If you have ever wanted to read my novels – there’s a Kindle Countdown deal starting Jan. 12 at 8am (GMT in the UK, and PT in the US) at 0.99, and all the details are at the books’ blog.
There are also instructions for creating a free BookSprout account, downloading the ebooks for free – in exchange for writing a review. I have ZERO control over the review content, as it should be, and love to read what readers think.
I’m the worst marketer ever, in addition to one of the slowest, but I LOVE my blog readers to get a bargain.
A friend said you should consider a blogger’s fiction if you like their posts – makes sense.
Seems such an obvious statement, but being invisible is a big problem for authors – getting the title of your book out there is a constant pressure, and you become very fond of those who make the effort on your blog, their blog, a writing site, a reading site, or any place where readers who would like YOUR books congregate.
And then something has to persuade them to read enough words to get to a ‘Call to Action,’ which can be as simple as a recommendation followed by a link.
The problem of recommendations
If the subject of what you’re reading comes up naturally, I don’t find it too difficult to ask a few questions about what someone new to me likes to read.
I rattle off a couple of favorites of mine – say Jane Eyre and the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries and maybe Dune – and watch to see if the listener’s reaction is fight or flight.
No one likes pushy authors, those who insist their books are ‘for everyone.’ Because it’s not a very believable statement in general, though people who are glad they read Jane Eyre have the most flexible mindset (which is why it gets so much attention). The enjoyment, or even that the story was self-chosen, are the keys – such a reader probably plowed (or ploughed) through similar long-lasting books.
I tried reading A Confederacy of Dunces – an award winner with a good author story (John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when he couldn’t find a publisher, his mother persuaded a legendary literary agent to champion the book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize), but had to force myself to finish Chapter 1. Because it may be brilliant, but it made my gorge rise and choke me. ‘Icky’ is the best I can remember about that long-ago attempt I have no desire to repeat. I don’t get very far into Lolita, either, for similar reasons. Or The Catcher in the Rye.
I can’t imagine their authors spending time with those characters, however good the writing may be.
So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and am glad I don’t have to assign either book to, say, a class of high school juniors (assuming teachers still get to make those choices), and then have to talk about it in class.
It’s personal for the author
And books can become a personal crusade favorite for readers who then recommend, gift, or lend something they loved.
So, if you LIKED a book, take a moment and do SOMETHING to encourage the author to keep it up:
Rate the book
Review and rate it
Blog about it
Recommend it to a friend
Leave nice words on the author’s websites
Buy an extra copy to lend
Send a copy to a friend or family member
Use as gifts
Ask your library to order the book(s)
Write a guide
Mention your favorite parts
Tell people you can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy
Hire a band to parade in DC in costume
Anything you would like if YOU had written the book.
Be your most creative.
Give a copy to any medical personnel who have no empathy for diseases like ME/CFS – this will allow them to live the life of one – without actually having to get it, or Long Covid, or Post-polio Syndrome, or Lyme disease – or any one of a bunch of post-viral syndromes and similar misunderstood ‘invisible’ diseases.
Crusade for indie books in principle by doing something a little beyond your normal response – the author will be delighted.
It’s not the money (though adequate royalties of around $6 per any version I have are about three times larger than many traditional authors make per book) – I crave the readers. Thanks!
If you are interested in my fiction, and haven’t signed up at its site, click on Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD‘s announcement post for the ebook – but the print version is already up, cover and all, and Amazon has notified me it may take 3 days.
The ebook took ONE HOUR to be approved, late last night – I guess no one else was up!
Details at the link – not everyone who comes here is interested in fiction.
Check there, too, for the details of the two Kindle Countdown Deals that are set up – one for PURGATORY, Sep. 21, and one for NETHERWORLD, Oct. 19. Best way to pick up a copy of either.
In 2015, I was publishing a book for the first time, after spending a gazillion years writing the first book in my Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy, PURGATORY.
Newbies have a lot to learn, and it is an intense experience if you do it yourself, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way you will forget the steps.
But you have to allow for change – from the outside world – and it won’t take you or your needs into account.
I forgot two major things: software changes and computer crashes.
Software changes negate some changes you make to your copy
I was barely surviving, even back in 2015 when I spent a summer learning graphics and covers and formatting, and I thought that, between my notes and my blog posts, I was saving enough information to do it again with the second book in the trilogy (eventually named NETHERWORLD).
I didn’t even think – no spare brain cells – that the process would be different in a few years, and that it would take me seven to write the next book. Seven is a big number of years in computers.
Because of several computer crashes during those years, and a coast-to-coast move from New Jersey to California, I had to rely on backups for some of my major applications, and sometimes those backups came from outside my own storage systems.
When you download such a backup, you get a pristine copy, ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE YOUR MODIFICATIONS.
And the major mod that bit me was that on several of my indispensable applications, including Word, Scrivener, and Pixelmator, I had installed fonts I used for the interior and the exterior of the book – duly licensed and paid for – because I liked them.
Find your fonts: on your computer – or download them again
Because I included a Design Notes page at the end of the printed copies of PURGATORY, I had a list of all the fonts I used, their licensing information, and where I’d downloaded them from; plus where I’d licensed them from, with a copy of the invoice and registration information.
Not easily accessible – I didn’t think they would disappear, so I was cavalier about storing them properly – but (and here I credit Apple for saving my bacon several times by making a back of my data at the time of the crashes) they were there on my computer backups, and I eventually located all my information.
Font information is now stored in a MUCH clearer fashion, in a folder on my Desktop labeled 2022 PC Storage/2022 PC FONTS (incl PC1 fonts), and backed up on my computer and in the iCloud, so I won’t have to do this again.
[NOTE: this is where I’m trying to save other users, especially self-published authors (SPAs), time and effort – do this from the beginning, and add all new fonts to this storage system, and don’t be like Alicia.]
Fonts I use for covers or exteriors for Pride’s Children:
Alido (monospaced, from SummitSoft, licensed in the Big Graphics Bundle)
New Yorker (a very good imitation of the expensive official one, free from Allen R. Walden, to be credited)
Goudy Serial (from SoftMakerSoftwareGmbH, licensed) in 6 weights
Sorts Mill Goudy (free from Barry Schwarz, credit)
Cambria (pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
Book Antiqua (monospaced, pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
Saving – and printing out and saving in physical form – the licensing information is a good idea; fonts are someone’s Intellectual Property, and you don’t want problems with a published book because you don’t have the required information handy to prove you licensed what you use – SPAs are a small business, and it helps to behave like one.
Install the fonts on your system
Before you do anything with additional fonts, they have to be installed on your computer in a form you can then add to your software.
For the Macs, this means installing them into the app Font Book, which couldn’t be simpler (assuming the font is one of the approved font types – which I found listed at Apple Support).
The extra fonts I chose for PURGATORY were all .otf or .ttf, which made it vastly simpler for me: double click on the font, Font Book opens automatically, click Install.
Book Antiqua and Cambria were IN the Font Book already, which makes me think that installing Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac also installed the Office fonts properly. Thanks, Microsoft!
Transfer the fonts to your software – if necessary
On the Mac I don’t have to do this! All the fonts in the Font Book that are not grayed out were now available when I opened Pixelmator!
And now I’m back where I was, font-wise, before the computer crashes and the move, and know a lot more than I did then.
Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.
Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.
I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.
THERE IS NO POINT
in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]
It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!
Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.
As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.
It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.
There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.
Hope I’m still around.
More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.
Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!
It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.
The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.
Because love hasn’t been translating into action.
So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?
But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.
Physical problems have been the stumbling block
I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.
Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.
And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.
I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.
So I shouldn’t worry, right?
Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.
If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.
Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).
Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet
but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!
I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.
So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.
If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.
As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.
I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.
And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.
It is axiomatic that there are no overnight successes.
Because it takes huge amounts of determination and preparation to be ready to respond well when an opportunity finally comes along – and if you’re not ready, it will leave you in the dust and move on.
Take your American Idol singer
The pipes that astonish are not natural, spur of the moment, magically angelic. Nope. If so, they are most likely to freeze at the first sign of stress.
The singer not only sings a lot in the shower, but has had parents paying for individual teachers, has been singing in the church choir, has spent years listening to music, and has been through a whole list of roles in the school plays.
Being on stage in front of a bunch of strangers and wowing Simon Cowell is not a fluke.
The illusion that it is sudden and unexpected and a direct blessing from Heaven is for the AUDIENCE. The ones who want to jump on the bandwagon as it goes by because, “I’m just as good as she is.” It keeps them buying the advertised products, watching the shows, purchasing tickets for Kelly Clarkson when she comes to town.
Even the little Wow! stories are the product of hours and hours and hours of cameramen recording every remotely possible candidate practicing in the hall – to be scrolled through for the exciting bits AFTER the winner has been chosen.
It matters only for the individuals
The producers don’t care who wins – they have SO many contestants that their triage is stricter than that after a major accident: they may let a few charismatic duds go through a few levels they aren’t qualified for – one leaves in the random possibility because crowds are fickle, but the staff’s job is to make sure that the two or three possibles culled out of each thousand who apply are usable.
They have no investment in a particular candidate. It’s dangerous to have one because talent and stardom are unpredictable beasts.
But the individual candidates, those who want to win, have to be ready to win – if it happens.
Artists need support BEFORE
before they are recognized as somehow ‘good.’
before they get discouraged and stop producing amazing work.
before everyone else discovers them.
It is even more important for those who are slow, or for whom doing the work is a great mental and/or physical effort.
I know that I will never forget the earliest responses on Wattpad from other writers, the ones who kept me cheerfully sharpening my nose. Because they KNEW – and SAID so – BEFORE others.
Peter Hyland, one of my characters, says,
“None of my friends are perfect. And most of them are irreplaceable. They provide the mirror when I get too big for my britches. New ones are hard to find.” He squinted at the dying sun. “I need them far more than they need me.”
PRIDE’S CHILDREN: PURGATORY, Chapter 13
It is hard for people to commit, to say, “I’ve found this new writer/photographer/painter…, and you should look into their work” to recommend someone to a friend. What if the friend doesn’t like the new artist? Easier not to say anything, and just nod wisely.
But once the wagon is full, one more supporter isn’t going to make that much of a difference.
Getting started is hard – but up to the writer, who is the one to make the decision when something is first ready to be released to the public.
But keeping it going is much harder still, and that’s when the support can make the difference between someone going on to do creditable work – or quitting.
It may or may not be important, or a stepping stone of any size, but I’m saying thank you to all my readers who have been saying, “I like what you write,” since I started putting Pride’s Children out in serial form on Wattpad.
You may or may not have noticed the new badge on the sidebar.
Pride’s Children: PURGATORY has been named Indies Today’s 2021 BEST CONTEMPORARY novel, and I’d love it if those of you who read mainstream fiction would pop over to my other site, the one for the books, and sign up to follow that blog as I get ready to finish and publish the second novel in the trilogy, Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD.
To satisfy its customers, to make searching for what they want easy (easier), to supply it efficiently.
By revolution I mean both also that things turned around – 180° – from where they were, sort of, before.
Because before this all happened, ‘literary’ was a separate category in bookstores.
And literary meant a number of things:
Difficult to read, requiring great attention
Small in scope – One DAY in the life of Ivan Denisovich
Using difficult flowery language
Very detailed – a navel closely observed and described
Slow and languid
Somehow not for everyone
Requiring a large SAT vocabulary
For people with an MA in English or Literature
Suitable proof for a doctorate
A credential for teaching English or Literature
With a limited audience
Maybe French or translated from Italian or Russian
Often not ending anywhere near happily
Add or subtract from my list what comes into your head when you hear ‘literary novel.’ Please feel free to mention them in a comment.
What’s the revolution, you ask?
That ‘literary’ now means ‘traditionally published good stuff’ on Amazon, and is seen as almost the exclusive purview of, you guessed it, the traditional publishers large and small.
The books that are vetted by agents and editors at publishing companies (excluding the celebrity stuff), and are therefore both ‘better’ and ‘not for the hoi polloi.’
The other similar term is ‘historical,’ which is a little fuzzier and often about WWII, sometimes about WWI or the American Civil War.
Because the term ‘mainstream’ disappeared, and is not the same as ‘contemporary,’ which can be attached to, say, a Romance and a worldview: ‘Contemporary Christian Romance’ is a searchable thing.
It is considered presumptuous to label your own work ‘classic.’
And ‘General Fiction’ is not a category, but a garbage can.
‘Psychological’ is filling the empty slot somewhat – almost all novels for grownups are psychological, but is confounded by ‘thriller,’ ‘horror’, and ‘women’s fiction.’ With, of course, nothing actually labeled ‘fiction for men.’
It used to be possible to find mainstream fiction by looking for ‘a novel’ on the cover. No more. It now means only ‘book of at least 50 pages.’
It doesn’t matter for mainstream because
I’m convinced readers of mainstream fiction who use Amazon come there to find a good price on something they’ve already decided to buy.
I don’t think they search on Amazon. Not beyond maybe being attracted by something similar being offered by the ‘also read’ bots. There is just too much stuff.
They get their recommendations elsewhere – book critics (who rarely do SPAs*), reviews in the few places which still have book sections (print journalism has taken a lot of hits lately, too), and the publicity material put out for their best-selling authors by the traditional publishers (other authors get bupkis from traditional publishers – return on investment isn’t worth it).
So the market is saturated and sopped up by the same few titles which keep those offices in Manhattan open for the publishers (and their unpaid interns).
I’m hoping for virality. It can make the huge difference to a start – and then the writing must maintain the quality so that future books, even if widely spaces, are eagerly awaited.
Feel free to help kick that off – if you like mainstream fiction.
Don’t let ‘the system’ keep producing same old, same old – and then complain you can’t find anything you like to read.
Thank you for listening to the daily rant. Now, if I could just manage to do it daily! 🙂
Oh, and the answer to the title question is yes: ‘Literary’ has too many negative and restrictive connotations in the minds of too many readers.
‘Literary’ is not a good substitute for such terms as mainstream, ‘big book’, epic, blockbuster, or commercial novel. It isn’t the same. Even when the intent is to make it a synonym with ‘well written.’
IMNVHO (In my not very humble opinion,)
Final note: Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is taking part today and for the next few days at a promotion at HelloBooks – which has many other wonderful bargains for serious readers of General Fiction (its category) and many other genres.
*SPAs = self-published authors, sometimes known as indies or independent authors
I am Director of Marketing for Trilka Press, the imprint that publishes my books, and may some day publish other writers (don’t hold your breath quite yet).
I am the PR department, as well. All of it. And the Art Department. And IT. And Housekeeping and Bookkeeping and Landscaping and…
I am in charge of all financial decisions; we are still at the venture capital stage (me), so I’m VP of Finance.
All self-publishers are entrepreneurs by definition. We make all the decisions which affect us, except for those made by our printer and distributor (in my case, only Amazon – changing that will require work I don’t have time for now, but it’s on the very-long To Do list of the CEO and COO of Trilka Press (again, me)).
Advertising is solely my responsibility at the end of 2021
If I want to advertise (takes time and effort away from writing), I choose the venue (Amazon, FaceBook, and, in one horrible expensive decision years back, the PAW (the Princeton Alumni Weekly), which I was allowed to advertise in as a former staff member – circulation 90K prime potential readers – cost >$600, RoI = $0).
And I set up the ads. And pay for them. And fulfill all the requirements of timing – and due diligence. I should have asked PAW for some statistics – it turns out that particular advertising section, published twice a year, is filled with other self-publishers and some perennials, and is probably not a good place to peddle fiction by unknown authors who get a tiny number of words to hawk their wares. Duly noted.
So, like all of us, I spend some time managing promotion for myself (I know, sounds so tacky!). Or I’m depending on the kindness of strangers, which is erratic.
You get over it when you realize you want readers, readers in general have been conditioned to be wary of SPAs (self-published authors), and it’s up to you.
If you happen to be lucky, or go viral in some way, good.
Don’t count on it.
Even in the pushy real world, most overnight sensations have been at it for at least ten years. Or are connected. Or know something about somebody (just kidding!).
The power and control are heady – and scary!
Unlike many indies, I am not solely supported by my writing (a good thing!). But I also don’t want to write only for myself, at least not past this trilogy, because it is an incredible amount of work, takes all my available energy, and I worry about leaving fans hanging if something happens to me during the (very long) time it takes me to write something to my standards – and don’t want them to see how far below that I start.
Twenty-one years so far – and the final book will consume at least my next five years.
This little win I just received – the lovely and letter-perfect review from Jennifer Jackson at Indies Today – showed me how much encouragement affects my ability to focus. Duly noted again – but it’s not the kind of thing you can say, even to friends: “Please tell me something nice about my writing.”
I do my part for other writers, and they have been wonderful, but modesty and not-bragging were ingrained in my generation by our parents, whose generation fought WWII, and had their priorities pretty straight by the end of it, in many ways. Did they overdo it? Probably. All parents do, no matter how perfect we think we are.
But I digress…
I generally avoid low-price sales
How can conditioning people to expect something for almost nothing be a functional business model?
Someone commented recently that most free or 0.99 downloaded books are NEVER read.
The exception is the books which somehow get read, and make the reader a fan who then purchases or borrows from library or streaming service the author’s other books.
And up until now I didn’t have other books.
The exceptions I can live with include:
Sales to raise a book’s rank (for Search Engines)
Sales to promote a series which already exists
Sales to promote a launch
Sales to capture any remaining market for a bestseller already out a while
Or sales to take advantage of a blip
In other words, sales which have an expected (or hoped for) return on investment. That investment can be considerable, and the return is not guaranteed, but, for example, most writers mention in writing groups (self-selected) that they’re happy with BookBub deals and get a significant bump from them. ‘Loss leader’ I believe the marketing folk call it. BookBub doesn’t lose, authors who don’t do well hope maybe next time, and readers get bargains or freebies.
I’ve noticed Netflix keeps raising its prices. Because ‘give stuff away free’ is not sustainable. And Amazon and Facebook make money from the ads. But authors who don’t get that boost might be subsidizing the whole experiment.
Anyhoo – moving right along – BUY!
If you have a business reason for a sale, you will eventually learn which ones work.
Amazon is being very efficient these days: the $0.99 price took less than an hour to show up today, so THE 0.99 E-BOOK SALEis on. At least until four days after January 14, 2022, when my first Hello Books promotion will be over. The price will then return to $9.99.
PLEASE take advantage of the timing – I am hoping for a bump in ranking which might help later, and followers who might be interested in NETHERWORLD.
If you go to PURGATORY‘s page, I would appreciate it if you scroll down to the Editorial Reviews and tell me what you think of the new version – I modeled it on The Goldfinch‘s ER, and Amazon was very responsive as I worked on changes – an hour or so instead of their published ‘3 to 5 business days.’ Much appreciated, because it is almost impossible to get those things right the first time, and it took me three iterations.
The probability of a lower price is minuscule – I think ‘FREE’ doesn’t work for my kind of author and book.
[NOTE: The paperback is not on sale any more (Amazon was playing with it).]
Really looking forward to your comments – readers and writers. How does any of the above reflect your experience?
And if you are interested in NETHERWORLD, but haven’t popped over to the books’ site to Follow it, now is a good time to guarantee you hear about things like sales.
When you are reaching the end of writing a novel, it looks as if you’ll never finish.
Encouragement comes in odd places:
a reader wanting to know when the next one is out
sales you didn’t expect, didn’t advertise for
the writing going particularly well
a tough section written
and a review that blows your metaphorical socks off (one gets so jaded).
This morning, my inbox contained a link to that kind of review, and I encourage those who are here for the fiction to take a quick look at the books’ sister site, Pride’s Children . com, and sign up there if they haven’t – because NETHERWORLD will be here early next year, and that encouragement keeps me focused.
An encouraged and supported writer (thanks to all my visitors and commenters and fellow bloggers and friends from FB and GR – you know who you are, and I hope you know how important you are) is a happy writer, and is probably writing much better than a discouraged one.
I don’t buy the drugs-and-alcohol motivated writer narrative (one reason being because my body doesn’t process alcohol fast enough and I don’t tolerate most meds), so I have to go on HAPPINESS, the universal salve.
Sleep and lowered stress would be nice, too, and research to treat and cure this dratted disease (ME/CFS). I’m doing the best that I can.
On this blog – and in comments – and on Facebook…, I am constrained by the available options for text and emphasis and images.
I live quite happily between the limits imposed by the constraints, find my own way of doing what I need to do (most of the time) so I can write the way I prefer.
And, as a member of various online groups, come into contact with other authors.
On occasion, we will exchange or list our book titles with/for each other, and I will see what choices someone slowly becoming a friend has made in self-publishing, from cover to content to interior book design.
And then the hard part comes: if I see potential that is not realized fully because of relatively small, benign problems, I am, mother-hen-like, pulled strongly toward saying something, making a small suggestion that would improve, IMNVHO (in my not very humble opinion) their work.
Their PUBLISHED work.
Who am I to make recommendations?
Someone who has read an enormous number of books – and has self-published exactly ONE so far.
Someone who went into excruciating detail in preparing Pride’s Children PURGATORY to look as good as the best traditionally published work (limited by Amazon and their paperback POD (publish on demand) capabilities), and, of course, my own learned-in-time skills, and spent months getting the ‘look and feel’ of the paperback, and the look of the ebook, to my own standards.
Someone who took a lot of advice from people who would give it.
And who rejected gobs more from people I didn’t end up respecting for their opinions.
Traditional publishing is not mine to condemn
Because, although every one of my opinions had been informed by what I’ve had to deal with in READING those books, I have no control over their choices, nor do I crave any.
Things such as tiny text on the page, double-spaced, surrounded by huge amounts of white space, and with a gutter so narrow you have to break the spine to read the words that edge it.
Or as pale gray text.
Or as fonts (leave that one alone).
Or… (insert here the things you hate the most about traditionally-published books that seemed deliberately designed to make it hard to read).
But self-publishing has an image problem
We are accused – and all SPAs are tarred with the same brush – of being, well, crap.
We are assumed to not be able to find a traditional publisher who will takes us on, regardless of the small to non-existent advances, predatory contracts, miserly royalties, accounting mysteries, and complete lack of control that we are pretty sure we’d have to live with if we tried.
And, unfortunately, I have to agree with a lot of the complaints (again, regardless of the fact that much traditionally-published material is of poor quality itself).
So what should I DO?
The question crops up almost every time I read an SPA’s work (and buy, usually because I’d like to find out how the story ended, and the price is usually quite reasonable (<$10) if you buy an ebook, compared to the ridiculous prices for traditional ebooks): do I say anything?
To the author, directly, in an individual and gently-worded email which he or she can peruse – or not – in PRIVACY.
Should I couch it in ‘best practices’ language?
Should I include a copy of something with some of their particular awkwardnesses minimized (including, but not limited to, a piece of their own work)?
Should I point to an example that I consider ‘correct’ and make a comparison?
Because what I DO do, is to never buy a book from them again.
And never (okay, once so far) recommend their book.
IOW, leave them in their happy ignorance of my elevated standards and practices, happy in their own devices, which probably include… what?
Intelligent authors make unintended or misguided choices
There are basically three explanations:
they don’t know
they know and don’t care
they know – but have no clue how to fix the problems
And may or may not appreciate a busy-body telling them.
But lack of quality affects many things down the chute from just writing the damn thing: read-through, recommendations, reviews, and ultimately the ability to write fiction profitably.
I have kept my mouth shut – so far
Figuring nobody appointed me standard-bearer.
Figuring that as long as I monitor my own work, I’m doing the most that I should.
Except that that niggling perception among many readers that self-published work is crap affects ME. And I have to work very hard to distance myself from the crowd when trying to persuade a reviewer to read MY stuff.
So I’m throwing this out there to see what my readers think:
Should I try to improve the breed? Or
Should I try to make sure the readers I want think of me as a good outlier?
And should I ever use my own pretty work as an example when interfering in other writer’s God-given right to make their own choices?
Humans are born needing love to survive – ‘failure to thrive’ may even be a cause of death when there is not enough love, in the form of feeding, holding, keeping warm, for an infant to want to live.
If that love isn’t present ‘enough’ by a certain age, it may never be recovered. Adults who have survived have significant problems. The Romanian children kept in orphanages and later adopted often were incapable of attaching to their new parents, parent who were not prepared to deal with them and their special needs.
Distinguishing between a Romance and a mainstream love story
like Pride’s Children is critical for my advertising, and it is something I still have a very hard time with.
Romance readers do not like Pride’s Children.
The negative reviews I have come from people whose expectations were not met.
And that’s my fault – because something I did caused them to EXPECT a Romance.
Romance readers have very clear ideas of what they want:
a relationship between TWO people
relatively short books
more of the same only different – from the same author
an HEA (happily ever after) or at least HFN (happy for now) endings
and in some cases, a form of point of view that alternates, in the same scene, between the points of view of the two characters
covers which indicate the kind of Romance enclosed within, from chaste to steamy
recommendations from Romance websites
There are many variations and compilations, but those are the basics from what I can discern.
I wish I wrote Romance – it is in some ways much easier to signal what a book is, and to market.
There is also a huge amount of competition!
A mainstream love story is a different beast
Even though Gone With the Wind is often listed as a Romance (and ‘Romance’ is what all novels used to be designated), it is not: no happy ending, not even a HFN. NOT a relationship between two people – Ashley Wilkes is in the middle for most of the book. And no head-hopping: the point of view is firmly locked on Scarlett for the whole story, but in a limited, not very intimate, omniscient way.
I’d call GWTW a mainstream love story, even a fairly literary one.
And I think that is the key to its enduring success.
At the end, we ache for Scarlett, for ‘tomorrow is another day,’ for her transformation, for her future – which made it irresistible for the Margaret Mitchell estate to allow a writer to take the story further.
Unfortunately, they picked a Romance writer, which I believe was the wrong choice, and didn’t buy.
But the marketing… with the book’s fame, they could market it any way they wanted.
I don’t have that fame.
Traditional publishers might have known how to market Pride’s Children
Many things kept me from submitting Pride’s Children to an agent, trying to find a traditional publisher:
I’m deathly slow
Disability is handled in the story – at the time I was nearing a finish, disability only got lip service while being sort of categorized with ‘diversity’
I’m pathologically stubborn
I have believed the indie self-published path is better for a long time now
I dislike not having everything in my control
I was sure I would be getting, “Nice – but not for us right now” responses, as traditional publishers went with things they were more certain they could sell
I knew I would be asked to change certain elements of the story to something more palatable
I don’t like their royalty structure
If I break out, I want it to be because of what I did, and not for someone else to be able to claim the credit.
But not going traditional leaves me in charge of marketing and publicity.
And most indies do not write mainstream literary fiction!
So there is little path to follow, and that among mostly indie historical novelists; though if I end up taking as long as I seem to be, ‘historical’ may fit me. Depends on whether it is 25 or 50 years since the events happened, as 2005/6 is the timeframe. I’ll probably make 25 by the time I finish the third volume, but probably not be around for 50.
I am gleaning information and ideas from many sites and groups
None of them really appropriate.
I need to figure out how to ‘go viral,’ to capture the zeitgeist, to become popular.
While still having zero energy, fighting my body daily to get some writing brain time, and trying to blaze a trail.
I have ideas. I have sources and places to put ads (some of the previous ones were expensive disastrous messes). I get cannier and sneakier and more educated and more focused with each thing I try.
But it hasn’t been, and won’t be, easy.
The last attempt led me to USTO.gov (copyrights and trademarks and such) to make sure a phrase I will trademark wasn’t being used already.
But the cost is not zero, and the category I fit in right now – intent-to-use – won’t last long enough for my purposes, so I’m not revealing it until I’m ready to use it. Meanwhile, I will be on tenterhooks.
Which brings me full circle:
‘Write a good book,’ they said.
But never said that part of that may make it extremely hard to sell.
As usual, comments are very welcome – and I love getting suggestions.
Also, my thanks to Stencil for their graphics software and ability to have a free account for up to ten images a month.
Despite the recommendations of every editor on the planet, some of us do our own*.
Editing’s no different from any of the other tasks a self-publisher tackles:
You are not going to do it perfectly
It is a skill – and you are not born with it
Learning has many steps
There are books which will teach you (or you can take a class)
It takes time to do it well
It is not inexpensive – if you count your time
The professionals started somewhere
The results are there for everyone to see
No matter what you do, someone will criticize you
There are objective standards – but not everyone agrees what they are
There is great satisfaction in doing it yourself
Why do your own editing?
Because, in the long run, everything you learn makes you a better writer. Because you can. Because it is always available, on your own time schedule, at your own price (but don’t forget that the time you spend editing might be better spent writing). Because you can’t afford what a good editor costs, and a bad one is useless.
In my case, because I am incapable of interacting with someone else about my own work. Call it a feature – or a bug.
How to have an editing program assist you
After I have almost everything written, polished, listened to, and in what I consider final form, I run it through AutoCrit – and all of the COUNTING it does for me:
Two-, three-, and four-word phrases repeated (ouch – unless deliberate).
My own personal word list.
Each and every one of these flagged items gets put through a wringer: Context. Intent. The possibility of synonyms, and a consideration of nuance. Number of repetitions. Whether the repetition is by accident or design.
In other words, everything that has bitten me before.
What I don’t let it ‘help’ me with
Why? Because I don’t trust its judgment on ‘passive voice,’ or ‘subject verb agreement,’ or ‘tense.’ Or ‘readability.’
I have a set, but complex, style. Autocrit doesn’t see italics, for example, but I signal to the reader that something is a direct thought by changing to first person and putting the text in italics. So if you read:
There is no way I’m telling him that.
you’ll know it’s a more intense thought, in those exact words, than general internal monologue:
She wasn’t going to tell him that.
It’s too complicated for an automatic program.
But the counting alone is an amazing help for me
When and where I need it.
This is my reason for having a lifetime membership – my brain is tired more than lazy all the time due to chronic illness and disability, so I let it serve up the most convenient word WHEN WRITING. But I’m not going to let first words stand – not without a raze-to-the-ground fight.
Because my readers deserve the best I can provide on the LANGUAGE side of the writing.
Self-editing with a program is a tool
It takes a fair amount of time per scene, but I think of it as the best investment of that time I can make, because the final product is improved in so many ways. I look for strong verbs instead of verb + adverb combinations, more precise nouns instead of common nouns, and also places where I can reinforce a motif or thread I want to keep.
And I don’t have to count or do the time-consuming searches because Autocrit is merciless.
After the scene is polished through this process, I put it through several of the steps one final time – because I have had the experience of working on synonyms and nuance, and finding out that to reduce the count of one way of saying things, I have increased the count of another!
*Adapted from an online comment – you may have seen some of this material before.
Do you use an editing program to improve your own writing?
Even when there are still aftershocks to contend with, and the normal has skittered sideways a bit, there is a time when you can’t keep reacting to interruptions constantly with the fight or flight response – and you have to settle down and figure out where you are and what has changed and what has not.
And, in my case, get back to writing.
I labelled a file ‘REDEFINING my life at URC >5/24/19’ and set to work.
Where was I? What was I doing? What was next? These are questions which I’ve been attempting to answer on the fly just to get some writing done in the interim.
But I promised myself I’d do something more organized an more formal asap.
The time is now – if you can
Otherwise the trial will fail – and you’ll get endless opportunities to try again.
But eventually it happens.
You start to realize you’d forgotten many of your own notes. But there they are. And you forgot your own plotting decisions – which will have to be redone, except… here is the file.
I do this periodically.
From October 2012:
Jamming the creative process: RESET to break the jam
Sometimes what keeps me from writing is not procrastination nor ego nor fear.
It is simply that ‘things’ – writing, life, house, … – have become so disorganized (and behind) that I can’t think, much less be creative.
Time gets spent, not in getting things done, but in thinking about getting things done. Thoughts go round and round, never settling long enough in one area to get that area started, much less finished.
How is the creative process affected?
By its main requirement: creating requires a free and nimble mind.
No further writing or editing on the WIP was getting any attention of QUALITY. Scheduling time for writing, blocking the internet by using Freedom, and all other methods aimed at the symptoms, rather than at the root cause – logjam – FAILED. Quite miserably.
The problem is analogous to computer mainframe usage in the good old days, when, to avoid a single user glutting the machine, the computer would ‘roll out’ an image of the core with a particular user’s program and all the user’s data, and ‘roll in’ someone else’s program and data. (Rolling in and out used a small amount of CPU time.)
Then it would compute for a while, and repeat the process with the next user in the priority list. If the algorithm wasn’t managed carefully, or there were too many users being allowed into the queue, the machine could get stuck in a place where all that was happening was sequential ‘roll out’, ‘roll in’ – but no actual work got done before it was time for the next. All the CPU’s time was being used to manage sequencing of jobs, none to doing the actual jobs.
No one’s job got done – and the CPU was busy all the time.
That is how my brain feels when things get too messy.
I can’t actually roll a job in and get a significant part of it done – the competing jobs are clamoring for brain/CPU time.
At this point the only thing to do is declare a reset – everything stops. Then only the top job or two are allowed any traction (typically one of these jobs is ‘TAXES’), everything else is blocked out, and, after clearing the logjam (i.e., ‘Filing taxes’), work is evaluated, rescheduled, cleaned up, dejunked, and otherwise processed before resetting the queue.
Something innocuous can start the jam: a visitor blows into town and occupies prime time space for a day or two (with, for us CFS folk, the several-day recovery that is non-negotiable). Or a new, shiny program beckons, promising to solve some long-standing problem and make future workflow more efficient. Or tax planning requires that all charitable contributions to be charged to the current fiscal year be RECEIVED by the intended organization by Dec. 31, not just MAILED (as it used to be), moving the paperwork time into the Christmas time-frame with a vengeance (instead of being done in that nice post-Christmas lull before New Year’s Eve).
Or [fill in here the life events that, by themselves, could have been handled, but collided with… to create the felt-like effect of a logjam, interlocked fibers].
It doesn’t matter what caused mine this time.
If you’re really curious – ask. And be prepared for long tale of woe…!
Ahem! The solution is to RESET – and that is what I’m doing.
So: I absolve myself of guilt (no one would do this to herself ON PURPOSE), and RESET. I put the editing on hold for as long as this one takes, get extra rest, do the top project or two.
And: we’re back in the writing business (I’m assuming this post – except for the mixed metaphors – shows coherent thought).
Editing sounds positively enticing – I can’t wait to see the final version of the current scene.
And how does that connect to what I’m doing in 2019?
Current editing is Scene 26.2 in NETHERWORLD.
Current writing is Scene 26.3.
And I would say the current tale of woe is the continuing saga of replacing things we had in New Jersey that worked fine (such as doctors and driver’s licenses) but we still don’t have here. One by one.
And I no longer do taxes since hubby retired!!!
But I’m writing. And reconnected with most of my research and organization files. And stuff I didn’t even remember was there. Phew – it would have been a lot of work to re-do some of that!
If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, part of is these last two weeks has been entertaining a guest: Mr. FLU.
And yes, I did get the flu shot back in October (I always get one), and every year as far back as I remember; possibly that’s why the worst effects lasted about a week.
But getting over the whole thing is no picnic. I am on tissues with extra softness – by necessity. I can’t wait for my heart rate, which went up to 100 bpm and stayed there for days during the worst part (normally, for me, around 60-66) is driving me crazy because it is still hanging up there at almost 80. It’s exhausting in itself.
Life and my Universes
Also had lovely houseguests.
And today, by dint of I don’t know what force, I finished a scene I started, according to my notes, on Jan. 21. Way too long, but had only sketchy notes as to what absolutely had to go in it, no rough draft for this one, and no brain. I swear it feels no different, finished, than the ones I have more to go on than a title and several Dramatica appreciations. I even listened to it in the robot voice, and can pronounce myself satisfied (if I ever get there).
I know that. I expected that. And my typo rate was, I thought, rather low, especially considering that I ended up being, for reasons too long to go into, my own proofreader.
And I worked my tail off at it. It’s very hard to be critical of your own work. So? It’s part of the job.
Now, I have found egregious (well, to me) typos in traditionally published books – one major book on writing that I use almost daily has ‘principal’ (main, or the guy who is in charge of a school) instead of ‘principle’ (fundamental truth or morally correct behavior) not once, but twice – so the author got it wrong and the proofreader failed to correct it; or a proofreader got it wrong, changed it, and the author didn’t catch the incorrect correction. Or they both have no idea they don’t know.
I earmarked the place, and occasionally toy with the idea of sending a note to the author (which I don’t do – not my circus, not my monkeys). For future editions, you see. Because it is the kind of book that gets future editions.
But it amuses me to know it’s there. And I still love the book.
Proud of having low error rate, until…
I had found ONE wrong word, ONE extra ‘s’ at the end of a word, and a couple of places where, when doing the final formatting pass through MS Word (to get widow and orphan control, running headers and footers, and right margin indents for the print version of Pride’s Children), WORD inserted some stupidities (specifically, leaving –” as the only thing at the beginning of a line, 5 or 6 times) after I published.
They’re on my list of things to correct on the CreateSpace file (yeah, it’s on the to do list, somewhere in the 9000s). No one who reviewed has commented on those tiny typos, so they’re not all that significant in the flow (or my readers are being kind).
And all but the first two are not present in the ebook, which didn’t go through Word.
Acceptable. Imperfect, but not too much.
Possibly because my youngest daughter mentioned it (she finally read the book!!!), I was a little more attuned to a particular possibility when I was sitting in the doctor’s office yesterday, reading my own book.
And then, wham! I saw it. I’m not even sure if it’s the same thing my daughter mentioned (though it may be), and I now know exactly what I did, and it really doesn’t affect the story that much.
But I am now aware of a FLAW that I, as a perfectionist, can’t let stand.
Easy to fix?
Can’t let it stand.
You know me.
I moved the idea of putting an errata page on prideschildren.com up on the list – so those lovely people who purchase the first book in the trilogy in paper can correct their own copies (not that many readers, but still…), possibly now aware that they have the coveted First Edition – flaws and all.
Or I can slink away, offering (consider yourselves offered to, if you are one of these wonderful people) a corrected copy as soon as I can make them, and being aware that they were either too kind to point this out to me, or, better, too engrossed in the story to even notice.
The ebook will be corrected (again, asap – not a fast possibility, either), so that anyone who downloads it again will automatically get the corrections. If they care. Because this new little typo is in both versions. [hangs head]
The good side
There’s ALWAYS a good side.
I caught it (before I had a chance to look up my daughter’s questioning whether I had it right). From reading it myself in a relaxed way, with nothing else to read. Rather than from it being scornfully pointed out by a reader. Rather less painful – or is it?
Because I’m indie and self-published, it is both my responsibility and my right to fix it (so I don’t have principal for principle for all eternity of this print run).
CreateSpace and Amazon make it easy to fix (haven’t done it yet, so that’s ‘easy in principle’ for now): I upload the corrected files (I believe), wait, and within a couple of days, I can hold my head up in public again.
I have added (mentally – that darn To Do list is so darn long) a few things to the ‘look out for’ list for my AutoCrit editing passes. Especially since my brain appears to be losing its mind, I will now examine every single ‘s in each scene because the world not understanding that plurals don’t have apostrophes is its problem, not mine. I will speak sternly to the brain, and it will whine that it’s so overburdened already, and I will remind it that I’m in charge.
Etc. I.e., I will improve my skills based on this little irritating contretemps.
And because I’m indie, I don’t have to deal with a proofreader about the whole thing.
So why am I making a big deal of this?
Because professional means that you worry about these details, and that you try to make the next one have fewer (not less) errors.
It’s good for me to see where improvement is necessary (believe me, there is a whole new process in place so this particular little error won’t recur).
And it actually bolsters my belief that self-editing, and learning from your self-editing how to be a better writer is critical.
I stand behind my own work, even in the tiny places.
For the future
It’s okay to point typos out to me if you notice them. I just got a wonderful email back after my beta reader read – and liked – the next chapter. I strive to send her finished work. And her wonderful nitpickiness tells me what she likes, asks questions which lead often to some wonderful back-and-forth, and always mentions the little things. She found two. I love her for that.
It also reinforces that doing the beta reading one chapter at a time has some significant advantages for me: a chapter is a reasonable size chunk of writing to deal with at a time. Things get noticed.
And I can’t see how this would possibly work with a traditional publisher, the timing, and the diffusing of responsibility. All while the writer is supposed to be writing the next book. Not for me, anyway.
So there it is. And no, you won’t find out from me what I did wrong (at least not until the Errata page comes out). If you didn’t notice, I’m not going to be the one to point it out. Nope.