How To Free Sample Thousands of Books

I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ever since my first job part of my money has always been budgeted to books (sometimes more than I could really afford to spend). Then came Amazon and one-clicking…I was in big trouble. Thank god Kindle Unlimited came along in 2014 to help me get my book budget under control. If you’re a reader and you haven’t tried this incredible program yet, let me explain why I’m loving it.

It’s ten dollars a month. So, yeah, its not free in the true sense of the word, but when I divide the number of books I’ve been reading by ten I’m now spending a dollar or less per book. Before KU each book I read was at least $2.99, some much more. I cringe when I look back at how much I spent on some of my big reading months last year.

It’s a great way to discover new authors. All authors don’t have books on KU, but more and more are seeing the benefit. It’s a great way to let readers sample their work. This has been one of my favorite parts of being in KU. Anytime someone suggests a book or an author that looks good, I check to see if they have any books in KU first, then downloaded that book. If I like it I can buy others. If I don’t I just return it and pick another book.

Quick and steamy reads. KU is really popular with erotic authors. There are tons of short, sexy reads available for times when you want your mind to go somewhere besides your massive to-do list and you also don’t want to get involved in a complex, long story. For this reason alone couples should be signing up for KU. It’s like a sex toy for your biggest sex organ–your brain.

As an author I’m also completely sold on Kindle Unlimited. Both of my current books and the book I’ll be releasing later this month will be on KU (You can read the 1st chapter here). I’m still new to the game. I want people to find me and get a chance to check out my writing. I’m betting on more sticking around for more than not. If you sign up for KU follow the links below and give one of my first two books a try.

The other benefit to me as an author is that I can see if someone only reads part of a book. If lots of readers are stopping after one or two chapters, my statistics will tell me that. What that tells me is there is something amiss in those two chapters, that I need to work on making my writing stronger there. It’s great feedback that can only help me improve.

And finally…your first month is free! So you can get a free sample of KU to get as many free samples of books as you want in one month. For someone who loves to read a deal like that could take some planning to get the most out of it… call in sick to work, send kids to grandma’s, stock up on wine and take out…charge my kindle.

Follow these links to read both my books for free on KU:

Suburban Love Song >

Catch You If You Fall >


Why I’m no longer satisfied working for someone else and what I did about it.

For the past nine years I’ve been an Instructor for a major university. It’s been a fantastic ride. I’ve worked part-time, often from home, doing something I love. But times, they are a changing. Like so many industries higher education is having to reorganize, revise and restructure to try to keep pace with post-internet society. The result has been chaos. Seems the Titanic can’t turn on a dime and I may have been thrown overboard in the process. As the need for Instructors has dwindled I’ve had fewer and fewer contracts. I’ve been sitting by the phone like some spurned prom date, waiting for it to ring, until I finally got sick of it. Luckily I’ve developed a strong entrepreneurial bent in midlife so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

End of JobsIn his book “The End of Jobs” (my latest read, review coming soon) Taylor Pearson examines this exact scenario. My job is ending. But the book isn’t a doomsday dissertation, it’s theme isn’t “be afraid, very afraid.” The theme is “wake up, pay attention, there are opportunities out there. Go get em.” I felt this way before I heard Taylor speak on Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” but he gave me the numbers to back up my theory and the cheer leading I needed to get started.

So what am I doing about my lack of teaching contracts? I’m teaching. This April I am joining together with another local self-published author to teach anyone interested how to self publish and how to market your self published books so you can actually sell a few. It’s a process I learned the hard way and I’d like to save others some of my frustration.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be proactive. I’m juiced. I can’t relate to any of the Monday-sucks memes because I I love any day I make progress toward making this happen. I can’t wait to teach again. I feel like I’m flipping the bird to my absent prom date and going off to create my own dance. And it’s a hundred times more fun! I get to make it mine. I no longer have to worry that the energy and passion I’m investing might be for naught, overlooked on some annual evaluation.

Ok, so the downside, because there is one. I will not make as much in my first year as I did when I was getting one contract after another. But I will make more than if I continued to wait for another contract or if I spun my wheels hoping another University isn’t in the same boat (I’ve looked, they are.) I might not make as much in year two, possibly year three, but eventually I will. And in the mean time I will be a much happier person. I’ll no longer beat my head against the wall in frustration over inane rules and endless red-tape and paperwork. Being in control, having agency, is one of the greatest thrills in life. Another is making a difference in the lives of others. I’m killing both those birds with this stone.

And creating my own classes is only the beginning of creating my brand, my own multiple-income business. This is another theme favored by Joanna Penn, Taylor Pearson and scores of other forward-thinking people because the other huge drawback to working for someone else is the reality of no income when they say good bye. Without a back up source of income it can be devastating, life altering. For many this is the catalyst that propels them into the world of international e-commerce. It was my line in the sand. When I first published I  was still getting contracts and working them. I may still get more, but in the mean time I’m going to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, agency to make my own destiny.

Let me finish by not only encouraging others to read Taylor’s book and figure out their own path in a “jobless” world, but also give you a few resources I’ve found that make this trip so much easier and more fun. It turns out that many of these new e-entrepreneurs also want to help others have the success they do. For the price of a search you can find ideas and support galore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Marie Forleo – Her Marie TV channel on YouTube has over 200,000 subscribers because she delivers sound business advice in an upbeat, sometimes silly, manner.

Danielle LaPorte – Not only is she a business woman with multiple income streams to emulate, on her website she shares her philosophy, successes and failures in a very real way. She’s a fantastic example of succeeding by being yourself.

Sarah Morgan (XO Sarah) – When I add fantastic business advice pins to my Chick in Charge Pintrest board they often come from XO Sarah. Follow her on Pintrest and you will find answers to all your e-commerce questions presented in an organized, easy-to-use fashion. She’s my number one source for badass blogging advice.

Joanna Penn – As I mentioned her podcast, The Creative Penn is where I find not only great advice from a fellow author but guests, like Taylor Pearson, who help me keep growing and learning and motivated.

So who’s with me? Let’s do this midlife (or earlier) end-of-jobs thing together. I’d love to hear about your journey into being an entrepreneur or your hopes and dreams to do so. Comment below with your story or your favorite resources.

**Anyone in the Memphis area who is interest in my self-publishing class can follow this link to my FB page. I’ll be posting sign up information there soon.



The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

blog second image feb 7

Is A Bigger Social Media Platform Always Better?

Whether you are publishing a book or launching a business it’s seems like simple logic that you want as many people as possible following your social media. In the emerging e-commerce economy, followers are seen as potential customers. Sure not everyone will buy, but just fact that they showed enough interest to follow you is a sign that they are interested–or it was. A big social media following is no longer a true benchmark of a successful entrepreneur.

Almost as soon as social media was born it morphed from communities of like-minded people into a world-wide popularity contest. Numbers are shorthand for being in demand; a fact that was probably true at first. But like everything in the entrepreneurial realm someone quickly figured out a way to make it look like tons of people were interested in you, for a price, of course. It impossible to miss the people hawking Twitter followers on Twitter. If you’ve posted anything about your business they’ve found you. It’s so easy to increase your number of followers by ten fold. Artificially inflating your numbers looks fantastic if you are trying to convince a publishing company or investor that you have a solid base of potential customers in place. Never mind the fact that most of them do not speak English and have no use for your product.

Fake Amazon reviews are another way entrepreneurs make their social reach and popularity look much larger than it is. These are also for sale and about to become harder to pass off as real. Amazon is cracking down on them because they destroy the public’s trust, they diminish the Amazon brand and the brand of all sellers on Amazon.

I’m bringing this up today for two reasons. One, too many people just opening their e-business get needlessly frustrated when it looks like their competitors or fellow sellers are killing it when in fact they aren’t. It isn’t until you’ve been around for a while that you see that the number of likes, tweets, and reviews you have does not necessarily equal sales. The temptation to buy followers get stronger when you think everyone else is so far ahead of you, especially when you’ve been in business about the same amount of time. But getting anyone and everyone to show support for your business will do nothing but frustrate you in the end.

Which brings up reason number two for focusing on this subject. A social platform in vital to any e-business but one built on false numbers will collapse around you. No matter what you are selling there are great customers out there who will love your product or book. These are the people who buy from you once then with some nurturing, become repeat customers. These are the people who will gladly spread the word about your company, especially if they have had some personal contact from you. But how will you see them if they are lost in the chaotic sea of non-customers you’ve gathered on your social media. If you want to truly build your social platform and grow your business you need to concentrate your time and efforts on your core customers–communicate with them, cultivate them, appreciate them.

I met an author whose first book flew up the charts and became a best seller. I was in awe and jealous. What author doesn’t dream of this? But when she told the rest of her story I was surprised. Her second book didn’t sell nearly as well and she’s written several since. Some sold well, others not, but none matched the sales of the first book. She explained that what the burst of fame didn’t do was give her long-term name recognition with readers. She was the flavor of the month and soon forgotten by many. Instead of being upset by this she is concentrating her efforts on the few key fans who have bought all of her books. Her true success is coming from relatively few true followers who are first in line to buy her new work and spread the word through their social media. “Buy this book because I love it and it’s fantastic,” is a lot more effective than, “Buy my book.”

I’m seeing the beginning of the end for social media numbers being a benchmark for a successful e-company. It’s too easy to buy your way to big numbers and bogus glowing reviews. Investors and the general public are too savvy now. Once the curtain was pulled back revealing the fraud it devalued the real followers and reviews making them all less trustworthy.

It can be difficult to take your focus off your numbers, to stop the addictive habit of checking them all day, believing that they accurately reflect the health and potential of your company. But the good news is that once you do and you turn your focus onto individuals and building relationships with your core customers the entire platform building process becomes much more enjoyable. It changes your perspective from one of lack and fear to one of gratitude and potential.

If you are interested in reading more about developing your e-company by using social media to build relationships I recommend, “Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb. I also welcome your input and comments. Is your social media plan evolving? How has it changed in the past year or two?

One Hit Wonder

Not that I have had a hit (yet), but I am already experiencing the difference in creating your first public creative work versus your second.  I am not surprised there are so many one hit wonders out there. 

Essentially, I wrote the first book for no one but myself, and maybe a few friends.  I solved each question and dilemma with gut check of what felt right for me.  I created the story I wanted to read and I am amazed how much I still like reading it.  I still don’t cringe and wish I had made it any different.  

My first love, about first love.

That was all before I entered the world of self-publishing and books reviews and genre discussion boards.  Opinions on writing to sell books and trends and over-saturation are in my head and hard to completely ignore.  There are other voices in my head now, critiquing each choice and it is more difficult to hear my own voice, my gut check, through the others.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is still a blast.  I really do get to day dream, then write it down and call it a (fledgling) career.  But I am also spending part of my day marketing book one, and sometimes having a hard time finding the right audience, the right blog reviewer, the right words to explain the unique, creative story I made.  I find myself doing a lot of “well, it’s not this, and it’s not that, but it has a little of this and a little of that.”  Sometimes comparison is the only way to describe something new.  I want to say, “just read it, then you’ll get what I’m saying.”  Marketing my unique voice has its unique challenges.

Of course, that is part of the benefit of having a book two.  Hopefully I will already have an audience who read book one and understand my unique voice and look forward to book two.  

If you lose touch with your unique voice when creating that second book or album or painting, you lose the audience that fell in love with your work in the first place.  You become a one hit wonder.  

Thank God it’s spring because walking has become an important part of my creative process.  Walking seems to help me clear the “you really should’s” out of my head:  you should follow trends, you should have your second book ready to be released immediately after your first, you should add some vampires, zombies, astronauts or angels to your new adult romance.  

My gut tells me I should write to please me, that my unique voice has a place and purpose.  Time to get back to writing and listening to it.


As I start writing my second novel I am being reminded often that I need to start branding myself.  It’s time to get my name recognized and associated with my style of writing.  There are so many things I would rather do – like oral surgery.  

The problem with branding and marketing yourself is that you have to assume that there are people out there who are going to get excited enough about you (who you are) to visit a web page, or follow your twitter account.  You have to assume you are that interesting.  It feels very different than branding and marketing a product. 

I have never wished for fame.  As an introvert I am happiest spending most of my days alone with my imaginary friends (characters), creating stories to entertain others.  I am starting to see the benefit now of a pen name.  Maybe I should have become K G Stylo (French for pen) before I put my first book out there.  (Damn, why do I think of these things now!)  It would be so much easier to announce to the world all the (imaginary) interesting things that KG would be doing.  As it is, I went to Target this morning and got more all-purpose cleanser in a new scent.  As much as this excites me, I’m not so vain to assume it would excited much of anyone else.  

I do write this blog, which is a form of branding myself.  I just love writing, communicating, opening up dialogs and tossing around ideas.  It was also easier to do because I have been able to remain semi-anonymous.  Here I am only Karen @joiedemidvivre.  It took me months to be OK with associating my last name with the blog or (god forbid) putting an actual picture out there of me.  

One of my next steps is creating a web site for myself as an author.  From the time I started researching self-publishing I have read that having one is very important.  I’ve been avoiding it because in creating one I am making an assumption that someone one (actually more than one person) will be interested in it.  I will do it because it’s all part of this process or creating, then getting really brave and putting that something (and now me) out there for the world to see (and comment on).  Jumping out of an airplane was so much easier than all this. 

My first branded item. Note my name is on the cute beach bag giveaway.

Are you My Audience?

Yesterday I saw my book as it would appear on a kindle for the first time.  There are a few places where an indent is in the wrong place or there is one too many spaces, but in general, it is almost ready to make it’s debut into the wide world of publishing.

And it is a wide world.  While filling out the forms to put the book on Amazon I was reminded that it will be available literally all over the world.  I had to look over the pricing and returns for books sold in Japan and throughout Europe.  I’m feeling challenged by marketing my book in my hometown, it’s way too huge to think of who might be my audience in Tokyo.

So far my audience has consisted of friends from high school, friends who teach writing (and were willing to help me edit), a few family members and neighbors, and some sweet, willing readers from Goodreads (for a less biased opinion).  With one exception, I have had great feedback. I feel like I have something to offer that readers will truly enjoy … if I can find those readers.  

I saw a comedy sketch by a 20-something comedian about marketing his show.  He has developed a big following that is growing on its own through teenage word-of-mouth marketing (very powerful stuff, that is).  An older, stuffy sounding voice from off stage prods him to follow a formula and do things that are out of character, possibly even change his show some, to expand his audience.  It reminded me of the difficult and sometimes frustrating game that creative people are playing in the media-saturated world of today.  The one I am about to play.  

I already have tweets and emails arriving daily from sources who (for a fee) will help self-published authors market their book.  The funny thing about these is the ‘one size fits all’ mentality they are selling.  The idea that marketing a science textbook can or should use the same sources and techniques as marketing a romance novel.  

Social media is flooded with tweets, blurbs, posts, photos, and videos from self-published authors.  Many are writers who have jumped on a bandwagon and quickly churned out something that is close to (but just far enough to avoid that pesky plagiarism problem) the latest hot selling novel.  Marginal erotica is flooding the market in the wake of 50 Shades of Grey.  Most of these are bad … really bad.  The type of bad that will make sure the author only sells one book.  My challenge is to find a way to stand out in that sea.  My other challenge is patience.  

The comedian is really doing it right.  By doing what he does best (being funny to a specific audience) he is allowing word of mouth to slowly build him up.  It takes more patience, but in the end he (and I) get more of a loyal audience and fewer bad reviews.  His style of comedy is not for everyone as my book is not for everyone.  By patiently searching out the specific audience who will love your work and letting them sell you to others, you build an audience who looks forward to your next book (or show), then they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on …