Posts Tagged ‘Authors’

You got to sit at the big boys’/girls’ table–and then they realized you were sitting there.  Huh?  December 2012, Amazon announced KDP Select.  Tons of us jumped in, many of us made some really good money from it. 

That’s when things started to change.

Publishers started to complain.  Traditionally published authors joined in the cacophony.  Why?  Indie authors were shooting up the charts and that was taking money out of the pockets of people/companies with big money in the game.  That’s when downloads, which initially counted on a 1:1 ratio for your sales coming out of free, started to slip.  The ratio fell to the point where it is now.  Where is it now?  If you don’t get into the top 100 in free, might as well not do it.

If you sense a bit of an edge from me on the issue, you’re insightful.  No one expected the gravy train to last forever, but it was remarkable to see how quickly Amazon adjusted against indie authors to mollify the traditionally published world.  Now, Amazon takes away likes and tags from books.  Ask yourself this question.  Who did the best job getting likes and tags?


So, free is largely dead.  Now, Amazon takes likes and tags away which hurts indie authors in a plethora of ways.  Is it a death knell to indie authors?  Certainly not, but it’s another data point in a trend.

And that trend is that not much has changed.

An important concept in the law, where I spend most of my time and make most of my money, is “standing.”  I ask myself, has the standing of indie authors changed in the last two years?  My honest answer is not really.  Will it change?  If it hasn’t changed yet, what will be the catalyst for that happening?

Do you really think they’ll leave the door unlocked and let indies sit at the dinner table again?   How full is your glass? 🙂


I started the AmazonLikes hashtag in August of 2011 out of a pretty simple observation.  There are hundreds of thousands of authors that have published their books on Amazon.  There are thousands of authors that I have followed or have followed me on Twitter.  Yet, I consistently see people struggling to get any “likes” on their book(s).

You may first ask, why does it even matter?

Good question.  It matters because there are hundreds of thousands of ebooks on Amazon.  Millions of paperbacks.  How do you sort through big lists when you have to?  Easily identifiable markers.  So, on Amazon, what are those markers?  For a book, it’s the cover image first, then the review ranking, then the number of “likes.”  To answer your question then, if the number of likes is the third most important thing people use in considering whether to consider your book further, should you ignore that?  To analogize that to something, such as sports, do you think a good pitcher in baseball will focus on their first two types of pitches, but ignore their third and fourth?  Nope.  Not a good one, at least.

So, if you’ve bought into the importance of the number of “likes” on your book’s page, then read on.  If you’re still a skeptic, best of luck to you.

With that framework in mind, I set about to figure out a way to increase likes on books.  There were already groups in Goodreads and elsewhere that focused on the venture.  I participated in those groups, but I found a couple things out.  First, people don’t reciprocate as well as they should.  Second, the groups were rather small in nature (i.e. 20-40 authors) so the number of likes that could be obtained was limited.  Sitting at a small desk at a hotel room, and talking to an awesome author named D.A. Graystone (check out his book Two Graves), I came up with the idea for #AmazonLikes.  

For people unfamiliar with it, here’s how it works.  You create a tweet that includes your book’s title, the link to it on Amazon, and the hashtag #AmazonLikes.  That’s it.  You tweet it.  Because you have included the hashtag #AmazonLikes, the post immediately goes into the hashtag stream.  This means that if you perform a search for “#AmazonLikes” on Twitter, your tweet as well as hundreds of others from authors doing the same thing pop up.

Getting it now? 🙂

What #AmazonLikes has created then, is a stream of authors tweeting their book’s link to each other.  People that participate can simply click on those links, like the books, and go to the next one.  If we do something SIMPLE, like going into the stream and liking 1-3 books a day, the results can be tremendous.

That’s where you come in!

Tweet your book’s link to #AmazonLikes.  You don’t have to ask someone twice to do something beneficial to them.  So, what I’ll ask twice is for you to get into that stream and help other indie authors out.  Without each other, we aren’t much.  Together, as we’ve seen, we’re a force to be reckoned with!

Amazon recently added a FAQ regarding reviews, guidelines for posting them, and when they will be removed.  You can find the FAQ at this link, or you can just read it here:


Have your customer review guidelines changed?

No. To see our guidelines please visit:

The guidelines say “promotional content” is not allowed. What would Amazon consider to be promotional content?

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers genuine product feedback from fellow shoppers. While we encourage reviewers to share their enthusiasm and experience, there can be a fine line between that and the use of customer reviews as product promotion. Our goal is to capture all the energy and enthusiasm (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to outright advertise, promote and especially mislead. We have a zero tolerance policy for any review designed to mislead or manipulate customers.

Can you be more specific about what reviews are out-of-guidelines?

To help illustrate, here are a few examples of customer reviews that we don’t allow:

  • A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
  • A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
  • A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
  • A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
  • A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
  • A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange.
  • A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor’s product
  • An artist posts a positive review on a peer’s album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them

What makes for a great customer review?

Amazon customers most appreciate reviews that inform purchase decisions. They want to learn more about the product or genre, hear the reasons behind your star rating, and ultimately decide if this is the right product for them or not. The most loved reviews can be detailed or brief; they can compare multiple products or talk about a specific use; they can be educational or just plain funny. Customers enjoy and value good customer reviews and we love the passion and creativity demonstrated by all those who leave reviews on our site.

Are paid customer reviews allowed?

No. We do not allow any compensation for a customer review other than a free copy of the product (provided up front). If we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we will remove it.

Are authors and artists allowed to review other authors/artists’ works?

Authors and artists can add a unique perspective and we very much welcome their customer reviews. However, we don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion. If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we will likely remove your review.

Can authors review their own books if they disclose their identity in the review?

We love author participation. The best place for authors (or publishers) to communicate with their readers is in the ‘Book description,’ ‘Editorial Reviews’ and ‘From the Author’ sections. Learn more about using Author Central here. We also encourage authors to participate in customer discussions or to post comments on other customers’ reviews. We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.

How can I report a customer review I suspect to be outside of guidelines?

Below each review you’ll find a question that asks “Was this review helpful to you?” – if you answer “no,” you can let us know why the review is inappropriate. We will examine the review and take action if necessary.

My review was removed. How can I appeal?

If you think we got it wrong and removed a customer review that we shouldn’t have, please e-mail and we will take another look.

Zoe Sharp and I met in a Facebook group for authors, and I’ve got to say that I was intrigued with her Charlie Fox series right off the bat.  She has amazing reviews, and her covers are fantastic.  Haven’t gotten to reading one yet, but her latest book Fifth Victim is in my queue.

A Charlie Fox Thriller

This is the first interview I’ve done, and I’m happy I did.  So interesting!  And, I lose my man card–sucks.  Without further ado, Zoe Sharp!

Derek Blass: Charlie Fox is the heroine in your bestselling series. Tell us about her.

Zoë Sharp: Charlie Fox is definitely someone you want on your side in a fight. She’s ex-British army, kicked out in the middle of a Special Forces training course after a brutal attack by a group of her fellow trainees. The start of the series is the turning point in her life, when she comes under threat again and this time she discovers her inner killer instinct. From teaching others how to protect themselves, she progresses into the world of close-protection, protecting others. It’s a profession for which she’s well suited, and one of the few legal options open to ex-military personnel who want to use their skillset to best advantage.

I tried very hard to keep Charlie human and female—definitely not a ‘guy in nylons’. She’s torn
between going too far and not going far enough. She has a vulnerable side, but cross her and she’ll
take you down. My favourite quote about her came from the Chicago Tribune: “Ill-tempered,
aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled:
arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction.”

DB: What inspired you to start the Charlie Fox series?

ZS: The very first crime novel that really caught my attention was THE MISFORTUNES OF MR TEAL
by Leslie Charteris, since republished both as THE SAINT IN LONDON and THE SAINT IN ENGLAND. I
loved the character of Simon Templar ‘The Saint’, mainly because he went against the convention
that the detective had to be the hero of the book.

But I quickly began reading the classic thrillers by authors like Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins, Alistair
McLean and Clive Cussler. They were great books—I’ve always loved action and pace—but I couldn’t
help noticing that the female characters tended to be a bit on the wussy side. They screamed and
fell over and twisted their ankles a lot, and had to be rescued by the men. I wanted to read about a
woman who could fight her way out of a corner and do her own rescuing. I couldn’t find quite what
I was looking for on the shelves of my local library, so I decided I was just going to have to write my
own. Charlie Fox was the result.

DB: How did your career as an author start?

ZS: I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen, which my father—bless him—typed up for me. (OK, this dates me horribly—pre-computer days!) It did the rounds of publishers and received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’. Everybody loved it but nobody actually wanted to publish it. It still sits in a box in the attic somewhere.

On the Triumph

Slightly daunted by this, I spent my teenage years doing weird jobs like delivering yachts and being a horse-riding instructor and then ended up writing magazine articles about motoring. In a fit of wild optimism, on the strength of my first accepted article, I gave up my job to turn freelance. That was in 1988, and I’ve been making a living writing ever since.

Some years later, I was doing a regular column for one of the car magazines and every time my photograph appeared in the mag, I received death-threat letters. Really nasty, cut-out-of-newspaper jobs—like a ransom note—telling me they knew where I lived and my days were numbered.

This had two effects. The first was I took a sudden and very earnest interest in learning self-defence, which has come in enormously handy not only as research, but also because I occasionally do self-defence demonstrations at conventions like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and CrimeFest.

DB: “Fifth Victim” is your latest book. What is Charlie up to in this latest installment?

ZS: FIFTH VICTIM sees Charlie on Long Island, the playground of New York’s wealthy and privileged, looking after Dina, the daughter of a rich businesswoman, from threat of kidnap. At the same time, Charlie is trying to come to terms with the after-effects of her last job in California, during which her lover was shot and left for dead, and is still in a coma.

It’s a book about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, and about what you might be prepared
to do in order to get it back.

DB: Now more than ever, there are tons of books being published. Why should someone dig into
the Charlie Fox series?

ZS: Oh, that puts me on the spot, doesn’t it? And I’m a Brit—we blow our own trumpets really badly. Read them if you like a good story, a fast pace, a heroine who’s real and damaged and resourceful, and who grows as the series evolves.

Last year I put up the whole series in e-format so people can finally start from the beginning without difficulty. If you want to dip a toe in the water, there’s also FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection, which contains five stories of Charlie that span her career and give you a real taste of the character and the world in which she moves.

Apart from that, I’m going to quote one of my heroes in the crime thriller genre, Lee Child: “If I were a woman, I’d be Zoë. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox.”

DB: On a personal note, your Facebook page has you sitting on a Buell motorcycle. Does that say
something about your personality?

ZS: Oh Derek—you lose a Man Card for that 🙂 It’s a Triumph Street Triple, not a Buell. (Charlie rides a Buell Firebolt in FIFTH VICTIM, and still has a Honda FireBlade sitting in storage at home in the UK.) I’m tempted by a Ducati Monster next, actually …

But, to get back to your question, I suppose it does. It says I’m not averse to calculated risk in certain areas. That I like to move fast, but always stay in touch with my surroundings and what’s happening around me. When you ride a motorcycle you’ve got to be there, every second, looking for threats and hidden dangers before they appear. If you snooze or you’re likely to end up dead. These were characteristics I wanted for Charlie, too, which is why she rides a motorcycle in just about every
book in the series.

DB: For the authors out there reading this, what thoughts do you have on a path to success in the

ZS: Wow, how long have you got? Basically, the first—best—thing you can do is write the very best book you can. If you’re going the indie publishing route, get the book professionally edited and proofread and get a really great cover. Do what you can to get your name out but without ramming it down people’s necks. Be professional, be polite, and pay it forwards. Take reviews—good and bad—with grace and equanimity. Listen to all editorial comment but then apply the rule of thirds:

One third of advice you follow absolutely.

One third of advice you consider.

One third of advice you ignore completely.

(Of course, working out which third is which is the tricky part …)

The final piece of advice is that persistence is everything in this game. I have often thought there are more persistent published writers than there are talented published writers. You’re going to take a lot of hits—somebody once told me that writers have to face more criticism in a year than most people face in a lifetime. How you respond to those knock-backs will define you. Keep working to improve your craft.

DB: Do you have a “must” when you’re writing (i.e. music, coffee, a great view, etc.)?

ZS: LOL! I’d love to say I have a rider that includes a permanent supply Jelly Belly jelly beans (with the cinnamon and root beer ones removed) and fresh-brewed Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, but in truth, I’ll write anywhere and under just about any circumstances.

If I’m at home I do listen to music a LOT when I write. Nothing creates the mood or atmosphere I need for a particular scene faster. But really, if you’re a writer, you write wherever and whenever you can. All I need is a pencil and a load of scrap paper (also known as a myPad or an iBrain) and I’ll scribble.

In fact, I’ve found I work better if I make detailed notes just before I start on each new chapter, so time away from my computer can often be really productive. And long car journeys are great for untangling knotty bits of plot. I often work on my laptop in the car. But NOT while I’m driving!

DB: What’s next in the pipeline for you in terms of books?

ZS: I’ve delivered the next in the series, DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten, to my publisher, so now I’m indulging myself. For years I’ve had an idea for a supernatural thriller that I’ve kept putting off writing. Its time has finally come! I started in early March and am already halfway through the story. After that I’m going to start on what I hope will be the first in a trilogy with a new female protagonist who’s a bit like Charlie … with the brakes off. Plus I have a standalone crime thriller that’s waiting for edits, and then I’ll be back to Charlie for the eleventh installment in the winter. (She says breezily… Actually, I’m having cold sweats thinking about the amount of work I’ve taken on this year, but I’ve always thought that sleep is very overrated!)

DB: You obviously have a loyal base of readers. Anything you want to say to them?

ZS: “Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!” Without readers, we’re talking to ourselves in an empty room. The feedback I get from people constantly touches me. Writing can be a very isolated business and knowing that your voice is being heard and liked and understood is wonderful.

A satisfied reader is always a writer’s best friend.

Derek, thank you so much for inviting me to chat. It’s been a blast!

Don’t you just think she’s great?  Can’t wait to dig into your books, Zoe!  All of here books are available on Amazon, but click on this cover to start with Fifth Victim!

Another Charlie Fox Thriller!