The Business of Promoting E-Books
SALLOW CITY - Micah Reed's Flint Michigan Blood Bath

From time-to-time I promote E-Books.  On a couple of occasion I have been very successful. Other times, well let’s just say less so.  Last  author driven project I worked on, the aging/ailing  Beatle biographer was so unimpressed with the campaign I launched that he refused to pay full freight on my invoice – it was so bad I couldn’t afford a dozen brown ones to wear on my face.

When it comes to book promotion It is easier to squish a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to successfully push an E-Book work of fiction.  Electronic book sales are currently in decline in Canada, but the number of E-Books that first timers are selling cheap or simply giving away for FREE soars. Readers have quickly gotten used to the idea that they don’t have to pay much (or anything) to fill their Kobo, Kindle or IPad. 

Every day I am offered, through programmes like Free-ebooks.net, Bookbub and E-book-stage twenty titles to download free, usually via Amazon.  The book retailer itself has a frequent flyer reader programme – Kindle Unlimited - that gives you new (but usually remarkable bad) titles for a few cents a download.

In an ongoing effort to avoid future PR failures, I keenly watch to see how writers are promoting their E-Books.  New authors are inventive. Some pre-sell their E-Book through Facebook and genre blogs. Writers who have healthy mailing lists will use direct email pitches to pre-sell their soon-to-be published E-Books.  Others gin up interest with excerpts on their blogs, facebook accounts and on twitter.

With printed books the launch is a tried true method to sell product to fans, friends and family.  I have seen authors sign and sell  300+ copies at a single launch.  It is show, tell, drink and sell.  Good launches lead tomore sales.

E-books launches are ethereal. There isn’t a pile of books, in front of a Sharpie wielding author.  The writer often simply hands out download launch cards to people as they walk through the door. I have seem more inventive authors do photo ops with customers who, after buying an E-Book, get a jpg with themselves and the author along with the E-Pub file.
Jim Heskett

Last month Jim Heskett, an American E-Book thriller scribe did something cool. Just weeks away from launching his new E-Book and softcover Sallow City, he sent emails to people around North America offering a free pre-drop electronic copy on the proviso that the freebee recipients write and review the book on March 23rd.

I sent him a note saying I would like to read Sallow City and promised to write a review love or hate the book.  Heskett thanked me and sent the e-book along with two other new books he has just written. (Turns out there was a delivery mistake).
Brilliant PR campaign concept.  I am not sure it  will work  all that well because getting a free E-Book from a relatively unknown author is something one can do already without having to spend hours reading the book and an hour (and counting ) to write a small review. 
So to save time and space Jim here goes my mini review in point form:

Great Cover – rusty  old car almost up to its door handles in a backwoods empty Michigan lake.  Wish that the photograph had something to do with the book.  It doesn’t.  Book is set in a gritty, dirty urban setting in one of America’s most beleaguered cities – Flint, Michigan. No cars in this book are left sitting in a lake.  Instead they are shot up, crashed, burned and blown away.

Great Title -- Sallow City. You know Flint isn’t called that in real life. Its motto is Strong,  Proud. Its nickname is Vehicle City.  But frankly with what is going down now, what  with the tainted water scandal, soaring unemployment and political corruption,  Heskett’s title is probably a prophetic monicker for Flint.

Great Idea For A Series --The book is the follow-up to  Nail Gun Messiah (seriously).  Both books are very violent stories about Micah Reed and his bail bond boss Frank Mueller.   Micah used to work for a very violent Mexican drug cartel.  He ratted his murderous friends out and now lives in Denver, with a new name and a new honest take on life.

Micah is on vacation in the mountains when his boss gets reports that a badly mutilated body with Micah’s face has turned up in the Flint morgue.  Soon Micah and Frank, a pair of US government contract killers, and the Mexican drug cartel are on their way to Flint.  Standing by in the basement of a recession ravaged city mall is a band of AK47 carry criminals – the Flint Mafia.  Meanwhile a small vigilante posse made up of novice  millennial Jewish gunslingers plan to to kill all the racist drug dealers in Flint and steal as much of their drug and gambling money as they can. It is a 21st century Battle Royale where the authorities are content to let the bad guys (ie almost everyone in the book) shoot it before they roll in to pick up the bodies and put out the fires.

What did I think?  I don’t want to be cruel or dismissive, but this book, like most of the free E-Books I have read (and I have consumed a lot) needs some  serious editing support.  The book is repetitive. It drifts into needless scenarios that are frankly unbelievable – a strong editor might have kept Heskett from having Micah sit beside his would-be government hired assassin in an Denver flight that starts breaking up in turbulence.  That same editor might have convinced him not to have Micah tell a middle aged woman who has just had her throat slashed to not worry and that she should simply apply pressure on her wound until help arrives (as he slips out the back door)!

The book is set in Flint, but, one wonders if Heskett has ever been there.  I have spent much of my life in nearby Windsor and know there are a thousand ugly stories to be told about the decline of Michigan’s once great cities – Heskett never gets around to describing the Michiganess of Sallow City beyond introducing readers to a decrepit mall (it is a real place) that somehow has stayed open even as Flint slips into depression. Sallow City is really a metaphor for the  people who inhabit Flint. Thieves, drug lords, murders, government contract murders, Mexican drug cartel mass murders,  Jewish vigilante murders, and just run-of-the-mill murders.

Guess I am just a pacifist Canadian. I couldn’t handle the non-stop cavalcade of  murders. Tasers. Knives. Handguns. Machine Guns. Burnings. Mutilations. Beatings.   I lost count of the dead.  Best guess? 120, or  about one murder every two pages.

In Sallow City there are no law abiding citizens just  raw meat waiting to be carved up.  The police, sound their sirens but don't actually appear in the book. They seem content to wait on the sidelines as an army of Mexican drug cartel thugs shoot up the mall (and the secret casino in the basement)  while the Young Jewish gang literally sneak in the back door to try to massacre the bigots, right all racial wrongs and steal the casino loot in the book's cathartic climax.

Not ruining the ending when I say that virtually everyone except the hero Micah die horrible senseless deaths.  Oh, his buddy and employer Frank does live to take part in the next Micah Reed thriller, but that is only because he has an appendicitis attack and misses all the fun while recuperating in a Flint hospital.

Younger blood hungry readers will probably devour this book. It sells on Amazon for $2.99 ($6.99 for soft cover). Check out Heskett’s web page. If you look hard you might be able to score a copy for free (don’t mention my name).


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