Laying out my writing wares for the passersby

I’m planning to revise the site, and one of the things I’m mulling over is how does a fiction writer provide value for a visitor to her books’ site?

My personal blog here is all over the map, by design – the readers I hope to attract to buy and read Pride’s Children PURGATORY (Book 1), the prequel short story, and, as they are available, Books 2 and 3, NETHERWORLD and…? are not necessarily interested in my opinions and experiences as an recent inhabitant of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).

What do I hope for from readers of my fiction who get to the other site, say, from the link in the back of Book 1, or from a recommendation from a friend?

Without answering these questions, I have no hope of supplying these readers with something they value, preferably something they NEED.

What do my readers NOT need?

I decided to visit the Amazon reviews of several novels that could realistically be called ‘comps’ – books that by their general complexity, genre (contemporary mainstream), style (reasonably realistic), length (big fat books), and language (literary) are similar to Pride’s Children.

There I’m going to check out the negative reviews, and found what made readers unhappy. I’ll ignore the reviews which are too general, and look for specific buzz-killers.

And then I’ll pull some quotes from my own reviews (many fewer, of course) that point out I don’t commit these sins. If true.

Here’s the list, paraphrased for conciseness:

  • unbelievable due insufficient character development
  • The sentences, paragraphs, passages… all just SO incredibly long
  • I got halfway through and I felt as if nothing happened
  • There was not a single character that I cared about
  • The dishonesty of most characters was so out of my comfort level
  • two of the least interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in literature
  • digs in to all the nasty-ness entailed in living a life of degrading self abuse via abuse of various substances
  • I made it to page 354 and then skipped, skipped, skipped
  • a blow-by-blow, second-by-second rendering of the narrator’s life
  • I thought it would never end
  • I simply didn’t enjoy the story enough to appreciate the pages and pages about the meaning of life.
  • Lacks: an interesting narrative, a plot, a satisfying ending
  • pretentious, long winded, tiresome, tepid novel
  • unedited and rambling and somehow that’s supposed to make it literary
  • why did it take [almost 800] pages to tell that story
  • filled with so many ludicrous plot holes that it’s just not something I can stomach
  • a descent into a bottomless well of self-pity, gloom, and urban angst
  • the punctuation and structure of sentences is horrid to the point that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to follow the thought process of the author
  • there are missing words, wrong words and misspelled words throughout the book
  • goes on about [X or Y topics] too long
  • … talks about how precarious [character’s] finances are and yet they live in a [very fancy place], take cabs everywhere and seem to eat out all the time.
  • …why wasn’t author consistent?
  • illogical transportation
  • The character’s conversations were completely unbelievable. He’s supposed to be a X, give him the voice, thoughts and mannerisms of X!
  • Author seemed to be grandstanding about how much she knows about Z.
  • I find the reference … overly coy. Just name it, or make up a name.
  • [Plot point] was excruciatingly long (not in a you-are-there way; in a boring and overly-lengthy way) and repetitive. Author could have accomplished so much more with so much less.
  • Author overused words that tend to jump out at the reader like “loitering” and “grappling.” Does author not own a Thesaurus? It would be so easy to substitute synonyms…

From my reviewers (completely unprompted – I didn’t know these readers when I wrote PC):

  • I just read PC in 10 hours straight, and I am speechless.
  • …you have managed the best instance of “the story is not finished, but this segment of it feels finished” that I have ever encountered.
  • just wanted to say its VERY GOOD, and what an ironic and sharp eye you have for le mot juste, and the silence pregnant. Very enjoyable, no sign of the damaged mind but I resonate strongly with your main character
  • I had meant to read up on it ages ago and just never did, so I glommed everything last week. Now i’m like, damn it, i have to WAIT for more?! Noooooooooooooooo
    So just keep it up. No pressure of adoring fans or anything.
  • Very character-driven, very slow burn, very subtle. I loved it. The characters are rich and real. The scenes build upon one another with clear purpose. The writing is exquisitely careful.
  • I read chapter 1 out of curiosity, chapter 2 out of interest; the rest of the story will keep me up all night. Beautiful.
  • I put it off because it didn’t really seem like my kind of story. But I loved it. You did a great job.
  • Your writing puts me in mind of the classics only in modern era. Those are the stories that will live forever. They scream for detail and need the long way around.
  • Pride’s Children has helped me to look inside myself and see many things I need to see and deal with. I have never read a work of fiction that has touched me so powerfully! I love it and will be rereading many times. You did not cause any pain .
    You gave me increased awareness of myself.

  • Just finished reading and posted a review on Amazon. I loved it! I’m impressed by the infinite care that you put into it, the choice of words (so sensitive!) and the absolute lack of typos, that’s something of a record!

And more.

Is tooting your own horn a good or a bad thing?

In the indie writer world, if the author doesn’t do it, it doesn’t happen.

I didn’t write the words in the section above – I somehow inspired them. I have permission from their authors to use them any way I want.

It still feels like something my mother would disapprove of, as she reared me to be a proper woman so many years ago, in Mexico, in the 60s – with a style and morality more like the US in the 40s.

Modesty is a virtue, but women have come a long way from that upbringing.

In any case, I plan to use both my reviewers words and my own published and pre-published words to reach the readers I want to attract.

It is my hope that if I can get the right readers to try – a few words, a few pages, a few chapters – that they will stick, and they will like what I have written for them.

Because I love having this effect on another human being.

Please join in with your pet peeve about writers or books – I’d love to read them!

And will try to avoid them.



9 thoughts on “Laying out my writing wares for the passersby

  1. Lynda Dietz

    Something I’d like to see on your Pride’s Children site is a tab with an actual description of the book itself. There are acknowledgments and information about print vs. ebook (a section that needs updated to show that print is now available), but I had to scroll through a solid handful of blog posts (the most recent being May 2019) to even find a snippet of dialogue from a phone call.

    Granted, that snippet was a good one—and it was actually intriguing, which made me want to reread the book at my first opportunity. (One of my pet peeves is when writers share a bit of WIP dialogue that’s super meaningful to their longtime fans, but which means nothing—and therefore has no impact—for someone unfamiliar with a book/series. I’m writing a blog post about it, in fact. But I digress.)

    My point is that there’s not a section that specifically tells potential readers what the book is actually about, and why they should read it. The cover doesn’t give any clues as to the richness of the friendship/relationship that’s waiting on the inside pages, and there’s no blurb that gives a teaser or synopsis for the potential book buyer. The “look inside” feature on the Amazon page is wonderfully long—maybe you can feature a portion of it on your site for those who might not want that extra click to Amazon, or who aren’t part of Wattpad.

    A friend of mine who’s skilled in marketing and communications always told me if a person has to click more than three times to find information on your website, they’re likely to simply leave without that information. You could check your website analytics to see where your bounce rate is the highest, and boost that page first. Just a few thoughts! I hope I haven’t overstepped. I just know I enjoyed the book so much that I’d love to see it promoted well, especially if you’re close to releasing the second book in the series. Create the excitement for people who haven’t found you yet, and recreate the anticipation of Andrew and Kary’s next phase of their relationship for your current readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Overstepped? No! Thanks! I just copied your notes above to the marketing section so I can make sure I haven’t missed any.

      My intention is to serialize Book 2, as I did Book 1, a scene every week, as I finish writing it. Since I write in complete scenes, this is feasible.

      I need to completely revamp first, and update, and make sure what’s at the end of Book 1 leads to the right place, etc., etc., but I’m still working with a damaged brain. The last thing I want to do is make promises I can’t keep.

      One of the things I WILL do, when I go ahead, is figure out a way to make sure anyone who starts gets the ending (I hate it when I don’t know what happens to characters) if something happens to me in this time of pandemic. It won’t be the polished end, but you WILL learn what ended up where. Because I know.

      Your comments are very welcome and very helpful.

      My plan is to introduce each scene with a short excerpt from it – I have a lot of favorite pieces!

      But my biggest problem has always been having the energy and the coherent brain to do the writing the way I want to. Brain fog is a bummer.

      As Kary says, showing up every day at the computer counts – ask any writer. But it doesn’t guarantee the brain will click on. I think I have a handle on it – I’ll know within a week or so.

      PS You saying you liked PURGATORY is very encouraging. I appreciate so much you taking the time.

      BTW, I scheduled a Kindle countdown – and forgot. It has started.

      I’m trying to see if there is any organic effect from that. I need to take advantage of it every 90 days. SO many things on the TO DO list, so little brain.

      Wish there were some things set up for disabled writers that I could take advantage of, but we swim in the same pond with everyone else (but with lead flippers).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lynda Dietz

        I’m glad you found the comments helpful instead of irritating. And I mean every word of it when I say I enjoyed PURGATORY. If I don’t like something, I usually stay politely silent.

        I appreciate that you have plans made for making sure your readers know what happens to the characters. I read a SF book years ago that I really enjoyed, and it clearly ended in a way that I assumed would lead to a follow-up novel, but the author never wrote another. She wrote a wonderful SF series and a few other books, and I thought maybe she died or became too ill to write or something, so I check out her website. Nope, she’s alive and well (which is good) but apparently there has still been no second book in that particular world. There was a mention of it being republished (maybe under a different publisher?) in 2019, so maybe there was some weird holdup with book rights. Even so, doggone it, I want to know what happens if I’ve become attached to characters whose story isn’t over.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          For me, as a very slow writer in a covid-vulnerable cohort, I think it is vital – especially if I’m going to tempt readers with a serial.

          ESPECIALLY since I know the end – and am only working out the details and the language as I go. Which has proven hideously difficult – much harder than I expected, partly because I want it a certain way…

          Your comments are ALWAYS helpful. Please never hesitate to make them.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. acflory

    I had the same kind of upbringing, just add in some nuns. Or maybe you had nuns too?
    I know what you’re trying to do but I suspect readers do want to know about /you/.
    Do you remember that Roberta Flack song, the line – “telling my whole life with his words”. When you touch someone’s life they want to know who is capable of doing that. Just be you. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Of course I had nuns! Benedictines who ran the all-girls school I spent six years at in Mexico, and nuns for first grade in California.

      Three of my sisters graduated from Colegio Guadalupe, and the youngest almost did (my parents moved). We all remember it fondly.

      I guess I understand the impulse to know the writer if you like their work. I have done that with Margaret Mitchell (GWTW) and Colleen McCullough and Nevil Shute – a bit. You like to know where things came from.

      My problem is that once you emphasize that the writer is ill, a whole bunch of assumptions – many of them untrue – are made by readers. They can’t help it: ‘disabled’ and ‘chronically ill’ are triggers to people’s beliefs and fears.

      I don’t know how to manage that, so I’ve not exactly hidden it, but I don’t make a big deal of it, and have NOT used it in marketing.

      If there were some huge prize or award, then I’d worry about being compared to other disabled folk, and the question of ‘how disabled are you’? comes up, and whether you are worthy of… You know the drill.

      I grew up not knowing much about the authors of the books I loved, beyond the little sketches in literature anthologies. I am reticent to be more up-front about it – so I poured all that into my characters.

      I don’t want to be ‘a disabled writer’ but a writer who happens to be disabled. Big can of worms, because I have to consider READERS who are disabled and who may prefer to ignore it – or be happy it is being dealt with – and you can’t satisfy both groups!

      People don’t necessarily remember how ill the Brontë sisters were much of the time, and that they probably all died of TB. Even though there is a huge section affected by illness in Jane Eyre, Jane herself seems to have been sturdy, at least during the story.

      Kary says it best: The book wouldn’t exist. She would have been a practicing physician with no time for writing fiction, a mother, a wife, probably still married to the infamous Dr. Charles Renton – if she hadn’t gotten sick. If, if, if…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. acflory

        It’s a fine line, but if readers empathize with our characters, they will wonder about ‘us’. It’s inevitable. That’s one reason I agonized so much over Vokhtah. Would my readers – assuming I had any – wonder if /I/ was a psychopath disguised as an ‘alien’?
        In the end, I realised that it didn’t matter. If we’ve done our jobs properly, our stories will remain and we will be nothing but a name and a history, if we’re lucky.


  3. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I think that some of the negative reviews were probably written by trolls that never read the books they bashed. It is sad but true that there are some sick Trumpish-style trolls out there that love to leave bad reviews for books they have never read. One way to ferret them out is to click on the link to the Amazon page that shows all their reviews. If they review mostly books and films and the reviews run from 5 stars to 1 star and the positive reviews dominate (I mean, how many avid readers keep reading books they are not enjoying – life is too short when you love to read?), then they are not a troll, but if there are few books or maybe only one or two and lots of reviews for junk a teenager would buy like candy and toys, they are a troll. I’m not inferring that they are teens. They could be ninety,but they never grew up just like Donald Trump still has a four-year-old bully’s mind.



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