Robert’s Roundup #39 April 2023

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MAILING LIST: I just started a mailing list for my publishing company. Will mail out every 2 months and will include excerpts from my Robert’s Roundup columns and other random stuff. MASTADON:

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited,  and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.

Buying Tips for Ebooks

You probably already know that deal newsletters are where to learn about great ebooks at great prices. You probably already know about BOOKBUB and EARLY BIRD BOOKS. But you should also subscribe to HarperCollins’ daily newsletter (BOOKPERK) which lists some deals I haven’t seen elsewhere. Also, I’ve noticed that Simon & Schuster has a permanent URL for its ebook deals (no prices — but none are over $3). The FS&G sale seems to be over, but it might be useful to keep  this search query for next time. Here are queries for the various imprints: PicadorNorth Point PressFSG OriginalHill and WangCeladon BooksHenry Holt.

Learning about deals from indies is always a challenge. BARGAIN BOOKSY, FUSSY LIBRARIAN and EREADERIQ are good places to start, but keep in mind that these deals are very Amazon-dependent. Many even refuse to carry deal ads for titles not on Amazon. This is a problem for two reasons. First, Amazon’s author royalties for budget titles is appalling. If you are paying less than 2.99 for an ebook, the author gets 35% and Amazon takes 65% (Google, Smashwords and Payhip pay authors much better for prices below 2.99!) Second, a number of titles aren’t sold on Amazon. My press has a title which for some reason Amazon has blocked from their store. I’m still trying to work it out, but in the meantime, I’ve learned that some ebook titles never make it on Amazon for one reason or other. Usually the publisher’s website or author’s newsletter provides the best information about where to buy stuff; that is why I unfailingly list the author’s website for every author I mention — if only to stay informed about their latest titles.

I subscribe to about 50+ author newsletters. I generally enjoy them — if only to see how other authors play the marketing game. The most successful are by authors who have 5 or more titles under their belt.

Finding Freebies. I frequently go on binges where I take up lots of freebies. You can find decent ones by subscribing to freebooksy and by checking the ereaderiq home page. Also, as long as you don’t do it too often, you should check Amazon’s Bestselling charts of freebies in your preferred genre. Smashwords has sales twice a year — in March and December.

Wow, hardly any purchases this month. One reason is that I’ve been unbelievably busy with writing and technical stuff. Another reason is the need to cut back after March’s book-buying binge. Alas, I’m behind on posting my acquisitions (as usual). Finally, am happy to report finding lots of quality indie titles from authors seeking reviews. I’ll post more of them in the next few months.

I’ve started buying more titles from Kobo. Partly it’s a protest decision (I’m disillusioned with Amazon), partly it’s because Kobo pays authors better for low-cost titles. Anyway, in most cases sales are advertised simultaneously on Kobo and Amazon, so it’s relatively easy to buy comparable titles.

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

American Past Time: After the Cheering Stops by Len Joy (author website and bio). Joy is an athlete, businessman and author who writes novels with a sports element. This one won some indie awards. It’s about a baseball player in the 1950s trying to manage life and family (“A well-crafted novel that will particularly appeal to sports and history aficionados” says Kirkus).

To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 The Epic Battle That Ended the First World War by Edward G. Lengel. (Wiki page). Lengel has written lots of US military history books, and has written widely about US involvement in the last year of World War 1. This is a subject of interest to me after publishing MY Heart For Hostage about an American soldier in Paris in 1919. He’s given some talks on video here and here .

Library Purchases/Printed books


Creative Commons/Freebies

One of my favorite classes at Trinity was a class on Sanskrit literature taught by MacKenzie Brown. We read all kinds of texts — mainly in the Hindu or Buddhist tradition. One memorable book was the Buddhacarita, which is loosely translated as “Life of the Buddha” by Asvaghosa. We used a public domain translation which still captured the Buddha’s story very beautifully. I see now that there are two modernized translations — one of which is a free download. First, noted Sanskrit scholar Patrick Olivelle did a translation for the Clay Sanskrit library which is probably topnotch (but very pricey). Incredibly though, here is a creative commons PDF of another modern translation by Charles Willemen which you can freely download.

It’s not exactly the same, but Thich Nhat Hanh did another retelling of basic elements of the Buddha story in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. It’s well worth reading and frequently discounted as an ebook.

Literary Articles and Essays

Long Essay: Erotic Worlds of Marco Vassi (sort of NSFW, but the images are fine).


I’ve been following the Hatchette vs. case very closely. (More analysis here). Looks like the presumption is that will be losing its case and the digital lending library will have to close. I have complex opinions about the matter. But I have a practical concern. I use this library every single day to do literary and copyright research. I use it to research old authors and books I want to buy. Almost every single title I check out I do it for only an hour or so. It has led me to purchase more used books and (occasionally) an ebook. Almost in every case where I check out a book, a digital copy is not available for sale, and this is the only alternative to reach the title short of the slow interlibrary loan process.

There is a potential for a compromise. Here’s how I see it:

  1. agrees to more staff and better tagging by publisher and author.
  2. Easier interface for Publishers and Authors to do opt out.
  3. agrees to set an arbitrary publication year to disallow checkouts. I’m thinking 2000. For that publication date presumably the publishing company has already negotiated digital rights, making it unnecessary to offer a scanned print copy as an alternative.

Capsule Book Reviews


Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc

Here’s two videos with Jessica Levine (author of Geometry of Love and Henry James scholar). #1 is about her book. #2 is about Edith Wharton.

Here’s a nice reading of a story by Hapax Legomenon “Yes, I’m Beautiful Too” on Youtube.

Stegner winner and poet Greg Wrenn gives a virtual reading of his poems. I’m pumped to read his 2024 memoir, Mothership: Memoir of Wonder and Crisis. Here’s a thought piece about why his college students have trouble reading actual books. Here’s a podcast about his talk, Environmental Imagination and a memoir excerpt .

Novelist Rebecca Goldstein gives two lectures about Godel and how his life inspired her: here and here.

Personville Press Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from SmashwordsThe prices listed here are the non-discounted price on Amazon. Check the links to see if they are discounted at the moment (it happens often).






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