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Archive for the ‘Self-publishing’ Category

Janet leigh

For those of you who might be wondering where I’ve been these last ten weeks, I’ve been investigating Indie publishing, particularly the publishing of Print on Demand (POD) books with CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. Those ten weeks have been most illuminating, and I thought I might share my discoveries with you. If you’ve already published a POD book, stop reading now, I won’t have anything new to tell you. If you haven’t, gird your loins, and read on.

For most writers, the journey into indie publishing follows a certain pattern. First, we have:

1.   The Sylvan Glades of Writing the Novel, where the Wellsprings of Hope bubble to cheer the fiction writer on his/her way. The writer thinks the going is tough, but they ain’t seen nothing yet. Emerging from this glade, the writer who chooses to indie publish must traverse:

2.   The Desert of the Last Copy-edit, a fearsome place littered with the bones of writers who didn’t know what they were doing with commas. Crawling out of this desert, writers encounter:

3.   The Fork in the Track, where the writer must decide whether to do only an e book (much cheaper, and easier on the nerves), or to take their courage in hand and rapell into:

4.   The Dizzying POD Chasm. Should the writer choose to do only an e book, Nos 6-10 will still apply, but they will, to some extent, avoid:

5.   The Slough of Despond, where the writer realises that s/he must either format the print book themselves or pay someone else to do it. Even if they decide to pay someone, as I did, they will still have to traverse:

6.   The Forest of Dread, where they must choose two categories for their novel. A great deal is riding on their choice, especially the novel’s findability. Having negotiated this forest, and there is no way around it, the writer comes to:

7.   The Hill of Bewilderment, where s/he must choose seven keywords which Amazon buyers might (the operative word here is might) use to discover the writer’s novel — again, very important for the novel’s findability. After this, they arrive at:

8.   The Lakes of Confusion, where they must set a price for their beloved novel and try to understand Amazon’s royalties system, e.g. a $9.99 price for a 250 page, standard-size paperback will yield the writer US $2.14. What happened to that 70% (or even 35%) we heard so much about? If, after this, the men in white haven’t taken our writer away, s/he must then cross:

9.   The Bridge of Tears, where, if s/he is a non-US resident, s/he must attempt to prevent the US Internal Revenue from taking 30% of his or her earnings. To do this, she must do battle with monsters ITIN, W-7 and W-8 BEN, go on a quest for a Notary (cross his palm with silver) and also find the elusive Apostille, without which the writer will continue to pay the dreaded 30%. Finally, the writer comes to:

10.   The Well of Disappointment, which s/he quaffs while contemplating the novel’s sales figures. If you think I’m being unnecessarily gloomy here, Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords says that, for most writers, the average number of e books sold per title is 100.

What does all this mean? In a nutshell it means that the average indie writer/producer of a POD book will be flat out getting their money back. There are hidden costs to producing a POD book that exist regardless of whether the newbie writer outsources, or designs the cover and interior themselves.

In the meantime, I’m camped on the Hill of Bewilderment, right next to the Lakes of Confusion, having taken over a week to negotiate the Forest of Dread with nothing but a hurricane lamp to guide me.  While camping out and enjoying the sights, it occurred to me that I might be able to do some good by devoting one post to each of the steps I’ve described above, so that newbie writers will at least know what lies in store for them.

Forewarned is forearmed. So they say.

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I first met John Macgregor about ten years ago. Turned out he lived down the street from me. John’s over in Cambodia now, having adventures, while I, ever unadventurous, am still in the same street. (Anyone who’s read my trip to NZ post will know that I’m not a traveller, never was.)

 John has recently put his award-winning novel, Propinquity, up on the web. I asked him to write a few words about the book and how he felt about it after all these years. This is what he wrote:

Propinquity cover

 

I tend to think of the 1980s as being quite close in time – a bit like Now With Bulky Devices. But exhuming Propinquity, my 27-year-old novel, revealed just how much Australia has changed in the few years since then.

Propinquity was disinterred for publication as an e-book. This meant I had to read the thing – for the first time since I was a young lad of 36 who regarded it as reasonable behaviour to wear black all the time, and smoke a lot.

I knew I had changed. And I knew my alter ego narrator would have changed (had I attempted anything so gauche as a sequel). Australia was the character which provided the surprises.

To get the difficult bit over with first: during the Mullumbimby section of the novel, my narrator, Clive, regularly goes swimming naked with two girl children (his girlfriend’s kids). That would probably be out these days. Indeed I’m nervous about even mentioning it. I suspect the way this passage was received in 1986 (not a single comment from a reader or reviewer) is different to how it will be read now.

But far more interesting (to me) is that Clive habitually tends to put a negative spin on things. I did not know in 1986  that this “pessimistic explanatory style” is the leading cause of depression. After 35 years of the black dog I was very happy to put it down about ten years ago, thanks to some learned optimism training. Many others have done the same. In my opinion we’re in something of a Golden Age of psychology – an age which lies in Clive’s future. So seeing his episodic gloomfulness now – from that future – is a bit like observing a gloomy adolescent: you feel he’ll grow out of it.

Small, linguistic things have changed too. There are no “awesomes” in the book, but one “whatever”, and one line that made me LOL:

“She laughed out loud.”

And what is it with all these hyphens? Back-drop? Match-box? Stick-figure? Plaster-board? Sun-tan? Heart-beat? Switch-board? Did we ever spell like that? If so, two and a half more decades of Americanisation have ended it.

It’s not just language that’s changed, but diction. After the Loyal Toast at a Melbourne wedding reception, Clive tells us: “The toasting done, assumed English accents at neighbouring tables began to rise again in volume.”

This alludes to a generation of Melbourne society women, who are now all dead. No-one thinks a fake English accent is sophisticated any more, even in Toorak. (One also suspects the Loyal Toast has gone the way of the Divine Right and Charles I’s head.) But it’s remarkable how recently these faux Englishwomen walked (and talked) among us. I can still hear the terrifying, brittle voices which cut the air before them them as they beelined toward you at a party, like the Queen with an icepick behind her back.

The book also suggested how our views on alcohol, diet and health have changed in scarcely a generation. Clive drank a real lot (“we spent a month drinking beer in the Portsea pub”; “The wine was tolerable too, the second bottle tasting better than the first.”), as did his friends. They even did this at breakfast. I don’t drink at all these days, and if I had anything to do with it (which I would) neither would Clive.

And to think that this young idiot also drank iced coffee and ate camembert! Didn’t he know coffee crashes the adrenals, and that dairy is the world’s number one allergen? To make matters worse, on page 126: “I consumed mountains of garlic bread.” These grain foods were the very thing that would soon make me sick for an entire decade, till the arrival of the Internet enabled me to learn that we’re not a grain-eating species. D’oh.

But Clive is incorrigible. He seems determined to submerge himself in over-work, coffee, tax evasion, alcohol, grand theft, garlic bread, procuring perjury and eating dairy – all the vices, not just a few:

“The meetings and telexes and coffees and cigarettes had been endless.” Unspeakable.

Indeed, after he has discovered the divine female at the heart of Christendom, exposed a 2,000-year Church conspiracy, fled Westminster Abbey, been chased by the authorities across the globe, and is finally nabbed by the law in Byron Bay, he tries to makes his escape by slugging a policeman. These days police are armed, and he’d be shot.

The foregoing also reminds me how radically the way people think about God has shifted. Propinquity is saying that everything we have been taught about God is nonsense – a fringe view in 1986, which is now mainstream. The old structures totter on, but the cynicism about them is total.

Finally, for all his sins, my hero Clive was right to suggest a post-revolution firing squad for Rupert Murdoch, for it is his ilk who have ensured that “the old is dying, and the new cannot be born”.

“In this strange interregnum” (to complete the quote from Antonio Gramsci) “many morbid symptoms arise”. Looking around me now at 61, he wasn’t wrong about that.

In 1986 it was thought that we were in with a chance to save civilisation, and the planet that gave rise to it. The ensuing quarter-century saw the ideas and structures by which that could have been done steadily abandoned. Now we’re down to a series of rear guard actions. The emphasis has shifted, with a slow, intricate subtlety, from preventing disaster to adjusting to it. None of that was visible when I was 36, and wore black, and smoked a lot.

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00991SMHY

I first met Allan Lloyd in Mullumbimby, way back in the 1980s, when I worked as a volunteer with his first wife Diana; we were trying to obtain a government grant for housing for people with a mental illness in Byron Shire.

In 1994, when I returned from a 2-year stint in Sydney, Allan gave me a ms called The Case to look at. I was immediately struck by his edgy take on life and his clean writing. Now he’s produced an ebook entitled Peace & Love and All That Crap, which has even more of the same.

I’ve always been interested in how authors come to write their novels, so I asked Allan to give me a little rundown on the genesis of his book. Here is what he said:

 

Peace & Love & All That Crap came out of a scriptwriting workshop I was invited to attend in the late 1990s, having had my first film script shortlisted for development funding (albeit unsuccessfully) by what is now known as Screen Queensland. For the workshop, I had to write a treatment and the first thirty-or-so minutes of a new script.

Some relevant personal background: I’d spent much of my life as a walking dichotomy – a left-leaning quasi-hippy working as a freelance advertising copywriter. Talk about a conflict of interests.

And a flashback: Years before, I’d seen a TV news segment showing people protesting about the planned demolition of part of their seen-better-days suburb by dressing themselves in cardboard cartons painted as buildings and being knocked over for the camera by one of their number representing the demolition process. At the time, it had occurred to me that if they’d really wanted to be taken seriously by the general public, they should’ve presented as regular citizens rather than weirdos nobody would want to live next door to.

I based my new film script around that one observation. Drawing on my own advertising background, and people I’d known while living in Mullumbimby, I came up with the idea of a bunch of ageing hippies hiring a cynical public relations expert to help them mount a PR campaign to save a pristine nature sanctuary from private development. The twist was that nobody would take the hippies seriously unless they compromised their principles and faked mainstream credibility.

This script was shortlisted for development funding (again, unsuccessfully) by the Australia Film Commission (subsequently Screen Australia), and then ignored by the Australian film industry. So okay, I figured, if I could write a pretty good unproduced screenplay, it oughta be a snack to turn it into a pretty good unpublished novel.

It was harder than I’d expected. Ninety-odd pages of dialogue needed a narrative. And I wanted that narrative to be in the third-person voice and sounding like the hero’s inner voice, yet not mirroring the style or structure of his spoken dialogue. It took me forever to find what I thought worked and allowed me to have that third-person narrative reacting to the opposing attitudes of the hippy characters the hero has to deal with.

On the upside, the ‘novel’ form gave me room to explore what I’ve found to be a certain integrity and idealism intrinsic to the hippy lifestyle, and contrast it against the delusions and hypocrisy so prevalent in contemporary ‘straight’ society. It also allowed me to include encapsulated back stories for many of the characters, which I believe added extra texture to the story and reading experience. Certain plot elements of the film script, including the ending, rewrote themselves along the way.

When it came to getting published, despite a damn good letter and synopsis (I’m an advertising copywriter, remember) I couldn’t interest a single agent in reading the entire manuscript. The ‘first fifty pages’ highlighted my hero’s unsympathetic qualities without the hippies getting a look in, while the ‘any fifty pages’ option meant that the story’s episodic development became difficult to appreciate.

Did it deserve to find a publisher? I’m the last person to ask. Danielle would say I should’ve had it professionally assessed, and she’d be right. As it was, my partner is an astute reader and often confrontational critic, and she provided perceptive feedback whether I liked it or not. But frankly, I’d had a few years of fun writing it, was by then maybe not mad about any potential hard yards of revision, and in retrospect I think that even my attempts at interesting agents were arguably more about ‘that’s what you do next’ rather than any real personal need to actually see a book published.

So Peace & Love & All That Crap sat around for a few years until I recently decided to self-publish it for Kindle. At the token price I’m asking, I’ll never make any real money out of it even if it sells, but that’s not why I’ve put it out there.

I just figure it’s better read than dead.

Allan Lloyd

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 My guest blogger this month is Ed Griffin, who teaches creative writing at Matsqui Prison, a medium-security prison in Canada. Ed has just released his new eboook – a novel entitled Prisoners of the Williwaw – on Amazon. Over to you, Ed.

 

In the 1980s, my wife and I owned a mom and pop commercial greenhouse. Our business was prospering, but something was wrong. My life was planting seeds, growing tiny plants and selling vegetables and garden plants in the spring. I was becoming what I grew — a cabbage, or maybe a petunia. My mind was dying and I knew it.

          I started playing around with writing. After supper every night I would go out to my ‘office,’ a little added-on room between our house and the garage. It had windows to the front and back and a space heater that was adequate for spring and fall, but not winter. I would sit down at the typewriter and follow my creative muse.

          Whole worlds opened to me. I wrote about the area behind my childhood garage where I practiced pitching, and dreamed of reaching the major leagues. I wrote a short story about a group of prisoners on an island. I wrote a poem about getting along with the Russians. Hours passed. Suddenly, as I wrote, an alarm would sometimes ring in the house. The alarm meant I hadn’t turned the heat on in the greenhouses. I had to shut the door on the vibrant world that grew on the paper in front of me and hurry to the greenhouses to start the furnaces.

          An hour later I’d be back at the typewriter. Type a sentence, stop, look at it, realize it wasn’t quite true and then search deeper. Layers of middle-aged half-truths disappeared, the comfortable maxims I had surrounded myself with — “Business is good. Don’t make any changes,” and “Relax. You’re getting older.” The fires of my youth burned again — civil rights, world peace, a place in the sun for every person. The idealism that had lain dormant for eight years sparked back into life.

          Isaiah was on the scene again, reminding me of the words I read in the seminary and tried to live when I was a priest:

          I have appointed you to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and those who live in darkness from the dungeon. [Chapter 42-6]

          As I wrote I dug, I searched always deeper, trying to reach the truth. It might be easy to speak a lie, but it wasn’t easy to write one. I started to unravel the tangled skein that was me. These revelations came, not from writing philosophy or self-help dictums, but from writing fiction. Put a man and a woman in a fictional situation. What does the woman really think? What does the man think? Is this real? Is this how people are? Where do I get my ideas? What is human nature all about? Who am I?

          For example, as I wrote about the prisoners on the island, I got to know each one of them. How did they get into crime? Why were they different than me? Did they have a religious education as I did? What did they think about God? Was God a mean father for them or a gentle parent? What did I think about God?

         Amazing. The seminary had tried for twelve years to teach me how to meditate, and here I was doing it while I wrote.

http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-of-the-Williwaw-ebook/dp/B005S33Q7S/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342834442&sr=1-1&keywords=prisoners+of+the+williwaw

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A range war is brewing on the e-book front as a result of Amazon’s pre-emptive strike in introducing Amazon KDP Select, a 3-month optional contract operating above and beyond the normal Amazon KDP program available to authors. If an author hits the Select button, for the time their book is enrolled in the Select program, they must agree not to distribute or sell the book ANYWHERE ELSE! This includes their own personal blog or web site. Their title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

Before Amazon KDP decided to introduce Select, self-published authors had the opportunity to distribute their books across a large number of platforms — Amazon itself, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords, Books a Million and others. This was good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

 To retaliate against Amazon’s pre-emptive strike, Barnes & Noble, the other distribution giant, has decided to withdraw from its lists all titles published by Amazon. It would seem, at this stage, that even if a book is published on some other platform and merely distributed through Amazon, Barnes & Noble will withdraw it. Books a Million and the Canadian Indigo have followed B & N’s lead.

E-books are the new cash cow of book publishing, and indie e-book sales are rising at a phenomenal rate. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time, and self-published e-books are beginning to appear in bestseller lists. But self-published authors are about to lose their freedom of choice and the wide distribution platforms their books enjoyed in the past. Because B&N and Amazon deliver the greatest volumes of sales, a self-published author or a small press will be forced to choose between these two giants. Going with only one distributor, however large, carries potentially huge risks for the user for the distributor can change the conditions at any time.

Range wars never benefit the peons. In this case, it’s the writers and small publishers who are caught in the crossfire. Is Amazon breaking the law with KDP Select? Should some kind of legal safeguards be put in place to prevent monopolistic practices in the young e-book industry?

 For more details on Amazon KDP Select, see my previous post:  Amazon KDP Select – a poisoned apple?

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When online bookstores began to take off, Amazon quickly established itself as the biggest dealer in the field. Sure there were other bookstores, for example, Fishpond, but they paled beside the giant Amazon. We’re talking hard copy here.

When Amazon saw the trend towards e-books, it hopped right in and again established itself as the biggest retailer. Sure, there were other e-book distributors — Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others — but Amazon was the biggest. A huge industry sprang up. Writers could self-publish their books and put them on many different distribution platforms.

Looking good. Good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

Then Amazon produced the Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers that enable users to shop for, download, browse and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media via wireless networking (source: Wikipedia). Amazon has now launched what it calls Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing  or Amazon KDP. With this, a writer can get his book published by Amazon and have it go directly to Kindle, which is grabbing a large share of the applications market with the introduction of its Kindle software for use on various platforms such as Microsoft Windows, iOS, Blackberry, MacOSX (10.5 onward, Intel only), Android, webOS and Windows Phone (source: Wikipedia).  The most recent refinement of all this is Amazon KDP Select.

Amazon KDP Select. This sounds good — until you read the small print in Amazon’s Terms and Conditions: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

To paraphrase this small print: While or the time your book is enrolled in the program, you must agree not to distribute or sell your book ANYWHERE ELSE. This includes your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

If you violate this at any point during the 3-month enrolment period, or you remove your book from the program so you can distribute it elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings – or getting kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.

After the obligatory 3 months, your enrolment in the KDP Select continues unless you go through the process of opting out. Forget, and you’re up for another 3 months.

This forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.

By withdrawing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales ranking in their lists, making their book less visible and less discoverable should they reactivate distribution to competing retailers.

Do authors want to be totally dependent upon Amazon for sales? New writers are desperate; they will do almost anything to sell their books. And they know that with Amazon KDP, more customers are motivated to go straight to Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.

It’s a clever ploy on Amazon’s part. As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords says, The new Amazon KDP Select program look s like a predatory business practice (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices). Pretty soon, Amazon can use the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world’s largest e-book retailer (and world’s largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

Indies are the future of book publishing. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time.

Think about this. It might pay indie authors to recognise that their long term interests are best served by having a competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem. Mark Coker recommends an author distribute their book to as many retailers as possible. Many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to books, will surely serve indie authors better in the long run than a single retailer who can dictate all the terms.

But whoever thinks of the long run? The long run is everyone’s poor relation, doomed to be steamrollered by the bullies of expediency and money.

The contents of this blog are based on a blog by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. The original, more comprehensive article can be found at: blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/amazon-shows-predatory-spots-with-kdp.html

Next Week: A review of Australian author Michael Sala’s debut novel The Last Thread published by Affirm Press.

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With the rise of digital technology, mainstream publishers became deluged with manuscripts. Today, more and more emerging writers are taking to self-publishing as a way of getting their work out there. Below is one writer’s journey into publishing with the UK Arts Council funded site Youwrite on.  It’s a happy story.

Self-publishing with Youwriteon by guest blogger: Louise Forster

After 11 years I’ve finally cracked it, I’m published. Okay, not in the usual sense with an agent and publisher, but as a self-published writer. I’ll cut to the chase and give you the facts.

I published with YouWriteOn, a UK Arts funded site that anyone can join. Basically it works on a bartering system. You read someone’s work and, at random, someone reads yours. You receive reviews from cold readers who don’t know you. The down side is, sometimes you’ll get a reader who’s not familiar with your genre. Then you need to shrug and say to yourself, what the heck. Of course there are times when a reviewer will say, ‘I wouldn’t normally choose this genre and I almost deleted your piece, but I’m glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed it.’ Check them out at www.youwriteon.com. If the above doesn’t appeal to you, they also offer publishing without peer review at:  www.FeedARead.com

Nearly 2 years ago I paid £58.99 (A$89.77). With this fee I’m published, and printed by Lightning Source, who have Print on Demand (POD) facilities all over the world, including Melbourne (important for me, as I’m in Australia). My book is beautifully presented in paperback, glossy cover, good quality paper and lovely, easy-to-read font. Recently I paid £34.94 for 6 of my books in hard copy; that comes to about A$5.50 per book, and that includes postage!

My book is available on as many online stores you can think of and some you wouldn’t know existed, like www.flipkart.com  in India — I’m waiting for an Indian director to read FINDING VERONICA and love her so much he wants to turn it into a Bollywood movie! (Bring it on.)

INFO BELOW TAKEN FROM THE FeedARead SITE:

• It’s free to set-up your book for sale through FeedARead.com
• You set your own book price and royalty
• Full bookseller distribution service. You can also choose to make your book available via the major online outlets, including Amazon, and for major bookshops to order. The fees for this are as follows:

BOOKSELLER DISTRIBUTION SERVICE
UK Authors: £88
US Authors: $79
Australian Authors: $140
European Authors: E100
All other authors: £88 UK.

FeedARead’s distribution service places your book into the world’s most comprehensive distribution channel. With over 30,000 wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in over 100 countries your book will gain the maximum exposure possible in the market today. This includes your book being available to order through all of the following: Amazon and Barnes & Noble (US); Amazon, WHSmith and Waterstones (UK); Amazon Europe; and TheNile.com (Australia).

My book is also available on Kindle through Amazon. On 18 December I joined Amazon’s new program for Kindle users called Prime. It was a little scary, but looking into it, I discovered that subscribers to Prime pay $78.99 annually. This enables them to borrow 12 books per year from the Prime Kindle list. Why would readers want to go this library route when it actually costs more per book? It saves the reader from making PayPal transactions every time they want a new book. Amazon currently sets aside $500,000/month for distribution to authors. After the 90-day trial period, my book continues with Prime for another 90 days, and so on unless I inform them that I don’t want to continue. Every 90 days, I am given 5 days for promotion, during which your books are available for free, and I can choose the dates — which is most useful if you want to coordinate it with your local book launch and local PR. I had one on the 18th another on the 21st of December.  (Normally, the ebook sells for $2.99; I receive 70% of this. )

Your share of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% of $500,000 (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%); that is, $7,500 in December.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/KDPSelect

The sudden rise in sales happened AFTER I joined the KOLL. I believe that, had I not joined Prime, FINDING VERONICA would have been lost among the millions of books available. However to be fair, I have to say that I also began tweeting a few weeks ago as part of my PR program. Whether the suddden rise in my sales was due to twitter or to joining the KOLL, it’s simply too soon to know.

Whatever it is, it seems to be working!

 

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