Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How NOT to get scadalized on Amazon

I've been running into the topic of discerning story content a lot lately, from blog posts about it to complaint-filled reviews. I decided to sound off on the issue, in hopes people will pass the information on. 

Because books don't have a rating system like movies, readers have difficulty gauging content. This is a problem for people who like 'clean' books and unknowingly get one that has explicit content. It can also be a problem for people who prefer explicit content or don't like a heavy religious theme, but I'm going to focus on the former for this post.

Let me pause to say, I'm not labeling specific content as good or bad, and I'm not promoting one genre or category over another. I'm simply educating folks so they can be better informed consumers.

Let's assume the reader wants 'clean' books with zero-to-minimal language, violence, and sex. How do they find books that suit?

The best way is to stick with Christian Fiction. 

(For the record, I do not write Christian Fiction.

There are two main groups out there, governing fiction--the ABA (American Booksellers' Association) and the CBA (Christian Booksellers' Association). My understanding is--although each publisher has his own philosophy and submission guidelines that allow for minor variations--the content of Christian Fiction is largely controlled by the CBA. 

If you purchase books marketed as Christian Fiction, you can relax and be fairly sure you won't come across anything that will make you cringe, faint, or blush. 

So, how do I know if a book is Christian Fiction? 

A good way is to look for the name of the publisher. If the book is published by a Christian publisher or imprint (ex: Zondervan, Bethany House), you're safe. That brings us to our first tip.

What if the book is self-published or there's no publisher listed?

In that case, you just have to take your chances. 
That said, there are clues.
  • If the cover image contains partially disrobed persons or a couple in the midst of a heated kiss or passionate embrace, it's probably not Christian Fiction.
  • If the story is described as 'hot' or 'sexy' or some other similar term, it's probably not Christian Fiction.
  • Get to know specific authors and their writing. Some authors who don't write CF, or not exclusively, still hold their content in check. (Ex: Debbie Macomber).
  • If you don't want to chance buying a book and being disappointed, go to the author's website and ask them. (We love to hear from readers.) 

What else can you do?
  • Read the reviews. It's not foolproof, but, if there are several, usually at least one will mention content. 
  • Ask for recommendations from friends.
  • Look at the categories/tags of the book in question. If you see 'Christian' or 'Inspirational,' you're safe. 
  • 'Sweet,' however, is dubious. Many people (myself included, for a time) use the word sweet, not realizing it is a term used to categorize clean romances. They might just mean the characters are sweet.
  • Check the book's listing for a content warning. Be sure to read everything. Sometimes these warnings are hidden at the bottom of the truncated story description.
For example, my book's description goes from this...

to this:

  • Consider books aimed at younger readers. Books marketed as Children's, MG, and YA are safe... usually (YA can be iffy).
  • Consider subscribing to book sites, such as The Fussy Librarian, that allow readers to customize recommendations according to content preferences.

I want to pause here and vent a bit. I've come across several one-star reviews in which the reader expressed outrage that a book was not Christian Fiction, even though the book was not marketed as such.

Many of these readers thought, just because the book showed up in a search or was recommended to them by the retailer, that it was CF. They didn't take the time to make sure before purchasing. You may not agree with me, but I feel it's wrong for them to blame the author.

Reviewers should be free to say what they did and did not like about a book--absolutely! But berating it for not being something it was never marketed as crosses the line. 

  • A book suggestion made by a retailer as something you might like is not a guarantee of content. Don't assume. 
  • If you've ever purchased mainstream (non-CBA) fiction from Amazon, they will likely market more of the same to you.
  • Christian Fiction readers don't all buy only Christian Fiction. Therefore--even on Inspirational books' pages--the 'customers who bought this also bought this' book suggestions may not be CF.
  • Just because a book is of a certain sub-genre (ex: western historical romance) doesn't mean it's automatically 'clean' or Christian Fiction. Though western historical romances often express traditional values, they run the gamut of inspirational-to-erotica, just like any other.
  • The review section on a retailer book page is for reviews of the book in question, meaning your opinion of its readability, its enjoyability, and its content. It is not the proper venue to complain about shipping problems (contact the seller privately) or to vent disagreements you have with the retailer and/or their marketing practices (contact them privately).

The moral is: Buyer Beware.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Promo Friday - August

It's time for the first Promo Friday. Yea!!!

I'd hoped to have more content for PF's maiden voyage, but you guys are being shy. Don't be shy!

The next deadline for content submission is Wednesday, September 10th for the Sept. 12th post. C'mon. Send me your stuff. :)

David Powers King recently revealed the cover of his and Michael Jensen's book, Woven. It's a YA fantasy set to be released by Scholastic Press in late January. Congratulations, guys!

Charlie Holmberg's book, The Paper Magician, was chosen for Kindle First. Only four books per month get this honor. It's been hanging out at the top of the list in the whole Kindle store! Congratulations, Charlie!!! :D 

The Paper Magician is $1.99 for a limited time. You can find it here

Upcoming debut release!
Demetria Foster Gray's debut novel, Sifting Through Mud, is set to be released in a mere ten days. Woot! Congratulations, Demetria!!!

The death of Nyla's husband comes as a shock to everyone except Nyla. What’s shocking to Nyla is her inability to grieve his death like a typical loving wife should grieve. But Nyla isn't a typical loving wife. She's a woman in desperate need to breathe. The oxygen in her life has long gone, and the astonishing thing she feels from her husband's death is relief, not grief. 

Even more astonishing is the rare and unexpected friendship which develops between Nyla and her dead husband's mistress. However, Nyla isn’t aware her new best friend is a former mistress. And as their friendship deepens into an unshakable bond, Nyla is forced to face secrets her husband took with him to his grave. This means she has to sift through mud to unravel the truth. A truth that’s better off dead. 

Yet through it all, the one thing which makes Nyla violently breathless, is the exact same thing that causes her to finally breathe.

Genre: Women's Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: August 18, 2014

And last but not least, Peggy Ann Craig discovered a MS she'd thought was lost. She plans to release The Color Of Ivy soon.

Here's the blurb...
He was bringing her back dead or alive.  And if bounty hunter SAM MICHALSKI had anything to do with it, most definitely alive.  He wanted to ensure cold-blooded murderer, IVY MACGREGOR, had her day in the gallows.

Though she might not look anything like a cold-blooded killer with her pale complexion and soft eyes, Sam wasn’t so easily fooled.  Hadn’t his own mother taught him that lesson?  Right before she covered his five year-old face with a pillow?  He survived that attack only to learn a valuable lesson.  The darkest of souls could be disguised in the purest of creatures.

Is that chilling or what!

Peggy's new to the social media scene and needs some cyber friends. 
Consider following her on her blog and Facebook.

Thanks for visiting. :)

Remember: the next Promo Friday is scheduled for Sept. 12th. 
Deadline for submitting content is Wednesday, Sept. 10th.  

(Promo Friday is a monthly service I provide to my followers.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG - August

This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for August.
For more information about the group, see the bottom of this post.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for August are:
Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler,  
Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom!
Please stop by their blogs and say thank you.

I wasn't sure what to write about this time. The way things are going for me right now, I could give some rousing encouragement AND I could list a host of worries. So... why not do both?

Worries first.

I just announced a decision I made to reduce my time on social media. I worry I might have offended some of my friends. I hope not. But (there's always a but) I'm an author. If I don't make time to write, what's the point?

Sales of my book have finally dwindled. This really is a marathon and not a sprint. Joining KDP Select has helped, but what if the figures don't ever recover? What if readers don't like the next book? What if? What if? (The 'what if's' are endless.) 

I think we need some encouragement.

I'm here to tell you: an indie author CAN be successful. Just focus on learning the craft and putting a professional product out there. Don't give up! It works!

Richard Bach says so. 

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.

"But," you say.
(There's always a but.)

But nothing.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we 
 oft might win, by fearing to attempt.   
- William Shakespeare

We can't banish all doubt (an we shouldn't), but we can keep it on a short leash and use it to our advantage.

I'll dust off my favorite quote.

You doubt because you care. 
And that can only lead to great things.
-Author unknown

Two announcements...

To my regular blog followers, 
Today is the deadline for getting your August 'Promo Friday'  
stuff to me. Don't be shy.

To everyone,
I'm planning another Follow Fest this year. 
(Participating will be simpler this time.
Tentative dates are Sept. 22nd - 26th. 
Twitter hashtag is #FollowFest14. 
Mark your calendars and tell your friends! 

Email me or use my contact form

Thanks for visiting. :)

IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome. 

We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Making Some Changes

We writers are constantly juggling our writing time with family, friends, chores, jobs, and social media. We often struggle to keep up with our blogging friends and give up writing time just to make all the visits and leave the expected comments. 

I mean, you have to make 'em to get 'em, right?

True. But now that I'm published, I have a very different perspective, and it has made me take a hard look at how my social media time is spent. I may lose some blogging friends over it, but I'm changing my behavior to fit my new priorities. This decision hasn't been easy. I enjoy visiting my writing buddies and chatting with you guys on social media. It's fun! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Release! Double Negative by C. Lee McKenzie

To celebrate the release of her newest YA book, Double Negative, the kind and talented C. Lee McKenzie is here with a quick lesson on characterization through dialect. 

Congratulations, Lee! Take it away! 
Literary Dialect: Quick Characterization

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Release Day! Effigy by M.J. Fifield

Launching a new release is always exciting, but especially so when it's a debut. Please join me in congratulating author M.J. Fifield on her debut fantasy, Effigy.

Way to go, M.J.!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blog Hop Challenge: Bella's Point by Elizabeth Seckman

To celebrate the release of Elizabeth Seckman's new book, Bella's Point, I'm participating in her blog hop challenge. The instructions were: write 'something readers want to read' (anything—no restrictions, no word limit), using the prompt provided, and hope it pleases the judges.

Want to join the challenge to win cash, prizes, and bragging rights? The linky is open to accept new participants all the way up until the 31st!  Sign up here!

Well, here goes. This short piece was written hurriedly, with minimal research, and is unedited.  It's also a tad gritty. You've been warned!

The prompt: The year is 1865...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cover Reveal - Soulless by Crystal Collier

The awesome and sweet and talented Crystal Collier is revealing the cover to her upcoming novel today. Isn't it pretty!

Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blog Tour - Sidelined by Kyra Lennon

Hi everyone, thanks so much to Melissa for letting me take over for the day! Here’s a small snippet from Sidelined’s opening chapter. For those who are unfamiliar with the Game On series and have never met Bree before, you should know, she's a total ditz. But a ditz with a dark past which is explored later in the story. :)


"Stop calling me!"

“Bree, I just-”

“I don’t want to hear it, Taylor. Leave me alone!”

I flung my cell onto the bed and threw myself backwards against my soft, fluffy pillows. So over having the same conversation. I should have stopped answering the phone to her but Taylor’s calls didn’t always come from the same number, and what if it was someone important? I hated missing calls from friends – any excuse for a good chat, right?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG July - Taking a break

Thanks for stopping by. 

I'm taking a break from IWSG this month. 
See you in August. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Little Summer Fun

Caffe Maggieatto over at Just Get It Written gave me the Liebster award. Thank you!

(Funny how that blog button keeps changing. Apparently the rules have morphed over time as well.)

Normally, I just acknowledge these things and link an old award post, but I needed some blog content for July and I thought Caffe's questions were challenging, so I decided to go full monty. Figuratively speaking, of course. :P

Rules (according to Caffe’s post):

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

To Tell You The Truth...

I'm visiting Crystal Collier's blog today,
trying to be sneaky and lie.

I hope you'll pop over and pay Crystal a visit.
There's a giveaway. :)