Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse, or “How a Scammer Got My Book Blocked with Very Little Effort”

Originally posted on The Active Voice:

Okay, I’ve got a story. It’s a sort of scary one. I think independent/self-publishing authors need to know about it, and telling it carefully and correctly is also important for my own situation, so I’m going to take my time and lay it all out in order.

Pressed for time? You can skip to the bottom for the TL;DR summation.


Becca Mills - Nolander - 333x500 On Friday, February 27, 2015, I noticed that my bookmarked Amazon.com link to my first novel,  Nolander , was yielding, “We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.” I went to my Amazon dashboard and discovered the book had been blocked.

In my spam folder, I discovered an email from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing arm, informing me that someone had sent in a DMCA notice. In response, Amazon had summarily blocked Nolander from sale.

“DMCA” stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”…

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To All Book Reviewers – A Thank You

Author Unpublished:

A great article of thanks for book reviewers — I wish I saw more of these, and I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative we book reviewers are to see posts like this from people who understand what we do, and appreciate that we do it.

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:

Thank you

Writing book reviews is tough. It doesn’t matter whether it is a couple of lines and a rating, or a well thought out essay, it takes effort for a reviewer to translate all the emotions and experiences they’ve just felt and translate it into something concise, considered and heartfelt. Many authors complain about how difficult it is to write a plot synopsis or promotional blurb, but it can be just as difficult for reviewers to condense everything they’ve experienced, complete with explanation and reasoning, into a few paragraphs. And then there is the worry about the reaction. Every author understands the anxiety of letting their work go, wondering if people will love or hate what they’ve written, but it is exactly the same for a reviewer, especially if they didn’t enjoy the work they are reviewing.

Some, lucky few, get paid to review books, but most book reviewers do it for free. And this is important for authors to remember…

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Let’s be honest: Negative Reviews

writing-1024x692Negative reviews are a bit of a hot-button topic for book reviewers. The topic tends to be polarizing in the community, and can be a bit complex if you haven’t been faced with the decision to leave a negative review before. Though every reviewer is different, and there’s no real wrong answer when it comes to leaving reviews (after all, reviews are only opinions when you get right down to it), I’d like to take a minute to shine a light on the matter.

For the most part, there seem to be two sides of the issue (though again, things are a bit more complex than that). There are those reviewers who leave negative reviews, and those that don’t. Though there can be any number of reasons for a reviewer to avoid posting negative reviews, the most common seems to come down to this: As reviewers, we feel bad leaving negative reviews.

It’s not necessarily that we feel bad complaining about a terrible book—because believe me, we all know how to complain quite loudly about our pet peeves when it comes to terrible literature. No, it’s that we feel bad for the author. As book reviewers, many of us are authors too—and even if we aren’t, we know a lot of them. We spend a lot of time getting to know various authors and helping them get the word about their books out there and into the public eye. So, when we are faced with the decision of writing a negative review, sometimes we chicken out.

We know how hard it is to write a book. We know the dedication it took, the time and planning that went into every chapter, and we know how much it hurts to have someone tell you that all that time and effort you just spent putting together a story you love like a child, was wasted. Many reviewers won’t leave a review if it’s less than 3, even 4 stars—because we know that leaving anything under 4 stars is basically handing an indie book a toe tag. Asking someone to read a book is the same as asking them to hand over hours of their lives, and readers don’t want to do that if a book isn’t good.

That’s not the only factor weighing down our decisions though. Negative reviews—even exceptionally polite, well-written reviews—are often down voted on sites like Amazon by customers who don’t share the same opinion. It’s a sad truth that customers don’t use the voting process correctly. Reviews are downvoted by agreement or lack thereof, rather than by whether the review was helpful and honest, or not. We reviewers often depend on our “helpfulness” rating on Amazon and other sites to make sure that publishing houses and authors are tempted to send us books for review, and if our “helpfulness” rating is low… well, as you can imagine, we don’t get many review requests. Tempting the angry hordes of readers by posting a negative review is an intimidating prospect for some.

… So why do I personally leave negative reviews? Because it is my personal opinion that reviewers who cave to these fears, who refuse to post negative reviews for the reasons listed above, are doing themselves a disservice.

To me, reviewing isn’t about selling books. That’s not my job—that’s what marketers and publicists are for. My job is to read a book, and then share my opinion with potential readers so they can make informed decisions about whether a book is something they want to read or not. The author doesn’t factor into it—and if they did, I’d never have the courage to leave a review.

It isn’t my fault if an author chose to publish a book before it was ready (and believe me, many do. Please, please, invest in a professional editor.) All I can do as a reviewer is do my best to give an honest opinion—even if sometimes that isn’t easy, or triggers negative consequences.

In my opinion, reviewers who refuse to post negative reviews are perhaps hurting themselves more than they realize, as well as reviewing as a whole. If the only type of review you ever post is positive, then your opinion loses its sense  of unbiased honesty. How can a reader trust a reviewer who only ever leaves positive reviews? Though it may not be true, it makes it seem as if the reviewer was paid off for their opinion—and in this business, if your opinion can’t be trusted, fewer and fewer authors will ask you to review their work, and the ones that do, are probably dishonest.

I want to make it clear: every reviewer has the right to decide upon the type of reviews they want to leave. We aren’t paid to review (and if we are, we truly are dishonest). We share our opinions because we love literature, and we want to share that love with other readers. I’ve never once met a reviewer who didn’t love what we do… but if you’re a reviewer who is in the midst of deciding if you’re okay leaving negative reviews or not, I’d like to leave you with a little bit of food for thought:

If we reviewed any other product rather than books, would we feel bad about leaving negative reviews? Probably not. We see other products for what they are: products, and those that distribute them as companies trying to market those products. Literature shouldn’t be any different. Do you think the people working for the other companies don’t care about their product? Do you think they spent any less time developing, marketing, and distributing their product? No. The reason we feel bad about it is because we know for certain that the author will see our reviews, and it’s hard to say something negative to someone’s face, particularly when you know the negative impact your review could have on the sales of that product.

Reviewing books takes a lot of courage. Being  honest?—it takes even more.

Free Fiction Friday #35

Hello ladies and gentlemen of blogland and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #35! For those of you who are new to this blog or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays: Every Friday (okay, almost every Friday—I try) I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting (and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5). I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars with over 40+ reviews and 100 pages minimum if I can (it isn’t always possible)—so that you can get a list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (While I do more important things than post… like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: RANDOM (Meaning: no specific genre)! Because I missed last FFF due to my new computer and it’s drama, I’ve made this a larger post than normal—therefore confining the genre would be extremely difficult as sometimes my criteria is hard to hit in specific categories (particularly in large numbers). There’s a little bit of everything this time around.

 

Side Note: The Lake (Free) and Troubled Waters (Bargain) are in the same series (book 1 & 2) now would be a great time to get them. Also, I actually just received a copy of Ready Player One (Bargain) this past week and it will soon be in my TBR pile if you’d like to pick it up and compare notes. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

THE FREE

FFF35-hiddenFFF35-if i breakFFF35-hushabyeFFF35-the lakeFFF35-all for annaFFF35-the highlander's hopeFFF35-the hanover square affairFFF35-debt inheritanceFFF35-dying to readFFF35-the last callFFF35-ashSexy young couple passionately kissing in bedroom.FFF35-dark spaceFFF35-the forgotten girlsFFF35-green lakeFFF35-don't be a strangerFFF35-deadly offeringsFFF35-trick questionFFF35-sweet submissionFFF35-rise of the draongs

THE BARGAINS

FFF35bargain-under different starsFFF35bargain-troubled watersFF35bargain-mitosisFFF35bargain-chase the darkFFF35bargain-starholdFFF35bargain-beacuse of himFF35bargain-falling into youFFF35bargain-ready player onePrintFF35bargain-never never

The Boy Next Door

review-cover-the boy next doorTitle: The Boy Next Door

Author: Katie Van Ark

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Maddy Spier’s been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner, she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls. How can she make him realize that they can be partners off the ice as well?

Gabe’s relationship with Maddy is vital. He can’t imagine skating with anyone else, and together, they have a real chance at greatness—maybe even making it to the Olympics someday. So he’s decided to think of her as a sister. After all, family is forever, and he’s never dated anyone for more than two weeks.

Then their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, and everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

Find out, as this intensely romantic novel sweeps you off your skates!

WARING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, but not for the reasons I thought I would. The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark is a love story between two teens—a pair of figure skaters—that have been best friends and neighbors for their entire lives, but just because they’ve spent their lives close to one another, doesn’t mean they always understand each other.

The book was riddled with misunderstandings, assumptions, and poor choices. If you’re looking for a sweet, romantic, or steamy YA read… keep looking. It’s not that this book doesn’t possess some of those themes—there is a sweet romance. Sometimes there’s romantic moments, and yes, even steamy bits, but that isn’t what this book is about. It’s a very real, honest look at a relationship between two teens that aren’t yet grown up enough to always make the right choices. There is betrayal, lies, misinformation. There’s alcohol, unexpected events, and pushy ex’s. The relationship between Maddy and Gabe is a struggle every step of the way—but that’s part of what I really liked about it. This wasn’t some simple YA read where it’s love at first sight and everything goes perfectly. There were some very real obstacles in this story for the characters to work through.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. The narrative was clean and easy to follow. There weren’t any typo’s or misprints that I spotted, and the character’s actions and dialog made sense. I sunk into the story right away and didn’t come up for air until the last page.

That being said, it wasn’t my favorite YA book. It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but I generally like my romances a little more “romancey” than what I found here. This book was about the romance between the two main characters, but not in the way I expected. It wasn’t so much about the attraction and longing between the characters as it was about their struggle to figure out their relationship, and how to keep it steady despite the many things that continued to go wrong for them throughout the book. It was a tad more literary than I’m used to in that respect.

Does that make me like the book any less? No—but it’s a different kind of like. This wasn’t the type of book that I’d devour and move on to the next one in the series… but it is a book that makes me appreciate the depth of it’s writing. Overall: I really enjoyed the book. I wish it had been a tad more engaging for me personally, but I’m still very glad I read it. I think The Boy Next Door is perfect for older teens (15+) but I wouldn’t hand it to the younger YA crowd. There is alcohol use, and there is sex involved. It’s not graphic, but it’s not glossed over either. I wouldn’t hand this book to my 11-year-old—but I do think it’s a good book for teens. I think it will give them a lot of things to think about, and I think it really examines the very real ups and downs of teenage relationships without glamorizing it.

Things are getting a little off-kilter…

My new, lovely, computer.So, you may have woken up this morning and realized that my book review (scheduled for today) didn’t go up. I apologize. Here’s the thing:

After my week long battle with my new computer, things were starting to settle. My files were saved, I conned my husband into fixing my broken USB ports and checking my Windows for errors—after it kept randomly shutting down due to an NFTS file error. After half a week of battling with getting my new PC, up and running reliably, things were fixed!

And then my internet switch promptly died. My computer is the ONLY computer in our household that doesn’t have built-in WiFi (it MUST be plugged in), and it took us awhile to figure out why I suddenly had no internet—but yes, our internet switch died. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Somehow, magically, everything that could possibly go wrong with my computer and it’s ability to run has gone wrong this week. I don’t even know how to explain it other than to sit back and shake my head.

After a night of trying to figure out how I was the only PC in the household with no internet—despite the reboots and troubleshooting we were doing on my computer’s end (we even switched out my Ethernet cord twice in some vain hope that the brand new cord was faulty), we finally got thingMy new office space. Yes, I mutilate my desk. Whatever.s set aright. (Can you see where this is going? Wait for it: )

…and then last night an unexpected storm (it’s not even funny at this point) blew into town with 50mph wind (seriously), and our power kept flickering in and out. I was just praying my computer wasn’t about to get fried by a surge in the power (I’ve actually had that happen—fried a motherboard… I’m still traumatized). So, it is now Wednesday morning, and again, I have no review up. My schedule has very quickly gone to shit for the week. So here’s what I’m going to do—I am two books (or was it three?) behind right now on my reading. So for awhile, we are going to go off schedule. I am going to try and catch back up  and get reviews posted as quickly as I can. That may mean a week where I have reviews on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday… as well as Free Fiction Friday’s. That may happen this week, next week, the week after. We’ll see how it goes. There’s no telling at this point when the reviews will be uploaded—but uploaded they WILL be. I am determined to not let this blog go astray this year!

PS: I named my new computer The Gilded Court (after the Felnatherin royal court from Khet… my novel that was almost eaten by the faulty hard drive, Nom Nom)—I know you were wondering after I declared that I always name my computer hardware. I’m still looking for a new name for Nom Nom; the name now seems kind of ominous.

Monday Update: No Reviews Today

Well, I said it might happen, and unfortunately, it will. There will be no Monday Review this week, but things should be back on schedule for Wednesday. I think things are finally starting to wind down.

Having gotten my new computer, we shortly discovered that it had a few problems. First of all, two of the four USB ports on the top didn’t work. The card reader drive was loose in the case, the DVD drive was shoved in from the wrong direction (and the only way to fix it is to remove the video card, the motherboard, then the drive, then the front of the case in order to put it back in the right way…. I swear I got the idiot of the bunch putting my computer together). Then, as if that wasn’t enough after the great file debacle, Windows kept crashing overnight with an NTFS file system error… which is a sign of a bad hard drive. (Irritatingly enough, my husband’s computer is just fine. We bought them from the same company on the same day. WTF.)

Between continuing to clean my house, working on fixing my computer, and going grocery shopping…. there wasn’t a lot of time over the weekend to read. Luckily, I think things are sorted now. We were able to fix the wires to the USB drives so they show up. We temporarily pinned in the card reader. We chose to leave the DVD drive alone..cause no one has time for that and I can count the number of times I’ve used a DVD drive in the last four years on one hand. We ran a long and irritating file check on my hard drive last night, and the good news is: it’s completely fine. Windows is just mean and errored-out due to Windows updates.  So, thankfully, I don’t have to ship my computer back to the manufacturer for 4 weeks while they fix everything. *thumbs up*

So, in reiteration: Review posts will start back up on schedule on Wednesday. I’ll be reviewing The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark. It’s a YA Contemporary Romance, and it’s pretty good. Keep your eyes peeled!