Finding Good Books to Read

June 21, 2014 in Articles

Good Books To ReadYou would think that finding a good book to read in this new world of digital technology would be a synch! Not always the case though, traditional publishing is in decline and the time of the independent publisher is definitely here, but with a few drawbacks.

Love them or loathe them traditional publishers, good ones at least, did tend to ensure that a certain level of quality was maintained in the world of books. They were the gatekeepers and quality controllers of the publishing world. Any book that was not properly edited, proof read and formatted simply didn’t get out of the door. Then of course there is the content to consider, now that’s where things could become a bit subjective. For example Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishing houses before being taken on by a small publishing house at the behest of the CEO’s eight year old daughter. So basically it took a child to spot the magic of Harry Potter and bring it into the public domain. There have also been plenty of other famous authors that were rejected. So clearly the publishing houses don’t always get it right and who knows how many brilliant authors with fantastic books simply gave up and failed to reach the illustrious position of ‘innovation’ (that means commercial release in the development world).

Clearly then there is a strong case for independent publishing, because authors can in effect bypass the gatekeepers and let the public be the judge of their work. The problem is that they can, to a certain extent, bypass the quality control process as well. Some may decide not to use an editor or even get their book proof read. And as for the formatting, for digital books at least, anyone that has tried to read a badly formatted eBook will tell you, even if the story is a good one, the frustration may just see it thrown to one side and discarded before it is finished.

Which brings us back to the question of how to find a decent book that is worth reading from the content perspective as well as the quality perspective, in what is rapidly becoming an ocean of new independent publishers.

Basically what most avid readers want are books where you can simply enjoy a good story without being driven mad by the spelling mistakes, loss of a story line or complete inconsistency in font type, line spacing or size . Well you will be glad to hear that there are ways in which you can separate the wheat from the chaff, read on below for a few suggestions.

Photos Courtesy of PhotoXpress

How to Find a Good Book to Read

Amazon does have some great tools you can use for finding good books based on your past history, preferences, books you like and what other people bought. But they are not the only game in town, even if they are the biggest. That said the first few tips are for finding good books on Amazon.

  1. Amazon book lists, check out the best sellers or hotest new releases lists
  2. Use the ‘What other people bought’ feature on Amazon to find books that other people have read
  3. Scroll to the bottom of a book page to click on tags or categories to get the highest ranking books with the same tags or in the same categories
  4. Look out for ‘Listmania’ lists, they usually appear at the left hand side of search results and sometimes you can search Listmania so just put in what you are searching for.
  5. Register with book review sites where you can list the books you have read, review them and recommend them to others. And of course visa versa. Probably the best known of these sites is GoodReads
  6. Look for blogs that publish, distribute and/or review books. eBookIssues for example.
  7. You can look on social media sites and search for books or genres of books, sites like Stumbleupon and Delicious are particularly good for books.
  8. Micro-blogging sites such as the famous Twitter remember to use the # when you search e.g. #ebooks #indies #books #romance etc.
  9. Multiple digital format distributors such as Smashwords so that you can get your books in a format to suit your eReading devices.

Book Distributors Other Than Amazon

Not all of these distributors offer ‘look inside’ or free samples but most do and you can always check the books out on the sites that do and then purchase in your preferred format.

Both Barnes & Noble and Smashwords offer free samples to download for sure.

Smashwords
This is the biography page for Moulin Publications. Moulin Publications provides a specialist eBook publishing service to all authors struggling to deal with the file formatting requirements asked of them to get their books published on Smashwords and other popular eBook distribution sites.

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A New Way to Choose Which Book to Read
Whichbook is a unique site for choosing what to read. Whichbook offers choices which are not available anywhere else – mood, emotion, plot shape, type of main character, country the book is set in.

How You Can Identify A Good Book To Read

  • Read the reviews on the distributor site, note the new ‘verified purchaser’ indicator on Amazon that tells you the reviewer actually bought the book. Doesn’t always mean they haven’t read it if they are not verified because authors do give away free samples to professional or amateur reviewers
  • Use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, you can usually read up to 20% of the book before committing to purchase. Should be enough to get a feel for the quality and the content.
  • Use the request a sample feature or download options on distributor sites. This is similar to look inside but you actually get the sample downloaded to your device
  • Join an on-line book club, GoodReads is one example but you can also look for book clubs that specialise in the genre you are interested in so you can really home in on your favourite types of books. You can look at the reviews and recommendations for books of interest.
  • Join Shelfari this is Amazon’s own book club. You can add books add extra information, join specific groups and so on. The information also feeds back to the book in Amazon. Pretty neat resource for authors and readers.

What Makes a Book Worth Reading Anyway

Makes you laugh or cry or both?

Good booksWhat makes a book worth reading is the million dollar question. Why? Because that is totally subjective and depends on the perspective of the reader. Adults have different perspectives to children, men have different perspectives to women, some people are serious and some people are frivolous. You can probably see where I am going here, we are all different and I have pointed out some of the obvious ones, but there are many others much more subtle than the ones illustrated. So is there a common ground?

I actually don’t think there is, not in terms of perspective anyway, but people do read books for different reasons and these can probably be categorised more easily. For example the two clear functions of a book are either to inform or to entertain. Yes you can then delve into those categories and be more specific, some people are entertained by horror thrillers, or psychological thrillers of the paranormal others by funny books that make them laugh or romantic novels that carry them into a world of fantasy. This is why there are so many different genres and categories associated with books and perhaps why some publishers of books can struggle to place their books in the right places for their readers to find them.

That doesn’t really help anyone looking for a good book to read, if a book they would really enjoy is categorised in a way they simply wouldn’t think of searching for it then the likelihood is that they will never find it; other than by accident. I also think that sometimes people don’t actually know what they are looking for or in fact what they will enjoy. So what happens?

Typically people latch onto one author or genre and stick with it or her/him, probably why recently best selling Trilogy’s have been so successful (assuming of course that the second and third are not required reading to find out what actually happened). Everyone is playing safe, sticking to what they know or what the masses dictate is a good book. Best sellers for example are self perpetuating, the more people that read them the more people there are that want to read them, and why not I hear people saying. Because we are all different is what I say, so instead of being a bit of a sheep, perhaps we should get off the main rail and take a side track, even if it’s only once in a while.

I seem to have digressed onto a soapbox for some reason, so I had better hop back down onto terra-firma and just finish by saying that what makes a good book is whether it delivered to you, as an individual, what you wanted. Whether that was in an expected or surprising way. Actually the latter would probably be more enjoyable, the fact that you got what you wanted was a surprise, it even sounds better.

So don’t let someone else put you off a book, read the description and yes take in the book reviews but most important of all take a look at the sample for the first few chapters and make up your own mind whether you think you will like it or not. And of course I do have to take a step back from my earlier statement, if you find an author or a genre you really enjoy, then why not take on more of the same, just don’t forget that sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Plus these days in the world of digital eReaders and eBooks, most literary exhibits are very affordable so the risk you are taking is small.

Of course if you are interested in the books on this site you can click on the BOOKS category and browse away.

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Where Indie Authors Can Publish Their Books

December 12, 2013 in Articles, eBook publishing

Independent PublishingEvery Indie author will either know or strongly suspect that the best place to publish their books is on Amazon. There is a lot of information on this site on how to go about doing that and plenty of other online resources have discussed and advised how to publish books via Amazon.

Using KDP for ebooks or Createspace for paperbacks are two very good options and should be a strong consideration for any indie author.

But are there other options?

The quick answer is of course ‘YES’…. there are bound to be other options besides Amazon for publishing books. But then you need to know what they are and why.

With ebook readers growing ever more popular, what many independent authors do is to publish their books on Amazon and or Createspace first and then to use a third party distributor like Smashwords to get their ebooks published with other online distributors.

There is a good reason for this and quite simply put…. it is down to administration. Smashwords, for example, has positioned itself in the ebook distribution market place as a provider of services to independent authors. What they have done is to provide comprehensive help and advice that will help most reasonably computer-competent authors format their books ready for publication and, if required, provide an ISBN for the book. Then they convert the books to multiple formats that can be used on virtually all the ereaders currently available in the market place. Also, if the book achieves premium status, they will distribute it to multiple online distributors.

Achieving premium status depends on the formatting of the book prior to submission.  In other words – all relevant formatting requirements detailed in their style guide must be met.

They collect all royalty payments from the various distributors and once they have taken their cut, which is quite modest actually, they reimburse the authors with their net royalties.

At the time of writing, Smashwords can arrange for the distribution of an ebook (that has achieved premium status) to the following list of online distributors:

  • Sony
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Library Direct
  • Baker-Taylor Axis360
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster

There is an opt out function for any distributors you prefer not to distribute through, either because you have already distributed through them independently or perhaps you just prefer not to distribute through a particular channel. This list continues to grow as Smashwords make agreements with new distributors.

You can of course go to most of these sites independently to try and set up accounts so that you can publish your book with them. But there will be stringent requirements that have to be met in order to get your book accepted, particularly with respect to formatting and you will then of course have to deal with the administration yourself on a distributor by distributor basis.

For authors outside of the USA you may well find that the distributors are also forced to withhold up to 30% of your royalty payments for the tax department (IRS). The only way around this is to apply for an international tax identification number (ITIN) and send a letter to each distributor advising them that you are exempt from withholding tax (provided you are of course). If, on the other hand, you are only dealing with Amazon and Smashwords you should really only need to advise them. I should mention here that I am not a tax adviser, so please ensure you verify what you need to do with someone qualified to do so based on your own personal circumstances.

This thread on Goodreads may help for anyone trying to get an ITIN http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/756351-dealing-with-amazon-com-and-the-irs—authors

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Smashwords?

There are definitely some disadvantages to using Smashwords, here is a quick summary:

  • They take a cut of your royalties
  • Even with their comprehensive style guide, some people still struggle to get their books formatted to a standard that will get them into the premium status category. The consequence being your book will only then be distributed by Smashwords and will not go out to the other distributors listed
  • Smashwords only sell a small percentage of books directly, mostly I suspect because it is more complicated to download a file and transfer it onto an ereader (even with detailed instructions being available)
  • There are file size limitations (10MB) and graphics, where used, need to be relatively simple and straightforward in nature
  • They only publish eBooks
  • You cannot upload books with DRM (digital rights management ) protection

A Quick Summary of the Advantages of Using Smashwords

Just a quick list of what the advantages are for an independent author publishing through Smashwords:

  • The potential to get your books listed with multiple distributors and with only one account to administer
  • Your books can be converted to multiple formats to suit most ereaders using an automated process
  • You can get free ISBN’s for your book
  • Publishers and agents can also use Smashwords for their clients
  • Growing in popularity with established social media presence that can be used for book marketing
  • A range of different tools and options available for promotion campaigns
  • Free link to printed books
  • Video facility for book trailers
  • A range of author profile tools including, interviews, social media links and blog feed.
  • Books are free of DRM constraints (likely to be appreciated by potential customers)

Who else provides Similar Facilities to Smashwords?

Of course you may not like the look of Smashwords or decide their formatting style guide is just too complicated, so here are a few other successful distributors that independent authors can use:

And just in case you haven’t explored the Amazon route for publishing eBooks, then take a look here http://kdp.amazon.com/  The most popular publishing platform for independent authors and where you are most likely to make reasonable sales. You can ask Smashwords to list you with them if you want to, but to be honest this is one option you are probably better taking care of yourself.

If you need help with any aspect of getting your book published and promoted then you are free to leave a comment or get in touch via the contact-us page.

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Marketing and Promoting a Book Online

November 26, 2012 in Articles, Book Marketing

marketing and promoting a bookThere are many ways any self published independent author can start marketing  and promoting a book on line. But unfortunately for many that means either learning how to do it, or paying someone else to do it for them. Either way there is a price to pay, the first is payment in time and the second one means parting with hard earned cash. Of course you could do a balance between the two and take on some of the work yourself and just pay someone to do the trickier bits for you.

So lets assume that you have at least some time available and are prepared to use that time in order to market and promote your book or books. Doesn’t really matter whether they are printed book or whether they come in a digital format, marketing on-line at the end of the day will be virtually the same for both. Here is a list of ways to market a book on-line: Read the rest of this entry →

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