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Available Now: Only Human (Act One) by Leigh Holland

Between October 13th and 17th the e-book of Only Human (Act One) is FREE! Don’t miss it!

As advertised at Planetebooks! As featured at Shout My Book.

Both e-book and paperback now available at Amazon at Only Human.
Check out the book trailer at Only Human Book Trailer.
Hardcover and Large Print available at Lulu Books.
The website for the book series is at Only Human Book.
Check out the latest review of Only Human at  Only Human at Tome Tender.

The latest review is at The Writer’s Scrap Bin.
Check it out!

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50 Tailwind Tribes You Can Join Today

50 Tailwind Tribes You Can Join Today

By Leigh Holland.

What is Tailwind? Tailwind is an app that schedules pins on Pinterest and Instagram. It’s free to join at the time of this post. Tailwind also offers paid options to take your Pinterest account to the next level. When used properly, the app saves tons of time for busy bloggers on Pinterest.

I’m still relatively new to Tailwind, but I love its features thus far. It has analytics, pin inspector, and new content by other bloggers. It also has Tailwind Tribes. These tribes are similar to group boards in that the members abide by the tribe’s rules and share each other’s pins. You can create your own tribe and invite others to join as well.

Make sure you obey the group’s rules or you may be booted. The rules are usually a 1 for 1 (or 1 for 2) pin share arrangement, vertical attractive pins, and higher quality content. Each tribe may post a variation of their own.

The downside is that there’s no way to search within Tailwind for new tribes to join. Here’s a few tribes you can join in Tailwind Tribes (mine is the first one):

Writing Prompts and Tips

All Things Beautiful

Best Bloggers Pins

Teamwork Pinning

Striving Bloggers

Blogging Friends Pins

Pinterest Friends

The Millennial Life

Recipes

Mmmm Recipes

All Healthy Vegetarian Recipes

Clean Eating Recipes

Fabulous Food Pinners

Practical Mommy Lifestyle

Special Needs Parenting

Everything Baby

Mom’s The Word

What Matters To Mommy

Oh Baby Baby!

Christian Bloggers Faith

Marriage

MilSpouse Bloggers

Kid Stuff

Baby & Kids Clothing & Fashion

Baby Registry and Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Blogging Tips

Bloggers Chalkboard

Small Business

Books

Christian Bloggers Book Club

Travel Pinspiration

Faith Bloggers Pins

Style Tribe: Fashion and Beauty

Over 40 Style Bloggers

Fashion and Beauty Tribe

Homeschool Cheer (Secular)

Home Design and DIY

DIY Bloggers

All Things Crafty

Personal Growth

Everything Yoga

Family Friendly Quotes and Memes

Social Media Gurus

Profitable Blogging Tips

Personal Finance Tips and Tricks

Wanderlust Crew

Themed Parties/Movie Nights

Big Is Beautiful

Amazing Mom Bloggers of Color

Party Ideas

Personal Finance Junkies

The Shocking New York Times Bestseller Debacle That Won’t Die

The Shocking New York Times Bestseller Debacle That Won’t Die

By Leigh Holland.

August 16th, 2017 started out as a normal day. By the end of it, Lani Sarem’s debut novel Handbook For Mortals: Book 1 of The Series had been released, had risen to the Number 1 coveted spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List, and later completely disappeared from it.

Who is Lani Sarem? According to the site for the book series, Sarem has wanted to be famous since she started acting at 3 years old, and has worked as the manager for Blues Traveler and The Plain White T’s, worked at various festivals, and has had small parts in various films. She wrote her first movie script at age 11 according to her bio. Sarem always wanted to be famous, and now she has her wish, though it may not have manifested in the way she may have hoped. On the release date of her new book, the YA community went ballistic. Why?

 

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Photo by Lisa Hendricks, Billboard 2017

 

Normally, there would’ve been ‘buzz’ about the book’s upcoming release. ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) would’ve been sent to as many book reviewers as possible. Possibly some money would’ve even been thrown at pre-release promotion. Since these things didn’t happen, writer Phil Stamper and a manager of a Broadway film site, Jeremy West, noticed the unknown author and book on the list and wondered why nobody in the YA book community had ever heard of her or the book. Stamper started a discussion that led to the revelation the 18,000 copies were likely ordered by Sarem herself. NYT removed the book from the list, although standard practice is usually to place a tiny dagger symbol next to books whose sales come from bulk orders, rather than remove them from the list.

To be fair to Sarem, I searched for internet buzz prior to the release date. I discovered there was some minor online promotional activity. There was a tweet from her popular cousin, This promo piece at Syfy.com, and this favorable promo piece in Hollywood Reporter. So there was a little buzz, just not within the YA community.

Sarem doesn’t seem interested in creating a brilliant literary masterpiece and admits she isn’t great with grammar. Lani Sarem wrote a movie script for “Handbook For Mortals” first. She partnered with Thomas Ian Nicholas of American Pie fame and GeekNation.com to produce the film. She realized that movies are more successful that are based on bestselling novels so Lani Sarem developed her screenplay into a Young Adult novel. It was a marketing decision.

She certainly isn’t the first author to buy bulk orders of her own book. Authors who’ve bought bulk copies of their own books include Jacqueline Susann, Al Neuharth, and Wayne Dyer. In fact, the reason the NYT now places a dagger next to books that made the list through bulk orders is thanks to Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy. In 1995, they spent $200,000 on buying their own book, spending 15 weeks in the top spot. Even so, not all books that hit the top through bulk orders are always identified with daggers. Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” hit the list through bulk orders but never had a dagger next to the title. Check out ResultSource Article for 15 more authors who’ve done the same thing. It appears anyone with enough money can buy their way onto the list.

Is the truth as simple as Lani Sarem’s detractors make it out to be? According to Sarem, it’s not precisely true. With the backing of GeekNation for the film and book project, Sarem and Nicholas toured the convention circuit for WizardCon and Comic Con. They appeared together and promised Nicholas’ fans an autographed hardbound copy of the book upon release for $35 now. Most of them paid in cash. Sarem said that thousands of copies were sold this way. Although usual practice is to order pre-order copies from the publisher, Sarem and Nicholas called various booksellers and asked if they were reporting to the NYT. Those who said they were, they placed orders for the books with. They ordered both the pre-orders they needed to fill and copies to sell at their planned Con circuit tour throughout the next year.

Some people claim this is a fabrication and that it’s preposterous that the types of people who attend these conventions would be interested in this product in such large numbers. I’m not saying it’s true or not as there’s no irrefutable proof either way. However, I’ve been to these types of conventions, and it’s plausible that fans of the American Pie franchise (you’d be surprised how numerous they are) would pay $35 for an autographed copy of a book version of an upcoming film the actor plans to help produce and play a role in. $35 is super cheap for anyone’s autograph at a convention. At Atlanta’s recent Con, the lowest price for anyone’s autograph started at $70- no book included. But in cash, you ask? Yes, I can attest Con goers carry wads of cash for the purpose of splurging on something they didn’t expect to see but want to get.

Assuming Sarem’s version of events is accurate, and these are almost entirely pre-ordered copies they placed bulk orders for, has knowing this doused the flames of wrath among readers and others in the community? No, it hasn’t. People either don’t believe her version, which is their right as there is no proof to back up her assertion, or those who do still see such activity as “gaming the system”. Sarem and Nicholas are of the opinion that no matter how they made the pre-order sales, it’s only fair the book reached #1 the week they filled their orders. If what they’ve said is true, it’s not a scam, so why would even those who believe them still accuse them of gaming the list?

People believe the NYT Bestseller List is indicative of quality. Demand produces sales. It stands to reason if enough people want something it must possess a certain level of quality. However, this is not always true. We’ve all read bestsellers that weren’t very good and lower sellers that were excellent. The New York Times shrouds its methods for producing the list in secrecy, but some things are known. Fast sales of a book places it on a list rather than long term slower sales. The list is reflective of the ever-changing dynamic market from week to week. If person A writes a book that sells a million copies over the next 50 years, it is a widely sold product and will never make it on the list. If person B writes a book and sells 6,000 copies its first week but never sells another copy it will make it onto the list for that week. In other words, we tend to forget the list is sales statistics, indicative of quantity in short bursts of time. (Please note that as a result of a 1983 lawsuit brought by author William Peter Blatty, the courts ruled the list is not objective sales statistics but editorial content.).

There are other issues as well. Since both wholesale and retail outlets report in, some sales are double counted, giving false numbers.Wholesalers and retailers have been known to manipulate the data they send in so as to inflate the popularity of a book and then sell a lot of their own copies of said book. Once a book makes it anywhere on the list, it’s given tons of free promotion to try to boost sales, ensuring it continues moving up in the charts. And finally, because there are serious long range financial benefits from appearing on the list, the competition to appear there is fierce. Is it any wonder authors and publishers have tried to find ways to make it into the list for such benefits? In fact, according to some booksellers (example) it’s common practice for authors and publishers to buy bulk orders for future signing events then buy it back as remainders, which won’t change sales on the list.

Is Sarem simply an outsider who used unconventional methods to achieve sales, or did she have help from a disreputable company? According to this story at Vulture.com, two of the callers placing the orders used email addresses with the domain name of “Author Book Events”, which doesn’t even exist. One of them gave a phone number to the bookseller and the phone number with a 706 area code for Krista Tetreault. Krista Tetreault is an employee of ResultSource. Sarem admitted in the referenced article that they had indeed “hired a company to help them orchestrate a targeted bulk-buying campaign” but that all sales came from real convention goers. Indeed, if they didn’t, where did the money come from to pay ResultSource’s exorbitant fee as well as buy 18,000 books?

As of 10/1/17, Sarem’s novel has 98 customer reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 2 stars. Goodreads has 284 ratings averaging 1.2 stars out of 5. How much of this is due to bias because of the controversy and how much is honesty? I’ve decided to purchase and review Handbook For Mortals. I’m going to suspend my usual rules of not posting a negative review in the event it’s honestly as bad as everyone says it is. Nobody requested that I review it. I want to give it a review I know without a doubt is honest.

I’ve completed my honest review and you may read it at Handbook For Mortals.

Updates To Amazon’s Review Policy Every Author Needs To Know About

Updates To Amazon’s Review Policy Every Author Needs To Know About

(Effective 9/28/2017)

By Leigh Holland.

Reviews! Every author and/or publisher needs them. I’ve heard some authors say that the purpose of a review is to help the author. This is inaccurate. The purpose of a review is to provide information to other readers and honest feedback to the author. The honest feedback to the author is so the author can improve their craft. The information provided to other readers is to bring the readers who would enjoy the book together with said book. Reviewers, in short, are literary matchmakers. Many of us are writers and bloggers, too.

Indie publishers and self-published authors have voiced complaints repeatedly and loudly about Amazon’s faulty review system. Amazon has finally listened and made some changes. Authors need to be aware of these changes and how it impacts the reviewing world. Notably, Amazon has filed a lawsuit against individuals who were offering paid services to writers, such as having bots borrow an author’s book through Kindle Unlimited on multiple sham accounts and reading the book hundreds of times in a single day. Kindle Unlimited bases how much of the pot of money authors earn through the program on number of pages read. This practice puts more cash in the hands of the authors who use these services, as well as boosting their book into the number 1 spot for a brief time (which temporarily helps boost marketing within Amazon and sales), at the expense of authors who have followed the rules. They’re also suing persons who use sham accounts to post multiple 5 star reviews for cash without ever having read the book in question. These practices are universally seen as unethical and authors unanimously welcome this turn of events.

Already, some authors in Facebook land have noticed other less welcome changes were made. I happened upon a discussion yesterday in which the author was told that one of her fans who Friended her on Facebook tried to leave a review, but Amazon refused. A couple of other authors chimed in, having experienced the same thing. The updated guidelines indicate anyone who is a relative, friend, employer, co-worker, or business associate is barred from leaving a review. This potentially includes anyone an author has friended on Facebook through their personal account. As one author lamented, “Wow. I’m going to have to unfriend everyone. Everyone.”

It’s not profitable for Facebook to encourage authors to friend their fans and market themselves and their work in a more interpersonal manner. That method is free, delights the fans, and costs the author nothing. It would theoretically make good business sense to Facebook to work with Amazon so that they can push authors to unfriend their fans, get a Facebook page, and pay for advertising. Now THAT would turn a profit. But it’s their business model, their site, so as long as they’re disclosing how user information is used and shared, Facebook can collect and share everything about users the users willingly give them. 

Amazon has insisted since 2015 that it has mechanisms in place to determine if a Facebook friend is really a friend or not.  If that’s true, that’s both terrifying and reassuring. Terrifying the level of invasiveness, reassuring it may not, after all, affect most friended fans of authors. It’s possible there was some other reason the algorithm prevented those specific fans from leaving reviews. Maybe those fans went to the same high school as the author, for example. Amazon carefully guards how this algorithm works, so it’s difficult to assess its level of fairness.  

But I digress. Here are the other important updates to community guidelines authors need to know about:

  1. Incentivized reviews (ARC copies, free copy of book in exchange for an honest review) are prohibited as of 9/28/2017. Only those through the Amazon Vine program qualify. There is one caveat: authors and publishers can give away free copies of their books but an expectation of a review cannot be part of that process. I can’t tell you if I accept your request if you send me that book in your email, nor can I request a free book from you if I plan to post my review on Amazon. Naturally, my guidelines for book reviews must change. You can view those here.
  2. The customer has to have spent at least $50 on Amazon using a credit or debit card in order to leave a review.
  3. Customers are limited to 5 non-Amazon verified purchase reviews per week.
  4. Anyone under a shared or family subscription service is barred from posting a review as they may be biased.

Amazon’s guidelines on this are at this site and here.

This article was updated 9/30/17 to remove my time traveling rant about Facebook issues with less user friendly design and to include general information about Amazon’s past statements regarding its review algorithm.