Thursday, October 28, 2010

Featured Author: Mark Goldberg

(A week off seems like forever. I've been looking for work, something to actually get me a paycheck on a regular basis. You know what I found out? It's actually easier to get a good job in an industry I know and love (computers) than a crappy job in an industry I don't love (retail). And one other thing: I do more writing when I have a job than when I have all day free. For some reason, I feel guilty writing when everyone else in my house is working, and so I spend hours doing pointless chores. Moral of the story is, there's never enough time to do the things we like, so we waste time doing things we don't like, and then wonder where the time went.)

Today, I want to feature Mark Goldberg. Six years ago, I joined John Dufresne's Friday Night Writers, meeting regularly at the Florida International University Biscayne Bay campus. Mark had already been attending for years, and was quick to point out the group's simple rules: Bring at least 20 copies, double-spaced in Times New Roman, and read and comment on everyone's submission, if you want your own to be read. Mark always has a new chapter or two of his current novel ready to go, and no matter whether things are high or low for him personally, he keeps writing and critiquing and bring his warm humor to every meeting. It's been refreshing, for an ego-maniac like myself, to see someone be so consistent and persistent. When I decided to self publish the stories I'd been submitting and placing in online journals, he saved me from a full week of frustration getting the text I wanted on to the artwork I'd chosen, and giving Believable Lies a classy looking cover. He did all this while we sat in Border's bookstore, talking about writing. You'll see his side business advertised here, Mark's Covers, and trust me, if you want inexpensive professional help from someone who is easy to work with, Mark is your man.

Mark's books have always struck me as movies in print. The images are graphic, and lend themselves to visualization. In one novel, a Claudia Schiffer look-alike wanders down Biscayne Boulevard with no memory of how she got there, and is molested by a woman she thought was going to help her. In the book we're discussing today, a six foot young woman trained in martial arts dons leathers and her motorcycle boots to hunt murderous pedophiles, assisted by info from a computer wizard known only as Source. The Jada Agenda offers readers a chance to witness vigilantte justice brought to bear on society's most loathsome criminals. There's a movie here, folks! Get the popcorn going!

Here's our Q&A:

Q&A for Mark Goldberg

Mark, The Jada Agenda deals with a citizen dispensing justice in her own way. Tell us the storyline, and how you developed the lead character.
Aubrey Carlisle is a First Grade teacher. She's also a masked, 6'2", leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, vengeance-driven killer of pedophiles. She finds them before the cops do. Then she calls and has them clean up after her. She goes into overdrive when her favorite little student, Jada, is kidnapped. All of Miami thinks Aubrey is a man. That's why the papers have mislabeled her Mr. Vengeance. But murder is still murder and the part that bothers Aubrey is that she has no feelings one way or the other about what she is doing. Was it born out of an experience she had in college or something she experienced when she was much younger?
The papers are filled with stories about abused children these days. Especially in south Florida. I believed it was time to have a hero address this problem. I enjoy reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I was surprised to learn that sixty percent of his readership is female. What could be of more interest to the female reader than a Reacher-type female hero?
Is there a sequel to this book?
I’ve just begun working on The Virginia Agenda, which would be the second book in the series, and deals with abused women.
Who do you enjoy reading? Who influences your writing?
I mentioned Lee Child. I also enjoy Robert Mccammon, F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series and Tess Gerritsen’s mysteries.
Tell us about your other Smashwords books.
My own favorite book is Walk Into The Sun, which is a tale of New York City after the default. SatanWorld is the first book in the Tempest Trilogy (it’s a vampire book without the teen angst). GangWay, book two, will be available in about a week, and concerns a gang war instigated by Tempest. Lara’s Special Summer is a tip of my hat to my daughter. Seven-year-old Lara wakes up one summer morning and discovers she has magic powers. She is assisted by her talking dog, Sir Basil Smythe-Woofington. Her only rules; she can’t do anything for personal gain and she can’t tell anyone her secret. LSS brought me my first fan mail, from an eleven-year-old girl who loved the book.
What are you working on right now?
I’m heavily into IceAge. It’s the final book in the Tempest Trilogy. All the Tempest books have historical sections that show the vampire’s evolution. SatanWorld covered the Spanish Inquisition and Columbus’ discovery of the New World. In the present time, Tempest is a televangelist. For GangWay, Tempest dons a priest’s robes and the back story revolves around the Salem Witchcraft Trials. For IceAge, I’ve researched the Mary Celeste, a brigantine that was found floating near the devil’s triangle in the late 1800’s with nobody on board. In the present time, Tempest is now a rabbi, in charge of a Jewish senior citizens’ home. IceAge also brings together all the characters from the previous two books.
You helped me get a great cover for my book. Tell us what you can do for the SBR readers who need covers for their eBooks and PODs.
I use my experience as a graphic designer for the past MANY years and combine it with my innate understanding of what a writer feels. Of course, a writer needs to be able to explain the story and the main character to give me a basis from which to give me a starting point. It’s all spelled out on my web page – – along with examples of some of my covers. And everyone should remember that ebooks just get a front cover. But if you’re doing POD, it needs a back cover and a spine, as well.
Is paranormal a good description of SatanWorld?
Actually, I like that better than “horror,” because it involves magic and mysticism, too. Tempest can control the weather and lesser beings and, in GangWay, he also begins his shape shifting. He carries that further in IceAge.
I see you have a children’s book for sale as well. Tell us about that.
Lara’s Special Summer is so special to me that I’ve already mentioned it. I like to tell people that, at $2.99, it’s cheaper than an ice cream cone and will last longer.
Where else are your books available?
All the books are available at, and Apple via your iPad and iPhone. Some are up on, Sony and Four of the books are in paperback (POD) and can be ordered from
Anything you’d like to add for our readers?
How about a thank you gift? If you purchase The Jada Agenda from, and use the coupon code NH57D, you can get one dollar off the price of the book, from now to November 27, 2010.
(Neil's note: Check out Mark's books and email him at

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Featured Author: Henry Baum

A lot of people work harder than I do to promote Indie writers. Henry Baum is one of them. In addition to his person blog titled after his latest novel (The American Book of the Dead), Henry also edits SelfPublishing Review, one of my favorite sites, where everyone from Mark Coker to yours truly comment on developments in the self publishing industry. Current topics include, Barnes&Noble's new eBook publishing platform, Pubit!, and Borders' new vanity press.

I asked Henry to take some time and do the SBR Q&A. We talked about writing, de-listing, blogs and marketing.

Henry, I’ ve read somewhere that your books are print published in Europe. How did that
happen? Were you working with an agent at one time?

I lived in Paris for a year and met up with some literary people. In fact, it was the most literary experience of my life, hanging out with old and aspiring beatniks. I got connected to an agent working in Paris who was working with an agent out of London who got the deal with Rebel Inc., an imprint of Canongate.  My good friend in Paris is a pretty well-known translator and got the deal to have the book published by Hachette Litteratures. Things have been more seamless and easy in Europe than in the U.S.

Tell us how you became an indie writer.
I've always been indie, as the presses where I've traditionally published have also been independent - like Soft Skull Press in the U.S. I wrote a couple novels in college, had an agent, nothing happened.  Wrote my first novel that was eventually published, but said agent hated it.  Sent it to Soft Skull Press myself.  Wrote a follow-up that took three bitter years, had an agent who had some very dispiriting notes right before it was supposed to go out - He said, "Does she have to join a religious cult?"  This is a book about a porn star who joins a religious cult - the cult part is 200 pages of a 300 page book.  Wrote another book while my wife was pregnant, this time trying to write something that was more-saleable, as much as I'm capable of doing that.  An agent said, "They're not buying books about Hollywood now.  A book just sold about the magazine industry, so that's what's hot."  Madness. Found another agent, he didn't sell it. Finally, discovered Lulu and wondered why it had taken me so long.  With the last book, I didn't bother submitting to agents, as I was tired of the whole process, and I love being in control of my own future.

You founded and edit Self Publishing Review, where many Smashwords authors, as well as
Mark Coker, make regular posts. Is this blog/zine open to everybody?

Most certainly - submissions are welcome to everybody.  They all go into a queue, which I then put up on the site.  It's been pretty eye-opening about this kind of submission process.  People will submit a post with one sentence.  Why would you think that should be up on the site, especially when it says posts need to be at least 250 words?  It makes you understand at least a little bit why agents are cynical.

The American Book of the Dead. Terrific reviews, good buzz on the Internet. Yet I understand
you actually had a de-listing at just as the book was taking off. What happened?

A confession: I sort of suck at the technical aspect of self-publishing. Writers like Zoe Winters seem to revel in it, but my main advocacy for self-publishing is more philosophical - the idea that all writing can find the light of day. But when it comes to number crunching, I'm as terrible as when it comes to balancing my checkbook.  So...I had my book listed to distribute on Smashwords at .99 for Kobo, B&N, etc.  What happened is that the Kobo discount put the price below Amazon's own threshold for pricing a book.  Instead of Amazon listing the price of my book below the price on Kobo, they chose to remove the buy button entirely.  This isn't a great policy, but I should have been better about understanding these pricing discrepancies to begin with. 

Your bio says born in New York, raised in Los Angeles. Are your folks in show biz or
something? I spent some time in Venice and Santa Monica long ago (Fred Flintstone was my
roommate) and have always like the atmosphere around UCLA in Westwood. How do you like
living in LA?

My dad's a screenwriter and my mom's a producer.  Scratch that, my dad recently dropped out of Hollywood and has devoted his time to playwriting.  That may sound sort of glamorous, and it might be compared some other upbringings, but there are thousands of people working in Hollywood, and not all are Angelina Jolie.  Actually, my parents' experience in Hollywood (and my brother, who was a screenwriter but dropped out to be a social worker) has contributed to my desire to self-publish.  I've seen them come so close to having something be produced but then fall apart due to stupid reasons.  It's contributed to my distrust of corporate media. It's also contributed a lot to what I write - as my first two novels are devoted to pretty dark cynicism about Hollywood.  So, do I like living in L.A.?  Not exactly.  But I have a daughter and family's here, so that's the main reason I'm staying.

Tell us about your novels. The combination of humor, satire, thriller and suspense is something
that seems to endear readers and alienate agents. This is what my novels are, and I have
trouble presenting them as this genre or that genre because of the serious message I’ m trying to
laughingly communicate. How do you deal with this as a writer?

I'm sort of perfectly unsuited to publish in the mainstream because a lot of what I write is devoted to pointing out how stupid the mainstream can be.  Publishing feeds at the trough of Hollywood, so perhaps they don't want to publish something critical of that beast.  But also I've heard that "satire" is a dirty word in publishing, as it's a code word for not classifiable - not comedy, not serious.  With my latest book, I went from writing a Hollywood satire to a science fictional satire.  I knew I had no hope in the publishing industry - if one book can't be classified, two books that are totally different face a larger uphill battle.  I deal with this as a writer by dropping out of the system entirely and hoping that my book reaches people. It'll take a lot longer than if I had a publisher, and indeed may never happen, but I won't have to rely on the industry's acceptance or rejection, but the reader's.  Writers write to be read, not to get published.

Are Oscar Caliber Gun and The Golden Calf the same book?Yep.  I really liked the title Oscar Caliber Gun - a combination of Oscar Caliber Performance and .38 Caliber Gun, but a lot of people didn't get it.  "So your name's Oscar?" someone asked me. I got sick of explaining it in the States and the UK publisher wanted another title.  When it was re-released in the U.S. with Another Sky Press, I was happy to keep the title that I wouldn't have to explain.

What writers do you admire, living and dead?

Most of the writers I admire are dead. My influences I guess are pretty standard for a fringe-centered writer: Kerouac, Henry Miller, Hunter Thompson, Bukowski, Philip K. Dick.  Writers who aren't afraid to be personal - which is pretty much my problem with a lot of contemporary writing. Writers trying to show how smart they are, which means not always revealing darker parts of themselves. Recently, I've been almost totally obsessed with non-fiction, and Daniel Pinchbeck's a writer I admire. But I admire him more for the brazen quality of his ideas than want to mimic his writing style.

What are you working on now?
The American Book is ongoing.  I'm working on Part II now and expect it to be a three part series.  I'm posting all of Part II online, and I'm hoping to build some momentum for the time when I'm ready to start work on Part III.  That's partly why I'm giving it away for free - to generate interest in the whole project, not just the one book. This whole thing will take many years to complete.

How do you market your work?\
Nothing that off the wall.  As my novel is very niche-specific, I tend to hang out on those places that cater to those readers.  The niche is conspiracy theory, UFOs, that sort of thing.  So I post on sites like,, and  Brings in a lot of traffic to my site,  I've done interviews like this one. But I kind of treat my main site like an ongoing interview.  I spend a lot of time working on posts there, and if I can get people interested in reading that site, they'll might be more interested in taking a look at the book.  It helps that the novel is sort of an extension of the non-fiction writing I do on the site - if you consider conspiracy theory and UFOs to be non-fiction.

What sites should SBR readers go to learn more about Henry Baum?
Definitely  Readers of the Self-Publishing Review may be surprised about just how far out my ideas can be about other topics.  I've mentioned in other interviews that I see the UFO issue as similar to self-publishing: the implications of both are so astounding and important that it seems extremely short-sighted to ridicule either. Also check out for my songwriting.  My other writing goes on

Where do you see the self publishing market heading? Isn’t there a danger of the Big Boys
taking over again?

I don't see how. Once everyone has an iPad and brick and mortar bookstores are not as necessary, the main thing advocating traditional publishing will no longer be true.  This will happen - just as mobile phones were once an anomaly, now children have them.  Remember when it was annoying when someone would be gabbing on a cell phone in public? Now it's everywhere - not that that's a perfect development, but anyway.  The iPad is too great a device for it not to take off.  For every iPad that sells, the traditional publishing industry dies a little.

I keep trying all these related sites for indie writers and see zero return. It’s more like the so-
called marketers want to catch the self-pubber in a panic attack, and take what little money
there is. The Kindle people seem much better organized. Am I hallucinating? I don’t mind
hallucinating, as long as it doesn’t cost anything.

Yeah, unless you can really afford it, I don't see much value in paying for marketing. I mean, I'd love to pay $10000 for a publicist, which would probably help, but I don't have that money to spend.  I actually spent $70 on an SEO link-building service recently - submitting my site to directories with different keyword phrases.  It actually worked, because now my novel comes up in the top results for "UFO fiction," "World War III fiction" and others.  That SEO has way more value than paying for an ad on some website. 

As for the listing services, I also think there are better ways to spend your money.  The Amazon DTP service is free to list and probably more important than all the others.  Basically, you should only be paying for these services if you can afford it.  They can only help because visibility's important, but can hurt if it's a major percentage of your bank account.

Neil's note: Henry's books are available at, and at as paperbacks and eBooks. North of Sunset is described: Michael Sennet - movie star - hates his life. The Vanity Plate Killer is enjoying his new life in Los Angeles, targeting people with vanity plates. When Michael Sennet is framed by a paparazzi photographer – license plate PAPRAZI – the movie star finds something he enjoys even more than making movies: killing people

Henry Baum's Smashwords books are Set Your Own Price! so I encourage SBR readers to be generous and actually kick in 3 bucks to enjoy fantastic, entertaining reading from someone who actually tries to help you out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to use this site

If you want to see the author's site or his book(s), you can click on the hyperlinked text, or on the book cover to the right. Let me know if there is a problem.----Neil

for example:

Is the hidden hyperlink behind the text  On The Gathering Storm

You just click on the title and bam! there you are

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#1 Smashwords Best Selling Author Jason McIntyre

If you've checked out the Bestseller List at, you've seen On The Gathering Storm by Jason McIntyre there at the top, the bestselling eBook at the site for the Last 90 Days. It is also the Most Downloaded eBook that is not free. To me, this is an incredible accomplishment. I wrote to Jason, and he agreed to share his success story with SBR. Have you read his book? I've seen it compared to Dean Koontz and to John Connolly, authors well known for suspense, using ordinary characters trying to overcome brutal circumstance. In the reviews of Jason's books, what you see repeated over and over is praise for his craftsmanship and sentence structure. He builds a voice the reader wants to listen to, then tells his amazing tales. And his characters, like Hannah Garretty, are people we seem to know.

Watch the video book trailer Jason made, one of the best I've ever seen.

Q&A with Jason McIntyre:

Jason, your book has been a #1 bestseller at Smashwords for several weeks. How did you build up your readership? To reach Number 1, you must have worked very hard.

For better or worse, I tried a couple of strategies out of the gate that seemed to help me gain some traction.  My intent was to have a plan and stick to it, but not so hard that I wouldn’t adjust my approach if a challenge cropped up. A few pieces of my original plan were:

1. I first strove for solid local coverage. My local and regional media, plus many of the people I work with and know in my life, were kind enough to get on board and give early support. Some blogs covered my book and I gave out a boatload of free copies to folks who showed even the slightest inkling of interest in reading my book.

2. I tried to release my stories on Smashwords when new content was staying on SW’s most hit pages the longest. Among the myriad of jobs I’ve held, I'm a web manager so I have a bit of background in this.

3. Surrounding the novel, I created an ecosystem of free stories and a novella which I am happy to let readers enjoy without cost hoping they enjoy them and would perhaps pay a couple bucks for "On The Gathering Storm", my feature-length novel. Also, inside this ecosystem, I tied the cover designs for all the books together with a consistent look and feel -- instantly creating a brand that readers have told me they recognize from website to website. I've been a graphic designer for years and years so this is something I have some knowledge about as well. I tied the look to my website, Twitter page and blogger profile and started hitting everywhere on the web with regulars who didn’t tell me to suck lemons. A few did. Most did not.

4. I gave my novel away for free early -- long enough to get traction and move it up the lists in terms of gross downloads.  This also got lots of eyeballs on pages, then bouncing over to my blog and website. A few solid reviews helped immensely.

On The Gathering Storm has enjoyed some great reviews. I see on your website, you write about building suspense. Could you share some tips for other Indie writers?

There are so many talented writers out there so for me to play expert here is nothing short of hilarious.  I will say that, as a reader, I like to be so engrossed in a scene and the flow of a book that any point askew may threaten to drag me up to the surface of reality. Don’t let a silly type-o slip past you in the editing stages. Don’t give five details when one or two better ones will do. Don’t forget to pay attention to language: how long is your sentence? Should it be shorter and choppier if this is supposed to be a tense moment? Or do I need to lengthen it to slow down my reader’s heartbeat a bit. Just as a comedy can’t have solid laughs for forty-five minutes without some heart attacks in the aisles, a suspenseful narrative needs to take a break from the chills.

How did your background prepare you for writing this novel?
Every character in On The Gathering Storm is based on someone I know or have known and our heroine, Hannah, is a composite of some powerful, yet damaged women. I lived and worked in Victoria, BC and wished to set the novel here for two reasons: One, I was intimately familiar with the pace, way of life and geography of my story so I didn’t have to think about that too much and could concentrate on the guts of the tale. And two, nothing beats the metaphor of an island surrounded by churning waters and roiling cloud banks to conjure up the notion of being alone in a battle against the whole world.

Do you think some genres are better suited for eBooks than others?
Nope! I’m discovering that eBooks have such a ridiculous ease and versatility that I don’t imagine I will ever buy another paperback or hardcover. At least not in this lifetime. I make no promises about any of my future, reincarnated selves.

How will you follow up this novel?
I love and hate this question because I don’t want to come off as mysterious but I also don’t want to give too much away too early. I also want readers who’ve enjoyed my stories to know that I have quite a number of things at various stages of completion.

Next up is THALO BLUE, a suspense/paranormal trilogy that is in the final editing stages. Artwork and proofing is coming along and I hope to release it soon.  It has more overt weirdness than On The Gathering Storm and I would liken it mostly to a Dean Koontz book in terms of pacing and style. I’m very pleased with it and excited to share it.

What are your writing habits? How do you get time to work?
I’m both blessed and cursed to have a loving family who all sleep hard and long while I get up and roam the house in the dark to stir my creative milk and hit a few letters on the keyboard.  I say cursed because I have a day job which has challenges of its own and I simply do not get enough sleep, nor do I particularly like the taste of coffee. What? A writer who doesn’t drink coffee?

Where are your books available?
E-only at the moment. I just haven’t seen a strong enough demand to warrant a print run. I may consider some kind of print-on-demand option for those hold outs who are ten thousand miles away and want a hard copy. You can find my current catalogue (plus the upcoming trilogy, THALO BLUE, when it arrives) at all the major outlets: Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, B&N, Sony, Diesel, Kobo...the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Your website design is terrific. Did you do that?
Am I blushing a little? Kind of you to say.  I feel it’s important to have a strong visual identity in all author materials. The big publishers spend loads on great covers and websites for their leading authors. We indie kids should strive for the same end of the swimming pool.  It’s much harder for us because good creative is expensive. And it should be if it’s good quality. I find it a shame when a good book has a lousy cover or a captivating author has an ugly website and a cheeseball polaroid glam shot of himself in a Bart Simpson t-shirt.  Quite frankly, I feel it makes it less likely that an author’s book will get a fair chance at capturing the reader’s attention.

Indie authorship is so different now. We have to be everything. Not just writers, but graphic designers, marketers, website coders, and shameless self-promoters no matter how distinct the bad taste of tweeting and talking about yourself.

How do your other books relate to On The Gathering Storm? Are they in the same vein?
I get asked a lot about “The Night Walk Men” because, on the surface, it seems so different from the others, a very Neil Gaiman-esque little tale with a holier-than-thou narrator. It’s a novelette billed as a short story and is really the prologue to a longer novel series about these mythic-laden, ages-old figures who walk the earth and dole out their own brand of justice. This series is ongoing and has its foundation in a certain realm of otherworldly-ness but it will be telling stories about people in everyday life, just as Hannah is living what I would call a real life in “On The Gathering Storm”. “Shed is my novella which is getting stellar feedback from folks who seem to adore the two young boys striving for normalcy in its pages. They come up against evil in two forms: earthly, their evil step-dad, and otherworldly, some middle-of-the-night visitors who give readers the absolute creepie-crawlies.

That’s where my writing seems to dwell: halfway or three-quarters focused on sharing the lives of real people and the rest, in how those real folks come crashing into something unimaginable.

What advice would you give other Smashwords authors?
Don’t wait. I won’t get rich with my books, won’t be able to quit my day job and earn a living at it. But, one day I decided that if even five or ten people that aren’t my parents or siblings --or the fella I run into at the water cooler-- read my books and got something out of them, then they were worth the blood of writing them.  I’ve met such kind and generous folks, writers, readers, critics, bloggers, web administrators who have helped and inspired me to keep going. You will too.

Is it cold where you are? I’m in Miami, so we can only tell the season has changed by what sports are on TV. How does your locale influence your writing?
It’s cold in this room. Two A.M.  Furnace won’t be switched on until at least November and the eco-friendly monitor doesn’t throw enough heat to catch my bare feet on the hardwood. I will wrap this up shortly before y’all get bored...and before I catch cold.

And, speaking of boredom.  I get bored reading an author who only writes about authors. Or a writer who has all of his stories set in the same place. There are some who do this well, but my goal is to have my stories take place in all kinds of locales. I have travelled and lived all over, and am not the sort to take a cruise line or a bus trip when I leave home, so I get to know the local people, hangouts and ways of life. I think so much good literature is about the humanity of all of us and the setting is usually window dressing with little consequence on the meat of it. I have a cracking little novelette in the works that takes place in the dead of winter in a suburb that gets several feet of snow. But “On The Gathering Storm” takes place during an unseasonable heat wave on Vancouver island so, clearly, I’m all over the place in terms of setting.

Whatever the setting or weather, I believe an author needs to take charge of it. I don’t like when reviewers say that the weather or setting in a particular book behaves like another character. Well, no, that’s hyperbole to fill copy. Character is character. But expert setting and environmental detail can definitely add to or subtract from a story. I think my first exposures of this came with King’s Delores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game tandem books. It was genius how he tacked the two books together with a solar eclipse in nineteen-sixty-whatever, despite the fact that the leads were so different and the style of the books was so different.

Anything else to add?
For me, writing is the thing. It’s the main event. Sharing my books with people and learning that they’ve mined something from my strange and often bewildering imagination is at once gratifying and so humbling. I would like to sincerely thank any and all of you who have read my work, whether you paid a couple bucks or took one of the free stories. Please, mi casa es su casa. I would love for you to stop by my website and pull up a chair for a virtual cup of tea. I would thank you in person if I could, and for those of you who have enjoyed my words, I will keep them flowing for as long as I can. All my thanks, Neil, for this opportunity to speak with you and your readers.

Jason also offers his book Road Markers as a free download.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Featured Author: Sandra Edwards

Today I'm actually backtracking on an earlier post. Sandra Edwards was one of the first Smashwords authors to contact me, but a review helper had declined her work after a reading. But, you know what? There's a lot of really popular writers I don't like at all, and a lot of popular writers I once liked who repeat themselves so often I can't tell if I've read book Z since it sounds so much like book M.

So I decided to take a look. The Google search was not encouraging. A realtor with the same name came up a lot, but I had to dig for our Sandra Edwards. This is fixable. One of the first discussion groups I joined at had a simple wat to get your name out where search engines can find it. Join a lot of discussions at a lot of reader and writer blogs, and always sign off with your full name and author tag. In other words, join a romance book discussion, make a comment, and sign off as Sandra Edwards, Author of Incredible Dreams. Do this at Kindleboards, B&, BookBlogs, etc. until in one week or two, Google finds your name all over the place. Do you guys do this? If not, then featuring Sandra gives us a chance to talk about marketing opportunities, and share what tricks we've picked up.

What I liked a lot was this: when I type Sandra Edwards at and at Amazon's Kindle Store, a full list of books comes up. At Amazon, Sandra has Secondary Targets with 5 reviews, Crazy for You with 9 reviews, Incredible Dreams both in paperback and Kindle versions, each with 10 reviews, Broken Wings with 4 reviews, and last, The Marriage Bargain with 1 review. This is terrific.

Now at Smashwords, I don't see reviews. This brings up a point of contention I've heard from several Smashwords authors. At Amazon, anyone with an Amazon account can post a review. At Smashwords, only readers who bought the book through Smashwords can post a review. So, if your book is reviewed in the NY Times Sunday Book Review, unless Michiko Kakutani bought the book at Smashwords or has a coupon code, and takes time to do this, the review will have to be posted by other means. But what about eBooks distributed to Apple, B&, Kobo, Diesel, etc. Can those customers post reviews at Smashwords? It seems like they cannot, right now.

Back to Sandra Edwards. The point I'm making is, the lady has done a good job with limited resources of getting sales for her books. She sets a good example for other writers, and yet can still learn and grow with the rest of us as we learn how to succeed at what is actually a difficult but do-able vocation.

Q&A with Sandra Edwards:

Q&A from Smashwords Books Reviewed

Your letter calls one of your books “award winning.” Tell us about any awards or featured events you’ve enjoyed.

I’ve had the good fortune to have won/finaled in numerous RWA (Neil's note: Romance Writers of America is one of the largest writers organizations in the world) sponsored contests with multiple books. INCREDIBLE DREAMS won the 2008 Linda Howard Award of Excellence, the 2009 Gotcha and received nods in several other contests.

How did your background help you to write novels?

I started writing at a very early age (about 13) and was known for making up tall-tales as early as the age 6 or 7. I think most writers are born with an inherent need to tell a story.

Where are your books available?

At Smashwords (it’s outlets) and Amazon.

Do you have author links for readers to learn more about you?

Yes, readers can learn more about me at my website  , Goodreads and my Author Page at Amazon.

What genre are you most comfortable with? Do you write romance, or mystery, etc.?

Honestly, I’m most comfortable riding the fence between more than one genre. Oftentimes, my books are described as having a genre identity crisis. I do love hard-talking suspense, time travel, reincarnation, and all with a touch of romance.

How are you marketing your books?

My marketing strategy consists of getting as much online exposure as possible (without depleting my kids’ college funds. lol).

Tell the readers about your different novels, and what they might enjoy.

Crazy For You is a rags to riches tale set against the backdrop of the 80s, movie stars and rock-n-roll. *FYI: this book is a gritty romance that visits some dark and controversial topics. If you prefer a light-hearted romance, this book may not be for you.

Incredible Dreams is the story of a modern-day ghost whisperer who travels through time to save the life of a WWII fighter pilot and ends up jeopardizing her own existence.

Secondary Targets is a hardboiled suspense with a hint of romance ~ What would you do if you woke up one day and found out everything you thought you knew about your father turned out to be a lie?

Broken Wings ~ In this opening book of the Soul Searchers Series a con-artist who's been hired to locate a buried treasure finds more than she bargains for.

Have you always been an Indie writer (self-published) and why?

No, but I prefer being an Indie writer J. I have specific stories inside my head that I’d prefer to write, but they’re too outside the box for traditional publishing. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being an Indie writer, I’m much happier when I let my muse write what she wants. 

What future projects do you have in mind?

I’m wrapping up the second book in the Soul Searchers Series. In November, I plan to start working on a sequel to Crazy For You (currently, my most popular book on Kindle).

Do you read a lot? Are there books you would like to see featured?

Yes, I am an avid reader. I recently read a great time travel romance by Monique Martin titled Out of Time.

What would you change, now that you’ve acquired experience in eBook marketing?

I had the good fortune to find a group of seasoned Indie writers who shared their experiences with me, so my marketing strategies worked well right out the gate. The only thing I’d change is I would’ve gone Indie a long time ago!

Are there writers you work with, or readers to help you edit?

Yes, I have a small circle of writers that I work with. They help me stay focused and offer up invaluable assistance when it comes to editing and such.

Anything you’d like to add?

I love hearing from readers!;

Sunday, October 10, 2010

JC Phelps Features My Book Believable Lies

Check out what a great post JC Phelps has today at her Author Blog:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why You're Not Getting Reviewed

I'm grateful for the many Smashwords authors sending in review requests, but grateful only up to a point. Here's some insight into how I pick and choose, and the guidelines I set for guest reviewers. Understand, the point of doing this blog is to help writers who work hard to produce the best work they can and do their own marketing to establish reputations as seriously committed authors. I am working through quite a pile of requests, and do so gladly. But I don't notify those writers I won't be reviewing, I don't have time.

If I Google your name, and less than half a page comes up with links that are actually about you, that's a bad sign. It means you are not doing your homework. Where's your website? Where's your blog? Where's your books? You need to go read Mark Coker's Marketing Guide and go to and come back to me next year.

If you have more than three grammatical errors in the first three pages, that's a bad sign. It means you don't attend a writers group to get feedback from other writers. It means you don't have one friend literate enough to line edit for you. Basically it says to your readers, and reviewers, here's my first draft.

If you use the word 'dastardly' and you're not trying to be funny, that's bad. That means the narrator you are imitating, P.G. Wodehouse or Arthur Conan Doyle or whoever, has too much influence. You need to find your own voice, and use it consistently. In fact, if you have lots of adjectives that are inaccurate and adverbs modifying every bit of trivial action ("He laughed grimly"), I'm not the only one you are turning off.

If your story description has to do with loins or masturbation or spanking, there are plenty of other blogs for this genre. I'm not reviewing stroke books. Lusting for MILFs is what teenagers do on the internet, but it's not what they'll be doing here. Smashwords is overrun with 50-page hot flashes, and they probably all sell better than me. But I'm not interested.

If you have bad reviews somewhere else, like at, I'll find them. I track these things down. Granted, not everybody will give you a good review. And lots of great books, like The Recognitions, got terrible reviews when they first came out. But if the reviewer says (and this is a true story) that you classify your book as a YA genre title but you have fifteen year old characters engaging in frequent graphic casual sex, I'll pass. Not only that, I'll question your motives for doing such a thing.

If your simple love story is 600 pages long, forget it. I'll be posting a list of other book blogs soon, and someone out there is a kindred spirit. But I'm not. A 600 page eBook gives me a headache just thinking about it. If your book involves some obsession of yours that others don't seem to understand, I won't understand it either.

So read this and decide if you are ready or not. There's no shame in stepping back and doing edit work. That's the great thing about eBooks. You can upload your improved text in less than an hour, and tell people you've done so. And the marketing is something you need to do anyway. Not doing it reflects negatively on your commitment. Don't give me that 'I'm a writer, not a salesman' crap. If you choose to bypass traditional publishing, you still need to offer readers the best product you can produce. And when that product is examined, you need to take the feedback and learn from it.

Keep sending the requests. I'll be getting caught up on my email responses, and look forward to working with you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Featured Author: Susanne O'Leary

Today Susanne O'Leary is our featured author. Writing from Ireland, Susanne's novels have enjoyed international success in print as well as eBook format. When I asked Susan Wells Bennett to pick a book she'd like to review, Swedish For Beginners was her choice. Being a guest reviewer at SBR, I featured Susan Bennett Saturday, and gave descriptions and links to her novels.

Susanne O'Leary is Swedish by birth and Irish by marriage, lives in Ireland and is the published author of four novels. She has lived in Australia, France, Belgium and Holland and her globetrotting experiences are reflected in all her stories. Her website has her bio and bibliography, and is a great example of using the web to reach readers across the globe.

I emailed her a Q&A, and here's her response:

Q&A for Susanne O'Leary:

You mention your first two books as bestsellers. Tell us about those books, and what the publication process was like for you.

  A: My very first novel, Diplomatic Incidents (published by Blackstaff Press in 2001) came about as a kind of satire. I wanted to tell a story, using my own experiences as the wife of a diplomat, turning it into a romantic comedy/ farce. Of course, as some of the characters were based on real people (especially politicians), it created quite a stir in Ireland at the time. The publication process was really interesting, as I learned a lot about how a book is actually finished, from editing, copy editing, proof reading, cover design and blurb. I had no idea that once the author has sold a book to a publisher, he/she has no say in the cover design or publication date.  'Diplomatic Incidents' sold out the first print run very fast and the subsequent mass paperback was reprinted twice. My second novel, 'European Affairs' (now on Amazon Kindle under the title 'Villa Caramel') is set behind the scenes of the European Union in Brussels but most of the action takes place in St Tropez on the French Riviera, where many of the Eurocrats spend their summer holidays.

 What is the writing environment like in Ireland now? I read William Trevor and John Banville, but I understand there are Irish writers we've never heard of in the USA.
 A: There are many hugely succesful Irish writers, most of them writing chick-lit. But due to the depressed economic climate, publishers have cut down drastically on their lists, so many authors have gone indie and doing very well.

What are you working on now?

A: I am at the moment editing a historical novel, based on the lives of two fascinating women in my family. I have also recently completed a co-written detective story with a script writer who has written many of  the episodes of the famous 'Wallander' TV series.

Where are your books available?
A: Mainly on the internet (All Amazon sites among others) in paperback and as e-books on Amazon and Smashwords.

Are your books autobiographical?
 A: Not really. Although I use aspect and experiences from my own life, like all authors.

Who do you see as your ideal readers? Do you write genre fiction?

 A: I write what I would call womens commercial fiction but now that so many men have read and enjoyed my books, I suppose 'general fiction' would be a better description

Do you have an agent?

A: yes. And he supports all my work even though I have self published one of my books.

Anything else you'd like to say?

 A: I might add that 'Swedish for Beginners' has taken off amazingly here in Ireland, with rave reviews in two big national newspapers (The Irish Independent and The Evening Echo), many requests for readings and book talks and sales are great.

Learning The Language of Family
A review by Susan Wells Bennett

I picked up Swedish for Beginners, by Susanne O’Leary, on the recommendation of my grandmother, a devourer of novels who typically finishes five to seven books a week. Her endorsement is a rare thing, so I began reading it immediately.

The adult but recently orphaned main character, Maud, discovers that she is half-Swedish when her stepmother sends her a box of her long-dead mother’s belongings. After her mother’s death in a plane crash, her father, Jack, would never talk to Maud about her. Maud grew up unaware of her heritage or her extended Swedish family.

Upon discovering her Swedish roots, Maud quickly locates a long-lost cousin, packs up her Irish life for the summer, and removes herself to Stockholm. Once there, she begins her journey of self-discovery.
Overall, this novel was very enjoyable, despite a number of typos and formatting issues. The plot was well engineered, though there were a few instances where the timeline was confused (a letter mentioning morning sickness is remembered a few pages before the character has actually read the letter; a man shows up to accompany the main character to a movie despite the fact that he actually hung up before she could issue the invitation).

Beyond that, several of the characters seem to suffer from bi-polar disorder, swinging between moods more rapidly and with less predictability than a rollercoaster. I found myself truly disliking Barbara, Maud’s cousin and supposed friend, though I don’t think that was the author’s intention. And Maud’s romantic interest, Lukas, is a selfish, hateful lout. I was rooting for Maud to dump him.

The truly likeable characters, Maud’s stepmother and her grandmother, received very little attention. However, when the author turned her attention to them, she produced some of the most beautiful scenes in the novel.

I would recommend this novel to most fans of women’s literature. Despite its flaws (or perhaps because of them), it has a lot to say about the true definition of family.#

Neil says: Please take a look at Susanne O'Leary and her novels, and send her a comment or note.

Thanks, Susan Wells Bennett, for the review help. It saved my day. Readers of SBR, take time to thank Susan as well. 

NEW!!!Susanne O'Leary sent me this review from Ireland, From The Independent:
(Note: Any SBR author being featured, please send any newspaper reviews of your book(s) so we can get the word out. Our argument is simple: There are good things happening at, if people know what to look for.)

A lyrically thrilling trip to Sweden

Swedish for Beginners Susanne O'Leary (Matador, €10.55)
Susanne O'Leary's atmospheric and captivating new novel reminds one a little of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
It's not just the scenery or the wealthy family with the large summer residence on an island or the mystery to be solved. There is also a disturbing sinister presence which runs though the story. But there the similarity ends. Swedish for Beginners is not nearly as violent as Larsson's novel and O'Leary, author of such acclaimed novels as Diplomatic Incidents and European Affairs, has a more lyrical quality to her writing.
When her father dies, Maud Walsh learns that her late mother, the beautiful Eleonore, was Swedish. She leaves Ireland for ice-bound Sweden at the end of winter, to find her unknown Swedish family and uncover a mysterious past, over the course of a glorious Swedish summer.
Her Swedish grandmother gives her a series of letters written by Eleonore when she was very young and living in Australia with her new husband, Maud's father. Maud gets the letters translated by Anders, a handsome young man who becomes close.
At first, Maud is shocked by the Swedish attitude to sex and nudity but she soon gets in touch with her Swedish side, especially when she meets the handsome but moody actor, Lukas.
Her new-found family try to warn her about Lukas, who seems to have a malevolent streak and as the letters reveal that Lukas was in love with Eleonore in his youth, their relationship becomes uncertain. It is only when she reads her mother's final letter that she discovers the truth about her own identity and Lukas' role in her mother's life.
With Anders waiting in the wings and despite occasional clues in the letters, O'Leary keeps the reader guessing on several strands, until the final denouement.
Swedish by birth and Irish by marriage, O'Leary now lives in Tipperary. She has also lived in Australia, France, Belgium and Holland (her husband was a diplomat) and her travels are reflected in her stories.
Buy 'Swedish for Beginners' from Eason

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Susan Wells Bennett Will Review Susanne O'Leary

Susan Wells Bennett is the author of three novels and reviews Indie books at her website. I am very happy to have her guest review of a novel she picked, from Irish-Swedish author Susanne O'Leary. Swedish For Beginners is Susanne's new novel after Fresh Powder and Finding Margo.

Susan Bennett's work should be noted here. Her three novels are available at and Here are descriptions and reviews:

The Thief of Todays and Tomorrows
After a whirlwind wartime romance and marriage, Francis and Katie DeLucia are sure that their future will be perfect. When Francis returns home at the end of WWII though, he encounters a job and housing market crowded with other returning veterans. Desperate to support his growing family, Francis accepts a job from a suspected Mob boss.
"This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I found it at Smashwords. I would recommend it to anyone. A really good and easy read..." --Smashwords reader review

Mac turned his life upside down for his wife, leaving behind a promising career to pursue her dream of long-haul trucking. When she leaves him for another man, he has to figure out who he is without her. Along the way, he befriends a gay trucking couple, a lot lizard, a science-fiction writer, and a pharmaceutical rep, among others. This novel will have you laughing out loud as Mac moves from one mishap to the next.

"The story is told from the point of view of a young, male truck driver, so I wondered if I (a middle aged woman who's never done anything like drive a truck) would be able to relate to anything about the central character. However Mac is such a likable person, I totally enjoy reading the story of how he finds what he wants from life after his wife leaves him at the very beginning of the story. A quick, charming read." -- Amazon reader review

Lazarus Dale can teach you how to reach your full potential through his Learning to Listen Well seminars. You, too, can have a beautiful wife, a successful career, a stylish mansion -- all you have to do is follow his instructions for a perfect life.

"The books characters run the gambit from innocent believers, like Ava and Zoe to the truly dangerous like Richard. All in all, an easy read and entertaining. I would recommend." -- Smashwords reader review

Susanne O'Leary has a terrific bio at her website, which I link here, since I don't have the Q&A done, and the lady certainly seems to have a loyal following. Tomorrow, Susan reviews Susanne.