Archive for the 'Nuts and Bolts' Category Review Guidelines for “Janabai Shepherd”

said on August 21st, 2017 filed under: Azriel's Angels, Janabai Shepherd, Nuts and Bolts

Let me take a moment to tell you about reviews. Here is Amazon’s core statement:

“We don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion and if we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we’ll remove it. If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we’ll likely remove your review. We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.” is committed to publishing honest reviews.  Aren’t we all?  Here are some of the rules that seem to be operating at present.  Note that the enforcement mechanisms of these rules evolve and change.

You do not have to purchase the book to leave a customer review, but Amazon has a category called “Verified Purchaser Reviews” that is probably more potent and credible.

You must have an account to leave customer reviews.  I have heard that you have to purchase at least $50 worth of merchandise to leave a review.  I’m not sure about this policy, the time frame (Past twelve months? During the calendar year?) or even the amount.

Do not state or infer a personal relationship between you and the author, especially if he or she is a friend or family member.  Of course, the author’s friends are apt to leave reviews; so there is a fine line here.

Do not indicate that you received anything of value in exchange for your review. The exception to this rule is that you may receive a free ARC (advance reader copy) of the book.  This is a perfectly acceptable practice.

Do not attempt to publish multiple reviews of the same book from the same computer. A husband-and-wife duo used the same computer to write independent and honest reviews of one of my books.  Both reviews were deleted by Amazon.

That was interesting, wasn’t it?


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How does a Professional eBook Campaign Affect Sales for a New Release on Amazon?

said on October 14th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil

Climbing the learning curve of self-published book launching, I spent many days in the trail-side camp of Derek Murphy, a mad (as in crazy) genius in the art of marketing books on the internet.  Check him out at  In one rant about “gaming” (ranting is his usual method of teaching), Murphy recommended an email campaigner named Mike Balmaceda.  I got in touch with Balmaceda and purchased his $400 mid-range product.

My first novel, Azriel Dancer, launched on Saturday, October 1, 2016 with thirty-five reviews (all Five Star but two—one of the Four Stars being my sister’s, thanks a lot, Linda).  From Saturday through Tuesday, we had about thirty sales of eBooks.

Book 3

On Tuesday evening,  Balmaceda deployed his email campaign, and within twenty-four hours, we garnered an additional seventy-three sales.  That’s the big spike you see in the graph.

Effects of Balmaceda eBook Campaign

By Thursday, sales had tapered off.  One week later, we flat-lined.

Balmaceda guaranteed that, with his service, the book would reach the 2,000 to 3,000 Amazon ranking for eBooks.  Actual ranking achieved:  1,313.  We also ranked #4 in one category, #12 in another, and #18 in the third.  Great.  Mission accomplished.  For one day.  And that’s the moral of the story.  For one day, Wednesday, October 5, 2016.  What did I do for THURSDAY?  It makes perfect sense, the beast must be fed every day.  I have no complaints, with or with Balmaceda’s campaign.

Mike Balmaceda is straightforward with his promise . . . and with his warning:  the secret is in maintaining the momentum.  How do you do that?  Pay Mike $400 and find out for yourself.  I’m not trying to be funny.

Let me close with two points.

  1. Teaching people how to maintain sales momentum is Balmaceda’s business; it’s how he makes his living. I’m not going to give away the secrets he sells (and that I bought).
  2. From long experience in another sales industry, I can tell you that it is easy to learn the lesson.

Only a few actually do the work to put the lesson into action.

Point of the Pencil

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Cost of Books to the Author and the Effect on Sales Rank

said on September 21st, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil

Hearing conflicting opinions about how my discounted purchase of Azriel Dancer would effect my sales ranking, I put the question to CreateSpace, the Amazon subsidiary that actually prints the books.

Here’s my question:

Hello CreateSpace,  Newbie here with two related questions about costs and sales rank.  1.  What is my cost for “author books?”  My book, Azriel Dancer, will be priced at $12.99.  2.  Let’s say I order 50 books at my “author price” to be used at a book signing. Will those fifty books be credited as sales and count toward my sales ranking?

Here’s the speedy reply from CreateSpace:

“Greetings from CreateSpace, I hope that this e-mail finds you well.

When you order your book through your CreateSpace account, you would pay the member price for it, which is $5.72.

Bare in mind that although CreateSpace falls under the Amazon umbrella, we are ultimately separate entities, and additionally the Amazon sales ranks are updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on each of the Amazon sites, which would be and Amazon Europe for example, i.e purchased on Amazon directly.

This means that when you purchase your books through CreateSpace, they are purchased on CreateSpace and do not affect the sales ranking on Amazon.

The only time your sales ranking increases is when books are purchased directly off of Amazon. That would mean if you purchase those 50 books from Amazon, your sales ranking will increase, however bare in mind that it would then be purchased at full price not the member price because it’s not purchased from your CreateSpace account.

I trust that this information will be of help to you Bob, and I wish you all of the best.”

Not the answer I hoped for, but I appreciate the celerity and clarity of the response.

Point of the Pencil

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Pre-Launch Checklist for October 1 Azriel Dancer Blastoff

said on September 13th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil

Rocket Launch

Check     Approve final interior and cover from Streetlight Graphics

Check     Receive the “Deliverables” from Streetlight (ready-to-upload files)

Check     Upload Print interior and cover to CreateSpace (Amazon print-on-demand subsidiary)

Check     Upload Ebook interior and cover to KDP (Kindle Direct); select October 1 for publication

Check     Wait, wait, wait for CreateSpace approval

Check     Order print proof from CreateSpace

Approve Print version no later than September 27

Launch on October 1




Point of the Pencil

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Doing Business as Shiva Puri Press

said on September 13th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil


For reasons too complex and nuanced to get into here, I have been advised to publish Azriel Dancer under a “fictitious” business name.  I’ll be “doing business as” Shiva Puri Press.  Those of you who have read Azriel Dancer will understand the reference.

Someday you might want to “do business as” somebody or something other than your own name.

How do you do it?  The “doing business as” procedure?

Go to the Recorder in the county you call home.

Fill out a one-page application.  Takes about five minutes.

Pay the clerk.  In Nevada County, California the fee is $26.

The clerk gives you three copies of the Fictitious Business Name Statement, one for you, one for your bank (to open a business account), and one for the approved newspaper(s) specifically listed on the Instruction Sheet.

Go see (or contact online or whatever works best in your county) the classified ad agent at the “approved” newspaper.  Give him/her the form.  He/she will know exactly what it is.  Pay him/her/it or them.  In Nevada County, California, the ads cost me $116.

The newspaper will run the “doing business as” notice once a week for four consecutive weeks.  This is mandatory, no bull, no way around it.

After the fourth and final posting, the newspaper will send a receipt and note of completion back to the County Recorder.  Ta da!  You are now a sole-proprietor business.

Are we having fun?

Point of the Pencil


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Genres, sub-Genres, and Keywords

said on September 12th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil

You are back at the Point of the Pencil to learn about keyword decisions that affect the life and success of your self-published book.  How I wish I had known about this stuff before I sent the final draft to the formatter.

Point of the Pencil

When you upload the book, either for print or for Ebook, you have to select the genre, subgenre, and the keywords that Amazon and other search engines use to find your book and match it to appropriate customers.  A mistake here could be damaging, if not lethal.

There are not as many broad categories as you might think, though once you get down to the subgenres, there are more choices.  Let me show you some of the Ebook categories I chose for Azriel Dancer.

United States Kindle Editions

Fantasy characters/Devils and Demons     Keyword: demons

Science Fiction & Fantasy/Science Fiction/Metaphysical & Visionary     Keywords: metaphysical, visionary, theology, spiritual

United Kingdom Kindle Editions

Science fiction & fantasy/science fiction/metaphysical & visionary

Science fiction & fantasy/fantasy/metaphysical &visionary

KDP (Kindle Direct Press) uses BISAC codes (similar to the Dewey Decimal system if you are old enough to remember that).  The author may chose TWO.  Here are my top three choices:

FIC040000 Fiction/Alternative History

FIC039000 Fiction/Visionary & Metaphysical

FIC0280070 Fiction/Science Fiction/Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic

From years in marketing, I have learned how critical  keywords are in making your work “discoverable” to the search engines.  And let me insert here one important reality: is not a superstore. is a super-search engine that puts consumers together with products that match their wants and needs.  Right?

Having selected categories that have specified keywords (metaphysical, visionary, etc.), it is urgent that your book well-represent those keywords.  This is the part I wish I knew ‘back then.’  Before I “go to press,” I am going to search Azriel Dancer for the word “supernatural” which I probably use four or five times.  One last time I will beg my formatter, Glendon Haddix, at Streetlight Graphics (Hi Glendon, this is a plug for your excellent and responsive company), for a few easy changes:  substituting metaphysical (the keyword) for supernatural and so forth.

See how this works?


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Point of the Pencil

said on September 10th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts, Point of the Pencil

Point of the Pencil

What a great time to be a newbie self-published novelist!  Just a few years ago, a hopeful author would chase down agents, beg them to read (or glance at) the manuscript, buck the long, long odds, and once in a blue moon, an agent would take on the author (sacrificial lamb), and  pitch the book to a publisher.  If the book actually sold, the author would get a pitiful advance, and royalties of pennies on the dollar.

I went on such an “agent chase.”  I’ll tell you about it later; a story educational and amusing.  But, for now, the newbie novelist is in control of the entire process.  Do you know how much it costs to upload an Ebook to KDP (Kindle Direct)?  Nothing.  Zero.  And the royalties can be as much as seventy percent.  Do you know how much it costs to upload to CreateSpace, Amazon’s subsidiary print operation?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  The royalties?  It depends upon two variables:  the price (which the author sets!) and the number of pages.  CreateSpace even provides a royalty calculator so you can fiddle around with the price.

There’s a downside, of course.  Several of them.  First, the self-publishing game is super-competitive.  There are literally millions of books being self-published.  Getting your book to “surface” is quite an undertaking.  That’s what Azriel’s Angels are getting ready for:  surfacing.

Then, being “in control of the entire process” means  exactly that.  You do it all, except for the jobs you subcontract:  editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting, training, publicity materials, advertising . . . and those jobs cost real dollars.  How much?  Not counting publicity, where the sky is the limit, launching a full-length, self-published book, one that looks and feels like a “real” book, costs seven to ten grand.

Maybe you can do it cheaper.   What are you going to cut out?

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Azriel Dancer Back Cover (first draft)

said on September 8th, 2016 filed under: Nuts and Bolts


Azriel Dancer

“Azriel Dancer is the kind of sci-fi read that rarely crosses a reviewer’s desk . . . moves quickly without the artificial pace that too often imbibes sci-fi adventure stories with a sense of desperation and haste . . . atmospheric and steeped in delightful descriptions that are hauntingly evocative and original . . . nothing staid or predictable about its characters or story line; but most of all, events are narrated with a gripping “you are there” immediacy that makes for a story nearly impossible to put down or predict. Science fiction fans are in for a real treat; but should be prepared: Azriel Dancer is like no other read, and it avoids typical approaches and predictable paths with a satisfying vengeance.”  Diane Donovan, Senior reviewer, The Midwest Book Review

“He writes with such joy!  A fresh plot, unpredictable and spontaneous, every page a new discovery.  Kali is my favorite bad guy ever, truly monstrous, and yet funny and oddly engaging.  We love to hate him . . . and hate to love him.”  Cate Hogan, romance author

“Fantastic!”  Daniel Ravenda, author of Smoke Rising

“Completely Different.  Who could have thought that the apocalypse could be so much fun?”  Greg at 2 Book Lovers Review

Twenty-five year-old Azriel doesn’t know much of the world beyond Shiva Puri, the village where she and two hundred other farmers live in the foothills of California.  Dreams of becoming a professional dancer have been dashed by injury, and it seems her marriage to Daniel, the village manager, is the crowning achievement of her young life.  Azriel’s rural existence is pleasant, if not exhilarating, and so the world goes on.

Until it doesn’t.

The sages of ancient India tell of a terrifying being that will come forth from the underworld to end the reign of humankind.  Shhhh.  It’s just folklore, a superstition, a tale to frighten children.

Until it isn’t.

When the apocalypse comes, waves of unearthly pulsations crush everything in their path and fast-moving firestorms sweep North America.  The survivors of Shiva Puri need a leader if they’re to make it through the devastation.  Factions splinter and tensions escalate, but no one is aware of the real danger lurking.  The demon Kali, Lord of Rakshasa, Tiger of Lanka, circles the last remnants of humanity.

People disappear, and Azriel realizes she must perform her most delicate dance, defeating the vilest creature humankind has ever known, and preserving her humanity in the process.

Azriel Dancer, first of four novels in the Daughters of the Kali Yuga quartet, takes the reader from the first seconds of a mysterious global catastrophe, to the birth of a new civilization fifty years later.

Bob Jenkins is one of America’s distinguished storytellers.  Twice featured as a headliner for the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee, he performed in circus tents for thousands of story lovers.  He lives in the Sierra Foothills of California where the events of Azriel Dancer unfold.


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