FREE Kindle books until I have 500 reviews. Because SCREW IT.

Recently we were discussing what word to use when you want to say jealous… but with less negative connotations. Envious is a little better but still not good. I want I say something like “the success of my friend fills me with motivation and inspiration!”

I still don’t know the answer but that’s how I feel.

The friend in question has a book that’s doing amazing; over 500 reviews on Amazon. That’s pretty fucking great. But then I noticed the book is free.

I don’t know how long it’s been free.

It’s the first in a series of four books; the others are 2.99, the 2nd book is at about 8000 (Amazon rank) which means it’s selling well. The 2nd book has about 140 reviews so far.

My publishing plan was to start with a KDP free campaign, then 99cents, then possible up to 2.99. But this is my first book, and potentially the first in a series. I’ve already planned 8 totally different series with unique settings, plots and characters. I had planned to put a note in each book saying I’d continue the series when I had 100 reviews.

But I’m inspired to raise the bar. Why get 100 reviews and make a little money when I can keep the book at free until it gets 500 reviews. Free downloads mean MORE readers which will bring in MORE reviews, much faster.

Reviews are a very powerful indicator of future book sales. Getting 500 book reviews (especially) for the first book in a series could generate a ton of income later on. Why LIMIT the number of reviews I can get by charging 99cents, meaning fewer people would find my book?

So for the first time, I’ll probably put out my book for free, everywhere, and get Amazon to price-match. And I’ll leave it at free, to build my platform, drive email sign ups, and get more reviews. When I have 500 I met set it back to 99cents. But maybe not.

By the time any one book has 500 reviews, I’ll have more books published. I’ll keep publishing for free until a “book one” in any series gets there, then I’ll start expanding that series.

Will it work? Probably, yeah.
It may take a year or two to see any profit. But I’m not going for small gains; I want to sell a million books.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Fortune favors the bold.

How to be a “good” writer (tips from a book editor)

How to be a “good” writer (tips from a book editor)

Did I mention I was a professional book editor for many years?

Here’s the important thing I learned: you don’t have to be a good writer, to be a professional author. That’s what’s so interesting about the whole “#AskELJames” thing on Twitter. A lot of people are pissed because they think she can’t write.

A lot of people think it’s stupid that she’ll be offering a writing class or book about writing. What can she teach us about writing, people ask, if her prose and dialogue and plotting is terrible?

Here’s the thing though; she’s sold 70million books.

That means, even if people hate them, a lot of people secretly loved them. Even if they aren’t “good“, they are still satisfying.

The worst thing you can give an editor is a book full of amazing writing, where nothing interesting happens. I can’t fix anything that can be fixed. The writing is great, I’ll say. I can’t help you. But you’ll never sell more than 100 copies.

The second worst thing you can give to a book editor is a poorly written book full of grammar and spelling mistakes with stunted dialogue and terrible pacing and a twisted plot that doesn’t end well, and flat, unsympathetic characters who shriek and run around doing stupid things all the time for no reason.

But at least that one will keep me busy. I can do something. I can rewrite and fix everything and make it so much better. But you’ll still probably not sell more than 100 copies – if the story isn’t satisfying.

And actually, even if you have that same terribly written book, but it has a really good, satisfying story, it’s going to do better – even without an editor.

My point is that having a satisfying story matters more than “good writing”. Editors can improve writing. We can’t really fix story, and story is all that matters. (Yes, you can spend thousands of dollars on a developmental editor to help you fix story and teach you the basics of plotting… but why do that when you can buy a few books and actually learn to write?).

And personally, I want to sell a ton of books. I want to sell at least a million. I don’t give a shit if I’m not technically a “good writer” or if people make fun of me. If I can sell a million books, it means my stories were good enough to keep people buying and talking about them.

Literary fiction? Who needs it. I’d be happy writing and selling a million time-travel sexbot erotica books (which I’m actually writing, under a pseudonym). You’ve got to make a choice: do you want to improve your writing, until you can actually make beautifully meaningful sentences, and publish one, amazing, literary novel that sells a thousand copies but gets great reviews?

Or do you want to publish 5 different trilogies in popular genres and make a good living from your writing – enough money so that you never have to do anything for anybody else, ever again.

They aren’t really the same skillset. You can do both, probably, but you have to decide what to focus on.

“Good writing” isn’t really a money maker; which means it isn’t really a valuable skillset.

“Story telling” however, done well, can make great money.

So if you have to choose which skill to invest your time and energy developing, always go for the second.

Also, story telling is pretty easy to learn, and it can be taught. Learn it FIRST. Good writing is mostly a matter of practice. You might figure it out on your own after writing for a decade. But writing for a decade may not teach you anything about telling a great story. You need to learn that. There are rules involved.

People will continue to argue about what it means to be a “good writer” or what’s considered “good writing” – but I think the sales numbers are the greatest definitive proof we have for what kind of writing is valuable/valued.

Shades of Gray has had almost as much cultural impact as Harry Potter.

Name any literary fiction in the last 20 years that can say the same.

PS) We put a little guide together of self-editing tips for indie authors/common writing mistakes indie authors make over at, it’ll save you some money if you check it out and go through the list, before you think about hiring an editor.

How to write a bestselling YA dystopian novel

How to write a bestselling YA dystopian novel

I’m in the process of writing 5 YA (young adult) novels. As young adult novels, the protagonist in all of these novels are teenage girls. There may or may not also be some teenage guys involved. Well – there definitely are some of course as romantic interest, but I haven’t decided if they will get their own voice or if I stay with only one narrator for each book.

But I’m also currently reading some dystopian/postapocalyptic novels, like Wayward Pines and Dust and The 5th Wave. And I’m making some notes about how elements I need to include in my novels. And I got a little confused, because while most of my novels play with Armageddon settings (the stakes are high enough that failure could mean the end of civilization), my novels all start from the Ordinary World. So they are actually more paranormal romance than they are dystopian.

And I’m almost bummed out, because it would be so much easier to start after the end of the world. Everybody died. The lead characters are already dead and broken and hopeless, just trying to survive. But they find hope and meaning in their love for each other. That’s a simple plot. And it’s exciting. Start with the action. The first scenes can be gore and violence.

In my books, the first scenes are boring high school stuff. A call to adventure, sure… but I’m showing the ordinary world as a foil; so that eventually the heroine will look back and see how far she’s come. She’ll have something to miss.

That means my books are going to be a little bit slower. I’ll have to work harder to add in some early intrigue. I’ll have to work harder to establish the narrator’s voice and personality. And also show her develop in a satisfying way. In dystopian/postapocalyptic, the character can start out broken. The author doesn’t need to show heartbreak. In my novels, I’ll have to introduce a current or past event that makes them afraid, distrustful, uncertain… afraid to love.

I’ll have to throw a lot of shit their way, to force them to become the strong characters I need them to be by the end. This might not all be able to happen in the first book. Maybe the first book is just about survival. They just have to not die.

There are also some elements of dystopian fiction, however, I’ll see if I can work into my stories. I’ve made a convenient list for you.


A dystopian needs a tyrant, an oppressive government/society without freedom. A place with no hope. Cruel and unjust. A secret conspiracy.


Nobody is happy… but they don’t rebel. They walk the line. They don’t have a leader.


Probably involving teens and kids with guns, and death and gore.

Inciting Event

The protagonist gets forced onto a path of action that’s impossible for her to refuse. She does the best she can. It may involve sacrificing herself to save someone she loves (a family member).

Love interest (x2)
There’s usually at least 2 main love interests.

There’s a lost guy, she gives him meaning and purpose.
He wants to save/protect her.

She wants to be strong and pushes him away. They fight because she refuses to accept help. He can be controlling and overprotective. He’s dark and secretive.

The other guy is happy, confident, funny and friendly. She should like him. He likes her. But she doesn’t feel that way about him. This other guy may turn out to be the bad guy. She has mixed feelings; because she does like him a little. Maybe they kiss. Maybe she’s attracted to him.

A revolution

She becomes a revolutionary hero, and leads an uprising. Her role is more important than sorting out her relationships, so she stalls on that front and ignores her feelings. She won’t let herself be happy until her people are free.

She feels bad about killing, at first, but gets better at it.

YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy

If you took out the “dystopian” part, but kept the YA – you’d still get the love interests. Instead of a tyrant, you’d have an evil force or power – she has something he wants. She’s the only one who can stop him. She discovers she has powers; powers that are mysteriously and abnormally strong.

She has a best friend who’s ordinary (and might have a crush on her… but she doesn’t feel that way about him/her).

Daddy Issues

In any kind of YA, parentage is important. Usually one or both parents are missing – assumed dead. Later we may discover they aren’t really dead. They are in prison; or they are the enemy; or something else happened. The protagonist finds out that through her parents she is irrevocably tied to the core plot. Her father started this. Her mother is the villain. She inherited powers through one of them. Maybe we find out that her parents aren’t really her parents, and her new boyfriend is actually her brother.

Dealing with these revelations is part of the character coming to grips with her new self.

What else am I missing? Tell me in the comments!

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