Jul/Aug 2015 Reviews & Interviews

Writerly DYI

Passive Income: The Ultimate Guide To Your Financial Freedom For Life
Michael Wire.
Self Published. 2015. 37 pp.

Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing
Helen Sedwick.
Ten Gallon Press. 2014. 206 pp.
ISBN 978-0988302150.

Review by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Buy now from Amazon! Amazon/Kindle has changed the rules for how they will reimburse authors whose books have been borrowed under the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners' Lending Library programs. Rather than pay a flat rate for qualifying "borrows," they will pay based upon how many pages of the book the borrower has read. This should remind readers that Amazon knows when they turn a page in a Kindle Book, though it should have been clear to all but the most na´ve Internet users from the first page they turned in this Big Data Internet world. The change begins on July 1.

This lending library system was begun over a year ago now. It is Amazon's attempt to transition book sales into a hybrid Pandora style distribution system and super-charged lending library. Regular in-house press releases tout its success. Actual per-borrow rates, however, seem to be considerably lower than they were at the inception of the program. And, of course, the lending approach provides only a small fraction of the royalty that goes to the author from a purchase.

While a few small media outlets have covered the change, the independent authors themselves have barely seemed to have taken notice of it. Their many Kindle Facebook groups (other than the one which I host) do not appear to have displayed a single comment. Nearly all of the many sites are used by the members solely to post links to their books or the books of persons who may have paid them to continuously post such links. Most of the authors rely on such links illustrated with cover photos and titles promising lots of sex or weight loss. Pooling knowledge, it would appear, is generally considered to be wasted time.

There are a handful of topics that succeed better than all others on the nonfiction side of the ledger. The first is books on how to succeed on the Kindle platform rapidly and beyond one's wildest dreams. The next is how to make "passive income"... um... rapidly and beyond one's wildest dreams.

Michael Wire's Passive Income: The Ultimate Guide To Your Financial Freedom For Life is one such book. Wire's author bio informs the perspective customer:

Michael Wire is a non-fiction author, entrepreneur, and trader. He has several successful businesses and is an expert investor. He has been financially free for several years now and wants to share with you his secrets.

Best estimate as to direct monthly income from his four Kindle books, based on his sales ratings, is that he is almost certainly making less than $300 per month. While the amount is well above average for a nonfiction author, it can only raise the question as to just what a highly successful entrepreneur is doing spending lots of presumably valuable time writing 37 page books.

Wire's books all tend to include the word "Ultimate" in their titles. Passive Income, however, offers no inside information, no step by step guidance. It is not a tutorial. It is a very general overview of available methods of earning passive income (including writing Kindle Books). The overviews are correct but contain little or no detail. A link list to sites dealing in the category being covered is included in each chapter.

Some of the better detail information in the book on making passive income can be teased out by reading outside of the text. There is a colorful add for another book promising to reveal the secrets of financial success, at the end of Passive Income: The Ultimate Guide. The book is by another author. The step off page from the advertisement is hosted by a private sub-domain marketing site called "gr8.com". The advertised book is offered for "free" in exchange for the purchaser's name and email address. It is more than a little likely that each copy of his own book that Wire sells is also designed to bring in click advertising revenues, or another name toward a free targeted mailing list, or both. Such tips are not overtly mentioned in the text of the book. It is certainly a nice little wrinkle upon which I will be musing in the future.

And then there is the all-important customer review strategy. Wire's book was issued on February 17, 2015, and rapidly received a large number of 5-star reviews. Approximately 17 5-star reviews are bunched together on the dates immediately after publication. About 4 more such reviews are bunched together in early March. About 13 5-star reviews are bunched together in early June. The 5-star reviews are (1) highly complimentary, (2) refer to at least one (and, generally, only one) actual fact about the text of the book, (3) were otherwise a bit vague and (4) were written by persons generally having reviewed 100-900 Kindle titles as of the date I write this review. At least two of the reviewers have posted well over 1000 customer reviews (all or nearly all of Kindle books).

The 13 customer reviews (all but one) written outside of the bunched periods paint a decidedly different (though not uniformly negative) picture. Their spread is as follows: 9 4-star; 1 3-star; and 2 1-star. The overall star-rating for the book is 4.5 out of a possible 5 as of this writing. It is arguable that the lessons from the click advertising and star-rating strategy are the closest thing to "ultimate" information associated with Passive Income: The Ultimate Guide To Your Financial Freedom For Life. The beginner, however, will find some general but helpful information supplied in English that is generally but not always clear. That information is uniformly correct in as far as it goes. Wire is honest about how all of the methods begin with small profits and must be parlayed over time in order to return large amounts.

Compared to Helen Sedwick's Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing. Wire's book bears only a superficial similarity. Sedwick's author bio mixes attractive (but limited) personal detail with a strong, specific professional credential directly associated with the subject of her book:

I attended University of Chicago Law School, then moved to San Francisco where I have practiced business law for almost thirty years...

Her book also has many 5-star reviews many of them bunched together around at least two dates when she seems to have offered the book via a Kindle free promotion. Of its 61 reviews (as of this writing) Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook has received 53 5-star, 7 4-star and 1 2-star. The reviews range from a sentence to a genuine overview of the contents. The reviewers frequently describe the usefulness of the book to their publishing or teaching activities. A sampling turns up only one reviewer who has posted as many as 60 reviews (not all of Kindle books) and an average of fewer than a dozen.

A reading of Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook explains the high star rating. The book is unusually information rich. Chapters such as "Setting Up Your Business," "Marketing and Distribution," "Getting Rights Right," and "Lawyers" offer confirmation, at the very least, for an experienced self-publisher's previous research into the various subjects and additional sub-headings that frequently bring up new and important topics. Every chapter is concluded with a checklist of the items covered. Sedwick knows her subject intimately.

The style of Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook is clear, the vocabulary no more specialized than is avoidable given the subject and the text is almost entirely without typos or misspellings. Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing truly is a resource the self-publishing author will return to again and again.

The one weakness of the book is pointed out by the customer who gave the book its lone review of less the 4-stars. With the investment of only a few hundred man-hours, most (but by no means all) of the information can be found for free on the Internet and the author will have saved the $4.99 Kindle price. Helen Sedwick's Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing is a genuine resource and a deal at the price.


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