Free Books Made Easier

I’ve written previously that I’m not a big fan of authors giving away their books, except under a few circumstances. It might feel good to see all those new potential readers, but I know from personal experience that I only rarely end up reading the free books I’ve downloaded.

However, for the times when it’s helpful to offer an ebook for free, Barnes and Noble has now made the process much simpler. I applaud them. Of course, the real issue is that Kindle, the biggest player in the game, still makes giving away your book a pain in the butt unless you choose to sell exclusively through them. I understand their rationale — they don’t make any money off free books. But in the long run, it may help some authors sell more books overall, which means more money for the beast called Amazon.

So come on, Amazon, give us a break. Make giving away our creative efforts a little easier.

Happy writing,


Reading Deals Book Reviews: An Update

Back in April I wrote about Reading Deals book review program. I’ve now received all 10 of my reviews on Amazon for Goddess so I can give other authors who need more Amazon reviews an honest review of their services. Here’s my take:

  1. The reviews take a long time to come in. I placed my order for 10 reviews on February 16. I received an email today that my 10th review has finally been posted. Six months sounds like a long time and was more than I expected, but in retrospect, I don’t think it was unreasonable. The reviewers aren’t paid (which is a good thing), so their only incentive to finish a review is so they can get another free book.
  2. The reviews varied a great deal in quality. I never expected NY Times quality reviews. A few of mine were thoughtful, others were barely more than a sentence. It would be good if Reading Deals required reviewers to write a minimum number of words.
  3. The reviews were almost all positive. I don’t necessarily see this as a plus for the service. I’d prefer a thoughtful negative review to a slapdash positive one. The people who didn’t like the book were turned off by the adultery theme. But they still admired the writing, which is just fine by me. I knew the book would be controversial.
  4. They keep you apprised of the reviews coming in. Each week I received an automated email telling me how many reviewers had downloaded the book and how many reviews I’d received. I really appreciated this.
  5. The price seems reasonable. I don’t remember what I paid but the current price is $79. The $129 for premium placement might speed up how fast the reviews come in. Frankly, I’ve spent more and got back less advertising Goddess, so I thought it was worth it.

The bottom line is, if you need more reviews for your book, I think Reading Deals is worth it. It’s certainly more ethical than paying for positive reviews, and I think it’s also more honest than getting your friends and family to review your book.

If you’re considering this service and want to do more research, here are links to all my Reading Deal reviews:

Happy writing!


Getting Amazon Reviews: A Success Story

I’ve written earlier about my struggles to get reviewed on Amazon. I definitely wasn’t going to pay for good reviews (Unethical!) and I decided to avoid asking friends and family to review my book. (I’ve read too many books with rave reviews that turned out to be terrible. We all know where most of those reviews came from.)

Call me crazy, but I wanted to actually earn my good reviews. While doing research on where to advertise my next sale on Goddess, I stumbled across Reading Deals. They advertise book bargains, but they also offer a service to send your book out to people who are interested in reviewing it. Yes, you do pay for the service (I paid $39 for 10-15 reviews.) but the reviewers themselves are unpaid and there’s no promise that the reviews will be positive.


I’ve now received seven reviews through Reading Deals, and along with the reviews I already had, my book is averaging 4.1 stars. Compared to the many books with 5-star averages, that’s not fantastic. But I suspect most of those 5-star reviews were written by the author’s mom and best friends.

The reviews themselves are mostly well thought out, though far from what an author would get from a professional publication. But on Amazon, I think that’s the best we can expect. Overall, I’m pleased with my experience with Reading Deals. I would definitely recommend them to other authors searching for reviews.

Best Wishes,


Big Two Week Sale on Goddess

Yesterday, I kicked off a two week $.99 sale on Goddess with ads in Betty Book Freak and Buck Books. I’m also starting to garner some more reviews on Amazon. Goddess is available on all platforms, so go out (or stay in) and get a copy!

Best Wishes,


Using an Initial Image in Your Writing

We think of books as being about words, but they’re really about images. At the beginning of a story, a powerful image can create a world in our minds. It can unify the characters and the theme, and it can reinforce those elements as the writer comes back around to variations on that image during the course of the story. Like an alliteration, it makes us sit up and take notice of what the author is trying to convey.

As I’ve often mentioned in my blog, many of my ideas about structure have come from my years as a screenwriter. One important lesson I learned came from Linda Seger’s book, Making a Good Script Great. She talks about beginning a script with a central image, one that sets up the story’s world and ressonates with us emotionally. The example she uses is from the movie Witness.


Witness begins with a group of Amish – men, women, and children – crossing a field of wheat waving in the wind. The image is gorgeous and serene.  Carriages appear on the road, and it soon becomes clear that the community is gathering. It’s not until we go inside a farmhouse that we learn why. A funeral is taking place. People are grieving. A man is speaking to them in Pennsylvania Dutch, so we don’t understand what he’s saying. We don’t know who has died or why, but that’s not important yet. Our focus is on the sense of community.

Community is a central theme of the movie, and it’s set up nicely in this scene. We later see the contrast between the pastoral Amish and the evils of the big city. This polarity is developed throughout the movie until the image of community that was set up at the beginning of the film becomes essential to the climax. Even the setting, the grain in the field, becomes part of the climatic battle between Harrison Ford and the simple Amish, and the evildoers from the city.

In my own book Goddess, I set up an initial scene that showed how central marriage and family is to Julia Nelson’s life. She and her husband are having sex. Even though we don’t see or hear from their children yet, they’re still present because Julia is careful to be quiet so they don’t hear.

And yet, we also see in this scene that domesticity isn’t as blissful as it’s often portrayed. The sex is routine and not satisfying for Julia. It leaves her feeling confused. Even though she doesn’t know it yet, she longs for the inextricable passion that’s symbolized by the tattoo on her ankle.

When you’re writing your novel, take the time to think about how your opening scene can set up the theme you’ll explore. Make it subtle – you shouldn’t hit your readers over the head with your grand ideas. What you’ve planted will echo throughout your story, and make it deeper and more meaningful.

Happy writing!

Best wishes,


Free Review Copies of Goddess

You may have read my post a while back about my struggles to get reviews for Goddess without resorting to asking friends and family. (“Really, Kelee,” said my Aunt Agnes. “Erotic romance? Maybe you should bake a nice apple pie instead.”)

Paying people to post reviews felt as unethical as a soliciting a slew of 5-star reviews from my friends. Then, while looking for places to advertise my next big sale, I came across Reading Deals. They don’t advertise erotica, but they do have a side service called Review Club. For $39 an author can get 10-15 reviews on Amazon, plus tweets promoting your book. Yes, it does cost money, but it doesn’t go to the reviewers and there’s no guarantee they’ll give me good reviews, so I felt like it was ethical. I’ll let you know how it works out.

And if you’d like to join Review Club as a reviewer, you can get a lot of free books, including mine:

Happy reading, everyone!

Best wishes,


Who Was Gouverneur Morris?

Frankly, I’d never heard of Mr. Morris, though he does have a Wikipedia entry. I can assure you that I’m no relation. Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble has decided that we’re one in the same person, and either he wrote a scandalous erotic romance novel in the early 20th Century, or I’ve penned a pulp fiction book called The Goddess.


You’re probably as confused as I was when I checked out my newly published Nook edition of Goddess. Apparently, they’ve confused the two of us and put us on the same page.

Hopefully, I can get this corrected, but in the meantime you can still order a Nook edition of Goddess here. Yes, this means I’m no longer tied to a contract with KDP Select. I’ll soon be publishing Goddess to other platforms via Smashwords.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time because I’m a dedicated Nook user. As for Mr. Morris, he seems like a nice guy from his photo, but he died in 1953. Still, I wish him the best.

Best wishes,


Should You Offer Your Book for Free?

My first three months with KDP Select is winding down, and I was considering whether to take advantage of their free book promotion (up to five days) before the end of January. I started to do a little research, and the first thing I learned is how difficult it is to offer your book for free on Kindle outside their exclusivity agreement. My understanding is that it’s fairly easy to set your price at free on other platforms. If you published through Smashwords, all you have to do is notify them and they’ll do the rest. But for Amazon, you first have to change your price on Nook and other distributors, and then convince them to match it. Perhaps running through an Amazon warehouse naked will get you noticed, but otherwise, it can take a lot of time and effort.

But first things first: is giving away your book a good marketing strategy? Being a list-making kind of person, I read a lot of author blogs where they shared their experiences and came up with reasons why we authors should and shouldn’t give away our work.

Four Reasons You Should Definitely Give Away Your Book

  1. You can gain a lot of new readers. Authors report that, with a little advertising, they often get thousands of book downloads. That can translate into readers who will love your writing and eagerly buy your other books.
  2. You can score some new book reviews. Some of those new readers are (hopefully) going to post reviews of your book. Reviews mean future potential sales as you gain visibility and credibility for your work.
  3. It can be a great way to launch the next part of a series. Offering part 1 for free just before the next installment is published can mean more readers will be clamoring to buy it. This is especially true if you wrote a cliff hanger.
  4. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Competition is stiff. There are hundreds of thousands of book published every year. Your only hope of getting noticed is to try to get your book into as many hands as possible, by any means possible.


Four Reasons You Definitely Shouldn’t Give Away Your Book

  1. Downloads don’t necessarily translate into reads. Yes, thousands of readers have downloaded your book, but how many of them will actually read it? There are no exact figures, but based on what others have reported, very few. Readers who like free books tend to download a lot of them. Without having to put any money down, those files may sit in their Kindles for years until they can’t even remember why they downloaded them in the first place. Then, all they have to do is hit delete. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  2. Downloads don’t necessarily translate into reviews either. Many authors report being disappointed by how few (if any) reviews they get from those thousands of downloads. It could be that people haven’t read the book, or that they’re as lazy about reviewing books as they are about buying them.
  3. Worse yet, those downloads can mean bad reviews. Say a sci-fi fan downloads your free contemporary romance novel without much thought because he likes the babe on the cover. He reads 10 pages and gets so annoyed by the dearth of sex that he leaves a one-star review on Amazon. That certainly won’t help recruit paying customers.
  4. Offering free books perpetuates the belief that everything on the Internet should be free. I pay for web access to the New York Times because I demand good writing. I don’t want to get my news from Yahoo or some other crappy free site. Offering books for free means we don’t value our writing, and readers won’t value it either. If you want to make even a tiny living at writing, somebody is going to have to pay you at some point.

Charging even $.99 can force readers put a little skin in the game. In the long run, I think everyone will benefit. But I do see number 3 in the first list as a good reason to offer a book for free. I especially like the idea of offering a free book through an author’s own website, where your followers have already expressed an interest in you and your writing.

Whatever path you choose, good luck! I’d love to hear the experience of other authors who gave away their books.

Best wishes,



KDP Countdown Confusion

The KDP Countdown seems like a good deal for authors. You get to run a special for your book (.99 in the case of my book Goddess) while retaining the 70% royalty rate of the regular price. (My regular price is $2.99.)

I ran my first countdown deal just after Thanksgiving and wanted to give it a try again. That’s when I discovered the fine print. While doing a little research, I learned that because I had already run a countdown deal last month, I wasn’t eligible to run another one in the U.S. Fine, I thought, I’ll run the deal in the UK and change the price manually for those of us in the New World. I wouldn’t get the same royalty rate, but that didn’t seem like a big deal. I did my due diligence and read that I must change the price before the countdown deal began. Unfortunately, what I didn’t discover until it was too late was that I had to change my U.S. price 24 hours before my UK deal began.

So, bottom line, I am running a countdown deal, but only in the UK. Oh, well. Merry Christmas to my tea-loving readers. Everyone else will have to wait of for my next special.

Best wishes,