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1. Samsung & Amazon Team on New eBook Club

samsungkindleSamsung has partnered with Amazon on a new Kindle app for its line of Galaxy devices. Like other Kindle apps, Kindle for Samsung, allows users to purchase and read eBooks and periodicals from Amazon.

In addition, the two companies have launched a free book service called Samsung Book Deals, which is only accessible through the app.

Samsung customers that download the app can choose one free eBook a month from Amazon for a year with their Samsung account.

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2. Goodreads Will Soon Let You Add Amazon Books to Your Shelves

goodreadsSocial reading platform Goodreads will soon let users add their Amazon book purchases to their Goodreads shelves.

The capability is part of a new feature called “Add Your Amazon Books.”  Using the tool, Goodreads members in the U.S., Canada and Australia will soon be able to add books that they’ve bought on Amazon, including print and Kindle, to their Goodreads shelves.

The goal of the tool is to help friends better share what they are reading and to help readers keep track of all of the books that they have purchased. Check it out: “More books added to your Goodreads shelves means better recommendations to help you find more great books to read. The super-smart algorithm powering our recommendations engine analyzes the books you rate to come up with the best book suggestions for your unique reading tastes.”

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3. Commentary: An Inevitable Surprise—Amazon buys ComiXology

by Rob Salkowitz

Is Amazon’s acquisition of comiXology the beginning of the end, or just the end of the beginning, of digital comics’ golden age?

It didn’t take a genius to predict that something was going to happen with comiXology this year. The company had come too far, too fast. The iron was hot. The only question was, what form would the exit take? IPO? Acquisition? If so, by whom?

Yesterday we found out. It was the short-odds bet, the prohibitive favorite, that ended up in the money.

Amazon was always the most likely home for the winner of the digital comics derby. I said as much in Comics and the Business of Pop Culture, which came out in 2012, but I wasn’t alone. The largest online merchant, purveyor and would-be publisher of digital content, and cloud computing host is simply too good a fit for the top cloud-based digital revenue app and self-publishing platform.

But now that it’s official, there’s a bit of a chill in the air, almost as cold as the champagne on ice at the comiXology offices. Yes, it’s great for them and it’s great for Amazon. But is it great for the rest of us?

Why now? Rumors had been flying about a comiXology exit for a while, and when the story of an Amazon acquisition surfaced a couple of weeks ago, no one was surprised. The company had been doing everything that you do when you want to get bought: primping itself up for the mainstream and business press, talking about growth and market opportunities rather than dwelling on previous successes, hiring executives who inspire confidence in the larger financial community, cutting costs by retrenching from previous sponsorships, and then going eerily quiet.

For those of us accustomed to a constant drumbeat of comiXology announcements, releases and infographics, this last detail was as sure a clue that something was up as the famous dog that didn’t bark.

Why worry? As inevitable as comiXology’s Amazon adventure seems in retrospect, it’s still a shock. Part of that is because it took the comics world a long time to warm up to the idea of digital distribution at all.

comiXology did many things right in its rise to the top in terms of technology, industry partnerships and outmaneuvering competitors, but no achievement ranks as highly as winning over the skeptics. It did that with a full-court press of above-and-beyond efforts to sustain the entire comics/fandom ecosystem, not just line its own pockets.

Unlike other digital upstarts who blithely predicted the demise of the old distribution system, comiXology bent over backward to allay fears, all the while suggesting that digital would help, not hurt, print.

Early in the game, comiXology created an affiliate program to enable brick and mortar retailers in comics’ embattled direct market to participate in revenues from digital sales, which the company recently upgraded to tablet-friendly HTML5 templates. While not a perfect solution, this program represents a greater effort than music or video distributors attempted in terms of sustaining a physical retail channel.

In early 2013, it launched the comiXology Submit! portal to enable self-publishers and independent creators to list their titles in comiXology’s catalog alongside branded best sellers. So far, the company has followed through on commitments to publicize and promote these works, and is working on a recommendation engine to bring lesser-known works to the attention of more mainstream fans.

comiXology has bestowed its largess across the fan landscape, becoming a name sponsor of many of the industry’s largest conventions, a benefactor of creator friendly groups like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the host of lavish and popular parties at San Diego, New York, Baltimore and other large fan gatherings.

That’s a hell of a record, and a lot of it comes directly from CEO David Steinberger’s genuine affection for comics culture, combined with his rare ability to see business success as a broad, long-term goal – a mission seemingly shared by his entire team.

Is that affection or outlook shared by Amazon? As the Magic 8-ball would say, signs point to no.

What next? ComiXology trod a very narrow path toward a brand of success that was not a zero-sum gain. Ham-fisted management could mess things up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Violating the platform neutrality that has served comiXology well, tipping off some kind of war with Apple and Google, or somehow trying to lock people into the Kindle ecosystem.
  • Showing favoritism among publishers based on willingness to play ball with Amazon’s terms.
  • Driving one or both of the Big Two to think they’d be better off selling through their own channels than the unified storefront that offers fans so much convenience and choice.
  • Forcing creators into a less advantageous self-publishing situation than they currently enjoy with Submit.

Steinberger’s open letter on the acquisition yesterday assures fans and customers that “ComiXology will retain its identity as an Amazon subsidiary and we’re not anywhere near done “taking comics further.”

Press releases cite examples “from Audible to Zappos” of Amazon acquisitions that have been allowed to do business as usual, just with more support and a bigger platform. And it’s true that Amazon, unlike, say, Yahoo or Microsoft, does not have a record of smothering its adopted children under rolls of fat or strangling them in the crib.

That’s encouraging, but the plain fact is that independent and successful comiXology was a clean win for comics, fans, publishing and even brick and mortar retailers, whereas a comiXology nestled under the wing of a rapacious predator raises concern.

Endless summer? In my book, the forecast where Amazon acquired comiXology was part of a scenario called “Endless Summer,” wherein a highly-commercialized geek culture is dominated by giant corporate interests. Other features of that scenario include a Disney/Marvel theme park, a DC division entirely subsumed within Warner Entertainment (now merged with Facebook) out of Burbank, comic megaconventions as far as the eye can see, and the debut of a Power Man/Iron Fist musical on Broadway.

That wasn’t the only available future for geek culture in 2011/2012, but it certainly seems to be the one we are headed towards. And we just took another large step in that direction yesterday.

– Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk) is author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture and is working on a new project on the future of marketing and retail in the digital age.


5 Comments on Commentary: An Inevitable Surprise—Amazon buys ComiXology, last added: 4/13/2014
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4. Will Comixology go the way of Audible or Zappos?

The great digital hope has been acquired by one of the giant fire breathing kaiju of the digital era. Will they trample tiny cottages beneath their feet or become a lovable behemoth? Ask me in a year. In the meantime…

First off, will you be able to read your comics? A story at the Guardian indicates yes…but…

The firm also sought to reassure users that their comic collections, some of which are in the thousands of dollars, were safe after the acquisition. “Of course [they are safe]! Our goal is to build on each other’s strengths and create the best service for all comic and graphic novel customers.” But it declined comment on whether it would “guarantee” that customers would always be able to read the comics they had purchased.

No guarantees. That is pretty much standard with any digital media. Folks have pointed to Jmanga’s collapse for a model of how you can lose your collection from something that seemed solid. Of course, in the short term, Amazon and Comixology will keep you reading all your comics. Even the most gloomy analysis—Amazon acquired a competitor to wipe them out—suggest that where there’s smoke there’s money. Digital comics are obviously a growth product of the future and Amazon will want to keep and grow that business, even if it is just to move Comixology to their Kindle storefront.While we can only speculate at this point, it’s worth noting that among the dozens of companies Amazon has acquired there are many different models for how that development evolves. For instance, in 2005 Amazon bought POD company Booksurge, eventually turning it into Createspace, now an Amazon-like portal for uploading and selling your books via Amazon, Kindle and other Amazon services.

Audible is company selling audio books that may offer a very direct comparison to Comixology. The Audible store is still a standalone, but with a Amazon branding. And to buy books you need to sign in with your Amazon account, something that we imagine could happen very quickly with Comixology. Books sold on Audible are subject to Amazon’s customer ratings and everything else you get on the main Amazon site. So really, Audible is a dedicated webstore for audiobooks just in case you are easily confused by going to Amazon and being bothered by those print things.

On the other hand, there’s Zappos, the world’s biggest shoe store. As a woman, I love shoes, and I have to confess I had no idea that Zappos was owned by Amazon and I have purchased shoes through both! They offer different brands, different pricing and a different user experience.

Zappos also retains its own fairly unique corporate culture, as this story indicates.

During the 4-hour meeting, Hsieh talked about how Zappos’ traditional organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy, a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means a whole that’s part of a greater whole. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. The company will be made up of different circles—there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.

While it’s clear that Amazon offers different levels of autonomy for its company, it’s also true that comics are more like books than shoes, and the ebook business is one that Amazon is already very active in with its game changing Kindle business.

A frequently brought up question in my emails and DMs was how Amazon and Apple will play together. These two get along in a more Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla way, so don’t expect loving cooperation. For instance, you can’t actually buy anything through the iOS Kindle app, unlike Comixology’s where you can spend away. As the Register put it, “Amazon therefore just acquired itself an app that lets it do things Apple doesn’t like it to do.”

UPDATE: as mentioned in the comments, I had this exactly backwards. It’s Amazon who refuses to pay Apple’s share of the costs, so will you see them ditch in-app purchases to spite Apple? Comixology was the top grossing non-game app on the iPad in 2013 and #11 overall,which must have meant significant profit. Would Apple Amazon cut off its nose to spite its face?

Yes. Oh yes.

At the Big Five (Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook) level it’s all a pissing contest. And Amazon does NOT play nicey nicey.

Of course, there is the brick and mortar aspect to the story. While ComicsPRO just released a fairly defensive statement, at least one retailer was glad he never signed up with CX’s retailer service:

As you may recall, when Comixology first got on the scene they smartly made peace with retailers by offering a bunch of services for stores, such as digitized pull lists. They also offered a digital storefront that some stores used, a model that found much more success than Diamond’s attempt at the same. Some retailers were always wary of the system however, and now it looks like they may have been the wise ones after all.

Winners in all of this may be digital alternatives. iVerse is still around, with some unique services, including its potentially large library lending system. Sequential is an indie-focused stand alone app that just signed up Top Shelf, NBM and Fantagraphics. Image and 2000AD have held on to their own drm-free download sales. And of course Dark Horse has its own digital store.

That said, there’s no questions but that Comixology was the leader in this space, with its sales dwarfing other digital vendors’. And of course, everybody was already selling through Amazon, whether it was actual books, or Kindle editions. Tieing in Amazon’s formidable user reviews and related material makes discoverability much easier for comics, one area where Comixology had a ways to go.

And what about Submit? While it’s been specifically mentioned that this service will continue—users upload their own content and sell them via Comixology splitting the revenue. This is a lot like what many of Amazon’s services are already like, including the Kindle Direct Publishing portal. HOWEVER, Kindle charges a “digital delivery” fee by the MB of upload, as Todd Allen explored in this 2011 piece. This adds up to significant costs. Moving to a KDP model from the Submit one would be pretty onerous for indie comics creators. On the other hands, maybe it wasn’t a big cash cow to begin with, as this post from Ryan Estrada shows.

With Submit submissions already backed up for six months, this never really caught fire, I think, and most creators have been moving to Gumroad, Sellify or their own Paypal storefronts. DIY and the maker ethic are going strong in indie comics.

Then there’s the whole Guided View trademark matter…something I’ll need a whole other post to get into.

Finally, how much did Amazon pay for Comixology? We may never know but history offers guides. The terms of the Booksurge acquisition were never disclosed. Amazon purchased Woot!, a daily deal’s type tech store for $110 million in cash. Audible sold for $300 million and Zappos for $940 million. I guess people like shoes more than books.

13 Comments on Will Comixology go the way of Audible or Zappos?, last added: 4/13/2014
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5. A few more details on the Comixology/Amazon deal


The Beat just participated in a conference call with Comixology CEO David Steinberger and Amazon’s vp of digital content David Naggar, and while details are at Publisher’s Weekly, everyone sounded very chipper about Amazon’s planned acquisition of Comixology.

“Comixology is in a better place than ever for the diversity of our content ad the diversity of our audience,” Steinberger said. “Amazon is good at a lot of things we’re not great at yet.”

Comixology will be staying in New York and all employees have been made offers. Steinberger noted that Amazon has been a great partner for other companies that have acquired such as Audible and Zappos. The Submit program will also continue—Amazon has a lot of upload it yourself programs so this is no surprise.

“We’ve got a long history of buying companies we admire and that’s the case here,” said Nagger. ” We’ve admired them for the customer focus and customer experience they’ve created for several years so it made sense to bring them into the Amazon family.”

He also told PW:

Naggar was also enthusiastic when asked about Comixology Submit, Comixology’s digital comics self-publishing platform. While he said, “Amazon doesn’t make a lot of plans before it makes an acquisition, so we’ll have to figure it all out over time. But Kindle Digital Publishing has been big for us and so we love Comixology Submit. Comixology has had a positive impact on physical and digital comics.”

In a statement on Comixology, Steinberger wrote:

Dearest readers,

I’m very excited to share some big news with you: we have just announced that comiXology is becoming a part of the Amazon family!

More than seven years ago, John D. Roberts, Peter Jaffe, and I set out to connect people to comic books and graphic novels they’d love, and we’re so excited about how far we’ve come. Thanks to the books we are privileged to present and the platform we created, there’s access to more diverse content than ever, allowing all readers to enter the amazing world of comics.

We have long had the goal of making every person on the planet a comics fan. With Amazon’s help, this crazy goal is more possible than ever before. With the Kindle, Amazon has shown a passion for reinventing the reading experience, just like comiXology has shown for comics and graphic novels.

ComiXology will retain its identity as an Amazon subsidiary and we’re not anywhere near done “taking comics further.” We are confident that – with Amazon by our side, who shares our desire for innovation and a relentless focus on customers – we’ve only just begun.

We wouldn’t be here without you, our customers. Thank you. The best is yet to come!

While this cannot have surprised anyone who was paying attention, the fact that it is happened—and as Janelle Asselin pointed out, not both Amazon AND Apple get a piece of your digital comics money—Amazon’s aggressive model against brick and mortar, and tough terms with print publishers don’t exactly point to the same kind of warm and cuddly company as Comixology.

And here’s some tweet reactions from the industry:

8 Comments on A few more details on the Comixology/Amazon deal, last added: 4/11/2014
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6. Amazon to Acquire comiXology

comicsAmazon has agreed to acquire digital comic book publisher comiXology, in a deal whose terms were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to close during Q2 2014.

“We have long had the goal of making every person on the planet a comics fan,” wrote David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of comiXology, on the company’s site. “With Amazon’s help, this crazy goal is more possible than ever before. With the Kindle, Amazon has shown a passion for reinventing the reading experience, just like comiXology has shown for comics and graphic novels.”

comiXology will continue to operate under its name, as a subsidiary of Amazon. The firm will remain in its New York offices. The platform offers digital comic book content from more than 75 comic book publishers.

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7. Enter to Win a Paperback Copy of Flutura


We are giving away three paperback copies of  Flutura (The Alpha Girls Series, book one) from now until April 18th. Book one of The Alpha Girls series introduces you to Alexis, Brittany and Caitlin who have grown up together since birth. Caitlin is ready to become a woman, but she’s fourteen and has yet to experience her first French kiss or her first period. The summer before high school will change all of that.

Caitlin is taken by surprise when Joshua reveals his feelings for her. As Caitlin sorts out her own feelings toward Josh the memory of the kiss she shared with Trick on the beach continues to invade her thoughts.

Good thing she’ll never see Trick again or things could get complicated.

You can also find Larva (The Alpha Girls Series, book two) available now on Amazon kindle and paperback.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flutura by Angela Muse


by Angela Muse

Giveaway ends April 18, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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8. Amazon’s Literary Journal DayOne is Seeking Submissions

dayoneAmazon’s literary journal Day One is seeking submissions.

According to Carmen Johnson, DayOne’s Editor, the lit magazine is looking for “fresh and compelling short fiction and poetry by emerging writers.” This includes stories that are less than 20,000 words by authors that have never been published, and poems by poets who have never published before.

To submit works, writers/poets can email their work as a word document, along with a brief description and author bio to dayone-submissions@amazon.com.

The publication launched in October 2013, with the mission to support the work of emerging writers, poets, and illustrators. Each week, the magazine spotlights one story, one poem and one original cover drawing.


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9. e-publishing fiction

Crowd-sourcing an iOS publishing venture
Back in January 2009 I published a blog with the title Cellphone Novelists, discussing the new development of authors in Japan using cellphones to write and publish serial novels, some while commuting to work on the bullet train, and occasional total word counts up to and above 100,000 words.

 A similar development had gotten underway in Canada in 2006 when two tech entrepreneurs started Wattpad, a new website service envisioning a mobile reading app and hosting, initially, about 17000 public domain books. However, until the introduction of the iPhone and the Kindle, the Wattpad venture struggled to gain any momentum.   Thereafter, writers began to post original works with the app and it took off (Article by David Streitfeld, NY Times, 3/24/2014; quotes in this blog are from the NYTimes article).  "This is writing re-imagined for a mobile world, where attention is fragmentary," mused the reporter.  "Almost all our writers serialize their content," Allen Lau, Wattpad's chief executive said.  "Two thousand words is roughly 10 minutes of reading.  That makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line."

The Wattpad app allows for reader comments, and for some authors these involve huge numbers, generally complimentary, since the author can moderate comments before they are published and can use the delete button to eliminate any brutish trolls.  For a conscientious author trying to keep up with responding to comments by fans, the task can be staggering.  One author reports 14000 unread messages pending in her Wattpad inbox.

One of the most popular Wattpad authors is Ali Novak, a 22-year old Wisconsin writer who has serialized four mobile novels.  Ms. Novak has been forced to limit her own involvement with her fans, some of whom apparently would like her to read samples of their work:
I am no longer taking reading/interview/trailer/cover requests, so all related messages will be ignored.  Sorry, but I just don't have the time.
A pullback that is quite understandable.  Ms. Novak's biggest hit, My Life With the Walter Boys--about a girl who moves in with a family of 12 sons--was published this month by Sourcebooks in revised and edited form as a paperback.  Ms. Novack reflects:
Since I was little, I've been obsessed with reading and collecting books.  I always dreamed of seeing my book in Barnes & Noble and picking it off the shelf and holding it in my hands.  That's one thing I could never do with Wattpad. 
Yes, there's something magical about hefting that physical, material thing that you've imbued with something of your own imagination, and to know it will continue to sit safely on your bookshelf even if your computer becomes obsolete, or the internet implodes into a black hole.

My recent e-book publication
Nonetheless, some accomplished authors have begun to publish exclusive e-book offerings. These authors have already made their mark in the traditional hard-copy publishing world, and include writers like Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman; consequently, I have been intrigued by the development.  Anyone who has gone down the road of submitting countless query letters with catchy hooks, brilliantly honed synopses or summaries, and sample pages, to literary agents or traditional publishing houses, whom these days may or may not even choose to acknowledge your submittal, might perhaps view the e-publishing opportunities as a liberating development.  The traditional gate keepers may have been displaced.

Of course, perhaps only a portion of what is e-published may have true literary quality, but the voting audience is much larger now, and one can hope that the good books will just as readily rise to the top.  I like the e-publishing idea and decided to give the experience a try with my most recent coming-of-age fiction, Leaving Major Tela.  It is already up in Kindle format at Amazon.  Click on the link in 'My Publications' at the top right corner of my blog for a visit to the Amazon page and a look inside the book.  I'll have a hardcopy edition ready at the same location shortly.

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10. Amazon to Adapt Michael Connelly’s ‘Harry Bosch’ Books Into a Web Series

burningMichael Connelly’s Harry Bosch book series will be adapted into an Amazon Original web series called Bosch.

Thus far, Connelly has published sixteen books in this mystery series with the latest installment, The Burning Room, due out in November 2014. He will work with Law & Order writer Eric Overmyer to pen the scripts.

According to the press release, the cast includes Titus Welliver, Annie Wersching and Jamie Hector. Welliver will star as Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.

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11. Amazon Issues Credits in Response to eBook Price Fixing

amazon304Amazon has issued credits to customers who purchased eBooks from select publishers, as a response to the eBook price fixing case.

The online retailer sent out emails to customers this morning. “The credit results from legal settlements reached with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin in antitrust lawsuits filed by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of eBooks,” explains the email.

The company has added the credits to customer’s accounts automatically and the credit will be applied to a customer’s next book purchase.

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12. Going Over: The Trailer, The News

Sometimes, a whole lifetime's worth of specialness happens in a few short days.

Those few short days were these past few days. That Handling the Truth/Meredith Vieira moment in New York City, that trip to see old friends and make new ones in South Carolina. And the gifts leading up to the release of Going Over.

First, today, I want to thank the extraordinary Chronicle team—for everything, really. But in particular, today, for the trailer, above. I had no idea a trailer was in the works. It just arrived one day. It is perfect, in my eyes, in everyway.

The news is here, below:

School Library Journal Pick of the Day

Junior Library Guild Selection
iBooks Spring’s Biggest Books 
An Amazon Big Spring Books

“A stark reminder of the power of hope, courage, and love.”—Booklist, starred review

“An excellent example of historical fiction focusing on an unusual time period.” —School Library Journal, starred review

"Going Over carefully balances love and heartbreak, propelling readers through the story."Shelf Awareness

"Readers will finish the book and continue to think about how effective one wall can be in separating a country and in fashioning attitudes toward life." —Reading Today

"At once compelling and challenging... this gripping effort captures the full flavor of a trying time in an onerous place." —Kirkus Reviews

 “A profound read meant for discussion.” —VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates

"Gritty, painful and lovely."--Emma, age 17, SLJ Teen, Young Adult Advisory Councils Reviewer

Some very generous bloggers have agreed to participate in a blog tour that will kick off when the book officially launches on April 1. I've written pieces about history, graffiti, titles, editing—and I'll be answering questions—throughout it all.

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13. Amazon Publishing Has Expanded Into Germany

amazonpublishingAmazon Publishing has introduced a new German-language publishing program. Amazon Publishing’s European team will begin acquiring and publishing German-language fiction for both print and digital.

The imprint already has spring titles in the works including: Klang der Gezeiten (The Sound of the Tides), a work of fiction by Emily BoldBis alle Schuld beglichen (Until All Debts Are Cleared), a murder mystery by Alexander Hartung; as well as the romance novel New York für Anfängerinnen (New York for Beginners), by Susann Remke, FOCUS Magazine‘s New York Bureau Chief.

“We’ve been delighted with the reader response to the German translations released by Amazon Publishing, and are excited to have Publisher Sarah Tomashek and her team in Munich supporting our efforts to bring great works written in German to a wider audience,” stated Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President of Kindle, EU.

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14. Goodreads is Now on Kindle Paperwhite

goodreadsonkindleGood news for Goodreads fans that have old Kindle devices. The social reading community is now available as an app on first generation Kindle Paperwhite devices. The app is available along the top navigation bar under the icon ‘g.’

Goodreads first launched on the new Kindle Paperwhite back in November and the company always planned to become available on older models based on customer interest. The app is available to customers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Here is more about Goodreads blog: “Kindle will be made available in a free and automatic over-the-air upgrade to the first generation Kindle Paperwhite in the coming weeks. How will you know when you have it? You’ll see the Goodreads “g” on the top right-hand side of the menu bar.”

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15. Moby Dick’s One-Star Reviews on Amazon

mobydickcoverBiblioklept.org has put together a list of one-star reviews of Herman Melville‘s classic novel Moby Dick. At the time of writing this post, the book averages four stars with 939 total reviews. That includes 530 five-star reviews, 154 four-star reviews, 107 three-star reviews, 73 two-star reviews and 75 one-star reviews.

Here are some of the reviews highlighted on Biblioklept.org, taken from Amazon exactly how they were written

i personally didn’t enjoy the philosophical or deep side of the book, i have read much much better books in that regard.

It is 540somepages of boring whaling details.

I think if you made it into a short comic strip, you would have liked it.

There is no suspense, and I find the idea of people hunting whales offensive. Offensive with a capital O.

No wonder Melville flopped as a writter.

OMG, this is tedious and torture to read.

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16. Jeff Bezos’ Wife Gives One-Star Amazon Review to New Book on Her Husband

amazonbookMacKenzie Bezos, the wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave a terrible one-star review to a new book about her husband on the book’s Amazon listing page.

In the review, headlined, “I wanted to like this book,” Bezos wrote, “I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book.” She goes on to explain that she has been married to Jeff for 20 years and lived through many of the events which take place in the book and accuses the author of inaccurately representing them.

In addition to “factual inaccuracies,” the author of using “techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction, and the result is a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon.” Here is more from the review: continued…

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17. Amazon Turns to Indie Bookstores to Sell Kindles & eBooks

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.38.22 AMAmazon is trying to angle its way into indie bookstores through a new program that gets small bookstores to sell Kindle and eBooks in exchange for a commission.

The new service is called Amazon Source. Through the program independent bookstores can sell Kindle devices in their stores and earn a 10 percent commission on every Kindle book purchased on that device for the first two years that the customer owns the device. Amazon will also offer these retailers a 6 percent discount on the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of Kindle device and a 35 percent discount on Kindle Accessories.

Amazon tested this new platform with a digital sales integration with British book retailer Waterstones last year. This new service could appeal to indie bookstores that would like to get into eBooks. But Kobo , Zola Books and reKiosk also have programs to help indie bookstores sell eBooks and they give higher commissions and don’t require a commitment to a device.


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18. Amazon Editors Choose Their Best Books of 2013

bestbooksAmazon has revealed the bestselling books of 2012, a list led by Donna Tartt, Khaled Hosseini and David Finkel.

We’ve reprinted the top 10 books on the list below. Follow this link to see all 100. You can also check out the company’s top 100 lists for Literature & Fiction, Nonfiction, Digital Singles and Children’s Books for the year. Amazon also created a free Kindle eBook of the top books list if you’d like to read it on your device. continued…

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19. $.99 Ebook Sale

99kindle sale

Get ready to load up those new kindles with some fantastic ebooks that will be specially priced at $.99 from December 26th through December 29th.  Loads of authors in various genres are joining in on this holiday sale.  Click the logo above to check out the main page for this sale and start downloading today.

Our children’s holiday story, The Christmas Owl, will be reduced to $.99 during this sale.  An Amazon best selling children’s story, The Christmas Owl , is sure to become a holiday classic. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word. This colorful tale told in verse is vividly illustrated to capture the attention of children aged eight and under.


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20. How I got 57 Reviews on Amazon

  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE.

Guest post by Hope Marston, an Amazon Top Reviewer

My thirty-second children’s book was released a few days before the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebrations began. Thirty of my titles had been published by traditional companies. When I finished revising Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey – The War of 1812, it was too late to find a publisher who could release it by July 19, 2012. Consequently I would have to spend the bicentennial years marketing the book myself. I needed a plan, one without pitfalls, but with pleasant perks and plentiful publicity.

My Marketing Plan

As I was developing my plan, I read several articles online stressing the importance of having one’s books reviewed on Amazon. On Fiction Notes, I read that a writer should strive for 25 posted reviews. I decided to aim for 50. I invited my friends, neighbors, people who purchased my new book at signings, and anyone who expressed interest in it to post a review on Amazon. When people mentioned my new book, I would ask them to share their thoughts by writing a review.

powdermonkeycover_240w Since I was asking others to review my book, I set a second goal. I would read 50 books ASAP and post reviews for them. Off I went to my local library to choose new books to read. Meanwhile wherever I met teachers, librarians or historical museum personnel, I gave them an autographed copy of Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey and requested an Amazon review in return.
A friend who teaches ESL students in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, told me one of her sixth grade students liked my story. She agreed to help him post a review on Amazon. Seeing his review online encouraged Minh–and me.

Pitfalls of Asking to Trade Reviews

Well-meaning folks oft times neglect to keep the enthusiastic promises they make. I gave away more than 100 books with the understanding that the receiver would post a review. Two of my best friends, a public librarian and one who is retired, keep promising “to get to it” but they never followed through. Perhaps they could not conscientiously recommend my book and chose not to post a negative review.

As I worked toward my goal of reviewing 50 books, I watched for intriguing titles on line. When I found a book that looked inviting, I contacted the author and asked if we could swap books and post reviews for each other. Not a good idea. Despite glowing reviews already posted on their websites, I received a number of self-published books that were poorly written. If I wrote honest evaluations, most of my comments would have been negative.

I wanted to keep my promise to review these books, but I did not want to discourage the authors. As a respected reviewer, how could I handle those less than stellar books? With the most difficult situations I explained to the writers that in my judgment there were major problems with their books. Rather than post negative reviews, I chose to critique these books privately.

Such touchy situations forced me to rethink my motive for writing reviews in the first place, besides getting reviews in return. My decision to post negative reviews hinged on my answer to two questions. Was my purpose to help an author gain readers? Or was I attempting to help readers find books they would enjoy as well as alert them to ones they probably would not appreciate?

When the late JoAnn Daly was my editor at Cobblehill/Dutton, I received a couple of scathing reviews. The first time one was published in Booklist, she told me to ignore it, that it was but one reader’s opinion. The second time one of my books was severely criticized, JoAnn responded to the reviewer by pointing out the factual errors in the published review. (I loved my editor!)

Though I am not comfortable writing negative reviews (my mother taught be keep quiet if I couldn’t say something nice), I appreciate it when a reviewer notes such concerns as a weak plot, foul language, profanity, or careless editing.
If I look hard enough, I can usually find something good to say about a particular title. If I ever decide to post a negative review, I will explain what I perceive to be faulty about the book and/or how it is written.

The Perks of Asking for Reviews: Name Recognition

Book Trailer for Sacketts Harbor – Powder Monkey.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Seeking reviews for my War of 1812 book while helping other readers find books they’d enjoy has been a satisfying experience. It’s been pleasant to build friendships with authors I might never have met otherwise.
Another perk is having people email me saying they appreciated my reviews and asking if I would review their new books. One such request came from a writer who lives in Spain.

Before I agree to review a stranger’s book, I find out as much as I can about it. If it sounds like a title I’d enjoy, I request a hard copy. I usually refuse to review books on Kindle since I can’t flag passages and then flip back to them when I write my review.

A huge incentive for posting reviews on Amazon is name recognition. When I began posting reviews, Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest was my newest release. To my surprise Amazon listed me as author of that book right after the title of the book I was reviewing. Wonderful, free advertising!

When Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey – The War of 1812 was released, I asked Amazon to switch to the new title. No problem. Every time readers online read my latest review, they saw my name along with the title of my latest book. That made me smile because the more often readers see my name and the title of one of my books, the more apt they are to eventually check me out.

About four months ago I was informed by the folks at Amazon that I was breaking the rules by listing a title of one of my books along with my name. Therefore they were removing those titles from all of my reviews. SAY WHAT?
I responded that this was something that their staff had instituted. Since I was the wrong person being scolded, I wrote for clarification of the rules. I learned it is permissible to mention the title of one of my publications in the body of my review. Now I look for a tie-in for one of my books with the new review I am posting. That’s a fun challenge, and sometimes an easy one as well.

Posting reviews on Amazon for the world to read is good writing practice for me. When I observe faults in the works of others, I am more apt to catch a similar problem with my own writing. Yes, it eats into my time, but it’s worthwhile for me and my readers. I enjoy the challenge of analyzing a story and how the author writes it. Most of us who enjoy reading never have time to read all the books we’d like to read. By posting my reviews on Amazon, I help Internet readers find books they are most apt to enjoy.

Publicity Results

IditarodTo date I have posted 129 reviews on Amazon. When I submit a new review, it is usually posted a few minutes after I have emailed it. People who read Amazon reviews have the opportunity to tell if a review is helpful or not. Thus far 77 reviewers have clicked the button at the end of my reviews indicating they were helpful. I consider that a good barometer of my ability to write them.

Amazon lists me as a Top Reviewer. Frequently the company sends me a request to review books I have purchased, but not yet reviewed. While I appreciate the invitation, I don’t accept it if it was a book not to my liking. I choose what I will review regardless of where the book came from.

Recently I read an article about Amazon’s book review process. According to the author, the review staff at Amazon was impressed by a certain title that was not selling well. To give the book the press they thought it deserved, they contacted 100-300 potential online reviewers. They offered to send a PDF of the book to those who expressed an interest in reading it and would consider posting an honest critique. The staff expected 40 to 50 responses resulting in possibly 35 reviews. The writer of the article considered that a satisfactory number. That’s a speedy, inexpensive way to solicit reviews. I could have used it if I had a PDF of Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey.

That said, 57 reviews in exchange for 100 books given away is not a shabby response. It encourages me to press on in my quest for new reviews of this book until the War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations end on December 24, 2014.
So, how did I get all of those reviews for Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey – The War of 1812?
I asked for them.

Since it’s more blessed to give than to receive, I will continue to post reviews on Amazon. I will keep asking readers to review my book until December 24—unless I reach my new goal of 100 reviews sooner. Of course I would welcome reviews from you who are reading this blog. You may contact me at hopemar7@twcny.rr.com Many thanks.

HopeMarstenHope has written more than thirty children’s books and two books for adults. My Little Book Series of wildlife picture books, with over 125,000 copies in print, has won numerous awards. My Little Book of Bald Eagles received the 2010 Next Generation INDIE Book Award in the Best Children’s/Juvenile Non-Fiction category. Her historical novels for Young Adults include Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson (2007), Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey – The War of 1812 (2012), and Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (2011), which is the true biography of an eleven-year-old Maine musher.

Hope and her husband of more than fifty years share their Black River (NY) home with Heidi, a lovable Bernese mountain dog. For more, see her bio in Something about the Author (Gale), or her website, www.HopeIrvinMarston.com .

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21. Kaplan & Amazon Partner for Digital GMAT Text

kaplanKaplan Test Prep is partnering with Amazon to distribute a new digital GMAT course book. The Kaplan digital courses are available through Kindle apps on tablets, phones and online. This is the first time that these courses have been available on Kindle devices.

The course books allow students to take notes, highlight passages, look up words, search and track their progress. Users can sync their work across devices. For example, a student could start studying on a Kindle Fire and then open up the course book to the same page with their notes intact on their laptop.

Kaplan Test Prep is working with Amazon to develop similar digital test prep courses for the GRE, LSAT, MCAT and other exams. These products are slated for release over the next few months.

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22. Help me market my novel

My comedic novel set in a pet shelter was unleashed upon the world last July.

Here's the good news. Reviews have been almost universally excellent - three and four stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and even a very nice one from the pros at Kirkus. So, great, right?

Well, not exactly. Truth is, I'm just not selling many books. Here's the dilemma, no doubt one faced by many self-published authors. I'm not reaching my audience. If the book had lousy reviews - or even no reviews - I'd give it up. But people LIKE it, and many absolutely LOVE it.

So I'm seeking help: I need some fresh ideas to market the book without bankrupting myself.

Before you start to make suggestions, I'm going to outline what I've done so far.

Social Media
Twitter: I've strategically acquired nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, most of whom are animal lovers and/or avid readers. I promote the book regularly on Twitter, and send new Twitter followers a welcome message containing a link to the book on Amazon. Plus, I engage my readers daily with witty, fun, thoughtful content. And Twitter, my friends, has been the sole successful effort to date. Nearly all my readers come to the book via Twitter. I definitely need to diversify, which I'm trying to do. Read on.

Facebook: Created separate Facebook page for the book, and post there as well as on my regular page.

Goodreads: Contacted top reviewers, mainly women, and requested reviews. A few did so, with mostly glowing reviews. Results: some sales, I guess. Not tons.

Amazon: The mother of them all. Like Goodreads, sent review requests to top reviewers who seemed a good fit. Again, received great reviews. Enough to generate business? Nah.

: Have a bunch of followers there, and the book is part of my profile.

Women's interest e-newsletters

Sent the actual book or link to Amazon page to: Daily Candy, Pure Wow, Urban Daddy, Fab, Joyous, Hello Giggles (Zooey Deschanel's site) and Rookie. Guess the outcome.

eBook Reviewers

Sent review requests to People, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle and even The New York Times (now there's a waste of postage).

The Dodo

This is in a category all its own. I read in the NYTimes that founder of BuzzFeed was funding his daughter's new animal focused website The Dodo. So I sent said daughter a copy of the book, and The Dodo featured a story I wrote about my dog on the site, with a link to the book's Amazon page. Guess I sold a few extra copies the days the story was featured.

Bookstore Readings
Did readings at two local stores. Frankly, don't have time to pursue this further and doubt it would do much for me.

Blurb and PR requests
Sent copies of the paperback to around sixty celebrities who are known animal lovers (yes, including Ellen DeGeneres) and to chick-lit writers, asking them to write a blurb for the book - or even, in some cases, option it for the movies. Yes, I have delusions of grandeur. Result: I received a lovely, handwritten note from author Meg Cabot, informing me that she was no longer doing blurbs, but wishing me luck, and - TA DA - an envelope containing nothing but an autographed picture of Charlize Theron.

Charity Tie-In
I approached animal oriented charities - ASPCA, The Humane Society, PETA and the World Wildlife Fund - offering to donate to them a percentage of the profits from sales of the book if they would promote it on their websites. All turned me down, though PETA does have an online store where I can list the book for $500. I'm considering it.

Pet-oriented businesses
I sent copies of the book to PETCO, Petsmart and a few other national pet supply stores to see if they would carry the book. All declined. Also tried a few local independents - same result.

Vets' offices
I tried my local veterinarian's office,which is part of the VCA chain. They said they couldn't make the decision to carry the book, and that I would need to approach VCA's national headquarters. I did so, and contacted the other big veterinary chain, Banfield, as well. Never heard from them - and yes, I did make follow-up phone calls.

Pet-centric writers
Sent copies of the book to a few columnists who write about animals. Nada.

What I've considered and haven't done
Placed copies of the book on subway seats and airport waiting areas with a note asking finders to post reviews and/or spread the word any way they could in exchange for the free book. Any thoughts on this?

So, bottom line. I've done every free thing I can think of. Please share with me your ideas (whether more unpaid things or things I'd have to pay for) so that I can help my little baby find the audience it deserves. You can post here or email me at andib88@comcast.net.


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23. Anne Rice Fights Author Bullying on Amazon

annericeAnne Rice has joined a number of authors who have signed a petition to stop “author harassment” in user reviews on Amazon.

The petition, which is addressed to Jeff Bezos and Jon Fine, calls for more oversight and control on Amazon’s product reviews system. The authors of the petition are trying to put an end to what they have described as bullying and harassment in book reviews.

“I believe, as do countless others—many who will have signed this petition—that the reason this bullying and harassment is able to take place is because of the allowance of anonymity on Amazon,” writes Todd Barselow, the petition organizer. “People have found ways to exploit this flaw in the system and are using it to bully, harass, and generally make life miserable for certain authors on Amazon.” continued…

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24. Stephan Eirik Clark’s Story: A Book Missing From Amazon Search Results

sweetness9Author Stephan Eirik Clark thinks that he may have been a victim of Amazon’s algorithm rigging.

In a column for Slate, Clark claims that his book Sweetness #9 was not available in Amazon search results. The book, which is available for presale and ships in August, only showed up when he entered the title of the book and his name. But it wasn’t the top listing. In fact, it was at the bottom of a long list of books with the word “Sweet” in the title, buried under a number of Sweet Valley High books.

Clark theorizes that the poor search results had to do with deals that publishers make with Amazon to get ranked in search results. This practice is outlined in George Packer’s recent New Yorker article on Amazon. According to the story, search results are affected by fees that publishers pay to Amazon.

Unclear on what his publisher Little & Brown has paid to Amazon, Clark points out that his search results got better over time. Today, a search for “sweetness 9″ brings the novel to the top of the search results, but it’s not clear why.


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Cropped Pic 2

Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school.  I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author.  The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them.  We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.

Three reasons why reading is important to young children:

1).  Reading exercises our brains.  That’s right, our brains need a workout too.  Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.

2).  Reading improves concentration.  Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task.  The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.

3).  Reading helps develop imagination.  When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures.  Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read?  We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters.  We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.

Now go grab a book and BEE A READER!


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