The Culture Beckons…

That universal existential struggle for book reviews has a culture within that I aspire to change. Not by activism or even force – I grew out of shouting about things in my twenties but it appears most authors shine their light forwards into the murk without realising what they could carry on their backs to aid that journey.

I’ve blogged recently about ‘Changing the Culture’ and that Culture simply put is fostered by an indirect unawareness many authors have when it comes to giving out reviews. While many get too caught up trying to get reviews there aren’t enough authors that realise giving them will eventually provide reward to their own efforts. To be successful in any industry you have to give and contribute towards it so the next time you feel that struggle for reviews, ask yourself when was the last time I contributed? Me – I base my whole presence as an author on supporting others and specifically reviewing their work is an effective way to show that.

I’m pretty sure if every indie author reviewed 5 or so books a year, that universal existential struggle would be filled in part. It’s commonly known by authors that many readers just don’t think to leave a review of a book and it can be so frustrating. These regular folk are never ever going to know how important reviews are to us creators, especially indies. So my thinking is maybe the creators need to do something about it. You can sing from the hills for readers to leave a review but they just won’t hear, so that song needs to be concentrated towards the writing community – people who know and supposedly love books should be putting in way more energy to supporting them and not just their own. As I said this isn’t an attempt at activism or even my version of being controversial, it just baffles me seeing authors complain when they haven’t reviewed someone else’s work and then wonder why nobody is reviewing theirs.

My up coming self help book is going to carry that message – leaving reviews for other authors works is the best way you can grow your presence online and come across as genuine to the point where it will market you and marketing yourself is way more important than marketing just one book. That whole change the culture thing is just one of the many themes I look to carry with this guide book while more importantly helping those in the arena. You’ll hear much more about it soon. This blog and my authoring career took a huge turn when I started reviewing books regularly back in 2018 and I haven’t looked back since. Views, follows, book sales and of course reviews have all increased since then.

So writers, many books have you reviewed recently?

Calling Authors and Bloggers! – Unique Opportunity Alert!

Hello loyal followers, readers and passers by. I do hope December is treating you well. As some of you may know next year I am setting my sights on releasing a self help authoring and blogging guide book.

This project I hope, will be an inspirational and hopefully culture affirming experience designed to help those looking to get into writing/blogging and for those already on their journey. The key word here is ‘Inspirational’ and while this book will be filled with guides and help taken from my own experiences my ultimate vision is for it to inspire those who read it.

Therefore, I am calling on the wider writing community to help in the form of a unique opportunity to have your very own quote included in the book. Some of you may have seen my recent tweet, the annual tweet I put out looking for book rec’s for 2021 and this time I have included a question. You can find that tweet here; but I will happily accept any correspondents on this blog. Just leave your answer in the comments. Seeing as there are some wonderful bloggers and writers who follow this effort, I thought it best to include you by writing this post.

Here’s what I am looking for:

1. Your book or blog link.

2. One sentence of advice to someone with dreams of becoming a writer/blogger.

* If I choose your quote, I will reach out and ask you for permission to use it in the book.

‘Amazon Keywords for Books: How to Use Keywords for Better Discovery on Amazon’ by Dale L. Roberts – Review

Essential reading for marketing books effectively while gaining a better understanding of Amazon key words and beyond..

There is so much information in this clear and concise guide which is designed to help anyone who is published via Amazon reach readers through the concept of shared interests using keywords – while this may sound technical and it might be but Dale L. Roberts explains this concept flawlessly and easily. Not once did I have to re-read anything although I will be going back many times to use this guide as a reference point to improve my own book marketing efforts. While reading it I have already implemented some of the valuable advice given.

The guide begins with Dale relaying a conversation he had with a few old friends who share the same interests and this serves as an example throughout in how we can find an audience that can relate to our books to eventually drive sales. That ideal reader is out there and we just need to build a bridge to them through keywords. Of course we get a plethora of information on keywords like what they are, why they are important and how best to use them. It’s upfront about the fact keywords aren’t all that sell books but they are indeed important.

The world of selling books on Amazon can be daunting especially if you don’t know much about it but this guide has given me a lot more than I used to know and there are even some other valuable outside the box tips that opened my eyes. From search engine algorithms to the relevancy of key words alongside many more useful articles linked throughout and at the end of what I consider an essential read for all authors.

5 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

‘Awake’ by Andrew Palmer – Review

An original techno-psychological thriller that captures the essence and surrealism of dreams with a sinister edge…

In the not too far future ‘Edward Morrison’ is a computer programming prodigy with a million dollar corporation behind him. His main objective in life is to create and complete a ‘dream machine’ prototype that looks to replicate REM sleep conditions while also providing a virtual reality that cannot be distinguished from the real world. And what exactly is real and just a dream? Well that’s the partial genius readers face in this story as the lines become blurred capturing the surreal element of what our dreams can be.

While Edward is determined and engrossed in the work he also carries a complex childhood trauma that plagues his nightmares throughout the story, hence the connection between him and the dream concept. He’s a reclusive type and initially helped only by ‘Athena’ who eventually serves as something with too much control and power which becomes a threat – like the technology in this story, it’s created with the best intentions but humans have a tendency to foster the worst outcomes. Control seems to be the metaphor that holds everything together here.

In the latter stages there were a few moments that felt a little hard to follow as the concept of what was a dream and what wasn’t played out. While readers will need to pay close attention at this point it also heightened the psychological sense of what was going through the MC’s mind. The writing style is descriptive and easy to follow with chapters that are well paced.

The concept of connection through the unconscious as mentioned by Andrew Palmer in the acknowledgment brings a twist and satisfying resolve via the estranged ‘Cura’ who serves as an important character throughout. Dreams and the human mind make for a fascinating subject which is put beside the perhaps danger of technology making this story an interesting and imaginative read.

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

Change the culture

Never did I think I’d know something well enough to see through it and realise there’s a culture that needs changing. Of course what I think like anyone else is just an opinion and not fact, remember that, but after many years of being published I’ve made an observation of something that I believe needs to be changed. Whether it be through lack of awareness or even lack of knowledge, all the way to ignorance, there is a huge step missing in the culture of modern day self publishing.

Now anyone who enters any arena and achieves an eventual level of expertise might inadvertently change the culture just by enduring that journey. Some changes can be natural like evolution – a change nobody see’s but then some changes need a little encouragement.

Right now we are in a boom period for publishing, especially of the do it yourself persuasion. No longer are the gate keepers controlling content. The online world that has evolved and evolved again is driven by content and most probably these big time publishers and literary agents cannot keep up with starry-eyed story tellers who are pumping out thousands of books, their dreams, their visions brought to life before their eyes. Some are pure treasure and probably good enough for any pro publishers interest. Some might not be but are still a good effort anyway and contribute to the literary industry no matter. No longer are authors waiting to hear back from agents leaving them in limbo or having their work destined for the slush pile, in effect that slush pile is now on Amazon and it’s fighting back – it’s great, it’s richly diverse and it’s there for anyone.

There just seems to be selfless disregard for the industry so many of these published authors are entering, and I’m not putting labels on any particular group of authors but every day I see it, authors old and new blindly sharing the link, sharing the link, sharing the link and then getting down because nobody bought the book and let alone reviewed it. The cycle just repeats. That definition of madness comes to mind.

This culture of over self promotion and nothing else is something I have an ambition to address. Yes we all need to get our stuff out there but there is other stuff out there too and authors can promote themselves by supporting others. I choose not to address this because I am an activist, not because I am some kind of wannabe hero or do I even want to stir a debate, fuck debates online. I want this to change because in the past two and half years I have embraced and supported fellow authors probably more than I have supported myself, and the reward – more than any success I had before that time. It’s done way more good for me that I could possibly describe and I want that good to happen to others!

Just how do these authors think they are going to sell their own book if they don’t support books themselves? That whole being an island thing just goes round like a broken record. Authors looking for that quick fix to sell – there isn’t one. All they constantly want is reviews and sales – this is a just a marathon that never ends because no author will ever be satisfied with the amount of sales and reviews they get, but the truth is, this year for the first time in my life as I writer I felt satisfied. In July I broke my sales record and then I broke it again in September. I won’t be promoting my work with effort for at least four months now. I don’t need to, I’ve got enough and so my focus moves back home, to supporting other authors and a little writing. Why? Because I love books, I love stories and that’s all it needs to be. More authors need to love other books too. You probably have time to write one, so you have time to read and review a few, at least. Give back, trust me, just look at the graphic I shall finish this piece with. You can near enough pin point the moment I started supporting other authors.

Hall of Information Investigation: Being paid to leave 5 Star Book Reviews on Amazon

This post is designed to inform and help those in the online world of authoring and reading. It is an investigative exploration more than anything. While the subject matter might be subjective, this isn’t the place to be throwing differing opinions around, it is here to be spotlighted.

For the purpose of this investigation, no parties other than myself will be directly named. Let us explore the concept of being paid to leave 5 stars review on Amazon…

Introduction

The world of Amazon reviews is huge business these days. For authors; probably the greatest struggle to get in all of publishing. Nobody has ever complained of having too many reviews and every author I know has faced this at some point as their greatest lament in writing. Don’t get me started on the lower star reviews either…

Authors are always looking for more ways to get those reviews – many seem to think this is the only way to sell books and there are several high end book promo sites that only showcase books with a higher amount of reviews. Authors sometimes shout to the high hills about how important reviews are, especially indie authors and most of the time it goes unheard so there’s a general feel of frustration around the subject. It’s a huge never going away need that can unfortunately be exploited. Exploiting the desperation of a person isn’t a new tactic, it’s basically what sales can be defined by.

Here we have a product, and our marketing team are going to tell you how you need it. You will then feel you can’t live without it and then you’ll buy it…’ – Businesses everywhere, all the time.

Getting book reviews is a constant itch that can only be temporarily scratched. There are several thousands of folks out there who see this as an opportunity to make a fast buck. There are even those who will use readers to carry out the hard work and siphon huge amounts of money in the process all the while working around Amazon who take this very seriously. This is probably why I have written this post, not to controversy grab for reads, not to name and shame but to inform and hopefully get the message across that authors are being exploited for reviews (which aren’t the be all and end all), but what exactly am I trying to inform you about?

Being approached to write 5 star reviews…

I’d never been approached as a reader to leave 5 star reviews on Amazon until the other day an ‘account’ slid straight into my DM’s . For the sake of this post let us call this account ‘Reputable Readers’ and what exactly did ‘RR‘ say in said DM?

(Paraphrased and wording changed)

‘Hey, wanna review books for (undisclosed amount of money)?’

(Three/four paragraphs of waffle about what services they provide for authors and books)

‘There’s a certain expectation that you should leave a 5 star review. We’ll pay you (undisclosed amount of money) per 5 star review’

‘We’ll also pay to buy the books you review just so they are verified purchases via a well known online payment thing. You stay classy!

‘Representative from Reputable Readers’

What’s the big deal about this?

From the paraphrased message and trust me, this is everything relevant they said, you can see they wanted me to just leave 5 star reviews for books they recommend. It’s what they haven’t mentioned that serves as red flag numero uno. There is no mention of leaving an honest review or even reading the work that I would have to buy. They are pretty up front about it but in a clever way and clever is probably what this whole deal seems on the surface.

This whole ‘service’ looks to be instigated via Twitter messages and under the radar. ‘RR’ will approach an author desperate for reviews > author likes the concept and agrees, then pays undisclosed amount of money (probably a lot) > ‘RR’ approaches a willing reviewer offering part of that undisclosed amount of money > Reviewer does all the work, leaves review, verified purchase.

‘RR’ have no real interaction on Amazon and they basically serve as an expensive middle man that rakes in the cash and gives a little to the reviewer who has left the review on their own account. All which operates undetected. A cash incentive will always persuade someone to say yes while they also persuade the author with 5 stars. This whole deed is seemingly invisible to Amazon who are huge on fake reviews but through this process it’s very difficult to prove.

If I were to try and report ‘RR’ I couldn’t due to lack of real proof, they are just a middle man and that probably only leaves me with one choice, to report the author who really isn’t the bad guy here. They just want their work to be liked and in this ever growing world of the internet it’s tempting to google ‘buy 5 star reviews’ because there are so many who are offering this service.

This whole concept is clever and perhaps an immorally genius attempt at making money and that’s why I wrote this post to serve as a warning to authors and readers. I’m not a fan of anyone being exploited and on this world wide web, it’s everywhere and authors are being exploited here. They could also get themselves in trouble if Amazon found out.

Authors paying for 5 star reviews is wrong, being paid to give 5 stars without reading a book is wrong and more importantly Amazon don’t like it, they will shut your shit down if they find out, trust me!

Disrepute

There are several different types of review services that pop up online all the time many of which provide readers with books and authors with honest reviews – it’s all about execution.

I’m a reviewer for Reedsy Discovery who are a growing social platform for readers and writers and I have even been tipped by an author after leaving an honest review for their work . I suppose that’s what this whole deal is about. Paying for 5 star reviews puts other readers who spent time reading into disrepute, it also preys on the desperation of some authors who just want reviews: this is especially prone in beginner authors who no doubt ‘RR’ will target. It’s also lying and misleading potential future readers. You could argue, this is just business, and I want folks to read my stuff, they don’t need to know what goes on in the kitchen. You could argue that, but not here, shove that opinion.

Methods of honesty

Straight up, reviews don’t actually matter that much. And yeah that’s coming from an author who checks to see if he has any new ones multiple times a day. They literally serve as a gate keeping method for some promo sites and not much else. Of course they mean a bunch more to the small time creator but eventually that small time creator won’t need just reviews to sell books because readers would have invested in them as the person first. If I were you, I wouldn’t focus on trying to get reviews but to get people reading your stuff through promotion. Check out the resources section for that…

Concluding thoughts…

The best we can do about subjects like this post is to talk about them and spread awareness, especially to those who are vulnerable to a scam – let’s face it, we all are. Writers and bloggers as a collective are stronger together.

I’ve kept the ‘service provider’ nameless in this post to firstly avoid any retaliation – trust me this happens a lot with these posts and because ‘RR’ will be here today and probably gone tomorrow for another one to pop up. How they change tactics is up to us to find out and report to the community which I care for.

Thanks for reading and of course your thoughts are welcome in the comments – keep the opinions light…

Weekly Ramble #82

The 6th book release is near. Everything has kind of come together recently in a somewhat surprising turn of events from reaching the 4000 follower milestone on Twitter to actually selling books on a scale I’ve never known before. Maybe, just maybe I’ve figured things out. But how?

Sometimes stuff just aligns and it hasn’t been easy. It’s taken trial and error to figure out. The road to anything good is paved with hardship and hardwork. Those days of reverting to zero still rear their head every so often but I’ve learned a lot.

I’m by no means a master at this and as much as I expect not a lot of sales from the release of this next book, I’m optimistic that a cluster of loyal folks will at least support my efforts. This is no longer 2018 and my following is full of people I’ve helped and those who’ve helped me. We’re a community and collective, you know who you are. The philosophy of being in Island in the modern world of social media authoring will get you nowhere. This is possibly my greatest learning curve. Connecting, socialising and being consistent with content will eventually foster growth and a following. I’ve recently lauded the concept of getting readers to first invest in you before they take on your work and it’s becoming a way of life. This is while I’ve always kept pecking away at the stories, chasing the words.

Blindly sharing the link to your work is a beginners error. Nobody cares for a writer who does this for self gain. Do this so we can all gain something from one another. There’s a compelling story that’s beyond our books and that’s what will hook people in to you. Being active in the arena and contributing to the writing community is the only way I’ve got to where I am and I’m thankful for the people I’ve networked with.

As much as social media can be a toxic cesspool it’s here for the long haul like me and Book 6 is just my latest milestone of many more things to come. Watch this space which is now decorated with optimism.

You can expect more information about Book 6 very soon!

‘Lords of Mars’ by Colin Yeoman – Review

Gripping high end space fiction about the politics of humanity, civilisation and revolution…

Lords of Mars is a story that embodies the many aspects of human politics from power, revolution, deception, change and no matter what civilisation we create, these things will always exist wherever we go. Perhaps the greatest threat to our own civilisation and history is ourselves as a species. These themes and concepts are then combined with the question of where we originated from and how we actually got here on this planet.

While the first book in this Custodian Library Archives series merely considers the question, Colin Yeoman uses this story to answer it and there is a lot more going on throughout this fantastic well paced read. This book could even be enjoyed on a stand alone level simply for it’s originality.

We are taken way back to when humans were leaving the near fallen civilisations of Mars; although some feel as if they were abandoning their fellow man but there is a new planet on the horizon. This is a polarising subject that creates opposing factions who feel like their history and people are being left behind. The preservation of this history is being contended here.

Much of the story takes place during the crossing between the two planets on board the ‘Spero’ where a multitude of characters are either for or against the new frontier. We meet ‘Cal’ who looks to lead a revolution in securing the ‘Remnants’ history and survival, that is after he encounters a stowaway who might know a little too much about the future. Of course there are other physical struggles like adjusting to the gravity of space travel and then the new world. ‘Centrifugal Gravity’ is just one of the many cool concepts this book is full of.

The pace quickens in the final chapters with action, deception and page turning thrills that highlight the early days of when we first arrived to the new world all of which is left open for more. Readers of science fiction will enjoy the original world building and thought provoking nature of what is a great read.

5 Stars – Thoroughly enjoyable and great escapism!

A guide to getting published: Part 1

Hello friends, today’s post is a re blog all the way back from 2017 although it’s still very relevant today. As I continue to research and put together a blogging and authoring guide book, this is just a snippet of what you can expect for bloggers and authors of all levels….

Lee's Hall of information

Very recently I was asked in person about my experiences of being a published author. What does it take to reach that moment of holding your own book in your hands?

How do you go from imagination and thought harnessing all the way to print?

Thinking about it, if we can go deep only for a few reflective moments and if I were to turn around and look at the road that lays behind me. Just beyond that moonlit horizon is a whole series of stories and experiences that made up my official journey to publication.

This series of posts is a guide of how I did it, what I learned, what went well, what didn’t and above all and like everything in the world of ‘publishing’ it’s subjective towards the beholder. By that I mean there is more than one way to get ‘published’ and be ‘successful’. There are…

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Weekly Writing Inspiration #7

Memes and inspiring things to help get us through the week. That’s the hope anyway so here’s a few things that are either funny, fun or have some level of inspiration…

Mixtusmedia is my go to Instagram account for all things book marketing advice.

It’s nearly the spookiest time of the year – my favourite time of the year also!

Don’t mention Green Day….

That also extends to anyone working within the hospitality or serving industry, although I haven’t been anywhere like that since February… manners are free!

I’ve had some wonderful interactions with fellow authors and bloggers recently and this is one of them! Check out Henry’s book ‘Deceit of the Soul’ here – it’s a thrilling ride about the outbreak of the pandemic….

Yeah, there seems to be a growing group of folks trying to poach their way into the Twitter writing community by just randomly and emptily asking for book recs knowing desperate writers will interact… I mean you could just be more genuine in terms of interaction… Twitter ain’t hard to master…

And we will finish on this subject. Quite recently I’ve been processing my high school experience, maybe because this year I’ve been able to reflect or because it’s 15 years since it ended for me.

For anyone having to face the daunting idea of going back to school, or those who have been through it, I know how it feels and things do get better. Hang in there!

To everyone who reads and continues to support the Hall of Information, thank you! We’re on the path to August being the best month of the year for this blog in terms of reads and views. Rock and roll man!