Tag Archives: self-publishing

Schrodinger’s Telephone is the Indie Book of the Day

I gotta start checking my e-mail more. Just found out that Schrodinger’s Telephone has won this little badgy thing. I have no idea what this means, but desperate attention-whore that I am, I’ll take it, but frankly what really makes me feel that I am not screaming into an empty cave is when readers “get it”. This week I got a new 5-star review for my novel, Loisaida, which has been out for three years. In September it got its first review in over a year, so thank you readers.  Readers don’t “owe” writers anything, and I’m not sure how much difference reviews make in sales, but a positive review is a great way to tell a writer, “I get it. Keep going.” In today’s crazy world where anyone can publish anything but only some can afford to promote, writers need readers to be the buzz, so I’d ask anyone coming across this who has enjoyed the work of a writer to tweet a link to a book, post something on facebook. RAVE to your friends. I’ve heard lots of discussion about the “lack of filter” for indie books. Many readers dismiss customer reviews on Amazon, but you know what people don’t dismiss? Their friends. So be the buzz and be the reliable filter. Make today, “Use-social-media-to-tell-your-friends-about-a-great-read-day.” Actually, everyday can be Use-social-media-to-tell-your-friends-about-a-great-read-day. And to those of you who already do that, thank you. Thank you for participating in the publishing revolution by bringing great books that might get lost in the slush to the attention of your friends.

Happy Saturday!

5 Simple Steps Amazon Could Take to Improve Reader Experience

The quality or lack thereof in self-published e-books has been the topic of many a forum thread over at the Amazon sites, and many other places on the web. Customers have complained about lack of editing, and general shoddy quality, including bad formatting. When anyone can “publish” a “book” on Amazon’s free digital publishing platform, many bad books will be published, leading most readers to avoid anything that smells self-published – even when the download is free.

Here are five simple steps Amazon could take to improve reader experience with self-published works:

    5. Stop allowing uploads to the Kindle platform using Word. Word is buggy and formatting errors are likely to occur. Most savvy writers are uploading from HTML. Allowing Word uploads is asking for formatting problems. It’s not too much of a hurdle for writers to convert to HTML, or read a formatting guide explaining how to do this. Writers who lack the technical “expertise” can easily find someone (a grandchild perhaps) who can figure it out.
    4. Format Check. Related to above – Have a program that reviews formatting and automatically stops badly formatted work from being accepted for publication. It only needs to be sophisticated enough to differentiate purposeful playfulness from complete messes, including scans supplied by rip-off vanity presses like Publish America and Author House.
    (In fact Amazon needs to crack down on companies like Publish America which publish unproofed and badly formatted manuscripts on Kindle and then charge their authors for “corrections” and to get back their publication rights. These practices don’t simply rip-off authors, they leave Amazon customers unsatisfied, and may turn off customers.)
    3. Use an advanced spelling and grammar check. Sure one would imagine that any manuscript being uploaded has been proofread a number of times, and that  all manuscripts have been through simple automated checks. However, this is not always the case. Amazon is now experimenting with a spell check that gives the author feedback about possible errors after they submit a manuscript to Amazon’s “preview” feature. This may help, but I’m not sure how good it is at spotting wrong words, grammar issues, punctuation problems, and other technical errors. Nor will any automated system work on fiction where authors may purposely use phonetic spelling or bad grammar in dialogue or for other purposes – not to mention sci-fi and fantasy where entire new languages may be created. However, Amazon should continue to develop the feature, and require publishers (whether they are micro-presses or individuals) to “sign-off” that they have actually viewed the feedback, and anything being left uncorrected is intentional.
    2. Book length and pricing: Right now any length is acceptable for a Kindle book, and many bestselling Kindle books would be too short to sell in print as a stand alone book. Recently, many authors have begun uploading single short stories, including short-shorts. Nothing wrong with that, except they’re mixed in with full-length books by genre, leading to some consumers feeling “ripped off” when they discover they’ve just purchased a 1,000 word work. Amazon has introduced a “page count” feature for e-books to help make consumers more aware of what they are getting. That’s great. However, the flood of short works still makes it difficult to sift through if you are looking to buy something that takes more than an hour to read. Here’s a simple suggestion – novels and even novellas and short story collections of at least 20,000 words are books. Anything less than that is a mini-book, or a short, or a single or whatever you want to call it, and should be somehow separated from full-length works, and clearly labeled. Price limits on shorts would be a good thing. Amazon prices its own “singles” imprint at less than full-length book prices, so why shouldn’t independent authors be subject to these controls?
    1. Help consumers find quality self-published work that will appeal to them. Amazon already has many proprietary secrets for targeting products to customers. They also have started several of their own imprints to help promising work get attention. But with so many books being uploaded every day, more filters are needed. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post on how Amazon could use paid readers to find self-published work likely to appeal to target audiences. The short version is that Amazon should offer an option for writers willing to pay a reading fee. The reader should be a consumer who falls into the target audience for the book. The writers would have receive a genuine reader review, and the reader could either “approve” or “reject” the book. Amazon would have a browse feature for approved books, and might promote them in other ways.  (Rejected books could still be self-published without “approval.”) This would give self-published authors a legitimate, objective review at a lower price than Kirkus or other services charge. It would be more relevant to Amazon readers since the reviewer would be one of their own and not a paid review service. It would help readers find books they are more likely to enjoy.
    (Like this post? Why not check out more on this blog, or take a look at Marion’s books?)

The Service Savvy Authors Would Pay For (If It Existed)

Part I – Nobody wants to read the great novel you wrote:

Without going into a whole history of digital self-publishing, let’s just admit the current situation sucks. Sure there are now self-published e-books regularly featured in The New York Times Sunday Book Review combined e-book and paperback top 25 bestsellers. Yes, there was a write-up in Slate last week on the phenomenal success of Wool, but aside from a very few winners, most authors are losers, and readers aren’t too happy either.
Continue reading The Service Savvy Authors Would Pay For (If It Existed)

Sh*t Your Friends Say When You Tell Them You Self-Published

Shit your friends say when you tell them you self-published:

“Is it real published?”

“It’s great to have a hobby!”

“You earned what? Do you know how little money that is?”

“No, haven’t got around to reading it yet.”

“It’s not you. I haven’t read fiction in years”

“It’s nice to have dreams, isn’t it?”

“It’s on my list!”

“99 cents? You’re joking, aren’t you?”

“Did you try sending it out?”

“I have too many published books to read.”

“These people are strangers?” (Referring to good reviews.)

“Maybe you should mention it on Facebook.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t mention it on Facebook.”

“People are buying that?”

“400 downloads your first month? You do understand that for a published book that’s nothing.”

“I guess you were really desperate.”

“Isn’t it possible all those agents were trying to tell you something?”

“Now a real publisher will never look at your work.”

“I don’t read e-books.” Then when told it’s in paperback, some other shit.

“You mean like that crazy lady that went viral?”

“For a second, I thought you were serious.”

“I’m so sorry!”

Where’s My Free Stuff?

Barack Obama                                                                                                11/6/2012

To Marion Stein

Marion —

I’m about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There’s a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.


Marion Stein                                                                                                11/07/2012

To: Barack Obama

Barack —

Hey congratulations.

Thanks back at you. Putting my life on hold the past couple of months and spending my time knocking on doors in Reading PA for the campaign was my pleasure, really.  Besides, not like I have an actual job waiting for me back home.

Have you been to Reading, by the way? Lots of old houses with rickety steps, and the sidewalks are kind of a mess, but the doctor says it’s just a sprain, so no worries.

I’m sorry we never got together for any of those dinner things. I kept clicking the button, but I never received the actual invitation, not even for coffee with Joe.

Anyway, please say hello to Michelle. Maybe we can all do lunch sometime when you’re in New York?


Marion Stein                                                                                                11/15/2012

To: Barack Obama

Hey Barack,

Sorry I missed that conference call for your “strongest supporters.” I did get the e-mail from Jeremy, but there was a little problem with my cell, one of those crazy credit card mix-ups. I’ll send you the new number as soon as I get a one.

How’s Michelle? Haven’t heard from her lately.  And the girls?  I guess you’re swamped, not like before the election when sometimes you’d write twice the same day!

Speaking of which, there’s been some settling-in post-campaign adjustment here at home.  (I’m sure you can relate.) But Craig and I are getting back to our old routine.  We’re seeing the marriage counselor this afternoon. Thank goodness for his insurance plan and the affordable care act!


Marion Stein                                                                                                12/24/2012

To: Barack Obama

Hey Barack,

Merry Christmas!  Did you get my card?

Craig’s bigshot cousin sent us pictures live on twitter from the White House Holiday Party.  I guess our invitation got lost with all the holiday junk mail. No worries! I heard from Michelle about joining millions of other Americans for activities on Inauguration Day, also something about a victory fund. Problem is those weeks I spent going door-to-door for you in Reading, not as much of a resume builder as you would think!  I’d love to help, and I hate to disappoint because I know how much you depend on me and all, but things are just a little tight right now.

I’m keeping up my spirits. I just put out a new novella on  Kindle, Schrodinger’s Telephone.  It’s available exclusively on Amazon for 99 cents. I figure if I could sell a hundred copies this month, it would be enough for the co-pay and I could see a doctor about that rash and the limp I’ve had since Reading. Like your friend Jim Messina always says, every dollar counts, right?

That reminds me, seeing as how I’ve been such a great supporter and all, would you mind liking my book on Amazon?  There’s also a  Facebook page.  It would just take a few seconds, and it would really help me out!

About that fiscal cliff message Jim sent out, my representative is Charlie Rangel, so I think you got that one locked up. Besides, no point in giving him a call, his hearing is going.  Guy’s like 90 or something.  Anyhow, I don’t think he’s been the same since that censure vote.

All the best,


Marion Stein                                                                                                1/9/2013

To: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

Hey Barack and Michelle,

Happy Belated New Year!

How’s it going?  Congratulations on the fiscal cliff aversion.  I don’t feel you sold out despite what anyone on the West Harlem Obama for America Dashboard has to say. Next stop automatic weapons ban, amirite?  Regarding the day of service commitment Michelle emailed about, funny thing happened.  Last week, I had an actual job interview!  First one in months.  I get to the subway station and realized I left my wallet home.  I didn’t want to be late, so I decided to jump the turnstile.  Long story short, I never made it to the interview, but I already have community service covered on MLK Jr day!

Hey Bar, did you get a chance to like my book page yet?  Also, nothing says thank you for your support like a four or five star review on Amazon, and Mich this one is family friendly.  Just put it on your Amazon wish list where your friends can see.  I’m running a little contest, and I’ll be giving free copies to the first ten people to do that; plus there’s a drawing for coffee with the author.

Best to you and the girls and good luck on January 21st!

By the way, we’re trying to put away some debt.  Could you please help by clicking one of the options below?

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