Audio Book Review – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Narrated by Chandler Craig

  A Delightful Treat for the Season

I have never reviewed an audiobook before. I am proud to make Chandler Craig’s narration of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my first official audiobook review.

Knowing that some may not read the entire review, let me get the most important nugget out up front. Chandler Craig’s Narration is superb! More on that later, but do yourself a favor and pick up this delightful treat for the holiday season. Really. Do it! … Now! … Here’s the link again… Click Here.

Okay, with that important bit of encouragement out of the way, on with the review. As a point of disclosure, I received no monetary or other compensation in exchange for the review. I was offered a link to download the audiobook at no cost, which I appreciate, but which had no bearing on the review content. As always, my responsibility is to readers, and in this case, listeners.

In truth, I approached this review hesitantly at first. Audiobooks are not my customary reading format. I was a bit concerned that my native reticence about audiobooks might intervene and unjustly prejudice the review. Happily, such was not the case. One listen to the Audio Sample was enough to convince me that this was an assignment I could embrace wholeheartedly.

Two Masters Unite

So let’s get to it. First, in reviewing an audiobook there are two elements to consider, the actual book content, and the narrative presentation. In this case, the story is so well-known that an analysis of the plot seems unnecessary.

In the words of the original title published in December 1843, the book is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”. In the unlikely event that someone today is not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick summary.

A miserly moneychanger, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and then on successive nights by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As he travels through time visiting Christmases past, present, and future, Scrooge becomes aware of the narrow baseness of his own character. He seizes the opportunity to change himself and avoid the eternal chains of bondage that the ghost of Marley warns him about, and the “ghost” story ends on a positive note with a reformed Scrooge and the terrible events foreshadowed by the Ghost of Christmases to Come, negated by the changes in him.

It’s a wonderful story. There is a reason Charles Dickens is considered a 19th-century master. His ability to combine wry, satirical humor and colloquialisms of the day with elegant prose separates him from the crowd. Few, if any, can rival his ability to place the reader in the shoes of the common man in one paragraph, smoothly transitioning you to the drawing rooms of the rich in the next.

In an audiobook, the telling of the story, the interpretation of the prose into voice is the critical element to its believability. If I were to sit in front of you and read the story, I am certain that the room would empty within seconds of the opening paragraph.

Enter Chandler Craig. He too is a master. The vocal interpretations of each character is superb. There is no lag as he transforms from one instant to the next between, Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Nephew Fred, Sister Fran, Love Interest Belle, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig … and the list goes on.

Craig embraces these characters, becomes these characters, slipping so easily from one to the next in each passage that there are never any moments of doubt. You listen enthralled, smiling at one moment, eyes moist with tears the next.

Chandler Craig Evokes the Poignancy of the Tale

Through Craig’s performance, you feel the warm, strong hand of Christmas Past on young Ebenezer’s shoulder, alone at Christmas, immersed in books with his only friends, Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe. At these moments, Dickens offers a tender look at the innocent, solitary boy, and we feel the pain of young Ebenezer who later becomes the miser. Our sympathy for his lonely life exposes us to the loneliness we each have felt at times.

Regarding the story itself, Scrooge often is assumed to be an inherently miserly, cold-hearted man, who is forced to repent of his evil ways by the visitation of the ghosts. Personally, I don’t think that was Dickens’ intent.

There is empathy in the story for young Ebenezer, a sad poignant feeling of lost innocence. Through the device of the ghostly visits, Dickens shows us Scrooge not as an evil man, but a fallen one. Despite Marley’s warning, threat even, that Scrooge will walk the earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own forging, we see that the apparitions’ visits are more a reminder of what he could have been and of his lost innocence.

They don’t force him to change his ways. Their visits remind him of his humanity, surrounded by the bitterness he allowed to grow inside and fed by his life experience and loneliness. His evolution during the visits recalls his decency and humanity. The visits do not create something that never existed.

In the end, Scrooge is us and we are him. Dickens reminds us all of our basic humanity and tendency to lose it.

Chandler Craig does more than portray Scrooge in the usual comic book, adapted for animation way, as most do. Craig’s portrayal takes us into his humanity. The story takes on a deeper meaning with the realization that Scrooge and we are ultimately the same, struggling, sometimes failing, to retain what is good in us.

Add to that performance his ability to pull out the humor from the prose as in Dickens’ almost whimsical, tongue in cheek opening paragraphs:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Craig nails this bit of Dickensian anecdotal humor, and there are many others scattered through the book.

You can almost hear and see Dickens chuckling to himself as he points out the inconsistency in the simile and then shrugging it off with a final ironic and self-deprecating remark, pointing to the wisdom of the ancestors standing firm and that Dickens would not disturb it or “the Country’s done for.”

As an aside, Dickens supplemented his income for many years through performance readings of A Christmas Carol. I think he would be proud and gratified by Chandler Craig’s performance.

You might have surmised from this review that I am a fan of Dickens. I am now a fan of Chandler Craig, whose virtuoso performance brought new life to an old Christmas tale and allowed me to look for a short while into and remember my own humanity.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season. Order up this audiobook edition of A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, narrated by Chandler Craig. Then heat up the hot chocolate, pop the corn, and gather the family around.

And my rating in case you haven’t figured it out?

An emphatic 5 Stars 

Hello All,

Thought I’d let you know that the next book in The Blue Eyes Series is about a month or so out, give or take editing days.  Thinking about next projects and I was hoping for a little input from you.

I’m working on the storyline for a new series. Can’t give it away just now, but very different from the Hunters and Blue Eyes. A suspense thriller with a science back story, based on actual science.

Also, have a series planned based on the history of the character Leyland “Lylee“ Torkman from Eyes of the Predator. Have been asked a lot over the years about Lylee’s background, more than the brief chapter included in the book, so the idea came to design a series “prequel” around him, culminating with his entry into the story of Eyes of the Predator.

I’d be grateful if you would Click on the short survey at the bottom and let me know which of these you would be more interested in reading first. Also, if you have any other ideas about sequels based on characters in the books, I’d love to hear about them.

By the way, working title for the next Blue Eyes suspense thriller featuring Alice Trent is Nowhere. 

Thanks much and best wishes to all, as always,

Glenn

http://glenntrust.com/?p=1233

Don’t Follow Your Dreams – You’ll Get Nowhere Except up the Backside of the Person in Front – Work Your Dream into Reality

I write books. Seriously, that’s what I get to do every day. It’s great.

I have been fortunate to author some that have achieved bestseller status, including The Hunters Series of mystery suspense thrillers. It took me a lot of years to get to that point, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for a minute. I love writing books for you and the journey that brought me here.

I am a native of the south, Georgia specifically. I spent much of my life there, but I have lived in many other places as well. We moved a lot when I was young. Eventually, we ended up back in Georgia in my teens where I finished school and went to work.

I wanted to write from an early age. A really long time ago, when I was still a young police officer in Georgia, I was writing short stories in my spare time and sending them off to magazines. One day I received one back in the mail.

Life Happened

Attached to it was a nice handwritten letter from an editor (this was long before the days of email and texts). The story manuscript was folded and smudged, and there were coffee cup rings on the edges of a couple of pages, which told me they had actually read it, maybe discussed it around an editorial table, or just used it to sop up the coffee.

In her letter, the editor said a lot of things that I don’t remember, but it was not the usual form letter that I was accustomed to receiving. It was original and personal.

She said they liked my story, had strongly considered it for publication, but that it wasn’t quite believable. Disappointed as I was, I was struck by her last words to me… “Don’t stop writing. You’re good at this. We almost bought this one.”

I remember staring at that a long time. Then I folded it up and tucked it in a file and … stopped writing.

I wish I could tell you a different story, but I can’t.  I stopped writing for many years.

There were lots of reasons. Yes, I was disappointed, but the letter that should have encouraged me not to give up was forgotten. Life happened. Dreams of writing were pushed aside by other things… important things.

Mostly I needed money for my young family. In the 1970s, police officers in Georgia were not paid a lot even by the standards of the day. I worked part-time jobs whenever I wasn’t working at the police department. Many weeks I had no days off at all.

I’m not unhappy that I did my best to take care of my family. It was the right thing to do and working for them was the joy of my life. Children grew up; then grandchildren came along. More life happened.

Then… The Internet Appeared

Then out of the blue, this thing called the internet appeared and guess what. I was at a point in life when I didn’t need to work part-time jobs every spare minute of the day. I could write again.

It’s different these days. I can publish a book whether I convince an agent or editor to read it or not. I am an independent writer/publisher, an “Indie.”

Being an Indie is not easy. There are no big marketing budgets and TV appearances to spark book sales. There is only you and me.

I like it that way. I get to write what I want and you get to read what you want with no middle-person between us. No agents or publishers dictating what the storyline will be or what sells.

It’s a partnership between us, writer and reader, and it’s a marvelous thing. The old closed publishing world that required almost a miracle to have the right person read your work is changing thanks to the digital age. I am grateful to still be around to experience it and enjoy it.

As of this writing, I am eleven novels and a collection of short stories into my writing adventure. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

Some years back, I left Georgia, working for a large corporation. Then I moved west and became the city manager of a small mining community in the mountains of northern Nevada. Now my wife and I live in the deserts of the far west. You got it… more life happened.

Don’t be a Follower — Make Your Dream Real

It took many years to get here. Life is like that, with lots of twists and turns and surprises. I like it that way.

Now, I write every day. I wouldn’t change a thing. One thing though… I wish sometimes I had been able to find a way to keep writing while life was happening. It’s not a regret, just an assessment, and it brings me to a bit of advice if you have read this far.

Don’t follow your dreams. Followers get nowhere except up the backside of the person in front.

Work towards your dreams. Life will happen and then happen some more. That’s as it should be, but you are the one who will make your dream a reality.

Best- Glenn

Killing My Friends

Killing My Friends

I’m writing a book. I know you’ve heard that one before. Seriously, I am writing my eleventh novel and have come to that point in the first draft where someone is going to die. I knew it was coming…thought about it…thought I had prepared for it…now the moment to commit to it is here..and I hesitate.

Painful as it may be, a character that I have grown to like immensely is going to bite the big one…go down for the permanent dirt nap. I say painful because, believe it or not, characters in my stories become my friends.

If you are a writer, you get that. If you are an avid reader, you probably also know it. They are my friends. In the writing of the story, we have grown together, become one. I know things about them…their past…where they come from…what they look like (in my mind)…their secrets…things only a good friend would know. Good friends don’t share secrets, not even to my other friends…you the readers.

I make a point of that…giving you enough of a character to develop your own picture and understanding…but I never give you everything I know about the characters I have written into life. When you read them, they become yours as much as mine, colored by your perception and imagination.

Anyway, the time has come to kill off one of my friends. I have been asked a few times over the years by people who seem to understand the relationship between a writer and his characters just how I go about doing that. How do I decide that this one lives and that one dies?

Stated like that it seems harsh, even arrogant, but in truth, I have very little to do with it. The determining factor in the death…or life…of any character, from my perspective is the story, and the commitment to write it honestly, without contrived endings, happy or otherwise.

For me, if the story is good, it stands alone. The movement through the plot should be natural. As I capture that action in words, there come moments when I know something bad is going to happen to one of my friends. At those moments, I force myself not to do what my heart wants to do. After all, I am the writer. I created this story. I can end it any way I want…kill or not kill whomever I want. Right?’

Not exactly. At least, not for me.

Although I may have set the story in motion, may have outlined it and have an ending point in mind, the story must unfold naturally and truthfully. That means that sometimes someone I care about will die, or suffer in a story.

I came to this understanding about my work in my first novel Eyes of the Predator. There was a scene in the opening chapters where an elderly man is killed. I didn’t want him to die. He was not a major character, but he was a colorful old fellow.

I remember smiling as I wrote the interaction and dialogue between him and his wife. I liked the old man. I could see myself sitting on the porch with him and his wife on a steamy Georgia evening, sipping iced tea and watching the lightning bugs hover over the grass. In fact, I had intended in my character sketch to keep him around and bring him back in later books in the series. Such was not his fate.

The story progressed and moved inexorably to the moment when I knew he would die. Writing his death was one of the hardest moments I have had since I began this adventure with words.

There have been others. No spoilers for those who may not have read all of the books, but if you have read them, you know who they are.

In the end, I tell people that it is not a matter of killing off, or not killing off people I like in my stories. It is a matter of remaining true to the story. For me, that is the key. Truth wins out over sentimentally contrived outcomes every time.

And so, some of my friends have died. Others will die. There is one right now awaiting his fate, so I had better take a deep breath,  swallow hard and get it over with. Goodbye, my friend.

 

eReader or Print? … Does it Really Matter? Just Read!

Ereader or Print

The controversy continues. Do true readers read eBooks or books printed on paper? From my perspective as a writer, it’s irrelevant. The argument is based on a false premise. That is, that there is some intrinsically superior form of reading, that either readers of eBooks or print books are inferior, or superior, in their reading appetites and comprehension than the other group, depending upon your personal perspective.

It’s a silly argument. The real issue is do we read, and do we teach our children to read in a world that is becoming increasingly illiterate. Perhaps that sounds a bit strong, but the truth is that, while more people may know the alphabet and are able to read words, I maintain that reading comprehension has decreased and continues to do so. In a world of texts, emails, memes, and posts, the art of abbreviated communication has replaced reading and writing.

There are some studies that suggest that reading in print increases comprehension and retention because of the tactile connection between the page and the reader and the ability to envision the entire reading material as a whole. EBooks do not have pages and therefore limit the tactile connection that is a comforting sensation for many.

Personally, I’m not convinced. These days, I read almost exclusively from an eReader. It contains a full library of history, science, biography, politics, economics and fiction, and frankly, when I discuss these issues with others, I am pretty certain that my comprehension is at least as good as theirs.

I will admit that the facility of reading an eBook versus a print book may mean that at times one is simply reading to relax and drift off to sleep. Retention at these times may not be as important as the simple flow of words.

I also admit that the opening of a physical book requires an additional physical effort that enhances the tactile sensory satisfaction of reading, thereby possibly increasing retention for some, but I suggest that this is more a matter of familiarity than of superiority of the printed material.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love holding an old-fashioned book also. I love it because that was how I began reading in life. I’m a sentimental old fool, attached, as we all are to things I know. I have no doubt that had I been brought up reading eBooks exclusively, without any reference to physical books, I would be as attached to them.

The Pew Research Center points out that in 1978 only 8% of Americans had NOT read a book during the previous twelve months. In 2014, that number had increased to 23%. This is a cultural issue and not about which reading medium is best. No doubt, this statistic would impact reading comprehension studies amongst a random sampling, since readers would be more likely to have higher cognition and retention than non-readers, regardless of where or how they were reading.

Like everything, the ebook revolution is in a transitional stage. For me, the bigger issue is the fact that fewer and fewer people actually read. This is not an issue of which reading medium is superior, but of our cultural tendency to seek shallow simplicity rather than depth. Thinking requires effort and effort is not FUN. And, if it is not FUN then it is not worthwhile…right?

I do worry that the ability to read and understand deeper thought and emotion is decreasing. I do not consider the medium of the reading material (print or electronic) to be the issue.

We are the issue. The culture of immediate gratification and self-indulgence has far more influence, in my opinion, on the lack of literacy in our society than whether books are on paper or a screen.

Recently the American Association of Publishers (AAP) conducted a study that determined that Ebook sales are on a decline. The AAP has also been working very hard, filing lawsuits against Amazon to price eBooks artificially high in order to prop up the sales of their very expensive print books.

The result is that THEIR ebook sales are naturally down. The truth is that when you consider all eBooks outside of the AAP, ebook sales continue to rise.

In my case, I sell about a hundred eBooks to one print and sales are rising. Another point of interest is that readers of eBooks tend to read more frequently and in greater variety.

While I understand the love of print books (I love them too) I also love old cars but that doesn’t mean I want to drive one every day. The AAP would like us all to read only their published books. They hate the idea that anyone who has the desire to learn the craft of writing can publish a book and develop an audience without relying in their closed and tightly controlled system to be noticed.

The electronic information age has been revolutionary for the arts. Writers, artists and musicians who would never have been heard or seen under the traditional good old boy systems have found audiences. Some have even achieved stardom.

If the advent of eBooks encourages more people to read, I count that as a positive trend, not a negative. Now, if you will excuse me I must get back to writing my latest book. Oh yes, it will be available in both print and electronic formats if that matters to you.

To Read or Not to Read … Not Much of Debate in My Opinion

Books - Lincoln vs West

No mystery where I come down on this debate.
READ … Teach your children to READ … I firmly believe that much of the tragedy in the human condition would be eliminated through the expansion of the mind and sensibilities that takes place through the simple act of READING BOOKS. Not asking you to read my books, Just set the example and teach your children to READ BOOKS!

Best – Glenn

Mystery Reader’s Circle Selects ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day

Just wanted to give a quick update and let you know that Mystery Reader’s Circle has included ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day. Always grateful to James Moushon and his great site at HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle. Click on the link and check it out for recommendations on great books by Independent Authors, including James and myself.

 Hope all is well with everyone. Have a great weekend and do some smiling.

Glenn

 

Writing – A Short Thought…Love it, or Leave it

Writer Tee Shirt

I suppose the point of this Tee Shirt message is that writing is not as easy as it looks, and that’s true…but this makes it sound like it is a terror…a frightening, horrific experience. It’s not. Writing is a joy and a craft that you must learn in order to succeed. There are good days and bad days like everything else, but if you are a writer and feel this way about your craft…give it up. It’s not for you.

I love writing and being a writer. If you do not love it…leave. Life is too short to spend it in this kind of agony just so you can call yourself a …Writer.

And with that, I leave you to your Labor Day Weekend, hoping that it will be a wonderful time for you and yours.

Book Review – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A Look Into Our Soul

To Kill A MockingbirdIf ever there were a book I would consider voting for as the “Great American Novel”, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the one…the only one. It is hard for me to say that there is a one great anything. Times change, technology improves, and social views evolve. In short, we are never the same from one generation to the next and trying to pick anything that spans the gap and the differences as the greatest of all is difficult, if not a complete waste of time.

When it comes to literature, there are so many fine books and so many great writers that trying to narrow the selection to the “one great one” interferes with valuable reading time…generally. But then there is To Kill A Mockingbird.

Harper Lee’s story takes place in the small southern Alabama town and county of Maycomb during the depression era 1930’s. She paints a picture of the community and the people populating it through the eyes of Scout (Jean Louise Finch) the daughter of a prominent local attorney, Atticus Finch. As the book opens, Scout is preparing to begin her first year in grade school.

She and her brother Jem and friend Dill pass the summer doing the things children did before the age of video games and twenty-four hour television. They played. They entertained themselves. They went on adventures. They told stories about the frightening, recluse who lives on the corner. They were children.

They did all of this under the watchful eyes of Calpurnia, the black woman who is housekeeper and surrogate mother to the family. Scout describes her as “all angles and bone…with a hand as wide as a bed slat and twice as hard…”

In the Finch household, Cal is treated as an equal, a partner in the upbringing of the children and an indispensable member of the family. That is in the Finch household. Outside their small world, things are different in the community of Maycomb.

I find Calpurnia to be one of the most interesting of characters in the story. She is a strong and independent black woman who makes her way in the world dominated by whites. Scout is amazed on one occasion when visiting at Cal’s church that she spoke differently to other blacks, using their particular colloquialisms and dialect. It was very different from the way she spoke with Scout and Jem in the Finch home. Scout had no idea that Calpurnia lived this “double life” relating differently to the two cultures in Maycomb.

In short, racial prejudice reigns, as was common in the time. Blacks, Negroes as polite members of the community called African Americans in that day, are second-class citizens with a place in the universe of Maycomb that is always inferior to the whites. Even the most white-trashy, ignorant, slovenly of whites holds a place in the community superior to any of the blacks.

As a southerner who grew up in the south in the 1950s, I remember the “Jim Crowe” days. I went to schools that were not desegregated. I saw white only water fountains and restrooms. Black children were to be treated kindly, but we did not associate as a rule. They had their world. We had ours.

As Scout paints a picture of Maycomb through the experiences she shares with Jem and Dill, it begins as a sort of “Mayberry-esque”, idyllic memoir of her childhood. But events open her eyes to the underlying darkness of their culture. Maycomb is not the perfect little world she thought.

She is guided by her father, Atticus, through the twisting cultural maze she inhabits. He teaches her not to judge others, but to get in their shoes and walk around a while to see how the world looks from their perspective. Most importantly, never kill a mockingbird because all they do is sing and bring happiness without harming anyone else. Atticus is the rock in Scout’s world, giving her rope to explore and float about on the sea, but always there to anchor her safely.

Brother Jem (short for Jeremy) and friend Dill are her conscience and mentors in a way. Dill, rambunctious but sensitive, opens her eyes to things she had missed in their small community. Jem, sees and struggles with the contradictions around them…white people they have known all their lives as good people, doing things and saying things that they know to be wrong.

Through her innocence and confused effort to understand what is happening around her, we see that things are socially complicated. Whites harboring racial prejudice are not all evil as Scout describes their interactions. Instead, you get the feeling that they are ignorant, not seeing the contradictions in their lives, one instant treating a black member of the community in a courteous friendly manner, the next making sure they understand their place in the community…second class.

Some, however, are evil. The Ewells are the evilest of them all. Their conflict with Atticus and his defense of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused but innocent of a terrible crime leads to a chilling climax in the concluding chapters.

In the event that there is someone who has not read the book or seen the movie, I will not include any plot spoilers here. Just know that it is a gripping story with a conclusion that keeps you on the edge of your seat before Lee allows you to take a breath in the final chapter.

The prose is superb. The story is engaging and riveting. There are moments that will make you smile, others that will make you angry and some that might bring tears to your eyes.

Most of all, Harper Lee’s use of a little girl, Scout, to bring the narrative to life is masterful. It is not a children’s book, but through the eyes of a child, we see ourselves and the world around us. For me, that is why To Kill A Mockingbird is the great American novel. It spans the gap of generations, and through Scout’s eyes, looks into our soul.

KENP Is In…and the Whiners are Out in Force

manSo here it is…the great reveal…the dreaded month when Amazon unveiled KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) and actually paid authors for what they are worth. Oh, the unfairness of it all! (sob of despair, hand raised dramatically to the forehead.)

What the hell is the old man talking about? Fair question.

I know that this audience is a mix of readers and writers, so for the non-Kindle Select readers and writers among you, allow me to explain.

 A Personal Choice

For several years, Amazon has had a program called Kindle Select for authors. Some authors, like me, have opted into it. Others have not. It is a personal choice. Amazon does not pressure anyone to join the program. You may publish your books on Amazon whether you are a Kindle Select author or not.

There are several reasons why I have chosen to list my books with Amazon Kindle Select. For one, it simplifies the publishing process, so that I can focus on the core of my business…writing.

Amazon is the biggest marketplace, and I am fine with that. I tried publishing with other markets (Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Lulu, I-Books, etc.) and sold almost no books. In some of those markets, my total sales were…0…nada…a big goose egg.

So, I made the choice to go with Amazon, the largest market with the best business model. And let’s be honest, Amazon Kindle led the E-book revolution and continues to do so. It has worked out pretty well for me.

 Writing is a Business

Do not forget that writing is a business as well as a creative literary art. You have heard me say it before…authors like to eat, live under a roof, drink an occasional beer, go visit the grandkids…you know the things other people do.

When you publish on Amazon, you have the choice of publishing as a Kindle Direct Publishing author (KDP) or as a KDP Select Author. KDP Select requires you to publish exclusively with Amazon for a ninety-day period. At the end of the ninety days, you can drop out or re-enroll in the program. Your choice.

 Incentives

Amazon offers a number of promotional and income incentives to Select authors in exchange for their exclusivity. These include the option to offer your books at a reduced rate during a “Countdown Deal”, or to offer them free as part of a promotional package. Many of my readers have taken advantage of these promotions, and I am happy they have. Otherwise, they might be asking who the hell is Glenn Trust and why is he pissing off all of the other writers out there?

You may also, opt into the “Matchbook” program, which allows a reader who purchased a print copy of your book also to buy a Kindle version at a reduced price. A Select author can take advantage of these promotional opportunities for any of their enrolled books during the ninety-day period.

Some authors, like me, appreciate and use these programs regularly. Others do not. As I said, no one is coerced into joining the KDP Select program and many prefer to market in their own way through various other marketing channels. I prefer to write and try to become better at writing than spend time working all of the other markets for minimal returns. There is no right or wrong to this. As I said, it’s a personal choice.

 I Like It

Another incentive to enroll books in KDP Select is the opportunity to be compensated for the books that are borrowed through Amazon’s Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) programs for readers. This is a benefit for readers and authors, and another indicator that Amazon has a great business model that is innovative.

Amazon did not have to pay authors for borrows in the KOLL/KU programs. When someone goes to a library and checks out one of my books that the library has purchased, I receive no compensation for that library lend. I wouldn’t expect to.

But, it was in their business interest, and mine, to implement the program and pay authors for the borrows as an incentive to enroll in KDP Select.

It’s fair and I applaud their business acumen. As I have repeatedly said in this post and others, writing is a business as well as art. Forget that and you will be a very hungry writer.

Amazon could have allowed people to pay their fees for Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, borrow the books and not pay authors for the borrows/lends. But, they do pay us. Last month they committed $11 million to be distributed to authors who have books borrowed through the KDP Select program. I like it.

Just so you know, I am not a shill for Amazon. I receive no compensation for posting my opinions here or elsewhere. I am a businessperson whose business is writing books. I try to put out a quality product so that my readers come back and want to read more books. My income comes from readers who like my work.

 Suck It Up

In the past, the KOLL/KU program ran in this way – A customer would borrow a book and authors would receive a lump sum for each book borrowed. It didn’t matter what type of book it was, how long it was, or what the quality of the writing was. If your book was listed in Kindle Select, you were paid a standard rate every month based on the total number of books that were borrowed. In other words, you received your proportionate share of the incentive money for books borrowed.

It was always a bit of a thorn in the side of some authors, me included, that all books were rated the same and valued exactly the same. Let’s be honest, if you read a lot, you know there are good books and…uh…not so good books out there.

Having said that, we sucked it up and went on writing…it’s what we do. After all, the KU/KOLL program was a bonus, an incentive, for being a Kindle Select author. The income from the books borrowed was a supplement to our regular royalties. It was never intended to be an author’s primary source of royalty income.

Besides, I need to write and whining takes too much energy away from putting words together into coherent sentences. The program wasn’t entirely fair to writers who spent months working on a novel. They were competing against authors who were cranking out short 100 page (or less sometimes) pieces and enrolling them in KDP Select, but we accepted it in the spirit of goodwill that Amazon offered it.

I suppose it would be asking too much for whiners to work within the new, fairer rules and Suck It Up, as we did in the past.

 They Got It

I have to give Amazon credit. They finally understood the inequity of their program…another sign of their business acumen and fair play.

Not all books are of equal length or of equal quality and value. They got it.

They came up with an extraordinary idea. Pay authors in the Kindle Select program for every page read of the borrowed books. No more paying the writer of a hundred-page short cranked out en masse at the same rate as the writer who spends months fine-tuning a lengthy novel. Instead, pay both of those authors for the actual pages read…a much better indicator of the quality of an author’s work. If readers keep turning the pages, they must like what they are reading.

The playing field is now equal. It is a free and open marketplace, and I, for one, am grateful for it.

 Seems Fair to Me

But, it has become the source of considerable controversy…and Whining.

Many are not happy. Amazon is unfair, they cry. Amazon is a bully. Mean old Amazon, “I’d like to put a flaming sack of shit on their doorstep.” (Yes, I actually saw one comment that said exactly that.)

Many are throwing public tantrums, posting long diatribes in social media and blogs wailing against Amazon, and those of us who happen to support the new program. Their verbal weeping and gnashing of teeth reads as if their heads were about to spin off their shoulders.

Why are they so unhappy?

Because those authors who were cranking out small little pieces and flooding the market on Kindle Select and KU/KOLL are no longer able to dominate and receive the lion’s share of that revenue. Now, they are paid, as am I, by the number of pages of their borrowed books that are actually read.

Seems fair to me. Write a god book and people read it. Put out a book that is poorly written and readers move on to something else.

 Gaming the System

See what has been happening? Some writers have been gaming Amazon’s system, a practice that is no longer possible.

In the past, they could throw out anything, enroll it in Kindle Select, where the minimum price of the book must be $2.99 if you are on the 70% royalty plan. To put that in perspective, many fine and lengthy novels are priced at 2.99 on Amazon. Admittedly many are by newer authors who are trying to develop their audience, but that does not diminish the quality of their work.

But the whiners were deliberately pricing a short piece that may have taken an afternoon to write at the same price as a full-length novel. (Okay maybe that’s a little harsh, let’s say it took them a week in some cases, even two weeks) The abbreviated length of the book drove readers to borrow the book and not waste money on a purchase. They were then paid for every lend/borrow of the book…just like me and everyone else.

Apparently, some of these authors were making their livelihood in this way, inundating the Amazon KOLL/KU marketplace with cheap, often poorly written bunkum. And apparently that is why the quality of some of the books you buy or borrow on Amazon is so poor. I know; I’m a reader too.

 Don’t Like It? Drop Out.

For those writers who are unhappy with the new Amazon method, I will point out, once again, that the KU/KOLL was never intended to be the primary source of a writer’s income. It was meant to be a benefit, bonus, an incentive to writers for enrolling in the Kindle Select Author program. Don’t like it? Drop out.

I won’t mince words here, as I suspect I have already pissed off any of those writing whiners that have read this far. If KOLL/KU has been your primary source of royalties, then you have been gaming the system, and I am extraordinarily happy that Amazon caught on and changed it.

By the way, I am not criticizing shorter works. I have even read a couple of the shorter work writers who also happen to be among the complainers. They are good enough to make a living through sales. They don’t need to game the system. But it may take a little more effort and time spent in writing. Isn’t that what we got into this business for, anyway?

I also have a couple of favorite authors specializing in shorter books and whose books I read avidly. I won’t mention their names here because I don’t want this post to negatively impact them or their book sales.

If you write good books that happen to be short in length and want more pages read, write more books. You might also consider selling your books at a reasonable price to drive up actual sales. In the time it takes me to write one of The Hunters Series novels, you could complete two, three, maybe four shorter works, depending on their quality and length.

If you write longer books and want more pages read, write better books. It’s that simple. It’s fair.

 Do It Downwind

Amazon has no obligation to guarantee you an audience or any certain level of income. They are not the bad guys. They are a business. Writing is a business. If you don’t get that, then you might consider doing something else. Part of business is fair competition.

The new pages read method simply means that if you write an excellent book, one that people will want to read, you will be paid. If you do not, you will not be paid. It’s all about customer/reader satisfaction and competition in the free marketplace.

I’m okay with that. I am happy to compete on the playing field that has been leveled…finally.

In addition to fairly compensating all Select authors, the new KENP program solves another problem. It will increase the quality of the books that are available to KOLL/KU readers. Want your pages read…Write A Good Book!

Amazon wants to satisfy their customers. As authors, why wouldn’t we wish to do the same? The only reason I can think of is that some have become committed to perpetuating the scam and the easy way out instead of to writing.

Thank you again, Amazon for leveling the field. As for the whiners…please do it downwind. I’m working.

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