Posts tagged: book contests

How to Buy a Good, High Quality Self-published or Indie-published Book or eBook

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy. This is the cover of a self-published book. It's won 4 national awards, mostly in visionary fiction and has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.

Talk to readers  about self-published books and eBooks  and you’ll often hear the same thing: Their quality sucks. (I’m including books/eBooks produced by independent presses in the same category.) From the story to the writing, editing, proofreading, interior and cover design, someone (and often many someones) will find them lacking. Me, for instance. I’ve bought some real turkeys.

Here are a few evaluations of self-pubbed books from the Net:

We’ve all bought them: abominable self-published books. We can complain about them forever. But how can we guard against them?

I have two ideas that may separate the cream from the dreck: contest wins and star ratings on major review sites.

Contest wins. Here I’m talking about contests for independent presses, not the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Award, the Nobel Prize, the Nebula Award and all the other big “official” contests. You can read books that have won the prime-time awards and be pretty assured of getting a good read. Or not. The most boring book I’ve ever read was a Pulitzer Prize winner. Exquisite words. No action. I developed a rule for judging my reading material: A book should show some movement by the 50% point. Some small sign of life. Anything.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could. This book won five national awards and has a 5-star average review on Amazon. It is published by an independent press.

OK. We’re talking about self-published and independently published books, so we’ll look at their contests. Here’s an article (by me) about how to win a book contest. I’ve won 21 awards in national book contests at this point in my career. (They’re listed here somewhere, except for the last four, which haven’t been posted yet. I am an author (self-published) and owner of an independent press, just to stay honest.)

When you read the article about what it takes to win an indie book contest, I think you’ll realize that books that win contests have been screened for quality. I doubt the major publishers do anything like what I describe in producing their books.

I have been involved in the judging of one contest and I will say that YOU CANNOT BELIEVE HOW GOOD THE BOOKS PRODUCED AT THE TOP END OF THE INDIE PUBLISHING WORLD ARE. They are amazing. Indie publishers will go far beyond what the majors do if they’re really committed to a book.

And the low end, even in contests, the books are awful. But those books don’t win.

So, as a consumer, you should feel somewhat confident in buying prize winners. Just as you should in buying Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winners.  There’s the rub: It’s a matter of taste. If you buy the wrong book in the wrong genre, it’s a bad book for you, no matter what it’s won. I can’t read Cormac McCarthy’s bloody tomes, though they’re critically acclaimed.

These links list few contests for independent publishers that I like:

SPR Self Publishing Review

Publishing Basics: A Book Award Adds Value to Your Book

Reader Views: Literary Awards

Benjamin Franklin Awards

You might want to check out the winners of the contests listed there. My recommendation is not a guarantee that you’ll like the books.  A contest win is a screening device.

Numenon Cover

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. This book won 6 national awards, has a 4.5 star Amazon review rating. It was #1 rated in three types of mysticism for almost a year. This is an indie book.

Star Ratings on Amazon and the Other Review Sites

“Oh, Amazon reviews don’t mean anything. They’re rigged. The authors get their friends and family to review their books,” says almost everyone who’s never tried to get a review.

Hah! Maybe I’ve got the wrong friends and family, but that just ain’t true. It’s hard to get reviews. We sent out 100 copies of my children’s picture book, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could. It’s got a five star average with ten reviews on Amazon, very few of them from folks who got review copies. I’ve been in a book group for fifteen (15!) years. I used my book The Angel & the Brown Eyed Boy for my selection of the month when it came out. I made two personal appeals for reviews and three emailed ones. Nada.

I didn’t get a single review from my best buddies. Even more: I handed out a bunch of copies of both books at my church group, asking my friends to read and review them. They all raved about the books after reading them and said they would write reviews right away. Six months later, not a single review has shown up from that group.

Know John Locke? He’s the self published author who broke history by selling more than one million books earlier this year. He published his marketing plan as an aid to other authors and  independent presses. Do you know what he said was one of the most difficult things to accomplish? Getting five 5-star reviews to start out with. Took him two months of work, and he’s a marketing master.

So, if you know someone with lots of friends who are rigging their Amazon reviews, send them to me. I wouldn’t mind a little help. My books’ mostly 5 star average reviews were earned.

Other sites, Goodreads for instance, and Barnes & Nobel.com, provide reviews. I don’t have much experience with them, though I can say that the ratings on Goodreads tend to be lower than on Amazon and often have a cavalier quality. Readers can just punch a button to give a book a star rating. They don’t have to say anything about why they gave the rating or even if they read the book. But that star rating is permanent and can lower a book’s standing.

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice. This 5-star rated book won six national awards. It was a Finalist in the Benjamin Franklin Awards in Spirituality. This was the first book of an indie press.

Reviews go two ways, too. I like the way John Locke looks at his reviews in terms of his market segment. When analyzing his reviews, John regards the people giving his books 4 and 5 stars as people in is market segment. Those are the people for whom he writes the books. He tosses out all the 3-star reviews, as being neither good nor bad. The people who give his books 1 or 2-star reviews are those who have mistakenly bought a book that’s not for them. His books are self-screening; those that like them buy more, those that don’t, don’t buy more. His review averages are rising over time.

There is another side of reviewing: Authors can get slammed with bad reviews that really indicate the purchaser bought a book in the wrong genre. I guess we publishers should make sure the book covers, flaps, and marketing materials convey the book’s content. Authors can also be attacked by rivals in organized campaigns of negative reviews and have their books saleability destroyed. It’s true.

Life is risky and so are on-line reviews.

Here’s an interesting idea: Here are a couple of sites where all the books listed must have a minimum rating of four stars on at least 10 reviews by different reviewers.

Four Stars and Up: Kindle Books Loved by Readers  Lots of good reading there. You can download the books onto your Kindle, or use the recommended books to buy print or eBooks for other formats.

Facebook Group: 4 Stars & Up  This is an Open Group on Facebook that requires authors to meet the 10 book/4 star minimum review to participate. This is a great place for readers to interact with independent press owners and self publishers. You may find they and their books are way higher quality than you thought.

Remember the genre issue: If you buy a book and hate it, it doesn’t mean it’s a terrible book. It may mean that you don’t like horror, chick-lit, or cozy-mysteries and that’s what you’ve bought.

OK. I hope you’re armed and ready to take on the self publishing universe.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan
I hope my little slide show has convinced you that self published books can be very good.
Winner of twenty-one  national awards

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

.

 

 

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could Wins the 2011 Silver Nautilus Award!

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, by Sandy Nathan, is a Silver Nautilus Book Awards Winner!

Press Release. April 25, 2011:

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could by Sandy Nathan has won the  2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Grades 1-6).

The Nautilus Award recognizes books, audio books, and e-books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living & positive social change. In addition to its awards for adult literature, the Nautilus Awards recognize distinguished contributions to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults. Previous winners include: Echart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and . . . Sandy Nathan . Author Sandy Nathan also won the 2009 Silver Nautilus in the Indigenous/Multicultural category with her novel Numenon. (Once on the link, scroll down to find Numenon.)

“I’m terribly excited about this win,” says author Sandy Nathan. “The Nautilus Award means so much to me. It’s purpose––recognizing life-enhancing, life-changing literature and spoken art––aligns with my life’s purpose––producing books that enhance and change the lives of those around me. I couldn’t be happier.

Tecolote’s win is especially meaningful. The little premature and soon-orphaned horse in the book grew up to be my horse. He’s the only horse we own who is reliable enough for me to ride. I’ve got a replaced knee, fused ankle and a couple of other physical dings that make me very cautious about getting on a horse. Tecolote is my boy. He takes care of me.

“One of the things about horses that makes them so special is the way they bond with human beings. Or maybe it’s the way we bond with them. Whatever. Teco and I are bonded. That’s a sweet experience.

“We thought Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a natural for the Nautilus Awards. Tecolote’s been inspiring us since he showed us his will to live after being born prematurely and then losing his mother when he was so young. His sweet story of trouble and triumph inspires children and adults.”

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

What are the reviewers saying about Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could?

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could has a five star average (as high as it can go) on its Amazon reviews. Here are a few words reviewers have said about the book:

Rebecca Johnson, Amazon Top Ten Reviewer: “Sandy Nathan is such a good story teller you will be captivated from the first word until the last. She has included adorable pictures which make the story come alive. This is such a warm and amusing tale it made me laugh out loud a few times. I loved how Sandy Nathan explains how horses grow up and need special attention to be well mannered and tame. This is not just a children’s book, it will be enjoyed by people of all ages. What a lovely book.”

L.C. Evans, author Talented Horsewoman: “The book is beautifully illustrated with photos of Tecolote and the other horses on the farm. It would be a great gift book for horse lovers of all ages. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is written simply enough so children can read it themselves, but it will also appeal to adults.”

Zippora Karz, author The Sugarless Plum: I absolutely loved this book! Through Tecolote’s journey we feel the love of a mother for her child, (horse for filly and colt), how to find friends, play with them, and create mischief as well. This is a story for any age. I cried and laughed and marveled at all the ways love can be expressed in our lives.

* * *

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is available on Sandy Nathan’s Web Site and on Amazon in print and Kindle forms.

Tecolote as a paperback book.

Tecolote as a Kindle book.

Tecolote: The Grown-up Horse

From Sandy Nathan: “My preference is the paperback book. It’s color, inside and out. The book is beautiful. In addition to all the photos, the print book has a header and footer on each page. The header––a long strip across the top––is clouds and blue sky. The footer is green grass. They emphasize the country feeling of the book.”

“On the other hand, you can download the Kindle version in a minute and be reading it. You can’t beat the price: 99 cents. I was very pleased at how the pictures came out in the Kindle book. Very clear, though black and white.

“We’re working on getting Nook, Sony, and iPad versions ready.”

 

Ringbinder theme by Themocracy