Promoting a book – or not (part 4)

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about book promotions on this blog. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been promoting my books. I have and I’ve occasionally even done a really good job. It’s just that I’ve also been busy with my newsletter, my new books, a couple of stories, and life in general, so no time for blogging.

But now, back to business. So far, I can say that some things worked for me and some – not so much. For example, Books Butterfly did not work for me at all. It worked a bit for the free book option, but not at all for the 0.99 $ book. In other words, waste of money, and a lesson learned. I also tried BookBub paid advertisement. It is a pay-per-click model, but one has to be persistent and tweak the ads constantly to see what works and what not. I did not have much time for that yet, but I’ll give it a go again soon. It does not waste any money if no one clicks on the ads, which is the case with my ads, but the ultimate goal is to have people click on the ads and buy the book. I’m light years away from it so I really need to work on my spaceship.

However, I did have a very successful free book promotion of “The Neighbor”, which reached #44 in free book downloads and #13 in the contemporary romance category on Amazon at the beginning of December. The promotion ran for 3 days with more than 3000 downloads. It was a combination of a booked feature on ManyBooks.net (which was really cheap), then another mention by bknights over Fiverr (even cheaper), and the most important thing – I got a slot in the newsletter of Freebooksy. This one was not so cheap but also not very expensive (120 $ for my category) and it was certainly worth the money. The newsletter ran on the second day of promotion and it alone brought me over 2500 downloads. Compare this to 200 downloads that Books Butterfly managed the first time I had a free book promotion for “The Neighbor” and the power of Freebooksy becomes clear.

Finally, I also have a Goodreads giveaway behind me, which is an option where one pays to have 100 e-books given away for free to the people of the Goodreads community that show interest in the book and register for the giveaway. I did it with an idea to see how people like what I wrote, to garner some publicity, and get some reviews. A lot of people wanted to read the book (over 1000), and I did get some reviews. Some of them were really great and made my day. Some were not so great – but they pointed out the faults in the book, which I must agree are there and which I will attempt to either correct or avoid in my future books. Finally, there was a one 1* review where the person said they hated the book and deleted it from their Kindle. I didn’t mind that one very much because people like different books and have a right to an opinion, but I wished the author of the review could have provided me with more information about what was so wrong with my book to provoke such a reaction. Today, interestingly, I noticed that that one review was retracted. I don’t know why, but it improved the overall rating of my book, so, thanks for the retraction.

All in all, of those 100 books I gave away for free, I only got 5 written reviews and 25 star reviews in total, which is very little. I guess for my future books the best way would be to organize some advanced reader’s copies in exchange for an honest review. Since I am already a member of StoryOrigin, which provides such services, it will probably go through that app. Now I just need to write.

With that in mind, I’m off to be creative.

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The short story “Ian’s amazing journey” is online

I wrote this story of a boy facing his own mortality a long time ago. It took some effort to adapt and rewrite it, but here it is at last.

In it, Ian sees a body of a drowned man on the river bank where he usually goes for a bike ride, and from that moment on, he is convinced that he is next. No romance, no SF – just thoughts and fears of a young soul realizing that there is an end to every voyage. Let me know how you liked Ian and his amazing journey.

A Book Review of “Mr. Pavalli” – or who the f*** is Nick?

What enticed me to read and review this book (or story of only 42 pages, to be precise) by G. Romany was the fact that it was for free and had very few reviews. I was thinking I could add my review and support the author. Little did I know… Well, actually I did, or I strongly suspected it, so, served me right.

This is a relatively short erotica story that makes as much sense as any of such stories and leaves an aftertaste of having watched a porn clip on some obscure site that does not care too much about the quality. It’s not badly written – the style is fluent, readable, the sentences not too complicated. If you like a macho male protagonist (youngest investment banker with a sixpack and a big, fat…bank account, you know, the usual stuff) and a chubby insecure female lead character (one of those who are smart, but convinced they are not good enough, and who melt at the thought of someone loving and protecting them) then you’ll be happy reading this story. Of course, if you can overlook several points.

First: The cover – why is the guy so red? Is it just my tablet, or was it the saturation problem of the image editor, or has Mr. Crab just spent too much time in the sun?

Second: The copyright page – I did not understand why the author would (quote) “continue to provide you with a reality we can all escape from when the life we run become just a bit harder to walk”? Are we running or walking, and why would the author provide me with something I would like to escape from? Bad marketing move is all I can say.

Third: The story – There’s this hot boss Mr. Pavalli, who for some reason likes his employee Lucy and wants to protect her from whatever, and there’s Lucy, whose boyfriend has cheated on her (because he’s a model and she’s an ordinary girl with (gasp!) a couple of extra pounds and stretch marks), but she still has qualms about having sex with the hot Mr. Pavalli, because she is not sure if she is morally allowed to get over her cheating boyfriend so quickly. And that’s it. That’s her big dilemma.

Fourth: The names – And here comes my final question, directed at the heavens above and any wise person out there who might know the answer – if Lucy’s boyfriend’s name is Josh, and Mr. Pavalli’s name is Nate (Lucy screams it a couple of times in orgasmic bliss), then who the f*** is this Nick, who not only pops up in the text but also in the titles of all chapters written from the POV of Mr. Pavalli?

And with this final puzzle, I will leave you to ponder about the reason for the existence of stories such as this and other mysteries of the universe.

My final verdict: 2* (And this only because I think this author can write, and with a better plot and some editing and proofreading might in fact produce a solid book one day).

“Mr. Dale and the Divorcée” – A Book Review

It seems to be a characteristic of wise and experienced authors that they plan their book releases in advance. This includes collecting reviews before publishing by giving away free books. I came across such an opportunity and received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Since I am a conscientious person and plan to maybe review a book or two in the future, I did my best to read the book on time and give the already mentioned honest review.

Truth be told, I always tend to write nicer reviews than a book might deserve if I was cruelly honest. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to write a decent book and unless I am simply horrified by what I read, I find no reason to get upset over every slight inconsistency or every little detail that is not believable. Like the fact that an older woman from the 19th century manages to give birth to twins and actually stay alive. Having said this, I will proceed to review the book and try to avoid any further spoilers.

This is the first book I read from Sophie Barnes, but it won’t be the last – if I manage to go through a virtual pile of books stored in the memory of my e-book reader and find time to read another regency romance. As a fan of Jane Austen, I was interested in reading a historical romance from a similar period, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The main character, Wilhelmina, is a woman divorced, and much of the ensuing conflict in the book comes from the fact that in order for a divorce to take place, she needs to create a public image of herself that is essentially the direct opposite of the person she truly is. Mr. Dale, the main male protagonist, is a slightly self-righteous barrister coming from a wealthy family who is attracted to Wilhelmina from the moment they meet but is repulsed by her (fake) reputation. Expectedly, there is a lot they need to learn and discover about each other so that they could find their happy ending, and this experience changes them for the better (although, to be honest, they were both almost perfect to start with, they just didn’t know it).

The characters are wonderfully described and developed and I enjoyed reading this book and following their interaction. Also, the book is well written and perfectly plotted, with just the right amount of misfortune to make me root for the characters, but not enough to spoil anything.

This is maybe my only point of complaint. I understand that a happy end needs to be happy, but the sugar-coated ending was a bit too sweet for my taste. That and those twins. Maybe I’m just a wretched person deep inside, but what about pox, mumps, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and the myriad of other horrible diseases that could have claimed the lives of one or all children as well as some of the grownups along the way? How about the hard realities of life? Sure, my heart melted with happiness that everything went well for everyone involved. But my head did not believe, and this spoiled it a bit for me.

Regarding the language – British characters in the book use “gotten” as the past participle of “get”, which I don’t think would be the case if they were speaking the same language as Jane Austen. I can understand the usage of American English in other novels, but in a historical romance maybe a bit more attention should be given to how the characters would really speak. This would enable me as a reader to become better emersed in the book and believe that something like the story described had really happened. Apart from that, other books from this series promise to be as charming and interesting as this one, and I hope I will get to read them as well.

My verdict: 4.5 * Well written and plotted, with a sugar coating that was a bit too thick for my taste.

NaNoWriMo starts TODAY!

NaNoWriMo starts today! A month of crazy writing, trying to reach that magnificent 50.000 words goal by the end of November. I have joined in with my new planned romantic comedy, which, to be honest, I have already started writing. My goal for this month is therefore to FINISH IT. Is it possible? Will I make it? No idea. I am a slug paced writer and often get stuck, but recently have come in contact with a great bunch of creative people, and with their support it just might happen.

Also in planning – another free story for my subscribers. This one will contain full moon, wolves, a lot of water, and some blood, and if you are thinking “werewolf romance” I’ll have to say – wait and see.

Goodreads Giveaway is finished

The Goodreads Giveaway is officially over. 1130 people requested the book – much more than I could have ever hoped, considering that I am a new author. Congratulations to all the lucky winners. I hope you’ll enjoy my book. To all the others – thank you for showing an interest in my book and for having included it on your reading list.

But this doesn’t have to be the end of our interaction – by subscribing to my newsletter, not only will you receive a free book (“An Angel for a Sinner”, a romance story with a touch of paranormal), but you will also be the first to know about my oncoming releases and promotions, which will give you the chance to get my books at a reduced price or free!

„Salford World War” – A Book Review

Another book I have received a free copy of in exchange for an honest review was the “Salford World War” (Will World War 3 start IN Salford?) A Romantic Crime Thriller for 2014 by Mike Scantlebury (published in 2014/republished in 2018). To describe the process – I was contacted on Twitter by a PR manager (hired by the author, I suppose) to ask if I was willing to read the book and post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I said yes. It was straightforward and in good faith on both sides, and I was happy to do someone a favor, but also to read a romantic crime thriller, which guaranteed to be exciting and different from most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. Admittedly, I was also attracted by the promise of a romance, and there was some romance in the book, indeed – except that the main male protagonist turned out to be as romantic as a rotting piece of wood and I wanted to bludgeon him to death on several occasions throughout the book. But we’ll come to that later.

I will skip my usual rating system for this book as well and write a focused assessment fit to be posted on Amazon (or anywhere else), where people do not have much time to invest in reading long and rambling reviews.

The book’s main protagonist is Amelia Hartliss, who is a secret agent given an important task of protecting an official from China, who comes to visit Salford. The premise of the story is that there are many who want the Chinese official dead, and if they succeed, the consequence might be that China will issue an ultimatum to Great Britain, because the assassination happened on their soil, which in turn might lead to World War III, similar to what had happened in World War I. Here, I am not sure the idea holds water – for the start of the World War I it was not really important where the assassination took place but who did it. Therefore, even if the Chinese official was killed in Salford, it would still matter who killed him. You can’t just start issuing ultimatums because the secret service of the country supposed to protect the emissary you’ve sent consists of a bunch of people incapable of protecting their pet hamster, let alone a foreign visitor. Or you can, but then you don’t really need anyone assassinated at all.

However, the author makes a good job of selling the idea, so after accepting this as a possibility, we join Amelia in her efforts to organize the visit and at the same time figure out who has murdered a good friend of hers (and a former lover), while in parallel trying to understand if she has a personal life at all and any kind of future with Mickey, a fellow spy. By the way, Mickey is the one I’d like to bludgeon to death, simply because of the way he is treating Amelia throughout the book, and if she has any brains at all, she will delete his phone number and try to forget the guy existed. But, to get back to the main topic, the events unfold, and we discover that almost nothing is as it seems (except that Mickey is truly horrible as a boyfriend), and Amelia kind of succeeds in the end, except that it turns out it was not her success after all. Now, at that point, if I had been treated like they’ve been treating her, I would’ve probably quit my job, left my boyfriend, and found me a therapist, but Amelia is tougher than that, so she decides to stick around – for a couple of more books.

So, why should you read the book? It’s fun, and the convoluted story gets properly unraveled by the end of the book. Mind you, there are 11 books before this one dealing with the same character, so I missed the background information. Perhaps the author could put in front a short synopsis of the stuff that was happening before the book Nr. 12. Then it would be easier to understand certain references in the story. Also, I like Amelia (even though she seems a bit too trustworthy and quite incapable for a secret service agent). She is a nice character, and I am curious what will happen to her. I like even Mickey a bit (but only a bit) because he is kind of rough but honest. However, not boyfriend material. Not at all. What I didn’t like was the way dialogs were written, because I had sometimes a hard time figuring out who said what and if they have said it at all or only wanted to say it. I also did not fully manage to follow many characters who came in and out of the story and were insufficiently described and sometimes acted in a way I could not entirely explain. But if you can overlook these weaknesses, and if you like an action-filled story with a nice female lead character, then you’ll have fun reading this book.

My final verdict is 3.5 *.

Interesting, action-filled story with a twist at the end, but with some incomprehensible and confusing moments, and not much romance.

Promoting a book – or not (Part 3)

My book promotion journey threatens to become a book on its own. I might put all posts together and publish them as instructions on what to do (and what not to do). On second thought, I think there is plenty of similar books out there, but on third thought, they might be lacking my singular and very personal touch.

So, let’s see what’s new on the book promotion horizon of Verena Key world.

8.) To be scientifically accurate, I’ve booked Books Butterfly again, this time a platinum option (or something like that), which cost me more than the initial 80 $ top 200 push, but my book was also not free, although it was almost free (0.99 $). As before, they promised way more than they could deliver. The promotion was supposed to run for 2 weeks over their social platforms and they guaranteed 100 + downloads. I had 8 downloads altogether (counting KU reads), and at least 3 of those were the consequence of the tweets I booked over the eBooks Habit (just couldn’t resist). This time I decided to report that to the people from Books Butterfly, and they agreed to run the promotion for the remaining 92 books in November. They are very nice to talk to but something tells me that in November I won’t have much more downloads. Admittedly, “Forest Magic” is not the best book I’ve written, but it is also not the worst book in the universe, and certainly is better than many books out there that get hundreds of reviews. And maybe I am being partial, but I think I’m also realistic at least a little bit.

9.) Bargain Booksy ran my 0.99 $ “Forest Magic” again, and this time I had 30 book downloads after only one day of promotion with them. Not to mention that my last promotion of “The Neighbor” with them had brought me several sorely needed star ratings on Amazon. So, obviously, Books Butterfly could learn from them, and try to build their audience according to their preferences. Also, Bargain Booksy is very transparent and I actually see where my ad is posted and how it looks like – which cannot be said for Books Butterfly.

10.) Paid ad on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog site

Something new I tried was to pay 50 $ for a month worth of advertising on SBTB site. I came across this blog while aimlessly surfing the Internet and became a big fan. I like the informativeness of the site but also the humor. Some of the book reviews I read there made me laugh until I cried and I suggest them to anyone who needs a mood boost. At some point, I also realized they posted ads for a very accessible price (when you compare it to Amazon or Facebook paid ads). Besides learning how to make an animated GIF in Photoshop (I had no idea that was even a thing), I had around 25 clicks so far on the ad. I also advertised the Goodreads Giveaway (I’ll come to that) using that ad, so whereas I can’t tell how much overall effect it had on my sales, or on the number of entries for the Giveaway, I like to think it did have some effect, considering that I did not really advertise the giveaway through other channels.

11.) Goodreads Giveaway

There is a pop-up widget right on my homepage telling you all you need to know about it. For the uninitiated, Goodreads is a great platform where people talk about books and other book-related stuff, post reviews, blog, exchange ideas, or simply support each other. I became a member some time ago and like to go there occasionally and exchange opinions with other authors or readers. Goodreads use to organize these giveaways for free. However, recently Goodreads has become a part of the Amazon universe, and as we know, in that universe nothing is for free. Except what they allow you, and a giveaway is not one of those things. Opinions are divided as to the usefulness of the whole process, but for 119 $ you are now allowed to give away 100 free copies of your book. So, essentially, you are buying your books from Amazon and the people on Goodreads distribute them to the interested readers. Theoretically, one could also gift copies of the book to random people, but the trick is exactly that – I do not know 100 random people who might be interested in my book. Goodreads does. So I pay them to share that knowledge with me (indirectly). Considering, however, that this really increases the visibility of the book on Goodreads, and has gained me some followers, I think it is not such a bad deal. I was convinced that I would have trouble collecting even 50 entries, but so far, almost 600 people had entered the giveaway and I am impressed by the number. For all of those who do not get a book, I would be quite happy to organize another promotion on Amazon and inform them when they can download the book at a reduced price, but I don’t have the means to contact all of them. I’ll try and post a notification on my Goodreads author page at some point – maybe they’ll see it.

12.) Reviews, reviews, and reviews!

Yeah, they are important. After a lot of effort and waiting, I finally got my first written review on the book “Neighbor”. Thank you so much, whoever you are, for taking the time to write how you liked my book. And even the comment that they found the end too short – I think that, too. I still think I had to make it that way because there was not much more to say after that last chapter and I had to finish the story somewhere, but when a reader complains that 400 + pages book is too short, it only shows that they really liked reading it and wanted more! I am inclined to write a whole extra chapter just for that one person, and if I find time I will 🙂 Having such a nice review attached to my book led to an increase in sales, I believe (because I’m sure it was not the amazon ads that helped). So, readers, please, review our poor books. Honest reviews are the best advertising there is. Having said that, yeah, I have been offered to pay for reviews, but I am not a fan of such things, so I won’t. Even if they try to make it sound like I am not really paying for reviews, but for presenting my book to potential reviewers, blah, blah… It’s paying for reviews, essentially. So,… no.

I’ve had many other interesting experiences in the past few weeks – signed up for a workshop on writing, will attend a romance writer’s week organized by ProWritingAid, am supporting the development of a new serialized fiction platform called Resurgence Novels, and have written two interviews about myself and my books. But more about that later. I’m obviously having a blast and will report back soon!

A Book Review of “At His Mercy”

I have grown somewhat tired of Greek billionaires and aliens, so for a change I decided to read something from the realms of fantasy. Fantastic creatures, magic, and a bit of romance – the next book on my list promised all that and more with the title “At His Mercy” and a subtitle Shadow Caster: Book1.

As before, to try to give an honest evaluation of all the books I read, I have decided to make several categories and give stars for each of them, plus the comments. Five stars is the maximum. The mean value from all categories will give the final review in terms of star numbers.

The Book: “At His Mercy”

By: Eve Edgeley

Published on: 1. August 2021

Publisher: Passion Prima Press

Page count: 68

Star rating so far: None at all! I’ll be the first one to comment on this book.

Review categories: 1.) Cover, 2.) Language, editing and formatting, 3.) Plot and believability, 4.) Character development

1.) Cover: ****

The book says cover design was done by Sara Porter and although design itself was not the worse one I’ve seen, it is a bit simple – a stock photo, a bit of photoshoping, and some fancy letters, all in dark tones as befitting the shadow caster. I see some space for improvement there.

2.) Language, editing and formatting: *****

Spelling and formatting are practically immaculate – which can’t be said for the heroine, especially after the dark elf has had his way with her (hark, hark). OK, I’ll stop my pitiful attempts at humor here and just say that the book is very decently written and as decently edited, although I was a bit put off by all the italicized words (which was used to emphasize them, I guess – but that’s my personal taste). The language is also OK, with words such as “brow”, “debauched”, “opportune” and, of course, “manhood” to add to the feeling that we are, indeed, dealing with the fantasy world, populated with mages and dark elves, who are mythical creatures excelling in bdsm and equipped not only with pointy ears, but also with impressive manhoods, apparently (a certain video by Cindy comes to my mind).

3.) Plot and believability: ****

Plot is straightforward and simple. Considering that the whole novelle is only 68 pages long, there is no time to lose, so the story goes straight to the point – Emari, a virgin mage, is kidnapped by dark elves, and left at the mercy of the Dark elven Prince, as the title already warned us would happen. He likes to torture his prisoners by forcing them with his magic to repeatedly orgasm, which seems to be a much more efficient method of extracting information than, let’s say, waterboarding. But, Emari has a secret of her own – she is a so-called mind mage, meaning that upon touching somebody, she can enter their minds and control them. Needless to say, the Dark Prince touches her eventually, with the full length of his manhood, which seems to be enough for her to establish control over him, but also to see the truth about dark elves, which puts her own people in not so favorable light.

I’ll stop here so as not to reveal everything (like Emari). Let’s just add that in the end the things develop in such way that humans and elves make an attempt at peace, which enables the two lovebirds to finally be together.

Was the plot engaging? Definitely! On the scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the hottest male character ever, the Dark Prince is probably 11. Emari is also cool and not only a wildcat as the Prince likes to call her, but a smart and compassionate person. Was the story believable? Mhmmm… kind of, but not always. Like, Emari takes control of the prince and after she has read his mind, basically, he, instead of killing her, or at least locking her up and throwing away the key, decides to release her. Because the elves are such gentlemen. And he does that after several pages of him telling her that he wants her to submit to him, that she should beg him (for sex), and that he will split her open (don’t ask). I would have been happier at this point if Emari had really managed to get away on her own, by controlling him. Also, later, another guy is introduced, making this a kind of unsuccessful love triangle, but it was just too short a story for the third guy. I didn’t really need him, and he didn’t have much to say anyway. The whole politics in the end was also kind of hard to believe, but OK, maybe I’m being overly picky.

4.) Character development: ****

Even though the story is relatively short, the characters are surprisingly well developed. We get glimpses of the history and the past of the Dark Prince, and Emari’s background is also mentioned (although the whole dating problematics that Emari was facing was more fit for a modern-day college than for the Temple City Academy of Magic). I didn’t like his name much – Toth reminded me of Tooth, which kind of spoiled it for me a bit. I also did not enjoy the whole dominant male thing, but that’s my personal taste, and if that’s what turns Emari on, well who am I to complain.

I liked how Emari and Toth went from being mortal enemies to longing for each other, but the opportunity to make this story more complex and engaging was, unfortunately, not used by the author, who has opted for making everything much simpler and too short (unlike other things…) Maybe in the next books the plot will get more complicated. I am looking forward to reading them if that turns out to be the case.

Overall rating: 4.25 *

For this type of fantasy romance, where Elves are well endowed and are not afraid to show it, and women are tough but like to submit to their partners in bed, it is a well-written book. It would have been even better if it was longer and more complicated. Such as it is, I have a feeling I have not read a book but the first chapter of it, which was rushed at some points (the story covers a period of 4 years!). Probably it is a way for the author to earn money, but I am still a fan of books being called books and stories being called stories.

“Requiem for a Genocide” – a book review

A welcome change from romance literature I usually read and review was the recent SF novel “Requiem for a Genocide” by Michael Drakich. I was really glad to receive an ARC copy from the author, who asked for an honest review in advance of the December publication of his book because I like reading SF a lot (Asimov, Clarke, Gibson, Lem, Strugazki brothers… you name it, I’ve read it, and now to add to the list – Michael Drakich!).

I will skip my usual rating system for this book and go straight to the point.

The main character in this book is a sentient warbot with four arms, the last of his generation, who is used in battles between two alien nations on the planet Mervos. Later on, the two nations unite and decide to use their warbots to kill some humans that happen to live among them – and that’s where the story takes off.

Although our robot is a murderous machine, he has feelings, an ability to learn and is loyal and brave. He also wants to be free from the robotic laws, hates loneliness and losing friends, and does not want to die. I could totally relate to that (minus the robotic laws, I guess). I liked him, as well as the human girl he was trying to save throughout the book. As their relationship developed, and he changed through his interaction with the girl, I liked him even more. Because I became so invested in these two characters, I enjoyed the book despite some of the problems I had with the world-building.

One other thing I liked was the representation of humans in the book as nice, compassionate, and not aggressive, supportive of other civilizations they encounter, in contrast to the way they have behaved throughout real history. I liked the idea that in the distant future when humans have discovered how to travel between the stars, they have also discovered how to be nobler, less destructive and less profit-orientated.

Coming to the weak sides of the story – I did not entirely like the world-building, as I mentioned. The planet Mervos is too much like Earth – the aliens are smaller, amphibian-like, have three fingers, but other than that, everything has a feeling of the rural USA, including farmhouses, small cities, living rooms with sofas, cars and shops and police stations. Even the clothing is similar. I would have liked greater differences there. Why does this alien civilization use an alphabet and a numeral system identical to the human ones? Also in naming their robots? A bit more fantasy from the author in inventing new worlds and aliens would have made the reading experience slightly more rewarding.

So, my final verdict is 4.5 *.

A warm, intelligent story with lovable characters and a lot of action, but with an alien world that is not alien enough to be called alien.