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This column will cover deals on Smashwords (SW) and Kindle, with special emphasis given to SW because many titles are discounted in July. For the sake of speed, I am not including Amazon links — just Smashword links – but I will do my best to link to an author’s website. The KU acronym will be by any book offered under Kindle Unlimited.
NEW FEATURE: Indie Author Spotlight: One goal of this ebook deal column is to highlight overlooked authors — of which there are many. The truth is that every month I discover many remarkable authors, and I rarely have a chance to cover any of them in depth. But it’s helpful for me to single out my most interesting discovery of the month. I’ll do my best to cover and promote this offer, perhaps do a follow up.
July 25 Update. Verso Books has discounted all its left-leaning tomes of philosophy/politics/history/current events/culture to $1.00 or $1.50. This is a great sale — and will open your mind (I bought a ton of ebooks last year when they did a similar sale — Ends on 11:59 PM Sunday July 28). Here’s a Robert’s Roundup of Verso Books purchases — lightly annotated.
Indie Author Spotlight for July — Harvey Havel
This month’s spotlight is Pakistani-American novelist Harvey Havel (FB page) currently living in Albany, New York. Havel has published 16 books which are free this month on Smashwords. Havel writes gritty realistic novels about Muslim-Americans, or African-Americans, mostly set in urban areas like New Jersey. I have only sampled a few titles, but some persistent subjects in these books are gender politics and dating (Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill ), working class values vs. leading an intellectual’s life (The Adjunct Down) and the struggle of young poets to reconcile the “real world” with the elitism of poetry (Freedom of Association). His latest, Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill is a tale of a tenacious male college student who falls for the wrong kind of woman. One review described it as “a fine coming-of-age saga featuring a candid, determined young man whose possibilities include coming full circle and returning to what he’s rejected.”
In addition to two essay collections (here and here) and two story collections (here and here), there is also Mother: A Memoir — about the author’s turbulent relationship with his schizophrenic mother. There is also a trilogy, Orphan of Mecca, about the life of a Bengali orphan. Kavel has written books on African-American struggles, the Muslim experience, murder, corruption, that sort of thing. The prose is accessible yet sophisticated; both the dialogue and presentation of ideas through dialogue seem natural and easy to follow. Truthfully I have only read the first 30 pages of several books, so I don’t know how plot and character develop. But I leave with a clear sense that the story is headed somewhere … and I’m curious enough to tag along. (Havel reads a 6 minute excerpt from one of his stories on a youtube video).
Most importantly, several of the ebook titles on Smashwords I’ve been pimping on my sidebar are heavily discounted during the SW July sale. It’s too much trouble for me to manually change every time the price changes, but on July 6, Filiad, Don Q. Public, Woodland Poems are now free. Squeeze, What Confucius Really said are 99 cents, and Eye of a Needle is $1.75. All great stuff!
Smashwords Tip: Below the price point of 2.99, authors earn only 30% of the purchase price at Amazon, but 50-70% on Smashwords. If you buy several ebooks at once on SW (by putting multiple things in a shopping cart and then buying), that splits the transaction costs paid for each ebook and ultimately increases what an author earns. For a $1 ebook bought on SW, the transaction cost deducted from author earnings is 34 cents. If however you buy 10 ebooks priced at $1 in one bulk order, then the transaction cost deducted per ebook would be approximately 4 cents. In other words, buying 10 ebooks in bulk could potentially earn the author as much as 30 extra cents.
The month of July offers more sales on Smashwords (SW). I have already described many SW gems in previous columns (see here, here and here). Let me point out some new discoveries — both free and low cost.
Bharti’s Cat by Braj Kishor Varma (nicknamed “Manipadma“) is a science fiction novel for kids about an intelligent cat who develops human consciousness and speaks like humans. It costs 99 cents. It was written in the 1970s by a prolific Maithili author who (according to this article) wrote tales for children as a way to assert a national consciousness. As far as I know, no other English translations exist of the author’s works.
David Bruce is a retired English prof from Ohio who has produced a lot of special interest works which cost 99 cents or less. (Author Site). First, he does prose retellings of classical literature (Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc). Also, he produces lots of study guides for teachers about classic books and children’s books. He also wrote light-hearted anecdotes for the Athens News which he compiled into certain books by themes (Kindest People, Funniest People in Families, etc). (Each has about 25,000 words and costs 99 cents each).
Bruce also wrote a FREE! erotic version of Candide (Erotic Adventures of Candide. ) Of course Terry Southern had already written the ultimate parody of this novel with the pornographic Candy in modern times, but Bruce took the idea one step further and used the original characters to do it! (I read the first two chapters, and so far, he seems to be pulling it off).
David R. Grigg (website) is a retired Australian software developer who has been writing science fiction for decades. This month he has a variety of free and low-priced stuff. Riddling and other stories contains a story about the invasion of “holes” all over Great Britain. In terms of extracurricular activities, Grigg publishes some of his flash stories on the Narratorium website and cohosts a laid back sci fi podcast called Two Chairs Talking.
Mel C. Thompson is a California poet/performance artist/nonconformist/free spirit who has put a lot of his creative output on Smashwords for free. He wrote his amazing life story in one gigantic blogpost. I checked out When Publishers Stalked the Earth and found a miscellaneous compilation of prose poems/beat verse that would make Allen Ginsberg proud. Thompson apparently was a regular at San Francisco poetry readings during the 1990s and published in a lot of indie zines. He also recorded a few rap songs — even though he seems to hate the genre! The few poems I glanced at are informal, light-hearted, often with a political message. His other books tackle Buddhist themes (Tales of Zen Buddhist Scoundrels) capitalism and joblessness (American Wage Slave, Can’t Hold a Real Job), parodies (The Waste Basket — after TS Eliot) and the life of a poet (Living the Zine Life). Probably the most unusual work is Kruschev’s Second Chance, an alternate history tale imagining that the gods gave Kruschev another chance to visit USA to do he wanted to do during his first visit (hmm, I smell social satire!)
Unsolicited Press has again discounted most of their titles. (I wrote about some titles here). Generally all their titles are interesting, though I had a strange problem with the formatting on an otherwise excellent poetry title.
- Two works by Anne Leigh Parrish: By the Wayside (short stories) and The Amendment (novel). (Author’s website). (1.25 and 1.50, respectively) Parrish is a Pacific Northwest author who has published widely and to great acclaim. Amendment is about a widow dealing with the loss of her husband by taking a cross-country trip.
- None of the Above by Michael Cocchiarale. 1.25 Spanning the years 1980 to 2007, None of the Above is a story about Increase Alt, a Midwesterner coming of age during tumultuous times for both himself and the nation.
- Dick Cheney Shot me in the Face–and other Tales of Men in Pain by Timothy O’Leary is a well-received short story collection, with the title story being exactly what it is — told in a gruff way. This long description of the stories gives a sense of what kind of characters you are dealing with. (Visit author website).
- During every sale, I try to buy at least poetry title — sometimes even more. Sometimes, in These Places By Rebecca Watkins (Poet website) and We Might As Well Be Underwater by Gemma Cooper-Novack (Poet website) both are excellent-looking titles from Unsolicited Press.
Shorter of Breath by Ken Eckert (author website). (99 cents on SW and Amazon) Eckert is an English professor living in Korea who has written academic criticism about obscure Middle English romances (alas, not in ebook form). This book is about a man who meets an alien graduate student who lets him time travel to different time periods (like swingin’ 1967 England). Sounds whimsical and witty, with some social commentary thrown in.
Clive Gilson (author website) is a consummate anthologizer who has been releasing lots of (always!) free story anthologies around certain themes ( or geographical areas in Europe (Germany, France, Balkans, etc). The series is called Tales from the World’s Firesides. I have just thumbed through two anthologies, and I will let you decide which type of story you’d enjoy reading. Two extra things are worth noting. First, Gilson has released two original novels and two story collections: Insomniac Booth, Mechanic’s Curse, Songs of Bliss and Solitude of Stars. The themes of his books range from magic realism to crime thrillers to sci fi — and are undoubtedly influenced by the stories from his anthologies.
Second, Gilson’s books are only available as epubs. I understand what is going on here. Publishers who choose to upload epubs directly to Smashwords rather than use Smashwords ebook creation tool cannot also upload a mobi file. I hope that at some point Smashwords will allow publishers to upload separate mobi files — publishers are in a better position to make sure mobi files render well on Kindle systems.
Lily Markova is an author of YA/fantasy fiction who, ” resides in a city where an appearance of the sun in the sky is such a rare event that it’s considered an alien threat. Having been raised among I. Bunin and A. Grin books instead of normal children’s toys, she’s guilty of loving the passive voice, adverbs, and weird long sentences.” I am happy to report that Markova’s fiction is all FREE! on SW. Her best received novel so far is Immortown about a girl who visits her brother’s grave and is sucked into a crazy town where nobody can leave. Perhaps the most intriguing title (to me at least) is Joy Cancer which is a “carefree story about depression, and a wistful story about the love of life. ” (The title is the name of the suicidal protagonist). By the way A. Grin (aka Alexander Grin) was a Russian author of romantic novels and short stories — here’s the only translation I can find of him.
Philosophical works by Oluwole Komolafe. Nigerian-born Komolafe writes philosophical works (everything costs $1.50) that touch upon issues of spirituality and even Christianity. Colloquies: African Poet, African Philospher and the African Physicist and Thoughts on Granite are primarily works of philosophy, while Adventures of a County Boy in the City is a memoir.
No time to panic (Short Stories) by Sallie Cochran (author website) is a collection of 4 stories involving aliens/monsters/fantastic elements. Cochran has one other discounted title on SW and several on Amazon. Cochran has taught at middle schools, and many of her stories feel like YA-stories.
Wow, there is so much erotica fiction on SW of variable quality (often with suggestive covers). I covered a few interesting erotica authors in a previous RR. Here are some others that look both interesting and free/cheap. Note that some of these links are NSFW, so take caution. Also, SW sometimes hides explicit titles, so you will need to turn off the filtering (menu-bar on top right).
- Marilyn Jaye Lewis (author website) is a prolific author of literary erotica and short stories. EVERYTHING FREE FOR JULY! The Muse Revisited series is a 3 volume collection of erotic stories written over her career. (Here’s the list of stories — some were published in the widely respected Mammoth Anthologies. Also, an award-winning novel, Freak Parade is (according to one reviewer) the “slow and sometimes painful resurrection of a previously-famous recording artist.” One blurb on the author’s book page calls it a no-holds barred erotic novel with a social conscience. ” On Youtube there are 3 short videos reading of the author reading passages from Freak Parade. (She also has a historical novel Twilight of the Immortal
- Erotica bestselling author Selena Kitt (website — definitely NSFW!) edits several gigantic erotica anthologies called Excessica Box Set Anthologies. (These anthologies and Kitt’s ebooks are on SW). Each is named after a season and contains about 300,000 words each (About 25-30 stories). A quick look at the story/author list reveals that each box set includes different stories by the same stable of authors. The Excessica Anthology Box Set Summer is FREE! for this month (wow!) but the other box sets (Spring, Fall, Winter) sell at a discounted reasonable price on SW of 2.50 each. Kitt has a lot of other erotica stories and novellas (some of which were banned from Amazon). Kitt’s fiction is generally discounted for July.
- T.C Mill and Alex Freeman have two volumes on SW for the New Smut Project, each costing $2 and consisting of about 150,000 words. The more character-driven Heart, Body, Soul seeks stories that cater to readers’ “craving for emotionally and intellectually satisfying erotica.” Between the Shores is a “volume of literary erotica exploring the possibilities of sexual negotiation” (which means BDSM, Submission, etc).
- For sci fi erotica, the strangely named (and free!)4 volume Orgasm Incorporated by Karl Five explores a futuristic society where sex is commercialized and the titular company caters to the needs of the wealthiest.
- Readerotica is a series of free erotica anthologies sponsored (really!) by a vibrator ecommerce website. There are several volumes, but all you really need is Readerotica 50: Compilation of 50 Erotic Stories for your eReader.
Under the Radar
George Mackay Brown is a prolific Scottish poet and author who died in 1996. As I write this, about 2/3 of his books of poetry and fiction are free on Amazon (at the least the ones published by the Hatchette group). He writes about life in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, and indeed many themes are about living far away from urban life. One quote made about his style: “the absence of frills and decoration; the lean simplicity of description, colour shape and action reduced to essentials, which heightens the reality of the thing observed.” I read the title story for his last collection Island of the Woman and Other Stories. It’s a mythical tale of fantasy taking place during the Crusades — about a woman who marries a foreigner only to have him leave to fight in the Crusades.
Karl Larew is a retired history prof from Maryland who has written maybe a dozen low-priced or free novels in various genres (Vampire Satire, War, College Life, etc). Most go free occasionally on KU, but all are 99 cents. Redheaded Book Lover has reviewed several of Larew’s titles here and here. I was able to snag a free version of Candles in the Window, a nostalgic look at the sex lives of college students during the 1950s.
Gregory Miller (author website) is a prolific short story author from Pittsburgh with the great fortune to have good blurbs by Ray Bradbury and Piers Anthony. His ebooks are on KU — which means that some of them are occasionally available for FREE. Reviewers have described his books as a kind of bizarre Lake Woebegone (Uncanny Valley) or “Can a single book be whimsical, thought provoking and macabre all at once?” (These descriptions really do recall the fantasy stories of Bradbury!) Two additional things. His ebooks have beautiful illustrations by John York
How to Kill Hitler: A guide for Time Travelers by Andrew Stanek. 99 cents. (KU) This young prolific author writes a variety of genre works — often with a clever or quirky angel. The first 2 chapters were hilarious.QUOTE: “Even supposing that time travel is possible,(asked my publisher), “why wouldn’t the time travelers just wait until time travel is discovered to buy the book?” “Ah, that’s the clever part. I would only make the book available for a limited time, thereby forcing time travelers to come back in time and pay for it right now.”
Charlie Carillo has been writing fiction for 5 decades, starting with the novel Shepherd Avenue — which is about an Italian family living in 1960s Brooklyn and was chosen by the ALA as a Notable Book of the Year. (Visit author blog). Carillo worked in TV and print journalism while also producing a series of novels on various topics. PW once wrote that “Carillo has an easy way with breezy prose and likeable characters.” By the way, on his Amazon author page, there is a fun 9 minute video of Carillo cooking an Italian meal and telling the story of his literary career (with wisecracks). Fiction Subjects include: a one hit singer, fatherhood, mafia, All the ebooks are KU. BTW, from his blog I learned about entertaining essays Carillo published on Huffington Post — including a time he and his father went on a college tour and reflections of the book cover of his first novel.
Melanie Rose Huff (KU) is a YA indie author who writes about historical themes like WW2 (Ashford, Violet Shadows) . By Water and Blood is a fantasy/mystery about a girl who is drawn to an island for an unknown reason. (Visit author website).
Edward Drobinski is a prolific KU author who writes across genres — sci fi, humor, historical fiction, literary humor. hard to define. One title, Hideous Flatulent Incompetence I: Short Stories and One Not So Short raises eyebrows … and that’s just volume 1! No author website (but the Goodreads page seems fairly traveler — and we find this caustic quote from Interview with a Troll):
In this book industry we have different kinds of birds; excepting one; all having in common that they are ONLY watchers and squawkers at the pond. We have readers, editors, reviewers, interviewers, publishers, marketers, websites, monopolies, and writers. All are better compensated than the writers. Yet the system is totally upside down as those better rewarded are all derivative of what is primary; the writer. Without that person the readers have nothing to read; the editors have nothing to edit; the reviewers have nothing to review; the interviewers have no one to interview; the publishers have nothing to publish; the marketers have nothing to market; the website cannot adware infect ‘members,’ and the legalized monopolies have nothing to monopolize. So, in effect, this is where the troll steps in. He’s kind of a writer; but he’s not taking the time to churn out masterpieces. He’s just effortlessly telling the vultures exactly what they are.
Various books by Tom Milton: Golden Door, etc. I’ve been picking up some freebies by Tom Milton recently, but ran out of time to write about him. I’ll cover him next month. In the meantime, check out Milton’s author site.
Soundtrack of an Ordinary Life by Alan Allsop. (KU) This is what it says. An autobiography of the author, as told through the songs punctuating his life. (Confession: I’m a sucker for this genre).
Published by Amazon (Crossing, etc)
Generally these are titles published by the Amazon imprints. I frankly ignore most of the genre stuff and focus on the international authors and biographies. these remain 99 cents or 1.99 until the end of the month. I’ve already bought a ton of these titles in previous months (check previous columns here and here), so maybe my recs will be sparser than usual
- Life by Lu Yao. This author won a major literary prize in China for his novel Ordinary World (which apparently has its own wiki page but has not been translated!) He died in his 40s after writing two books, with this being his first (and having been made into a film). It details the travails of a young man who loses his teaching job in the 1980s; it also shows how some areas transitioned from rural to urban living. I am such a sucker for these books — and the sample chapter drew me in).
- 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster. Part 1 of a two part series. (Both are 99 cents on various months). Comic tale of a 39 year old male with Asperger’s and OCD. Rave reviews for both books, with one comparing it to Flowers for Algernon.
Creative Commons/Free Academic Publishing
A few months ago I wrote about free academic monographs on Amazon. A week ago I discovered another publisher Routledge which also has a lot of free titles. Subjects are random and cerebral. Titles which I downloaded:
- Against Meritocracy (Open Access):
- Culture, power and myths of mobility,
- Consciousness and Moral Status,
- Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me: African-American Narrative Poetry from the Oral Tradition,
- Myths We Live By Mary Midgley
Blink and it’s Gone Sales
None this time.
I haven’t had time to look through the poets I downloaded free ebooks of. (I will give you the ereaderiq search query to let you find the latest KU poetry examples.
George Manos Sonnets. KU In addition to editing an edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, this poet has written 100s of sonnets — (some of these original collections are free, the rest are 99 cents)
I mentioned this already in the previous Raves & Reviews columns, but at Project Gutenberg, I have been proofing editions of Book Review Digest from 1900 to 1922. I cannot tell you how great these volumes are. They reprint book reviews from periodicals of the day about notable books.
Talking Thrush and other tales from India by William Crooke. A delightfully illustrated compilation of fairy and folk tales. I loved this!
It’s not on Gutenberg, and it costs 99 cents on Amazon, but Memories of the White House: Home Life of Our Presidents from Lincoln to Roosevelt (1911) is a great look behind the scenes of US history. From a BRD 1911 review: ” Personal recollections of the home life of our presidents from Lincoln to Roosevelt. They are pleasant, intimate observations of the home life of ten presidents written by a man with forty-six years of continuous service in the executive office. During Lincoln’s administration he was on duty as personal body-guard. It is interesting to learn that on the evening of the assassination the president sent Mr. Crook home to bed, and that the latter Was not the guard at Ford’s theater who became so absorbed in the play as to desert his post. The growth of social life in the executive mansion is depicted, from the simple levees of President Lincoln where men appeared in negligee shirts, slouch hats and cowhide boots to the present day receptions planned on a large scale with lavish appointments.”
Personville Press Giveaways and Deals
I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. All the titles are discounted on Smashwords for less that price — and usually under $1.50. Pay attention to any 100% coupon codes which I occasionally list below — they can be redeemed only a small number of times, so first come, first serve. Smashwords only sells epub versions of these titles, but you can easily convert them to Amazon’s mobi format by using Kindle Previewer or Calibre.
- Minor Sketches and Reveries by Alberto Balengo. (Free ) Introspective tales involving animals, allegories and the melodrama of everyday life. Free Download page. Also free on Smashwords, BN, Apple, Kobo.
- Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. ($1.10 until 5/18/2019). no coupon code required) Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it (3.99 on cdbabyand itunes), but the script reads well too.
- A Worker’s Writebook by Jack Matthews . $1 on Smashwords! Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
- Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. $1.50 Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War.
- Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. $1.30
- Hanger Stout, Awake (50th Anniversary Edition). by Jack Matthews. Coming of age novel. $1.50
- Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.