I Did an Amazon Giveaway–and It Did Pretty Much Nothing

I was always curious about the Amazon giveaways–you know the cute little button at the bottom left of your books’ (or any products’ really) page. You have to scroll down pretty far to find it–after reviews and two sets of sponsored product ad strips.

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You can give away paperback or Kindle versions, and it’s obviously cheaper to give away Kindle versions. Amazon makes you pay for your book, so if you gave away paperbacks, you’d be paying the price you set in CreateSpace or KDP Print, plus shipping.  There’s no shipping with Kindle files, but there is tax. So make sure you’re looking at the correct page, and Amazon tells you which version you’re giving away–it’s in the blue to the right of your book’s cover.

Choose your number of prizes:

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I’ll give away three Kindle file copies. I did five when I did my giveaway for Wherever He Goes, so I feel like I’ve already spent money on something that probably won’t do anything for me.

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Add your photo. I chose a different pose of my author photo that I use everywhere else, but I still look like me.

The next part is where I royally screwed up because I had no idea giveaways ran that quickly, or that people would enter, or maybe I just didn’t understand the stats of a giveaway like this.

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I did the recommend Lucky Number Instant Winner, and I chose 100 for the lucky number for the winning entry.

This is what it says if you click on LEARN MORE:

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My giveaway lasted fifteen minutes. So When I chose 5 prizes along with the 100 entrants,  500 people entered my giveaway and every 100th entrant won a copy of my book. The fact that it only too 15 minutes for my giveaway to end blows my mind.  So will be going with a higher number next time.

And then, of course, I have them follow me on Amazon.

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I made it public of course, because the more the merrier.

To recap, I’m doing 3 copies of Don’t Run Away. I have the number of entrants set at 200 per prize so 600 people have to enter to win three copies. They all have to follow me on Amazon.

You would think this would be a great thing. But the thing is, most people enter giveaways just to enter giveaways. That is what they do. Just for the rush of winning, I’m assuming.

I don’t think this giveaway is going to go any slower than my other one, but we’ll see.

Click on no for not offering discounts, then click next.

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This is the last page, and it’s laughable. It’s probably where my high expectations came in. The giveaway will end in 7 days? Yeah right.

Then you get your shopping cart screen and you purchase your giveaway. I didn’t screenshot that because you don’t need to see my stuff. After you buy it, you get this:

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And you’re all set.

You get an email when your giveaway is live, and for me, fifteen minutes later, I got an email saying my giveaway was over.

Amazon doesn’t tell you how many followers you have, but at some point, hopefully when they email your followers when you release a new book, that some of them will buy it.

Don’t turn blue holding your breath.

While I was typing this up, my giveaway went live–I got the email.

We’ll see how long it takes for the giveaway to end . . . . go get something to eat. I’ll wait.

At any rate, did the giveaway for Wherever He Goes do anything for me?

Not really that I could tell. At least with my AMS ads, even with little results, those are still measurable. These giveaways seem like a waste of time and a waste of money.

Maybe I’ll do a Goodreads giveaway when my new book comes out.

It will be something to blog about anyway.

Did you have a good experience with an Amazon Giveaway? Let me know!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

More AMS (Amazon ads) Updates

I like doing these to help anyone who is afraid of dipping their toes into Amazon marketing. Ads are a scary concept, be it Amazon or Facebook. Anything that will take your money without a firm promise of ROI (return on investment) needs to be taken up with a bit of caution. Too cautious though, and you aren’t going to get the results you want.

You need to spend money to make money, and all that.

So here’s where I am so far with ads.

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If you know anything about what you’re looking at, it’s pretty easy to see my bids are not high enough to be getting very many impressions or clicks. But that’s the name of the game, you know, to find the sweet spot where you’re getting impressions and clicks, but you’re also not paying a ton of money for clicks if no one is buying. You’re hoping if people are clicking on your ad, that you’ll make sales. But your clicks also have to be in line with how much you’re making from your books.

My books are priced at 2.99. If I spend 30 cents a click, and I get 2.09 from each sale, that’s a take-home royalty of 1.79 a book. (There’s a real way to determine ROI and I’m not doing that here, and I know I’m not, so you don’t have to tell me, for you die-hard ROI fans out there.)

Anyway, so anyone worried that you’re going to do some ads and Amazon is going to take all your money and you’re going to broke with no sales, well, you can go slow. You need to have patience. And some impressions are better than none, but these aren’t what I was hoping for, and these aren’t what Brian Meeks, in his book, says you can accomplish either.

I have 20 ads running simultaneously, and I’ve only spent $2.30.

I am still getting KU reads, and I’ll never know if those come from the impressions from my ads.

I’ll add a few more ads with a higher click and see if we can’t get something going. I’ll have another book coming out in November, hopefully, so I’ll have another book to promote.

The more, the better, right?

Anyway, so that’s where I’m at. If you’re interested in Brian’s book, click on the pic. He’s got a ton of great info there. amazon ads

Until next time, happy selling!

 

 

 

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

Thoughts on the RWA

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I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.

The Scary World of Amazon Marketing Services

Writers need to get their books out there. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Neither does Facebook–at least not on your personal profile. There are only so many copies Aunt Edna wants. And she’s not going to pay your bills. (If she is, that’s no one’s business but yours.)

So what is an author to do? Well, you can write more books. You should be anyway. What else? Instagram the shit out of your life hoping to draw some attention to your fabulous #writerslife.

What else?

Pay for promos, maybe. I’m assuming I’m still getting some KU page reads from a Freebooksy promo I did a few months ago. (To read about that, click here.)

I’ve come to the conclusion after a few years on Twitter, the only way to find readers is to write books and tell people (who aren’t on Twitter) about them (you know, actual readers). I’ve decided to dip my toes into the world of Amazon ads.

amazon adsNow, lots of people have told me that they don’t work. I bought Brian Meeks’ book, and he tells me they do. But you gotta be smart, and you gotta be patient, and you gotta test. Test and Test. And Test.

Oh, by the way, you have to have a decent book, good cover, good blurb. Because if you don’t have a quality book, no amount of advertising will sell your POS. (Sometimes people forget about that part.)

So, I’ve been running ads for a couple of weeks. Brian says this isn’t hardly any time at all, and I agree. Buying and running ads on Amazon isn’t the magic trick to selling books and getting famous. You need to have patience, and you need to know what you’re doing.

At first, I bid low (like Brian advised–he walks you through the entire process), and piecing together information from other sources, I realized this was way too low. I write contemporary romance, and it’s a highly competitive market.

The thing with Amazon ads is you need to bid high enough that Amazon will show your ads, but not so high that if someone clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy, you don’t go broke paying for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

It’s called a sweet spot, and from what I can tell, few people have the patience to get there. Or they are too scared they are going to waste a lot of money trying.

I’ve been running ads for 13 days, and this is what I have so far:

ams ads so far june 18

Remember, 13 days isn’t hardly any time at all. But for anyone scared to run ads, take a look: I have 12 ads running right now, and I’ve spent 35 cents. Not dollars, cents. None of the ads are doing particularly well, and I assume it’s because I’ve bid too low. The ad for Don’t Run Away that has over 3,000 impressions, hasn’t cost me anything. But those impressions could have given me a few page reads in KU if someone saw the ad, but didn’t click and just decided to try the book in KU anyway. Where and when someone decides to read your book if it’s enrolled in KU will always be a mystery.

Here are my KU page reads for DRA. I took this screenshot on June 18th. The same day I took the screenshot of my ad dashboard.

sales and ku reads for dra

Nope, I don’t have any sales yet. But I haven’t gone broke trying, either.

So anyone who is wanting to try this but is afraid of losing money can err on the side of caution, figure a few things out, and go from there.

I’m surprised that DRA is getting impressions, as the second set of ads I did for Wherever He Goes is a higher cost per click (which you would think would buy me more exposure), and I think the cover for WHG is better than DRA. But maybe the blurb is better written, or the characters resonate better with readers.

So where do I go from here? I plan to bid a bit more for WHG, and see if I can’t get some impressions, at least. Maybe I could even do another set of ads for DRA at a higher bid, and see if that doesn’t ramp up my impressions even more and hope those turn into clicks. Or I could do nothing, and wait to see what happens, because 13 days of ads is hardly any time at all.

But I’ll keep an eye on it. I just wanted to let you know a high daily limit doesn’t have to scare you.

And if you take anything away from this it’s this: if your ads are successful, and you are getting a ton of clicks but they aren’t turning into sales–you need to look at your book. You need to look at your cover. Your Look Inside pages. Your blurb. Don’t pay for ads for a crappy book. Make it better.

I’ll keep you posted!

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

Writing to Market vs. Chasing a Trend

I talk about writing to market all the time. To the indie writing community, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with a writer who sits down at their computer, looks at their WIP, and says, “Who would want to read this besides me?”

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As James Scott Bell phrases in his book Just Write: “Without readers, a writer has no career.” Of course, writers write for more than just money, but if you’re reading my blog, you probably want to sell some of your stories. And that means writing what people like to read.

Writing to market is primarily writing popular commercial fiction. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dan Brown. Tom Clancy. They sell books by the truckload. Every book they write ends up selling thousands of copies. There are other writers who write commercial fiction too, like most big romance writers who don’t always make the list: Lisa Marie Rice, Susan Mallery, Kristin Higgins, Brenda Novak, Laurell K Hamilton. They write consistently what people consistently read. They don’t vary because something is popular. In other words, they don’t chase trends.

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It used to be a writer was warned off chasing a trend because traditional publishing moves too slowly for that to work.

When Twilight was popular, if you wanted to jump onto Stephenie Meyer’s coattails with a traditional book deal, it would have been almost impossible. First, you have to actually write the book. Then you have to find an agent, and she has to shop you around. If she succeeds, then your book is stuck in the publishing process that moves slower than my kids getting dressed for school.

Sometimes movies can draw out the popularity of a trend. Like with 50 Shades of Grey, there were a couple authors I know of that managed to get in on the action, though if it was just timing, or a thought out plan, I guess we won’t know. Sylvia Day wrote The Crossfire quartet, and Jennifer Probst lucked out with the Marriage Bargain. (An experience she shares in Write Naked.)

And sometimes that can backfire. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad when Fifty Shades Freed, the movie, was released, and that trilogy could be put to bed. Literally and figuratively. If people are sick of a trend, it’s far too late to try to get in on it.

But with self-publishing, if you can crank out a book in 3 months, and publish it, you could very well get in on a trend before it dies.

Is that a bad thing? I’m going to express an unpopular opinion and say no. Why not? If grip – lit is still going strong and you can write a good book in that vein, why not try?

Trend chasing isn’t evil. But I say that with a couple of caveats.

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1. You can’t build an audience that way. The writers who make it, or seem to be making a go of it, remain consistent in their writing. If you want to chase a trend and can spare the time, maybe write in a pen name.

2. You still have to love what you’re writing. People think when a writer writes to market they don’t love their work, that they are just chasing the almighty dollar. To find a foothold in the industry you need an extensive backlist, and the only way to create one is to stick with it for however long that takes. And that means loving what you write. If you love the trend you’re chasing by all means. But if werewolves are trending, and you hate them, don’t bother. Which leads me to a third caveat:

3. You need to be familiar with the genre so you can hit all the tropes. If werewolves are trending, but you’ve never read them, don’t think you can write them. You’ll disappoint your readers who do know the genre and will be upset they spent their money on your book.

So, chasing a trend isn’t a cop-out. If you can plan it into your writing schedule, if you have a great idea that could potentially be published before the trend fades, why not? What is trending now? It seems like women’s fiction, mystery-driven domestic (family/wife/children) pop up on the list.

As for something sweeping the world by storm, such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, or The Girl on the Train, sometimes all it boils down to is the lucky timing of when the book was published. Ruth Ware, who wrote The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, seems to be doing okay. But I wouldn’t accuse her of chasing a trend. Perhaps just lucky, because she’d written a few books before The Woman in Cabin 10 made her a household name.

There is a difference between writing to market and chasing a trend. I write straight up contemporary romance. Tropes, plots, and characters like those will never date themselves. For now, I’m not interested in chasing trends. Mainly because if I missed the mark, that’s time wasted on a book that won’t sell. I’d rather invest my time in books for my backlist that will never go out of style.

You are in control of your own career. Chase a trend, write to market, write that thing that’s weird, but you can’t stop thinking about it. We all have different variations of success, and you have to be honest with yourself about what those are. Only you know what will make you happy. Good luck!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

Why authors shouldn’t chase trends

On Chasing Trends…. And why you should just write the book you want to write…

 

Bared to You by Sylvia Day–A book review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and may contain triggers as the review refers to child molestation.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, numerous books that copied characters and plot were published as quickly as writers could produce them.

crossfire seriesThe Crossfire Series is one of these series. comprised of four novels, I read Bared to You, the first.

The book is about Eva and Gideon, how they meet, their issues, backstories, and all their flaws.

You can’t help but compare Bared to You to Fifty Shades by the very first page, and I do not resist. Eva meets Gideon by literally falling on her ass, and later stumbling into his office, ala Anastasia Steele.

Gideon Cross, seemingly owning half of New York, is extremely emotionally damaged, not to mention drooling hot. I won’t waste time going into how much more or less he’s like Christian Grey because it doesn’t matter. Either you liked Fifty Shades enough to read these or you didn’t. So if you liked Fifty but were put off by the poor writing, you may like the Crossfire Series as they hold similar plot elements and characters, but they are better edited.

Eva is also emotionally damaged, unlike Ana, who was just innocent and naive. Eva has a heartbreaking backstory, and anyone who has triggers regarding children being raped and molested by step-siblings should steer clear of this book.

I do find it rather odd that while Eva has been in therapy most of her life to deal with being sexually assaulted at age ten until she was fourteen by her older stepbrother (and her mother only finding out about it because Eva was brought to the ER for a miscarriage), she has a mainly healthy attitude towards sex. I guess she would have to because she and Gideon do it all the time.

As natural pacing of a four book series, we find Gideon also has a heartbreaking backstory as well, but Day does not reveal what it is saving some secrets for later books.

Overall, if you like Fifty Shades of Grey, and want more of it, by all means, give the Crossfire Series a try. I read Bared to You, but I will not be reading the others. Day, like James, counted on emotional upheaval to keep readers turning pages, and all Eva and Gideon do is fight and have makeup sex.

As perhaps someone who is too old to be reading the series, I need more. More plot. More character motivation.

If they truly do love each other, as they say they do by the middle of the book, then the small spats Day gives such weighty importance to should not do the damage they do.

Maybe books two through four will have more . . .  something, but I don’t need to find out.