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Move Over, Vampires! A Review of Everblue by Brenda Pandos

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Cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Vampires are cool, but I always thought it was creepy to fall for a creature that drinks blood for sustenance. I mean, really. However, mermaids and mermen are a totally different story. That’s what Brenda Pandos’ book Everblue is all about, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in. Now on to the good stuff:

Everblue clocks in at 305 pages and is aimed at a younger YA audience; I’d say 12- to 16-year-olds. It’s written from two points of view: regular high school student Ashlyn Lanski (Ash) and home-schooled teenage merman Finley (Fin). Ash is best friends with Tatiana, Fin’s twin sister. They grew up together on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Ash is the high school swim captain and has a secret crush on Fin, not knowing he’s a merman. He knows that one kiss from his lips would seal them together for eternity, so he tries to avoid a relationship. Most merpeople avoid all contact with humans, but Fin and Tatiana love living on land. There’s just one problem: the mer king is ordering merpeople to start preparing for a war with humans and has a hidden grudge against Fin’s parents.

There are several points in favor of Everblue, namely that Ash, even though she has a crush on Fin, is not completely obsessed with him. She enjoys the company of other guys at the school and lives a normal life. Also, Pandos does an excellent job writing the story from Ash’s point of view—I was really able to get inside her head! I also enjoyed the lore and history of merpeople and the way their world worked. It wasn’t perfect but it made sense and it was consistent.

The novel also includes intrigue and fighting among the merpeople, but the violence doesn’t escalate to gruesome levels. This was refreshing because a lot of YA novels nowadays go for shock factor (case in point: Hunger Games). Pandos kept it realistic and tense. Anyway, keep this in mind in case you’re looking for something edgier, but for those who enjoy a good, clean YA, this is it. The only issue I had with the book was how rapidly the chapters changed perspective; at times I think Pandos could’ve had 2 or 3 chapters from one character before moving to the other, but that’s just me.

This book deserves 4.5 stars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Amazon KDP Select

KDP Select and What’s In It for You

Amazon KDP SelectFellow writers, readers, and anyone else interested in the self-publishing industry: let me introduce you to a short treatise on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and its KDP Select program.

This Select service was brought to my attention by GoodReads’ Jane Friedman blog, specifically a guest post by CJ Lyons (I’d recommend reading it here).

KDP is simply Amazon’s self-publishing service (Amazon is also affiliated with CreateSpace, and probably even more who I’m not aware of), and KDP Select is a special program offered to users of KDP to promote their books.  Here’s the lowdown on what KDP Select does and its stipulations:

1. The author gives Amazon EXCLUSIVE digital rights (though none of the print rights) to his or her book for a 90-day period

2. The book is made available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library for sharing between customers and earns a small royalty for each “borrow”

3. The author is able to offer the book in a free promotion for a total of 5 days (consecutive or not, author’s choice) during the 90-day period

To tell the truth, when I read this I thought it was really strange and sort of a bad deal for authors since their books might only be downloaded during the free days (if they used any) and/or lent out by customers for a smaller royalty.  After reading Lyons’ post, I still have a similar opinion, though I also see the benefits to KDP Select.  After reading through (almost) the entire KDP Select user terms of service, I got a fairly good idea of what the service really offered to authors.

Based on my research, here’s the pros and cons of each stipulation of KDP Select:

1. KDP Select 90 days of exclusivity:

PROS: if you aren’t trying to distribute anywhere else, Amazon’s Kindle is a great platform to start on

CONS: you’re stuck with Kindle, so no Kobo, no Nook, no nothing! You also wouldn’t be allowed to provide excerpts/chapters on your blog or website because that would also be a breach of contract

2. Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

PROS: great for word-of-mouth marketing, and you do get paid for it

CONS: people who might buy your book borrow it instead, and the payout for lending is dependent on the total amount of books that are lent within a particular month–the more books borrowed overall (even if they have nothing to do with your book or genre), the less money you make

3. Free-Promotion Days (5 total)

PROS: you have total control of when those 5 days occur within your 90-day contract with KDP Select and you can run them concurrently, separately, or not at all.  If you do, it’s a good way to introduce people to the first in a series and garner good reviews to encourage purchase of later installations

CONS: anytime a book is offered for free, its intrinsic value also declines, and you may encourage sentiment for the rest of your books to be offered for free as well

Overall, there are some definite advantages to KDP Select, however, I believe it takes a very specific situation for an author to derive great benefit from it.  Why not simply use KDP’s regular publishing services?  What potential can you see in KDP Select?  I can’t claim a perfect understanding of how to sell ebooks, so I’d love to hear what you think!

E-Readers and the Evolution of Publishing

ImageAt first, I resisted the emergence of e-readers. I feel comfortable with a paper book in my hands. When technology fails, I can always rely on my library to keep me sane. Then, I began researching the publishing industry and was somewhat startled to see a new pattern. I realized that because e-readers are so convenient, consumers are turning more and more to electronic book formats. More importantly, they are buying e-books for their tantalizing ‘bargains.’

Self-published authors have the leisure to apply their own price tag and still receive a good portion of the revenue. As long as these writers charge less for their e-books than the retail price of a hard copy–which they usually do–consumers feel that they are getting an irresistible deal. They don’t have to drive to the store, pay taxes, or wait for the book to arrive, and they are only spending a couple bucks. As long as the book is not too horrible, the consumer is satisfied.

I’ve seen this happen with many of my friends who bought e-readers. Then I bought a tablet and it wasn’t long before I was looking through the free e-books too. While I still love physical books, e-books offered me another medium for finding new stories. My personal experience with e-books spurred me to do research.

Circulation at my local library has steadily decreased since e-readers were released. While I’m sure there are several factors that explain the decrease, I am certain that e-books play a large part. My library has done a decent job adjusting to new technologies and trends. We have an ever-expanding library of e-books available through the Pioneer Library Database. However, we can’t expand fast enough because of publishing companies’ ridiculous restrictions.

Only a few publishing companies even work with libraries for the acquisition of e-books. One publishing house charges $80 for one e-book, and because of copyright rules we have to buy individual copies to lend out. We can’t lend one e-book to several patrons despite the fact that it’s digital. Another publishing house charges us for every 24 check-outs. That’s to compensate for the money they’d be losing because e-books don’t need to be replaced.

The whole e-book revolution seems to have caught publishing companies and booksellers off-guard. I’m pretty sure the NOOK saved Barnes and Noble (though KOBO wasn’t enough to save Borders). Publishing houses are afraid of e-books sending them under, which has forced them into hasty action. Unfortunately, decisions made in fear often create new issues that can be harder to resolve. I won’t go into detail about that right now. Instead, I want to talk about what all of this means for writers.

E-books have opened the gate for self-published writers. Publishing companies charge about the same for an e-book as they do for a paperback. It’s hard for people to justify paying that much for an item that doesn’t have any production costs. However, publishing companies charge that much because they still have to pay overhead. They figure that if they charge any less for e-books, they won’t sell enough to cover the overhead. On the other hand self-published writers don’t have much overhead, especially if they choose to publish through Amazon or any other such company.

Writers can choose their own prices and receive a significant portion of revenues when they publish electronically. They also don’t have to go through the painful process of finding a publishing house who is willing to give them their first break. They can present their work directly to readers. Then, because of the low prices, writers are even making decent money from their self-published works. Publishing has never been so easy.

The power is steadily shifting in favor of the writers. There are still several roadblocks to overcome before self-publishing earns a reputable name for itself. Still, I think that the future of publishing will bear the face of the writer.