Reading Amazon eBooks using a Web Browser


Good news! You can always read your books through Amazon Cloud reader irrespective of whether the book is purchased on Amazon.com or Amazon.com.au (or any other domain). This may surprise you, as it seems increasingly harder to find Cloud reader within the Amazon sites without knowing the direct URL. When I last purchased an eBook on Amazon.com.au I was presented with a handy button: Read now in Kindle Cloud Reader. I clicked it and huzzah – I was reading my new purchase within seconds, without having to download a pesky Kindle reader app onto my mac or mobile device.
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The problem was, when I returned to Amazon.com.au several days later I could not find a way to open the book on Cloud reader. I navigated to Manage my content and devices and saw the eBook listed but when I attempted to “deliver” the book to my only device (the Cloud reader), it said the book was incompatible! I knew this was untrue due to my previous experience, so I emailed Amazon and got a prompt reply:

“I would also like to inform you that you can always read your books through our Cloud Reader service directly on web browser, there is no need to install the App. I would be providing you the link below to directly start reading the book from Cloud Reader, there is no need go to Amazon.com.au website or Amazon.com

To access Kindle Cloud Reader, visit https://read.amazon.com (Please remember this link, you can also bookmark it on your web browser, so that you can directly go to our Cloud reader services without going to Amazon website)”

So there you have it. No need for a Kindle or a Kindle device, just read your purchases online.

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Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 3)


(This post is a follow on from Part 2 where I discuss querying overseas agents)

Since deciding to seek representation for my work, I’ve done a lot of research about the right, and more importantly, the wrong way to approach the agent querying process. Like all paths to professional writing, taking a wrong direction can be harmful to your reputation and put you miles behind the vast competition. The old, gung-ho, anything is possible as long as you want it bad enough me would have begun firing off hopeful, passionate query letters to anyone who’d listed an address, but the new me has learned that in this fickle, over-populated industry, you must plan, tailor and target any communications to those in the biz, else your message will be discarded before it is even read.

Although I have only sent a single query, which returned the response: “We are not taking on anymore clients currently,” I’m still going to stand on my soapbox and advise you to do some research of your own before sending any query letters. I wrote a post: Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 2) which briefly talks about how you might select agencies or an agent to query but there is a lot more that could be read on that topic. I’d recommend posts such as The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter and The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents. Also read this free and fantastically informative eBook (written by agent, Noel Lukemen).

Soon I will be writing a summary of the key points in Noel’s book, relating to works of FICTION. To give you a sneak-peak into that post though, the first key point is going to be… Research! Research the agencies that will be most likely to read and represent your work. Research how to write a good solid query letter and research your closest competitors. More soon.

Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 2)


(This post is a follow on from Part 1 where I discuss the value of a good agent and some querying gotchas)

Ok, so perhaps you’ve tried to get a writer’s agent but so far all you’ve heard is: “I’m sorry, but we are not taking on new clients at this time.” You’ve moved down the list (e.g. the Australian Literary Agent’s association members) and you are now approaching the bottom. Your next question may be: “Can I use an agent outside of my country of residence?” Well, the answer is “Yes but be smart about it!”

If you want to query an overseas agent or publisher, make sure your manuscripts’ subject/setting are aligned with the agent’s location. Agents generally focus their selling efforts in their own countries, where they know the market and are easily able to maintain the contacts and business connections a successful agent needs. Generally, publishers will also only be interested in content that is interesting and saleable to their local market.

In my case, the Ruthless Series is set in San Francisco, USA. I will therefore consider pitching to US agents, along with Australian agents. So far I haven’t tried but I have done some research to start identifying which agents may be interested in my work (this is very important – there is no point pitching to an agent or publisher that clearly doesn’t represent your genre).

There are some other interesting articles about querying overseas agents such as http://writeitsideways.com/how-to-query-literary-agents-from-other-countries/

Have a read and do some research before you decide to branch out into other publishing markets. In my next post I’ll provide some more insight into the querying process.

 

 

Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 1)


When I was almost ready to publish my first book, I did my due diligence and looked into my options. There was of course traditional publishing, through one of many Australian publishing agencies, or self-publishing, through a service such as CreateSpace or KDP (Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing). I chose the latter based on a number of writer’s seminars I’d attended and the fact it was going to be a great deal easier than begging and pleading with publishers. I also wanted to see how my book faired on the market, getting direct and real feedback from readers rather than publishers (if lucky enough to even be assessed/read).

So now, after two self-published books, I feel I have a product and something people like and want to read. If I were a marketing guru and didn’t have a full time job, I’d probably choose now, the month before I finish the final book in the Ruthless trilogy, to ramp up my campaign and really try and sell these suckers. But, I’m not (a marketing guru nor choosing this course of action). Instead I am looking towards traditional publishing options again and this time I am investigating the value of writers’ agents.

Writers agents (or literary agents) represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers and film studios, and assists in the sale and deal negotiation. More importantly in submitting to publishers, they target the editors/publishers who are best suited to your work, and thereby more likely to a) not reject your submission, and b) have the mechanisms in place to publish it well.

Through my research, I found that despite many publishers now opening the door to unsolicited manuscript submissions, few submissions, via this route, are actually read. Publishers generally rely on writers’ agents to sort out the wheat from the chaff. They are much more likely to read a submission made via an agent than via an unsolicited manuscript harvest. I also found it can be somewhat harmful to have self-published a book when seeking a traditional publishing deal. This is because, publishers want numbers. They want to know a product is saleable before they invest in it. When you are unpublished, this is a gamble the publisher will take based on the quality and content/genre of the book, but if you are published, they will want sales! Unfortunately, sales are not always a good representation of a books saleability (sounds like an oxymoron I know). This is because sales rely on marketing and in a flooded market like eBooks and publishing, if you don’t have good, consistent and snappy marketing, you don’t have good, consistent and snappy sales.

This is an interesting article that talks about the value of agents and why you should avoid submitting to publishers directly: http://editorialass.blogspot.com.au/2008/09/why-you-should-never-submit-unagented.html 

In my next post, I will gather together some good articles on how to find and approach an agent. This is all new to me too so I’ll let you know what I’ve tried and whether I’ve had any success soon.

Update: Part 2 now available

Attack of the Cheesy Sex Scene


Writing sex scenes… I’m not good at it. In my second book, Heartless (also second in the Ruthless series), I put my all into describing a somewhat surprising, yet passionate encounter between the protagonist, Ruth and another character. When I read it back, I found I’d written one single page of flimsy fornication. So I knuckled down, quashed the thought that had been circling in my head (All your friends and family are going to read this) and wrung out another half page. Not only was my ‘coitus chronicle’ short, it also sounded so… Cheesy! In the end, I vowed to never to re-read it again and moved on like it had never happened.

Now in the midst of the third and final instalment of the Ruthless Series, Soulless, I find myself limping through another scene of passion (I hope this is enticing you to start reading – even cheesy sex sells right?). Let me SHOW you what I’m talking about here:

Fever rose in Ruth’s stomach. The cool air of the night was suddenly undetectable. Her skin burned, fuelled by hot blood. It was as though Ruth was back in the depths of Hell, but she wasn’t, she was in heaven.

See? That is cheesier than a pub parmigiana. So, what can I do about it? Well, I propose that YOU write my sex scene for me. That way I can tell my nanna, with all honesty, that I didn’t write that page turning filth. I’m sure anyone could do a better job than me. If you are interested, let me know. I’m completely serious.

The chapter that busts your metaphorical balls


As a writer you are bound to eventually produce a chapter, paragraph or even just a simple sentence that doesn’t sit well with you. You won’t be able to put your finger on exactly what is wrong with it, but it will be like nails on a chalkboard to read.

These diction ditches can be quite damaging to one’s inspiration and motivation to write. I recently found myself avoiding my third manuscript because I’d already spent two sessions the previous week tweaking a troublesome chapter, and I couldn’t stomach facing it again (I knew it still wasn’t right). After a day off, I talked myself into tackling it, but this time once and for all. Instead of trying to salvage all the hard work I’d put into the chapter to date, I deleted it. I just plain removed it from my manuscript and started again. It was the best decision I’d ever made. In one session, I’d rewritten the chapter and set up the next. I also had my inspiration back and I was keen to move the story forward.

So if you find your metaphorical writing-balls in a vice over pesky phraseology and consequently you are spending all your precious time trying to fix it (with little or no results), consider throwing it out the window. Sometime that is much easier than trying to make it work. You’ll get over the time lost once you re-read your awesome new chapter 🙂

 

The Blood-sucking Author


There is a brand of Author (most often of the indie flavour) that peddles their wares in a somewhat dishonest way. I’m not talking about selling their books for more than they are worth, I’m talking about fooling people into attending seminars under the guise of a “writers workshop” when in fact they are purely sales and marketing opportunities. Subconscious sales are hidden underneath “You can be a successful author just like me!” propaganda, which is eaten up despite the glaringly awkward fact that the “successful author” is spending their weekend talking to a bunch of 50 year old women in a local recreation centre.

They warm the crowd with promise of riches and fame, despite having little or none of it themselves.  They tell the wannabe writers what they want to hear but offer no practical instruction or advice outside of what any idiot could figure out themselves. At the end of the “workshop” they’ve made 20 new fans who decide to spend another $20 on a writer’s self-help guide to actually finishing a book.

The truth is, anyone can write a book, but successfully marketing or selling one is very difficult. Success can elude the most talented authors – if no one reads it, who will know it is great? Telling people otherwise is cruel and wrong. It provides false hope and makes people focus on the wrong elements of writing. You may say “well at least it may motivate writers to finish their work” and you may be right, but that will only last until their sales inevitably fall short of J.K Rowling’s records. Then they will feel disappointed and worthless, when they should feel proud and hopeful.

I am often asked to provide advice to friends of friends or people I meet who know I have written books. I am always happy to help and relay my experiences and lessons learned through my writing journey. But I am always brutally honest. I tell people to write before they worry about attending writing workshops. Focus on creating and producing instead of marketing and making things perfect. You will have an opportunity to build your brand once you HAVE a brand, but if you haven’t actually written or published anything yet, don’t bother.

If you would like to talk to me about writing games or books, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.   My advice is free and devoid of “self-promoting strings”. Media@estherkrogdahl.me

 

Soulless – The Rapture


I’m about half way through the final instalment in the Ruthless trilogy, Soulless. For a while there, I was rebelling against finishing the series and consequently didn’t do much writing over a number of months. However, over the last few weeks I have picked up again and I am LOVING smashing out this supernatural story. I can assure you it is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing, like its sisters – Ruthless and Heartless. For those of you who like a good Zombie read, here is a snippet from the middle. I hope you enjoy and it inspires you to grab a copy of Ruthless and Heartless so you can see where it all began!

….

They rode on through the streets in silence until they came to a grassy hill surrounded by a very old, low cobblestone wall. As the hellhound leapt over the top, landing on the scattered daisy patch on the other side, dark clouds began to form in a swirling whirlpool in the sky. They padded up the hill until Ruth could see the view on the other side. Rows and rows of grave stones.

“New recruitsssss,” the demon Kelvin hissed over his shoulder before slapping the reins against his beast’s back.

The hellhound began threading its way through the graves and with each step, the ground shifted and shuffled. Ruth swivelled to look behind them. Only a few feet away, a mottled, grey fist smashed free of the guttered ground. And then another and another. The clouds above crackled and flared with lightening, momentarily bathing the graveyard in silver light before a rumble of thunder darkened the gravestones once more. Ruth’s heart pounded in her chest. She gripped the beast’s fur tighter in her fists. At the bottom of the hill, the graveyard fanned out into wide flat field. Thousands of headstones stretched out evenly in front of them like marble soldiers. Ruth cringed.

These once good people will rise and terrify their loved ones. There is no trace of their soul left to appeal to, just rotting skin and bones reanimated to do the devil’s work.

Guttural moans rose up behind them. This time Kelvin pulled the reins and turned his animal so that he and Ruth had a full view of the crater-covered hill. Stones lay upturned, flowers and trinkets were strewn and trampled. Decaying bodies staggered down the slope towards them, gnashing their toothless gums and stretching out their curly nailed fingers.

“They will follow us and attack the library on my command,” Kelvin reported over his shoulder.

“They will slow us down and Stratus will see them coming a mile away. God already suspects we will attack the library. We need to take her and her angels by surprise.”

Kelvin snorted and turned the hound again. Sensing his ambivalence, Ruth continued-

“Let’s carry on to the library without them. We can camp out tonight and plot our attack for the morning. If they walk all night, they will arrive tomorrow and supply us with good cover while we slip inside the library unseen.”

Kelvin’s response was to dig his bare, horned heels into the beast. They launched forward, bounding swiftly through the sea of gravestones until they reached the other side of the cemetery, cleared the wall and continued down the desolate street. Ruth tried not to show her relief. Gritting her teeth she stared over Kelvin’s blistered shoulder at the carnage ahead.

The risen-dead have no currency. They have no soul save. I can’t have them ruin my plan.

 

Digital Sabbath, Detox and Rehab


I love travelling around the world. I love spending more time outside, seeing new things and meeting new people on my travels. Something else I love, although it always takes me a few days to realise it, is leaving my daily digital habits at home. I admit, I take devices with me when I travel – usually an iPad (for movies on the plane) and my phone – but I use them much less than I would if I were pacing around in my normal life at home. Why? My theory is – a fantastic lack of boredom combined with an enforced break in my routine.

Our extreme use of mobile devices (as compared with not so long ago) may have developed out of convenience but has grown into a habit. Let’s face it, if most people have a spare minute of idol time, they will use it on a device – check their emails, social media, text messages, play a game, chat, watch a video, listen to a pod cast, read a story, look something or somebody up… The list goes on. While our society celebrates “how far we’ve come”, it often fails to acknowledge and discuss the pitfalls of this technology age. All of this opportunity and choice at our fingertips takes up a mountain of mental space, in-between what we are are already processing and dealing with in our physical environment. Our beloved devices  can often make us feel like there is so much more to do, because it is so simple and easy to do it.

Using idol time to complete another task in your day may feel like a win, but it can come at a cost. What else could you have done with that time? Thought about a loved one, looked out the window and admired the weather, remembered a joke that made you smile, reflected on your behaviour during the day? If we stop doing those things because we use every spare moment to engage with a device, I believe we will be losing a big important part of ourselves.

Here is an enlightening yet scary comment from The Sabbath Manifesto (link below) :

I recently had a guy fix my laptop. He (Joe) has a small PC fix-it business near my town in Western Massachusetts. Joe is from Ghana. I was asking him about life there. He said, “People are connected to each other there. Here, people are connected to machines.”

When I travel, I spend a lot of time thinking. I have plenty of idol time but I’m not bored. I genuinely feel enriched and more at peace after taking in and reflecting on experiences that are right in front of me – not on my phone. So here is my challenge – to use my devices more sparingly in day to day life (let’s call it a detox). If boredom coaxes me to pick up that phone, I won’t listen, but I won’t ignore it. I’ll revel in my boredom. I’ll remember what it feels like so that I can really appreciate those moments when I am truly engaged in life.

Some interesting reads on digital disconnect programs, ideas and options are below. Take a read and disconnect to reconnect.

http://digitaldetox.org

http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org

http://www.contemplativecomputing.org

https://thedigitalsabbath.wordpress.com/introduction/

Square Heroes Review


I lost a couple of hours this weekend to a quirky, fantastically fun game of Square Heroes. I must admit, what lured me to purchase the game on Steam was a completely egotistical desire to see the new character names and dialogue I had created, but what kept me playing (between social and domestic obligations) was the kick-ass kills and phat loots!

There is something extremely satisfying about beating a monster with a rubber chicken whilst wearing a tiara. Choosing the right weapon and approach for each type of battle (Gnome Hunt, Team Death match etc.) becomes more important and fun as the game progresses. Don’t get too trigger happy with the big hitters though, as you are likely to annihilate yourself (along with your foes) in a feat of superb suicidal splendour.

I’m looking forward to further improving my skillz, playing the single-player tournament, while convincing my friends to get on-board!