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Upon the arrival of my Kindle, I thought, "How shall I herald its arrival?" After the obvious roll of the eyes and 'Buy a book' answer, came the question, 'Which one?'

As an author with books in the Kindle store, I share with other authors the neurosis of 'checking my sales'. KDP provides a sales report, which they keep pretty much up-to-date. It counts sales for the month and resets at the beginning of the next month. Before the first sale of the month comes in, the report merely shows a brownish bar, which has the following statement within: "There are no sales to report during this period."

This has become known to Kindleboards Authors as 'The Beige Bar of Shame' (BBoS). We get depressed looking at them, especially as we tend to check for sales on a regular basis - every 3-5 minutes. Seeing that beige bar staring back at you can be demoralizing. And there are three Amazon Kindle stores: one in the US, one in the UK and one in Germany. Thus, at the beginning of each month, we each have 3 BBoSs.

I decided to celebrate my purchase of the Kindle by ending the BBoSs of some of my fellow Kindleboards authors-up to 20 of them. As it was already the 10th of July when I made the offer, the best-seller ranking of the books I'd be purchasing would be in the hundreds of thousands-they wouldn't have made a sale for over 10 days, minimum.

Only if the requesting author had more than one book available did I even bother to look at the product description. The books I purchased ran through various genres-and I promised to at least attempt to read them all during what remained of the year. After I began this mission, it came to me that I might soon find out if the common refrain of 'self-publishing has unleashed a mountain of dreck upon the reading public' had a good basis in reality. None of the 15 books I purchased had an Amazon Kindle Best-Seller ranking of better than 100,000 and a few languished below 300,000.

I've now read 7 of the 15. That's half (because I had to sub-contract the buying of one which wasn't available to me in Canada). With this first half under my belt, I'm here to report on those titles.

Here's the link to the original thread: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,75044.0.html

Remember, I'm an SF&F author and not many of these books fall into my preferred genres. Thus you might look at my reviews remembering this. Here are the seven books I've read thus far:

Craig Hansen -- Most Likely $2.99

What can a 55-year-old male atheist SF&F writer say about a book written for religious teenagers (girls for the most part)? I suppose I could imagine myself to be a contemporary Christian teenage girl-nope, not working. "Most Likely" deals with, on its most basic level, a crisis of identity. I suppose you could roll that into a 'coming of age' meme.

Becky, the protagonist, has questions about her faith, or lack thereof; about what a friend should do and be; about what a girlfriend should do and be; about how she thinks of relationships in general, both with God and with parents, friends, siblings and the general populous. Mr. Hansen knows the story he wants to tell and tells it well, with only a few (in my opinion) problems (mainly stemming from the height of the protagonist). These were not sufficient to spoil my enjoyment of the book, nor were the religious overtones. I thought that the rather contemplative last third of the book might be better handled by a First Person narrative, but that's a minor complaint.

About 3/4 of the way though, I figured I knew how it would end, but Hansen pleasantly surprised me. For those who appreciate a Christian themed YA book, it seems unlikely that this one will disappoint. In a way, my own assumptions slightly spoiled the read. Moral of the story (my story): Do not anticipate; enjoy the moments as they pass.

First book read and definitely not 'dreck'.

Dan Meade -- The Quaking Sun $2.99

Dan Meade writes about a clan that predates an independent USA and has had little to do with the country for the last 300 years. They don't pay taxes, don't use the social networks and don't appear on the census. The clan has many rich traditions, which Meade writes about in an engaging way. He drew me into his story and I had no idea of where it was headed-or why-but I was content to have him show me the sights along the way. Meade writes well, and when he broke into First Person (the reading of journal entries by the founder of the clan) I found myself thoroughly captivated.

I found myself contemplating what I would do if faced with the courtship/marriage customs he describes--which added a lovely touch of humour--and that shows that Meade really had me buying in to his reality.

I am hard-pressed to categorize this novel; I can't recall having read anything quite like it. Nonetheless, it proved a very interesting and engrossing read. Meade's characters are well rounded and sympathetic for the most part-the evil ones less so-and he has the writing skills to carry off a project like this. I think the lack of a definable genre probably hurts him in the sales department, which is a pity. Perhaps it is 'literary'? I don't know, I've never been able to define 'literary'. The ending came as a complete surprise to me and even hinting at it would spoil the journey, as would hinting at what I believe to be the underlying premise. That premise/'moral of the story' only hit me some days after finishing the book, so it was in no way a strident message throughout-or it could just be that Boulter (that's me) is a bit dim and can't see the forest for the trees.

Two for two.

Tom Gallier -- Edge of Darkness $4.99

"Edge of Darkness" falls squarely in the Fantasy realm. Hah! At last, a genre that I'm quite familiar with. Although the novel fell on the high side of my guidelines for what I was willing to pay, it attracted me and I coughed up the $4.99. I'm glad I did.

Gallier writes a rollicking novel, well within the comfort zone of any who read this sort of sub-genre. Readers will find lots of familiar features-a battle between Good and Evil, elves, orks and other creatures that go bump in the night. The story tells of acts of courage and betrayal, a coming of age, romantic yearnings and a calling to do great deeds for the betterment of all. Any familiar with "The Deed of Paksenarrion" by Elizabeth Moon will find much that is similar and will not be disappointed by this read. Karyn of Ohmsford and her adventures kept me turning the pages until I finished, a satisfied reader.

Three for three and I'm figuring I made a good decision to try this route.

P.B. Thompson -- Deadly Decisions $2.99

"Deadly Decisions", unfortunately, has formatting, proofing and editing issues which detract from the story that P.B. Thompson has to tell. As stated by the title, this book deals with the decisions of its characters, who all want a change in their lives. One determines to inaugurate that change through blackmail and this decision cascades onto the rest of the cast with dire consequences. Not all will live to tell the tale.

Though Thompson has the story he wants to tell firmly in mind, and though it and Georgie, his heroine, kept me reading to the end-which satisfied my reader's need-the sheer number of errors and the style of writing left me wishing that he'd found someone to help him with editing.

Three for four. Still a good average.

T.K. Kenyon -- Nag Is Hindi for Cobra $0.99

TK Kenyon provided me with my first short story. "Nag is Hindi for Cobra" tells of culture clash and its effect upon a young woman of Indian background. I love the title, for Minda's parents and boyfriend are, to some extent, 'nags', and, like cobras, their venom (their desire to have Minda fit a prescribed role) is poisonous to Minda's coalescing sense of self. The parents don't actually appear in this short, but their influence shows throughout. To truly find herself, Minda must overcome the outside influences and take a path that she feels comfortable with.

I enjoyed TK's writing and found her story, though well outside my usual fare, worthy and entertaining. Like others who, at times, find themselves to be round pegs that others wish to pound into their square holes, I applaud Minda's journey. TK makes good use of metaphor and I enjoyed the mental gymnastics following TK's (and Minda's) interpretations of how she came to be what she was.

Four for five and we're on a roll.

V.H. Folland -- The Docks $0.99

V.H. Folland presented me with my first novella-and a darn fine one.

This time I found myself immersed a crime drama-exceedingly well told from the First Person viewpoint. Folland's protagonist, Harry, is a criminal who has engaged to do a bit of arson, when he discovers that all is not as it should be-people may die and he didn't sign on for that. So, back he goes and becomes the 'hero of the moment', saving others from his own deed. However, he finds himself on the hook for murder and possibly other charges and how do you clear your name when you are guilty?

Folland does a remarkable job of keeping his readers sympathetic to his protagonist and living in his skin. Harry's journey and the book's ending satisfied entirely. I'm shocked that a book with this calibre of writing has such a small following. As I type this, its ranking lies in the neighbourhood of 343,000, meaning that it's likely that no-one has purchased it since I did.

Folland has another book out, a novel, with a ranking in the 600,000 arena. Not being a gambling man, I'm still willing to bet that Folland's August BBoS (in the US) won't last more than a few hours. (If I were you, I wouldn't take that bet, for it's rigged.) [Note to V.H.: this will not hold if you raise the price of Fire Season to $500.00 in anticipation--that would be taking advantage.]

And that makes five out of six.

Anne Holly -- Unwrapping Scrooge $2.99

Well, I suppose it had to come: A Romance. But I stipulated that I would read any genre, so I girded my loins, slicked back my hair and prepared to sally forth into . . .

A well-written, kinda touching, novella of a Canadian woman spending a year in Britain who becomes romantically involved with her somewhat nerdish land-lord, who, unbeknownst to her is a best selling author. Naturally, as this is a Romance, both Molly and Kale fight the inevitable but lose . . . somewhat erotically. And then what? Read it and find out.

"Unwrapping Scrooge" entertained me far more than I thought it would. I found it easy to place myself in the shoes of both main characters and happily went along for the ride. As with the other 6 books, the ending satisfied, and I've no doubt that Romance readers will also find this to be true-as well as non-Romance readers who want to experiment on the sly. Go for it.

Six out of Seven. Pretty darn good. If the second half of my experiment goes as well as the first half, I'll be well repaid, indeed, for my investment of time and cash. Already, I feel that I've more than broken even.

Writers-especially self-published writers-face an uphill battle. We have to do it all ourselves. I, for example, love to write, but hate (and hate doesn't seem like a strong enough verb) to promote my own writing. I'm definitely not good at it. And, perhaps, the same goes for the above authors. Why else their rankings should be so low, I don't know. I read 6 very satisfying stories for very little cash. 'Mountains of dreck' may exist out there but, within this small sample of non-selling books, I didn't find it. And remember, I didn't sample. My only criteria was that the author have not sold a book this month. They presented, I bought, sight unseen.

Perhaps my good experience has as its foundation that authors who are members of KB are, by that very fact, more professional than the majority self-published authors. Put another way: Perhaps most of the authors of the putative 'mountain of dreck' would not bestir themselves to find a place such as KB.

In any event, I encourage those who've come this far to sample the above authors and other KB authors-perhaps of genres you don't usually read-to discover for yourselves some of the gems to be found. Don't be put off by low rankings, for they only show that readers are not buying, but may have no relation to the story waiting within. It could simply be that readers are not buying because they've not yet found.

Thank you all for your time, and my thanks to the 7 authors above (The Magnificent Seven?) for the reads.

Doug.
 

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what a wonderful idea and thoughtful of you. glad you are enjoying your reading. it's heartening to see someone try out diff genres
 

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I'm just checking in to remind myself to pick up Edge of Darkness when I get home. 4.99 is pretty steep, but you convinced me.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Evan Couzens said:
I'm just checking in to remind myself to pick up Edge of Darkness when I get home. 4.99 is pretty steep, but you convinced me.
That's very good of you and, though I don't want Tom to come and beat me about the head and shoulders with bolts of white light, I'd like to remind you that I'm not trying to convince anyone to buy based on my likes or dislikes. I'm recommending that people try the sample and decide for themselves.

That said, I certainly enjoyed the book and wouldn't hesitate to buy another from Mr Gallier, should its description entice me.
 

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You know, I am fond of random books. Almost all the pleasure reading I do now is from the used books my mum passes on to me in her care parcels. I had no choice in the selection, they just arrive. The only selection I do by blurb/cover is which ones I read first, but I read all of them eventually. It takes a lot of pressure off. It's fun to just take a bunch and give them a whirl.

Of course, the genres aren't terribly random, since my mum prefers true crime, murder/suspense mysteries, thrillers and all forms of romance, but I don't have to labour over each title. This is the joy of hand-me-down book communities, I think.
 

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You made one mistake.  When reading a romance and girding your loins, you are also supposed to bare your chest.  Yes, I'm afraid this is necessary; I know this because I have studied the covers for this genre and apparently NO MAN may ever wear a shirt.  ;D  If he dares try, it always seems to be half ripped off and is certainly NEVER buttoned.

If the story takes place in medieval times you'll want either a dagger or a sword at LEAST nearby, but you can probably hold onto it and read and you'll still be okay. 
 

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D.A. Boulter said:
That's very good of you and, though I don't want Tom to come and beat me about the head and shoulders with bolts of white light, I'd like to remind you that I'm not trying to convince anyone to buy based on my likes or dislikes. I'm recommending that people try the sample and decide for themselves.

That said, I certainly enjoyed the book and wouldn't hesitate to buy another from Mr Gallier, should its description entice me.
Of course I'll read the sample before I plunk down the dollars, but I'm interested in fantasy in general, and I doubt I'd have found this on my own. So I'll give it a whirl and a review and thank you kindly for letting me know about it.
 

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You made one mistake. When reading a romance and girding your loins, you are also supposed to bare your chest. Yes, I'm afraid this is necessary; I know this because I have studied the covers for this genre and apparently NO MAN may ever wear a shirt.
rotflmao!!

And all women wear skin-tight dresses that show off their cleavage. Even when they're vacuuming dog hair and cleaning the bathroom.
 

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Every genre is laughable to someone, I guess. *shrugs*

ETA: I did tell Doug at the time he purchased the book that I didn't expect him to do so, as romance, while enjoyed by those who like it, is never a good thing to force on people, since many people do find it ridiculous. I thank him for stepping up to that plate, but perhaps he shouldn't have admitted it. ;)
 
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Thanks for the results so far. It's interesting seeing the breakdown across various genres, and I think I've got some more reading material to look up.

I'm glad you enjoyed the book (I promise not to raise my prices in August!).
 

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anne_holly said:
Every genre is laughable to someone, I guess. *shrugs*

ETA: I did tell Doug at the time he purchased the book that I didn't expect him to do so, as romance, while enjoyed by those who like it, is never a good thing to force on people, since many people do find it ridiculous. I thank him for stepping up to that plate, but perhaps he shouldn't have admitted it. ;)
My comment was directed at covers, not the genre. ;D I just happened to have recently written a cover article (it was actually about Urban Fantasy covers, not romance) and love to pick on covers in general. I read romance as well as just about every other genre. And I suppose in every genre there are cliches and things to laugh about -- although I was really just teasing overall about his preparation to read a romance.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
[Doug reads comments, checks out Romance book, runs fingers through slicked-back hair, shrugs and bares 'manly' chest. Looks down, sighs and sucks in gut.]
 

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D.A. Boulter said:
[Doug reads comments, checks out Romance book, runs fingers through slicked-back hair, shrugs and bares 'manly' chest. Looks down, sighs and sucks in gut.]
Ha-ha!!!!! There you go! NOW you have it right!!!
 

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D.A.,

I just got home from a long day at work, to find this.  Wow.  I'm stoked.  My first review.  Ever.  I'm so glad you enjoyed "Edge of Darkness."  As writers, there's really nothing we want more than to give reading enjoyment to our readers.  I want my readers to enjoy my books as much as I enjoy the ones I read.

Thank you for all of your time and generosity.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, thanks to all who have commented or simply read in this thread.

I've just started book 8, Martin Stanley's The Gamblers and it looks like I'm in for another good read, though at this point it is looking like a train-wreck for the first character I've met. So, it might be an uncomfortable ride on my part, for I hate watching people--even fictional characters--on the road to self-destruction--but the writing is very good.
 

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This is a really interesting thread ... I'm going to download the preview for Quaking Sun because it sounds pretty fascinating ...
 
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