Monthly Archives: January 2018

Fiction Writing Exercises: Step Out of Your Shoes

I recently shared a writing exercise that encouraged you to get into a character’s head. Today’s exercise asks you to go a step further and explore characters and ideas that are your polar opposites.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a writer is creating characters. It is an opportunity to step outside of your own reality and take on a completely different persona. Unless you’re an actor, an undercover agent, or just plain crazy, you don’t get many chances in life to do that.

Writing also lets us explore ideas and share our thoughts, opinions, and feelings on a wide range of topics. To Kill a Mockingbird addressed racism, The Da Vinci Code critically explored religious doctrine, and The Hunger Games examined troublesome aspects of our society, particularly glam culture, class systems, war, and violence among teenagers.

As a fiction writer, there will be times when you need to get into the head of a character who is your polar opposite. You’ll need to have a deep comprehension of ideologies that are not aligned with your own. If you can’t do that, then your story will lack believability.

Today’s fiction writing exercises give you practice in stepping out of your shoes so you can walk in someone else’s.

Realistic Characters

For characters to truly resonate with readers, they must be vibrant and stir the audience’s emotions. Readers need to become attached to the characters, feel sympathy, compassion, even love (or hate) for them. It’s not easy to fabricate people (or other beings) that don’t really exist, have never existed, yet make them seem real. But it can be done.

So how do writers achieve this great feat?

Much credence has been given to the old adage write what you know. Base a character on a friend or family member or yourself. But what fun is that? If you’re an accountant by day, do you really want to play an accountant in your fantasy world too? Probably not. And when you create a character, that’s pretty much what you’re doing, playing a role. You must get into the character’s mind, live the life, absorb the environment in which the character lives. You have to be your character, even if you have absolutely nothing in common with that character.

Fiction Writing Exercises

Each fiction writing exercise below encourages you to get into a mindset that opposes your own way of thinking or existing. Try one exercise or try them all — just make sure to have fun.

Exercise #1: Write a personal essay from the perspective of someone who is your polar opposite.

If you grew up in the big city, write as a country dweller. If you grew up on a farm or lived in a small town all your life, write about an army brat who was raised living in dozens of towns, going to different schools each year. Are you a stay-at-home, married parent? Write as a swinging single making it big in the big apple. If you’re a successful businessperson, write as a prison inmate who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

You can also write as your ideological opposite. If you’re Buddhist, write from the perspective of a Christian. If you’re Christian, write from the perspective of an atheist. Are you a political junkie? Write from the viewpoint of the political party you oppose.

For the essay, focus on something you have never experienced or that you disagree with. If you are from the city and you’re writing about the country, write a descriptive essay about a farm setting. If you’re a liberal writing as a conservative, choose an issue and write an essay arguing for the conservative position on that issue.

The idea is to get outside of your comfort zone and explore a different way of life or mode of thinking than the one you know. You can then use this exercise to develop a character who is wildly different from you.

Excercise #2: Write a scene with two characters who are opposites.

Create two characters: one who is just like you (write yourself into the scene if you want) and one who is not like you at all. Write a scene that explores their differences. Here are some suggestions:

  • An old-fashioned rancher and a highly successful, modern urban businesswoman are seated next to each other on a plane.
  • A Democratic state politician and a Republican lobbyist get stuck in an elevator together.
  • Someone who is devoutly religious gets into a deep conversation with an atheist at a party.

There is only one rule here: Both characters must be sympathetic. In other words, you cannot make the character who is your opposite into any kind of villain or antagonist, and neither character will change his or her views or lifestyle by the end of the scene. Your goal is to gain understanding, not make a statement.

Exercise #3: Live your dreams and realize your nightmares.

A lot of people are terrified of public speaking. They may or may not have the desire to get up and talk to a crowd, but it doesn’t matter because their fear prevents them from doing so. And we all have dreams — some are goals that we can or will pursue, but other dreams are far-off fantasies that we know will never come to fruition.

For this exercise, you’ll write a short story or scene in first person. In the scene, you’ll do something that you’ve never done — something you may never do in reality but can certainly tackle in a piece of fiction.

Here are some examples:

  • Greatest fear: Either write a scene where you overcome your greatest fear and face the thing that terrifies you, or write as a character who does not have this fear and therefore faces it with ease. For example, if you have a fear of flying, write as an airplane pilot.
  • Dreams and goals: Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but haven’t gotten around to it? Do you hope to someday find the love of your life or become a star in your career field? Are you working toward your dreams and goals? Write as a character who is living the life you hope to live someday.
  • Fantasy: Do you have a crush on a celebrity? Have you ever wished you possessed magical powers? Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the far-off future or the distant past? Write as a character living out your fantasies.

The idea here is to do something in writing that you’ve never done in real life. It can be something you might still someday achieve or it could be something impossible or unlikely.

Fiction Writing Exercises for Fun and Focus

Fiction writing exercises like these will help you when you’re writing about characters who are not like you in significant ways. These exercises will also expand the types of characters you feel comfortable bringing into your stories.

If any of these exercises stick and you get really into it, write several pages, or try doing the exercise again with different characters. You might unveil a new side of yourself that you didn’t know you had. You might find it completely uncomfortable and decide to go back to writing what you know, but at least you will have tried something new.

Remember, fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun, but their purpose is to challenge you to try new things and think in new ways, so be sure to truly step out of your shoes and go beyond your comfort zone.

Feel free to post comments about your character. Who or what will you become? What shoes are you going to step into when you step out of your own?

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Is It Plural or Possessed? When to Use Apostrophe -S

It’s one of those grammar glitches that makes English teachers twitch, and it’s a perplexing punctuation problem.

Knowing when to use an apostrophe and when to use apostrophe -s can be tricky, but this grammar quickie provides all you need to know about plural versus possession when it comes to apostrophe -s.

Pluralization

You can have one or you can have many. Do you have a dog or do you have dogs? Generally speaking when you’re indicating more than one, you simply add an “s” to the word. That’s it, you’re done.

Possession

Is it plural or is it owned? If you’re showing ownership, then you’ll usually add apostrophe -s to the word. You have a dog. Your dog has a collar. That is the dog’s collar. If something (collar) belongs to something else (dog), it is given the apostrophe -s to show possession.

Multiplicity

But what if you have more than one dog and they each have their own collar? You have dogs. They have collars. Those are the dogs’ collars. When you’re dealing with more than one owner, the plural “s” is added and the apostrophe follows.

Apostrophe -S and the Word It

One of the most common spelling mistakes happens with the word it, especially when people try to indicate possession. Should you add the apostrophe -s or not? When does it take apostrophe -s and when does it just take an s?

The Exception to the Rule

One word in the English language stands out as an exception to the rule when it comes to plural versus possession. The word it is treated a bit differently. In fact, there is no plural possession at all because it is inherently singular (the plural form is another word altogether: they). That’s a relief. But what about when “it” owns something?

When you’re showing possession with the word it, you simply reverse the rules and lose the apostrophe. The car has wheels. Its wheels are round. See? No apostrophe when something belongs to it.

What About It’s?

It’s is neither possessive nor plural. When the apostrophe -s is added to it, what you’re seeing is a contraction, or a shortening of two words. The phrase it is is being shortened. If you have a hard time remembering this, try saying your sentence or phrase by replacing “its” or “it’s” with “it is.” If “it is” works, then you have a contraction and the apostrophe is required. If not, then just an s will do.

Remembering the Punctuation Rules for Apostrophe -S

Remembering the rules is easy. All you have to do is remember that if there’s ownership or possession, then the word should take apostrophe -s. If there are many (the word is plural), then just an “s” will do. If a word is both plural and possessed, it gets an followed by an apostrophe. And for the word “it,” the rules are reversed.

Grammar and Exceptions

Like most grammar rules, there are exceptions to the rules that dictate how we use apostrophes, and they are many. For example, when there is more than one goose, you don’t say “gooses,” you say “geese.”

The English language is fraught with such exceptions, and plural forms of many words require more than adding an “s” to the end. Learning all the exceptions takes patience and time, and requires that you constantly pay attention to words with special rules. Always keep an eye out for them.

Do you have any tips to add for remembering the punctuation marks and grammar rules for plurals and possessions? Do the rules for using apostrophe -s ever confuse you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Amazon Review Policy Change & More

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy.

Eligibility

To contribute to Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, Spark, or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. In addition, to contribute to Spark you must also have a paid Prime subscription (free trials do no qualify). You do not need to meet this requirement to read content posted by other contributors or post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries

Whether this change will work in the long run, I don’t know. But, for now, I welcome it.

There is, however, one change I wish they would make. There are a number of readers who are active reviewers but whose reviews aren’t weighted as “verified purchases” because they get their books through the Kindle Unlimited Program. Those downloads are as easy to track as “verified purchases”. So why aren’t they given more weight than those reviews from people who have not gotten a particular book from Amazon?

On a totally different topic, I came across this article earlier this morning and it left me not only shaking my head but wanting to rip someone a new one.

Landing a traditional publisher can be a frustrating, convoluted process. Yet, most speakers, professionals and fiction writers want to publish a book. The main reasons being: credibility and retail distribution, followed by logistical help producing and fulfilling sales.

Self-publishing lacks legitimacy, especially now that anyone with internet access can publish on amazon and call themselves an expert on whatever topic they choose. It’s lowering the legitimacy of Amazon bestsellers every single day, while traditional publishing remains an elusive endeavor.

That’s what Loren Kleinman had to say at the beginning of the “interview”. Yeah, way to alienate a lot of authors right off the boat. But I kept reading and I kept wanting to reach through the screen and shake someone. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but here are some of my concerns about what Publishizer does.

The first thing that stood out to me as I looked at their site (which did not inspire a great deal of confidence) is the second step in their process. You “raise funds by selling preorders for 30 days, using our book marketing tools.” This is before you submit your book to publishers. So, how are you going to follow through with these sales after you have signed a contract with a publisher? More importantly, if Publishizer uses these “preorders” as part of their sales package when they market your proposal, I have several more questions: 1) what if you don’t have a large enough number of preorders to show your book has serious traction?  2) Who determines what that number is? and 3) How doe the publishers know these are legitimate sales?

Then there is the fact their “software” determines where to pitch your book. The questions about this are numerous but they boil down to one or two. First, how do they gather their information to make this determination? Second, what publishers are in their main database and how many of those publishers have they actually submitted to? There’s a third question that goes hand-in-hand with all this: how often do they update their database and submission parameters?

If you scroll down, you see they have no cost to “set up” your campaign and you get to keep 70% of your preorders. Oh-oh. That rings more alarm bells. That means they keep 30%. What do the publishers you are trying to sell to think about this?

In the fine print down below, they have some questions and answers. It seems they will pitch at least 30 publishers. This is where it gets interesting. They say they will pitch traditional, advance-paying publishers but also  “independent publishers and high-quality hybrid publishers”. Anyone want to take a bet one which type they sign with more often? In the links at the bottom of the page, they have a list of publishers. Another knock because that list is not alphabetical.

Now, this site might be completely legit and it might have successfully helped authors get viable contracts. I don’t know. What I’m saying is if you are contemplating using it, be sure to read all the fine print first and do an in-depth search on it before “signing” anything.

Until later!

By Amanda

Source: madgeniusclub.com

 

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Writers’ groups are really made for writers

“Marketing is a long and arduous process that I wish I would have known more about in the beginning…” opens today’s Publisher’s Weekly article about the professional benefits of joining a writers’ group. The quote came from Deeann Callis Graham, whose book, “Head On,” addresses the issue of areata, an autoimmune disease that causes baldness in men and women. Indeed, many writers embark on their craft in with the idea that a knight in shining armor attached to a publishing house will do the marketing, when in reality, it is largely you, the author, hustling for publicity, and putting your name and face and work out there for all the world to critique. Perhaps if many did know about the marketing process there would be even fewer writers.

But I digress. The PW piece likens writers’ groups to a kind of group therapy, where members strive to raise each writer’s spirit and technique, while offering constructive advice in a safe place. According to Graham, “Our group of seven are personally invested in our individual and shared successes, and we inspire each other to reach our writing and marketing goals.”

In addition, having a strong writers’ network, though it may not comprise Stephen King or Toni Morrison, nevertheless makes writers – especially first-timers – feel less alone while navigating the wild, wild world of publishing. Members learn from others’ successes and mistakes, and grow their network beyond a notoriously solitary writer’s world.

Graham self-published “Head On,” which a PW review called “heartwarming” and “a powerful compilation of profiles with a sincere and encouraging message.” Graham believes she would not have gotten this far without her group of creative cheerleaders. So if you need a kick in the rear to get going, or you’ve already in the middle of a manuscript you think has potential, consider sharing it with a group of your peers first, not only to learn about writing, but about the industry. Groups can be found at Meetups, indie bookstores (yes, they still exist), or, if push comes to shove, perhaps by starting your own.

By Heather Quinlan

Source: slushpile.netslushpile.net

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

First Lines from the Best Books of the Year

We try to not judge books by their covers, but first lines? Well, that’s a different story. In a world of so many books (and so little time!), we have to be selective…and a great opening can make the difference between “want to read” eventually and “want to readnow.

Check out how the winners of this year’s Goodreads Choice Awards hooked readers below. Which first lines make you want to read more?

“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”

 

BEST MYSTERY & THRILLER
Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins
“There was something you wanted to tell me, wasn’t there?”

 

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION
Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
“My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon.”

 

“Dougal—you settle down now, please.”

 

“I have an impressive collection of trophies that I did not win.”

 

BEST SCIENCE FICTION
Artemis
by Andy Weir
“I bounded over the gray, dusty terrain toward the huge dome of Conrad Bubble.”

 

“If you’d asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I’d played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer.”

 

“Regardless of how you got here, I’m so glad you did.”

 

BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
What Happened
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
“This is my story of what happened.”

 

BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
“The scientist had forgotten all about the radium.”

 

“In recent years, no more than a week goes by without news of a cosmic discovery worthy of banner headlines.”

 

BEST FOOD & TECHNOLOGY
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
by Ree Drummond
“When I was in my early twenties, I thought I was busy.”

 

BEST YOUNG ADULT FICTION
BEST DEBUT GOODREADS AUTHOR
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
“I shouldn’t have come to this party.”

 

BEST YOUNG ADULT FANTASY
A Court of Wings and Ruin
by Sarah J. Maas
“The buzzing flies and screaming survivors had long since replaced the beating war-drums.”

 

BEST MIDDLE GRADE & CHILDREN’S
The Ship of the Dead
by Rick Riordan
“‘Try it again,’ Percy told me. ‘This time with less dying.'”

 

What’s your favorite first sentence of 2017? Share it with us in the comments!
By Hayley
Source: Goodreads

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Ready for More Social Media Clean-Up? Here’s How To Go About It (Part 2)

Did you do Part 1 of the social media clean-up yet? If not (and come ON already, why not? It’s not like you have writing or work to do. I mean), get on with it already. If so, yay you! I covered key updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Here’s your next assignment, should you choose to accept it (sorry, had to):

  • updating Instagram,
  • LinkedIn,
  • your blog/website and
  • Amazon author bio (if you have a book out).

Let’s do this thingy.

Social Media: Instagram

Many writers and bloggers either aren’t Instagram at all, are on it and post photos of their cats (*raises hand*), aren’t sure what to post so don’t post anything, or are caught up in nothing but selfie culture (ugh).

We can do better, writer friends! Instagram is no different than any other social media channel — be strategic. Use your keywords as a basis for your personal branding. Share what makes you, you.

Key ways to update your Instagram now:

  • Is your bio complete and updated? You have 150 characters only, so make the most of them. More than anywhere else, this is especially key here as it’s the only place on Instagram where you can have an active hyperlink (links do not work in individual posts unless you are paying to advertise). What do you want to link to? I suggest your most recent release, however, some writers prefer to link to their website. Your call.
  • TIP: You can update this hyperlink frequently (if you want to), based on your sales objective. Here’s mine as an example (follows appreciated):

Ready for More Social Media Clean-Up? Here’s How To Go About It (Part 2) by @BadRedheadMedia

  • Have a giveaway or an event? Change the link on your bio.
  • Have you transitioned to a Business Profile yet? It’s free and allows you far more options! This post walks you through every step. Why bother? Paid advertising. It also links to your Facebook Author Page — if you pay for advertising on your Facebook Page, the ad also shows up on your Instagram (and vice versa).
  • Find readers using hashtags in Search. This is NEW.
  • Use pertinent hashtags in your posts to attract readers.

Social Media: LinkedIn

  • Is your bio complete and updated? This is trickier on LinkedIn — there’s a lot to fill out. Here are some key tips from Grammarly on exactly how to do that.
  • Do you need to be there at all? I get this question a lot. Well, think about this: who’s your demographic? Do they work? Probably. Are they digital readers? Probably. Boom. That’s why you should be there. It’s also a great way to connect with others in the writing and publishing community.
  • Here’s a great read on how to make the most of your bio and connections (so you don’t have to just take my word for it). Plus, if you have a side business, you can create a ‘company profile’ attached for your personal profile (e.g., my LI profile is under Rachel Thompson, and I have a BadRedhead Media Company Profile).
  • Utilize LinkedIn Pulse (their blogging section). Why? Visibility! Either take posts you’ve already written or write original content. Either way, you are helping your SEO.

Not Social Media, But Still Super Important: Your Website About Section (aka, Bio)

Little bit different format here, so stay with me. What is the point of your Author Bio? It’s not really to list all of your accomplishments like on a resume (or Tinder for you young’uns); it’s to help the reader decide whether you’re interesting enough (sad, but true) for them to pay attention to and possibly buy books from. Here are a few expert tips on writing the best bio possible from Hubspot:

  1. Always write in third person (I know it sounds weird, but think about this: people will share your bio when you do things like blog tours, guest articles, and events — so having your bio in first person will be even weirder in those situations.) TIP: Create a media kit people can download for these occasions OR give permission for people to copy/paste your information.
  2. Remember: It’s not really about you. It’s about your reader. What will they gain from reading your blog posts, articles, and books?
  3. Establish credibility — truthfully. Everything is searchable, so be absolutely truthful with everything you share in regard to your credentials (not that you shouldn’t have been before, but you know). If you share that you’ve written for Forbes, link to the article. If you cannot provide that link, do not list it in your bio.
  4. Explain what you do. Most writers will say: I’m an author. Most bloggers will say: I’m a blogger. Yea, we got that. Do this instead: What will reading your books DO for people? What will they feel? What will they learn? What problem will it solve? Food for thought.
  5. Add a CTA (Call to Action). Your bio can be an appropriate place to add a simple Q&A pitch, e.g., “Want to learn more about rocking your book marketing? Buy BadRedhead Media’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge here (add link).”

Finally, and most importantly, be sure your book covers, banners, visuals, and links are all updated, and do this on a regular basis. TIP: go back through your old blog posts and update your book links, book covers, etc. I’m doing that now myself since I’ve republished all my books and the old links are dead.

Amazon Author Bio

Many authors upload their books to Amazon and think, okay, cool, done. Not so fast. You need to go to Amazon Author Central and create your Author Bio. Here’s a link to Author Central and info how to do the basic set-up.

Whenever you publish (or re-publish) a book, you must claim it through author central for it to show up under your author name on Amazon (this also counts toward books you’ve contributed to, e.g., anthologies). This helps expand your backlist, makes your bio page more robust, and it’s totally legit. You did the work, so take the credit.

Other items you can (and should) add:

  • Your blog RSS feed
  • Events (e.g., speaking engagements or signings)
  • Up to eight photos — feature new books, upcoming promos or giveaways, even awards you’ve won. Remember, though: whichever photo you place in the first spot will be the one featured on your page (so if it’s an award and not your face, that’s what readers will see). **Update these photos frequently if you are using them for promos/giveaways which will be short-lived.
  • Videos – book trailers, typically, though you can share a YouTube video or FB Live video as well (or a speaking event if it fits your theme).

An important final note: all this work is for your Amazon country of origin only, meaning you need to repeat this process for international pages. You can’t do every country, but you can create additional pages in the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Here are the links to all those Author Central sites:

I don’t personally speak French, German, and Japanese (I don’t know about you), so I hire someone who can help me. You can also use Google Translate and hope for the best.

And that’s it for now. Do the work, keep writing, and you’ll be set for 2018!

Source: badredheadmedia.com

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New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard form letter about rank manipulation from Amazon KDP’s Compliance team, regarding her book Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.  We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

You may email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com with any questions.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Kindle Direct Publishing

Kristi did as anyone would in this situation and asked for more information, as she was confused and didn’t understand what she had done wrong. But Amazon refused to engage meaningfully on this, or to provide any evidence for its claims.

This was the response:

Hello,

As we previously stated, we still detect purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. You are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.

We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

After a few weeks of “investigating,” Amazon returned the rank to Kristi’s book. She did not receive an apology from KDP, or any kind of compensation for this visibility-killing sanction. In fact, Amazon threatened to take similar action in the future.

And Amazon made good on that threat.

In early December, Kristi made another book free – Gia in the City of Dead – as part of a KDP Select promotion from December 1 to December 5. When she woke on December 1, she saw that her book had been stripped of its rank – before any promotion had even kicked in. She immediately emailed Amazon to ask them why this had happened. This was the nonsensical reply she received the following day:

Hello,

In the Kindle Store, the Bestsellers Rank is divided into Free and Paid lists. During the period when your book is being offered for free, it will have a ranking in the Free list. Once the free promotion is over, your title will show up again in the Paid list.

The Bestsellers Rank calculation is based on Amazon sales and is updated hourly to reflect newer and historical sales of every item sold on our website, with recent sales being weighted more heavily. With this in mind, titles that are part of a free promotion may see a drop in the sales rank under the Paid list after the promotion is over. However, since your sales rank takes into account recent and historical sales data, your previous Paid rank will influence your new Paid rank.

Category rankings will appear in the Product Details section of a book’s detail page to display the appropriate rank information.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or pages read. Neither is it an accurate way to compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales or Kindle Unlimited (KU) / Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) activity.

Your paperback which is linked to your eBook shows the following:
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1296 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime > Organized Crime

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

[Name Withheld]

It appears that a customer service rep has rushed a reply after misreading Kristi’s query and pasted in a bunch of irrelevant canned responses. I merely copy it here to show that this kind of botched reply is becoming typical with KDP customer service – a situation which is frustrating normally, but critically so when you have a major issue like Kristi did at the time.

Two of the four guiding principles of Amazon are “customer obsession” and “commitment to operational excellence” – I’d love to know if KDP thinks it is meeting those benchmarks with this type of response.

Anyway, Kristi persisted until she got someone to actually read her email. This is where things got really weird. On December 4, she received this unsigned email from KDP’s Compliance team:

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. We take activities that could jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously and may temporarily remove sales rank while we investigate. The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available.

If you have any questions, please email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Note that while the email stated that “The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available” – this was not the case. The rank had not been returned to Gia in the City of Dead, as I can vouch for myself. Kristi was in contact with me throughout this episode and I was able to watch events unfolding and verify her claims.

Kristi’s rank didn’t return the following day either, but when her free promotion ended on midnight of December 5, as scheduled, her rank returned. On December 6, Kristi received this email:

Hello Kristi,

I understand your frustration and I really appreciate your patience while we investigated this further. There was a technical issue that prevented your sales rank from displaying while our system was updating the rank. Our Technical Team has corrected the issue and your sales rank is now displaying accurately. Again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. You can confirm the sales rank is now appearing by accessing the link below.

[link to book]

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Executive Customer Relations
Kindle Direct Publishing

Bizarrely, KDP was now claiming that a “technical issue” prevented her sales rank from displaying. This was obviously stretching credulity given the rank manipulation form letter that Kristi had again received from Amazon’s Compliance team, and she said that in response to this message. Then she received this message:

Hello Kristi,

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. The email you received from crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com on December 4 was sent in error and the sales rank did not disappear due to free promotions or manipulation. Our Content Review team confirmed there was no manipulation and our Technical Team discovered that the disappearance of your sales rank was due to a internal issue.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

So, an “internal issue” caused the rank disappearance, and the rank manipulation email was sent in error. Hmmmmm. Quite the coincidence, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, at this point Kristi was relieved that her rank had been restored, even if Amazon had – once again – completely ruined a promotion which she had spent money on, killing her visibility and crippling her downloads.

Kristi was worried about this happening again in January, when she had a BookBub promotion scheduled. This time she decided to get ahead of the problem and emailed the same person she had been dealing with throughout at KDP Executive Customer Relations, explaining when her book would be free and detailing the (legit) promo sites she would be using. She expressed hope that there would be no “internal issue” like in early December.

I should note that Kristi has been remarkably restrained throughout this entire episode, showing much more composure than I would. For example, this is the email she sent in advance of her January promotion:

Dear [Name Withheld],

I’m hoping you can help prevent the rank stripping from happening to me a third time.

I’m going to have a Bookbub ad run Jan. 4 and I expect the ranking for my book, Gia in the City of the Dead, to change dramatically and I’m hoping this won’t trigger another bot to flag me for doing something wrong or trigger the internal issue situation like last time.

I’m writing to you in the hopes that you can alert someone that this is happening so I don’t get hurt by losing rank again in January.

Thank you for your time and help. It is greatly appreciated.

Best,

Kristi Belcamino

PS The book is this one: https://www.amazon.com/City-Dead-Santella-Crime-Thriller-ebook/dp/B0751LCQLQ

You might think that Kristi’s case would merit some careful attention from KDP at this point, given how they had mistreated her previously, but this is all she received in response. Note that this reply came from the Compliance team – the person at Executive Customer Relations didn’t even bother replying to her exceedingly polite email:

Hello,

We do not sponsor or endorse any 3rd party marketing services. You’re welcome to promote your book through third-party websites and other services, but we encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books.  You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs.

We advise against using any sites that “guarantee” a return on your investment. We support our authors’ efforts to promote their books worldwide, but at the same time, we work to prevent any manipulation of the Kindle publishing service.

If you have any questions, please email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

Despite Kristi flagging her promotion in advance to Amazon, her book was rank-stripped yesterday. And it was rank-stripped as soon as it went free – before any promotion kicked in.

There’s something else bizarre going on here. I generally use affiliate links on this blog – when I remember to put them in, that is. I often forget. I can’t remember if I used affiliate links to point to rank-stripped books before, but I noticed something very strange when attempting to link to Kristi’s currently rank-stripped book Gia and the City of Dead.

In case you can’t read the above text, it says:

This product is one of the Amazon Associates Program Excluded Products. We do not support direct linking to this product. Please direct customers to another product or the category for this product instead.

In other words, Amazon is currently not supporting affiliate links to this book; it appears that rank-stripping sanctions have yet another dimension.

Kristi is due to have her BookBub promotion on January 4, something she would have spent a considerable amount on, and her book will be denied crucial visibility if this sanction isn’t lifted.

When a book is rank-stripped, it disappears from the charts completely, and is largely invisible to Amazon’s recommendation engine. In short, it kills downloads for a title while the rank is removed. It’s very damaging.

And to be absolutely clear: Kristi has done nothing wrong.

Authors are rightly angry about this, but I want to make an important distinction: this isn’t a BookBub problem. Most of the authors rank-stripped never used BookBub. It’s also not some kind of move by Amazon to squash third-party sites and force everyone to use AMS – that’s equally nonsensical, and demonstrably false: some of those rank-stripped didn’t use any third-party sites.

And as Kristi’s experience should prove: the rank-stripping is kicking in now before promotions even begin. In other words, this isn’t a BookBub problem; it’s an Amazon problem.

KDP is applying serious sanctions to authors who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, refusing to show any evidence for its determinations or give authors any chance to appeal its decisions. And it’s doing all this while ignoring widespread scamming and cheating in the Kindle Store.

We must demand change.

UPDATE:

Some have asked in the comments here and on Facebook, how we can demand change and what form that should take.

First, I think we need to make as much noise as possible. Share your feelings on this with Amazon. Spread the word as much as possible. If you are a member of a writers’ org, then see if they will take an interest in this (RWA already has). If you have a press connection, see if they wish to write about it.

As for what Amazon should do, I don’t think KDP cares what I have to say, but here’s my suggested template for handling cases of suspected rank manipulation.

1. Investigations can and should happen quickly – there is no possible need for it to take weeks and weeks.

2. No sanction should be applied until guilt has been determined.

3. If guilt is determined, Amazon should furnish the purported evidence, and authors should have a right of appeal.

4. If innocence is established, Amazon should apologize to the author, and compensate them for any losses suffered under applied sanctions, if applicable.

Aside from how KDP handles such cases, I strongly suggest that it looks at its fraud detection systems which appear to be throwing up a large amount of false positives. If that’s NOT the case, and some third-party is targeting innocent authors to kick up dust or test the thresholds of the system, thus manipulating rank unbeknownst to the author, then Amazon needs to sanction that third-party, as clearly something malicious is in play.

UPDATE 2 (Jan 4): 

Kristi’s rank is back, in time for her BookBub promotion, which is great news. Amazon called to apologize and say that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but haven’t given any explanation beyond a “technical issue.”

Unfortunately, Kristi is not out of the woods yet. There is still something strange going on with this book. First, it’s invisible in the API – just gone. I’ve never seen that before. Second, when I tried to build an affiliate link to this book, I was informed that it is an “Excluded Product” as per the above screenshot.

Questions and issues remain, and obviously Kristi needs a full explanation, all issues resolved, and an assurance this won’t happen again. In the meantime, if you feel like helping Kristi recover some of her lost visibility, Gia and the City of Dead is free for the next couple of days.

Something else came up yesterday, which was quite timely. One of my main bugbears with Amazon right now is that they are being extremely heavy-handed when dealing with innocent authors, and are letting extreme gaming of the Kindle Unlimited system go unpunished – even rewarding those authors with All-Star bonuses every month.

It’s extremely difficult to get traction on the issue as it is quite technical. Author Heather C. Leigh has put together a helpful video explainer. As you watch this, and your blood boils, remember that Amazon is aware of ALL of this, and refuses to do anything – while cracking down on authors like Kristi who have done nothing wrong.

Source: davidgaughran.wordpress

 

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Personalizing Your Character’s Emotional Wound

Emotional wounds are tricky to write about.

Abuse, betrayal, victimization, and the death of a loved one may exist in our characters’ pasts and so must be explored.

But these are also real life events that cause damage to real people.

So as I talk today about personalizing wounds for our characters, please know that I’m aware of the pain they cause in our world, and I applaud the courageous individuals who fight to come to grips with them every day.

Why Wounding Events Matter in Fiction

Wounding events greatly affect a character’s development, so they’re important to identify.

These painful experiences are deeply impactful, giving birth to life-altering fears, new habits and behaviors, even flaws meant to protect her from facing that pain again.

Wounding events are aptly named because they change who the character is; until they’re faced and addressed, she will never be whole.

But pinpointing what that event might be for a character is just the first step.

Traumas affect people differently; something that would destroy one character may have no lasting impact on another.

The wounding experience should be one that stops the protagonist in her tracks, making it impossible for her to achieve that story goal that will result in personal fulfillment.

However, you can maximize the impact of a traumatic event on a character by making it more personal.

You can accomplish this by knowing the following factors that can impact a wound and incorporating them into your story:

Personality

Some people are simply better equipped to deal with difficulty than others. An anxious or embittered person may find it harder to deal with a traumatic event than someone with an optimistic outlook or an adaptable nature.

So build the necessary traits into her personality before tragedy strikes.

Support

A strong support system is hugely helpful in facilitating healing for a victim. Loyal loved ones, a steady faith, or a supportive community can make it easier for someone to spring back, whereas a victim suffering alone may have a harder time.

Physical Proximity

The closer the danger, the more traumatic it can be.

A violent bank robbery may impact the employees, the customers, a security guard, etc. But the teller with the gun stuck in her face may take longer to recover than anyone else.

Emotional Proximity

It’s harrowing to be conned by a stranger, but someone you know causes even more damage, breeding self-doubt and making it difficult to trust others in the future.

Responsibility

It’s commonplace to replay a horrific event, picking it apart to figure out how it could have been avoided. This often results in the victim blaming herself, even when she was in no way at fault.

So if you need to intensify an already difficult circumstance, add an element of self-blame.

Justice

Seeing the perpetrator pay for what he’s done often provides closure that can set the victim on the path to healing.

On the other hand, knowing the criminal is still out there and free to strike again can cause a wound to fester.

Compounding Events

A trauma is horrible enough, but it often sets other events in motion that the wounded character is ill equipped to deal with.

Someone who has lost a child may also face divorce, be unjustly blamed, or lose a job due to depression.

Compounding events are the equivalent of someone kicking the victim when she’s down.

Just as you can use these factors to make a rough circumstance more difficult for your protagonist, you can also tweak them to soften their impact on other characters.

So as you dig into the backstory to unearth your characters’ pain, consider how deeply you want them affected.

Despite having experienced wounding events of our own, applying them to our characters can be daunting.

I’ll be lurking around the comments section to answer any questions.

Thank you, Jerry, for hosting me today!

By: Becca Puglisi
Source: jerryjenkins.com

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5 Reasons Goodreads is a Book Marketing Staple

Goodreads has mixed reviews at best when I chat book marketing strategies with authors at conferences, but I really want 2018 to be about maximizing on YOU, on using what makes you unique to sell more books, and Goodreads is a great platform for achieving that goal.

And while Goodreads has gotten a bad rap for being where books go to get slaughtered by reviews, that’s honestly not fair.

Good books and engaged authors get great reviews on Goodreads. See how that works?

So it’s time to buck up and start using Goodreads to your advantage!

Be an engaged author on Goodreads. I promise you, a good book paired with genuine engagement on…

 

And here are 5 tips to get you motivated:

It’s Not Typical Social Media

Social media is generally one of the biggest book marketing hurdles for authors that I talk to.

They either don’t have time to juggle all the platforms they signed up for, or they’re completely confused about where to start and how to keep it going.

So I suggest they focus on Goodreads.

I never recommend being on social media just to check it off your list.

If you’re not good at it, or you don’t put in the time but send people there via your website or email marketing, you’re risking doing more harm than good.

Goodreads is for readers and authors, so if you’re suffering from an aversion to social media, let Goodreads be where you focus your attention.

High Quality, High Volume Users

Another great benefit is the volume of high quality, targeted users.

Goodreads has 65 million members and counting, and guess what? They all love books!

Honestly, as authors, we couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.

Maybe your ad dollars and content on other social sites may be getting lost in the shuffle. Reach avid readers on Goodreads, guaranteed.

Groups That Get Real Engagement

Targeted reader groups are gold when it comes to book marketing and engagement,.

Talk about a captivated audience!

But here’s a dose of reality. I’ve dabbled in groups on other social sites, both personally and for my authors, and they are tough going.

Starting from scratch is never easy, and sometimes it’s really not necessary.

The reader groups on Goodreads are established, active, and users trust them. Use this to your advantage.

You Can Find the Right Readers

An extension of your group activity should be a focus on your genre as well.

And your goal shouldn’t be to sell your book but to prove you’re also a fan of your own genres (you are right?), this kind of book marketing is more about networking, and it will take you far, I assure you.

If you become “one of the diehards” in your genre groups on Goodreads you can almost guarantee your fellow groupies will support you by checking out your next release.

Participate in a genuine way. You will be genuinely rewarded.

It Can Be a Great Alternative to a Website

If you don’t have a website, or you don’t have one that you can update easily or frequently, Goodreads can be a great alternative.

You have a great section for a bio, you can create and announce events, run giveaways, host author Q&As.

You can even host your blog on Goodreads. And to make “blog” seem less scary, just think if it as regular fan and follower updates on your work, your writing schedule, giveaway promotions and release announcements. See? Fun stuff!

The Takeaway

Goodreads can be daunting, but it’s gotten a bad rap with authors and that really needs to stop.  If you need help with this magnificent tool or any other book marketing tool, contact me!

Besides, if you wanted everything to be easy you wouldn’t have decided to become a published author in the first place – because this book marketing stuff isn’t for the faint of heart – but the more you jump in feet first with these strategies, the easier they become to execute.

If you’re an author already on the Goodreads train, I’d love to hear how you’ve incorporated it into your book marketing in ways you’ve really benefit from!

Source: amarketingexpert.com

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