Friday, August 17, 2012

How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Author: Steven Starklight
Genre: Non-Fiction
How long it's been on sale: May, 2012
Current price: $9.99
Marketing: Posted references and links to the book on FB, e-mailed links to friends, referenced the book in blog comments on various criminal justice blogs, e-mailed inquiries to various criminal justice degree program chairs asking if they would like a free copy.

Total sold so far: 0

Link to book on Amazon: How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Product Description:

The Ultimate Reference & Learning Guide for Aspiring Cops

Law enforcement is not only one of the most satisfying careers, you can make a good living at it, too. With How to be a Police you will understand what you need to know so your application is current and competitive. Use this guide to prepare for a job interview or to brush up on the newest trends in law enforcement. This guide will explain many common applicant errors, standard operating procedures for hiring into the academy. More than just “stories,” this guide explains law enforcement employment from the perspective of somebody who has taken on every role in the field.

Key topics include:

* What criminal records will disqualify you from service – which won’t.
* Do you need a college education?
* Do I really need to get in shape before applying?
* What job experience makes you more attractive to a department?

Steven Starklight is a twenty year veteran to law enforcement, with extensive experience spanning coast to coast and overseas. He has served as a police officer, deputy sheriff, police legal adviser, assistant district attorney and most recently, as a special agent of the FBI. He is a recognized expert and has provided instruction in the fields of Criminal Law, Evidence, and Police Ethics. He has spoken at numerous venues regarding various law enforcement matters and has earned numerous accolades for his work.

Steven has advanced degrees in Philosophy and Law and has written several books on law enforcement and several fictional titles being prepared for publication. His writings have been published in at least one law review and cited by many others.

Mr. Starklight has settled on the west coast and is married with two children. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and putting perpetrators in jail.

First 300 Words:

My goal with this book is to guide you through the process of getting a job as a law enforcement officer. First and foremost, let’s get one definition out of the way. When I say law enforcement officer, or LEO, I mean it to include just about every job that involves a gun and badge: police officer, deputy sheriff, correctional officer, campus police officer, detective, parole agent, probation officer, and anyone else that carries a gun and badge and enforces the law. From this point forward, I will refer to all of these people as LEOs.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself; just enough to demonstrate why I know what I am talking about. My career as a LEO began in January 1993 as a county police officer. Since that time I have also worked as a deputy sheriff, a campus police officer, a district attorney’s investigator, and a special agent with the FBI. I have also prosecuted crimes as an assistant district attorney and worked as the police legal advisor for a major state law enforcement agency. Over the past 20 years I have been through the background process (and been hired) by seven different law enforcement agencies. That’s a lot of applications, polygraphs, reference checks, drug tests; well, you get the picture. During that time I have watched a lot of people wash out of the process for various reasons; some were in poor shape, some had miserable driving records, some lied, some used drugs, some had criminal records. The process is long, difficult and fraught with pitfalls. I will try to identify those pitfalls and help you avoid them.

Those of you that already have the mind of a LEO will probably try to Google my name and try to determine whether I am telling the truth about my career. Every word of it is true except for two: Steven Starklight. Because of the nature of my current work assignment, I cannot use my real name.

Comments: I think the cover is very nicely designed. The biggest problem I see with this cover are the words on it. Not the design, the actual words. How to be a police? Really? You can't be a police. You can call the police. You can be a police officer. You can't be a police. The title makes this book look funny, like it's a joke. But even that's not the worst thing on the cover. "Get a Gun and Badge Today." The sub-title confirms it. This has to be a joke, right? Any real person looking at going into law enforcement isn't going to take this seriously. No one thinks you can read a book and go get a gun and badge the same day. It really cheapens what I think this book is trying to do, which is advise those looking at law enforcement as a career. I really thought this book was a humorous novel until I took a closer look and realized what it was. I would definitely get a new title and cut the sub-title altogether.

The description could be greatly improved. Much of it reads like an author bio. I want to know what the book will teach me, not how many jobs the author has had. (Which, by the way, gives me a little pause. It almost reads like the author couldn't hold a job. Maybe downplay all the different jobs in the author bio, and just say the author has had 20 years of experience in law enforcement.)

My suggestion for the description would be to take out much of the bio, and list more of what the book will teach. Focus on why I should buy the book, not why I should believe the author.

The beginning of the book gives me the same concern as the author bio and description. It really hits hard that the author has had many, many jobs in law enforcement. The author has given a TON of interviews. This makes me wonder why he couldn't hold onto one job. I'd cut the bio stuff, and get to the instructional part. I think the first paragraph is fine. And I wouldn't go into why you can't google the author's name. They're not buying the book because of the author. They are buying the book for tips on the application and interview process for becoming a police officer. It's not rocket science. The author does not need to qualify himself, in my opinion. Sure, tell some stories, but I don't think anyone has to be convinced that the author is telling the truth. That in and of itself makes me think the author is lying. If, at the end, you want to mention something about the pen name, I think that's fine. Don't do it in the beginning. Get right to the book.

Non-fiction books are often priced higher, however, I think $9.99 might be a bit high for this book. It's not long. It gives tips on applying to be a police officer. No one will need to refer to this book over and over like many text books. Think about lowering it a bit.

Now, I don't mean to step on any toes here, but let's look at something. This book has had 0 sales. The book was published on May 21st. There are four reviews on this book, left on May 22, May 23, and two on May 25. Every review left is by someone with a first name only and who have only reviewed either just this book, or books written by Steven Starklight, or someone whose publisher is the same as another Steven Starklight book, and whose language and syntax are very similar. I'm not a police officer, but to me these do not look like real reviews. Please, please, please take down the fake reviews. They do not do you any favors. (And if your friends wrote them, urge them to take them down.)

In summary, I would change the title, get rid of the sub-title, trim the author bio to a minimum. Also, remember the target audience for this book will be small. This is a very specific book, so it won't appeal to a large group of people.

What do you guys think?


  1. My first thoughts on reading the critique was, "Ow, my toes!!"

    I agree with the title being peculiar. It needs to read "How to Become a Police Officer" or "How to become a Cop". Either one. It should NOT read, "How to Become a LEO" zodiacish.

    I know officers don't like being called cops, but trust me, out of earshot of any LEO, you are all cops. There is even a TV show with that name; don't shirk from it.

    I disagree with Victorine on the bio being in the forefront. It is not bragging, or bashing me over the head with quantifying who he is, or what he has done. Police, or people wishing to become police, need to assert exactly who they are in EVERY situation...including the introduction of a book (IMHO). I am not a cop, but I have friends who are, and the personality type is generally the same: I. AM. A. COP. 24/7. It's not what they do for a living, it's not hanging up the badge when they come home. The only time they are not a cop? When they are retired. At which point, they become busybodies.

    What really CRUSHED my toes was beating the poor guy down with the number of job titles. Re-read them. They are all moving up the career ladder, and it tells me he was ambitious, and more importantly, he was able to avoid the pitfalls and wants to help others avoid them as well. I would follow this guy into battle, that's how he comes across, authoritative, and my opinion, I think it sets the correct tone for the book.

    There is a movie with Russel Crowe, Master and Commander. He pulls a young officer aside and says, "Hey, pull your weight. People are beginning to look at your funny because you are so many years old, and you shouldn't be a jr. officer anymore. Shape up or ship out."

    I would question anyone who had the same job title after 20 years on the job.

    Maybe he can tone it down a bit, with the language choice. The "First of alls" the "let me tell you a little about me"...I would lose those outright. State your credentials better, and move into how the book will help me get a badge and a gun. Read a few other non-fiction "howto" books and see how professors, doctors, etc state their experience, and move onto the helping. Good luck!

  2. I like it except for two things. I would say change the title and reduce the price. While non-fiction can be priced higher than fiction, I would say the $5.99 to $6.99 price range is going to work better. And that title! Ouch!

  3. I've got to say I had the same reaction as Vicki. The list of job titles didn't bother me so much, but the fact that I can't verify ANY of it does. Anyone can call themselves an expert and claim all sorts of experience, but if it can't be vetted it's meaningless to me. If someone whose background can be vetted, whose identity can be verified and is an expert recommended the book, that would help.

    What kills all credibility for me is the title/subtitle. I, too, thought it was a humorous spoof and not serious non-fiction. That, in addition to what (as Vicki said) really look like sock puppet reviews are just deal killers. It feels unethical to me and that's not the best selling point for an expert in law enforcement.

    All of that said, there could be a good/useful book here, but no one will ever know it with the above issues.

  4. The title is a major issue - it doesn't make sense, as stated. My first question was "how is this author qualified to write this book?" I immediately looked for the credentials and was pleased to see them right there. Now, if I could forgive the title, I might look further because this guy probably knows what he is talking about. The slogan at the bottom needs changing - maybe 'earn your badge and your gun starting today'. The book needs tags on Amazon - it only has one 'cops'. Until the title is fixed, most readers will likely expect to find either a spoof or a book choc-full of typos and errors and selling it will be tough.

  5. I don't need to reiterate what has already been said about the title and potential confusion about the nature of the book, although I definitely agree. The bio doesn't bother me (or sell me on the book) much, but I'm not in the target audience, so that also doesn't mean a whole lot coming from me. Visually I like the presentation of "Get a Gun and Badge Today" but it really can't say that. If you can find a similar active phrase ("Learn to Serve and Protect" or...?), I'd keep some text there, it helps frame the cover (IMHO). You might run some slogans/subtitles by others to see what works best.

  6. After fixing the title snafu, I think that a re-work on the interior would be in order. Perhaps this is something you can leave up to a ghost writer. It appears that you have the credentials, and it is important to state that up front, but I think that where you are strong in that area, you are weaker at getting across your point and communicating the wisdom and experience you have at your fingertips.

    The stern, authoritative voice is essential in this setting and with your potential audience. It sets a tone and an expectation. However, it is also a delicate thing, where you can overemphasize it so much that it becomes abrasive.

    But, the interior isn't your problem, it's the title. And all your marketing needs to point at you first. YOU are the brand. YOU are the expert with the know-how. YOU are the one that is promising them results. Sell YOU.

    Once you sell you, market you, brand you, then the book will move. But, before you do, fix the interior. Get a professional. Do it right. Your audience will respond in a more positive way, and word-of-mouth will help others to pick it up. Then, follow up with people who comment that your book helped them land that Campus Police job, or that Sheriff Deputy position. Pay for their testimonial and keep the ball rolling. You can only do this if you partner with the right professional to marry your knowledge and expertise with the right vehicle for it to reach the audience you want. Oh, and Always Be Marketing!

    Good luck!

  7. Thank you all for your comments! I agree that the title could be improved, and the publisher and I have discussed it already.

    On the other things, I appreciate everyone's honesty.... this is not the business for people with a thin skin, and I am no stranger to criticism. I will try to improve the second edition accordingly. Thanks again!

  8. I noticed part of your marketing strategy is referencing your book in blog comments. Not sure if many individuals click through on comments... I typically don't. If you're targeting specific blogs (blogs dealing with law enforcement), you might consider asking the blog owners to review your book. It'd provide you legitimate reviews plus a bit of advertisement.

    Another marketing strategy you might try is a Goodreads giveaway. Once the giveaway ends, go through the list of entrants and choose some you think would appreciate your book and offer them digital copies. Again, that may garnish additional legitimate reviews. My thinking, if they entered the giveaway, they likely wanted to win and hopefully read the book, especially since reviewing books they win increases the chance of them winning additional books.

    I can see a book like this doing well at college fair. Several months ago, our local community college had an arts & crafts fair. One table offered children's books.

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