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Friday, 31 January 2014

Evan Andrew reflects on the New Year(s)

Where did January go!

Suddenly it's Chinese New Year day, 31st January, so, Goong Hee Fat Choy!  A Happy New Year again.  As it's the Chinese year of the Horse, I have made my yearly visit out to  Karaka to the yearling Thoroughbred sales, and made due homage to those beautiful animals which I drool over.

Over the holidays I made it my mission to read Eleanor Catton's Man Booker prize winning novel, 'The Luminaries.'

It was no easy feat, believe me!  I did admire the clever originality of the story, the depth of her research, and the descriptive picture of Westland in the 1860's. Interesting for me, in the book she has the Chinese camp with its opium dens at Kaniere, and on my dining room wall I have an old painting of  that lake, which I look at daily.

Honesty compels me to admit that I found the first five hundred pages a real struggle. Two hundred would have been more than enough. With the dictionary beside me, I looked up many words used in the text, that were completely unknown to me, and several were not even listed.  Many times I felt like giving up.

After that, the next three hundred and thirty-two pages were much more enlivening, and the pace of the story improved. The way she has interwoven the main twelve characters and their connections together, as in a tapestry which is revealed at the end, was very well handled with great skill.

I must confess I am still at a loss regarding the signs of the zodiac and the planetary system regarding the alignment of the stars etc, which headed every chapter,  however;  I will leave it to wiser heads than mine to explain it all to me. Particularly as the end of the story is also the beginning, so lots to think about.

My major disappointment was the total lack of empathy I felt for any of the characters in the story, well drawn though they were. The heroine, (for want of a better word,) seemed a shadowy, elusive, unknowable figure, whose career as a whore, just did not seem to ring true to me, and nor did the sole Maori character.

Nevertheless, the amount of time, work and effort put into the book, by the author, is truly impressive.

At some stage in the future, I will try another of her books, but for now, I will concentrate on a considerably easier read.


Evan G Andrew 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Createspace expanded distribution now free

Hey, there's some good news from Createspace! The expanded distribution option which used to cost US $25 has now, apparently, been made available FREE to authors. I've been onto all the Amazon/Createspace accounts I have access to for my clients and added the expanded distribution options to their titles, and those of you who handle your own accounts might want to log in and do the same.

What does this mean to the author? As far as I can gather, it means your title will now be visible on the wholesaler listings around the world for bookstores to order copies. That's a good thing, although it may not be the very best way to get bookstores to order your book as the margins they can make by ordering that way are quite small. Here are some other options for selling POD titles through bookshops.

Option One

The store can order via the author/publisher and pay him direct. The shop tells the author how many copies they’d like. The author orders copies from Createspace at the author price, pays for them and has them delivered to the bookstore. He invoices the bookstore, adding whatever mark-up he requires as royalty payment. The bookstore, if overseas, pays the author by whatever means suit – mailing a cheque, or via a Paypal account. Little bit clunky.

 Option Two

The bookstore buys from Createspace e-store, using their own Amazon account. The author gets his royalties from Createspace in the usual way. The author can provide a discount coupon so that the bookstore can buy at a wholesale rate rather than full retail. Fully flexible pricing options. Looks like a good choice.

 Option Three

If the bookstore is an eligible retailer with ‘Createspace Direct’ they can order direct at wholesale rates with no need for the author to provide discount coupons.
And as mentioned, the book is also available through most major distributors who can order it through Createspace and supply to stores (though the margins for retail mark-up would be slim.)

Of course, you still have to tell bookstores your book is available and entice them to stock it...

It's good to see Createspace responding to the real world and making things easier for authors. Now we can stop banging our heads on the brick walls of bookstores and get back to writing!

Have you done your words today?

aka. Officer in Charge

Friday, 17 January 2014

Jean Allen on films from books

Some of the 2013 Christmas presents from our kids were Film Vouchers so we took a morning out of our holidays and went to enjoy a Bridgeway film (and their super coffee) this week.

I had read ‘The Book Thief. My husband had not but it was my turn to choose. Having enjoyed Markus Zusak’s characters and his storyline but not some of his writing style, I was curious but not hopeful about a film adaptation. Well, we both sat – spellbound – as did the whole audience.

It is not often I prefer a film version of a book - but this film, set in Germany from around 1938 through to the end of the Second World War, captured and held me throughout those  whole 2hrs 11mins. Settings (especially the rooms of the foster home to which Lisa is sent) the acting prowess of Sophie Nelisse , Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and indeed the whole cast, camera work and especially the voice of the narrator, Roger Allam - merged and mesmerized so that I heard hardly a sound from an equally enraptured audience.  

Set in an ordinary German and Jew neighbourhood and seen through the eyes of a young girl whose life changes forever, this film has provided a depth to the book I surely missed in the reading. I have not seen such a film in many years. It is drama at its most powerful and it is born from a book!

This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you read the book and see the film this New Year 2014.  

Saturday, 11 January 2014

How to Review on Amazon - made easy!

This is an article re-posted from the excellent site of Indies Unlimited. You can find it here.

Posted on January 10, 2014 by Big Al

BookglassesOdds are if you’re a reader who’s visiting Indies Unlimited that you read a lot of books, some (many? all?) of which are written by indie authors. If you’ve communicated with one of those authors, maybe sent them an email or posted a comment on their Facebook page telling them you loved their book, chances are good they’ve hit you up for a review. You don’t even have to make the first move to have this happen. Sometimes you’ll be reading a book, come to “The End,” and before you can page forward to read about the author you’ll find a message something like this:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading my book. Did you like it? You loved it, I know you did. Before you call all your friends to tell them about this GREAT book you just finished (which you should do), first won’t you jump on Amazon and tell the world how much you LOVED, LOVED, LOVED my book by leaving a review? Thanks. I’ll love you forever.

I know, they’re relentless. You’re under no obligation to do so. But, if you’re like me, you root for the underdog (indie authors are, although becoming less and less so) and you might want to help with a review. This series is an attempt to give a little guidance for people who want to do a review on Amazon, but don’t know where to begin, starting with the bare minimum and then expanding on that for those who are interested in going further. If you really don’t want to write a review (yes, Laura, I’m looking at you) I’d suggest telling the author that you’d love to, but have no clue how to write a review or even how to enter it on Amazon. Tell them, “you’re the writer, not me,” in an attempt to appeal to their vanity. If you try this and the author then sends you a link to this post, I’m sorry.

In Part 1 we’re going to cover the easy part, with a brief tutorial on entering your review at Amazon. Part 2 is an attempt to help non-reviewers who have no idea where to start in writing a review. This will be followed by Part 3 with some additional ideas to help those who are interested in moving beyond the bare minimum. Finally we’ll wind up the series in Part 4 with some discussion about a few other considerations and where you might go from there.

Entering a review in Amazon really is easy (writing it, not so much). The only tricky part is that how this is done has a couple variations. First, we’ll talk about the required steps if you do it the default way on

Start by going to the page for the book on Amazon. (This works for other items too, but we mostly care about books around here.) You managed to purchase the book, so I’m assuming you know how to do this. If you’ve never made a purchase at Amazon, you’re off the hook because Amazon requires a customer account be setup and have at least one item purchased before they’ll allow a person to post customer reviews. (You aren’t required to have purchased the item you’re reviewing from Amazon, although there is an indication on the review if you did.)

Look down the page and you’ll see a section that looks like this.

Review step 1

Click on the button that says “Write a Customer Review.” Sometimes it will be where it is shown in this screen shot. Other times you’ll need to scroll down the page where you’ll find it at the bottom of some of the other customer reviews. After clicking you’ll be taken to a page that will have a blank form with some identifying characteristics of the book you’re going to review. (Below, you’ll probably see a bunch more sections like this for other purchases that you haven’t reviewed which is Amazon’s way of encouraging you to review everything. They’re easier to ignore than a needy author, so I ignore those.)

Review step 2

Start entering your review by clicking the number of stars you want to give the book (clicking the leftmost of the five stars for a one star review, the rightmost for a five star). Then enter whatever you want to say in your review in the box below the stars where it says “write your review here.” I usually write my review in a word processor and copy/paste it into this box, but there is no reason why you can’t draft yours as you enter it here. Once you’ve started entering your review another box will be displayed below it for the “headline or summary” of your review.

Review step 3

Now enter a “headline or summary” in the box as indicated. We’ll talk about what you might put there when we discuss writing the actual review in Part 2.

In some situations you might also have a couple check boxes that are shown at some point. One of them will be pre-checked and only show if you purchased the item from Amazon. Leave it checked. There is sometimes a box to click indicating that you are at least 13 years old. If you are, click it (you won’t be allowed to submit the review without doing so). If you aren’t or can claim not to be, this is a way of getting out of doing this. Or I guess you kids could lie. Just don’t tell your parents I said it was all right.

The screens shown and the steps described above are relatively new and so far are only what you’ll find on although there is a good chance these changes will eventually be migrated to the other Amazon sites. Personally, I prefer the old way. If you think you might, too, or you’re entering a review on an Amazon site that doesn’t look like those shown above, we’ll talk about that next. Otherwise, click the big yellow submit button to the bottom right of the headline box and you’re set. If you’ve neglected to fill in the headline box, click the stars, or enter a review of at least 20 words, you’ll receive an error message and need to fix the problem. If you’re taken to another page, you’re done.

For other sites, you’ll see a screen that looks like the one below. If you’re on and would prefer to go old school, click the link in the message below the submit button to get this same screen.

Review - Old style

The elements of the review are the same as in the other screens. Click a star, enter the headline or summary (called Title here) and enter the verbiage of your review in the big box at the bottom. You might also see the check boxes mentioned above. If so, handle them the same way.

Once the review is entered, click on the ‘Preview your review’ button. Your review will be checked for the same things mentioned above for the submit button on the new form. If it doesn’t pass you’ll be told what is missing (fix it and click the button again). If it does pass, you’ll be taken to another page that shows a preview of what your review will look like. Scan it to make sure all looks good and click the yellow “Publish review” button. You’ll be taken to another page and you’re done. If you see something you’d like to change, click the ‘Edit’ button and you’ll be taken back to the previous page to fix the problem and try again.
That’s it. Simple, right? The hard part is knowing what to enter in those boxes which I’ll try to help with in Part 2, coming January 24, 2014.

To read part two, follow this link to Indies Unlimited and hunt down Big Als’s next post.