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Topics - Jonathan C. Gillespie

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1
Writers' Cafe / GDPR
« on: May 14, 2018, 02:32:49 pm »
So after reading through the GDPR guidelines, I am rapidly approaching the point where I am just about ready to cease using a mailing list and stick solely to Facebook. I'm not a prominent author and my mailing list was only 500 people deep before--now about 130 after sending the re-validation campaign related to GDPR--and the new requirements are an absolute pain. I don't have my own counsel or lawyer available because I can't justify that expense for a tiny little mailing list. I've never had a publicly-stated privacy policy and I've never auto-checked signup consent boxes or anything like that, and I've always made it clear (and stuck to) not swapping newsletter subscriber info or spamming.

It's like there was no thought in this legislation for a small business or micro-business user, though.

At this point I can't see how I could make a GDPR-compliant signup form short of writing up my own policies, and why on Earth would those stick? I'm not a lawyer. Am I overthinking all of this? Are any of you just dumping your mailing lists and walking away over this legislation? I know everyone says mailing lists are the way to go, but I'm seriously debating if they're worth the headache or legal landmines now.

2
Writers' Cafe / Public suggestions for the almighty 'Zon
« on: February 28, 2018, 02:17:37 pm »
Look, Amazon folks. I know you read this board. Help me help you sell more books. Figured I'd post here since this is so author-centered, as folks might have different ideas...

1) Merge your control panels for adds, books, and author page maintenance into one dashboard and URL.
2) PLEASE fix the description control interface. Stop changes made to descriptions in Authors Central from being overwritten by the originally-created description over in KDP when someone changes something as simple as pricing in kdp. If I add a line break, please stop making me guess if it will show up or not in the description preview. I'm good with HTML; my background is in IT. PLEASE either make the WYSIWYG editor 100% reliable, or make the HTML editor 100% reliable. I shouldn't have to spend this much time making simple changes. Do you know when I get ready to make a change to a title in KDP I have to make a backup of my Author Central-based book description?
3) Please fix AMS reporting data. People have written books, excellent books, about how to compile AMS add reporting data so that trends become more easily accessible. That's been the biggest surprise I've had as I've begun learning about that add system. Are you sure you want metrics that obscured? I don't know how the other outlets, such as Facebook, record metrics, but I think you guys can probably do better.

Just some suggestions.

3
Writers' Cafe / Series Spotlight on Author XP (Formerly Book Basset)
« on: December 29, 2017, 10:36:58 am »
I searched and found nothing pointing back to this...

Can anyone point to any results of running the series promotion/spotlight at:

https://authorsxp.com/for-authors/sunday-series-spotlight-feature

I just pubbed Ascendant Army, the last book in The Tyrant Strategy, my mil-scifi series, and I'm looking for whole-series promo ideas, and went back to Book Basset as they've always ran a good shop. But this is $75, so it had better do more than just bring in a few tire-kickers.

Thanks, all, and Happy New Year!

4
Writers' Cafe / KDP sluggish on a single machine?
« on: December 21, 2017, 02:16:10 pm »
Guys,

Is it just me? For some reason KDP loads and moves between pages sluggishly literally on just one of my machines, and it's the beefiest machine in the house. Windows 10, SSD, etc etc. Anyone run into this before? It's no other websites or apps.

Thanks!

5
Writers' Cafe / KDP Reporting
« on: June 14, 2017, 05:04:17 am »
Okay, is it just me, or has the reporting dashboard been much slower since the change to the new report formats?

6
Bless you for coming in here after reading that subject.

Any way, let's say I have a bunch of folks who agreed to "let the author contact [them] about promos...]" et. al. in the giveaway form's screen. Yay! Now--since I'm not integrated with Mailchimp, am I allowed to just manually add all those addresses to my mailing list? I just want to make sure this is as obvious as it looks, and the green grass isn't concealing landmines.

Much appreciated!

7
Writers' Cafe / Steady results!
« on: March 29, 2017, 10:55:38 am »
I just wanted to follow up on a rather ancient post I made a while back, in which I bemoaned my lack of progress and momentum since starting to self-publish my books. I won't dig it back up. It was typical, understandable (to be honest) griping that might come from anyone in this business. We all sometimes get frustrated. It was nothing you hadn't seen before.

Advice boiled down to:

1) Write longer books.
2) Chin up and keep on keeping on.

I wanted to let you guys know I've hit a minor milestone of about $50 in royalties a month. This is nothing, honestly, and yet it is something as well: it's momentum. I was hesitant to say this, but said momentum seems to be sticking.

I always believe in trying new things. In the interests of sharing info, I:

1) Experimented with AMS for a few months, losing some money, until I found how to make profitable advertising campaigns.
2) Rolled almost everything into KU. Page reads are not vast, but they are helping, and I find the exposure is bringing in new readers.
3) Began getting my fiction into multi-author boxed sets.
4) Really stretched into multi-author promos and FB sites. I particularly recommend everything the rather awesome Dean F. Wilson is hosting, but there are several other groups out there, many of which cater to multiple platforms and approaches, so you can chase everything from KU page reads to signups.

That's it. I'm treading water now, which is great, but it's on to the next milestone of $100/month. Good luck everyone, and hopefully for those of you currently on the rocks, this will help you shove off of them.

8
Writers' Cafe / Promotion groups for select authors
« on: January 04, 2017, 06:07:55 am »
So there are many awesome promo groups out there where authors work together, but those promo groups seem to discourage authors enrolled in Select. I've had better fortune overall in Select than I did in wide release, but now, seeing some of these groups, I'm starting to wonder if I need to go back wide. Many of these groups leverage Instafreebie, and don't like Select because promos don't in Select don't apply to all Amazon storefronts. Of course my %&#(*# first-in-series novel just renewed automatically for Select on the 25th of December. So I don't even have the chance to go back into wide until March--and that'll be tons of fun to set everything up if I do.

Are there any groups anyone knows of out there that are specific to Select authors? I'd rather see if I can promo in Select for the time being while I figure out my gameplan for Spring, by which time--knowing my luck--everyone will be declaring Instafreebie dead and running to Select  :D

9
I was at MLCONF, the Machine Learning Conference, earlier this year in Atlanta. I learned a variety of lovely facts of interest, key among these being that all our day jobs are doomed. Seriously.

One of the presenters was from Amazon, and we got a rare peek behind Amazon's ranking system. What I learned is it isn't just actual purchases that go into determining a product's rank. Amazon actually builds rank by weighing a variety of actions a consumer takes against a product. I have no idea if this applies to books, because the examples given were clothing and other products, but I 'd imagine there isn't much difference in the engine's treatment in the bookstore.

Each action that represents greater interest/commitment from the consumer is treated with more and more weight by the algos. So, for example, having a search query just display your product nets you a few "points". When a customer actually clicks on your product, that's more weight. A purchase is, of course, the action carrying the greatest weight. All these factors did--the machine learning expert stated--contribute to a product's actual rank.

If I had thought of it at the time, I'd have asked about reviews and clicking "more" in descriptions, and such, but for some reason that escaped me.

Any way, there you go. Something to chew on.

10
The Book Corner / Nineteen Eighty Four vs. Brave New World
« on: December 01, 2016, 09:43:22 am »
Having read both, I can now confirm I am all-in for Nineteen Eighty-Four. Reading Brave New World, I get a sense instantly that it is a solid book, and ahead of its time, but the dark, tragic beauty of our protag's struggle in 1984 struck me and stayed with me much more than the plights of the characters in Huxley's work. I've got a model of devastating fiction to idolize, and it's definitely Welles' work.

11
Writers' Cafe / Joining a Facebook author collab site as my page
« on: November 03, 2016, 04:22:13 am »
I just figured one of you guys has probably run into this before...I'm trying to join a collaboration site on Facebook. I have my personal account, but I'd prefer to be able to join the page as my formal author "page" account. In the past, Facebook had it so that you could switch between "using facebook as" your personal account or page account. Happily, because that functionality made too much sense, Facebook removed it. So I now I see no way to apply to join this page as my page/author account. Anyone run into this with Facebook groups? Is the only solution to create a brand new personal account?

12
Writers' Cafe / Blurb clinic my military sci-fi thriller
« on: October 27, 2016, 12:05:22 pm »
So this is the blurb for Revenant Man I settled on a while back, but things are sort of luke warm on the sales side; thus I just wanted to see if anyone saw anything glaring. The book is also linked below, in my signature, if you'd like to check it out on the 'Zon.

Many thanks.

Quote
Since adolescence Reed Barowe has served in the Serpican Police, a powerful, alien-equipped agency enforcing peace on Earth. But running covert ops across a world still recovering from the madman Tak Akasa is dangerous work, and on a routine mission radicals kill Barowe's squad and capture him for interrogation.

Though able to escape, Barowe is betrayed by his unit and finds himself on the run with a living ghost--a man appearing to be none other than Akasa himself. In their journey through a shattered United States and into a guerilla resistance waged against a brutal dictator, Barowe and his brilliant ally will make unlikely friends. And Barowe will find everything he was brainwashed to believe replaced by one question:

Will he help a man he's been trained to kill?

This is REVENANT MAN, book one of THE TYRANT STRATEGY.
           

13
Writers' Cafe / Seeking editor for short story (quick turnaround)
« on: October 10, 2016, 05:47:32 am »
Hi there,

Sometime over the next week or week and a half I'll have a 7.5k word short story completed that I'll need a fairly quick turnaround on---say, back before the 25th would be ideal. I am unable to use my regular editor at this time, so I'm interested in quotes for a proofread-level edit or a copy edit. I won't need a full line edit.

If you're interested, pop me a message here, or better yet at [email protected] . Memberships in relevant organizations or testimonials a plus. Success together on this project could very well lead to more lengthy work in the future.

I'll be looking around for editors as well, but I figured it didn't hurt to drop a line here.

Thank you!

14
Writers' Cafe / Category keywords vs targeted keywords
« on: September 20, 2016, 07:51:08 am »
Happy Tuesday, folks.

My two main series are in the space opera and military science fiction genres. In general, do you guys find that using keywords that drop you into Amazon's buckets and subcats work better or worse than targeted search terms.

So for example, method one is grooming using terms like "fleet", so said book drops into the category browse for Science Fiction & Fantasy > Military > Space Fleet.

Method two, targeted search terms, might ensure someone searching for "ghost dinosaurs" shows up in a resultset of say, a hundred books, with a few hot sellers and a few random titles.

(Hmmm. Ghost dinosaurs. I think I just discovered a Jurassic Park / Ghostbusters crossover series.)

15
Forum Announcements & Tips / Add a thread to "favorites"
« on: August 24, 2016, 06:19:12 am »
Other than doing this at the browser level, is there any way to permanently bookmark a thread? I browsed around a bit, and didn't see any obvious instructions. Forgive me if this has been posted elsewhere.

16
Writers' Cafe / Advertising outside of Kindle Select methods
« on: August 22, 2016, 07:01:02 am »
So, following the advice of a notable author, I've decided to go after one group or another with my books--her two "groups" were the KU readers and then the broader, "wide" public. I'm targeting the KU folks, because page reads have been encouraging, particularly for my Tyrant Strategy novels.

Nevertheless, not having a permafree produces interesting quandaries. I don't have a title set to $0.00 I can just slap a promo on anytime I wish. I only have three titles I could price reduce or set to free for promotion purposes, and even then only for five days at a stretch--and then only every three months. So this means I can only do one promo a month. I don't know if this has worked out for folks or not, but given that one such title would be the first part of a serial (kinda hard to promo in the first place), the second would be the first book in my series, and the third is just a standalone short with links in the back matter...I'm not sure if I'm neglecting other avenues.

One thing I'm trying my level best to do is get into also-boughts, but it feels almost like trying to break into a private club. You need sales to show up in AB's for other authors' books. But you need enough cross-sales. Reviews help cross-sales, theoretically, but you need sales to get reviews, and since many sites cut you off if you don't have enough reviews, you're cut out of one of the entrances to the club. So you wind up trying to find a route through the kitchen service entrance.

To that end, I noticed many authors in science fiction have had success popping tales into cross-author anthologies priced dirt cheap and popped up on the 'Zon. Great. I tried reaching out to one of the authors that had published one of these on behalf of the others, and never heard back. I'm not sure how to get an "in" for folks to consider including me. This is ironic, because I know I can write, and even before I started self-publishing my short fiction was published in about a dozen markets, and picked up award nominations and fan mail and the like.

It just seems like it's super hard to break out. The club has a bouncer, and he's a big guy.

I'm open to any advice. I just had one of the best months I ever had, following the release of my two novels, but I know how this turn on the board ends. Momentum is everything.

If you want to just throw an Ahnuld-esque "stop whining" at me, I guess I'll take that lick, too.

17
Writers' Cafe / Heads up going from Permafree to KU
« on: August 10, 2016, 06:47:20 am »
I recently went from permafree to Kindle Select for the Beacon Saga Serial's Part I and II books (you can see part I in my signature). I had an outside hope that books showing as also-boughts would now reflect these first two parts in their own also-boughts as well, but unless the Zon's algos just take a while to update, this sadly is not the case.

Consider this at least one anecdotal heads-up for an obstacle\factor to consider when going from permafree to select.

18
Writers' Cafe / Shifting from Act 2 to Act 3 in an Outline
« on: August 04, 2016, 05:17:18 am »
It seems, no matter how many outlining resources I've read, and no matter how many times I've outlined a book, that right around the 20k mark in a WIP I often find myself stopping and reassessing the way forward from that point. This leads to reviewing the outline again, and sometimes making minor changes, but for the most part it's just two to three days thinking of plot options; time spent coming to grips with the fact that I really can't conjure some magical idea that will somehow make me feel like my first draft is anything but a shack held together by spit and bailing wire. I generally know the way ahead is solid in the outline I already made, and of course I have my character arcs, conflicts and endings all ready to go, but there's something about actually writing the middle of the book that tends to create misgivings. I worry if I'm asking the reader to suspend too much disbelief. Questions come forward, such as:

1) Would Joe Bob really go for that?
2) Why wouldn't Entity A do [action] instead?
3) They'd be romantically involved, those two, by now. You know that, right?
4) Those two characters wouldn't trust each other this quickly.
5) I don't care what you outlined. This is CRAP.
6) Your readers are going to hate this.
7) Stephen King and Robert Heinlein never had these problems. You do, because you screwed something up!

But then, inevitably, I swallow my misgivings and I soldier forward. A few drafts later (the usual trimming and the like), and I've got a book ready for the beta readers, then eventually the draft with their feedback in mind (and my last changes) goes to the editor, and the book is released...and everything goes fine.

So, yeah, there's always that spook-out, every time. I've been writing since 2000, and I've got quite a few short stories and novels to my name (not all of them published; some were just exercises), and I'd love to somehow identify what it is that's causing this hiccup at almost the same time in the process, almost every time. Is it simple, harmless doubt? Am I not being thorough enough with my outline before I leap into writing?

Anyone else ever run into this?

19
Writers' Cafe / Search words: target categories or buckets?
« on: August 03, 2016, 05:28:39 am »
Guys,

What's your strategy with key words? Do you target categories and subs, so that you're in as many as possible, or are you instead focused on buckets--by which I mean, for example, you want your killer book about shortcake to show up three spots down from that NYT bestseller about shortcake? Or are you doing something entirely different?

The reason I'm asking is I'm trying to decide if I should groom my key words in use for my books. My novels are doing all right, given I've done almost no promo for them, my serial not so much, and though I know keywords are not the sole reason for either's success or slow sales, it doesn't hurt to try optimizing things.

Also, if you know a good service that can do this, that's actually worth paying for, I'd happily take recommendations.

Thanks.

20
Hi folks,

Simple question here. REVENANT MAN and SHATTERED SON dropped last week, and I put REVENANT MAN on a quick free run through today. It might be the only free run I ever do for the first book, because they seem to have legs (but we'll see if that remains the case).

Anyway, the KENP pages read count is very impressive so far. But I'm not sure how that metric works. Does the KENP page count reflect those pages read from those "buying" REVENANT MAN for zero pennies, or is the KENP count legitimate reads from those who are simply using their subscriptions to read? In other words, am I going to get royalties for the counts I'm seeing?

Much appreciated.

21
Writers' Cafe / Mil sci-fi blurb critique
« on: June 23, 2016, 10:49:36 am »
Good, or room for improvement? Thanks!

Quote
Since adolescence Reed Barowe has served in the Serpican Police, a powerful, alien-equipped agency enforcing peace on an Earth still recovering from the madman Tak Akasa. But a mission to escort an ambassador turns deadly as the troops under Barowe's command are killed, and he is captured and tortured.

Though able to escape, Barowe is betrayed by his unit and finds himself on the run with a living ghost--a man appearing to be none other than Akasa himself. In their journey through a shattered United States and into a guerilla resistance waged against a brutal dictator, Barowe and his brilliant ally will make unlikely friends. But Barowe will find everything he was brainwashed to believe replaced by one question:

Will he help a man he's been trained to kill?

22
Writers' Cafe / Quoting reviews
« on: June 20, 2016, 05:43:31 am »
Hi guys,

I'm prepping the release of two novels, and in the back matter linking to some of my earlier work, I'd like to quote some of the reviews for the Beacon Saga Serial. Is it all right to give the reviewers' names and quotes, or do I have to contact each reviewer on Amazon and get permission first? Some of these folks are just regular customers/readers, of course.

Muchas gracias.

23
Writers' Cafe / Publishing a *completely new* version of an older book
« on: April 15, 2016, 10:41:10 am »
Folks, I give you exhibit A in this tale, one The Tyrant Strategy: Revenant Man, as seen in said link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0985629908

There were a lot of things that went right, but also many things that didn't in creating that novel and finished product. I hung up the series after the first book was out because I was so frustrated with the first book, but I didn't give up on the series. Now, years later, as we speak I've got a cover artist lined up and the completely rewritten Revenant Man and its sequel are both rapidly approaching publication.

Yes, I know they say "never rewrite an old book", but the fact is I didn't do that tale right the first time, and I had things I wanted to fix with another pass. I won't ever do this again in the future, I promise you that.

Understand that Revenant Man, when it's re-released, is going to be a completely different animal. About half the plot has changed, supporting characters have disappeared, the editing is pro-level now, the cover will be completely different, etc. Even the title is different: Revenant Man (Book One of The Tyrant Strategy).

So--what do I do with this old version of the book? I ceased selling its ebook versions a while back, but I can't do anything about the mighty Zon's listings for its paperbacks (even though I shut down Createspace availability). Has anyone approached so dramatic a new version of a book before? Did you reuse your ISBN and hoped you'd avoid any reader confusion? Even with old-version paperbacks still floating around in the wild? Did you go with a new ISBN, and on the old product page write a nice bold description telling folks to ignore that version ad looky-loo to the new?

How'd you hack it, or how would you? In the immortal words of Fred Willard, "Your thoughts, please."

24
Not Quite Kindle / Most overrated and underrated films of all time
« on: March 25, 2016, 05:39:18 am »
It's Friday. Let's take our writer hats off for a second and have some fun.

Name some movies: at least one underrated and one overrated (or more, if you care too).

I recently saw Tron: Legacy. I was expecting a popcorn flick in a stylish wrapper. And for the first half hour or so, that's exactly what it is, with a protag that didn't really excite me and a threadbare plot. The moment we meet Flynn again, however, the film becomes this kind of tech-noir dreamscape, the score becomes alternately haunting and moving, and the performances congeal together into a kind of melancholy soup I haven't seen since Bladerunner. I still can't quantify exactly why this film moved me so emotionally. I grok the themes even while I find the broader plot troubled, but there's just something going on here that makes for a beautiful film. I'm left considering the piece's DNA, which runs the gamut of everything from the original film to anime, and I find the end product is nothing other than good, solid science fiction. I adored it.

On the other hand, I also saw the recent Star Wars and while it was enjoyable, I found it very disappointing. I don't get the widespread critical acclaim, unless we're all just so traumatized by Episode I and II that our expectations have been lowered. I found it very derivative and full of the kind of disruption of mythos and unrealistic character development that bothered me so much about the bulk of the prequels. Abrams did better with this than Episode I, for sure, but I actually think "Revenge of the Sith" was a better flick, warts and all.

25
Hi all,

I know I'm a nobody, but lately I've been looking for a cover artist for a series; I've nearly wrapped the first two books up. Having browsed fifteen bajillion cover artist websites over the past few days, I wanted to offer some unsolicited advice to those of you touting your wares and services in this field. None of this is meant to offend, merely inform you.

1) Have a website. A real one. Not a Facebook page, not a wordpress blog (unless you've turned it into a slick storefront). Also, I don't want to get dropped into a blog post about your favorite chocolates or sports cars. It's like walking into any brick and mortar business and finding folks hanging out at the front counter talking Captain America vs. Batman. Don't do it. (Also, Batman would win)
2) Show us a portfolio of your covers. Link to it prominently from your homepage. Ideally, have the thing sortable by genre.
3) Pay attention to the nav in said portfolio. Your work is the number one qualifier I use to slelect you, other than industry cred, so make it easy to navigate and examine.
4) Post your rates clearly and succinctly.
5) It's great if you assure us you're flexible, and that you'll make twenty changes to the position of a mouse on an anthropomorphic fantasy romance cover, but honestly, we don't know you and don't know if that's true. You could be one of those flakes running an inbox that email disappears into, or you could have a killer temper. I'm sure neither of those scenarios is true, which is why I know you'll slap customer testimonials on your site, right?
6) For the love of Pete, if your cover graces a bestseller, pimp that it did.

Anyway, hope that helps any of your wonderful cover folks with your sites.

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