Here's one way to get free copies of my eBooks

There's an easy way to get one of my eBooks for free that's perfectly legit in literary circles. This method also does not violate retailers' review guidelines. How you accomplish this is by agreeing to write and post a review.

Exchanging a free book for a review is really the only legitimate manner in which an author can obtain a review (beyond a person just buying the book and leaving a review themselves, of course). There are other means being employed, though, including some that are outright wrong and others that maybe are a bit borderline. On one hand you have authors who pay people, who in some cases don't even read the book, to leave a review. That's wrong. On the other, you have authors running various promotions including giveaways of, for example, Kindle Fires or Amazon gift cards. This violates the 'free book for a review' guideline of which Amazon explicitly condemns under their "What's not allowed" section:

Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product

I personally don't condemn this practice. I've thought about using it myself. Getting reviews is tough, so you do what you have to.

Further, Amazon has been cracking down on the "author exchange" of reviews recently and I'd guess they would also crack down on the giveaways for reviews crowd as well if there were some easy way for them to establish that link. Too bad Amazon doesn't crack down on idiots leaving reviews.

I should mention that I'm not real big on the whole free thing. In too many cases it doesn't work in terms of return on investment. I'm not in this to get rich, but I wouldn't complain if I could support myself and therefore have more time to write.

All that aside, if you want to give one of my books a read AND agree to leave a review somewhere (your blog or web site, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Goodreads, or somewhere else) then I've got free copies waiting for you. I can do Kindle/MOBI, EPUB, PDF, or just about anything else.

If you would like a free copy of either The Five Elements or The Hall of the Wood, contact me with your format preference and I'd be happy to send you a copy.

On the other hand, if you want to avoid having the overwhelming pressure of having to write a review hanging over your head, you can obtain either book (or both) at any of the retailers listed on my site or, for a limited time, for $0.99 at Smashwords using a couple of handy coupon codes.

As for the review, the only obligation is to actually leave it. The content is entirely up to you. 5 stars, 3 stars, good, bad, like, dislike, critical, or full of praise, all up to you, my friend.

Contact me and let's make a deal.

Upcoming giveaway for The Five Elements

I'm running a giveaway on GoodReads for 5 print copies of The Five Elements!

The giveaway begins on Feb. 10 (this Friday) and runs for a month. Lots of time to sign-up, but wanted to give some advance notice.

GoodReads giveaways are made with no expectation of anything in return—namely a book review—though it is greatly appreciated.

I'll post again when the giveaway period begins.

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Broken Mirrors, a serialized novel coming from Tim Pratt

Marla Mason about to kick some ass Tim Pratt, whose book The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl I reviewed some time ago, posed this question on his blog:

Should I Write the Next Marla Mason Novel?

Marla Mason is Pratt's urban sorcerer character who has appeared in four traditionally published novels to date: Blood Engines, Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, and Spell Games. Also, Marla Mason is the main character in Bone Shop, a prequel to the other novels which Pratt serialized and gave away for free (donations accepted, of course) on his web site.

When Pratt originally posed that question on his blog and Twitter, I scoffed. Stephen King had tried it and failed. Tim and I engaged in a brief conversation where he pointed out the difference in scale (King has to make a whole lot more for it to be worth his time) and the fact that King tried it a decade ago. We both agreed that a lot of things can change in 10 years. Our conversation closed with the following comments from Tim:

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Turns out his publisher is not interested in any more Marla Mason novels. Pratt has a great affinity for the character, though, and so on the heels of Bone Shop, Pratt's first serialized Marla Mason novel, he's doing it again, this time with Broken Mirrors.

Broken Mirrors will appear online one chapter at a time and run for "20-25 weeks". The first chapter will go up March 8.

While you can download the chapters for free, donations are, of course, accepted. In exchange for your contribution, Pratt has a tiered reward system. The more you donate, the more you get (beyond the author's undying appreciation, of course).

While I had read the before-mentioned The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, I had no experience with his Marla Mason novels prior to reading about his plans for Broken Mirrors. Intrigued by the serialization idea, I went out and bought the first Mason novel, Blood Engines (actually, I bought it through my Kindle, so I didn't really go anywhere). So far, so good, and I'm looking forward to watching Broken Mirrors unfold.

You can subscribe to the upcoming chapters via the RSS feed on the Broken Mirrors web site.

Dropbox

Sign-up for your free space nowDropbox has become my cloud storage vendor of choice, replacing Office Live Workspace for those times when I need to synchronize files between multiple machines (think home vs. work; no more sneakernet with USB keys), when I want to make sure files are accessible from anywhere, and when I just need to get a large file (or files) from one place to another. It's also great as a secure backup solution.

Dropbox is free (2GB of storage, 50GB is $10/month, prices/storage go up from there), secure, and fast. One of the best things about it--and what ultimately made me abandon Office Live Workspace--has to do with the way Dropbox works.

You can access your Dropbox account through their web site, sure. But they also have a client application you install that creates a special "My Dropbox" folder:

My Dropbox folder

You save/copy files into this local folder. The first time you do so, the Dropbox client app will auto-sync with the Dropbox servers, copying those files up into the cloud. Further, if you have Dropbox installed on other machines, those machines will have their individual local Dropbox folder sync'ed as well. In other words, since I have the Dropbox client app installed on my laptop at home and my work machine, anything I copy into my Dropbox folder on either machine is sync'ed with Dropbox's server as well as all machines where I have the client installed. Not only is it excellent redundancy, it's a great way to transfer files (especially when they're large) from one computer to another.

This differs from Office Live Workspace in one very crucial way: With Dropbox, you're in effect saving to your local machine. The Dropbox client software takes it from there, sync'ing automatically in the background when it notices changes. Office Live Workspace, on the other hand, saves files remotely into the cloud exclusively and in the foreground. This is slow. If you're like me and lived through the unreliability of computers in the 80's, you save a lot. Sometimes I add a sentence and hit a quick Ctrl-S. Then I have to watch as Office Live Workspace proceeds to save the document. Twenty seconds, thirty, or longer, and the save is done. I can't deal with that kind of slowness when I'm trying to save my work; I need to keep my thoughts flowing onto the screen.

The Dropbox client is unobtrusive, sitting idle in your tray (in Windows) until it detects a file change:

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When it performs a sync it briefly changes the icon.

One of the best features of Dropbox: file versioning. Whenever you do anything with a file, including creation, modification, and deletion, a change event is recorded and a new version of that file generated. A typical file version history might look like this:

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In this particular case I actually accidentally deleted this file. The deletion event is at the top. Fortunately, Dropbox created a new version of the file along the way so restoring to the last good version was easy. This saved me a ton of time as otherwise I would have had to re-create that content.

Some other features taken from the Dropbox web site:

  • 2GB of online storage for free, with up to 100GB available to paying customers.
  • Sync files of any size or type.
  • Sync Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
  • Automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected.
  • Work on files in your Dropbox even if you're offline. Your changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again.
  • Dropbox transfers will correctly resume where they left off if the connection drops.
  • Efficient sync - only the pieces of a file that changed (not the whole file) are synced. This saves you time.
  • Doesn't hog your Internet connection. You can manually set bandwidth limits.

I'm happy with the service and have yet to have any problems.

If you're at all interested in giving the service a try, you can use this link to sign-up. I get 250MB of additional space for the referral. Thanks!

Kindle for PC

One of the features lacking in Amazon's Kindle plans for e-book domination has been the fact that in order to read e-books purchased from their store you need to have a Kindle.

No longer.

Amazon has just released the new Kindle for PC software, currently in beta with Mac version coming soon, which is a free download and allows you to view Kindle e-books on your home computer or laptop.

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If you're leery of beta software best wait for the release version, though I installed and did the basics without any issue.

Kindle for PC is a quick install. In moments, I was presented with the application's opening screen:

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The "Register now to get started" dialog wants your Amazon account information, but it is not necessary to fill this in as there is a "continue without registering" option. I went ahead and filled in my Amazon account information and clicked "Register".

Here's the application resized for better viewing:

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The interface is simple almost to the point of being plain. But then it has a fairly narrow, specific purpose: to view Kindle-formatted e-books. Since I registered the software with my Amazon account, Kindle for PC went through a quick sync cycle to see what Kindle e-books I had already purchased. Of course, I don't own a Kindle and therefore have not purchased any e-books from the Kindle store, so nothing showed up.

Fortunately, Amazon makes it easy to add Kindle e-books to my collection by placing a button at the top of the app that says, "Shop in Kindle Store":

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That, of course, brings you to the Kindle storefront where, with a quick search, I can find my e-book, The Hall of the Wood.

If you're curious about how the buying process works, click on the "How buying works" link beneath the "Buy" button at the right. This will bring up the following dialog with the new Kindle for PC option listed alongside the more traditional ones:

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You'll also see the Kindle for PC device already selected if you registered when the app came up:

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For demonstration purposes, and because I've never actually seen my e-book other than in DTP preview mode, I went ahead and purchased my own e-book. Chalk up another sale for me. Once I went through the payment method, etc., I get this:

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After clicking "Go to Kindle for PC", I'm brought back to the Kindle for PC app:

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A quick double-click on my e-book and it brings it up in all its glory:

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Now that's cool.

I can't say I'm real keen on reading e-books on my PC (or Mac if I had one). In other words, I still want an e-reader. But Amazon is addressing a void in the Kindle's feature set. One less thing for someone on the fence about purchasing one e-reader over another to concern themselves with. Plus, who knows, for people who want to buy e-books from Amazon but don't have an iPhone or Kindle, now they can.

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