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Robert’s Roundup #15 (Winter Smashwords Edition)

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Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.


Smashwords deals expire midnight on January 1 Pacific time. Grab them while you can. Sorry I’m so late.

I’ve been busy on publishing stuff for most of 2020, so haven’t been able to post this column in a while. I expect to do postings somewhat more often, though it will be less about deals and more about descriptions of works and possibly short reviews.

Readers should be aware that Google Play Books (GPB) is now paying indie authors one of the highest rates in the publishing world. Amazon only pays 35% for ebooks priced below 2.99; indeed for ebooks with a larger file size, Amazon will reduce author royalties by 15 cents for each MB of the ebook file as a “delivery fee.” This is crap, and both Smashwords and Google Play Books charge no such fee. For that reason, I try to buy indie titles on GPB or Smashwords instead of Amazon for ebooks priced at below 2.99. Of course, Kindle Unlimited titles are exclusive to Amazon, so you have no choice. At the bottom of this email are some tips for finding hidden gems on Smashwords.com

Indie Author Spotlight

Frank Prem (Website is here) is an Australian poet who writes and performs poetry about the ordinary aspects of living — such as going shopping!

Sales on Smashwords

Here are the most interesting presses I’ve seen so far on Smashwords: Unsolicited Press | Fomite Press | Whitepoint Press | OpenBooks (interesting but overrpriced?), Bold Venture Press (republishes classic, pulp and genre fiction | Lethe Press | ReAnimus Press (established scifi press which republishes lots of things) | LDB Press | Black Opal Books | Propertius Press (too expensive though) | Atthis Arts | Leaf Garden Press (mainly poetry — see here)

Read by Strangers: Stories (Free!) by Philip Dean Walker (author website). A collection of sixteen queer stories exploring the complexities of the human experience. One review describes it as “result is a deep dissection of lives where the barriers to human connection can take on sometimes-comic, sometimes-monstrous proportions.”

Lethe Press has a variety of titles (notably gay fiction, sci fi, paranormal and some some general fiction and stories. Some good discounts here –highlights:

  • Vanishing Point by E.V. Legters (author website) — FREE! Novel about a turbulent affair a lonely housewife has with an emotionally unstable man. (called by Kirkus a “heartbreaking and exquisite story about emotional violence.”) See also: Connecting Underneath (on Amazon for $2, not SW) , her debut novel about teenage girl journey to discover who her father was. (Kirkus: engaging meditation on the most basic desire—to know oneself. )

Senior Touring Society by Donald Kemp

Isolde Kurz: A Cultural Anthology, translated by Becca Menon (free!) Kurz is a

Kissing Booth and other stories by A.C. Wise (3.75) — whoops, maybe I thought the price was lower? Gay surreal scifi fiction about time machines, robots, aliens, etc.

ReAnimus Press republishes out-of-print sci fi novels and story collections for 3.99 (no discount; it’s the same price as Amazon). (Update: I see that you can buy DRM-stuff for the same price directly from the publisher . If you subscribe to the newsletter, you get 20% off first purchase — and hopefully info about more promotions. I generally like buying directly from the publisher because author royalties tend to be higher). Still Smashwords has a lot of these titles — I found lots of James Gunn stories and Robert Silverberg novellas. From Gunn, I’m starting with Future Imperfect story collection, but there’s a lot to choose from. The Silverberg link above went to several 60,000 word collections of 3 novellas by well-known people. Wow, does sci fi have a lock on the 15,000 word novella?

John Flynn (aka Basil Rosa) Basil Rosa — a pseudonym (author website) for John Flynn has discounted all his 3.99 titles to 99 cents for this week — including his Lotion State Trilogy. Alas, I see that he has 3 poetry collections on Smashwords for free — which is great. Fun fact, Flynn served in Peace Corp Moldava in 1993-1995, and I lived in both Albania (1995-7) and Ukraine (1997-9) with Peace Corps and Soros Foundation (respectively). Moldava is right next door to Ukraine, and our country director in Albania came there directly in Moldava, so I have an affinity with this author already. His poetry comes from Leaf Garden which publishes a lot of free and low cost poetry.

Nature’s Confession by JL Morin and Loveoid Nature’s Confession is a YA climate change novel (descriptions and reviews here). Also, Morin has a Huffpost author page containing climate change articles.

Sussurus on Mars by Hal Duncan (1$) is another novella about Greek mythology, botany, philosophy, gay fiction

Richard Herley (author website) is a versatile English author who has already achieved a fair amount of commercial success and has published a lot of his titles on Smashwords (as well as Amazon). On both stores, a significant fraction of the ebooks are priced at free, but everything is under $3. On his author’s website, he has helpful advice about which books to read first and next.

Frank Prem is a gifted Australian poet who I mentioned in a previous column. (author website). I really love his stuff (and you should listen to  Frank Prem’s youtube pages.) . He has two poetry ebooks on Smashwords: Pebbles to Poems (free) and Herjo Devastation – a poetic collaboration with a storyteller

I have already highlighted Whitepoint Press in previous roundups. Whitepoint has published a few new titles in 2020: Bread and Salt by Valerie Minor (author website). (Note: This is just one title — more are sold on Amazon). Also, Mom’s Dead by Gerard Lafond (author website) and the poetry title Of Covenants by C. Kubasta (author website, also an interview here and here).

A brush with life by Steven Mayoff. (author homepage)

Various by Basil Rosa — pseudonym (author website).

Rasmenia Massoud (author page)

ISOLDE KURZ: A Cultural Anthology: Edited, Translated & Iluminated by Becca Menon FREE!

Man in the Seventh Row: and Related Stories of the Human Condition by Brian Pendreigh 99 cents. Novel by film critic about man who is sucked into various movies (see Purple Rose of Cairo, etc) . Several good reviews on Amazon (where it is on sale for the same price). Here’s his Smashwords interview.

Real World by Kathleen Jowett (author home page and book page). Novel by English writer about a gay woman torn between her desire to marry her girlfriend and the desire to serve as a vicar. From her website, a LGBTQ reading list. A few years ago Jowett published a well-received award-winning novel Speak its Name.

Two YA books by JL Morin: Nature’s Confession and Loveoid.

Deals published by Amazon imprints


Under the Radar

Talking is Wasted Breath (Tales from the Deccan Plateau) by Rasana Atreya (free, preorder on Amazon and Smashwords).

Gotcha! Inside Trump’s 2000 Campaign – A Novel by Ed Weinberger (99 cents). I usually pass on fiction about topical politics, but Weinberger is a legendary TV writer — wrote for Mary Tyler Moore, co-created Taxi and several other shows. Also, he and Ed Asner wrote an entertaining pseudo-history, Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution against right-wing hypocrites and nutjobs.

I swear, I keep bumping into the ebooks of John Vance, (author website) who is a retired academic who has written in a lot of genres — most titles run for 99 cents up to 2.99 on Amazon, so the price definitely is right. Professor and the Don’s Girl, Men Behaving Badly,

Empty Cell by Paulette Alden (author website). Alden won a Stegner Fellowship and wrote a novel about lynching in the 1940s.

Believe it or not, I bought one low priced collection of Penthouse Letters and found them surprisingly entertaining and well-written. Fun reading if you’re into that kind of thing.



Blink and It’s Gone Sales

Cosmos by Gombrowicz . 1.99

Second World War by Antony Beevor. 3.99 (a fat ebook!)

Ecstasy is Necessary: a practical guide to sex, relationships and oh, so much more. by Barbara Carrellas. (A guide to having a good sex life sells for 99 cents on amazon — what a deal!)

Robert Sawyer


Creative Commons — Academic — Public Domain


Once in a Lifetime Deals

Improvement by Joan Silber, 2$



See my blurb about R.S. Gwynn below.


Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island by Scott Semegran.

Republic of Jack by Jeffrey Kerr (author website). A satirical look at the Texas government who entertains the secession movement for political purposes. Kerr (who also makes movies) has a great sense of Texas politics — here’s a fun Texas history lesson he gave to the Austin public access TV.

Demagoguery and Democracy by Patricia Roberts-Miller.

John C. Wright From Barsoom to Malacandra: Musings on Things Past and Things to Come

Review Copies Received


Printed books bought (Better World Books, Amazon, etc)

If you are looking for a great book about elephant society and how mammals communicate and emote, check out the brilliant and fascinating Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. by Carl Safina. (author home page). A great fascinating work about the animal kingdom.

Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Believe it or not, this comic was really big during college, but I never read it until a month ago.

Several volumes by George Singleton: These People are Us, Half-Mammals of Dixie, Calloustown, Between Wrecks.

Argument for Stillness by Erik Campbell. Found a poem in a litmag that blew me away, and finally tracked the book it came from.

Two books on medicine and philosophical questions: How We Die by Sherwin Nuland and Art of Aging. Here’s his NYT obituary a bio on his foundation website and two TED Talks.

How to Create a Flawless Universe: In Just Eight Days by Godfather Publications is one of my favorite novelty books. They’re giving away copies for nothing, and it is a clever humorous scrapbook kind of book.

Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. Lepore has covered weightier subjects, but this treatment of cultural history was engrossing.

Goethe, Goethe, Goethe. I’ve been a fan of the Princeton U Press multivolume set of Goethe Translations from the 1990s. This Christmas I broke down and bought two volumes — one of plays, the other of poetry. (That means I have 3 volumes so far).

No Word of Farewell: Selected Poems, 1970-2000 by R.S. Gwynn. Gwynn came highly recommended to me by Texas novelist Clay Reynolds, and he happens to be spending his retirement very close to Houston! By the way, I’ll be reading more works by Clay Reynolds, stay tuned.

I couldn’t resist. I’m an admirer of the book cover designer George Salter, a German-born Jewish artist who designed some immortal covers — both for German publishers and (after fleeing Nazi Germany) all the major US publishers. Someone gathered all his illustration work with commentary and packaged it into a print book. called Classic Book Jackets by Milton Glaser. You can view a sampling of Salter’s covers here . I have picked up a handful of books with Salter covers already, but it might be nice to collect these books (all the books sound cool too).



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.

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