Tag Archives: Playing the Game

A Good Gift Book: Playing the Game

If you need a gift for someone on your year-end list, don’t forget my novel, Playing the Game. The book has many five star reviews on Amazon, and was ranked the #1 financial thriller this summer in the Kindle store.

Here are a few of my favorite reviews of the book from Amazon:

  • [Playing the Game] has all the trappings of a great tale of corporate fiction, but throw murder into the mix and you have a thriller. The story was so well written, I sailed through it in just one day. A brilliant story wrapped around reality, with believable characters and a plausible plot makes this novel one of the best choices of 2014.
  • If you don’t know anything about the details of how organizations and HR operate and you don’t want to pick up a dry textbook, pick up Playing the Game because, I can assure you, I would have been bored out of my mind if this information wasn’t presented in such an entertaining way. Playing the Game epitomizes information fiction at its best!
  • Rickover’s brilliant prose had to be somewhat anecdotal because the reader is “right there” in those offices, dealing with one crisis after another. This is definitely a fertile story for a movie.
  • This is a fascinating, fast-paced novel about the issues facing the modern corporation: corporate succession, office politics, financing, unionization, and so forth. The characters are sharply drawn and the plot is full of interesting twists; I lost a few hours of evening sleep reading this one, as I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!

Thank you for considering Playing the Game!

P.S. Also available in paperback and epub formats on Barnes & Noble.


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A Novel Approach to Training and Development

As the end of the year approaches, managers and HR professionals responsible for training activities might want something unusual for their development programs and opportunities. Might I suggest using a novel to provoke workplace discussions about management and leadership issues?

This isn’t a unique idea—the Navy used the movie, Twelve O’Clock High, in its well-regarded Command Excellence training program. Business school classes and diversity programs use vignettes and case studies to raise issues all the time. A book simply creates a more complex world for discussion.

My novel, Playing the Game, is set in a corporate world familiar to most employees. If you are an HR professional developing curriculum for new or middle managers, if you are an executive coach needing to launch a discussion with a client, or if you are a manager wanting to get your employees talking about workplace issues, take a look at my book and see if it might help.

Other professionals who might find uses for the novel are

  • lawyers and estate planners initiating conversations about family succession planning in small businesses
  • in-house counsel wanting to talk to managers about legal topics such as reductions in force, employment discrimination, and copyright
  • managers and HR professionals trying to improve work group communications and conflict management

You can find the questions from the discussion guide in the back of the book here. But you can also create questions more suited to your particular needs. If you’d like to chat about the book before using it in a training program, please contact me at SaraLRickover (at) gmail.com.

I’m also available for group conversations via teleconference or Skype with any work groups or book clubs discussing Playing the Game.

My novel is available in both paperback and ebook formats on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook).

What other novels would be good for leadership and corporate training programs?

PTG Rickover cover

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Playing the Game, Workplace, Writing

Play For More Than You Can Afford To Lose

My novel, Playing the Game, is in large part about leadership. The epigraph in the novel is a quote from Winston Churchill:

“Play the game for more than you can afford to lose . . . only then will you learn the game.”

I took the title of my book from this quote. One of the themes in the novel is that there are people in leadership roles who are unwilling or unable to lead, and others who would like to lead who don’t have the opportunity.

I’ve seen many attributions of this quote to Winston Churchill, but I haven’t been able to find the context in which he said it. For me, it means that you have to throw your whole self into what you’re doing, if you want to become good at it. Risk more than you can afford, and then you’ll learn what the “game”-whatever your game is-is all about.

As people read my novel, I hope they will think about the characters I created. Do any of these characters risk everything? Which are pulling back? In what ways to they pull back, and why?

I also hope readers will reflect on their own lives, as I reflected on mine while I wrote the book.

When do I risk more than I can afford to lose? Not very often.

When am I willing to risk something? Frequently. If I hadn’t risked my time and effort and been willing to face some ridicule from colleagues and friends, I would never have published a novel.

I am proud of my novel, and hope that you will take a look at it. You can find it here on Amazon and here on Barnes & Noble.

Thank you, and good luck as you strive to play the game.

Churchill quote


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Discounted Ebooks: A Review of Promotional Sites

Last month I described my marketing campaign for my novel, Playing the Game, and the ebook marketers I used. This post looks at ebook marketers from a reader’s point of view.

I follow several curators of free and discounted ebooks. Some are better than others, and which are best depends on what you as a reader want. My criteria for a good ebook discount site are

  • The price is easy to see.
  • I can limit the categories of books to only those I want to read (thriller, women’s fiction, etc.), and the category of each book is clearly shown. (Often, readers can guess the genre by the cover or title, but I want to be told, so I don’t waste my time on books that don’t interest me.)
  • I can see a short synopsis of the book.
  • The site has a pleasing visual interface.
  • I can see how other readers have rated the book.
  • There are links to all the buy sites where the ebook is available (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, etc.), which is important to me because I use both a Nook and the Kindle app to read ebooks.
  • The site shows lots of free and discounted books in the genres I want.

Given these criteria, the best sites I follow are Ereader News Today and The Fussy Librarian.

Here, in alphabetical order, are my opinions on several sites that curate discounted and free ebooks. My comments relate to the daily emails that these sites send out, since these emails are the first impression that readers get on the ebooks featured by these promoters. Some of the sites also have Facebook pages and other ways of linking to the books they feature, but I prefer one email a day from each marketer, not constant posts throughout the day on Facebook or Twitter or other advertising.

Your preferences may be different than mine, so judge accordingly.

Bargain Booksy: This site lets readers sign up to get emails about books in Kindle, Nook, Apple, or other formats, but only one format of ebook, not all of them. The Bargain Booksy emails do not show multiple buy sites simultaneously. This site appears to only showcase discounted books, not free books, but the prices of the featured books are clear. The book categories are also shown, but it does not give ratings or a synopsis of the books it lists. I am not a fan of this visual interface, but others might like it.

BookBub:  BookBub is the granddaddy of ebook marketing sites, and claims to have more followers than any other sites. The prices they charge authors are comparably high. Readers can choose to receive emails that feature books for Kindle, for Nook, or for other formats, but readers cannot get links to all buy sites in a single email. It has a pleasingly clean visual interface, the prices are clear, the book categories are visible, and books are listed with a synopsis. However, the site does not show rating information.

BookGorilla: BookGorilla only features Kindle books. However, the price is clearly shown, the category of books visible, and the appearance is clean. BookGorilla shows brief synopses of featured books and other promotional text from the author. It does not show rating information, unless the author includes ratings in the write-up about the book.

Choosy Bookworm:  This site only features Kindle ebooks. It has a nice layout, and clearly shows a synopsis and the book prices and categories. It does not show ratings, and doesn’t promote as many ebooks as some of the other sites. My biggest complaint about Choosy Bookworm is that when you click on a book’s link in the daily email, it doesn’t take you to Amazon, but to the Choosy website, where you have to click again to get to Amazon to buy the book. The website does not give much more information than the email, so there is no reason for the website interface.

Digital Book Spot: This site features only Kindle ebooks. I don’t like the site, because there is a two-step process to get to Amazon to buy the books. First, I have to click on a link in the email to get the list of featured books. When I get to that list of books, I can see the price and a synopsis of each book, but no ratings or book categories are shown, so I have to click to the Amazon buy site to get more information about genre and ratings. Moreover, the site’s look is messy and interrupted by ads. The good news about this site is that it does promote a lot of books.

The EReader Cafe: This site only features Kindle ebooks. It has a good interface and provides a synopsis, but does not show book categories. It shows whether a book is free or a bargain, but doesn’t show the price of bargain books. It does not show book ratings. It, too, features many books each day.

Ereader News TodayThis site shows links to many buy sites, including Kindle (Amazon), Nook (Barnes & Noble), Apple, and others. The price and book category are easy to see, as are ratings and synopses of the books. I am not as fond of the appearance of this site as of Fussy Librarian and Riffle, but the information I want is all there.

The Fussy Librarian:  This site shows all buy sites where the books are available, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and others. It has a very nice visual layout, and clearly shows the prices, categories, and ratings of featured books. From a reader’s perspective, it is one of the best sites. However, this site seems to have fewer followers than some of the others listed in this post, so it doesn’t list as many books as some of the bigger promoters.

The Midlist: This site only lists a few books each day, and only Kindle ebooks. It has a decent visual interface and clearly identifies prices and includes a synopsis. However, it does not list book categories, nor does it show ratings of featured books.

OHFB: OHFB is short for “One Hundred Free Books.” I don’t know if it features 100 books each day, but it features a lot, and it is an eclectic mix of books, including classics. OHFB only lists Kindle books, but the prices and categories are clear, the visuals pleasing, and a synopsis included. It does not show ratings. However, the daily email only describes a few books. To get to the full listing of featured books, you have to click from the email to the OHFB website, and from there to Amazon.

Riffle Riffle is another site that features links to not only Amazon, but also Barnes & Noble, Apple, and other buy sites. It has a clean interface that clearly shows prices and categories, and also gives a synopsis. It does not show ratings.

I hope readers find this information helpful. I’m sure there are many more equally good ebook sites. But I follow enough already.

Readers, which are your favorite free and discount ebook sites?

* * * * *

Check out the latest review of my novel, Playing the Game, on Amazon:

“I was intrigued and hooked after only one chapter. A novel about a corporation that makes toys would not have been my first thought as a successful venue for suspense and crime drama, but . . . the author’s unique writing style . . . delivered on the suspense, and effective character development to boot. . . . Great job. I’m glad for the read, and for meeting a new author.”

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Case Study on Marketing a Self-Published Novel

I am not a marketer by profession or by inclination. However, as a writer and self-employed consultant, I have to spend some time marketing my work. This post is for writers and describes a price promotion I recently conducted for my novel, Playing the Game.

The usual price of my ebook is $4.99, but I reduced it for a couple of weeks in late June and early July to $0.99.

Self-published writers debate whether free promotions or $0.99 promotions are best, but I decided on a $0.99 promotion for two reasons. First, I wanted to keep my book for sale on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble during the promotion. Amazon’s Kindle store will not permit free ebooks except (1) for a few days if the book is enrolled in Kindle Select, or (2) if the ebook is free somewhere else. Second, free ebooks work well as an enticement to get readers to buy other books, but at this point I only have one novel to sell. I had nothing for readers to buy after trying my work for free, so I wanted some money for the book I do have!

Keep in mind that at a price point of $0.99, the author earns just $0.40 per ebook—it takes a lot of books to get rich! Wealth as a writer, as of yet, has eluded me.

PTG #1Here are the results of my promotion:

  • Playing the Game became the #1 ranked financial thriller in the Kindle store during the promotion, and stayed in the Top 100 in this category for a month—for several weeks after the promotion was over.
  • My sales at $0.99 per ebook covered the costs of paying for several book promoters to advertise the novel. I chose free and inexpensive promotional sites. Some were more successful than others.
  • The most successful site where I promoted the novel was EReader News Today. This book promoter takes 25% of the royalties earned through clicks through their site, which I thought was eminently fair, because it guarantees that the writer won’t lose money.
  • By contrast, I did not recoup my costs in advertising on The Fussy Librarian. I like the look of this site’s advertisements, but I did not sell enough ebooks through The Fussy Librarian to make it worth my while, even at the low price of $6.00.  Maybe if their readership grows, this will be a better opportunity for writers.

I learned a lot conducting this price promotion. Next time I promote my novel, I will probably invest more money up front on more expensive book advertising sites. It takes money to make money, in this context as in so many others.

And I also learned I should get back to writing!

In the meantime, I hope that my sales continue to grow and the book continues to get positive reviews.

Many thanks to readers who purchased my book. If you read and liked it, please post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Goodreads.

I appreciate those of you who have already reviewed it. Each review has made me smile.

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A Fourth of July Sale on My Novel

PTG Rickover coverI’ve had the ebook version of my novel Playing the Game on sale recently for just 99 cents, but the sale ends on July 6. This holiday weekend is your last opportunity to buy the book at this reduced price, which is offered in both the Kindle and Nook stores.

Since its publication late last year, Playing the Game has become a bestseller, and even reached #1 in the Kindle store for financial thrillers. It also was in the Top 20 legal thrillers last week. So if you like John Grisham, take a peek at Playing the Game.

One Amazon reader described the book as follows:

When Rick Players (CEO of toy company Playland) suffers a tragic accident, Playland’s head of HR, Maura Rodriguez, must fight the corporate America fight to keep the company afloat. This has all the trappings of a great tale of corporate fiction, but throw murder into the mix and you have a thriller. The story was so well written, I sailed through it in just one day. A brilliant story wrapped around reality, with believable characters and a plausible plot makes this novel one of the best choices of 2014.

I couldn’t ask for better praise than this.

Buy the book and take it on vacation with you this summer. As this reviewer said, it’s a fast read. Then let me know what you think. Click here to buy on Kindle, and here for Nook.

I hope you enjoy reading Playing the Game as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Remember, this sale ends July 6. Happy Independence Day!


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Can HR Be a Hero?

As an author, one of the tasks I had to undertake to self-publish my book was to define the category the book fits on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In my novel, Playing the Game, the heroine is Maura Ramirez, the head of Human Resources in the fictional company PlayLand, Inc.

There aren’t many novels where an HR manager is the protagonist, so there were no categories on Amazon or Barnes & Noble that quite fit. The best I could come up with was “financial thriller.”

Playing the Game is not a thriller in the sense that good guys are trying to prevent bad guys from defrauding a company’s shareholders, nor from causing doom in global markets. But it is a thriller in that the fate of the company hangs in the balance in one crisis after another—the CEO’s injury and unavailability, renegade employees, labor disputes, and supply chain failures.

In each of these crises, how managers act—including Human Resources—determines whether PlayLand will survive. In Playing the Game, HR is definitely the hero. Many of the other managers fumble and bumble.

And, oh, by the way, someone is killed, and there is a murder to solve!

Here are some reviews of my novel that mention how it portrays HR:

PTG front cover all caps“This book shows the workings of an HR department in a large family owned business. A mystery that was a fast read. Interesting characters with many twists and turns in the plot.”


“Just finished Playing the Game. As an HR person, I think the book really nailed it. For those interested in an insider’s view of life in human resources, it is a great read!”


“If you’ve ever been in the corporate world, this is must read. Sara Rickover does a terrific job telling the powerful story of a corporate president, his staff, and most importantly, his loyal and competent HR person. I loved how the book kept me turning pages. “

To amuse myself, I tried typing in “HR thriller” in Amazon’s Kindle store to see what would happen. Playing the Game shows up as #5. “HR thriller” might not be a well-known book category, but you can find my novel with that search.

Or just search for Playing the Game, by Sara Rickover.

Or click here to find it on Amazon, or here to find it on Barnes & Noble.


When has HR been a hero in your experience?

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