Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Authors. KindleScout - My Campaign Experience

Details of the KindleScout program itself were provided in my blog post titled "Authors. Meet KindleScout!"
In late 2015, I learned of a program for authors sponsored by Amazon’s Kindle division. Since Amazon was the leading sales point for books in the world then, and the carrot was a “guaranteed” contract with them, I investigated.

Sherry Frazier, my publicist at the time, encouraged me to finish the manuscript I was editing and submit it. Fortunately, as things turned out, I did not submit.

In August of this year (2017), I finished a different manuscript. Much shorter than the one that I didn’t submit, Patterns on Pages is Volume 4 of the Traveler’s HOT L series.

The screenshot above is the campaign at a glance. I don’t know how many nominations Patterns on Pages received. Amazon is careful not to allow that information out. Ultimately there were 1,600 visits to Patterns’ KindleScout page.

I was glad for, not happy with the first day’s count of 100 hits. It suggests that my “core” group jumped on the chance to help me. I was disappointed with the drop-off that followed.

You have to keep your book’s nomination in front of your social media audience. I suspect that there are authors who use KindleScout often. The offer for the book I mentioned in the first post on this topic indicated that by following the plan in the book, she kept her books in the “Hot and Trending” category 90% of the time.

Following the peaks and valleys on the screenshot, you can see how effective my “pushes” were . . . or weren’t. I call the flat line from August 26 through September 6 Death Valley. No matter what I put up as a reminder or an incentive, there was little response by my audience.

  • I made new groups on Facebook and posted just for them.
  • I posted in other Facebook groups I belong to. Below are the posts I put on one of the sites for graduates from the high school I attended. I had more on my personal and professional Facebook pages. 

I tweeted and posted on LinkedIn, too.

Notice the DRASTIC change in the style and wording of the example in the lower right-hand corner. Notice the date. Now, look at the graph of the number of hits on the scout page for the date that was posted. IT’S NOT a coincidence that the highest peak on the graph is the first day that was posted.

I didn’t write that lower right-hand corner post. I wasn’t the first to post it.

This is important!

A complete stranger found the book. She looked at my less than stellar pathetic communiqués and took it upon herself to help the cause because she thought the book had promise. This is that magnanimous person.

Ms. Reed is an editor and author. Her website is minimalistic but effective. I will use at least one of her services on a forthcoming book. 
I’ve been in contact with her since the close of the campaign. Here’s her suggestion for follow up since Patterns didn’t get chosen, basically how to turn the rejection by Scout into a positive.

Had I known that before I started, some percentage of my post soliciting nominations would have included the “free book either way” plan. I tried it with Patterns.

All non-selected books get the same verbiage notification when the author publishes them on Kindle, so I had to try and get folks who nominated to take me up on the free book offer. It sputtered. Fewer than 100 copies were downloaded during the 5-day span. Over a week later, not a single review has been posted.

On the plus side, as you can see by the photo below, Patterns was in the top 3175 Free Kindle books on the first day—only 32 downloads. If 400 people —that’s only 25% of the site visits—would have downloaded the book, I suspect that would have gotten Amazon’s attention.

Amazon's algorithm for what book to publish is not public record. I've nominated about a dozen books. I thought four of them were top drawer. Only one was selected for publication, and that one was selected early in the program's existence. 

Nominations and Hot and Trending must be connected. I've decided that how many nominations you get over a given time period must be the driving forces in the selection of a book for publication.

That being said, KindleScout now has a ranking system for authors who post books. 

My score and rank in the photo are the October 14, 2017, numbers. Here are the current top 8 authors that day as well.

Methinks that this ranking and what it takes to get points is a sizable chunk of the selection algorithm's matrix.

Kindle allows up to 30 days for each author to “polish” an accepted manuscript. It took me 27 days to get Patterns ready for Kindle after the rejection slip. That was too long. Too many people who nominated my book were “on to something else” by the time Patterns was published, and they were not expecting to get a FREE copy if it wasn’t selected.

Will I try KindleScout again?

If I do, I know I’ll change my strategies to include
  • Earlier heads ups to potential readers on the possibility of a KindleScout campaign.
  • More focused posts on Twitter.
  • Mentioning the FREE book option whether the book is selected for publication or not.
  • Having the book ready to publish through Kindle IMMEDIATELY if it’s not selected.

BTW: No more than two of the books in the thirty-day cohort that Patterns was in were selected for publication.

If you found this series informative, please spread the word. Thanks!

Next Authors post is Reprised/Revised Archival Posts

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Hebrews Study Questions for 10/29


My Sunday School Life Group is studying Hebrews. Every Monday, I post questions that were discussed the day before in Sunday School. I invite you to ponder/think about them and jot down your thoughts.

On Wednesdays, I post some of the ideas that came up in the Life Group's discussion for you to consider and compare with your thoughts.  

These questions were discussed in my Life Group yesterday. Take time to reflect on them. I'll post thoughts from the class discussion on Wednesday.

Chapter 9
Vv 1-10

What were the two components of the first covenant?

Three things are listed as furnishings of “the outer room.” How was each used?

The Holy of Holies sounds pretty crowded. What’s there? Why was each piece there?

We Got This Far This Week
Why was the High Priest allowed access to the Holy of Holies?

What was the purpose of the blood taken into the Holy of Holies?

Vv8-10 is a commentary on Christ’s crucifixion. What were the good and bad aspects of the animal sacrifices?

Chapter 9
Vv 11-15
What good things are already here?

What’s the significance of Christ’s “once for all” entry into the HofH?

Blood cleansing vs. heifer ashes. ‘Sup wit dat?

Why would sprinkling blood on an object make it clean?

What does Christ’s blood cleanse? Why is that essential?

Comment on the last part of v14.

Called? See Romans 8:28

If you'd like a PDF of the pages of questions in table form with room for you to write answers, email me at 
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Teachers. Grading Through the Years #10 Final Comments

This is the final post on grading.
That’s not to imply, infer, or any other “i-word” that this is the final word on grading.
The post is, however, all I have to say about the subject at this moment in time.

There are districts and school sites that have implemented grading school-wide protocols. I can’t imagine the number of those decreasing to any great extent over the next few years. The local autonomy I lived during my early years at Monte Vista High was replaced by district-level control with the implementation of academic content standards.
Common Core and associated movements like Next Generation Science Standards—NGSS—are nation-wide “reforms.” School boards will not forget dollars invested in such programs. In my crystal ball, the foreseeable future is one of an increase in top-down ideas and decreased spontaneity by teachers in content, process, and grading.

While I’m glad that I retired before this switch was complete, I know that there are teachers who will implement strategies that they know is the best for their students. While such strategies might not originate in the current reform box, in my experience, good teaching by good teachers will continue, in spite of the reformation de jour.

I’m closing this series by presenting portfolios as a way for students to take ownership for their grades. The example is from an integrated science program in the mid-1990s. Some of us used the idea for two years at Great Oak High School a decade later. Focus on the ideas, not the specific verbiage.

While at Monte Vista, the Science Department used portfolios to help students track their progress in specific skills and content. A team of Monte Vista teachers designed program. I wrote most of a four-volume series, one per semester, of texts. The Grossmont Union High School District published the series. I know schools in Los Angeles, Denver, and Houston purchased some of them.

Here’s the mailer the district sent out nationwide.

For a brief period of time, I got to teach material I helped select using methods I helped implement supported by textbooks of which I was the primary author.

I told you that things were different for teachers during the first half of my career!

These are the directions for each "Portfolio Day." We had one per grading period. The entire class period was devoted to portfolio-associated work. 

As the semester went along, there were more items from which to choose for each category. Replacing an entry with a better one was encouraged.

Below is the two-sided cover sheet stapled to each student portfolio item.

The categories were for our science classes at Monte Vista. We did laboratory reports instead of drawings at Great Oak. The Independent Student Choice is any assignment the student wanted to showcase.

You should have categories that are common to many units in your curriculum.

Here are the Teacher Notes for the process.

If you'd like a PDF of complete pages shown above, email me at the address below.

Over the course of the year, it was inspiring to hear students while looking at work they identified as the "best" months earlier say such thing as

  • "I can't believe I thought this was good!"
  • "I've improved so much at <topic>."
  • "I'm glad we can switch these old ones with newer, better ones."

The first portfolio entry for each category was graded after one of the Portfolio Days. The completed portfolio was graded as well. Only new items were scored. The grade for each graded item was included as part of the final portfolio score.

One goal of every teacher must be to teach students the value of improving over time. The best way I've used is the student portfolio.

Next: Why I'm Not a Professional Athlete

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Expressions of Faith. Hebrews Ch 6. Crops or Thistles?

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end, it will be burned.
 Hebrews 6:7-8

Crops or Thistles?

These two verses present a clear picture of the importance of our choices.

Rain + Land = Valuable Crops.
Rain + Land = Worthless Thistles

In nature, the land doesn’t have a choice. When cultivated, farmers remove thistles, prepare the land, and plant crops

We have a choice when it comes to the land that is our spirit.
Crops or Thistles?
That’s our decision.

1.     Prepare your heart for a valuable crop by accepting God’s salvation.
2.    Keep removing thistles as they appear.

Follow those steps so you yield 
a crop for God Himself.

Next Expression of Faith: An Anchor
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