Wednesday, July 04, 2012

BOOKS: Kindle's Free Books List

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Joe Konrath has been beating the drums over ePublishing on Amazon for a few years now. The fact is, that just about anybody can get a book out to the public at little or no cost. That said, spending a little money on a cover designer and an editor is wise money spent, if the book has the merits to sell to more than just family and friends. The best part of the Amazon process is that it has almost killed off the vanity press, the carny barkers who preyed on writers' need to see their names in print ... usually on the covers of the case of books sitting in their basement.

One of the things Amazon does is produce a cornucopia of free books that are on sale for a few hours or a day or two, every day. I haunt two sites to see the day's freebies at Amazon. There's a curated list at  But my favourite is 

The reason I favour the site is that it shows book covers. I miss that about the way I bookshop these days. I know the author and title and I search Amazon for it. I barely look at the cover before hitting the buy button. And after buying it, I don't stick around to 'browse.' Cuz it's really not browsing, is it? It's linking to known quantity after known quantity. I hadn't 'bought' a book because of its cover in a LOOOOOOONG time. But recently, I have. 

100 Free Books offers up a scrolling list of covers, most of which have a small snippet of descriptive text, I average finding about two covers a day worth investigating. In the early days, it was more, but I've become more discerning in my advancing Amazon Browsing age. Clicking on the cover opens an Amazon tab with the book selected. I can confirm the price is still ZERO (these free deals don't all continue or expire at the same time) and I get the extended description. If, after reading it, I want the book, it's easy enough to obtain. I get a confirming email from Amazon for my order later in the day. I DO read that confirmation, making sure one last time I've gotten a freebie. Then I move it out of my active inbox.

Some things about these free books. MOST serve as an introduction to new authors. In months of monitoring these lists, I've seen recognized authors rarely, excepting classics from the Gutenberg list of out of copyright books. Maybe one or two a week. As for books I've read, a half-dozen in total. Which leads to a funny story.

I finally got around to reading Paul Levine's Solomon vs. Lord, a legal thriller wrapped up in a goofy Floridian mystery that came out in 2005 and immediately went on my want list. I didn't get it until a couple of years ago and I didn't read it until early May of this year. Let me tell you, it's a five-star book. Worth every penny to whoever got it for me as a present (hard to read inscriptions on eBooks and I lost who got it for me specifically. Sorry). So, two more books had come out in the series in 2006, Deep Blue Alibi and Kill All The Lawyers. I went looking for the books and couldn't find them on ANY free list. And even on the free lists guys like me are NOT supposed to know about. 

Stewing about the unavailability of the books for about a half-hour finally forced my hand. I checked out the site and the author's site. I wanted to be sure there weren't some sort of specials I could take advantage of. I mean, it's pretty rare for me to buy a book these days. That's what family and friends and birthdays and Christmas were for. This was May, and my birthday was still the better part of THREE WHOLE MONTHS away!!! So, I broke down and bought the ebooks on Amazon rather than put them on my want list. Three books, because a new book in the series had been released that very morning!! Really!! That morning! And with a name like Habeas Porpoise, it was a no-brainer. Three minutes later and fifteen credit card bucks poorer, I had the full series. 

And of course there is a but ... or two. Deep Blue Alibi was inferior in quality. Had I JUST bought that book, I would have stopped reading the series and saved myself ten dollars. And Kill All The Lawyers was only a bit better. Say average. Sigh. Fortunately, I can report that Habeas Porpoise is a four-star book and almost is worth the 15 dollars by itself. On the other hand (here's the BIG BUT), ALL THREE BOOKS APPEARED ON THE FREE LISTS over the next three weeks. I waited, what, six years to read Solomon vs. Lord, and had I waited just three more weeks, I would have saved my money.

Which is churlish, if my genuine feeling at the time. While it's emminently possible to survive on just free books on the Kindle, the fact is, good books should result in good earnings for their authors. A good book IS worth five bucks. Heck, it's worth 15 bucks. Or more. Then again, not all of the books on the free list are good books. I'd call a lot of them, closer to 'training wheel' books. 

Training wheel books are the ones that probably wouldn't have gotten published five years ago. They're lower in quality because they're the author's first try at this book-writing gig. Which is hard work. I speak from experience. I have a book that could have been put out there by now. But it's not ready for success. So, it's not on Amazon yet. It will be. But it has to get better. 

The book needs another re-write or seven. EVERY read-through finds a typo or an awkward sentence structure. EVERY pass seems to find one place where a character name has not been changed to reflect the current list of character names. Or place names. Plot-lines are STILL being added in and some taken out. It's going to have to be perfect in my mind before I ask people who aren't friends, or friends of friends, to invest their time and money reading the book. 

And I wish some of these authors had similarly anal quality requirements.  Simply put, you get what you don't pay for. Free gives you the chance at something interesting, without the requirement that it meet your previous minimal levels of 'professional book' expectations. There WILL be typos. There WILL be some awkward writing. And in one of the books I read, the ending was just a tad abrupt, as if the author had ridden the idea as far as he was capable of  (or willing) and said, "Let's just call this finished and get it out there." 

Bottom line, I haven't found an author yet to move to my watch list. Nobody has me salivating yet for their next book. But I've actually enjoyed these little tastes of something new and somewhat unformed more than I expected. The books I've guessed wrong on only waste an hour, two at the most. Then I delete them and move onto the next free book. Having no investment in them means I don't continue to waste my time with writing I'm not enjoying.  

There WILL come a day when I discover a new talent. I'm not talking about a Paul Levine or a Dana Stabenow, both of whom have had freebies on the list, and whom I was already familiar with. It'll be somebody new. And then I will have had that rarest of gifts. Another author to enjoy. My birthday is two weeks away. Is it asking too much?  

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