Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to get free (or cheap) books

There's been a lot of talk lately about book piracy. Instead of wagging my finger and saying, "No, no, no," I've decided to do a post on how I get my books without spending a lot of money. Now, I still buy lots of books (especially if I go to author signings because I want to support the hosting store), but these tips help take a dent out of what I spend.

1. Twitter - Book publishers often have Twitter only contests where all you have to do is retweet. HarperTeen is one of them. Penguin is another.

2. Book blogs - Some require you to follow them. Some don't. Some have lots of extra entries available, but that takes more work if you're willing to do it. Mundie Moms has contests all the time. As does The Story Siren. There are dozens more out there.

3. Publishers websites
Harper Teen - They have Sneak Peaks where you can often read the first 100 pages or so. They also have Full Access where the entire book is on their website for free.
Simon and Schuster - You can even sign up to receive an email when they post new ones.

4. Book giveaway sites
Free Book Friday
Free Book Friday Teens
Kids Buzz
Goodreads - This site is for cataloging and reviewing books you've read or want to read. But if you click on "find books", then "giveaways", you'll find dozens of pre-release books that you can enter to win. You must be a member of the site, but it's free to join.

5. Advanced Reader Copies - I don't request these because I don't review books on my blog. As a writer, I feel it's a conflict of interest. However, The Story Siren has a great post on how to obtain them.

6. Swag Bucks - It only takes 450 points to get a $5 Amazon card. I find that by playing their TV ads whenever I am in the room with a computer, I can get 450 points in a week or so. That means every 6 weeks, I have $25 to spend on Amazon, and can get free shipping. They also have deals where you can get half price gift cards for places like Amazon or Plus, you earn swag bucks for making those purchases.
Disclaimer: If you are under 18, please consult your parents first.
Search & Win

7. Any gift giving occasions, ask for book gift cards. Usually you can get better prices online than in the stores, especially for new releases. Although if the gift card is for a local independant bookstore, all the better. That keeps the money in the community.

8. Library - Where I live, you are allowed library cards in not just your county, but in the adjoining ones as well. I live on the corner of 4 counties, and have library cards in 3 of them, so I have a huge database at my disposal. In my county, I can go online, request a book and they mail it to me for free. In the other counties, I request a book and they send it to the nearest library for me to pick up. This is awesome. Use these resources if you can. Plus, the greater their circulation, the greater their funding.

9. Copyright free books - There are many of these databases online where you can read classics for free.
Project Gutenberg

10. Check the e-reader options on Amazon - Sometimes publishers will offer new releases for free downloads in the first few days of release for publicity.

Well, that's a lot of options for free reading. And, if you are lucky enough to obtain a free book through contests or ARCs, and you love it, please tell the world. Because that's what free books are all about, getting the word out to new readers. is another.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing Woes (or Embracing the Difficult Ending)

I've been working on my most recent novel, Princess, since May. I'm on version 4.2. Four because I have had 4 completely different endings, and .2 because of rearranged scenes, etc. (Yes, I'm a little bit OCD) And those different endings have been causing me undue amounts of stress. I could never find the right one for my characters and the story. Today, I finally hit on why. I had originally intended it to be a stand alone story. It's not. The characters have choices to make and not a single one of them will lead to an easy resolution - or a hard one - in 60 - 70 thousand words. Their world is changing. They're beginning a journey, and this particular novel is only the first step.

Now, why does this pose a problem? Because I have seen I don't know how many agents say things like they want a stand alone first novel, and if it sells, then they'll talk sequels. So I've been fighting with my story, not telling it as I feel it should be told, and trying to force it into a different shape, like I'm trying to reform a silly band.

Well, no more. I will let the story unfold as it should be. I will give it free reign, and if it's meant to be published, it will happen. If not, I will have one more novel under my belt, 70,000 more words of practice. But the story will be true.