Month: February 2014

Basic Beginner’s Guide but Others May Be Better

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Publish Children’s Books by Caterina Christakos

3 star

3 Stars

The title of Caterina Christakos’ short guide sold me on it, but a short read later left me wondering if I should have picked a different book. It’s very short – perhaps ten pages. While packed with information, it does not offer many new tips or suggestions for authors who have already published one or more books. The guide offers some money-saving advice that could prove valuable but is generally available elsewhere. It does not go far enough in giving the reader value for their money by offering more options. In the audio books section, for example, it did not make reference to Audible.com, Amazon’s audio bookseller, or producing an audiobook using Amazon’s ACX. Perhaps this was an oversight or the guide needs to be updated.

Although advertised as a resource for publishing children’s books, the guide is applicable to writers of many genres. This is a plus in that you don’t have to be a children’s writer to get something out of it. On the other hand, a children’s writer may not find Ms. Christakos’ guide useful enough to make it worth buying.

There are other, better reference materials on publishing children’s books, including free options such as newsletters and publishing guides for writers that provide more in-depth information. If you are a beginning author who needs some general information to get started, this might be the book for you if it’s reasonably priced. If not, take a pass and check out other resources.

Publishing Children’s Books is now available at:

Amazon

BookLikes

Goodreads

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Strayed Stays on Course with “Wild” Memoir

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed

  4 star

4 Stars

As a writer and fan of personal memoirs, I couldn’t wait to read Cheryl Strayed’s personal account of her hike on the Pacific Coast Trail from Southern California to Oregon. After the death of her mother and personal setbacks that made her rethink her life’s direction, the author set out on the 1,100-mile hike with limited trekking experience or knowledge of wilderness survival.

Strayed’s account is harrowing and humoring, sad and satirical as she recounts encounters with scenery, weather, wildlife and humans captivating and brutal. She is a victim of her own naivety in thinking she could prepare herself for a long and difficult journey with only a rudimentary understanding of trekking imparted by a guidebook and veteran hikers who crossed her path. In spite of natural and sometimes self-inflicted adversity, Strayed persevered.

I enjoyed the author’s inspiring story and the life lessons she picked up along the way. I now have a much better idea of what to expect on a grueling trek like the Pacific Coast Trail. Her offbeat, quirky personality and humorous stories and anecdotes make the memoir an entertaining read. With vivid imagery, Strayed takes the reader along with her and shows what it’s like to be at the point of despair in the middle of nowhere. In the end, she redeems herself and serves as a personal example to those who need to find a different way in life.

Unfortunately, the book begins with a series of vignettes so depressing that they risk turning off the reader. In her attempt to underscore personal redemption, the author paints such a debased portrait of her old self that she risks turning off the reader. The Cheryl Strayed who needs to get her life together by hitting the Pacific Coast Trail is not a likeable character. Perhaps by design, the author discourages the reader to continue reading her story by offering such a terrible image of herself that one wonders if she was really so awful or merely embellished. Her strong views gradually worn down by the trail might be a turn-off to those who don’t agree with her politics. Getting through the beginning of the book is like climbing out of a steep valley. It’s better skies ahead once you reach the top.

I give “Wild” 4 stars and recommend it to mountaineering and trekking fans, those who are thinking of embarking on a months-long trek, and those who need inspiration to jump start their lives.

Wild is now available at:

Amazon

Goodreads

LibraryThing

Analytics Book Out of Date but Still Relevant

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The Amazon Analytics Bible: How To Use Analytics To Sell More Books On Amazon And Make Better Marketing Decisions

By Tom Corson-Knowles

3 star

3 Stars

I read Tom Corson-Knowles’ guide to insights on how to use analytics, the science of logical analysis, to sell more books. I was initially disappointed because although his “bible” is just over a year old, it’s already out of date. Disregard everything he suggests in the first few chapters on how to embed third-party links on Amazon to understand your customers. Amazon has since changed its permissions on Kindle Digital Publishing and Author Central to disallow the kind of third-party tracking Corson-Knowles recommends. It’s futile to try (as of February 2014). Do yourself a favor and avoid hours of headaches trying to make it work. For this reason, my initial conclusion was to give the book a one-star rating until the author updates his book or Amazon allows embedded third-party links again.

As I read further, I discovered some valuable insights on book analytics that, ironically, could be applied through other sales channels than Amazon. The author offers some good advice on the general use of analytics that may be applicable to other e-bookstores and your own website and e-books. I haven’t tried it yet and don’t have any specific suggestions but am convinced that the author’s recommendations are still applicable beyond Amazon’s ecosystem. The book merits a five-star rating for this alone.

Because Corson-Knowles’ guide is out of date but has some general points that are still valid, I split the difference and gave it three stars. There may be other, better books on using analytics to sell books. If this guide is free or less than a dollar, it’s still a worthwhile read as long as you avoid the headache of trying to do what it says to do.

The Amazon Analytics Bible is now available at:

Amazon

Goodreads

LibraryThing