Introducing: Tez Assists

I’m Tez Miller, a book blogger since 2007. Perhaps I can be of assistance to you.

An author’s job often includes tasks that don’t involve writing fiction. Answering multitudes of repetitive questions, keeping social media up to date with progress, and checking when books are pre-orderable. One solution to these things is to outsource.

I’ve been observing books and publishing from a reader’s perspective for several years now. A number of authors have hired assistants to do mail-outs and such, but my skills work best as a Virtual Assistant, which is online-only.

Upon request, I can:

-Help draft answers to Frequently Asked Questions
-Help draft form replies to email
-Answer/organise email
-Post updates to WordPress, Blogspot, LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest
-Search Amazon.com (and its version in other countries) for updates on your future publications

Eventually I’d like to make a career out of being a Virtual Assistant, but for the time being I’d like to gain some work experience. If you’re interested in possibly hiring me as your Virtual Assistant, please contact me at TezMillerOz at gmail com for a consultation. Outline what tasks you’d like managed, and if these are within my skill-set we can devise a working arrangement.

Feel free to pass along my information to authors you know of who might also require assistance.

Thanks for everything, and have a lovely day.

Tez Miller

http://tezmilleroz.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/tezmilleroz

https://twitter.com/TezMillerOz

How Online Booksellers’ Exclusionary Tactics Negatively Affect Readers (Or, First-World Problems)

I have an Australian location, a PC, and a PayPal account. Theoretically, I should be able to purchase eBooks easily. Practically? Apparently not.

My investigation today started with reading about Beth Revis’s foray into self-publishing.

“But my biggest motivating factor was a desire to show appreciation for my readers.

I decided to use THE BODY ELECTRIC in two specific ways to thank my biggest supporters. For my readers, I developed a special, limited edition of the book. For the local bookstore owners who championed my books, I made sure that the special features were easily available to readers through them – not the big box counterparts.

I’m working closely with my local independent bookstore, Malaprop’s, to make a limited edition available. Each copy of the book will be signed and numbered in a limited print run and include special content inside and full-color art – and will only be available through Malaprop’s, which will be shipping the book internationally.

Of course, I wanted to make sure my eBook readers had access to the book, too, and not just through the elephant-in-the-room-online-bookseller. So in order to continue to help out local indie bookstores, who often use Kobo to sell eBooks directly, I’m selling the eBook version of the special edition of the book only through Kobo and iBooks. There are more than 30 pages of extra content, including a short story, a history of the world, an author interview, and more.

Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank – the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today.”

I like Beth Revis; she seems a great person. I want to buy her book, and the features “for the people [she] most want[s] to thank – the readers”.

Knowing the print version would be out of my league due to international shipping costs, I visited the online booksellers she mentioned:

-iBooks. Only works with Mac, or mobile phones. Not with PC (even though iTunes works on my PC, so this is odd). Thus I didn’t get far enough to check if they accept PayPal, though I predict the answer is “no”.

-Kobo. Signed up for an account. Got as far as Payment Information. Methods accepted: Visa Credit Card, Visa Debit Card, Mastercard. No mention of PayPal.

I have eBooks, and acquired them legally – when they were temporarily free on Amazon, Smashwords, or Harlequin Books Australia. I’ve never paid money for an eBook, but neither have I acquired one illegally.

Yes, there is a standard edition of Ms. Revis’s book listed at the “elephant-in-the-room-online-bookseller”. But it is not a “special” edition there, because some readers are more special than others. So I’m confused as to how EXCLUDING some fans reflects her “desire to show appreciation for [her] readers.”

It’s not just other non-Malaprop’s/non-iBooks/non-Kobo booksellers being affected here. READERS have the money to purchase eBooks, but apparently do not have the MEANS. My PC isn’t good enough. My PayPal isn’t good enough.

By extension, I am not good enough.

Digital publishing may have helped to level the field for publishers and authors. But for readers? It’s clear to us that we, and our money, are not valued equally.

I want to buy your eBooks. But maybe booksellers, publishers, and authors don’t want me to, and thus place hurdles I can’t jump.

Technology is supposed to bring everyone together, but instead it separates the “haves” from the “have-nots” even more.

Know where you stand.

[REVIEW] Dangerous – Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale
Dangerous
Bloomsbury (AU: 1st March 2014; US: 4th March 2014; UK: 10th April 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Had I known what this book was really about, I wouldn’t have read it. The publisher probably predicted that consumers would feel this way, and thus designed the cover summary to highlight the novel’s best attribute – astronaut boot camp – and not mention the story’s real focus.

The first space elevator scene is incredible; I’ve never read anything like it! I loved learning, and hope to read more, about space elevators, and Shannon Hale excellently describes where they are, what they do, and how they work.

That alone accounts for the extra star in my rating – the rest of the novel is only two stars.

The characters’ banter is probably supposed to be cute or funny, but instead is annoying. There’s a love triangle, but the result is never in doubt because we’ve encountered these archetypes in many stories.

A definite plus to Dangerous is its characters’ diversity. And while I’m happy with diversity for the sake of diversity, it seems…awkward when the plot specifically calls for diverse characters. e.g. The organisation wants bilingual teens for their project, and in particular chooses Maisie because she was born without an arm, too. So instead of normalising cultural and able diversity, the book treats it as extraordinary or supernatural.

Or maybe I – monolingual and able-bodied – totally misunderstand Dangerous. In that case, I’m sorry and will try to further my diversity education. To me, diversity inclusion should just BE, no explanation required.

Anyway, since the publisher wasn’t more upfront with its summary…

Tez’s honest marketing: Continue reading

19th August 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Kelley Armstrong
Visions (Cainsville, Book 2)
Penguin Dutton (US: 19th August 2014), Random House (CA: 19th August 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Olivia Taylor-Jones is the daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh is the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes. Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most. Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago – the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder? Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.

Tom Cox’s Cat Books

I would’ve reviewed these books individually, but can’t because I read them in quick succession, and thus don’t recall which events happen in which book. (This is what happens when you try to review books a month after reading completion, instead of immediately.)

Tom Cox is a UK journalist and author of various topics, including golf and music. But he’s perhaps best known for writing about his life with cats – including the most chaotic time when there were SIX regular feline residents in the household. That occurs in the second cat-book, Talk to the Tail, and the edition I read included an author photo of Tom and all six of his cats together. (They were, understandably, eating at the time, because that’s pretty much the only way to get six cats in the one image.)

The Bear is with whom the public is most familiar: the hang of his head, or his upturned chin with inquisitive eyes that appear to be on the verge on tears. His first meeting with Tom goes smoothly: “The Bear loves Indian food.” And sure enough The Bear enters the room, licks Tom’s dinner, and then goes on his merry way.

Ralph was initially thought to be female (and thus was named Prudence), but later identified as male and named after the popular Simpsons character. He’s understandably labelled as “smug”, because it’s quite obvious that he’s pretty and knows it.

Other current residents include Shipley and Roscoe, the latter whom is introduced in the third book: The Good, the Bad, and the Furry. Along with their adventures are tales of real estate, art, relationships, neighbours, and even rally-cars in Africa (with a cameo by the great Tommi Mäkinen).

There’s also Tom’s humorous “loud dad”. His dialogue is in all-caps, which ordinarily would be stylistically annoying, but it’s so true to his form of speech that it seems fitting. He’s also the king of the non-sequitur, jumping from topic to topic without starting anew in the next paragraph. And he’s a funny bloke, to be sure – his way of thinking, or the things he does, are jolly.

These books (Under the Paw is the first, and while they likely standalone they make more sense to read in order) are cat books for people who aren’t really into cat books, and thus I don’t have other tomes with which to compare and rate accordingly. They also make me appreciate my own cat more, because at least he doesn’t spray or bring dead – or near-death – creatures inside the house (like the cats in Tom’s life are chronicled doing).

If you need a break from fiction, you’d do well to try these. Though without plot, the narrative flows freely with the author’s easy wit and the memorable moggies.

Tom Cox
Under the Paw
Simon & Schuster (CA: 10th November 2009; AU: 1st March 2012; UK: 30th January 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

For years, Tom Cox might have seemed like a regular, hard-living sort of bloke – a lover of late nights, rock music, and beer – but he had a dark, furry secret. Tom was a cat lover. For a while, he kept his passion in check, but there was only so long he could postpone his true dream, especially after he met Dee, his moggy-loving soul-mate. He let London and his job as a rock critic behind, and he and Dee, her cat Janet and three new kittens, moved to a remote part of Norfolk. They thought it would be easy. They thought their cat madness had reached its limit. They were wrong. Tom records the chaos of owning seven of the most charismatic, idiotic and duplicitous cats in the country. Suddenly on call around the clock for multiple sets of whiskers, Tom encounters death, depression, flying fur and the first human sentence spoken by a feline. Running through all the maelstrom is the heartbreaking story of his relationship with The Bear, his oldest cat: a “painfully sensitive” survivor moggy who may or may not be an evil genius.

Tom Cox
Talk to the Tail
Simon & Schuster (AU: 6th January 2011; UK: 30th January 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Following on from Tom’s life with six cats, he now picks up the story, updating readers on what has happened with his feline friends as well as looking back for more confessions about his animal-loving past. Why does Janet keep bringing 1980s sweet wrappers into the house? Will 24-hour surveillance of The Bear, using a state-of-the-art cat GPS system, finally solve the mystery of his wanderlust? Tom also writes about his bumbling forays into the remainder of the animal kingdom. He attempts to overcome his crippling fear of horses with disastrous results, chase ostriches in Kenya, put his hand into a tiger’s mouth for 0.9 seconds and he meets his “alter-doggo” – the spaniel Tom regularly walks who likes to roll around in dead animals. Where will it all end? Will he give in to temptation and get a dog, a goat or even more cats? With this soppy creature-obsessive, anything is possible.

Tom Cox
The Good, the Bad, and the Furry
Hachette Sphere (AU: 8th October 2013; UK: 10th October 2013); Macmillan Thomas Dunne (US: 14th April 2015)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Meet The bear – a cat who carries the weight of the world on his furry shoulders, and whose wise, owl-like eyes seem to ask, Can you tell me why I am a cat, please? Like many intellectuals, The Bear would prefer a life of quiet solitude with plenty of time to gaze forlornly into space and contemplate society’s ills. Unfortunately he is destined to spend his days surrounded by felines of a significantly lower IQ… Ralph: handsome, self-satisfied tabby, terrified of the clothes horse. Shipley: mouthy hooligan and champion mouser, rendered insensible by being turned upside-down. Roscoe: fiercely independent kitten, tormented by her doppelganger in the mirror. And then there’s Tom, writing with his usual wit and charm about the unexpected adventures that go hand in hand with a life at the beck and call of four cats…or three cats and a sensitive poet who just happens to be a foot high and covered in fur.

A How-To Guide for Finding 2015 Release Dates for American Books on an Australian Bookseller Website

The good news is at the end of this post. I’m making you sit through my complaint first ;-)

THE BAD NEWS: ANGUS & ROBERTSON’S NEW SEARCH FUNCTION IS COUNTER-INTUITIVE.

Maybe the website is in beta, and I’m hoping it is because how it currently works is not functioning the way it did before, the way I need it to. For better or worse, this is my chosen site for keeping up to date on book releases in Australia, which often differ from those overseas.

http://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ Already this isn’t right. The drop-down Search menu near the top currently says All products – and that’s the only thing in its drop-down. I swear I used to be able to search by Books, Music, or whatever. Now it’s just All products. And there’s not even an Advanced Search function that I can see. So this isn’t as user-friendly as it should be, but maybe I’m too spoiled from using other book sites. (Shout-out to Amazon.)

In the text box next to it, I type “mario acevedo”, including the quotations. Click Enter. Displaying results 1 to 19 of 19.

In the Sort by menu, I select Published (new to old), to arrange the results in order from the most recent release, then going backwards.

Displaying results 1 to 20 of 14783892. I am not farking kidding. You had one relatively simple task, A&R, to arrange only 19 results. How the heck did you just come up with over 14 million results?! And in that first 1-20 results, NONE of the books are by Mario Acevedo, or have any part of his name in their titles.

So. Hopefully this is just a site bug that’ll be fixed soon. If not, I’ll have to choose a more user-friendly Australian bookseller website.

THE GOOD NEWS: ANGUS & ROBERTSON GAVE ME SOME RELEASE DATES THAT HAVEN’T EVEN SHOWN UP YET ON AMAZON.

And these are for U.S. releases, not Australian editions. They’re set for 2015, and aren’t even on their publishers’ websites yet it some cases. (Looking at you, Simon & Schuster.) I want to name names and share dates, but I’d probably get in trouble with the authors, and be asked to delete the info because “it’s not supposed to be public,” so…

We’ll go with a safer option for the time being: Carolyn Lee Adams’s Ruthless. It’s a Simon & Schuster title, but not on their website (although they released a trailer for it via their YouTube channel), and not on Amazon or Edelweiss yet, either (at the time I wrote this blog post). But the author has shared the cover and release date (2nd June 2015) on her website, so we can consider it official, and thus I shouldn’t get into trouble.

But due to A&R’s wacky new Search function, I could only find Ruthless‘s listing in a counter-intuitive way. The natural method would be to type carolyn lee adams ruthless (no quotations) and click Enter, which brings up 13 results – none of them the book in question.

HOWEVER: type carolyn lee adams ruthless and DON’T click anything. DON’T even move the cursor. Just wait a few seconds. Some preliminary results will appear…and at the very top: Ruthless (Hardback) Carolyn Lee Adams. Click on that.

http://www.angusrobertson.com.au/books/ruthless-carolyn-lee-adams/p/9781481422628 And here you are. No cover, and the summary’s been cut off, but the listing exists. The publication date says 1st June, not 2nd, but I think there’s a default that makes it the first of whatever month, if the publisher only submits “June 2015″ as the date with no specification. But hey – at least it tells you a date, so you can start organising your 2015 releases for promo, or whatever.

And this is how I found out the dates of other U.S. novels not yet listed on Amazon. Are the dates, summaries, and everything subject to change? Of course. But to me something is better than nothing, and I’m adding what I find to my Reading Wishlist.

Again, apologies for not naming names (other than the Ruthless example). I considered contacting all the publishers/authors involved (and I did email one of the authors), to check if the publication date is approximately correct, or to ask when I’m allowed to go public with it, but I don’t like asking people for things. But now that I’ve shown you how to use the wacky, counter-intuitive Search function on A&R, you can try looking for authors and titles you’re interested in, and see what comes up.

Happy searching! :-)

[REVIEW] Leftovers – Laura Wiess

Laura Wiess
Leftovers
Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 1st January 2008; AU: March 2008; UK: 7th July 2008)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

To say queen of contemporary teen fiction Laura Wiess’s books are gritty, dark, and raw are understatements. While devastating, they’re also can’t-look-away reads of consistently high quality.

Leftovers is another wrenching psychological suspense, this time exploring predators and prey, setbacks and revenge. Are Blair and Ardith heroes or anti-heroes? They’re definitely both victims, but is planning a set-up to take down others justifiable because of their pasts? Do they deserve punishment?

Ardith and Blair’s characters are never static, switching from annoying to applause-worthy throughout the entire novel. They’re not always agreeable, but they are understandable, which keeps the novel grounded. It’s tense and gripping; with an ever-growing stain of dread. Leftovers is not a fun read, but it is a must-read.

Trigger warnings for the book: Rape, molestation, dog death, and possibly other things I can’t recall.