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Messages - jb1111

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Need help from people who remember 1987
« on: Today at 02:23:06 am »
I'm working on something set in 1987, and I keep hitting roadblocks with the communication aspect, so I'd like to hear from people who remember it firsthand. My MC is a doctor, so I would assume he would have a cell phone and a pager, but I'm not really sure how he would work those into his daily life. Would he use them mostly for work or would he use them in his personal life? Would it have been a show-off move to break out your cell phone back then? If he gave someone his number, would he give them his home number or cell phone or both? It would also be great if someone could tell me exactly how a pager worked. Did it just display the number or could you text on them? Could you program contacts into it so it said the person's name?

When you gave someone your number, did you set up a time to call or was it just a crap shoot if you would be home or not? Were answering machines a thing yet? How much were payphones a part of daily life? Did you usually use change with them or one of those prepaid cards? What were some funny things, annoyances, etc., that might happen like missing a call, overhearing someone's pay phone conversation, not having change when you need to make a call, etc.?

Cell phones were huge brick-like things and rare. Even in 1990 they were analog and not common yet, at least among the general populace. Pagers were much more common, but the only people I saw commonly using them were people who had a job where they were on call.

Answering machines were a thing even in the 1970's, when they were fairly new tech for home use. They used a loop of tape until digital recorders were used, but that was much later... I think most of them used a cassette inside in the 80's. I don't know how common they were, though. I think a lot of doctor's offices would have had them, and other businesses. My memory is foggy on this because I don't recall leaving messages for doctors back then. You called during business hours. If it was an emergency you went to the hospital, a night clinic (which there were a few in my area), or dialed 911...

Payphones were used mostly for emergencies. People dropped in quarters.  I don't remember prepaid cards until the 1990's, but they weren't used in any payphones I remember using, anyway. Usually you didn't overhear another payphone conversation unless you were standing right near the person and it was an open payphone. Even in the 80s there were payphones in these booths with folded doors. If you were outside one, you didn't hear much. I think in the 80's more and more payphones were out in the open, like the few you see remaining now (usually broken, with the cord ripped off, etc.).

Pagers just beeped and then showed a number that called you. Grey LCD displays. Then you found a phone and called them back. Sort of like a primitive caller ID / receive only.

As for doctors, I could be wrong, but they generally didn't have cell phones for you to actually call (at least in my area of the US), until the 1990's, and even then (in my experience) the cell numbers were emergencies only. The numbers publicized for a doctor were the office number only. They never gave them out. And remember, people used telephone books back then. All of the time. There was no internet to speak of. Computer bulletin boards were slow and primitive, and hobby-only for the most part, so the only way you'd know a doctor's number would be to look it up in the phone book, or you had the number on your home rolodex or a business card in your wallet or whatever. Usually, you'd call the office if you needed your own doctor (like in some sort of urgent need), and the office might page him or her, and they would call you back. But usually that never happened. You'd call their office. The receptionist would take a message. In real emergencies, you'd dial 911...

Hope that helps.

Writers' Cafe / Re: And The Hand Finally Closes Around Our Throat
« on: August 07, 2020, 10:42:00 pm »
Coincidentally, I have been trying rapid release at the same time and my results say different. Because I don't believe I can write longer works in the necessary time period, I have been trying the tactic using very short (5K words) erotic stories. In the last month I released 8 such stories under a brand new pen name, and they are ticking along quite nicely. I am not setting the world alight, but they are getting found and bought/borrowed (all in KU). It is certainly enough encouragement for me to be continuing with this project.

Erotica and a few other genres seem to be outliers, where the rapid release short thing can work for people. Not just you, but I've seen some testimonies on the erotica authors' reddit that imply the same. Of course, you can't use AMS or other forms of marketing that are available to the more tame genres unless you lie, and tell the Zon that it's not really erotica -- at least from what I understand.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Character Name Copyright Query
« on: August 07, 2020, 10:27:43 pm »
Also, when in doubt about something like that, or if you are that worried, you can always alter the name of your own character to something similar. Money Mark, Money Morgan, Dollar Dan, etc.  That's what I do if I'm hedgy about a character's name. I do multiple searches -- on the Zon, Google, Bing, etc., and then make my decision.

But like Ima Writer's search shows, when you get to the third or fourth page you'll find it's apparently a term in the Urban Dictionary:

Writers' Cafe / Re: Chapter transition opinion
« on: August 07, 2020, 01:43:51 am »
Empty pages may have worked in Twilight but I would come up with another way of doing it, personally. What if your potential reader looks at the LookInside and doesn't get the meaning of the blank / mostly blank pages?

For one thing, empty pages may or may not be considered 'padding' by the powers that be. Plus, there has to be a better way of getting the point of the transition across.

Writers' Cafe / Re: reviews
« on: August 07, 2020, 01:38:54 am »
We know they check to see how much money a reviewer has spent at the store, so there obviously is some sort of process. We also know that when corona hit there was some upheaval at the Zon as many workers were told to stay home... Obviously there have been some adjustments made in operations over the past four months.

Writers' Cafe / Re: And The Hand Finally Closes Around Our Throat
« on: August 06, 2020, 06:49:40 am »
I mean... I'm sorry you're having such a [crap] time with Amazon, but.. you're experiences don't mean everyone else experiences the same thing.

My debut novel, with zero previous readership made just under $8000 its first month of publication (paid in Canadian, so that's something to keep in mind with our crap dollar).

My second novel went up for pre-order and had 1600 pre-orders by its release, at $2.99. I dropped the ball from there, but that's an entirely different post to share.

My 'advertising' platform? I had a not even finished website, a mailing list that gained all organic readers from these books, and I posted a couple of times a week in one voracious FB reader group with book teasers, etc.

It was (and still is) a hungry reader genre, surprisingly, and the books were written to market.

I'm not posting this to start a fight or some large debate. I'm just hoping that other people first discovering indie publishing and kboards doesn't see just the OP's post and think it's all doom and gloom.

I don't make as much as you, but there are a crop of readers who actually seek my books out, and I've done less than you to find them, actually, aside from post them and leave notices on the Zon's author's page. Organic does happen. Can many live off of it? Doubtful. I don't. But then, I"m not trying to live off of it. Either way, with indie publishing, it's always YMMV.

I can understand Shane's frustrations. He's trying all the tricks that are said to pay off with visibility and all that. Including advertising and rapid release. Apparently there is more to the formula... Luck, or the right algorithm comes your way, perhaps. Or a long past history of bestsellers? I don't know.

I'm still trying to unpack his first post but I get the jist of it: it's not an easy thing to even get visibility at first release. Of course, the massive numbers of books released every day probably do not help, unless you're one of those rare writers of some odd genre where a new release may get seen, like maybe something in Esperanto.

Writers' Cafe / Re: And The Hand Finally Closes Around Our Throat
« on: August 05, 2020, 05:35:17 pm »
Perhaps they're just taking time trying to take all that info in. After all, Mr. Black, you do compact a lot of info in your first post on this thread.

I'm still trying to comprehend all of it.

I think it's really the same issue. People treat marketing as if it's something you're born with or not. They think they need to be at 100, so they either ignore it or jump in headfirst. Marketing is a skill. People can learn it slowly, the way they learned to write.

It can be expensive (though there are less expensive options) and it is hard work. But, hey, when you do something for money, it's a job. Some parts are going to be hard work.

I get it. Marketing is hard. It sucks sometimes. Like I said, I could spend more time to learn how to be better at marketing, to go from pretty good to great, but I haven't done that yet. I have plans to sit down with some AMS courses and get better at AMS, but I haven't done that yet, because it is hard and frustrating. (I have my doubts about AMS being profitable in my genre--it's just too crowded--but I'm not willing to give up. My profitability has dropped a lot this year, the year I tried going full force at AMS. I didn't listen to my own advice to build my skills slowly. I haven't had a lot of experience marketing new releases with AMS because my covers are usually too sexy, but I went full force anyway. It wasn't a smart move).

I knew absolutely nothing about marketing when I started. I thought I wrote a commercial enough first series, but I didn't get the market. My first three books flopped hard. I've managed to repackage them enough they sell okay.

Fair enough, I see what you're saying. I was coming more from the position of some of the newbies that maybe try to put the cart before the horse because they think they need to do it all at once, when maybe it's better to take it a step at a time. I know when some have come onto the forum, usually they get really good advice from the vets like you.

I myself do not make a lot of money, but I do make a profit, for whatever that's worth. Advertising for me is out of the question at present. My 'marketing' is the standard title, cover, blurb, etc. It works for me right now, I have no reason to complain. I would never tell anyone to not at least try further forms of marketing than I do, though, provided they had the funds to finance it.  I think if someone has the wherewithall to advertise, or engage in marketing that costs some, it probably sells more books, provided it's done right -- and there's always a learning curve. I'm just not at that point yet myself.

It's fine to brag about making money, but it's silly to brag about not marketing. Or being bad at marketing.

This is really common in author circles. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have such a strong opinion.

When I started, I thought it was normal to have this I just can't do marketing attitude. It may be normal, but it's not something to be proud of. Marketing is a skill. People can learn skills. Almost anyone can learn some marketing.

Bragging about being unwilling to learn... That's my issue. It makes people think that refusing to learn is an admirable trait.

I didn't know marketing at first. I'm still more good than great IMO. But I leaned by doing. Everyone is capable of that to some degree.

And the reverse side of your argument is that some newbie decides that AMS is the only way to go, because every prominent indie author says you have to advertise to sell books, so they dump more money into their advertising (or other more expensive forms of marketing) than they're ever going to make off of their first book. Which can be demoralizing.

That has happened in with at least two new authors I can recall who have posted on KB over the past year; I would gather that there have been more than that who have had this experience.

I know in some genres there are authors who sell books without advertising. I have seen enough talk on other forums (particularly reddits) to lead me to believe that it's possible. They may have minimal forms of marketing also -- backmatter pointing to other books, email lists, etc. Apparently, pulling a small profit with no advertising can be done.

Should an author never market? No. I think any author who is serious about selling books should learn marketing. I think that's a given. Especially in today's crowded book marketplace.

On your point that it's poor practice to brag about being unwilling to learn, 100% agreement on that. Any newbie who is unwilling to learn the ropes is probably not going to see too much success. There's always room to learn.

You know, reading through all of this thread over the past week or so, and not ever having watched a Mark Dawson vid, and hardly even knowing who the guy is, I've reached this conclusion: whatever he did was on impulse. Perhaps it was that one chance to grab the brass ring and see one's book finally on a big, national newspaper's chart. And the way it was done would appear somewhat legitimate, right? After all, they would end up being real sales.

Things people do on impulse, when a door opens, can sometimes backfire -- as we have seen. I would gather he didn't sit in his house and ponder over the decision and its ramifications for a week, agonizing over whether to do it or not. It probably was something done on the spur of the moment, maybe with some help by others who weren't giving the possible ramifications a ton of thought, either.

All just pure speculation here, of course, but we've all devoted 9 thread pages so far attempting to take it all apart when it probably was just something done by impulse.

It's so silly to brag about not marketing.

If your books sell well without marketing, they'll sell really well with marketing.

It's like bragging about having an ugly cover.

It doesn't matter how good your book or packaging is if no one sees it. If you can get visibility without marketing, great, but that's very rare in 2020 unless you're in an underserved niche (and it probably won't be underserved for long if it's popular enough. Other writers will find it and saturated it).

While you make some good points, I don't think it's silly to brag about not marketing, anymore than it's silly to brag, period.

If someone has made money off their books without marketing, and they state it here, they're giving others their experience that it can be done.

Not unlike someone giving the "I'm living proof that an indie can make a good living from writing" anecdotes that we see from time to time on KB. I don't think those are silly, even if their experiences do not necessarily apply across the board to everyone. They're just examples, basically.

Amazon ties all the pen name databases together to one real person.
They know who everyone truly is because they are mailing checks to an address or bank account and tracking social security numbers for taxes.

It's in Amazon's best interest for the recommendation engine to give preferential treatment to past successes. Easy to start out a new book from 'that bank account that previously sold a hundred thousand copies' by placing it in the top ten slots for a week to see if it glides into another easy path of massive book sales.

Outside of that, yes, being a good writer with stories that are written to the market will sell better. That author has the experience or at least the process ingrained to get there -- it could be their choice of cover designs and blurb writing skills that are their true magical arts rather than the story writing -- but something is successful in selling those books no matter what name they attach to the products. A good product will sell better than a poor product, but always remember that Amazon's algorithm is working in the background ... "they know who you are".


Interesting points.

But while she starts off saying a book should be able to sell itself, she ends up by saying she has an ad on facebook and one of Amazon. So she is advertising then. You have to have something to draw attention to the book in the first place.

Yeah, it's hard to figure out how "zero advertising" is a FB ad and an AMS ad, even if they are a couple years old.

Although she does say that she started a new pen name, new books to go with it, and made $23K in two months with no ads.

Writers' Cafe / Re: unusual review(er) situation - what should I do?
« on: July 31, 2020, 01:16:50 am »
Occurrences like this are one reason I decided, from the start, not to have an author email.

For various reasons, most stated above.

Writers' Cafe / Re: where to find sales figures?
« on: July 29, 2020, 03:57:00 am »
In your Amazon KDP Dashboard / Bookshelf, there is an item near the top of the page that says "Reports". You'll find hard sales data for your books there.

I forgot to add that the OP also needs to consider the vagaries of the present day economy. We are not out of the woods yet.

No one can predict where the economy will go for the rest of this year, or even into next year, and how that will affect either one's day job, or book writing income.

These discussions always presume day jobs a) make more and b) are stable. They don't and they aren't.  We haven't had stable employment for 20 years and paychecks have been stagnant for 40 years. Meanwhile, any chance you may have had at a day job ended when you hit your mid 30s. 

If you think a day job is the answer, keep looking.

You make some very good points. I lost a day job a few years ago -- actually, a career. So I understand your point completely. That said, we all know how 'stable' indie publishing can be for many, if not most authors. I think there's a balance there. Somewhere.

We sure do place a lot of value on these lists. Consumers fail to realize that most "top sales" lists are products of back-end deals in many/most industries. They aren't necessarily good indicators of quality or hard work. I guess they lead to more sales. It's like Kim Kardashian who got famous for ... being famous ... which led to more fame. I'm not saying the guy's a good person or whatever - I don't know him or what his intentions were. But at least he's exposed that bestseller lists are sketchy. One more piece of media to be skeptical of.

Well, like some unnamed poster stated a few weeks ago (before he or she yanked the post), these lists can apparently be the result of a certain amount of padding through in-company purchases of books. Whether the statement in that post was actually true or not I have no idea.

I'm sure some sort of shenanigans is possible -- I mean KU was gamed through click farms -- the possibilities for gaming any system are endless.

There are some authors here on KB who apparently make a good living. I would think they're in the minority. Most of us probably have our indie writing as an accessory income at best -- to varying degrees.

If you think of it more as your second job, you'll probably be better prepared for the ups and downs of it.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Key to 500+ Book Reviews?
« on: July 25, 2020, 10:12:49 pm »
Every time this issue comes up I always say the same thing:

Reviews aren't as important as sales. And to an unknown, or relatively unknown indie, reviews can be a mixed bag.

What the OP may be observing is the results of ARC teams.

The bottom cover has a better helicopter, in my view. The insignia on the copter, as well as the appearance of slamming into the water, indicates military activity of some sort. FWIW.

I don't know who Mark Dawson is, aside from what little I read about him here on KB.

He isn't a competitor in my genre, so I really have little stake in this issue.

That said, this reminds me of a post a mysterious poster placed on another thread a couple weeks ago, where that poster stated that the big publishing houses have ways of gaming the bestseller lists, and various ranking systems -- and it was hinted that there is a fair amount of buying one's own books, through various means, to accomplish that task.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The danger of buying your own books.
« on: July 22, 2020, 08:08:17 pm »

Writers' Cafe / Re: Which title should I use?
« on: July 22, 2020, 07:51:35 pm »
How about splitting it, using Everglades Rescue as the main title, but also using the term 'SEALs' somehow in a subtitle?

Books with subtitles can also catch the eye.

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