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Friday, February 22, 2013

The End of Free Kindle e-book Promotions?

This morning Amazon announced significant changes to the operating agreement governing their associates program that will go into effect starting in March.  The changes are aimed directly at sites/bloggers/commentators who primarily promote free e-books.  In short, Amazon will not pay the associate commission for a given month if 1) 80% of the e-books bought after following the associate's links are free and 2) over 20,000 free e-books are downloaded after following the associate's links. 

Why do associates promote free books in the first place?  Because by getting a customer to Amazon the associate earns commission on other items that the customer purchases while they are there.  Most people just grab the free e-book and go on their way, but a small percentage will buy something else.  This strategy works for associates when they send people to Amazon in high enough volume, and it works for Amazon because people buy things there that they might not have otherwise.

The impact of this change is potentially far reaching.  The big sites that primarily promote free e-books are either going to have to shut down or completely revamp their business plan.  MRM is small potatoes compared to those sites, but we will feel the impact as well.  KDP select authors are going to have a much harder time promoting their books when they have a freebie promotion, and subsequently are less likely to get the sales boost for paid books that usually comes along with the promotion.  That in turn will make it less attractive for an author to join KDP select.

What does this mean for Must Read Mysteries?  I am not quite sure yet.  Amazon has not provided statistics to associates on how many free books are downloaded (they say they will start to in March), so it is impossible to gauge just how close we are to the thresholds.  My guess is that we are over the 80% threshold, but somewhat below the 20,000 books per month.  I will watch the statistics for the first week or so of March and then decide just how radical the changes are going to need to be.  Free e-books are certainly going to be a significantly smaller part of the books that we feature, and it is possible that we may need to eliminate them altogether.  Even that may not be enough, though, because if people load up on freebies after following a regular e-book link that would still count against us.

This change is certain to cause some short term pain for book promoters and indie authors, but the long term impact is less clear.  The glut of free Kindle books is starting to eat into the sales of regular e-books and books, as some people have hundreds of e-books on their Kindle waiting to be read and are not willing to pay for content.  This may be a way of combating that.  It is going to be an interesting next couple of months.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pam Stack Guest Blog: What To Do When A Book Isn't All That

Today on the blog Pam Stack, host of Authors on the Air, discusses her dilemma of how to review a stinker when the author is hoping for a positive blurb.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about reviews I post on the many books that I read during the year.  Most are for novels by writers that I truly enjoy.  Give me murder and mayhem, spies and espionage, romantic thrillers and comedy, paranormal and Steampunk.  These are my favorites.  Rarely do I read, much less review, non-fiction.  And generally, I choose the books I want to read and review and post my ratings on books that garner 3 – 5 stars.  Those that don’t, well, let’s just say I “forget” that I’ve read them.

As Authors on the Air radio becomes more popular I find myself in the position of being asked to read an author’s work in hopes of a positive review to be used as a quote on a book jacket.  At first, I was flattered.  They want me?  Little ole me, who loves the written word and reads 300+ books a year?  Oh yes!  Of course, I agree.  However.  And you know there is a “however” here.
What happens when I read a novel that I feel is a stinker?  What do I say to the author who has poured their heart and soul into this book and is waiting for a quote to place on the jacket to encourage others to purchase their book?  Therein lies the rub.  And my conundrum.

I was recently faced with this dilemma.  I agreed to read, review and offer a pithy yet witty comment on a particular writer’s follow-up book; I enjoyed the first book, but the follow-up was less than satisfactory.  And actually, after the few chapters I realized that either (1) the first book was a fluke or (2) the writer believed that a successful first novel guaranteed the second would be as successful and as well-received without the same hard work. The wrongs would not be righted unless, in my humble opinion, the story was completely re-written. 

So, what to do, what to do?  I consulted with friends and colleagues known for their diplomacy and solicited their opinions.  Most said that I should find a kind and gentle was to advise the writer that their book sucked.  I’m not so good at that.  I want to make people happy; it’s my nature.  I want them to be successful.  I adore books and honor authors.  What to do?

Finally, I decided that in order to maintain my credibility as a reviewer, BETA reader and editor as well as a talk show host, I must be honest with said author and let them know that I found their work lacking and explain exactly what I found missing in their current work that was present in the previous one.  

And I have decided that I will no longer review books in order to have my name conceitedly placed on a book jacket, as though I were some authority, even if asked by the author.  I will continue to review books, talk about them, promote them, have lively and interesting discussions with authors on the radio, but I will decide which books I will read and review.  I can live with myself knowing that I have not hurt anyone’s feelings and still remain true to myself.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Storm Must Read Mysteries

Now that the big snow storm has hit us here in the northeast, I started thinking about mysteries in which snow plays a significant part in the plot and/or setting.  Here are 10 books to snuggle up to and read after digging out:

  • Agatha Christie's classic The Sittaford Mystery (published in the US as Murder at Hazelmoor), set in two small villages in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Gregg Olsen's A Wicked Snow, a cold case mystery with CSI Hannah Griffin
  • Mary Daheim's Snow Place to Die from her popular Bed-and-Breakfast series
  • Bill Pronzini's excellent Snowbound, about a small resort mountain community cut off from civilization by a snow storm and avalanche. Also trapped in the town are 3 professional killers.
  • Heather Horrocks' Snowed Inn, the first book in her Who-Dun-Him Inn cozy mystery series
  • Jo Nesbo's The Snowman from his popular Harry Hole Norwegian mystery series
  • Another Norwegian mystery is Anne Holt's 1222, a closed room mystery set on a snowy mountaintop
  • Jenny Milchman's recently released and highly regarded Cover of Snow
  • Liz Oglivie-Smythe's Provincetown set cozy mystery A Deadly Snow Fall
  • James Thompson's Snow Angels, the first book in his highly regarded Inspector Vaara series set in northern Finland
Do you have any favorites that I have missed?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 5th 2013 New Mystery Releases Recap

The February 5th batch of new mystery releases is a particularly strong one, especially for cozy, historical, and paranormal mysteries, so I figured a recap was in order.  Among the new releases are:

  • Avery Aames' To Brie or Not to Brie, the 4th book in her Cheese Shop cozy mystery series
  • Lucy Arlington's (aka Ellery Adams and Sylvia May) Every Trick in the Book, the second book in the Novel Idea cozy mystery series with literary agent Lila Wilkins.
  • Lorraine Bartlett's (aka Lorna Barrett) One Hot Murder, the third book in her Victoria Square cozy mystery series with Katie Bonner, manager of Artisans Alley
  • Rhys Bowen's The Face in the Mirror, a short story in her Macavity and Agatha award winning Molly Murphy historical mystery series, set in early 1900s New York City
  • Ellen Byerrum's Veiled Revenge, the 9th book in her Crime of Fashion cozy mystery series with columnist Lacey Smithsonian 
  • Carol K. Carr's India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, the 3rd book in her Madam of Espionage series set in Victorian England and featuring young brothel madam India Black
  • Sheila Connolly's Buried in a Bog, the first book in her new County Cork mystery series set in a small Irish village
  • E.J. Copperman's Chance of a Ghost, the 4th book in his Haunted Guesthouse paranormal cozy mystery series with Alison Kerby
  • Elizabeth Craig's Knot What It Seams, the second book in her Southern Quilting cozy mystery series with retired art museum curator Beatrice Coleman 
  • B.B. Haywood's Town in a Pumpkin Bash, the 4th book in her cozy mystery series with small town Maine blueberry farmer Candy Holliday
  • Sara Henry's A Cold and Lonely Place, the followup to her Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark award winning Learning to Swim, with small town reporter Troy Chance 
  • Hannah Jayne's Under the Gun, the 4th book in her Underworld Detection Agency paranormal/sci fi/romantic mystery series
  • Sofie Kelly's Cat Trick, the 4th book in her Magical Cats paranormal/cozy/cat mystery series
  • Stacy McLaughlin's All Natural Murder,  the 2nd book in her Blossom Valley cozy mystery series with Dana Lewis
  • Barbara Corrado Pope's The Missing Italian Girl, the 3rd book in her historical mystery series set in late 1800s France with magistrate Bernard Martin
  • Helene Tursten's The Golden Calf, the 5th book released in the US from her acclaimed Swedish mystery/police procedural series with Irene Huss

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