A couple of weeks ago I picked up a used computer and one of the programs installed on it is itunes, an Apple program for listening to songs purchased from Apple. I think. I have never used itunes, so I’m sort of guessing in the dark here. I ran the program for the first time last night and found I could check on my stories listed in Apple’s ibookstore. The results took me completely by surprise.
The story called Healthy or Else had five ratings. I didn’t think anybody had every downloaded one of my stories from Apple, and immediately fired off a query to Smashwords asking if Apple reported downloads of free ebooks. I made my short stories free to begin building an audience, and Apple is the only store where I struck out, was skunked, or any other metaphor or cliché you care to use for no downloads whatsoever.
My query to Smashwords was premature. My next discovery was that books can be rated without downloading them. That forced my thought process into reverse, maybe none of my stories were ever downloaded from Apple and Smashwords’ records were accurate.
The second and more interesting discovery was that those five ratings were in the Canadian itunes store. Out of curiosity I checked the American store, thinking it would have the same figure. It didn’t. The American store posted an average score based on 20 ratings.
Some time ago I used a service to generate URL’s for all of the countries with itunes stores. After digging out the list I checked Great Britain and Australia, but the blurb said there hadn’t been enough ratings for Healthy or Else to produce an average. Okay, that was mildly disappointing, but at least I was getting an indirect indication of the geographical distribution of the story.
Then I decided to explore a bit more and ran across a real shocker. Healthy or Else has been rated 28 times in Germany, one more than the 27 ratings in Barnes and Noble. Not only was the number of ratings a shocker, I saw two short reviews. The reviews are in German, of course. I don’t know what they say, but both were 4 stars, so they can’t be too bad.
Now I was really curious how many times – if any – the story has been downloaded from Apple.
Healthy or Else was published two years ago today, and my exploration with this second hand itunes program gave me more feedback than I’ve had in the last two years. Other than the 27 ratings at Barnes and Noble there has been one (solicited) rating on Smashwords, one (unsolicited) rating at Goodreads, and a couple of early reviews on Bibliotastic. Both the rating on Goodreads and the best review on Barnes and Noble were posted in the last month. Interestingly, the rating averages from Apple, in both America and Germany, are in line with the 3.5 average at Barnes and Noble.
I didn’t fare so well in my native Canada. The average for the five ratings was three. But since the story is satirical and is set in one of the Canadian provinces, I regard the lower rating as an inverse compliment. Not that very many Canadians read it.
Smashwords replied promptly the next day and said Apple doesn’t report downloads of free books. I hate data gaps, but what can you do?
I first saw a blurb about A Thousand Bayonets on the Internet. Not many thrillers are set in I in the artificial concrete environment I live in, and I tried to request a copy from the local library system. It didn’t have a listing for A Thousand Bayonets or its author, Joel Mark Harris. So I sent him an email and said a novel set in Vancouver and written by a Vancouver author should be in the Vancouver library, and suggested he contact the acquisitions department.
I thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. Joel Mark Harris replied, said I was right, and asked if I would like an autographed copy of A Thousand Bayonets. The obvious answer to that was: Yes.
An autographed copy landed in my mailbox a couple of days after the Easter holidays. At the time I didn’t know Joel Mark Harris had sent out 300 copies in Goodread’s Free Book program, or that he had a background in public relations. But that doesn’t matter. I regarded it as an act of goodwill. All he asked was that I like A Thousand Bayonets’s facebook page. This blog review was written of my own volition.
Returning home from the war in Afghanistan, John Webster, investigative reporter, following up on a tip finds himself literally in the middle of an explosive crime scene. To the police and media, and John himself, it appears to be a gangland hit in a war between criminal gangs.
Despite haunting flashbacks from Afghanistan, a personal life in disarray, subpoenas from the police and threats on his life, John’s journalistic instincts, honed in war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Congo, lead him – not unerringly – to the perpetrators, and help him survive his ordeals. Ordeals those same instincts are partially responsible for, by prompting him to take dangerous – some would say foolish – risks, often while drinking too much.
The major characters in A Thousand Bayonets are believable and interesting, and Joel Mark Harris develops them skillfully. His narrative style is simple and direct, and there is enough action to keep the reader’s interest alive and thriving – and to make a movie. That is not coincidental. Joel Mark Harris is a screenwriter and producer, in addition to being a journalist and novelist.
Production is underway on the movie version of A Thousand Bayonets. Joel Mark Harris’s first production, Neutral Territory, has won 10 awards and 15 nominations, from showings in 23 film festivals.
The trailer for the book, radio and television interviews, photographs and a video about making the movie trailer, and other good stuff can be found on A Thousand Bayonets facebook page.