Friday, September 21, 2012

Kindle Nation Daily Gives Zack & Zoey 5-Stars!

Earlier this week, Colton at the Kindle Nation Daily Kids Corner reviewed Zack & Zoey's Alien Apocalypse. You may recall, earlier in the year they also reviewed Super Zombie Juice.
Here's a blurb from this latest review:

"I really enjoyed this book. I laughed a lot and kept quoting things in the book to my mom. There were even pictures in Zack and Zoey, which I thought was awesome."

Read the rest of the 5-star review at Kindle Nation Daily. And a big thank you to Colton and the folks over at KND for making the effort to review kidlit. There's so few sites that do, it's great to see such a well known one taking the time to post these reviews from student reviewers!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Naked Zombies--The Zombie Apocalypse just got a whole lot scarier

By now we all know that the government is desperately trying to contain the growing number of Zombie attacks. Frankly, I think they are doing a very good job of keeping this thing under control.

However, I do have one question: What's up with all the Naked Zombies?

Just yesterday in Pennsylvania, "A naked, bloody man broke into a home, jumped from a two-story window, tackled a passerby and chewed on her head.."

But this isn't the first or even the second Naked Zombie attack. So is there a connection I'm missing, and if so do I really want to find out what it is? I don't think so.

So please, if you know any zombies, kindly ask them to keep their clothes on! This isn't the Zombie Apocalypse I signed up for.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Zack & Zoey's First Review

Paranormal Sisters is the first blog to post a review of Zack and Zoey's Alien Apocalypse, giving it 5-stars.

If you're a regular reader, you may remember that Paranormal Sisters gave Super Zombie Juice 4.5 stars.

Here's an except of the review for Zack & Zoey:

Sorry but it was just sooooo adorable. This book is mainly aimed at kids but it's really great for all ages. There's humor, a sweet little cute romance, and of course lots of action. From start to finish. From when the aliens come to the white house and take over. That scene was humorous. This is a fun story line that just allows you to be a kid for just a little while and allows you to forget the world around you.

Check out the entire review (and read the comments if you want to know more about my next project).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Release: Mommy's Black Eye

Author and Blogger William Bentrim maintains the Azure Dwarf Blog and Review Site (which posted a great review of Super Zombie Juice). He just released his 5-star book "Mommy's Black Eye: Children Dealing With Domestic Violence" as an ebook. It's a picture book designed to help kids understand this complicated issue. It's great for pre-school to middle school children. It's available in either print or color ebook with the  introductory price at just 99¢!

Here's an except from one if his Amazon Reviews:

Author William Bentrim is forging a reputation for having the courage to tackle difficult questions facing kids today and applying a gentle, yet unflinching approach to seeking solutions.
Following his book "Daddy Goes on a Trip" about parent-child separation due to military deployment, Bentrim's latest work takes on domestic violence.
Bentrim does a good job highlighting typical concerns kids have when dropped into such confusing and frightening circumstances.
In a world awash in information overload, Bentrim provides a simple but candid framework for children to understand and acknowledge domestic violence as well as ways they can get help to cope with it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Great Name Change

Okay, maybe it's not quite so great, but it's a fair amout of work anyway.

When I first started writing, I wanted to go by my nick name MJ Ware. However, the domain was already taken by someone that wanted to sell a line of Michael Jackson clothes. I opted to add an A to my name making it MJA Ware. I realize that two middle names comes off as a little pretentious to some. Or that some search engines would have trouble with "M.J.A. Ware" versus "MJA Ware."

Fortunately for me, red-leather Michael Jackson jackets with matching sequined gloves didn't prove that popular. So I was able to pick up the domain at auction (for cheap). Now comes the hard part, changing everything over to MJ: manuscripts, books descriptions, book cover, and social media.

The covers were the hardest, but my limited Photoshop skills proved just keen enough to get the job done. I've updated Amazon and most of my titles on Barnes and Noble, but haven't tackled Smashwords yet.

It's going to take a little while for me to get everything moved over, so in the mean time, please bear with me. There's really nothing for readers to do (though if you've reviewed one of my books on your blog you could update the name); this message is mostly just to let everyone know what's going on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fake Reviews--Are they really a problem? Yes, Here's Proof.

Not all sock puppets are funny. 
I woke up with morning with an e-mail from the good folks over at Freebooksy letting me know they are promoting my free ebook (today and tomorrow only) Zack & Zoey's Alien Invasion.

Cool, I promptly sent them a short thank you and then checked out the link. Wow, only four books listed, I guess I was lucky to make the cut.

One of the books had a nice looking cover so I checked it out. Only 17 pages, not for me, but I noticed it has five-5-star reviews. Hmmm, maybe I can find a new kidlit reviewer, so I checked out the reviews.

Wait a second, I thought, something isn't right here: Every one of those 5-star reviews is by a reviewer who has only reviewed other books by this same author. Every single one! And none of them have reviewed anything else, by anyone else.

Now, I'm interested. I moved on to the next book. The reviews looked real here--oh, wait, the author has reviewed his own book, never mentioning he wrote it, and in the third person as if it's a real review. Geez.

One more book to go, do I even dare check it out? Of course I did. This one had a terrible cover and eight glowing 5-star reviews. But were they real? Well, seven of the eight haven't reviewed anything but this one book. The other one has reviewed one other item in 2004 and lives in the same state as the author. Is it possible that he happened to get 7 random reviews from people who loved his book so much that for the first time ever, they decided to leave reviews? Yes.

Is it likely? I'll leave that one to you.

Now, you may be saying, I didn't realize this is so persuasive, but why do you care? After all your book was listed. Yes, this time, but not the last time when Zack & Zoey only had one solitary review. Was it bumped by books with fake (or really suspicious) reviews? What other struggling author was bumped this week in favor a books bloated with fake suspicious reviews?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Freebooksy did anything wrong--they are doing a great service by listing books for struggling writers like myself. And I don't know which of these reviews are fake, but some of them are, you can judge for yourself. 

I gave 400 books out to get my two reviews for Zack and Zoey. Legit reviews take a lot of work and every author has to determine where they draw the line on reviews. For example, one of my two reviewers sent me the review ahead of time to "check out." I politely declined, but asked them to post it "as is." Yet, I did glance make sure it was positive. If they panned my book, let's be honest, I probably would have told them they didn't need to post it.

I've asked my family not to post reviews of my books. But I think there are a couple from relatives, should I track down the owners and make them remove them? I haven't. Perhaps this is why we are so reluctant to call this sort of thing out (you'll notice I didn't post an author or book names); we all own a piece of this.

As you can see, there's lots of shades of gray here. But one thing is for sure, the problem of fake reviews is greater (see The Telegraph and JA Konrath's take) than any of us would like to admit (don't get me started about big publishers sending out ARC's to blogs that only leave 5-star reviews on Amazon) and it's not going away anytime soon.

Update: A reader notes that fake and illegitimate reviews aren't the same thing. Reviews left by friends aren't fake, just illegitimate. I've marked all my additions in blue.
Additionally, some of the reviews have already been removed since I posted this. I think they've been reported to Amazon (not by me, though).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why Paper Books Are Better Than eBooks--It's All In Your Mind

Last year I wrote a post titled: Timeless Wisdom from Buffy, “Books Smell.”
In it I compare Giles' love of books and disdain for technology with the growing ebook revolution. It's still one of my most popular posts; if you haven't read it, you might want to check it out.

Last night, while editing a scene that just didn't feel right, just didn't draw the reader in, I remembered part of the quote from that post. In it Rupert Giles is explaining why books are better then computers and says, among other things, “Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is...” That made me realize what the scene was missing: the smells.

Once I started thinking about it, I expanded the idea to printed books themselves. When we read a book, the faint smell of paper is picked up by the brain. The perception of smell triggers the limbic system, a very primitive part of the brain, and is connected not just with smell but also with our memory and emotions. If you're an avid reader who finds reading books to be a way to shred stress, it wouldn't surprise me if just the smell of books starts to make your feel more relaxed.

Additionally, the texture of paper and sound of turning pages work to solidify the experience in the brain. These subtle but critical signals just can't be reproduced with ebooks. It's possible that for some readers the only way to truly "immerse yourself in a good book" is to read a bound copy.

This is just one reason why I believe ebooks will never totally replace paper. Others include the ease of finding a favorite passage; there's no way to flip through an ebook (while you can highlight your favorite passage, doing so takes you out of the book). I even read an article a while back (that I can't find now) which said kids prefer to read paper books over ebooks.

While paper books and ebooks both have their drawbacks and advantages, in the end the thing that draws us into a book--the sights, the sounds, the smells of another world--might just be the same things that draw us to books in the first place.