Episode 174 – Kindle Unlimited 3.0, Six-Figure Steps, and the Power of Habit

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Question of the Week: As a reader, what makes you put down a book in the first 10%? Conversely, what makes you keep reading and read on to future books in the series?

20Books Vegas head honcho Craig Martelle visited the show to talk tips and news with Bryan this week! After thanking their patrons Cold War: Alien Incursion, Shades of Treason, and Angelborn, Bryan and Craig talked tips about productivity, strong habits, and conquering BookBub Featured Deals. News stories included a Goodreads competitor, new ebook taxes in Australia and India, Kobo’s preview conversion feature, KENPC version 3.0, and steps to take to become a six-figure author. This week’s Question of the Week: As a reader, what makes you put down a book in the first 10%? Conversely, what makes you keep reading and read on to future books in the series?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How authors can juggle their day job, family life, and a writing career
  • What is the number one trait of successful creatives
  • How authors can make the most of their BookBub experience
  • How a new app is bringing readers together over their favorite books
  • What new changes in international tax law could mean for indie authors
  • How authors can improve their conversion rates with Kobo’s new features
  • How version 3.0 of Kindle Unlimited pages read will impact you as an author
  • What three things writers need to master to become a six-figure author
Links:

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  • Two mentions in three weeks? I must be famous now.

    • Bryan

      Welcome to B-list self-publishing celebrity status :).

    • Infamous. That’s more than famous. It’s INfamous. Infamous.

      • Spider McGee

        Famous and infamous are akin to flammable and inflammable. They don’t mean exactly the same thing, but no one’s bothered to dig any deeper. Sort of like regardless and irregardless (which is still a word, much to the chagrin of much of the internet).

        • supposably

          • Laura Martone

            OMG, I love you for this, Roland! Dan and I laugh about that “Friends” episode all the time – the one where Joey tries to convince himself that “supposably” isn’t an actual word. It’s especially funny to us because my dad and stepmom use “supposably” all the time (and we don’t have the heart to correct them)!

  • QOTW – Main character checks themselves out in the mirror. It’s hard to recover from that. Also, an infodump, especially early on. The beginning of a book should have a little mystery to tease you into it. I don’t want to hear the main character thinking aloud about stuff that should come out over time.

    • Bryan

      What if the character takes an info dump while looking at themselves in the bathroom mirror? Just wondering…

      • That could be a classic spin on the cliche, actually.

        She was sick, hungover, and had no idea where she was. She took a seat on the sketchy hotel’s questionable toilet. She looked up and saw herself in the awkwardly placed bathroom mirror. It was attached to the back of the door, which was mere inches from her knees. Now that she was sitting there wasn’t room to swing the door open and out of the way, either. She couldn’t risk standing.

        She’d never seen herself so pale and… crumpled. Her hair was everywhere it shouldn’t be, but she didn’t have it in her to push it off her face. She touched the grimy t-shirt see saw herself wearing in the mirror and looked down as if to confirm it was really there. She had to admit that she fit the part of fleabag hotel guest, at least from what she saw of the room as she’d rushed to the bathroom.

        Never mix beer and tequila, her mom had always told her, but she’d never mentioned staying away from shrimp tacos from a food cart in a city one hundred kilometers from the sea. Thanks, mom.

        Meta braced herself for what was coming, and made a mental note to never install a mirror facing the toilet. It would be like a constant intervention on herself. There was only so much self-reflection she could take. She had work to do.

  • Honestly, it’s all about style and skill. If I am still engaged with the book at the end of the sample, I’ll buy it. If not, I put it down. Some things that can sometimes pull be out of the story are grammatical errors, info dumps, or little to no character development. Sometimes those “errors” can be overcome by a great premise or exciting hook. There’s no single thing I can point to that decides whether or not I keep reading, I just know it if I see it!

    • Bryan

      Style and skill, eh? Guess I’ve got some work to do :).

  • Also…really excited to be going to the 20 Books Vegas Conference! 😀

    • Bryan

      Yay! Can’t wait to hang with ya :).

  • Laura Martone

    I’m an eclectic reader, so I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about what will keep me reading or not. Unlike Roland, for instance, I have no issues with characters looking at themselves in mirrors (no offense, Roland, my dear – just making a point) – or waking up from dreams on the first page – or thinking so-called “info dumps” – or doing a million other things that bug a lot of other readers. If it works in the world of the story, then it works for me. And even though I’m a major perfectionist with my own work, I’m fairly tolerant of typos and grammatical errors in other people’s stories. That said, I think compelling characters and a sense of atmosphere are what keep me reading. And that’s what Dan and I are striving for in our own books (yes, even with so-called “info dumps”). P.S. Although I miss Jim whenever he’s elsewhere, I enjoyed hearing Craig on the podcast – and Bryan, I’m going to speak for Dan and say we would LOVE to join you at a Sell More Books Show shindig during the Vegas conference. Especially if karaoke is involved!

    • My problem with the mirror thing is that it tends to mean the author is going to use all the other cliches, too. Dear. 😉

      • Laura Martone

        Hmm… point taken. I’m still pretty easygoing for a reader… or maybe I just lack standards. 😉

        • I think I’m fairly easygoing when it comes to a books editing, but only if the writing is good and I don’t have sit through too many cliches.

          I don’t know if it’s a cliche yet, but I’ve read at least a half dozen books that use the phrase “we are legion” or “I am legion.”

          It’s almost always an underground movement/hackers/evil organization using it ‘ominously.’ Imagine it with one of those disguised voice machines. “We are legion.”

          Scary, huh?

          • Robert Scanlon

            I pooped just reading it then.

          • I should have warned you.

            Try searching amazon for “I am legion” and “we are legion” and you’ll find dozens of books with that in the title alone.

      • Crissy Moss

        The first novel I ever wrote (the one that died in a tragic computer crash, thankfully) had this trope in it. It was the first thing my writing group pointed out. I never thought of it as a trope before that.

        So later I wrote a story about a mirror with a monster inside it. If you can’t use the trope twist it to your own needs.

    • Bryan

      Ok! Awesome. I’m seeing if I can make that happen. Superstar backup intern, Annie Whittaker is helping to organize :).

  • CE Martin

    There’s not one thing that kills a book for me, but the #1 turn off for me are hidden agendas–when authors try and push their own personal beliefs in a story, rather than just tell the story. I don’t want politics or Christianity-knocking shoved in my face when I’m trying to read a story. If I see it, Bam. I’m done. It’s okay for characters to have viewpoints, but sometimes, it’s painfully clear an author is using the pages as a pulpit.

    • Spider McGee

      This happens a lot in TV and film, and it’s much more obvious. Any film by Oliver Stone, or a TV show written by Aaron Sorkin, or any given episode of Law and Order — the characters are all basically the same person. Pretty weak in my view, but people eat it up.

    • Bryan

      Publishing Pulpits!

  • To put it simply, I rarely make it past the first page of the first chapter of a book in amazon Look Inside because of any of the following things on the first page:
    1) Every sentence or paragraph starts with I or He or She.
    2) Every sentence is one line of dialogue in quotes without identifying who is talking.
    3) The main character is talking to themselves, or worse, to you the reader.
    4) TMI the main character was abused, and laments how tough it was.
    5) Really, really, poor grammar, or mixing up tenses within sentences.
    6) The story starts out like an Oxford history lesson.
    7) The killer is revealed, and the police perplexed.
    8) The first sentence is the ending and the next sentence jumps back in time.
    9) Character names are unpronouncable.
    10) The first page, is one long sentence, and is continued onto the next two pages

    If I make it past the first page, what makes me want to read the book is not finding any of the above on the next page … LoL

    • Laura Martone

      Yikes, JB! So many books have at least one of these “deal-breakers” on the first page that I can’t help but wonder how many second pages you’ve made it to!

      • Hi Laura, once every week or two, I comb the kindle reading lists looking for new books on BookBub and other lists and download about 1 in 75 of the books I look at with amazon’s Look Inside. In 9 out of 10 books I stop reading halfway down the first page, my rule of thumb is I have to enjoy reading the book and get past page 3 in chapter One. Oh, which reminds me #11) If I discover, I am counting pages as I read the Look Inside, I don’t buy it because it is not keeping my interest … LoL

        • Craig Anderson

          Now I am curious if you would make it past the first page of any of my books! I’m pretty sure all of them trip at least one of these 🙂

          • Hi Craig,
            I checked out the book Getting Lucky and the proliferation of “I” got to me pretty quickly, and I didn’t make it through the first page.

          • Craig Anderson

            LOL – I am adding this to my bucket list! Get JB past the first page of one of my books 😉

          • Hi Craig,
            If you would like my thoughts on escaping the over use of “I” in writing, please email me. It might be easier than you think to get me past the first page LoL . joe@joewocoski.com

        • Crissy Moss

          You remind me of Jefferson Smith from Immerse or Die. If you only make it through 1 in 75 books I feel better about not making the cut on his website.

          • Hi Crissy, I am not really a hard nose, I believe everyone has a tale to tell, and I enjoy reading a good story which flows smoothly. Like everyone else, It is impossible to read everything, and this is a simple list which I noticed stops me from reading someone’s story. Best Wishes.

    • Bryan

      I wanna get you a shirt that says, Don’t Mess with JB!

      • Hi Bryon,
        LoL … Thank you for making me laugh. If this list helps even one author to improve their book readability and sales, then I have helped all readers.
        JB

  • Stacie Orsburn

    Probably character is the most common reason for me to put down a book. It’s way to early to become hooked on the plot. If the character is likable and/or relatable enough for me to want to follow, I’ll keep reading. I also agree with no info dumps, and no hidden agenda. I read for escapism and don’t want to be preached to or feel that I’m in a one-sided political/religious debate. Especially if I disagree with those views.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for posting, Stacie! When I revamped my old superhero series, I basically dropped all the info dumps in the first book. 20,000 words cut later, and it ended up being much better :).

      • Stacie Orsburn

        Wow. You pronounced my last name correctly. You deserve an award… I honestly think that was a first.

  • Robert Scanlon

    QOTW. Make me care about the story (which implies an emotional connection somehow or other with the character), and don’t take forever to get it going. Do that and I’ll read on. Don’t and I’ll fall asleep!

    (Assumptions: the text is properly formatted and the grammar is bearable.)

    • Bryan

      What if the grammar was checked by bears?

  • Daniel Martone

    Most of the time, I lean toward needing a great character hook. Plot hooks are easy, but get me interested in the character in the first page and you have me.

    • Crissy Moss

      Agreed. Dan Brown is really good at plots, but his characters are flat. It sells books, but not my cup of tea.

      • Bryan

        But Dan Brown can buy lots of cups of tea with those sales! 🙂

  • Crissy Moss

    The thing that will always keep me reading after the first page…a good mystery. And I don’t mean the who-dun-it type. It could be a mystery about the character, or the world. A mystery of a peculiar magic system. Anything that makes me question the story from the beginning is likely to keep me reading.

    On the other hand, I am putting the book down if they use overly flowery language. Some flowery language can spice up writing, but when every sentence is a simile or metaphor it becomes a chore to read.

    • Bryan

      I totally agree! That’s one of the big things Robert Scanlon and I learned during our year-long experiment on The Split.

  • Marion Hermannsen

    I read primarily romance and how-to author books. On the fiction side, if the characters are one-dimensional, if the writing is full of cliches (particularly for sex scenes), I’m out very quickly. For non-fiction, if the author goes on and on, and there’s no clear structure (bullet points, headings, toc). I won’t read non-fiction books if they’re longer than 100 pages. Life’s too short. One of the worst things of being a writer is “seeing the furniture move”. So grammar, spelling, story structure better be good 🙂

    • When you say non-fiction not longer than 100 pages are you referring to how-to books only?

    • Bryan

      I love reading nonfiction longer than 100 pages, but only if it’s available on audiobook. Gives me something to do during the chores :).

  • This is such a nebulus question. For me it comes down to 3 things. No perceivable plot, dislikable main characters, and themes I don’t want to explore.

    • Bryan

      We thrive on the nebulus :).

  • Benjamin Douglas

    Like many others here, first big turnoff for me is usually unlikable, unrelatable, or poorly written characters. But bonus points to a narrative author voice with which I can quickly empathize. If I’m going to let someone else into my head, I want to like their voice. For me that is an important part of the hook, and I have absolutely put books down just because I didn’t want to hear that voice.

    • Bryan

      I write all my books in a Valley Girl-style voice. Too much?

      • Benjamin Douglas

        I’m going to have to read them now.