Free books bring readers into your world, and introduces them to your writing at no risk. Sure, they may have to sign-up for my newsletter—depending where they have heard of it, but that’s marketing.
The first place I published my free sample eBook was on KOBO (now Rakutan-Kobo). It was pretty easy and it allowed you to set your price to free—no questions asked.
Then I did the same for Amazon/KDP. Not as easy and the lowest you could set your price was $0.99. I did some research and found many self-publishing sites that recommend you set your Amazon prize to “Perma-free”. I thought that this was a good idea to be able to get the book into the Top 10 of certain categories (that took another line of research).
I searched: Perma-free, permafree, and permanently free on the KDP site with no luck. So, back to the other publishing sites to discover that all you have to do is notify Amazon of a lower price elsewhere and they will match it.
Done. (Wait for it.)
Nope. After several months, I just happened to notice that the book was back at $0.99. Long story short:
It’s happened four times, and each time I email I get the same cut and paste message: I’m sorry that you have been facing this issue. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We need a little time to look into the problem with technical team.
The last time I received this message: Thank you for your information on pricing. From time match prices elsewhere online, including free promotions. Unfortunately we’re not able to accommodate your request since competitors have your book over the $0,99 as shown on the picture below:
What was the picture? My full volume. At its full price. Not the sample book…
There are lots of free books on Amazon. I wonder if they have the same problem. At least it gives me something to write about.
I have written several posts about reviews. It can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being an author. Many platforms are set up to guide readers to free review copies, and even though they say that reviews are not guaranteed, one would think that if someone downloads your review copy from a book reviewer site, there should be some expectation of a review. So, I have tried a few sites with limited success. More on that later.
I always sent out a welcome email, thanking the reader. Here is what I say:
To all reviewers,
Thank you for your interest in reviewing my books. As readers, you are so important to new independent authors as your reviews allow us to compete with the multitude of other authors, signed and unsigned. We have found each other through various book platforms. Some of my early subscribers are taking advantage of my free book offer for reviews.
Reviews do not have to be long. Even one or two sentences can attract new readers, and at the very least, a star rating would be appreciated. As for the timeline, I’m hoping that they can be done within 4 weeks of receiving your review copy. (Note: I don’t think 4 weeks is unreasonable)
For some of you, that 4 weeks is getting close. Let me know if you need more time. If you had any difficulty downloading a book, please email me with your preferred format: PDF, ePub, Mobi.
When you have completed your review, please let me know so that I can link it to my website. If you choose not to leave a review for any reason, could you please inform me, and I will remove you from the list.
Here are the review links. Please leave a review on any (or all) of the sites. As my science fiction book is only available on Amazon at the moment, that would be my preference if you are just going to post on one.
I put direct links here to make it easy!
Final Note: Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so if you enjoyed the books, please tell your friends and family and share the review on your social media!
End of letter.
I think that it covers my expectations and empowers the reviewer to submit whatever form they wish. I added the part about not leaving a review because it is frustrating to not hear from them and I don’t want to keep sending reminders. I appreciate honesty over being ‘ghosted’.
Here are the results:
Platform A: Voracious Readers
Round One - Free trial
20 readers = 3 reviews
Round Two - 6 week promo, now pay/reader
30 readers = 2 Reviews so far
Platform B: Booksprout - Free
3 readers = 1 review
Platform C: StoryOrigin - Free Beta version, transitioning to paid
8 readers = 3 reviews
Platform D: Library Thing -Free
12 readers = 3 reviews
Platform E: Sandra’s Book Club - Free
3 Readers = 0 review
Platform F: Reedsy - Paid
Platform G: Goodreads – Free
7 readers = 5 reviews - GRs takes a lot of work, finding the review groups and threads.
I suspect that most readers are in it for the free books (as you can see by the stats), which is disheartening, as it does feel like you are getting taken advantage of.
What has your experience been?
Not ready to purchase yet?
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Today’s serving is originally from my very first website/blog. I was new at everything, so many of the posts were short, and I seemed to always come up with a amusing survey to end each of them. I believe that this one was inspired by a Goodreads thread. Enjoy!
I looked around again. The sheer rock cliff on which we were perched stretched as far as I could see in both directions. The ledge we were on was inset slightly and wide enough that I didn’t feel in danger of falling. Moving closer to the edge, I peered down at the water. I looked back at April, “How far down is it?” I asked.
She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know exactly. I dropped a rock, and it took about five seconds. I never did the math.”
I did. Well, I attempted to. I tried to remember my physics classes, so long ago. What I did remember was thinking, When am I ever going to use this? To answer my question: now. I thought that five seconds would be about two hundred feet, about the height of a twenty-story building. I peered down again. Yeah, that looks about right.
“About two hundred feet?” I asked her.
“That makes sense,” she said, “and at least that high.” She pointed up.
I looked down again at the cliff face, searching for any marks, any sign of structures, and repeated my investigations upward. I knelt and studied the rock. It was slightly rough, like granite, but not cracked. There was no sign that anyone had climbed up or down it at this spot.
“Do you climb?” I asked.
“I have, but I don’t think that that is an option. I don’t think you could anchor on that,” she said, and I agreed.
I turned my gaze back to April and said, “The only way here is through there—” I pointed back to the tunnel. “Or by … flying?”
“That’s what I figured,” she replied.
“If we got a drone—”
“Tried that,” she interrupted. “Nothing electrical works here.”
“Sorry if I’m annoying you with questions and options. I’m sure you have thought of it all,” I said.
“It’s OK. It’s kind of nice to have someone to share this with.” She looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know how long I would have kept coming here alone,” she told me.
“Have you seen anything out there?” I gestured to the view.
“No animals, no sign of any life. It’s as if it was abandoned.”
I walked back and forth along the ledge, running my hand over the rock, thinking. “Well, someone may have made this. Any ideas?” I asked.
“I started reading about parallel worlds and universes, ancient alien theories, disappearing civilizations, and stuff like that,” she told me. “I don’t have any solid theories. All I know is that when I’m here, I feel at peace, content—and energized when I leave.”
“Why were you sitting in the dark?” I asked.
“I was on my way out. I heard you come in. I never thought that anyone else would find it.”
“Is there anything in the room?”
“Not that I’ve found, and I’ve gone through it quite thoroughly. It took me a couple of visits to find the tunnel to here.”
I sat down next to her. I didn’t feel uncomfortable on the edge. It felt … natural. “Someone could have constructed it to leave this place for some reason.” I pointed out over the water. “Escaping rising water?”
“Or, bringing people here, perhaps. There may be land out there,” she said.
I pointed up, “Or up there …”
I suddenly realized I had no idea how long we had been there. I looked at my watch: 4:03. The second hand wasn’t moving. That would have been the time that I entered the cave. “We should probably start to head back—not that I want to, but you know how the trail is in the dark,” I said.
She glanced over at me and replied, “I wouldn’t worry about it. We have plenty of time.”
“How long have we been here?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve camped here before, and when I left, it was still the same day. Maybe a few hours had passed,” she told me. “It’s not always consistent, though.”
“This place is quite the conundrum, isn’t it,” I murmured, mostly to myself. It wasn’t a question I was asking or expected an answer to.
We sat there for a while, legs dangling off the edge. The ocean breeze tossed her hair, and there was a faint hint of salt in the air. The sun, much brighter than ours, sank on the horizon, radiating reds and yellows across the sky and making the water shimmer.
“Are you going to tell anyone about this?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think that I will.”
We talked for a while and agreed to meet the next weekend. She would bring the food and camping supplies, while I purchased the climbing gear I didn’t have, plus an inflatable boat from the surplus store. I figured a week’s worth of supplies should be sufficient.
I slept well the first few nights, but after that, my excitement kept me from getting the rest I needed. She beat me to the parking lot, her familiar Not Abandoned note appearing on her dash. I left a note too, just an arrow and the words I’m with stupid. Old joke reference that she probably wouldn’t get, but it made me laugh.
“What took you so long?” she said as I turned that last corner to the lookout.
“I’m old,” I replied, and she smiled and extended her hand to me.
“Nice to meet you, Old; I’m April.”
She might get the joke that I left after all, I thought.
“Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, let’s go before someone comes.”
After the earthquake hit, the largest on record for the area, the park was deemed too hazardous to reopen. The landslide and rushing water obliterated most of the trail system and public access areas. Known to be missing was a senior park ranger. Parts of several vehicles were found downstream from the mountain but could not be identified.
I hope you enjoyed my longest short story. I’d love to hear any comments. If you would like to review the entire collection, let me know. Thanks for reading!
Last week I posted the first chapter of my short story, The View from Here. In its original form it doesn’t have chapters, so I divided it as equally as possible to create the best suspense. Read the first chapter here:
I hope you like the next installment, and if you would like to read and review the entire collection, let me know.
The pebble seemed to hover there, strangely, a few inches from the cliff face. I pulled it toward me with the branch, and when I had it about two feet away, it finally dropped. My head spun. Did I just really see that? I reached out with the branch and tapped the visible ridge. Then, I moved the branch away from the rock wall and slowly lowered it until … it stopped. There’s something there, preventing the branch from dropping, but I can’t see it. I dragged the tip further outward, and it dropped away, three inches from the wall. I looked around and behind me. I was alone—and freaked out.
I lifted the branch, brought it down hard on the invisible barrier, and it broke. I tried to put the pieces together: footprint on the rail, visible ledge, invisible ledge … three pieces of a five-hundred-piece puzzle. Not much to go on. I still had time before I would need to head back, so I made up my mind to satisfy my curiosity.
I climbed over the rail, holding on tighter than I ever had before. I stretched my left foot out to where the rock was and slowly placed it on the … whatever it was. It felt solid, so I put a bit more weight on it. I took my left hand off the rail and put my fingers into the crack above my head. It was deep enough and had an edge thick enough to feel comfortable. Next was the right hand. I ran my hand along the railing to erase the hand and footprints. If I fall, no one will ever know.
With both hands and feet ready, I moved along the ledge. It seemed to get a bit wider as I inched around the corner. The observation lookout disappeared from my sight as I made my way between the pillar of rock and the cliff face. The space was just wide enough for me to stand sideways, my back to the cliff. There would be no way someone standing on the lookout could see this. To my left, a dark crevasse both beckoned and scared me.
Moving slowly sideways, I squeezed through into the darkness. I expected to feel cold, but there was no change. Suddenly, I was in complete darkness, and I stopped moving. I couldn’t see anything, even when I looked back to where I had come in. I should be able to see light. Did I go blind? Feeling panicky, I moved in the reverse direction and immediately was bathed in sunlight. What the—?
It’s not a pleasant feeling to look down and see yourself as half a body. My right side was on the ledge that I had come in on; the other side, well, I couldn’t see anything—just blackness. I tapped my leg with my left fingertips. I could feel that. I moved my whole body into the light, then took a flashlight out of my pack and turned it on. Pointing it toward the entrance revealed nothing. I mean nothing—no reflection, no penetration. This is so weird, I thought.
Sliding back into the crevasse was the same as before. I found myself in complete darkness. I tapped my flashlight on the palm of my hand, without result. Clicking it on and off proved futile. I stood there, quietly, with my back to the wall. For a brief instant, I thought I heard something.
I listened as carefully as I could. I thought I heard movement or breathing, but the darkness was so heavy that it was difficult to tell if the one producing the sound was me or someone—or something—else. It felt like being in a sensory deprivation tank, where time seems meaningless. Did I stand there for a minute, two, more? I reached around, put my flashlight in my pocket, and snapped it shut.
“Hello?” I said quietly, “Is there someone here?” Nothing. “I know someone is here. I saw your boot print on the railing.”
“Shit.” A female voice came out of the darkness.
“I can hear you, but I can’t tell from where,” I said.
“You are probably pretty freaked out. I know I was,” she answered.
I found myself talking quietly. I don’t know why. “That’s an understatement. Where are we? I can’t see a thing, and my flashlight died.”
“Light doesn’t work in here, and sound travels in an odd way, too.”
I realized that I couldn’t tell if she was near or farther away. “Where are you?”
“Weird, huh?” There was a pause, as if she were trying to decide whether to reveal anything. “I have a spot here where I feel safe. Maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t.” She let out a quiet laugh.
“When did you find this place?”
“About a year ago. I’ve come about ten times. Well, in here, I mean. I’ve come up the trail a lot, but if there are other people, I just turn around.”
“So, you come up here and sit in the darkness?”
She started to laugh. “No, no. There’s a lot more to it.”
I figured it was time to introduce myself. “I’m Thomas, by the way.” I had encroached on her secret, and there was no backing out of this.
“April,” was all she said.
“So …” I tried to choose my words carefully, “it’s not like I’m just going to turn around and leave, and I don’t want to scare you. Do you mind telling me what this place is?”
Again, she let out a laugh, but this time it seemed nervous. “Scare me? You should be the one who is scared. I could leave without you knowing and—” She stopped. “You could get stuck in here.”
“OK, OK, I didn’t mean it as a threat. I just mean, this place seems pretty special, not just for you, but in general. Look. Put yourself in my place. Would you be able to just leave without finding out more?”
I waited for her to respond. “I guess not. It’s just, you know, hard to accept that it’s not my secret anymore.”
“I’m lucky you don’t have a gun. You … don’t have a gun, do you?” There was no answer for far too long.
“No,” she answered finally. “I don’t.”
I thought for a while, trying to craft what to say next.
“So, what do you do here?”
“Well, I started by exploring, mapping in my mind the perimeter of the … room. It’s not really a cave, you know. Feel the wall.” For the first time, I turned and placed my hands on the wall behind me.
“About thirty by thirty, but not square.”
“And what’s in here?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s what’s out there that is the interesting part.”
I was puzzled. “Out where?”
“One moment, I’ll show you.” I heard some rustling, then a light thump, like cat feet hitting the floor. I stood still, trying to discern where the sound had come from.
“Move to your left along the wall until you come to a bit of a curve,” she said. I did what I was told, slowly, and after about a minute, I felt the wall fall away behind me.
“Get down and keep following,” she directed. I had a moment of panic. Was she tricking me, drawing me into a trap? Why am I just blindly obeying this person? Is it a person?
“I’m not sure about all this. Where are you?”
“Follow me.” I jumped a bit; the voice was right in front of me. “Here, take my hand.” I felt air move in front of my face. I reached out and was relieved to find myself touching a hand, a hand smaller than mine but seemingly strong for its size. “Not much further, “ she said. “It’s worth it.” I sensed her crouching down, and I did the same. As we crawled along, I could feel the space narrowing, but thankfully not to the point where it felt too tight.
“I’m going to go ahead; just follow and watch your eyes,” she told me, and it was suddenly quiet.
I moved forward—and was instantly blinded by sudden brilliance. My arm came up reflexively to cover my eyes, and I raked my hand along the wall. “Ouch!” I yelled and put my head down with my arms over it. I heard her giggle.
“I warned you,” she said, still laughing.
I opened my eyes, and through the small space between my uplifted arms I could see a ledge ahead of me. Behind me was blackness, just like the place where I had entered.
“Just move ahead a bit, or you’ll hit your head when you get up,” I heard her say. I crawled forward and began to sit up.
Sitting on the ledge was a woman with shoulder-length brown hair in a ponytail, hiking shorts and a t-shirt, her bare feet dangling over the edge. She looked to be in her early thirties, maybe younger—I could tell she was fit. She looked over and smiled. “Here we are,” she said as she flung her arms wide to indicate the openness.
We were on a ledge on the sheer face of a cliff. I couldn’t tell how high it went, and below, I could just make out water, gently lapping along the base of the cliff. There was water as far as I could see—except, I thought, for a patch of darkness on the horizon. The sky had a few long wispy clouds, but was mostly … not blue. It had a violet hue to it. There were no shadows from the cliff, and I couldn’t tell where the sun (a sun?) was.
Apparently the look on my face said it all. April looked at me and said, “Wow, huh?”
I was speechless.
(Tune in next Sunday for the exciting conclusion!)
There are many books that I have re-read. The mark of a good/great book is one that compels you to return for another go. There are many reasons for a re-read:
– You missed something the first time. I do this a lot. Usually it is because I read at night and I fall asleep and forget – It is exciting – It tugs at your heartstrings – You can relate to it – It is so well written that you enjoy it just as much as the first time – It brings back memories of where you were when you first read it.
So here is a list of books that I have read more than once, not in any particular order (not even alphabetical you ask? Nope, not even alphabetical…)
Ready Player One Alive Breakfast of Champions Slaughterhouse Five The Foundation Trilogy (and beyond) Ringworld Klondike Cather in the Rye The Stand The Long Walk The Chrysalids The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and the other ones) A Canticle for Leibowitz The Arctic Grail Oryx and Crake A Wrinkle in Time The Lord of the Rings The Chronicles of Narnia The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (and all The Far Sides)
There’s probably more…What books have you read over and over (or just over)?