Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visiting with awesome author Gini Koch!

Leave it to another writer to ask all the crazy questions. I had tons of fun with the fabulous and fetching Gini Koch yesterday, author of the Alien/Katherine "Kitty" Katt series and the Necropolis Enforcement Files.  Drop by and say hi! And you could win, too!!

Come say hi at Gini's ...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The secret world of book cover backgrounds!!

Today I'm over at Under the Covers Book blog taking readers on a totally nerdy fascinating tour of the backgrounds of PNR and UF book covers!

This is a kind of new interest of mine. Also, I got to ask a few fellow authors about their book backgrounds. Did you think it was just colorful pictures back there? Hell no!!

Come over to the fabulous Under the Covers and say hi!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amazon Ranking: An expose!!!

It's so rewarding when you look at the way you were, say, two years ago, and see how far you have come!! 

Mind Games, the first in my Disillusionists trilogy, came out in 2010.  OMG, I was obsessed with my Amazon rankings!  You can tell from this old post, below.

The Oddshots blog, where this originally appeared, is sadly now gone. So I'm reprising it here.

The sad state of Carolyn Crane in 2010...


The Amazon sales ranking: An expose!

Before my book came out, I noticed that many other authors talk about the Amazon ranking, and how on release weeks, they would check it a lot to see where their book was. I was sure I would be different because:

1. I don’t tend to buy books from Amazon, and naturally, I assume most people behave as I do.
2. I’ve always heard those ranking don’t mean all that much. 
3. I’m interested in whether people actually enjoy the book—not sales, or a silly number.

So! Mind Games was released last week, and what did debut author Carolyn Crane do? Check the Amazon rankings!

I started off not doing it much, but since other authors talk about it, I figured if they check it, there must be something to it. Because Carolyn Crane is all about the peer pressure. So I started checking it more and more. Also, maybe nobody knows what it means, but the little number kept changing! Something was happening. Somebody needed to monitor it.

What is the number all about? I did some high level research.

I typed “how do Amazon rankings work” into Google and quickly discovered that the rumors are true: nobody outside Amazon really understands it. (Though some say it becomes more meaningful when you get around 1000, or into the best-seller territory of 100 or lower.) But nobody really knows what it’s based on. Sales are part of it, but there are other factors. What are these other factors you ask?

Nobody knows. Many people work hard to try to figure these other factors out. They write articles with phrases like: “the sales ranking has to be dissected dynamically” and “figures are applied to the algorithm during the calculation.”

Essentially, these people are reverse engineering the rankings, just the way scientists tried to reverse engineer Arnold Schwarzenegger in the time between Terminators #1 & #2. And we know how that ended.


But, back to me. The thing is, these little numbers would change, and it became weirdly entrancing. Once, my number hit the 3,000s! I felt happy! Like the book was doing well! Other times, my number would backslide and I would be a sad bear.

In their FAQs, Amazon is suspiciously vague

Amazon says “the lower the number, the higher the sales” and that the rank “reflects recent and historical sales.” Which, if you sort of think about it, are somewhat contradictory. And why not just put a number that grows every time somebody buys a book? Like a fun little meter that says, hey! Another book was bought! No. Instead, they rank your book against ALL other books on the planet in the most mysterious way possible. As if authors aren’t insecure enough. 


Clearly something is going on. It has all the hallmarks of an experiment— something akin to the Dharma Initiative on the TV show LOST! What is the purpose of Amazon’s Dharma Initiative-type ranking? How does it work? I have theories.

Theory #1: It is a sinister ego-crushing experiment
In this scenario, the number is based only vaguely on sales, but mostly on how many times an author checks the number.

As you may or may not know, one of the classic techniques of breaking down a person’s self esteem is to praise them lavishly (You’re 3,200!) and then withdraw that praise (248,560. Loser!) And then, when the author goes crawling back: (Hey! You’re okay! 11,350!). And the more you check it, the more it messes with your head.

Theory #2: The ranking is simply a carrot and stick trick to drive author traffic
Maybe Amazon is simply interested in driving traffic. I mean, isn’t that what big websites ultimately want? Think about it: authors are huge purchasers of books; maybe the ranking number is calibrated to get authors to visit more. In this theory, Amazon creates a believable range upon your release, that is, they “seed” your book the way a sports team might be seeded, and then Amazon’s artificially intelligent system goes to work, learning what sort of fluctuation brings you back, and what sort of fluctuation disheartens you so much, you stop checking for a day, and it modulates until it has you checking at an optimal frequency.

Theory #3: A funny joke for Amazon insiders
What if the number is way more random than anybody imagines? What if, inside Amazon’s headquarters, there is this giant monkey cage, and computer keyboards are positioned around the cage. And the monkeys are like, eeee eee ee! punching the keyboards, and everybody who walks by laughs, because they know that people write articles about the number, and authors check it incessantly, and it’s just monkeys playing! And it’s this thing that boosts employee morale. A joke they are all in on that creates togetherness.


UPDATE, November 5, 2012:

Oh, how sad to look back at those days when I was so hung up on a number to the  point of weaving paranoid theories about Amazon.  

This kind of behavior appalls me now. It not what being a  true writer, a true artist, is all about! I'm glad I'm over it. 

For example, my cross-genre PNR/spy/suspense romance, MR. REAL, just released this last week, and do I have it as an item on the toolbar? Actually, I don't have it on my toolbar! 

I'll admit to checking  the Mr. Real Amazon page now and then, but it's simple curiosity. A few years has put everything in perspective.

My other pen name, Annika Martin, writer of torrid bank robber erotica, recently got on a bestseller list as part of this 99-cent erotica bestsellers sale

Did I freak out? No. A rank is just a number. It means nothing! Artistic quality is what should count.  

Not to boast, but I think these past two years have allowed me to grow as a person, and truly put things in perspective. 

Hey! Thanks for visiting. If this post helps even one other writer see what a waste of time these obsessions with Amazon rank are, or gives them hope they they can change and get over their fixation on a number, I will rest easy tonight. Have a great week, people. 

Images: Terminator album cover; Monkey public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kaite Reus drops by with a giveaway!

Hey everybody!! I have a very fabulous and talented visitor today - Katie Reus! We've been bloggy-writer friends forever, but, as Katie says below, we didn't meet until AAD in New Orleans, where we had coffee and beignets and, among other things, I secretly pressed her for info on her awesome Red Stone Security series, which I've been immensely enjoying.

And look! She's here giving one away! Hi Katie! Thanks for stopping by!  


Thank you so much to Carolyn for having me here today! I finally got to meet the lovely Carolyn in person earlier this year at AAD and seriously, she’s just as nice in person as she is online, so I’m very excited to be a guest here! As a thank you for her being an awesome hostess, I’d love to give away a digital copy of my recent release, Miami, Mistletoe & Murder.

Romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres to read and to write in. I love the blending of romance and suspense! There’s something so hot about two people falling in love with dangerous external circumstances. Over the past year I’ve been self publishing a series of romantic suspense stories (Red Stone Security series) and the reader email I’ve received has been amazing. One question seemed to keep coming up: When will Travis get a story? I’d always planned to give him one, but wasn’t sure if I’d have time with contractual obligations to get it done this year. Luckily, things worked out so I got to combine romance, suspense AND a little bit of Christmas magic just in time for the holidays. Something else I love (yes, I’m a total holiday junkie).

So, what’s Miami, Mistletoe & Murder about?

Fierce and sexy, former Marine Travis Sanchez has always held himself back from the rest of the world, using his tattoos and piercings as armor. But when the woman he’s wanted for months is threatened, he knows it’s time to strip away the bad boy image and show her just how much he wants to be with her. As one of Red Stone Security’s best contractors, Travis is trained for almost any situation. But nothing prepares him for the most dangerous threat of all: the one to his heart.

Kind-hearted Noel Baskov’s only wish for the holidays is that her Miami coffee shop has a successful Christmas season. But her focus on work is interrupted when the family of the young girl she mentors is threatened, and the man she’s been lusting after for months steps in to handle it. Unfortunately the danger is far from over. Can this sexy and mysterious warrior protect Noel, or will he be the one to shatter her heart?

Warning: features a heroine determined to fight for those she cares about, a protective hero with a very interesting piercing, and some holiday magic.


It was nearing six, which meant she’d be closing soon so he picked up his pace. He passed a few people on the street, all of them bundled up wearing hats and coats, an odd sight in normally sweltering Miami. As he neared her shop, he slowed down and forced himself to get his shit together. For all he knew, she wasn’t even working. Before he’d reached the door, Noel of all people, walked out. Carrying an oversized purse and looking at her cell phone, she didn’t even glance up. He tried to move out of the way but she slammed into him.

Her purse slid off her shoulder as her head snapped back. Wide eyes met his and her mouth formed a small ‘O’ as he steadied her. He gently held her upper arms as she stared at him for a long moment. She was slender, but not exactly fragile. There was a subtle strength he’d picked up on the first time they’d met.

“Travis.” She practically breathed his name. It was like a seductive caress, but then she shook her head and that’s when he realized her pale eyes were bright with unshed tears.

He automatically tensed, hating to see any woman cry, but especially her. “What’s wrong?”
Glancing away from him, she shook her head and bent to pick up her purse.

Kneeling with her, he started gathering some of the things that had fallen out and nearly choked when his fingers wrapped around a box of condoms with a red bow wrapped around it.

“Oh my…that’s not…well, it is mine. One of my friends gave it to me as a gag gift for my birthday.” She snatched it out of his hand and shoved it into the mammoth black bag she called a purse.

Travis struggled to talk, as he always did around her. Thinking about her and condoms in the same sentence was threatening to short-circuit his brain. He hated his reaction because it made him feel like a randy teenager with a crush. Which is basically what he had on her. A giant crush. Her tan cheeks were a bright crimson as she met his gaze again. At least he didn’t see tears in her eyes anymore. He couldn’t handle the thought of her upset.

“You leaving? I thought I might catch you before you got off work.” He was pretty sure his sleep-deprived brain had taken over but he wouldn’t complain. He needed to ask her out and if she rejected him, he’d get over it and find another place to get coffee.

Her face brightened for a moment, her cheeks flushing even darker. “Really?” Before he could answer she sharply shook her head. “Uh, I’ve got to go. I don’t have time to talk right now, Travis. But I’ll see you later.” Now the stress was back, full force. It was so potent, it was practically surging off her in visible waves.

As she started to hurry down the sidewalk to the end of her building where she usually parked, he fell in step with her. “What’s going on, Noel?” He’d never seen her like this before. Normally she had a bright smile for everyone.

She gave him a guarded look and he could practically see the wheels turning in her head. He’d taken out his ear and eyebrow piercings for his last job but he still had visible tattoos and, for some reason, he felt as if she was sizing him up.

Thanks so much for stopping by today! What do you like about romantic suspense? Or, what’s your favorite holiday? Just leave a comment and be entered to win a digital copy of Miami, Mistletoe & Murder. Open internationally until November 6 at 8 AM Central. Winner will be announced in the comments section.

A little about Katie: I’ve been reading romance since a young age—ever since I discovered my mom’s hidden stash. Luckily the addiction stayed with me into adulthood. I’m the author of the Moon Shifter series for NAL/Signet Eclipse and I also write paranormal romance and sexy romantic suspense for Carina Press and Harlequin Nocturne. To learn more about me please visit my website, my blog, facebook or find me on twitter @katiereus.


Thanks so much, Katie. Happy Sunday, everybody!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The crazy truth about sidekick Karen!

Happy Friday friends!!

So, I'm over at Karen Alderman's blog today - yes, there really is a Karen Alderman. How the heck did she become a sidekick character in Mr. Real?

WHAT is the story?? Come say hi at For What It's Worth and find out!!! 

PS: Also I just wanted to thank everybody for the kind word on Mr. Real! It's so exciting, I hope everybody has the best weekend.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All about favorites at Red Hot Books!!

I was so honored to be invited by the lovely Jen of Red Hot Books for her fabu feature, "FAVORITES FROM MY FAVORITES". In it,  Jen invites authors she enjoys to talk about their own favorite reads.

I reach back into some old skool romance I recently discovered. You won't believe the cover on this, but it's one of my faves! And you can win it!!

I would suggest checking out the whole lot. What do your fave authors have on their keeper shelves? Go find out at Red Hot Reads!