Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Amazon Should Do What’s Best for Indie Writers & Readers

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Here’s the background: Indie e-publishing phenom John Locke, famous for being the first indie writer to sell a million ebooks on Amazon.com, has been outed in the New York Times for having bought a large number, if not most, of the positive reviews that propelled his success:

The Best Reviews Money Can Buy

If this were just a scandale that concerned John Locke alone, I wouldn’t care about it, and I doubt if very many other people in the indie e-publishing scene would, either. But the problem is that it casts indie ebooks in general, along with their writers, in a bad light.

You only have to scroll through the comments to the New York Times article to find a lot of people piling on, saying that incidents such as this demonstrate that indie ebooks are crap, that authors have to pay people to say nice things about, and that’s why they don’t buy them. But not just there; Salon.com chimed in with a painfully accurate assessment:

“…employing a service that dishonest and cynical demonstrates a bizarre contempt for the reader. It casts the writer as a producer of widgets and the reader as a sucker who probably won’t complain if the product doesn’t live up to the hype, because hey, at least it was cheap. Books, in this scenario, become flea market trash…”

And how’s the Twitterverse discussing the matter? Here’s a couple of typical comments:

John Locke paid for positive reviews, according to NY Times article. Now, my question is: How many other authors pay?

and

John Locke, self publishing success, paid for over 300 reviews. I have no doubts many huge self pubs use this service.

So there you have it. Locke promoted his indie books by paying a scummy “review” mill for its services, in order to gain a commercial advantage over honest writers who didn’t pay for such fraudulent reviews. But worse, with that having come to light, readers are naturally wondering about the positive reviews for every indie writer’s ebooks. Can they be trusted? Or, cynically, how much did the writer pay for them?

And of course, Locke knew that this was dishonest behavior on his part. That’s why he left the whole arrangement of paying for fraudulent positive reviews out of his how-I-did-it book on how he became the first indie writer to sell a million copies on Amazon. If he didn’t know that there was something wrong with paying for those bogus reviews, and that people would look down on him for having done so, then why did he conceal it?

Bizarrely, some people have already attempted to come to Locke’s defense in this matter by insisting that the bogus paid-for reviews had nothing to do with his ebooks’ success, but that it was actually due to the whole “loyalty transfer” concept that Locke touts in his how-I-did-it book. That’s the bit where he wrote such a compelling blog post — on how much he loves both his mom and Joe Paterno — that people read it, decided he was such a wonderful guy for saying such nice things about Mom and JoePa, and immediately went over to Amazon.com and bought a million copies of his ebooks.

Even getting over the weirdness of Locke being perhaps the last person in the US to publicly express admiration for Joe Paterno — the blog post is still available here on Locke’s website — this whole “loyalty transfer” concept has been pretty well debunked. How likely is it that any significant percentage of a million ebook sales resulted from a blog posting that only generated 43 comments on the website? And a lot of those comments are just spam that Locke hasn’t bothered to scrape off. Here’s a couple:

I have recently installed aluminium windows and doorways in my completely new houses. It is definitely the best path to take, not only do they look nice but because I live in a high crime region I feel safe. They are the best for stability. My family unit love the new installment.

And from somebody who signs himself “Cheep Viagra Pills”:

Hi there, I found your website by way of Google at the same time as searching for a comparable matter, your web site came up, it looks great. I’ve bookmarked to favourites|added to bookmarks.

Yeah, I just bet those guys, after commenting on Locke’s admiration for Joe Paterno, hurried on over to Amazon.com to buy some of his Donovan Creed thriller novels.

In actuality, the only evidence in support of Locke’s “loyalty transfer” concept is the number of ebooks he sold. Naturally, he’s going to say that it was “loyalty transfer” that did it, and not the huge number of fraudulent positive reviews that he purchased, which he concealed from readers of his how-I-did-it book.

But that’s beside the real point. What’s actually important is the damage caused to honest indie ebook writers by Locke and other writers purchasing fraudulent reviews. There’s a battle going on right now, to demonstrate that indie ebooks are as good and even better than traditionally published print books. The battle is being won by indie writers self-publishing compelling, well-written ebooks which garner genuine positive — and unpaid — reviews from actual readers and not desperate shills recruited from Craigslist. As the comments to the New York Times article indicate, it’s going to be a long battle. We don’t need dishonest writers, willing to do anything to promote their books, raising doubts in readers’ minds about the reliability of the reviews they see on Amazon about our ebooks.

Amazon.com is, of course, a for-profit business. Amazon needs to protect the perceived integrity of the review system by which its customers decide to purchase an ebook or any other product. It would be in the interests of Amazon as well as indie ebook authors for it to come down hard on writers who make the unfortunate decision to purchase fraudulent reviews. There’s already a lot of suspicion about the validity of reviews on Amazon; it doesn’t need more fuel to be thrown on that fire by one of its big indie e-publishing success stories being outed in the New York Times, and everywhere else that picks up the story, for fraudulent paid-for reviews.

I’m personally not given to witch hunts — I wouldn’t initiate a petition addressed to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, urging him to yank the ebooks of John Locke or other dishonest writers and to permanently close their Kindle Direct Publishing accounts, and I probably wouldn’t sign such a petition if somebody else came up with one. But at the same time, I wouldn’t shed many tears if Amazon.com did take such actions. These are adults who hired the service that provided the fraudulent reviews, and they knew what they were doing.

Kim Oh in Paperback

Posted in Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

I’ve been made aware that some of my fans and readers prefer hard-copy books to e-books. That’s cool; in many ways, so do I.

So with that in mind, I’ve made the first four Kim Oh Thrillers available as paperback editions, available through Amazon.com. Just click on the covers below to go straight to the webpage for each one. Hope you enjoy them!

Kim Oh 1: Real Dangerous Girl

Kim Oh 2: Real Dangerous Job

Kim Oh 3: Real Dangerous People

Kim Oh 4: Real Dangerous Place

Support LendInk!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

I know I have a lot of writers among my blog followers, as well as readers, so I would hope as many as possible will leave a comment on LendInk’s Facebook page, indicating their support and encouraging the website to resume operations. As far as I and most other writers are concerned, LendInk was performing a valuable service to writers, most of whom actively seek to get their ebooks loaned from reader to reader as a promotional tool. The LendInk FB link is here:

LendInk Facebook Page

A good summary of the LendInk situation can be found at the always useful The Passive Voice blog:

Legit Ebook Lending Site Taken Down

Pimping for Blaylock

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

I wrote a short piece last night that is either going to be an intro or an afterword to my friend James Blaylock’s latest novel, The Aylesford Skull, coming out from Titan Books next January. My understanding is that Tim Powers contributed a similar short piece.

Having read The Aylesford Skull in ms., I highly recommend it to you; I didn’t say nice things about it just because Jim’s a pal of mine. Quote from the intro/afterword/whatever I wrote: “…of all that small, crazed band who started out scribbling away at a pokey state college back in the early seventies, Blaylock is the one who comes closest to shoving wacked-out entertainment through the intimidating portals of – wait for it – Literature.” So there; you know what to do.

That Wasn’t Much Fun

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Friends wanted to see El caballero de la noche asciende, as it’s called here in Ecuador, so I broke my rule about not seeing comic-book movies and went along.

Now I remember why I have that rule. That stunk.

See You in Brighton!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Just to let everyone know — Geri and I have registered for the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton UK, October 31 – November 3, 2013. Looking forward to hanging out with a lot of folks we haven’t seen in quite a while, plus all our friends from the US and elsewhere who make it over. Should be fun.

Kim Oh’s Summer Break

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Some information came my way, about how the webpages for Kindle ebooks can be tweaked on Amazon.com, so they’re a little more attention-grabbing and (hopefully) more commercial. It’s basically old-school HTML, but Amazon’s own proprietary version of it, so the codes are somewhat different; you can’t just put the format commands inside paired brackets and expect it to work.

I fine-tuned the pages for my Kim Oh Thriller series, with the results below. Just click on the images to go to the Amazon webpages:

Kim Oh 1: Real Dangerous Girl

Kim Oh 2: Real Dangerous Job

Kim Oh 3: Real Dangerous People

Kim Oh 4: Real Dangerous Place

I’ll be interested in any comments people have about the changes to the webpages.

Also, to combat the summer publishing doldrums, the prices of all the books in the Kim Oh Thriller series have been reduced a bit. So now’s a good time to snag any or all of them for your Kindle collection. If you just bought any of the Kim Oh books and feel a little miffed at missing out on the lower price, use the E-Mail Me! button on this blog to get in touch with me, and I’ll put you on the list for a little freebie I’m putting together.

And speaking of freebies, you can still get the first book in the series — Kim Oh 1: Real Dangerous Girl — absolutely free, no obligation; just click here for the info how.

Media as Social Function

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Well worth your valuable time to read Neal Gabler’s article in the Los Angeles Times, on what he perceives — probably correctly — as a lack of interest in old movies on the part of so-called millennials and subsequent generations. By “old,” he means more than five years into the past.

His analysis as to the reason for this is a little… um… unnerving. Quote:

… MTV did conduct a study recently of how young people relate to contemporary films, which found that movies are deeply embedded in the social networking process. Young people begin tweeting about films in anticipation of their release and continue discussing them after the release so that the buzz is now more sustained than it has been. In effect, movies, new movies at least, create an occasion for an ongoing conversation.

What this points to is that movies may have become a kind of “MacGuffin” — an excuse for communication along with music, social updates, friends’ romantic complications and the other things young people use to stoke interaction and provide proof that they are in the loop. A film’s intrinsic value may matter less than its ability to be talked about. In any case, old movies clearly cannot serve this community-building function as they once did. More, the immediacy of social networking, a system in which one tweet supplants another every millisecond, militates against anything that is 10 minutes old, much less 10 years.

Not good for historic film conservation projects, is it? What struck me, however, is what the implications might be for other media, i.e. books. If you substitute the word “books” for “film” or “movies” in the quote above, you might very well have an explanation for so-called “phenomena books” (i.e., Harry Potter, Fifty Shades of Grey, etc.), which sell such incredible numbers more because of the network effect surrounding them than any other reason. (Though Rowling’s stuff is of course far superior to that E L James dreck.)

The difference with books, of course, is that they can be commercially viable at the midlist and below level, with far lower sales figures than movies’ equivalent ticket numbers. Even low-budget films have a vastly larger capital investment than just about any book you can name. Also, with the advent of indie e-publishing and the “long tail” retail effect of a writer being able to leave his or her titles up on Amazon.com and other online retailers virtually forever, books don’t have the increasingly smaller window of opportunity to earn significant money that movies are saddled with.

So in terms of marketing, yeah, maybe the way to have a megabuck-earning bestseller, especially with the younger book-reading audience, is so find some way to turn it into a social event. But at least for the time being, an indie e-publishing writer might be able to survive and even prosper without doing that.

Kim Oh 4: Real Dangerous Place — Ready Now!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

Okay, here’s something I’ve been impatiently waiting for about five or six months to announce:

The new Kim Oh Thriller is available now.

Kim Oh 4: Real Dangerous Place

I had to take some time off to move the vast K. W. Jeter E-Publishing Empire’s base of operations from one continent to another, but as soon as the production line was up & running again, I dived right back into chronicling my gal Kim’s adventures as a young & aspiring female hit man (Hit woman? Hit lady? Whatever.) I had missed her so much while I was away, that it’s been a real treat to get things rolling with her again.

Here’s the promo copy from the Amazon.com webpage for the new book:

No easy answers. No big international spy secret bank accounts. No superheroes or magic. Just her wits, guts…

And a very large gun.

L.A.’s a new world for Kim — until it turns just as deadly as everywhere she’s been before. Caught in a violent hostage situation — trapped on the freeway in the middle of the city, with fiery explosions in front and in back of her, surrounded by a terrorist mastermind’s assault-rifle-toting henchmen on all sides — an unarmed Kim has to fight to save both her brother Donnie and herself. And all the while, she’s unaware of how much is really at stake — a revenge-driven scheme to unleash an apocalyptic weapon, horrifying beyond description…

Hard to convey everything about a book in a few lines, but my alpha pre-release readers tell me that this might be one of the best in the series so far. I hope you enjoy Kim Oh 4: Real Dangerous Place.

Click here to purchase for your Kindle.

A Loving Husband & Father

Posted in Uncategorized on July 7, 2012 by K. W. Jeter

I was reading the liner notes to the pianist Roger Woodward’s excellent recording of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Twenty-Four Preludes & Fugues, and was struck by the following anecdote concerning the composer’s experiences under the Stalin regime:

In February 1948, Shostakovich was denounced by the Communist Party chairman, Andrei Zhdanov, for political incorrectness and although rehabilitated three months later, it was the composer’s second reprimand in just over a decade. His official standing and income was reduced and he was dismissed from the Moscow Conservatorium.
In his Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, the composer recounts Stalin’s ensuing five-year period of terror during which Shostakovich frequently lay awake in the small hours, listening to NKVD officers knocking on doors throughout his apartment building, wondering when it might be his turn. Given the fate of neighbours and colleagues who were either deported to remote Arctic labor camps, whose careers were terminated or who simply vanished, Shostakovich spent many nights camped outside his apartment door, bag packed in readiness for the secret police to arrive, so as to avoid the impression that an impending arrest might inevitably have on his family.

(I’m aware that there’s some long-standing controversy over how much of Testimony was written by Shostakovich himself or by his biographer Solomon Volkov, but this anecdote is consistent with well-documented accounts of Shostakovich’s life, so I’m inclined to believe it’s true.)

Shostakovich’s first wife Nina Varzar didn’t die until 1954, so he would have been living with her and their two children during this period — his daughter Galina was born in 1936 and his son Maxim in 1938.

Not a physically imposing figure, Shostakovich was prevented from serving in the Russian army by his notoriously poor eyesight, though he served as a volunteer fireman during the siege of Leningrad (and was pictured on the cover of Time magazine in his fireman’s helmet and thick owlish spectacles.) We live in a world now in which cartoon supermen, steroid-toxic wrestlers and heavy-armament-toting special forces too often provide our definition of “heroes” to us. But I find something deeply moving in the mental image of this slight figure, bundled up in his overcoat against the Russian winter, sleeping outside the door of his apartment, all to spare his wife and children from the sight of him being dragged away by the secret police. Heroes do what they can, I suppose.

Another image enters my mind: Shostakovich’s oldest child, his daughter Galina, would have been twelve years old in 1948. It’s hard to believe that she didn’t know what her father was doing, sleeping outside the apartment door. Given how close oldest daughters are to their fathers, I wonder if there were nights when Galina wrapped herself in the blanket from her bed and slept on the other side of the door, the thin wood panels all that separated her from her father.

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