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Kindle Unlimited: Why I Don’t Like It When I Should

Kindle unlimited in essence is a wonderful idea, just like netflix and sites like spotify it allows people to pay a monthly set fee and listen to as much music or watch as much tv as they’d like. It’s affordable and it makes it easier to find the things you want to enjoy. As a reader I think it’s the way the industries ought to be going.

None of the models are perfect. Spotify pays 70% of subscriptions to musicians but it does it based on listens over all not listens per subscriber so the money is pushed towards the sorts of musicians who have people repeatedly listening to their songs. Netflix pays outright for streaming deals and this often means it can pay way too much for some shows and not enough for others.

The one thing both do, though it pay a reasonable amount of what they get from subscriptions to the makers. Spotify especially have at least pegged the figure at a percentage that pretty standard for entertainment. Kindle pass on 70% of ebook royalties to the publisher/author when one is bought.

But that’s where Kindle Unlimited loses its appeal for me personally. Kindle Unlimited costs $10/£8 which is only a little more than netflix and it provides access to the books in the Unlimited library for free. It’s a great deal for someone who reads a lot. But the author has the raw end of the deal. The author only gets a share of an arbitrary pot Amazon decides upon 15 days after the end of the month (worked out by pages read of all books by all readers). There’s no percentage or total gross subscription revenue to give an idea of if this is even a fair amount and has the same flaw that the spotify model has in that it’s not a single persons subscription broken up by what they read, but pages out of the total of everyone.

On top of that Kindle Unlimited demands exclusivity of the ebook. It literally can’t be offered for sale anywhere else. Now in some cases Netflix also does this, but they pay more to get a show exclusively.

In the past Amazon has been heralded as the saviour of the author. Giving the author way more money per sale than a traditional publisher does and giving far more literary freedom. There’s whole new waves of fiction that exist thanks to what they’re doing and a whole load more authors making enough money to live of their writing. In comparison to ten years ago it’s a great time to write books (although still way harder than your average career), but Kindle Unlimited needs work, and I have to admit, I’m kinda hoping someone else comes along with a more transparant pay scale and competes with Amazon, because as it is, it’s a return to keeping authors out of the driving seat of their own career.

Studying Other Artistic Works

Probably the biggest advice given to other artists is study the art form you want to replicate. Want to write books? Then read. Want to make movies? Watch movies. Simple, well sorta. Watching, reading, going to galleries on its own isn’t really enough. You’ve got to have your brain engaged to figure out why the movie, book, painting is awesome.

Even as a book writer I like studying movies and tv shows. A friend of mine recently said that he’d love it if tv script writers wrote books because they’re great at characters and their dialogue, something generally lacking in the book world, so a favourite past time of mine is a character study. I sit down with a book or tv series and I focus on one character and their dialogue. If it’s film I also focus on their body language, eye contact and all sorts of things like that and if book I focus on the repeated expressions, what makes them angry.

I talk to other friends too about why they might like or dislike a character and then I often try to write some fan fiction, where I take everything I’ve learnt about that character and they way they talk and try to apply it. While this can sometimes result in work I can’t sell it can also result in some amazing pieces where I learn what sorts of things makes a character a character.

On top of that I find reading description heavy authors like George R. R. Martin great for my own descriptions. It helps me figure out what sort of details should be woven in amongst the rest. Some people like getting lots of description and place setting, but the true greats describe everything without you feeling bogged down in paragraphs of boring information. Studying their tricks and the way the build their scenes can be a great help.

Finally every writer, actor, and director has their own style and while this shouldn’t be copied out right as it’s way better to develop your own style it can be a great way to learn what sorts of things people like. You’d also be surprised what people do and get away with and what rules are deliberately broken and when. Sometimes a style can be particularly known for breaking a rule, like Stephen King tends to have long sentences and many authors will play around with the exact useage of commas and occasionally words. If there’s a good enough reason for something there really are no rules.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Your Book Reviewed

I review rather a lot of books and I’ve had quite a number of requests from people over the years in differing places and ways. I’ve also sent quite a number to other bloggers and readers in various locations, so I admit this is a bit of a rant about all things book review.

Most authors know that book reviews that are favourable help them sell books, sometimes even unfavourable reviews will help sell some copies but I’ll get to that in the second half of this blog. Most reviewers also know this and are reviewing to either try and help authors or because they think they’re opinions are something the world wants to hear through varying degrees of arrogance (The vast majority of reviewers aren’t arrogant about this but there are some, again I’ll get to that later).

So authors, you can help yourselves in various ways.

1 – Treat Reviewers With Respect At All Times

Most reviewers, including me, get far too many book requests than we could physically ever do even if we read constantly for the rest of our lives. As such, we sometimes have to say no. When we do, please be respectful. It just means we didn’t choose your book. Often it’s because your book isn’t one we think we’ll like.

If we do review your book and say something negative about it, don’t go on a hate fest, you only make yourself look bad and make the reviewer wish they’d not bothered. Putting reivwers off reviewing hurts everyone.

2 – Follow Review Guidelines

Almost every reviewer will post some basic guidelines for what they want and how they want it. Follow this to the letter. I reject 95% of my review requests because they don’t follow the guidelines I’ve laid out in the places I accept requests. That’s 95% of authors who can’t read! In these cases, I don’t even bother to read the email to see whether I like the book or not, I just flat out reject and I send a copied and pasted form response which lists the reasons I might have rejected the request.

My msot common reason is the lack of personalisation. I reject a request if the author has copied and pasted whatever they sent the last person without bothering to try and find my name. I usually make my name really obvious so I consider being unable to find it no excuse.

The three other big reasons I reject books are all down to not meeting the guidelines, most notably, the wrong subject line. I like the subject line to include two phrases to make them easy to find and keep track of. Review Request and the Book Title. I need Review Request for my organisation of the emails and the book title helps me find the email again with a quick phrase search to let you know when I’ve reviewed the book.

Also the book being in a genre I don’t except. This happens way more than it ought to. If I say I accept a list of genres and only those genres I’m not likely to read anything else. I’ve got to cut the list of possible books down somehow, so sending me a book from another genre is a waste of everyone’s time.

Finally I reject a lot of requests because they’ve not included the rest of the information I want. I like to have a sample, the blurb and the cover. The cover so I can upload to goodreads if I need to and put it in the review blog when done, and the sample and blurb so I can get a better feel for the book. Sometimes I get the blurb and no sample and have to go hunting for the book to find out if it’s in third person or first person present or a myriad of different possibilities. There are a few styles I don’t like so I won’t ever accept a book without reading the sample first. even worse is when there’s no blurb and no sample, just a title.

3 – Make it Easy for the Reviewer

There are several ways you can help your reviewer and free up their time to help more people. Making sure they have every link they might need to make up their minds in the first place is a good idea. Some reviewers like it if you send them the book in the first email so they don’t have to go back and forth but I don’t. A whole book is bulky and I find it a little presumptious, but I like to have links to the book on Amazon, especially if there’s some reviews already there. Some good reviews might sway me. Lots of bad reviews that seem mean often make me pick up a book and so does no reviews. I like helping people.

Also, if you must send someone a pdf rather than mobi or epub version of your book, try to do an A5 pdf rather than A4 pdf. Nothing annoys me more than trying to read an A4 sized page on my kindle screen. It slows me down and makes me annoyed at the book, which isn’t good for the review.

4 – Be prepared for a Long Wait

Unfortunately, we get inundated with books and find it difficult to get through them all in a timely fashion. Sometimes real life crops up etc. I keep all my books on a list over on goodreads and many other reviewers do similar so people can keep track of me without needing to constantly bug me for due dates. I also don’t email out when the review is done. I expect you to keep track of that yourselves, especially seeing as I provide a link to my lists where you can see when the book has been read by me and whether it’s gone off my to-review list or not. If you can be proactive about finding the review yourself and keeping track of where you are in the queue, we don’t have to use up time telling you.

5 – Be grateful

I actually find it easier to pick up the next review book and start the process all over again when I’ve had a thank you or an equally nice conversation with someone I’ve reviewed. When someone thanks me for my time, and is eager to let other people know about the review I get hits, tweets and facebook posts which give me more of a platform to help more authors in the future. I like helping people so you can help me do that more.

Hopefully with the above points noted the auuthor and reviewer relationship can be streamlined and productive for both parties and at this point I did intend to address the things reviewers can do to help their authors more but I’ve already written loads so I’m going to stop here for today. I’ll write a chunk on how Reviewers can make things easier on authors in my next how-to blog

For Such a Time as This + Free Stuff

It’s my birthday today! Yup I have one of those things too. It’s the one day where I like getting attention and all that sort of stuff, but in true hobbit style I’m giving stuff away today, you know the sort of present like stuff.

The first of the things I’m giving away today is Wandering to Belong, my fantasy short! You can pick up a copy on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or any other amazon ebook store) and you don’t have to pay a thing.

Also I’ve got an excerpt of my latest release, For Such a Time as This, for you to read below, you can also get that on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

***

“Ishtar! Grab the damson pudding, over there, that’s it,” the bustling older cook yelled as he added two more jugs of wine to the trolley in front of him. Ishtar did as she was instructed, placing the dish in the final space on the laden vehicle.

She leapt out of the way as Malden pushed the little cart towards the door. He would take it up to the waiting room right outside the dining hall, giving Ishtar and the other assistant cooks a moments respite.

Ishtar slowed her pace as she checked on the hot puddings still cooking in the oven. In less than half an hour another damson pudding, two more cherry and almond cakes, four giant apple and cinnamon pastries and a cocaya bread and raisen pudding would go up with another large helping of red wine.

She gave the other three females a few instructions as they waited for their chef and master to return. Despite Ishtar being a simple slave like the other girls they did as she asked without complaint or fuss.

Not wanting to be idle when Malden returned, Ishtar rolled out more pastry into a long rectangular shape. The pastries seemed to be a favourite with the guests Andreas was entertaining that day. She sliced up the soft dough while her mind drifted to other things. She had made this dish so many times she could do it in her sleep.

Malden returned as she was ladling the apple mixture into the centre of the final of the six pastries.

“Good, good Ishtar… Where’s the cinnamon. Ah here it is, sprinkle that on them. Kimi, put that over there, good, good. Now let’s get started on another… Thank you Penalay.” Malden continued on telling his assistants what to do as he bustled around as well.

For the next twenty minutes all of them rushed around the kitchen preparing, stirring, slicing, mixing and fetching to create another trolley laden with food. The task of pre-empting what the feast would run out of was their sole purpose.

When Malden left with the next serving Ishtar paused to slow her rapid breathing. Her feet ached and she silently said a prayer to Tanayth that the feast would end soon. They had been in the kitchens for the last fifteen hours and there would be at least two hours of tidying and preparing for the following day.

Ishtar almost dropped the pudding she was retrieving when Malden came rushing back in. His slender frame quivered before her and no words came out of his opening and closing mouth. Her eyes went wide; silence was not normal. She rushed the dessert onto the nearest surface and went to him.

“Fetch that stool Kimi,” she said as she took his arm to support him.

“No, no, I am fine,” Malden found his voice and waved everyone away. “We can stop cooking. The feast is over.”

All the girls smiled and put down their tools. Ishtar stood waiting for Malden to explain what had happened.

“The Queen, she… she didn’t come.” He paused and she opened her mouth to ask what he meant but got no further. “King Andreas sent for Hasina and she refused him. She would not attend the feast.”

All the girls gasped.

“What did the King say?” Ishtar’s eyes were wide with fear.

“She’s to be beheaded. Immediately.”

The three girls whispered amongst themselves and Ishtar put her hands over her mouth to stop herself from making any embarrassing sounds.

“All of you can take a break for a few minutes. You’ve all been working very hard today.” Malden turned from them and busied himself tidying his kitchen. The three younger slaves rushed from the room, still talking amongst themselves. Ishtar gently tidied beside Malden, stacking the empty bowls as he put their contents in containers or the bin.

She watched him while she worked. His hands shook as he fought to keep going. If she kept busy near him she knew that he would soon tell her everything he was thinking.

“Why didn’t she do as she was asked?” The King doesn’t like to look the fool and his advisers are even worse. Listen carefully Ishtar, don’t ever give the King reason to be angry with you or ever upset his favoured people.”

“I won’t Malden. I’ll always do what you tell me to. The King thinks you’re the best chef in existence and we’re all leading easier lives because of it.”

Ishtar pictured her little room on the floor above. She had the good fortune of Malden’s favour and Malden had the King’s. Very few slaves had their own private rooms.

Malden had been kind to her ever since she had arrived, showing her how to hide her elven nature so none of the humans realised she wasn’t one of them as well as teaching her to survive. He had warned her several times of what they would do if her true race became apparent.

She stood a little taller than the other human girls her age, but being thinner stopped anyone being too suspicious. She had dyed her silver hair a dark brown and wore a head band to hide the points of her ears. No one even suspected.

“Go on girl, take a break with the others,” Malden said as he shooed her out of the room. She soon found Kimi, Penalay and Olivian sitting in the nearby courtyard. They looked up at her as she came over to them with a thousand questions on their young faces.

All three were younger than her and had been captured together from one of the last human settlements that stood against the King. As such they had known each other before arriving. Whenever anything happened they always banded together to talk about it.

Ishtar found it difficult to get to know them. They were strange to her and she had been alone for a long time, but Malden encouraged her to make an effort and the girls were always pleasant to her face.

“Do you really think that Queen Hasina will be beheaded?” Kimi asked. All of them had wide eyes that darted around the courtyard, almost expectant of someone jumping out from behind the trees to behead them too. Ishtar couldn’t help smiling at their naivety. The kitchen was a world apart from the King himself.

“I think so, she disobeyed the King,” Ishtar replied.

“But doesn’t he love her?”

She shook her head.

“Even if he did he would need to show he cannot be disobeyed. But there is no need for you three to fret. We are all safe here with Malden. He has looked after me since I was five. He will look after all of you as well.”

Ishtar went and sat with them on the stone bench. The conversation subject changed to their cooking and the feast they had managed that day.

A few minutes later all their names were called from the kitchen and the trooped back to their work. Malden and his helpers would need to get some of the food prepared for the following day.

The King always requested a particular cake in the afternoons and the fruit in the recipe would need to soak in brandy all night; and the pastry and dough would need time to settle.

Ishtar threw herself into the last of the day’s tasks with as much effort as she could muster. The sooner everything was done the sooner she could rest her feet. Rushing around the whole day had caused the arches in her feet to ache remorselessly each time she put weight on them.

Malden continued his running commentary of the activities and requirements of the kitchen to the four girls. They all worked hard but Ishtar the hardest. Her stamina kept her going longer than the others and the heat from the many ovens affected her the least of all of them.

“Put that over… that’s it, thank you Ishtar,” Malden said as she pre-empted his command. “Now where’s that fruit mix?”

“It’s already finished and soaking,” she replied, pointing to the bowl Malden sought.

Two hours later Ishtar swept the last of the dust, flour and dropped food out of the door into the courtyard for the birds. Malden was the only person left in the kitchen with her. Everyone else had been allowed to go off to sleep.

As soon as she had finished her final task of the day she put her hand to her forehead and wiped away the few beads of sweat which adorned it.

Taking her by surprise, Malden hugged her. He then held both of her hands in his and looked at her, a gentle light in his eyes and a parental smile on his face. She waited, expecting him to explain his thoughts but he did not. Instead he let her go and waved her out of the room.

“Go on now, go get some sleep.”

Ishtar did not need telling twice. She scurried off to her little room as fast as her weary legs could take her. Fortunately, she did not have far to go. Her private room sat only a flight of stairs and short corridor from the kitchen. It nestled in the wall of the great castle and had just one small window to the outside, not that she was ever there when the sun was up to send any light through it.

She sank into the straw mattress on the wooden bed frame, which creaked and groaned in protest of even her light body. A small set of candles lit the otherwise dark room, casting an ever changing and flickering glow over her few possessions.

In one corner stood an old wooden wardrobe. Its surface had lost any varnish it had once been covered in and Ishtar had to avoid getting splinters whenever she opened it. Her desk sat beside and appeared to be the newest of her furniture even though it had been Malden’s father’s for twenty years before she had been born.

On top of the desk sat Ishtar’s most treasured possessions; her sewing box and materials. She made clothes and other pretty accessories when she had free time from her duties, although that was seldom.

Malden had given her a few small coins for mending some clothes of his and a few more when she had made the uniforms the new girls had needed. It had not been much as the King frowned upon the slaves making money but it had bought her everything she’d needed to make the few things she could make time for.

Ishtar rarely got to wear the items she made but it didn’t stop her making them anyway. Her latest creation was an elegant dress, similar to something she had seen the previous queen wear once. It had a flowing floor length skirt which tapered backwards into a small train and a deep v neckline.

However, the dress was not finished. The hem was many feet long and she only managed a few minutes sewing each day by candlelight. If Malden knew she was making herself late for bed every night making the dress he would get angry and stop giving her any money at all, so she only did a little here and there to not arouse suspicion, and tonight she wouldn’t do any. The feast had gone on so long she needed to sleep.