Tag Archives: David-Gaughran

#Kindle #Scammers by David Gaughran & Phoenix Sullivan

angry meekaThis is a must read article for both Indie authors and readers alike.

Why? Because these scammers are gaming the Amazon ranking system, which hurts authors. But by clogging up the Top 100 lists with bullshit books, they’re also:

a) tricking readers into wasting their money or

b) making it even harder for readers to find good books to read.

If you have not been a victim of one of these scammers, you’re lucky. I bought what I thought was a classic Alfred Bester sci-fi novel only to discover it was a ‘study guide’ masquerading as the actual book. I was…not pleased. Believe me when I say these bastards are getting away with small scale fraud a million times a day!

Please read the article, and if you’re convinced this is a bad thing, make a noise because it’s time the silent majority sent a message to Amazon that this is not good enough!


This was brought to you as a community service announcement by Meeka’s Mind, where all things are sporadic.

#PublishingFoul – Scammy Publishers beware!

Back when I first stuck a toe into the stormy waters of Indie publishing, Indies Unlimited saved me from the ‘sharks’ just waiting below the surface. Now, Indies Unlimited is mounting a month long campaign to warn newbie authors of the dangers, and to provide options to those who have already been bitten.

Indie heavy-weights David Gaughran and the Passive Voice are lending their not inconsiderable support to get the message out as far and as fast as they can. The following is an excerpt from the first shot of the campaign:

“Help us spread the word! Vanity presses have slick websites that feature reassuring words and soft-focus photos. They have tons of cash for online ads and preferential placement in search results. All we have is word of mouth. But we have a lot of mouths, and we’re pretty darned loud. Please share our posts far and wide with the hashtag #PublishingFoul.”

#PublishingFoul is where you will find all tweets relating to the campaign.

This post is me doing my little bit. You can do your bit by visiting Indies Unlimited here. You can also come join the debate on the Passive Voice here.



Two of my favourite authors

I’ve written about fellow science fiction writer Jason Phillip Reeser here and here, and of course, David Gaughran needs no introduction, so I’m thrilled to tell you they both have new books out. 🙂

Kiss of the Lazaretto is the third, and final book in the Lazaretto series, and I can hardly wait to start reading it.

lazaretto 3 kiss

Mercenary is “.. the story of the USA’s most famous soldier of fortune: the hard-drinking drifter who changed the fate of a nation.”

I quite enjoy historical fiction so I’m looking forward to reading this one too, however the reason I’ve included it today is that David Gaughran is doing something very innovative with the book launch. Instead of making one of his earlier works free or 99c – as a launch promotion – he is making the new book 99c for a couple of days!

mercenary pic

As David is always coming up with new ways to help us Indie authors [see Let’s Get Digital, Let’s Get Visible] I’m sure he’ll share the results of his latest experiment with us once the facts are in.

For those in Australia who are enjoying having Monday off – happy Monday! For everyone else, happy weekend, what’s left of it. 🙂



Because We Are – a novel of Haiti

David Gaughran’s blog – Let’s Get Digital – is probably best known for his posts on self-publishing, and the publishing industry in general. I admit, David is one of my favourite go-to people when it comes to most things technical or financial.

However David also reads and writes fiction, and the other day he wrote a post about ‘good books’, asking if we could recommend any. In that post he named two books he had read and greatly admired. ‘Because We Are – a novel of Haiti’ was one of them.

because we are coverI have just finished reading ‘Because We Are’ by Ted Oswald, and I have to say David was right – this is an exceptional novel. It’s not perfect, but it worked in all the ways a good story should : it created memorable, well-rounded characters, transported me to a place I have never seen, and made me care about both.

The story is set in modern day Haiti, and follows the lives of two children  living in the slums of Haiti just before the big earthquake that took the lives of so many.  Libète is a girl of ten. Her best friend Jak, a boy stunted by chronic malnutrition, is also ten. They are out, playing in the marshes when they stumble across the bodies of a young woman and her baby.

The young woman has been ritually mutilated, raising the spectre of Voudou, but this is not some lurid, sensationalist story about the practices we in the West call voodoo. This is a story about murder for gain. It is a story about poverty and politics, degradation and courage. It is a story about real people living their lives as best they can in a world where smart phones and abject poverty exist side by side. But most of all it is an uplifting story about honour and honesty as told through the eyes of children. In many ways, their growth parallels the growth of a nation.

On a more mechanical level, the writing is lyrical, and evocative without being at all self-indulgent. The dialogue is excellent, peppered with just enough Kreyol [Haitian version of French] to feel authentic without making the reader work too hard, and the characters are vivid.  Even the minor characters seem to leap off the page, and there is nothing two dimensional about them. These are all the great things about the story. Sadly there are also a couple of  mechanical issues I found quite confusing, and both relate to the way the author handled flashbacks.

I have no inherent problem with flashbacks, so long as it’s clear what is current and what is not. In ‘Because We Are’,  the flashbacks to Libète’s earlier life are not immediately recognizable as flashbacks. This led to a lot of  ‘oh this is another flashback’ moments on my part. Each time this happened I lost my connection to the story.

The reason the flashbacks were so jarring was because the author often told them in the present tense – “The small girl takes a step down from the large rock.” This is not the conventional way of writing flashbacks, however I could have gotten used to it if only the cues had been consistent. But they were not. Sometimes the flashbacks would not be in the present tense but the current storyline would be.

These inconsistencies made the story harder to follow than it should have been. And yet… despite getting a bit annoyed at times, the story itself was so good, so compelling, it never occurred to me to stop reading. That, to me, is the mark of an exceptional story, and that is why I am reviewing it – because it is too damn good to dismiss for a few mechanical faults.

It’s not often I criticize a novel and then turn around and tell you to read it, but this is one of those times. ‘Because We Are’ is a gem. Read it!



How Amazon works – courtesy of David Gaughran

I don’t often reblog almost an entire post, but I thought this one was too interesting, and informative, to pass up.

Amazon’s Recommendation Engine Trumps The Competition
Posted on February 22, 2013 by davidgaughran

There’s an old adage that bestsellers are chosen rather than made, and there’s some truth to that. The amount a publisher splurges on the advance has to be recouped before the book turns a profit. The more money that has to be recouped, the greater the marketing budget.

Sleeper hits are the exception for a reason. It’s a lot easier to hit the bestseller lists when you are on the front table of every single Barnes & Noble than if you are spine-out at the back of a handful of stores (or gathering dust in the warehouse).

It often comes as a surprise to those outside publishing that these bookstore spots are bought and sold, that whether a book is face-out or spine-out (or on the front table) is something that tends to be agreed in the contract between the publisher and the retailer. But when you explain how valuable this “real estate” is, it all makes sense to them (even if the scales fall from their eyes a little).

It’s very different on Amazon – where a weird form of meritocracy decides which books are visible, rather than backroom deals only available to large publishers. While Amazon hasn’t done away with “virtual co-op” completely, the vast majority of slots where books are recommended to customers are open to any book, author, or publisher – if they perform well enough.

When it comes to books, Amazon’s basic philosophy is simple: it will always (attempt to) show you the book you are most likely to purchase. The system is largely agnostic, meaning Amazon doesn’t care if the book it displays is published by you, me, them, or Penguin, and it also doesn’t care if the book is 99c or $14.99 – it will show you the book you are most likely to purchase.

In simple terms, the system is based on aggregating data about your browsing, purchasing, and reading habits, and then extrapolating about what you would like to read next based on all the other customers with similar histories (we aren’t as unique as we’d like to think).

Those recommendations manifest themselves in different ways. One of the crudest iterations is the Also Boughts (that strip of books on the product page of your book, which displays the other titles that customers have purchased along with your cri de coeur).

At the other end of the scale are the millions of personalized emails that Amazon sends out to its customers every day with tailored purchase recommendations, like this:

Some of you may quibble about how useful those recommendations are, but you should note that writers especially may get some odd suggestions (not the above, which I’ve heard is great!). You have to remember that your browsing habits play a big part in this, and if you are regularly stalking other books to check on their performance, Amazon will likely recommend these to you (along with similar books).

For customers with “purer” browsing histories though, the recommendation engine can be spookily accurate (and is widely considered to be the best in the e-commerce world). And, of course, its accuracy increases every time you browse, purchase, and read, and with every huge chunk of investment Amazon makes in honing its algorithms.

It’s quite the challenge for physical bookstores. In a recent post, Passive Guy described it perfectly:

When a customer walks into a Barnes & Noble store, is it possible for a clerk to be waiting at the door with a selection of books that the customer will probably want to read? This is exactly what happens whenever an Amazon book purchaser visits the Amazon web site. As a matter of fact, Amazon performs the electronic equivalent of rearranging a Barnes & Noble so all the visitor’s favorite book types are right at the front of the store.

Of course, Barnes & Noble also has an online store, and Amazon faces additional players in the e-book arena like Apple and Kobo. But all of Amazon’s online competitors share the same fundamental flaw: the customer experience is considerably poorer.

Kobo’s search function is deeply flawed. Apple make it plain difficult to simply browse. And the problems with Barnes & Noble’s online store are so widespread, I needed a whole separate post to spell them out.

While some of the disparity in customer experience is down to lack of investment, simply throwing money at the problem won’t close the gap because there are two distinct philosophies at work.

In the case of all three of Amazon’s primary competitors, it’s quite clear that they want to train customer attention on that “virtual co-op” – the prominent spots that large publishers have purchased to hawk their books.

I’m sure these retailers make good money from auctioning off these spots, and I’m sure they are also quite pleased that the books they are granting this all-important visibility to are ones priced at $9.99 rather than 99c.

But it’s a huge mistake. Explaining why will require a little detour to Silicon Valley.

The reason that Google beat Yahoo is simple: relevance. While Yahoo auctioned off advertising spots to the highest bidder, Google’s AdWords made the relevancy of the ad (decided by the click-thru rate) a key component in deciding which ads got the prime real estate above search results.

Google knew that approach might make them less money in the short term, but it also knew that, over time, users would trust the ads more (i.e. click on them more), if they were more relevant. And we all know what happened next.

I’m sure Amazon was watching that battle as their recommendation engine takes the same approach: it always shows readers the books they are most likely to purchase even if that recommendation makes them less money than the alternative.

Amazon knows that if its customers trust the recommendations, they will act on them more often (and spend more money). They know that will make more in the long run.

That’s why Amazon is winning. But it’s also why self-publishers tend to do much better on Amazon then elsewhere – even when you factor in the size of its market share.

We don’t tend to have access to the front tables at Barnes & Noble – either online or in the physical stores. The whole point of those front tables is to draw readers’ attention, to intercept them before they start browsing the shelves.

Amazon gives us much more of a level playing field; those all-important opportunities for visibility – those digital front tables – are open to everyone. And because those front tables are displaying the books customers actually want to read, rather than the ones large publishers most want to sell, people buy more books.

The danger for large publishers is clear: they aren’t just losing control of which books get published, but also which books get recommended.

You can find the complete post, which includes some other interesting, although non-related tit-bits here.



Important information for all indie authors!

Back when I first started learning about self-publishing on LinkedIn I heard a few horror stories  about Author Solutions [the parent company of self-publishing companies like iUniverse, Xlibris etc] but I did not pay much attention because back then I was still sitting on the fence about whether to become an indie or not. Now I know that I will be an indie and so this article by fellow blogger David Gaughran really made me sit up and take notice.

The article is about Penguin’s recent buyout of Author Solutions and what the implications of this move will be for indie authors. In a nutshell the prognosis is not good and I’m doing my bit to pass the message on to every writer I know.

Please follow the link below to read the article in full as it could save you thousands of dollars and a great deal of frustration.

The Author Solution article

For those who won’t follow blind links here is the url in full :


If you found this information as shocking as I did please reblog it so that we can reach as many writers as possible.



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