Cringeworthy One Star Reviews of Classic Books

Illustration by AJC1

Kindle Direct Publishing has given writers an amazing  gift, a way to reach a worldwide audience. Anyone who meets Amazon's standards can publish a book or story, and anyone can leave a review to haunt you. Every KDP writer will eventually have to endure the Amazon one star review. They are part of the new publishing landscape. Negative reviews range from illiterate, crazy diatribes, revealing more about the reviewer's state of mind than the book itself, to pointed critiques by shrewd and pissed off readers. Why do people leave one star reviews? It's simple, they're experiencing a strong emotional reaction. Maybe the reviewer doesn't like swear words, or they had to read the book for school or book club, or they just saw the movie and the book's not the same, or the book conflicts with their personal philosophy about life, or they don't think this is what a story should be. Whether the one star review is a raw, visceral slap or a deeply cutting dissection that stings, they can be a shock for writers who took a big emotional risk to release their work in the first place.  … [Read more...]

Author Hugh Howey on Writing, Empathy and Creative Freedom


Hugh Howey is a true iconoclast. His newly released post apocalyptic novel, The Shell Collector, joins a body of inventive work exploring dystopian futures, interstellar travel, alien invasions, zombies and other curiosities. His career has also broken traditional barriers. Originally published by a small press, Hugh broke away to become an indie writer and subsequently made it to the NYT Best Seller List.There is something surprising about Hugh’s writing. His visions steal over the reader unobtrusively, the way one might notice the clarity of a sky or the scent of a spring day. His prose is lean, confident and unpretentious with moments of sheer philosophical grace. He sinks into the background so deeply, you forget you’re even reading. He extends an invitation, like a peep hole through a circus tent, and before you quite realize what’s happened, you’ve entered into a world of wonders. Odd wonders, to be sure. And once you’ve followed Hugh into a world, what unfolds is not always easy. His Sci Fi stories are fantastical but infused with a gritty reality borne from worldly … [Read more...]

Author Dale Bridges on Satirical Sci Fi and Deconstructing Culture

Dale Bridges

Dale Bridges writes wildly inventive fiction. I'm not just tossing that phrase around either. His new short story collection, Justice Inc, reads like Phillip K Dick on crack. The stories are iconoclastic and charming, peppered with diabolical uses of modern technology and characters poised on a knife's edge between humanity and monstrosity. Bridges takes the reader through a series of mind-bending realities where people are adopted by corporations, text their way through an apocalypse, build themselves robot girlfriends and warp patriotism into a barbaric ritual of unsurpassed cruelty. The prose is well-crafted and the stories explore themes of gender, ageism, the commodification of life and even death with wry humor and an empathic understanding of human frailty. The protagonist is often an everyman who reveals the mechanics of the world, but each character is deeply flawed, often taking a surprising turn into damnation or redemption. Some worlds are topsy-turvy and others so close to our reality that Dale's finely-tuned observations have a tendency to sting. And though … [Read more...]

Why Science says your Lovelife Sucks: 285,000 to 1


Can science be used to answer the existential quandaries that haunt us? Questions like why your love life sucks? Yes, it can! The Drake Equation was used by Carl Sagan to calculate the chances of highly evolved alien life existing in our galaxy. A physicist named Peter Backus applied the Drake Equation to a more pressing issue; his own statistical chance of finding a girlfriend. Read the paper here: Why I don't have a girlfriend. The results were not encouraging. After some mathematical gymnastics, Backus concluded, "There  are  26  women  in the  UK with  whom  I  might  have  a  wonderful  relationship.   So,  on  a  given  night out in  London  there  is  a  0.000 34%  chance  of  meeting  one of  these  special  people,  about  100  times  better  than finding  an  alien  civilization  we  can  communicate  with. That’s  a  1  in  285,000  chance.  Not  great." That's right. It turns out, you have about 100 times greater chance of finding a partner than finding intelligent alien life in our galaxy! In an episode of This American life, Ira Glass and David … [Read more...]

Amazon’s Objective: Lower E book Prices

By Antony Bennison

In the ongoing battle of perception between Amazon and Hachette, we've had to speculate on the substance of the conflict. An intriguing post in the Kindle Forums by the Amazon Book Team makes a bold statement to publishing and Indie authors; lower e book prices are on the table.   With this update, we're providing specific information about Amazon's objectives. A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market -- e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive. It's also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would … [Read more...]

Barbarians at the Gate! Indies vs Big Publishing

by Yan Renucci

The Fall of Rome is still debated. How could such an empire fall? Various theories are floated; taxes were too high, barbarians joined the army, borders became too porous, corruption and incompetence were rampant. But I would argue that these were mitigating factors. Empires always fall for the same reason. They stop adapting. Adaptive Capacity is the technical term for an ecological or social system's response to changing conditions in the environment. A system that cannot adapt, self destructs. Traditional publishing is just such an empire, built over half a millennium (if we go by the invention of the Gutenberg press) the industry has had a long run. Now, e book publishing and print-on-demand technology have changed the landscape. Within a short amount of time, the book market has transformed. Some of the new players are Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble Nook Press and distributors like Smashwords and BookBaby. Barbarians are at the gate, in the form of indie writers and upstart publishing imprints ( Amazon has … [Read more...]

Author Michael Bunker on Dystopian Sci-Fi, Off-Grid Living and the Lessons of History

Michael Bunker

I first encountered Michael Bunker when I happened upon his novel Pennsylvania, the story of an exo-planet migration off world by the Amish. Amish? I thought, re-reading the tagline. Aren’t they the folks who’ve sworn off modern conveyances? Don’t they drive horse carts and milk cows and wear simple unadorned clothing?   Yes indeed, Amish Science Fiction. I love having my mind blown so I investigated further. Michael stared out from the pages of Amazon with a taciturn expression, sporting a beard from olden times, yet active in social media. He was on Facebook. He had a blog.  In fact, Michael was one of those Indie writers who takes your breath away. It was apparent from his output that he was a serious writer with enormous energy and discipline. In the last few years his popular works of dystopian sci-fi, including the Wick Omnibus, The Last Pilgrims, The Silo Archipelago and the Pennsylvania series have regularly appeared on Amazon’s best-seller lists. He also wrote a bestselling guide, Surviving Off-Off Grid and sure enough, he lived with his wife and four … [Read more...]