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review 2018-11-20 14:37
Domestic noir, dark humour, and a fantastic new voice
My Sister, the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

Thanks to NetGalley and to Atlantic Books (Doubleday) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The title of this book hooked me. The fact that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, made it more attractive. I could not resist the cover. And then I started reading and got hit by this first paragraph:

“Ayoola summons me with these words —Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Told in the first person by Korede, the book narrates her story and that of her “complex” relationship with her younger sister, Ayoola, beautiful, graceful, a successful designer, beloved of social media, irresistible to men, the favourite of everybody… She’s almost perfect. But, there is a big but, which you will have guessed from the title. She is a serial killer.

This is a short and very funny book, although it requires a certain kind of sense of humour on the part of the reader. You need to be able to appreciate sarcasm and dark humour (very dark) to find it funny, but if you do, this is a fresh voice and a different take on what has become an extremely popular genre recently, domestic noir. I kept thinking about the many novels I had read where I had commented on the setting of the book and how well the author had captured it. There are no lengthy descriptions in this novel, but it manages to capture the beat and the rhythm of Lagos (a place where I’ve never been, I must admit) and makes us appreciate what life must be like for the protagonists. Because, although Ayoola is a murderer, life goes on, and Korede has to keep working as a nurse, she is still in love (or so she thinks) with one of the doctors at the hospital, their mother still suffers from her headaches, Ayoola wants to carry on posting on Snapchat, the patient in coma Korede confides in needs to be looked after, the police need to be seen to be doing something, and there are more men keen on spending time with beautiful Ayoola…

I found Korede understandable, although I doubt that we are meant to empathise with her full-heartedly. At some points, she seems to be a victim, trapped in a situation she has no control over. At others, we realise that we only have her own opinion of her sister’s behaviour, and she has enabled the murderous activities of her sibling, in a strange symbiotic relationship where neither one of them can imagine life without the other. We learn of their traumatic past, and we can’t help but wonder what would we do faced with such a situation? If your sister was a psychopath (not a real psychiatric diagnosis, but I’m sure she’d score quite high in the psychopathy scale if her sister’s description is accurate) who kept getting into trouble, always blaming it on others, would you believe her and support her? Would you help her hide her crimes? Is blood stronger than everything else?

I loved the setting, the wonderful little scenes (like when Tade, the attractive doctor, sings and the whole city stops to listen, or when the police take away Korede’s car to submit it to forensic testing and then make her pay to return it to her, all dirty and in disarray), the voice of the narrator and her approach to things (very matter-of-fact, fully acknowledging her weaknesses, her less-than-endearing personality, sometimes lacking in insight  but also caring and reflective at times), and the ending as well. I also enjoyed the writing style. Short chapters, peppered with Yoruba terms, vivid and engaging, it flows well and it makes it feel even briefer than it is.

If you enjoy books with a strong sense of morality and providing deep lessons, this novel is not for you. Good and bad are not black and white in this novel, and there is an undercurrent of flippancy about the subject that might appeal to fans of Dexter more than to those who love conventional thrillers or mysteries. But if you want to discover a fresh new voice, love black humour, and are looking for an unusual setting, give it a go. I challenge you to check a sample and see…

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text 2018-05-14 08:30
Free and Easy Book Launch Basics
Cold-Blooded - Rod Raglin

 What's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews?

 

Paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for someone to launch your new book for you and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Cold-Blooded, Book 2 in the Mattie Saunders series was launched with a pre-order on Smashwords on January 15, 2018.

 

The Mattie Saunders Series is what I now go back to when I'm between, or need a break from, the major novel I'm working on. Mattie is a modern young woman dealing with new adult issues of relationships, career and family as well as addressing the contemporary challenges confronting society.

 

I'm actually taking subjects right from the nightly newscast and examining them from a fictional perspective. Because my overriding concern is wild places, plants and animals there's also a subplot that examines this problem as well.

 

In Cold-Blooded Mattie deals with the opioid crisis, a crumbling relationship and the exploitation of reptiles by the exotic pet trade.

 

This series of novella's are fast paced, somewhat irreverent and short - about one hundred pages.

 

The book was published on February 23, 2018, as an e-book on Smashwords and Draft2Digital and as an e-book and paperback on Amazon.

 

At that time I sent out approximately two hundred and thirty-four emails to members of my Advanced Reading Team with a coupon code for a free download of Cold-Blooded from Smashwords. Follow up emails went out March 4th and 13th.

 

The launch continued with giveaways on BookLikes and LibraryThing beginning March 18. I use these two sites because they don't charge you to offer your book for free like Goodreads that now charges $119.

 

If I ever thought I'd have to pay to give my books away I may have reconsidered becoming an author.

 

I used Goodreads prior to them charging to list giveaways and despite having a far greater audience than these other two sites I never found it generated more reviews.

 

After a month, BookLikes had two people requesting Cold-Blooded and LibraryThing had twenty-six.

 

I use free coupon codes on Smashwords with both my ARCs and giveaways so I can see how many actually redeem the coupon. Totally coupons offered, 271. Totally coupons redeemed, 27.

 

To date, marketing for Cold-Blooded has generated two tepid reviews and no sales.

 

It is now May 13th and I've just generated a free coupon for The Rocker and the Bird Girl, Book 1 in the Mattie Saunders Series, on Smashwords. The strategy is by offering the first book in the series free, readers will purchase the second book. Here's the link if you're interested. It expires June 3, 2018.

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

 

I'm likely going to enroll The Rocker and the Bird Girl on KDP Select so I can take advantage of offering it free for five days over the course of the three month exclusive commitment to see it that will generate any interest in Cold-Blooded.

 

What's the take-away?

 

This is classic book launch marketing, something you can easily pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for and I did it all free.

 

Okay, I got zero results, but if you're and Indie Author and considering investing in marketing your self-published book ask yourself, why should you expect a different outcome? Unless you've got a real good reason, consider going the free route as outlined here or you'll likely learn the hard way what's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

Links associate with this blog:

Author Amazon site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Link for free copy of The Rocker and the Bird Girl https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

BookLikes http://booklikes.com/giveaways

LibraryThing https://www.librarything.com/more/freebooks

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

Draft2Digiatl https://www.draft2digital.com/

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/

KindleDirect Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/

Createspace https://www.createspace.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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text 2017-12-09 07:20
Book launch case study results

 So what works when it comes to marketing your self-published book?

 

Nothing.

 

Well, maybe that's being overly cynical. You may find some things work infinitesimally, but let me assure you there is no book marketing "silver bullet". At least that's been my experience over the past seven years with my eight novels and two plays.

 

But, hey, I'm ever the optimistic (what's the alternative?) and so when I received a promotional email (no personalized salutation) from an indie author saying she noticed I’d reviewed a book similar to one she had just written and if she sent me a free e-pub edition would I be interested in reviewing hers, I was curious as to know how she culled my email address from the millions on Amazon.

 

So I agreed to review her book on the condition she tell me how she got my email address and any other tips she might have on marketing. She responded favourably and was very forthcoming.

 

This all transpired in early October 2017  and I wrote a blog (see my previous blog entitled Book Launch Case Study) about what she had undertaken to produce and market her novel on October 18th.

 

As promised I read and reviewed her novel and rated it two stars. It was classically amateur. As well as posting the review I sent her a long, constructive (at least I thought it was) email with suggestions on improving the book and her overall writing.

 

She sent a terse reply saying I clearly did not enjoy the genre and her book obviously was not for me.

 

Fair enough.

 

So I thought I would wait and see if the money she spent on marketing would increase the popularity of what I considered a bad book.

 

Her book was published Sept. 27, 2017 and here's what she'd done and spent up to the point of sending it to me:

- To produce her book she hired two beta readers at $50 each and got a book cover artist from her writers’ group to design her cover for $65. No editor was needed she said as she just happened to be one herself.

- She purchased a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (that's how she got my email address).

- She uploaded the culled emails into Group Mailer and had "about forty-five people agree to read and review a free version of the book and an additional twenty who declined the free copy and purchased the book to review it.”

That's 65 people who agreed to review her book. Keep that number in mind.

In addition, she said she had another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she had yet process.

- At the end of October she was running a 99¢ campaign for the e-book edition for two days on Amazon and one-day free book promotions on Pretty-Hot Books and Discountbookman, spending ten dollars for a featured promotion on bookreadermagazine and running a giveaway on Goodreads.

- Let's not forget her friends, colleagues and clients whom she apparently had no problem asking to buy and review her book. She also asked writers in her writers’ groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and had started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.

 

All this cost her $375, and, I might think a bit of personal integrity and perhaps even a friend or two. But who isn't prepared to sacrifice their integrity, friends and even money if it means hitting the Amazon Best Seller list?

 

In the 71 days since her book was released she's had 7 customer reviews on Amazon with an average 4 star rating. Her book is currently ranked 3,359,000 on Amazon.

 

So what's the take away from this book launch case study?

 

  1. - Promises are not reviews or sales (remember those 65 people who promised to review her book, buy her book, or both) they're just promises.
  2. - Offering your book free or for 99¢ does not generate reviews or sales.
  3. - Since her family, friends, professional colleagues and clients didn't step up and review her book maybe you shouldn't go there. Relationships are more important than a book review and you really never know how much harm you're doing. Think of the friend who got involved in that multi-level marketing scheme - do you really want to be like him?

 

Am I happy she fell flat on her face? No. Am I vindicated that her efforts fell miles short of what I imagine her expectations were? No (well, maybe a little).

 

Mostly I hope she's gained some knowledge, maybe a bit of humility and carries on, but with emphasis on improving her craft rather than her marketing schemes. Maybe even get that email I sent out of the deleted file and take a look at what I suggested.

 

And always remember what Nietzsche said, "Art is the proper task in life."

 

And that would be whether it sells or not.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

 

30

 

Author Amazon Page  https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

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text 2017-09-22 14:37
Book Launch: Antologia de Poesia Contemporânea "Entre o Sono e o Sonho", Vol. VIII by Gonçalo Martins

 

For the first time I see one of my poems chosen and published in the VIII Anthology of Contemporary Portuguese Poetry "Between Sleep and Dream". 

 

 

If you're into Poetry, read on.

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text 2016-12-06 07:10
# 7 The LOCAL RAG. Putting everything I know into a book launch and achieving nothing
The Local Rag - Rod Raglin

 

How I came to write my seventh novel, The LOCAL RAG.

Plus book launch advice - what doesn't work

 

The LOCAL RAG was my first go at fiction - a long, long time ago.

 

At the time I was full of hubris and upon completion quickly sent it to a local publisher. I don't even remember revising it.

 

It just so happened it landed on the desk of an editor who recognized my name as the publisher and editor of five community newspapers and an aspiring politico. Rather than shred it she took the time to line edit the first chapter. Suffice to say there was so much "blue pencil" it obscured the original manuscript.

 

I quickly hid this embarrassment in the back of my filing cabinet and would have forgot about it except for her comment that "there's a good story in here somewhere". I thought so too, all I needed to do was learn how to write it.

 

With the demise of so many reputable media outlets and the rise of just as many disreputable ones I had been thinking about writing a novel with a media theme. I wanted to investigate "citizen journalism", the influence of social media, and digital technology on my profession. Why not have a protagonist, a publisher and a journalist, who is struggling to keep his professional integrity while confronted with technological and financial challenges.

 

Hey, that's what The LOCAL RAG is about, and maybe I now know enough about the craft that I can write it.

 

I dug it out, sucked it up, and read it.

 

Wow, was it bad. But, as the editor had said, there indeed was a story in there and it was the one I wanted to tell.

 

It's quite interesting that as you become a better writer you write simpler. New writers and bad writers use way too many words. I cut about forty percent of the novel and then set about layering in characterization, motivation and honing the plot line. I also needed to bring it up to date technologically and to do that researched successful online newspaper models.

 

It was fun, it was exciting and a side benefit was that I learned how to put the last of the community newspapers I still publish online.

 

Here's the gist of it:

 

Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers?

 

Jim Mitchell doesn't.

 

He's a journalist and the publisher and editor of a community newspaper, The Sentinel.

 

He gave up a career with big media because he couldn't justify their choice of what to cover, couldn't tolerate the way they edited his stories and would not be implicit in misleading the public to benefit some hidden corporate agenda.

 

When he bought The Sentinel he thought all that would end. Being owner of "the local rag" he could select the stories, edit the copy and make sure the interests of the community were served.

 

He would print the truth - no slant, no bias, no spin, and he'd make a living doing it.

 

He was wrong.

 

Right from the beginning Jim's brand of reportage rankles some powerful people, people who pay his bills. Then there's the new competitor, a multinational media conglomerate that's expanding its generic community newspaper format into The Sentinel's market area.

 

Soon it's a struggle for The Sentinel to make a profit and for Jim to keep true to his uncompromising ethic.

 

When his best friend, Anthony Bravaro decides to run for mayor Jim's hopeful he'll be an honest politician.

 

Hope turns to dismay as Jim watches the quest for power turn a good man bad. Tony's campaign tests Jim's professional objectivity and personal integrity.

 

When Jim confronts his friend with damaging information that could end his run for public office he finds out how far Tony's prepared to go to win the mayor's seat - farther than he could ever have imagined.

 

 

This being my seventh novel I tried everything the so-called experts insist makes for a successful book launch.

 

Beginning in October, The LOCAL RAG was available for pre-order and entered in KindleScout, where readers could nominate it. I did a direct mail campaign with a free e-book advanced reading copy attached to over two hundred people who had expressed interest in my work. I ran giveaways on Goodreads, BookLikes and LibraryThing and enrolled in Amazon's KindleSelect so I could take advantage of their five days where The LOCAL RAG is available free.

 

I promoted all this on Twitter and Facebook and sent two follow-up messages to my email list.

 

So far I've given away about four hundred e-book editions and the net result has been one sale - I think ( I find Amazon's royalty reports are challenging to understand) and four reviews - all flattering mind you, but disappointing just the same.

 

I'm here to tell you despite what the book marketing, book launch scammers tell you none of their sure-fire techniques and gimmicks has worked (yet) - at least for me. The only up side, if you can call it that, is I've been able to do all this marketing on my own so it hasn't cost me anything.

 

I have two more Amazon free days left and am currently in the process of sending out e-books and two paperbacks to winners of my giveaways so there still could be a review or two trickle in from that - not like it will make a difference.

 

Even for a guy who loves to write this is getting a bit (?) frustrating.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

30

 

Reviews for The LOCAL RAG can be read at

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

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