Publishing (SWP).

 

Hybrids take your manuscript and make it publish-ready. In the case of SWP that includes cover design, proofreading, conversion to e-book and a bunch of other stuff that you can easily do yourself or isn’t necessary. They quote one price of $7,500 which doesn’t include any copyediting.

 

I think one can assume Wilke paid at least that much as well as $425 for a Kirkus Review, $499 for a Foreword Review and, of course, the $50 for my review on Reedsy.

That’s a minimum of $8,424 before one sale. I hope she recoups her costs, but there are no guarantees.

 

Reviewers on Wilke’s Amazon site herald The Alchemy of Noise as an a “powerful look at racial tensions in modern America” and “strikes at the heart of contemporary race issues”.

 

I tend to agree, but what do I know, a white guy from Canada. It’s interesting though, to consider how this story would have been portrayed if written by a black person, but how likely is that to happen given today’s circumstances?

 

While there are many high-profile examples of African-Americans receiving widespread acclaim in most areas of American society, the success of those individuals isn’t representative of the economic status of African-Americans as a whole. 

 

Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increased by 14%. During the same period, black household wealth declined 75%.

 

By 2013, the wealth of the median black family in the US had fallen to a mere 10% of its white counterpart. Whereas, in 1953, four-fifths of white families made more than the typical black household, 60 years later about to nine-tenths did.

 

In 2014, the median net worth* of white households had reached $130,800. The median net worth of black households was $9,590.

 

While wage growth has improved in all racial groups in the past two years, so has the disparity between white and black wage earners.

 

Last year a survey1 found that in America whites severely underestimate the racial wealth gap. They think that black wealth is about 80% that of whites, while data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that black wealth is about 7% that of whites.

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that a book considered by one reviewer as an “exploration of race and privilege” is written by a white person.

 

What new black author could afford to risk $8,424?

 

30

 

 

1Americans misperceive racial economic equality. An article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, by Michael W. Kraus, Julian M. Rucker, and Jennifer A. Richeson, Sept. 18, 2017

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/09/12/1707719114.full

 

State of Working America Wages 2018, Wage inequality marches on.

By Elise Gould, published by The Economic Policy Institute, Feb. 20.

2019https://www.epi.org/publication/state-of-american-wages-2018/

 

Notes:

A median household income refers to the income level earned by a given household where half of the homes in the area earn more and half earn less. It’s used instead of the average or mean household income because it can give a more accurate picture of an area’s actual economic status.

 

*Net worth is the total of what you own minus what you owe. It’s a mathematical reckoning of assets accumulated (including cars, homes, Roth IRAs and that dish of loose change on the dresser) and debts accrued (such as mortgages, auto loans, student loan debt and credit card IOUs).

 

 

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1910598/white-privilege-and-self-publishing

 

The blurb that accompanies Lorraine Devon Wilke’s novel, The Alchemy of Noise, describes it as “a suspenseful drama driven by issues of privilege, prejudice, police profiling and legal entanglements, and the disparities in how those provocative themes impact the various and diverse characters involved.”

 

I received this book to review free from Reedsy Discovery, a pay for review site (my opinion regarding this service (?) was published in a previous blog which you can read at https://rodraglin.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/reedsy-discovery-another-paid-review-bogus-up-voting-book-marketing-site/)

 

I stated in my review that “The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.”

 

My opinion hasn’t changed. I gave The Alchemy of Noise five stars.

 

I like to research the path new authors take on the road to publication. I’m always looking for something I haven’t tried that might offer a modicum of success.

 

Wilke has self-published two previous novels with Create Space Independent Publishing platform, that’s Amazon’s publishing division for paperbacks. I know, because all my books have been published on that platform as well.

 

The first was After the Sucker Punch in 2014 followed by Hysterical Love a year later. Both garnered a number of positive reviews though some are from paid for review sites which, at least in my opinion, makes them suspect because of the inherent conflict of interest. Neither books achieved much acclaim though they appear to have done significantly better than any of mine.

 

This time, Wilke decided to go another route and chose a hybrid publisher, She Writes Publishing (SWP).

 

Hybrids take your manuscript and make it publish-ready. In the case of SWP that includes cover design, proofreading, conversion to e-book and a bunch of other stuff that you can easily do yourself or isn’t necessary. They quote one price of $7,500 which doesn’t include any copyediting.

 

I think one can assume Wilke paid at least that much as well as $425 for a Kirkus Review, $499 for a Foreword Review and, of course, the $50 for my review on Reedsy.

That’s a minimum of $8,424 before one sale. I hope she recoups her costs, but there are no guarantees.

 

Reviewers on Wilke’s Amazon site herald The Alchemy of Noise as an a “powerful look at racial tensions in modern America” and “strikes at the heart of contemporary race issues”.

 

I tend to agree, but what do I know, a white guy from Canada. It’s interesting though, to consider how this story would have been portrayed if written by a black person, but how likely is that to happen given today’s circumstances?

 

While there are many high-profile examples of African-Americans receiving widespread acclaim in most areas of American society, the success of those individuals isn’t representative of the economic status of African-Americans as a whole.

 

Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increased by 14%. During the same period, black household wealth declined 75%.

 

By 2013, the wealth of the median black family in the US had fallen to a mere 10% of its white counterpart. Whereas, in 1953, four-fifths of white families made more than the typical black household, 60 years later about to nine-tenths did.

 

In 2014, the median net worth* of white households had reached $130,800. The median net worth of black households was $9,590.

 

While wage growth has improved in all racial groups in the past two years, so has the disparity between white and black wage earners.

 

Last year a survey1 found that in America whites severely underestimate the racial wealth gap. They think that black wealth is about 80% that of whites, while data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that black wealth is about 7% that of whites.

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that a book considered by one reviewer as an “exploration of race and privilege” is written by a white person.

 

What new black author could afford to risk $8,424?

 

30

 

 

1Americans misperceive racial economic equality. An article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, by Michael W. Kraus, Julian M. Rucker, and Jennifer A. Richeson, Sept. 18, 2017

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/09/12/1707719114.full

 

State of Working America Wages 2018, Wage inequality marches on.

By Elise Gould, published by The Economic Policy Institute, Feb. 20, 2019

https://www.epi.org/publication/state-of-american-wages-2018/

 

Notes:

A median household income refers to the income level earned by a given household where half of the homes in the area earn more and half earn less. It’s used instead of the average or mean household income because it can give a more accurate picture of an area’s actual economic status.

 

*Net worth is the total of what you own minus what you owe. It’s a mathematical reckoning of assets accumulated (including cars, homes, Roth IRAs and that dish of loose change on the dresser) and debts accrued (such as mortgages, auto loans, student loan debt and credit card IOUs).

 

 

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1910594/post

An entertaining while scathing commentary about race relations in America

Review:

 

Sidonie Frame is the manager one of Chicago’s buzziest small concert and event venues. When her sound manager goes AWOL along with essential equipment she has her assistant bring in another company to fill in temporarily.

 

Chris Hawkins is owner of Sound Alchemy and immediately he and Sidonie have a connection.

 

Author Lorraine Devon Wilke tells the story from two points of view and establishes her protagonists as equals in regards to education, income and aspirations. The only difference, other than gender, is Chris is black and Sidonie’s white.

 

Temporary work becomes permanent and friendship turns to love for Chris and Sid. The last thing they think about is the colour of each other’s skin, but that’s not the case for some friends and family members.

 

This is upsetting for Sidonie, but not surprising and she’s prepared to deal with it. What she isn’t prepared for or incapable of handling is the reality of a black man living in America.

 

Here’s how Wilke has her character, Sidonie, express it.

“What I didn’t know then is that by falling in love with you I would be stepping from my world into yours. Or maybe, more accurately, straddling both. I didn’t know that because I didn’t fully realize there were two worlds, two really distinct worlds with different sets of rules …”

 

The Alchemy of Noise is an entertaining love story while at the same time a scathing commentary on race relations in America. The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.

 

The book itself is a pleasure to read with believable dialogue, fully developed characters and exceptionally good diction, something that’s becoming increasingly rare. The plot is well-crafted and try as I might I couldn’t find one scene that didn’t develop character or advance the plot or both.

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1900750/an-entertaining-while-scathing-commentary-about-race-relations-in-america

A comprehensive and concise summary for creating fictional characters

Review:

e

 

 

Creating Legends – How to craft characters readers adore … or despise! is a comprehensive and detailed graphic eBook that includes tips and tricks for creating compelling, engaging, relatable characters.

 

In forty-five concise pages, Kathy Edens and Lisa Lepki, writers at ProWritingAid, an online writing editor and personal writing coach, have summarized almost everything important I’ve learned about developing characters including:

 

– Belief, Emotional Involvement, Clarity: what every character needs,

– Why you should throw your main character under a bus – to raise the stakes,

– Digging beyond life to create realistic characters.

 

There’s also a nifty graphic detailing The Psychology of Characters, links to character traits and character analysis worksheets, and even a therapist’s quiz you can take you yourself (I’m highly conceited, snobby and vain).

 

Its graphic style uses larger fonts for headlines and blocks of color that make it easy and fun to read.

 

This little, unpretentious book is big on practical tips and ideas that can be easily incorporated by authors with immediate and positive results.

 

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1868275/a-comprehensive-and-concise-summary-for-creating-fictional-characters

Reedsy Discovery – Another paid review, bogus up-voting book marketing site

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Reedsy is a British-based author services firm in the self-publishing industry. As well as helping authors find and hire vetted freelance professionals it offers online software tools to help authors convert their manuscript file to e-books.

Discovery is their new program launched “because we saw way too many authors getting frustrated with their marketing campaigns.”

No argument there.

Reedsy describes Discovery as a pre-publication marketing tool to be used to build momentum on the day your book launches.

So how does their new site work for an author? I needed some clarification, so I sent Emmanuel, CEO of Reedsy an email. Below is a transcript of my enquiry and his response.

Dear Emmanuel,

Thank you for contacting me regarding Reedsy Discovery. May I please get some clarification on this new marketing platform for authors? 

As I understand, I submit my book plus $50 for the opportunity to have one of your one hundred reviewers review it. If my book is lucky enough to be selected and receive a high-quality review, it will be promoted on the Discovery Feed where readers can read, comment and up-vote it.

If my book is among the most up-voted that week it will be featured in your weekly newsletter which is sent to thousands of readers in my genre. How many thousands of readers would that be if you don’t mind me asking?

If the reviewers don’t review my book, or if they review it and don’t like it, there’ll be no review. Without this review, it will not be promoted on the Discovery Feed and will be relegated to the Recently Added tab.

However, when my book is launched, the first chapter will still be made available on the Recently Added tab for readers to read, comment and up-vote—if they can find it. 

Would you agree the key to success is for my book to get a high-quality review and then be promoted on the Discover Feed where it will be featured prominently and much more likely to be read, commented upon and up-voted?  

Regardless of whether my book has the potential to be blockbuster if it is not selected it will have to compete with those arbitrarily chosen for a high-quality review and promoted on the Discovery Feed. 

From this disadvantaged position, do you still contend it could receive enough up-votes to be featured on your homepage and emailed directly to readers (the number still to be determined) in my genre?

All things considered, the most likely outcome for my book in my opinion, and indeed for most books submitted to Reedsy Discovery, will be to end up on the Recently Added list with one chapter featured. No review and no direct mail sent to your thousands (exact amount yet to be divulged) of readers in their genre.

And you think that’s worth $50? No, I mean do you really think it’s worth $50?

Sorry, I  forgot the professional landing page – that would make five including my website, D2D, Smashwords, and Amazon. 

Obviously, there’s something I’m missing. Something that will distinguish this venture from other sites that promote bad literature by offering paid reviews and the opportunity for unscrupulous writers using the most imaginative, but still unethical, ways of advancing (up-voting) their books with no regard for quality.

Please tell me I’m wrong.

Rod Raglin

PS When and if you do respond can you please provide an approximate number of thousands of readers in my genre you have access too? Is it two thousand or two hundred thousand? I think you’d agree it could make a difference.

 

RESPONSE FROM REEDSY

 

Hey Rod,

We are not currently disclosing how many readers we precisely have but it’s in the tens of thousands. So far most authors have received a review on Discovery.

Regarding upvotes, I agree it’s advantageous to receive a review. But you can counterbalance that by asking your existing base of readers to upvote you (or at least friends and family.

Note: I had a look at your Amazon page and I’d recommend you work with a professional cover designer before submitting to Discovery — it’ll give you much great chances of receiving a review (yes, people do judge a book by its cover…)

All the best,

Emmanuel, CEO @ reedsy.com

 

MY RESPONSE TO REEDSY’S RESPONSE

Dear Emmanuel, 

Thought you might suggest the friends and family thing. Sorry, but I find it unethical and apparently so does Amazon. I also noticed in your submission form it’s required to indicate whether the author has engaged the services of Reedsy. I guess that’s one way to select who gets a review or not.

Thanks for the advice on the cover, but rather than spend hundreds of dollars on a professionally designed cover so your reviewers might consider reviewing my book, I can spend $9 more than your asking and Readers’ Favourite Book Reviews will review my book (no professional cover required) within two weeks—guaranteed. 

Their review is posted on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. In addition, many of their reviewers post reviews to their blogs and social media sites. The review is also indexed by search engines like Google, which recognizes RFBR reviews and formats them with their starred rating, just like Amazon and Goodreads.

They also post the review on a landing page, their app, announce it to 500,000 libraries, bookstores and schools and give you a month of free advertising on their Featured Book Rotator visible to everyone who visits their site.

Unfortunately, like Reedsy Discovery they only publish four and five star reviews which I think is a disservice to readers as well as writers.  However, regardless of the rating. they send you the review and a mini-critique of your book that provides ratings on 5 key areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability.

Regardless of your quasi-ethical practices;  not being transparent with your numbers, encouraging bogus up-voting and the conflict of interest inherent in any review that’s paid for, I think you need to up your game, Emmanuel. 

Rod

 

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive.

Marketing my books has that influence on me. I can feel my tolerance fraying as I read the pitch from yet another book marketer, publishing consultant, or whatever they call themselves hoping to sell you their services or programs that offer simplistic solutions to complicated problems.

I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they’re just trying to make a living and being a salesman myself how often have I taken the sale knowing full well the client’s expectations would never be met?

Perhaps it’s because I’d like to believe that hiring an editor, cover designer and all the other professional publishing services available would guarantee me success.

It won’t. It’ll just make me poorer.

So I resent the dozens of emails I get, like this one, suggesting they will, and I feel empathy for those who pay the money only to have their dreams dashed and their wallet emptied.

Is there a solution?

In ten years of experimentation I’m resigned that first I have to get good, then get lucky.

Stay Calm, be Brave and Watch for the Signs

 

Reedsy Discovery https://reedsy.com/discovery

Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews https://readersfavorite.com/

Author Amazon Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original post:
rodraglin.booklikes.com/post/1859327/reedsy-discovery-another-paid-review-bogus-up-voting-book-marketing-site

Me, Mattie and the Opioid Epidemic

BirdWhisperCoverEbook

Though the pain was bearable, it diminished everything else in my life.

Ignoring the twinges, I decided to lift and twist at the same time. Now nothing over the counter was relieving the pain in my lower back. Of course, it was Saturday late afternoon with no chance of seeing a doctor except at the emergency ward, a place I consider the less of two evils, one being death.

Who did I know that recently had surgery, wisdom teeth removed, a hip replacement – anything that would warrant a prescription for Tylenol 3. Friends, neighbours, relatives; I called them all. Finally, I scored. Ten T-3 ’s would tide me over until I saw my doctor on Monday.

It was a hellish couple of days. Some things you actually have to experience to have empathy. Chronic pain is one of them.

When I finally got in to see my doctor, after standing in his waiting room for an hour and a half (too painful to sit), he wasn’t very sympathetic.

“How did you do this?”

“I don’t really know?”

“Do you exercise?”

“I run at least twice a week?

“How old are you?”
“Sixty-nine.”

“What are you doing running at that age?” He shook his head. “If you want your back to heal stop running.” He wrote me out a prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxants and a referral to a physiotherapist.

I left his office more hurt by his incredulity than by the pain in my lower lumbar.

Running is therapy for me, it takes me out of my head. When you run, it’s not only your legs and lungs that get a workout but all your senses. You have to be aware of the terrain and traffic, sounds and colours. It’s total exertion, and you experience it throughout your body – especially in my back, at least lately. t the time I was working on my third Mattie Saunders novel. If you haven’t met her yet, she’s an independent young woman with a social conscience and a bad attitude, who loves birds, but not so much people.

Mattie is particularly down on addicts which is not difficult to understand considering her history, but if you want the specifics, you’ll have to read the two previous books.

To have a character address a particular issue in my fiction I undertake a lot of research. Discovering the cause of the opioid epidemic killing hundreds in Vancouver and thousands throughout North America was an epiphany. Many people have become addicted using legitimately prescribed opioid painkillers. When the doctor cuts them off, they turn to street drugs cut with deadly fentanyl. It’s a short journey from respectability to the morgue and death by overdose.

It’s not a stretch to say that could have been me.

They say if you want to know an author read their fiction, so not surprisingly, Mattie softens her stand on addicts in The Bird Whisper, the next in the series and soon to be released.

What about my back?

It slowly and reluctantly got better and without too many painkillers. I discovered I preferred the pain to the zombie-like feeling I got from the medication.

And I’m back running. Okay, not quite as far or as hard, but enough to get my runner’s high.

That’s the other thing Mattie, and I have in common, we don’t take advice well.

Tagore said, “We are not trained to recognize the inevitable as normal, so cannot give up gracefully that which has to go.” He was right about that, but I find myself ascribing to the words of Dylan Thomas, when he wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs