Friday, 24 July 2020

Lately I've Been Watching

More mini TV reviews, with trailers and an indication of where you can watch them.

If you would like to see more blog posts like this, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  When you get to the bottom, you can click 'Older Posts' for more. 

Series: The Last Ship - Seasons 1-5 (Amazon Prime)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

After a global viral pandemic wipes out over 80% of the world's population, the crew of a lone unaffected US Navy guided missile destroyer, the fictional Nathan James, must try to find a cure, stop the virus, and save humanity.

That's Season 1, in which Captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) actually looks like Action Man, and the doctor creating the cure is outrageously beautiful (Rhona Mitra).  Once the cure exists, the story is built around the various countries trying to rebuild, and steal power from each other.  

In the first season the foe is the Russians, in the second the British.  The British are all criminals, and talk like something out of Guy Ritchie film, but not very convincingly; we winced all the way through it.  Whoever researched London dialogue ought to be told what 'mind your Ps and Qs' actually means, and that not all Laaarndoners say 'Shaaat it' every five minutes.  

In S3, the foe is the Chinese, in S4 the Greek, and in S5 Columbian gang lords.  It's so Captain America it's almost like a spoof, and riddled with clichรฉs; at one point, the 2nd in command Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin, a bit more rough and ready but equally honourable as his captain) says 'It's quiet out there', to which Chandler actually replies, 'Too quiet'.  To say it portrays America as the good guys and saviours of the world is an understatement.

So why the five stars?  Because it's great, I loved it.  Once you get past the rather wooden first couple of episodes, it's riveting action all the way, and the storylines are terrific.  Loads of explosions, tension, near death moments, daring feats - it's top stuff.  And I liked the rather corny but effective way in which Chandler managed to fight off his inner Captain Ahab at the end.  Watch it.

For TWD addicts:  Maximilliano Hernandez, alias Officer Bob Lamson ('Can't go back, Bob') plays the ship's doctor, and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Martinez) is the ace Columbian computer hacker.

Series: Dirty John - Season 2 (Amazon Prime, and Netflix soon if not now) 

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

True life dramas about family/romantic disasters/men behaving badly/women scorned/manipulated.  S2 is the story of Betty Broderick; I watched an 1992 TV movie about the case, starring Meredith Baxter, some years back. 

This version is gripping - it's so well-structured, with the first episode showing Betty, whose hot shot LA lawyer husband has left her and gained custody of their children, driving her car into his house, screaming and shouting, etc.  We're given the impression that she's, if not crazy, certainly in need of some help.

From episode 2 onwards, however, the whole story unfolds.  I watched 4 episodes last night and am looking forward very much to the rest - although Betty does lots of stuff that's ill-advised, and is in denial to a dangerous extent, I promise you that you'll have a certain sympathy with her.  Her ex-husband is clever and manipulative, playing a long game in order to get her out of the house, while telling her she's barmy for thinking he's having an affair.  He was, I think, responsible for her mental breakdown; at the trial an expert, presumably hired by the defence, uses the term 'gaslighting', in its real sense, ie, from the 1938 play: determinedly driving someone to doubt their own sanity over a long period of time.  He even turns their four children against her; alas, many of her actions also fuel the fire.

His new wife, Linda, made a play for him, and he was easy bait.  Eventually, Betty feels as though Linda has taken her whole life.  

As time goes on, Betty's behaviour deteriorates and she drives everyone away.
Yes, she kills.  But you can kind of see why.

Series: Snowpiercer - Season 1 (Netflix)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Because of climate change, the world has entered a new ice age, with the only hope for humanity a train with 1001 carriages that must circle the globe at a certain speed in order to power itself.  It contains around 3000 passengers separated strictly by class, from those in 1st who lived as if in a luxury flat, to those in the 'tail', who are filthy and starving, and see no daylight.

Of course, they rebel.  Jenniffer Connelly stars as Melanie Cavill, who runs the show, and Daveed Digs as Andre Layton, the strong and super-intelligent 'tailie' who is determined to fight for equality.  

It's jolly good and I was gripped throughout each episode, though I would have liked to have seen a little of the 'just before' - as the big freeze started, the planning of the train, etc.  Apparently Sean Bean will play Mr Wilford, the owner of the train, in S2.  

For TWD addicts:  Steven Ogg (Simon) plays Pike, a cantankerous revolutionary from the tail. Sort of like Simon, really.

Film: Unsubscribed (Amazon Prime)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loved this - it was made by students, apparently.  It's a mockumentary about a 'LazerGreg' geeky loser type (played by Brian Velazquez) whose only desire in life is to become a hugely successful Youtuber, like 'Danmark' (Cody Laper) who was the cool guy in school.  The only trouble is that he has nothing to say, isn't funny, and doesn't know how to edit videos.  Then he finds his niche....

It's a clever comment on the culture of today, in which people think they can become famous with no hard work (when Greg is shown how to edit his videos properly, he complains that it will take him such a long time), and believe that others will be fascinated in all they say merely because they want to say it. 

It's all about the views and likes, guys ;)

Series - Tales From The Loop (Amazon Prime)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

'Explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.'

8 hour-long stories set in a world that is like ours in the 1980s, but not quite.  Each places one of the main characters at the centre, telling a story from their lives.  They vary; I wasn't particularly struck with the first, but thought #2 was the best of the lot, and it's resolved in #8, also tick vg.  My other favourites were #3 and #7.  They're quite slow-paced, which took me a while to get used to, but #2 was so good that I kept watching, and I was glad I did.

Series: Firefly - Seasons 1-3 (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Youtube)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Made in 2002, this is set in year 2517, when Earth has died, and man has sought out new planets around the galaxy.  The crew of spaceship Firefly are renegades; since a period of war, the galaxy is controlled by a central federal government called the Alliance, made up of the fusion of the two remaining superpowers: America and China.  Out in the far reaches of this space world, many like the crew of Firefly live on their ships doing black market deals on the outer planets, and living on the edge of the law.

The main story is that of a child prodigy (River, played by Summer Glau), who, along with her brother, is rescued by the Firefly crew from brain experimentation by the Alliance doctors.

Remember being ten years old, and sitting in bed with a bag of sweets and a pile of comics?  How that feels?  The best way of summing up Firefly is to say that having a binge-watch of any of the 3 seasons provokes the same feelings.  Enjoy!   ๐Ÿ˜†

Film: Serenity (Amazon Prime)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The film of the TV series.  Just as good.

Series: Search Party - Seasons 1-3 (Amazon Prime, HBO Max)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dark comedy about a group of twenty-somethings in NYC, one of whom, Dory, becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl who she remembers vaguely from college.

The plot is amusing and fast-moving, and the main characters are saved from being massively irritating in the way that only millennials can be, by the fact that they're well-drawn send-ups; the hipper than hip gay guy who longs to be the coolest cat in town, the airhead actress, the homely-looking doormat Dory, and her wimpish boyfriend, Drew; they're not that keen on each other but are too lacking in confidence to split up.

The search for the missing Chantal leads them into all sorts of hot water ... it's good, entertaining.  I recommend.

Limited Series: The Salisbury Poisonings (Netflix, BBC iplayer)

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

'In March 2018 Salisbury became the site of an unprecedented national emergency. This three-part dramatisation focuses on the extraordinary heroism shown by the local community.'

It's interesting, and well-acted; worth watching, but I wasn't mad about it.

Series: The Politician - Season 2 (Netflix)

2 stars ⭐⭐

The first series was fun, but this one went too over the top, and I only watched four episodes.  What I mostly object to, aside from the fact that it became too silly, is the way in which a show aimed at impressionable adolescents portrays certain sexual practices as the norm, and as casual a recreational activity as going for a drink.  I've noticed this in other youth-orientated shows and think it's a sinister trend.  And if that makes me sound like an old fart, I don't care.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Six Years of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team

I have been a member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team (#RBRT) for five and a half years, now.  I first 'met' Rosie online when looking for reviews for my own early books, and through her some of the other bloggers who later became part of the team.

I admit to being wary of making the commitment when I joined the review team, but I'm so glad I did; Rosie has created something so positive for the independently published world (the team deals mainly with the self-published or those published by independents), and I am proud to be a part of it.  When I joined, I decided to start my own book review blog - I don't profess to be a 'proper' book blogger as I'm primarily a writer; I don't take submissions and use it only for reviewing for Rosie and my own reading choices, but it's something I enjoy doing. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you are interested in joining us, Rosie has written an article about how her review team works, on BookerTalk blog - you can read it HERE.  Details of how to apply to join are HERE.  You don't need to have a book blog, and you don't need any credentials apart from a love of reading.

There are two main reasons why I'm so glad I joined the team, equally important.  The first is the discovery of some truly excellent books; now and again, you find a real gem, that you want to shout about; so often these are books that are hidden away on Amazon and you would have never discovered, had the author not submitted.  Here are a few that made me feel this way (link takes you to my review):

The Men by Fanny Calder
The Usurper King  by Zeb Haradon
The World Without Flags by Ben Lyle Bedard 
Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas
The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James D Dixon
The Unravelling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn
Back Home by Tom Williams

Other books I've loved are highlighted on Rosie's two part post:


The second reason I love being a part of #RBRT is that some of us have become real life friends, too, enjoying several meet-ups.

Here are me, Rosie, Shelley, Cathy and Barb, in Matlock, April 2019 - a lovely weekend!

Leicester, December 2016

With Rosie, Cathy, Barb and Alison - Sheffield, October 2015

Here's to six more years of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team! ๐Ÿ’ƒ

Thursday, 25 June 2020

~ What To Avoid In Social Conversation ~

I saw this delightful list from late Victorian/early Edwardian times, on @serialsemantic's Twitter page, and considered how it might be translated into these days of social media conversation.

As you will see, I think some should still apply to Twitterly interaction, though others should be disregarded entirely. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you click on the item below it will be big enough to read, but I've written out each one before my Twitterly translation.  Enjoy!

1.  Do not manifest impatience.
Building a Twitter profile takes time - do not manifest impatience about your lack of interactions and retweets, or certainly not via tweet.  If a new writer, do not publicly manifest impatience about your lack of book sales.  It takes time to build up a readership, too.  Also, it might make other people wonder why no one is buying it.

2.  Do not engage in argument.
Debating differing opinions is one of the joys of conversation, online and off, but do not call someone a self-absorbed c*** if their opinion differs from yours, as happened to me a short while back. Or say that they are 'sad' because they do not perceive a situation in the same way that you do.  If someone is not willing to reasonably accept a differing point of view, it is best to bow out gracefully. Then mute the dickhead.

3.  Do not interrupt another when speaking.
If you see a conversation between two or three strangers, and you have strongly negative feelings about the subject matter being discussed, do not butt in and tell them how offended you are by their conversation.  Unless you're the sort of person who goes on Twitter to seek arguments, of course.

4.  Do not find fault, although you may gently criticise.
When you get those DMs that we all hate, in which the person (inevitably a total stranger) asks you to download their music, subscribe to their Youtube channel, review their new book, etc, do not tear them off a strip.  They may simply be ignorant of the best way to use social media.  If you wish to comment, it is more productive to suggest that this may not be the best way to promote themselves, and let them know that such an activity is considered spam.

However, if they're rude back, or continue to send them, give 'em hell.

5.  Do not talk of your private, personal or family matters.
A couple of weeks back, I saw a tweet from a woman complaining that she was having 'a particularly heavy flow this month'.   
WHY?  Why would anyone tweet that?????  ๐Ÿ˜– ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

6.  Do not appear to notice inaccuracies of speech in others.
If they want to describe themselves as 'adverse' to something, or indicate their agreement by tweeting 'Here, here!', let them.  Unless it really, really irritates you.  Some inaccuracies, such as use of 'words' like 'irregardless' and 'deteriate' might cause you to spontaneously combust if not corrected.  In these cases, priority should be given to your own well-being.

7.  Do not allow yourself to lose temper or speak excitedly.
Do not call someone a self-absorbed c*** because their opinion, politely and amicably expressed, differs from yours.  If that insult is directed towards you, report and block.  But speaking excitedly?  What is life without joyful enthusiasm?  The floor is yours!

8.  Do not allude to unfortunate peculiarities of anyone present.
Unless they are Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Katie Hopkins, etc.  In these instances, fill yer boots.

9.  Do not always commence a conversation by alluding to the weather.
But be aware that if you tweet about it, you will get more interaction on that tweet than on any other one before or since.  Much of it from people who have never spoken to you before, but feel the need to tell you that it's raining where they are.

10. Do not, when narrating an incident, continually say 'you see' or 'you know', etc.
Or those 280 characters won't go very far!

11. Do not introduce professional or other topics in which the company generally cannot take an interest.
Nah.  Do not feel scared to talk about stuff that you're enthusiastic about.  That's how you find like-minded people.  You will never please everyone, and trying to tweet only 'items of general interest' makes your profile look somewhat 'vanilla', as if you have read a book on How To Engage With Your Twitter Followers.  Your profile is your own; if you want to tweet about the sex life of the koi carp, go right ahead. 

12. Do not talk very loud.  A firm, clear, distinct, yet mild, gentle and musical voice has great power.
Do not greet someone in your Twitter feed by saying 'MORNING, FATSO!  SOLD ANY BOOKS YET TODAY?'  On the other hand, do not say, 'in my humble opinion' (IMHO) before expressing yourself; we know it's your opinion because you're saying it, and if you consider your opinion humble, so will others.

On yet another hand, it might be better to say, 'I'm not sure I agree with that' than 'You're talking out of your arse, mate'.

13. Do not be absent-minded, requiring the speaker to repeat what he has said, that you might understand.
It's perfectly acceptable to ask someone for that useful link a second time.  We all forget and lose stuff on our cluttered desktops, etc.  However, asking for a third and fourth time might get you a ๐Ÿ˜ฌ followed by the gritted-teeth suggestion that you keep the link somewhere you can find it.
14. Do not try to force yourself into the confidence of others.  If they give their confidence, never betray it.
If someone tells you in a tweet that they know a writer who sends DMs to other writers asking them to do review swaps, you'll be dying to know who it is, won't you?  Go on, ask them to tell you in a DM.  Just once.  If they don't reply, don't ask again.

And if they tell YOU in a DM that they haven't sold a book in three months, do not report this to anyone else.   

15. Do not intersperse your language with foreign words and high-sounding terms.  It shows affectation and will draw ridicule on you.
Or, at the very least, will make people mentally label you as pretentious.  It actually shows insecurity, but does not impress, as hoped; it usually has the opposite effect.

16. Do not aspire to be a great storyteller; an inveterate teller of long stories becomes very tiresome.  To tell one or two witty, short, new stories, appropriate to the occasion, is about all that one person should inflict on the company.
Do not use Twitter to detail, in a thread of tweets, the injustices caused to you by an former romantic partner, unless you already have an audience of online friends who have previously expressed their interest and concern, and are waiting for details of the latest developments.  If not, it will make you look like a nutcase.

~ Do unto other Twitter users as you would have them do unto you ~
๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

Friday, 19 June 2020

Lately I've Been Watching

More mini TV reviews ... including, by popular demand, where they can be watched!  But if you ever want to find out where you can watch something, generally, just google 'where can I watch *name of show*' and you should be able to find out.

I add to this series every month or couple of months; if you would like to see more, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching

Some good ones this month!


Series: Gangs of London - Season 1 (Sky)

5 stars plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

LOVED this!  London gang lord Finn Wallace, played by Colm Meaney, is murdered - and his loyal son and heir Sean (Joe Cole) is determined to find out who gave the order, as well as who pulled the trigger.  As events unravel, he discovers that his father was not the man he thought he was, and must contend with associates who may not be the friends he thought.  Michelle Fairley (Caitlyn Stark in Game of Thrones) also stars as the horribly deluded mother, who has much to discover about her late husband.

Alongside Sean's story is that of Elliot Finch, undercover cop who works as an enforcer for the Wallaces, and soon finds that he is in too deep.

Absolutely gripping, edge of the seat stuff, not a dull scene throughout. Highly recommended.  Lots of violence - you have been warned.

Series: The Son - Seasons 1 and 2 (Amazon Prime)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Based on the book of the same name by Philipp Meyer.  Pierce Brosnan stars as Eli McCullough, a Texas rancher and would-be oil man in 1915, battling with the local Mexican community, the big guns up north, and his favourite son, Pete (Henry Garrett).

Interspersed with the present day is Eli's back story - how his family's meagre home was attacked by Comanches, in 1849.  His brother, sister and mother perished, but he was kept as a slave by the tribe.  He soon learns their ways, however, and becomes a Comanche himself; he is adopted by the chief, expertly played by Zahn McClarnon, who you will have seen in every other other TV show and film that has ever featured a Native American (Westworld, Fargo).  

An unusual slant - it is soon evident that the main character of this show is no 'goodie' that you want to root for.  Although the young Eli (Jacob Lofland) is likeable, he grows into a manipulative and ruthless man.  Your sympathy will be with the Mexicans and possibly his wife and daughter; son Pete whines too much, and the elder son, Phineas, is as bad as his father.

This didn't grip me too much for the first couple of episodes, but as soon as it began to, I was totally sold; it's a great story.  Sadly, it was cancelled after only two seasons, and the story wrapped up.  So worth watching, and I must read the book, too!

Series: Homeland - Season 8 (Amazon Prime, Showtime, Channel 4)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The final season, sadly - and it's another winner.  This time, the ever-tormented Carrie Mathison is suspected of being a Russian spy; echoes of Nicholas Brody.  It seemed a bit low-key in the first couple of episodes but got better and better as it went on, and the ending is completely satisfactory; it's not often one can say that, at the end of a long-running show.  

If you love Homeland you won't be disappointed, and if you've never watched it, you should start!

Reality TV/Documentary: Alone - Season 6 (Netflix) 

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Survival series in which 10 contestants are sent to live alone in the wilds; the one who sticks it out for the longest wins the $500,000 prize.  This time, they're in the Arctic, facing the freezing cold, lack of food, bear attacks - all the usual stuff.  All contestants are survival experts; as usual they range from the irritating to the slightly nuts, to the admirable and likeable.  Great fun guessing who's going to 'tap out' next, or who will be removed on medical grounds (like losing 20% of their body weight in 2 months), but what I like most about this is finding out about all the survival techniques.  Love it :)

Limited Series (complete story): Quicksand (Netflix)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Swedish series dubbed into English.  Starts with a school shooting, and a girl (Maja, played by Hanna Ardรฉhn) covered in blood, staring at the dead bodies surrounding her; she is taken away by the police.  Very soon we realise that she is not victim but possible co-perpetrator - but why?  And what part did boyfriend Sebastian play?

The story alternates between Maja's time in prison, in semi-isolation, including meetings with her lawyer/interviews with the police, and a more or less chronological account from when she met Sebastian, through to how her life began a dangerous spiral downwards as their relationship progressed.

I was glued to this from start to finish (watched it all in one night), but took a half star off because I hated the ending.  Alas, I cannot say why, as it would be a total spoiler!  Also, it's only my opinion - others might love it.

Series: Reality Z - Season 1 (Netflix)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Brazilian dubbed into English, this is based on the original Charlie Brooker miniseries Dead Set, about a reality TV show in which the inhabitants of a Big Brother style house don't realise that the zombie apocalypse is taking place outside.  Created by Clรกudio Torres and produced by Brooker, these are no Walking Dead, shambling, slow Walkers - the Reality Z zombies are wild-eyed, fast, and terrifying.

It's nothing like TWD, or indeed Black Summer; it's dark, satirical humour.  I enjoyed it and would watch more, but liked it rather than loved it.

Documentary Series: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four part documentary based on the 2016 book of the same name by James Patterson.  It's good, kept me interested, but felt more as though it was made for anyone who doesn't know much about him; it focused on the survivors' stories, and only touched upon Epstein's vast network of the rich, famous and influential.  I felt there was a lot left unsaid, about how much was covered up by whom and for how long, which makes one wonder if the producers were cautioned against saying too much.

Monday, 25 May 2020

To go Free or not to go Free?

I decided to write this post after talking to several newer self-published authors about whether or not free promotions for a first book are worth doing, and what results they should expect.  Much of this will also apply to those who have written two connected books (one book and its sequel, or the first two books of a series), or anyone who has not tried a free promotion before.

What are free promotions for?  The answer may seem obvious, but here it is:
  1. To get your book on Kindles far and wide.
  2. To find new readers for your other books, or those soon to be written.
  3. To get more reviews and ratings.
  4. To boost the book's visibility on Amazon.

So do they work?  Points 1 and 4, above, will depend on several elements:
  • The extent of your social media presence.
  • The cover and the blurb.
  • The quality of reviews already present.
  • Whether or not you are willing to pay a promotional company for extra exposure - more about this later.

Points 2 and 3 will depend on:
  • The quality of the free book - more about this later, too.
  • Whether or not it is your sole publication and, if so, how soon your next book will be published. 

Let's take a look at all these points.

1.  The extent of your social media presence, and Amazon visibility.

How it used to be: I did my first free promo in April, 2012, with just 1000 Twitter followers.  I put my first two books on free, and got around 33K downloads.  All I did was tweet about them, and get them posted on sites that featured free books at no cost, none of which exist any more.  The subsequent boost in visibility was sufficient to get them both into the Amazon UK Top 100 paid charts, after the promotion; one of them, You Wish, was selling every few minutes.

A major factor in determining how well your book sells is how often Amazon's computers show it to potential readers, e.g., in recommendations, in the 'also bought' and 'also viewed', etc.  If 20K people have downloaded your book over one weekend, Amazon's AI thinks, 'People like this. I'll show it to everyone, and it will make money for the Mighty Zon.'.

That was 8 years ago.  Times have changed - a lot!

I caught the last wave of the fabulous free promotions.  Six months later, it was over.  These days, everyone has Kindles jam-packed with books they will never read.  There are hundreds of thousands of freebies on Amazon every day of the week.  Many readers will have downloaded free books that shouldn't have been published in the first place, and assume 'free' means 'crap'.  Now, you have to sell a free book in the same way you would if it wasn't free, using hooks, quotes and taglines that will make people think, hmm, that sounds interesting.  If you have only 1000 followers on Twitter, it is likely that, because of the site's algorithms, only a few hundred, if that, will see your tweets.  Out of those, not all will be takers; possibly under 100 of them.

From my experience and observation, you need to get at least 2K downloads to make any difference to the book's visibility on Amazon.  You can get more by using Facebook (I am not on the site any more, but I believe there are lots of groups and pages that publicise free books), by retweeting others on Twitter so that they will retweet you back, and by paying a promotional site.  Yes, we're getting to that soon!

2.  The Cover and the Blurb

These are of varying importance, depending on the individual.  If a book's subject matter is something I want to read about, and the blurb draws me in, I don't give a stuff about the cover; it's the genre and blurb that 'speaks' to me.  Others are attracted mainly by the cover.  It makes sense, though, to have the best cover you can afford or make, and to make sure the blurb is sharp, to the point, enticing and error-free.  You could always try running it past some honest friends to see how it might be improved.

3.  The Quality of the Reviews Already Present

Obviously, it makes sense to have as many reviews on the book as possible before doing a special promotion.  Most new writers start off with reviews from friends, family and online writer friends, who usually make the mistake of saying it's the best book they've ever read.  If your only reviews are one or two liners of this type, especially if they have never reviewed any other books, it will scream 'reviews from family and friends'.  It helps if you have a few from regular reviewers and book bloggers, too.  You can read more about getting reviews by looking in the 'Reviews' section of this list of articles: HERE

4. Paying for promotion

'Is it crazy to pay for promotion for a book that's free?'  No, it's not.  On average once a month, I do a free promotion for one of my books using Freebooksy.  To book it, you choose one day during your promotion, pay your $90 or £72 (those figures are approximate), and your book will feature on their daily email to 1000s of subscribers. These will be mostly in countries that buy from, such as the US.  The boost this gives will get it high in the book's genre charts, so that on the days that are left, the downloads will carry on coming.  This is why it's best to choose the first or second day of your promotion.  Have a look on the Freebooksy site before booking it on Amazon KDP, as some days will be sold out.

I have also had reasonable results with The eReader Cafe and less so with Book Doggy but this is reflected in the price (it's only about £12).  

In my experience, a Freebooksy promotion will obtain 2K - 5K downloads, though some genres may do better; others, worse.  But this is enough to give a sagging book a lift, get future sales - especially good if your book is the first in a series - and obtain new reviews and ratings.

Then there is BookBub.  You've probably heard of it.  It's fabulous, and has not 1000s but 1,000,000s of subscribers.  It costs about £540 to promote a free book for one day (it works in the same way as all the others), but it's worth it.  You have to submit the book for their consideration, and they only take around 10% of those submitted, but you can keep trying; I know of one writer who submitted about 16 times before finally getting accepted.  I've been accepted twice so far, and got 37K downloads the first time, and 45K the second.  For each, I got over 300 new reviews or ratings across all sites (all Amazons, Bookbub itself, Goodreads) for each book (it's probably more by now), and the boost this gave me in Amazon visibility meant that I made the money back several times over in the two or three months that followed, in sales for the book that had been on promotion, and others.

For more details of any of these promotional sites, take a look via the links provided.  Do be aware, though that the wider your readership, the more likely you are to get some bad reviews.  Most of the ones I got for The Devil You Know were extremely positive, but I got a few humdingers for The House of York!  Unless you're getting a great deal of bad reviews, in which case you need to take a long, hard look at the book itself, it's just something you must learn to accept.  And you can learn from them, sometimes.

5.  The Quality of the Free Book

The ideal world: 1000s will download the free book, read it immediately, think, 'Wow!  I need more!', then leap to Amazon and to buy more of your work.  Of course, this rarely happens.

Think about your own reading habits.  If a book really grips you, you'll buy the next in the series or another novel by that author.  If it's just 'quite good' but didn't really grip you, or it's okay but still needs some work, you probably won't. Similarly, if you can see that it's good but it's just not your thing - no book appeals to everyone.

I have a four book series, and put the first one, Tipping Point, on free a couple of times a year. I get around an 80% 'read-through' to Book #2, Lindisfarne, and 70% for #3, UK2, though only about 60% to #4, Legacy.  But the people who do read all four often go on to buy others; the associated short stories, another book set in the same world (Blackthorn), The Devil You Know, and my most recent, 2-book series. These are the ones who like my writing style—the more downloads you get, the more likely you are to find them.

If your free book is not soundly edited and proofread, with great pacing, characters that the readers care about, realistic dialogue and a well-constructed plot without any dodgy bits, you will get less read-throughs, and less reviews.  I say this from observation and, sadly, experience - my first two books needed better editing and proofreading.  I thought the fantastic free promo would get me started.  It didn't.  That came several books later, when I was more experienced in every aspect of novel-writing.  I did get some great reviews, and found readers who stuck with me, but I got some bad ones, too, and made errors with the subject matter of the third and fourth books - basically, it was a learning experience!

Putting one book on free is no guarantee of future sales.  However!  A lack of them might not necessarily mean your book is a mess.  It might be simply because of my theory, which I will now explain:

'Last month, my book got 1000 free downloads 
- so where are all the new reviews and read-through sales?'

The following amounts are general estimates, so please don't take me to task about it; it's not meant to be actual figures, but to illustrate why you should not expect your free promotion to propel you into Amazon best-selling glory.

Your book is downloaded 1000 times.  What happens next?
  • 500 people will never read it.  It will get lost in the thousands of other free books on their Kindles.
  • 50 may discover it in 6 months' time.  Or a year, or two years.  I was still getting the odd review for You Wish (that first book) two or three years after I put it on free.
  • 100 will start it, not like it, and abandon after a chapter or two.
  • 50 will start it, think it's okay, but not be that bothered about it; they may abandon simply when they see another book that excites them more.
  • 100 will finish it, and think it was good, but won't be gagging to read any more.
  • 100 will like it, and probably read more. Some time.  Not necessarily immediately.
  • Out of all the above, you may get the odd review or rating, though they probably won't be 5*.  There are now just 100 readers left.
  • 50 will like it alot, and get another one, though this may be on Kindle Unlimited, so you won't see an immediate sale; they may not even read it straight away.  
  • 50 will like it alot, even adore it; these could become 'your readers'.  But half of them may not get round to buying another book just because... well, just because.  How many times have you said, 'Oh yes, I really liked his first book.  I'll get round to reading the sequel some time.'?
  • Of those 50, 10 will tell other people about you, in person or on social media. They may tell you, too.  But most will remain anonymous.
  • These last 50 are your possible reviewers.  However, they may mean to, but never get round to it.  It's better now that readers can just rate on Amazon without having to write anything, though; 99% of readers don't review.  Also, do not forget that these magic people might not have actually read the book yet. 
Remember: a free download is not the same as a sale.
Your book's free ranking on Amazon has no bearing on its paid ranking

6.  Is It Your Only Book?

I would not advise paying for promotion for a lone publication, because however much a reader loves it, he or she will have nowhere else to go once it's read.  On the other hand, you may get some new reviews; generally, though, the only time I would advise paying is when the next book is imminent - and by that I mean will be published within the next couple of weeks.   If so, it is a good idea to write something to that effect either on the blurb or in the author's note at the back.  Or leave the option to sign up for a newsletter if you do one, or follow you on social media.

If the book is #1 of a continuing story, it's best to wait until the series is complete before spending out, or have at least three books ready to download. 
Otherwise, people tend to forget.  There are 1000s of books published every week - it is easy to forget about an author, even if you really liked them.

7.  What else can you do?

When promoting your free book on Twitter, do a good new pinned tweet every day of the promotion, giving an indication of the book's genre, and a line or two to say what it's about, or quotes from great reviews (from book bloggers, not your best mate or your mum).  Vary the tweets.  Use pictures.  RT others alot, tweet it a few times during the day. You can also DM Twitter friends to ask them to help you promote it.

But Don't:
  • Go overboard with the tweets; it'll annoy your followers (yep, done it myself!).
  • Focus your tweets on how many downloads it's already got, unless it's at #1 in a main genre chart, or has had something like 10K, which is a pull in itself.  On the whole, though, only other writers will be interested.
  • Say things like 'Let's get #1 of The Dragon Chronicles into the Top 100 #Free chart!'.  Some people will want to help, but, basically, you're the only one who cares.
  • Ask for reviews in the tweets: 'Please download, read and review'.  That's a huge no-no.
  • Call yourself a 'best-selling author' if you're not.  Getting to the top of an obscure genre chart for one day does not make you a best-selling author.  

If, having read this, you've decided against going free, you can always try a 99p/c promotion, for a week.  If it is published on Amazon KDP, you can do a Kindle Countdown promotion, which means that you can put the book on for as low as 99p/c and still get the 70% royalty.  The price can be increased gradually during the week, or you can just leave it at 99 for the whole week; I do.  Again, it is best to do this once the book has got some decent reviews, and has an enticing blurb, etc, etc.

I hope this helps, and good luck!