Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: It's a Big World, Little Pig!

It’s a Big World, Little Pig!

By: Kristi Yamaguchi
Illustrated by: Tim Bowers
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-1402266447
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 1, 2012

Last year, Kristi Yamaguchi introduced young readers to Poppy, an adorable little pig who dreamed of being an ice-skating star in Dream Big, Little Pig! With the success of that book, Yamaguchi has penned a follow-up, It’s a Big World, Little Pig!

In this tale, Poppy is invited to Paris, France to compete in the World Games. She’s excited but at the same time, frightened of traveling so far from home. Her friends and family tell Poppy to dream big and go for it. Poppy decides to take their advice and make the trip to Paris.

Arriving at the World Athlete Village, Poppy is quite nervous. The village is so big and there are so many people wandering here and there; how will Poppy find her way around? Will the other competitors speak the same language and will Poppy make any friends?

This book shows young readers that while people from other places may look and sound different, we are, truly, all the same. Poppy’s fears are quickly dissipated as she makes friends and learns a few words in other languages. While the story is somewhat appealing, its universal message of friendship is not expressed that uniquely and the ending is quite predictable. The writing is rather stilted and lines such as “Paris was far away from Poppy’s home in New Pork City,” stick out as an attempt at “cuteness” that fail to amuse. The celebrity status of the author will no doubt sell more books than this title would normally garner for such a story. However, with the outstanding illustrations by Tim Bowers, the book should appeal to many children.

Quill says: The illustrations are the real stars of this rather ordinary tale.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: The Titanic for Dummies

The Titanic for Dummies

By: Stephen Spignesi
Publisher: For Dummies
Publication Date: February 2012
ISBN: 978-1118177662
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 27, 2012

With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking looming (April 14-15, 2012), there will, no doubt, be a myriad of books published to commemorate the event. The popular “Dummies” series, which has published books on such varied topics as meditation to stock investing, has jumped into the fray with their offering, The Titanic for Dummies. For those intrigued by the legend that is the Titanic, this is one book that will put everything neatly together in an interesting and educational package.

The Titanic for Dummies is broken up into six parts - A Century of Legend, The Titanic Sinks on its Maiden Voyage, Exploring Enduring Titanic Mysteries, The Quest to Recover the Titanic, The Titanic in Popular Culture, The Part of Tens (short chapters with top tens lists). The chapters within each part examine just about everything you could think of related to the giant ship from what passengers ate, how they entertained themselves, the sinking, the investigations (including testimony), and even debunking myths.

While there are not many photos in this book, that’s truly the only thing I would change. The book was well written and for anybody interested in the topic, it will prove fascinating. The sections with background on passengers and their fates, as well as survivors’ accounts, lend a realism that proves quite haunting. The history of the Titanic isn’t simply a history of a ship sinking, but of lives lost, families torn apart, and the aftermath of what surviving such a horrible night had on so many people.

Quill says: Author Stephen Spignesi is to be commended for putting together such a complete, fascinating, insightful book that examines every facet of the Titanic.

Book Review: After the Storm

After the Storm
By: Anthony F. Rando
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61346-641-4
Reviewed by: Eloise Michael
Review Date: February 2012

After the Storm is a visually appealing book with glossy pages and color photos throughout. The poems are divided into categories—poems about love, nature, healing, remorse, emptiness. The collection as a whole is tied together by threads of metaphor, imagery, nature, and love. The latter two, though they have sections of their own, are at the heart of all the poems in this collection. Author Anthony Rando experiments with sonnets and acrostic poems, but most of his work is free verse. The poems are short, each a snapshot of a moment, an image, or an emotion.

The sense of place Rando creates in each piece is the most striking element of his work. After reading the collection, I was left with images of the sea, of storms, and of evening skies. The glossy, full-page nature photographs, which accompany the poems, add to the overall feeling that one is in a beautiful place.
Any reader will come away with an appreciation for the depth of Rando's devotion to the woman in his life. She is present throughout, even in poems that are not specifically written about her. Though love poems have a section unto themselves, they spill into the other chapters, as well, where nature is a metaphor for love, or love leads to the emotions which Rando uses to title the sections. For example, the collection of poems on healing contains the piece (pg. 63):

She Mends Me

Her smile was like watching
The sun rising on my soul

Her laughter could heal
The empty river of my beating heart

Her touch could erase the memories
Of the past that shattered my soul

Her whispers soft like the wind
On a cool summer morning

Her eyes could tell a story
Of endless love

With each passing glance
Her love
Is the beauty of her soul

Her heart helped me to love again
She mends me

There are many poems, however, in which Rando speaks directly to or about his beloved. The collection opens with the lines, “I am falling into the deepest ocean, Immersed in the love we share, Drowning for you with each breath I take.” (“The Shoreline,” pg. 13)

Rando's work is filled with raw emotion. The poems are honest and personal. The passion in his words seems true to the moment he felt it first, his love all-consuming, eclipsing other emotions. After the Storm will be particularly appealing to readers who are overflowing with this depth of love themselves, or perhaps to readers who dream that someone will write similar verses about them.

Quill says: Images of beauty combine with passionate emotions in poems about love and loss.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Books In For Review

Here's a sample of the books that came in this week for review.  Check them out and then stop by our review site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews, in a few weeks to read the reviews.

The Wizard Who Saved the World by Jeffrey Bennett

The Titanic for Dummies by Stephen Spignesi The Titanic For Dummies paints the whole picture of the most famous maritime disaster. It examines the building of the ship, life onboard during its maiden voyage, tragic decisions made that fateful night, the discovery of the wreck, and the many controversies that have emerged in the century since the sinking.

The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner In West Akron, Ohio, there lived a reclusive elderly man who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family; all over town, he was known as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day, someone murdered him. Fast-forward four years. David Neff, the bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, is a broken man after his wife’s inexplicable suicide. When an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of “the man with a thousand mittens,” David decides to investigate. What he finds draws him back into a world he thought he had left behind forever. And the closer David gets to uncovering the true identity of the Man from Primrose Lane, the more he begins to understand the dangerous power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both the old hermit and his beloved wife.

 Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

 The Quiet Mind: How to attain and maintain inner peace in eleven seconds

Gods, Gangsters & Honour: A Rock 'N Roll Odyssey by Steven Machat As the son of the legendary showbiz lawyer Marty Machat, Steven Machat grew up among such names as Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Frankie Valli, and Sam Cooke. Following in his father's footsteps, by the time he was in his late 20s he was proud to see his name alongside his father's on the brass plaque outside their Broadway offices. But there was a price—Steven discovered from a young age that the glitter and the glamour too often disguises a crude and cruel reality, and that those who are publicly perceived as gods can just as easily be seen as gangsters. He found himself wondering how to live with such contradictions, and whether it is possible to maintain any sense of honor inside such a world. This beautifully constructed memoir of a life inside a fascinating world of celebrity includes appearances by Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson, David Copperfield, Sharon Osbourne, George Bush, Phil Collins, Suge Knight, Tupac, Biggie, Gianni Versace, Phil Spector, Joan Collins, Donny Osmond, Bobby Brown, and many more.  

Slide by Jill Hathaway Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister's friend Sophie didn't kill herself. She was murdered. Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn't actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else's mind and experiences the world through that person's eyes. She's slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed "friend" when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie's slashed body. Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can't bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she's been spending more time with Zane. Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.  

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin Everything is in ruins. A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them. So what does Araby Worth have to live for? Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all. But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

IPG No Longer Selling ebooks via Amazon

If you've been following news from the publishing world, no doubt you've heard about this:

Amazon Will Pay Sales Tax in Virginia

Chalk one up for Virginia for deciding to close the 'Amazon loophole' that allows the giant online retailer to avoid paying sales tax.  Per the Washington Post, Amazon has agreed to start paying sales tax for sales made in Virginia several months after they build two large warehouses in the state.

>>Read the article - 'Amazon loophole’ to close in Virginia

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And Not to Be Outdone... Amazon, Barnes& also has some serious issues. While the use of the English language was better, that's about all I can say to this response to a query.  Note - I wrote them asking when they'd get their review software fixed so that it would once again be possible to edit reviews.  This problem has been going on for a couple of months.

>>>We reviewed your concerns regarding editing your review. Your feedback
is very important to us at Barnes & Noble and we appreciate your taking
the time to send us your opinion. We assure you that we have reviewed
the issues you have raised with the appropriate department. We truly
value your patronage; your online shopping experience is extremely
important to us.


I think that means they know about the problem and are working on it but don't know when it will be fixed.  But then again, I really think it means they inserted a line about my "concerns" and then finished the paragraph with their form letter.  Sigh.....


A friend just shared an email he received from Amazon customer service.  Now, I know they outsource to India but really, could they at least get people who understand English?  His email read, in part (names, acct. #s removed to protect the innocent):

When researched the account, I see two accounts, with the name xxx (Seller ID: xxx) and xxx (Seller ID: xxx), out of which the one with the Seller ID: xxx is closed. 

Please let us know as to which account you want to close so that we can go ahead and do the needful.


While you can't see it because I've xxx'd out the names/account numbers, this agent referenced THREE account numbers for the two accounts, both of which are still open, not closed, as the agent seems to imply.  I'm not just confused by his language, but also his account math.  Geesh.

Local Bookstores vs. Amazon

Interesting interview discussing local bookstores vs. Amazon on the Colbert Report.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview with Author Tess Collins

Today we're talking with Tess Collins, author of Helen of Troy

FQ: What inspired you to base a novel on the legend of Helen of Troy?

I've always loved mythology but the basis for the novel came from a real life situation of finding myself as the object of affection between two really terrific men and having to make a difficult choice. Of course, I wasn't married and had never found myself in that situation before or since, but it's not as enviable as one might think. As I was pondering my own circumstances, an odd thing happened every night as I lay in bed. I started hearing Helen's voice in my head and she started telling her story. At first, I didn't realize who she was or what kind of story this would be, but I knew some character was wanting to be born. So I transcribed her words, applying the writer's craft along the way, and Helen's book shaped up into a tale all it's own. Out of moon-looney emotion come art! Helen of Troy is myth-based fiction as opposed to metafiction. James N. Frey describes metafiction in The Key, How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, as being “...nothing more than authorial sleight of hand. Metafiction grotesquely turns myth-based fiction into an academic exercise, a parlor game for the well-read classicist.” In contrast, Helen of Troy is its own story, a struggle where the characters are transformed through conflict. Subjects explored in this novel are pride, passion, friendship, and the effect of the past upon the present.

FQ: Did you find that having a basic plot already in place made it easier to write this book than your other novels? Or was it more difficult to come up with a fresh take on a well-known story?

I believe all human beings respond to a mythic structure, whether they know it or not. Myth is an obsession of mine because it delves into our collective psyches. The Helen myth has a basic structure that is familiar but I needed to make the old new and the situations fresher, add elements that are different from the original, eliminate others. I also added a great deal of humor in this story that you rarely see in other renderings of the myth. The myth is basically a tragedy while in this story everyone ends up where they need to be, a great deal wiser even though most of them would never admit it.

Author Tess Collins

FQ: You did a great job of reminding the reader of the key points of the Helen of Troy legend throughout the book. I really appreciated this, because my Greek mythology is pretty rusty. Can you recommend any good, readable sources that you came across in your research for anyone interested in reading the original story in more detail?

I sure can. Caroline Cooney's Goddess of Yesterday and Clemence McLaren's Inside the Walls of Troy are novels that tell a more traditional story of the Trojan War; and of course, Homer's The Iliad reigns supreme. And here's a couple cool websites:

FQ: You included some really lovely descriptions in the story, such as the moonbows, orchids, and ice castle, which gave it a kind of fairytale quality. Do you plan out these scenes or do they just come to you as you write?

I'd been wanting to use the moonbow in a story for a long time since it is a phenomena that occurs only a few places in the world, and one of those places is Cumberland Falls near where I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Love is the one emotion that unhinges even the most stable of us and the moon plays right into that lunacy, shall we say. So this story seemed the perfect placement for the moonbow. Orchids, as well, are one of the most seductive flowers in the world and there's a whole cult of the orchid among those who grow them. It's been said one bitten by the orchid bug, you're never the same again. They call it orchid fever. As for the ice castle, I knew I had to come up with some sort of Trojan Horse and it would have to be something readily available in a small mountain town. When I come up against a story issue where I'm not sure what to do, I ask myself--what have I never seen before or what would be really fun here—an ice castle popped into my head.

FQ: Your work in theater management must have exposed you to a lot of great dramas. Do you feel that this work has helped you in writing your own stories?

We have a saying in theatre that there is always more drama off the stage than on; and I've found this often to be true whether it three ushers in a love triangle or an engineer making death threats against me. I've had a great run in theatre and couldn't have asked for a better day job. I think there's a novel in the making about theater since I know where the bodies are buried and who has slept with whom, but I have to wait until a few more people die before I write it.

FQ: The picture you paint of small town life in Troy sounds both great, in the way people stick together and take care of each other, and somewhat confining, in the way that everyone knows everyone else’s business. Was growing up in Middlesboro at all like living in Troy?

In Helen of Troy, I've drawn the best parts of living in a small town, and in Middlesboro, there are many good people who would help you any way they can in times of need. It also has a colorful history of shootouts, murder, and mayhem. So, if you want to read about the dark side of living in a small town, try out one of my mysteries.

FQ: Your website says that you are currently living in San Francisco, but the Appalachian setting of your novels implies that this area is close to your heart. Do you have any plans to return there in the future?

Though I've lived in San Francisco for many years, Appalachia is in my blood. It's a place I love and hate, and as I've grown older I come to realize I'll never escape it's hold. When I go back to visit I'm always astounded by the beauty of the mountains; the wit and humor of my cousins; and the contrasts of poverty and crime. There are as many successful people there as poverty-ridden no-accounts who star in the documentaries. People battle for justice as they see it, and if that means a knock-down fistfight breaks out on election day, then there's gonna be a fight. Many of us who leave the area struggle with who we are in that page of history that is as bloody and infuriating as it is nostalgic. But don't bad-mouth our hometowns to us. We'll usually come out fighting to defend our heritage. Will I ever return there... yeah, probably, but there's a part of my mind and heart that really never left.

To learn more about Helen of Troy please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

The Best Press Release

Need something new, bright, unusual to catch the eye of your intended audience, be it reviewer, publicist, buyer?  Check out this rather, er, unusual press release.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Author Interview with Jessica Chambers

Today we're talking with Jessica Chambers, author of Dark is the Sky

FQ: I have to know, how did this story begin in your mind? Where did the idea stem from?

Like many of my ideas, this novel began with a single character, in this instance with a vivid picture of a handsome, dark-haired young man. Immediately, I knew several things about him. I knew he was dangerously sexy, a magnet for women and more than a bit of a rogue. I also knew he was dead. This raised a number of questions. How did he die? Was it suicide, or murder, or merely a tragic accident? What part did his family play in his death? How has grief impacted on their lives? And as I unravelled the answers to these questions, the story gradually emerged.

FQ: The characters are all so different - from pale and frightened as a rabbit to strong and bold. Is there one particular character you liked/identified with the most?

Ooh, that's so difficult. I love all my characters, even the obnoxious ones. I'm not a mother, but I suppose it's rather like having children. You love them no matter what! In terms of the relationship I enjoyed writing the most, it was probably that between Joel and Tim. I loved showing the closeness they once shared, all the stronger for them being best mates as well as identical twins, and it broke my heart when I had to drive a wedge between them.
Author Jessica Chambers

FQ: Complex relationships are usually extremely hard to put on paper in a way that allows the reader to understand every facet. And you're not even concentrating on one, but many. How were you able to make each one so concise? As a writer, do you lay out a 'game plan' on paper beforehand? Or, just head to the keyboard and begin?

First, thank you so much! It was certainly a challenge juggling so many complex relationships, working out what secrets to reveal when, so it means a lot that you feel I succeeded. I did have a pretty comprehensive outline before I started though. In fact, I've never yet attempted to write a novel without at least some idea where it's headed. I'm just not that brave! Of course, the story doesn't always go according to plan. Characters have a habit of taking on a life of their own and doing things I never expected of them, in which case I simply have to let them lead me where they want to go.

FQ: The story of Lottie and 'her secret love' was extremely interesting. Are you looking into perhaps writing YA one of these days? I think you have a gift for it.

That's really kind of you to say so, and funnily enough, I'm planning a young adult novel as we speak. I enjoyed writing Lottie and Adam's story so much, perhaps because our emotions are so powerful and all-consuming during that period between adolescence and adulthood. I also read an awful lot of YA fiction, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I felt the urge to attempt it myself.

FQ: Phoebe is one of the most interesting characters I've run across in contemporary novels. Did she come from life? Are any of these characters based on 'real' people, so to speak, or are they all from your imagination?

Oh no, fortunately poor, put upon Phoebe is entirely the product of my twisted writer's imagination. Come to that, before writing Dark is the Sky, I would have had no hesitation in saying that all my characters are one hundred percent fictional. This is one of the things I love most about being an author, creating multi-layered characters that will hopefully stay with readers long after they close the book. However, when I wrote the wild, outrageously sexy Scott Cameron, I realized there's rather too much of my ex in him to be wholly coincidental!

FQ: Could you tell readers what you're working on now?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm leaving behind the familiar territory of adult fiction and attempting my first YA novel. I have to admit, it's a long time since I've been this excited about a project. I suppose it could be classified as young adult crime, exploring friendship, sexual identity and the different forms of abuse. Think the edginess of Melvin Burgess meets the emotion of Jennifer Donnelly, and you’ll get the general feel.

FQ: I hate getting this question as a writer (?) so I, of course, have to ask. Who is your favorite writer? If you could sit down with one author and have dinner, who would it be?

Hahaha! You're right, that is a tough question. Being a total book addict, I'll read anything from women's fiction to crime, historical to paranormal, and my favorite authors change all the time. If I had to pick just one though, it would have to be J. K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is so skillfully plotted from start to finish, to the extent that apparently trivial details in earlier books turn out to be vital later on, and I'd love to pick her brains as to exactly how she pulled it off. Pure genius!

To learn more about Dark is the Sky please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are Your Facebook Pages Reaching Your Fans???

Great article on how to reach your fans once they've "liked" your page and moved on, never to return.     Uh, Oh! Facebook Pages Only Reach 17% of Fans

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In For Review!

Here's a sample of the books that came in today for review.  Check them out and then stop by our review site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews, in a few weeks to read the reviews.

After the Storm by Anthony Rando
The delicate petal of a flower, the roaring crash of a wave, the whispered prayer of a child. After the Storm unites gentle imagery with a depth of emotion.

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray The Queen’s Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel Von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year old Dauphine Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a life-long romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.

House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe Ghost Train to Freedom: An Adventure on the Underground Railroad by Faith Reese Martin

Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story by Terry Catasus Jennings The animals living in the forest are surprised when a mountain suddenly explodes, covering the land in gritty warm ash and rocks that make it unlivable for many plants and animals. Gopher survives in his underground burrow and gets to work, digging through the ash, and mixing it into the soil below. He works hard every day, and slowly some of the plants and animals return to the area. Will the forest ever be the same? Scientists spent years observing how life returned to the mountain following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. This fictionalized story is based on their surprising observations of how life returns to an area that has been totally changed or destroyed.

Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens!!!

Did you know?  Did you know that Charles Dickens turns 200 today?  Well, he would have if he'd lived...  Have you read a good Dickens tale lately?  Here's more news on my favorite author's birthday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Amazon Launching a "Real" Store

The rumors are true - Amazon has announced that it is launching a retail store, in the Seattle area, to test the waters.  I've had people tell me that Barnes&Noble is doomed but I'm not so sure (well, they may be doomed anyway but I don't think this store launch is the dooming mechanism).  Amazon's advantage has always been that they didn't have a real retail presence, didn't pay state taxes, didn't have retail overhead, etc.  I remember when Walden Books tried to go the small, "boutique" route.  It tanked.  Granted, it was a different time, they had different stock and couldn't compete with Amazon.  But running a retail business is not the same as running an internet business.  Who knows, maybe B&N will create an app so shoppers can price compare in Amazon's store!  What do you think?  Oh, and here's the article with more details about the new Amazon store.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feathered Quill Book Reviews is pleased to offer our readers the chance to win a FREE book. Once a month, we will award a brand new book to one lucky reader. Simply submit your email address below and you will be entered into our monthly contest. There is absolutely no cost to you - no cost for the book, no cost for shipping, nope, nada, nothing. Note: We NEVER sell our email addresses and in fact, delete them all after each contest.

February - This month our offering is a copy of The Persian Room Presents: An Oral History of New York’s Most Magical Night Spot by Patty Farmer. Simply fill out the simple form below and you'll be entered to win!

We will contact the winner on or about the first of the following month to confirm his/her mailing address. Again, we will NOT keep this address on file.

Entry rules are simple: Open to those with US shipping addresses only. One entry per person, per month. Individuals are welcome to enter the contest each month. If you do win, please wait three months before entering again. That's it. Good luck!   CLICK HERE TO GO TO CONTEST PAGE

Friday, February 3, 2012

Barnes and Noble - What's Up???

With all the hubbub about Amazon, you might think that some of us reviewers are rooting for Barnes&Noble to succeed and give them a run for their money.  And we are - sorta.  You see, we're hopeful that B&N will welcome reviewers to their site, and help us, and them, build a readership.  And they are - sorta.

B&N has never been very friendly to small press/self-published books/authors.  Amazon jumped on that boat early on and grabbed that market.  For self-published authors, all one has to do is join "Amazon Advantage" and bingo, you can start selling your book on Amazon.  B&N?  Not so simple.  Books had to be submitted to a self-publishing review section, where the book would be critiqued and, if you could prove that sales would be good, they might decide to carry your title.  More than likely, a self-pub author was left waiting and waiting and waiting for a reply.  Not sure why they did this other than, perhaps they didn't have a warehouse large enough to hold all those self-published books.  And/or, maybe they miscalculated the sales from these books.  Amazon certainly made a nice little profit off of them.

Amazon has left B&N in the dust in so many marketing areas that you have to wonder, what's up?  Does B&N not have a marketing department?  Or a lackluster website development team?  Take their "widgets."  You know, the images anyone can add to their website that leads directly to that product's buy page on Amazon, or B&N.  Again, Amazon jumped on this early and quickly and made it easy for people to use.  B&N?  Well, they have widgets but how many websites do you visit that use them?  I haven't seen any.

Recently, I was posting reviews to B&N and two of them wouldn't go through.  (Yet another klunky, poorly developed website service - can we say "formatting, please"???!!!  How about some paragraph formatting!!!  But I digress....)  Anyway, both gave error messages, saying the content violated their terms (guessing inappropriate language, although there was nothing in the reviews that was "inappropriate."  One was for a children's book!).  Problem #1 - it doesn't tell you what the problem is/what we did to violate their terms.  Problem #2 - there is no way to edit/remove/delete/re-post the review.  It's there, with a message telling me to fix it and then it can be posted but there's no way to fix it.  Really, B&N?  Really?   Hmmmm.... can't figure that one out.  The other?  A suspense novel - maybe the mention of a tv show in that review violated their terms.  I don't have a clue.

So on January 23rd I tried to get through to somebody at B&N to fix this problem.  I used their real-time customer support "chatroom" where you type back and forth.  Within a few back and forths, it was obvious that "Mandy" was in India.  Oh, joy, here we go.  What should have been a brief, few minute conversation took over 20 minutes.  I was put on hold several times, and it took "Mandy" ten minutes just to understand what my problem was.  Twenty minutes later, I was told that my problem was due to a "technical problem" that they were working on.  Geeze, thanks for wasting 20 minutes of my time! 

As of today, the "technical problem" has not been resolved.  I can't get into those reviews to re-post/fix, I've had other reviews go ker-blingy too and I'm frustrated.  Come on, B&N, I'm rooting for you but if these problems continue, you'll lose my support.

Books-A-Million Joins B&N

Yea!  Yes, I'm happy.  Companies are standing up to Amazon and their ridiculous assumption that brick and mortar stores will carry Amazon imprint's books.  Books-A-Million just announced that, like Barnes & Noble, they will not carry Amazon Publishing titles.  Good for you!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Amazon and B&N Duke It Out

If you've been following the slow, or not so slow, takeover by Amazon of the publishing world, then you already know that Amazon is now a "publisher," with several genres covered under its imprint AmazonEncore.  While they can sell books published under their imprint on their site, they've discovered that distribution through traditional channels has been a challenge.  It seems that, gee, book stores that have closed at an alarming rate in large part because of Amazon, don't want to carry their books (with a few exceptions here and there).  Now Barnes&Noble has announced that they, too, won't be carrying these books.  I say, "good for your B&N!"  Some people seem surprised and think this is a bad decision, but I say it's good.  We need at least one competitor to Amazon, one that can hold their own.  Amazon has held the advantage for too long and has been pushing too many people/companies around.  While I'm not sure if B&N will survive (see tomorrow's post on their blunders), I am hopeful.

Oh, and did you hear that Arizona has just filed a "10-k" tax report requesting that Amazon pay $53 million in back taxes?  Add this to the Texas battle for sales tax. There have been several such as Amazon vs. New York in which, the judge decided in NY's favor.  Meanwhile, other states are so eager for Amazon's business, that when Amazon announces plans to build a huge warehouse in their state, the legislators agree to terms not to charge sales tax.  Really?  And how is that fair to other businesses???

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.  Glad I'm watching for the sidelines!  What's your opinion?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Designing Your Own Book?

Here's a great article for self-publishers to help them understand the technicalities of book design and font usage/typeface fonts:  BOOK DESIGN