So today is May 13th and that means the Dissolution of Peace blog tour is officially over. The folks over at Orangeberry book tours did an amazing job getting everyday filled with some type of post. There were a few of my followers that even signed up for a day. I was disappointed that none of the Book Reviews came threw, in the end they all wound up being book features. But other than that, the tour was a lot of fun. With the giveaway and the tour I gained some new blog, Facebook, and Twitter followers.
Truthfully, I didn’t sell many books on this tour. So in terms of getting a return on my investment, the tour was not even close to successful. But you can’t always measure these things in dollars and cents. And while I eventually want to write for a career, I never became a writer to make a ton of money. I will likely do a book tour again.
Don’t forget you have another week to enter the Giveaway and a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift card. So go over the this page and enter to win. Don’t miss out on that chance. You can gain five more entries from checking out this blog, just enter “Orangeberry” as the pass code.
All my blog tour hosts were great, but I did have a few favorite stops. Here are a few of them for you to go back and read:
Here is my stop at Anya Breton’s Blog. I enjoyed my interview with Michael McDuffee on his blog. My guest post at KY Bunnies Blog was a topic I talk about a lot. You can find a excerpt of Dissolution of Peace on Gentleman Reads. Find out why I don’t use an outline on this post at Blog-A-Licious Authors. And last, find out ten things you didn’t know about me at Books are Magic. You can find a full list of all my tour stops here.
As I mentioned, Orangeberry did a great job filling the tour. They did so well, that there are lots of posts still to come. I will post those on Facebook and Twitter as they come along. Please check them out.
As a special thanks to everyone who followed along on the tour, I am going to post at excerpt of my next novel at 3pm pacific time! Other than five beta readers, no one has seen the first chapters of Volition Agent, I am excited to share it all with you! I’ve also never shared an excerpt before, so if this creates a buzz maybe I’ll have a few more sneak peaks. In either case, make sure you come back to see it (I might even add more entries to the giveaway). And if you haven’t yet you can purchase and review Dissolution of Peace on Amazon.
I had sat down here today to write a ranting blog about how disappointed I was with certain things that had happened recently in regards to my writing. But as I got ready to write the post, I kept staring at the screen. I didn’t want to come off whiny, or complaining, or even like I was ranting. That was when I realized that no matter how I wrote that post, I would be writing a whiny complaining rant. So I scrapped it.
What was I going to rant about? I was going to rant about how the people closest to me seemed to treat my choice to be a writer as a joke. As if I was just doing a cute little hobby. About how I have family and friends who ignore everything I post about my writing, who never share it with their friends and followers, and on and on and on. See, I am already starting to rant again.
But as I sat there looking at the blank Ranting Blog I was about to write, I wondered to myself, Why do I care? Why do I let these people bring me down? The answer is pretty simple. It is the same answer to why rejection bothers writers. It is human nature to care about what others think of you. You may not like it. You may even deny it. But we all care about what others think. We care even more when it is family and friends.
But in reality you are just letting those people drag you down into the depths. There are many reasons why people belittle artists. I am well aware that writing is not the only art form that suffers from the “that is a cute little hobby” remarks. I think every art does.
Art isn’t the Focus
We don’t live in an art based world anymore. Wait, that is not entirely true. Art is all around us. We don’t live in an art focused society. At least not here in the United States. We cut art from schools, we close museums, we cut music performances, and we close the local theaters. When money is tight, we cut from the arts first. Because our society see’s it as more important to get “real jobs” in the corporate world. If you like to write, perhaps you should get a job writing training documents for a major HR company. If you like art, perhaps you should get a job designing advertising. If you have a glorious imagination, you should be an inventor. Better yet, just learn Math and get a job as an executive that will never use those math computations. Schools, here is my idea. Just cut math, give every kid a calculator, and bring back art.
No teacher, that I have seen, has told my oldest son, who has a very active imagination, that he should consider a career in writing, acting, or art. Instead they tell me he has ADD. Or they have the nerve to say, “If he would focus that energy on math he could be a great scientist or inventor some day.” I say, how about you… Teacher… realize your personality won’t match every student. How about you foster his imagination and recommend he find an outlet for it? They didn’t make those recommendations. Instead my wife and I are seeking out art and acting classes for him. How about the fact that you admit he knows the material, so clearly he must have paid some type of attention. And if he knows the material, put your pride aside and stop worrying about if he paid attention to you.
Wait… breath…. I am ranting again.
The point is this. Our world see’s art, music, writing, and all other art forms, as hobbies. They are something to be done when you have time around your 60 hour work week. Writing is not a career. Photography, never. You want to draw pictures all day? You’re lazy. You want to be a painter, no way. You want to act? This isn’t Hollywood. This is one reason people bring you down as an artist. They just don’t see the arts as a realistic career.
There is a lot of talent in all of the arts. And well, we don’t all have that talent. I can hardly color within the lines, let along draw a realistic human form. The best photographer I can ever be is with my Android phone and I don’t pretend to even know how to use that.
Could I learn any of those things? I think so. There is an amount of natural talent needed to do any of the arts. Some are just not that into art. Others, they simply wish to do what you do. They are jealous of the fact that you are doing what they want to do. Why don’t they do it? Well they either don’t think they can, or they don’t make the time to do it. Others still, are simply jealous that you’re reaching for a dream while they accepted they’d never reach theirs.
We all get jealous from time to time. The same is true with artists. You are making a dream of yours come true, and to others that is a symbol of dreams they never accomplished. I’d argue that Jealousy is one of the most powerful human emotions.
The last of the three main reasons people bring you down, is misunderstanding. This is a two way street folks.
They misunderstand what you are trying to do with your life. They may not think that your writing is anything more than a hobby to you. They may think that writing is an easy, leisurely activity. They may not understand just how important a “share” or a “like” from them is to you and your career. They may not understand that adding their Amazon review would mean the world to you and your career. They don’t know that for a writer, their recommendation to their friends is the life blood of your success. They could think they don’t have the time to help you out, not realizing that the simple two second share on social media means a lot. This list can go on and on.
But you could also misunderstand. You could assume that they don’t share your stuff because they think you are just “messing around.” But it could really be that they don’t read. Or it could be that they didn’t see your post. You could assume they hate your writing, but they have just been too busy to read one line. Even though they have been dying to read it and write you a review, they just haven’t had a chance. Or you could be assuming they never pay attention, but in actuality they are reading everyone of your blog posts, publications, and social media posts. They just never said so.
So, Stop letting them drag you down.
This sounds easier than it really is. When you find out someone you care about, and follow their career closely, doesn’t do the same for you. Well it is soul crushing. But it is also a downer when you find that others just don’t care about what you do. Naturally you will get a little down. And the critics. Those that bash you just to bash you. Or, those that simply don’t understand what you want to do for a living. They are the hardest to deal with.
But you can’t let them pull you all the way down to depths. These people have had me doubt myself more than I can admit. These people have made me give up on a number of my dreams in life. I can’t let them win this round. I have to rise above them and achieve my dream for a change.
Prove them Wrong
This is a powerful motivator for many people. It is the old, I’ll show them. It works for me in many ways. I’ll be honest I even fantasize about becoming famous and snubbing those people when they come calling for something. Sure, that sounds cruel. But when I am really ready to quit, the idea of being able to shove someone’s nose into their own… well let’s just say it works. I feel a burst of motivation. It is also perfectly natural to want to show someone you did what they said you can’t do.
But more so, you have to realize that in many cases they are wrong. So show them they are wrong. If they say you can’t do it because you’re too old, show them you are never too old to learn. If they tell you you can’t because you’re not the right “type of person”, show them that art takes all types of people. If they tell you that there are too many other people out there trying to do the same thing, show them that there is room for you. As I have aged, I have quickly learned that nine times out of ten, the people telling you you can’t do something are wrong. So don’t let them be right. Show them you can, you will, and you have.
Make them Jealous
While I had said Jealously is the reason so many hate, or say you can’t, you can use it to help you too. If they are jealous, well that means you are doing something right. You are succeeding someway to warrant their jealousy. Rather then let that work against you, let that be something that raises you up. People envy that you can make time for your art. They envy that you can work forty hours, run a business, have a family, and still tell great stories.
Get Rid of the Negative
Rid yourself of the negative people. This may not always be something that can be done. I’m not about to cut off my family over something simple like, they won’t share my books with others. But if they are trashing me, perhaps I will be done with them.
But friends are a different thing. With sites like Facebook, we throw the word friend around a little too much. My wife has some 300 plus “friends” on Facebook, but I bet she really only knows about 15-25% of them. The same is true of me. Though I only have a 150 or so. Even fewer are actually my friends. I doubt again that I would get rid of any of them because they don’t actively support my writing. Though I actively seek their approval, I’ve also come to realize they likely won’t give it. By recognizing that and trying to move on from it, I lose the negative without getting rid of the person. Same is true of family.
But those that are actually dragging you down are a different story. The ones that don’t support you are one thing. But the ones that drag you down, bash you, and down right don’t care. Get rid of them. You don’t need them around you. I don’t care if they are friends or family. If they are dragging me down, they are not really good at being a friend or family.
The artists of the world are what have kept books around, entrain us with movies, provide us with stunning photographs, and mesmerize the world with their drawings. You need to ignore that fact that society seems to shun artists, because in fact they need us. If the artist disappeared tomorrow, there would be nothing on TV. There would be nothing to read. Music would fall silent. The corporate world would have no one to design their ads, write their jingles, and they wouldn’t be able to sell. All the people would have is sleep and the corporate life. And the corporate world wouldn’t last long. The world needs us, even if they don’t see it.
Take a moment to remember that. Take a moment to see the art that is all around you and such a instrumental part of your lives. Look deeper and you will see the arts all around you. That means someone else ignored what everyone had to say and rose up. They succeeded and so can you. When the negative seems to eat you up, focus on the positive.
I’m a pessimist at heart. I always see the negative first. But I can’t let people drag me down. You can’t either. Sometimes all it takes is a slight adjustment of how you view the world to set you back on track.
I’ve mentioned this several times, but my work goes through a process before I set it up for publication. A quick summary:
I write it.
I self edit it.
I send it to Beta Readers.
I self edit it (again).
I send it to a professional editor.
I fix it.
I have it published.
When I list it all out like this it seems very simple. But anyone who has ever put words on paper knows it isn’t so simple. Most writers understand the first part. Write it. And most writers are capable of sending it to a professional editor and changing what they mark up. But many writers miss the middle parts. And, like a sandwich, the meaty parts are in the middle.
If you’re going to send this off to professional editor, why is self editing so important? Well, two things. Editors are humans too, they won’t catch everything. Especially if your manuscript is error plagued. Second, you will quickly find that you discover a lot about what doesn’t work in your story’s plot by doing a self edit.
When I self edit, I find that I still miss a lot. So I learned a little trick, and tried it out for the first time with the Volition Agent manuscript. I printed the entire manuscript and went over it, using a red pen to mark up what changes I needed. I use the red pen because it stands out. So when I went back to make changes, I could find them quickly and fix them quickly. I print it out because it gives me a chance to read my words in a different way than I did on a computer screen. When you look at your words in a different way, things stick out that you would otherwise miss.
When I self edit, I look for the following things:
Grammar mistakes. This is the first thing I look for, though I am also the first to admit I am very bad at catching them. Though I did find that having the manuscript printed in front of me (versus on my computer screen) was much easier at seeing these things. But still, I recognize that grammar is not my strong suit so I do my best with checking for this stuff.
Punctuation errors. For me, this is most often missing punctuation. No period. Using a period when I meant for a question mark. The other thing that I have a habit of doing is putting a quotation mark at the end of the paragraphs during multiple paragraph dialogue (by one speaker). So I have to remove those.
Typos. I type at 60 words a minute with no errors. But when I write my stories, I typed at 80-90 words per minute with a lot of errors. Some have told me to just slow down. But when I type from my mind, my mind goes much faster then 60 words a minute. Probably much faster then 90 words per minute. So I often find a lot of typos, missing words, or added words. Easy to fix, and really easy to spot when you read it.
Plot Errors. I’m not an outline writer, so I ofter find things in the early chapters that I missed or didn’t need to continue the story for the later chapters. I’d say 90% of my red marks on my manuscript this time around were for plot and prose issues. Either to remove something or to add something. In fact, I reworked the entire ending and will be going back to add 5 new chapters throughout the book. Some will say this is why outlines work. But I also know many outline writers. They too say the bulk of their self editing goes to the plot. The most important part of your story is the plot, followed by how you tell it. Remember this doesn’t just include missing or extra plot points. This includes all aspects of your story not related to the above topics.
Said Tag. English teachers love to tell you about the 1,000 different way to say ‘said’ or now I think they want to make it a million ways. It is all a bunch of bull. It is made up by English teachers (just like the author’s message). Said is the simplest (and most over looked) word to describe dialogue. Since I write a lot of official reports at work, I am am trained to write “stated” on most dialogue in my reports. So I often find my stories are loaded with “stated” instead of “said”. So I have to fix those. But the best way to break up dialogue is not with “said” but with some type of action. For example: “I’m writing my blog,” Richard didn’t even look away from what he was doing. His fingers still clicked on the keyboard. “I’ll take care of the garbage when I am done.” So where applicable, I avoid using any dialogue tag and use action.
Repeated words. My characters like to look at each other a lot. They also love to smile. So I often over use those two words. Repeated words are not always bad, sometimes it is required to make a point. But overuse of any word will be noticed by a reader and can become jarring. So I look for those. I also look for repeated phrases and dialogue points through out my story.
What are Beta Readers?
I’m having a heck of a time finding beta readers for Volition Agent. I think this is largely because people don’t understand what a beta reader is. If you know video games, beta testers get their hands on an early copy (not finished) of a game. They get to play it and in return they provide feedback to the game developer. They let them know about glitches in the game, issues with game play, story elements that seem out of place, and an overall opinion of the game. The developers take that information consider it all and then make changes where they think they should.
Beta readers do the same thing. They get an early copy of the book. They read over it, point out mistakes, things that confused them, story issues, grammar mistakes, and provide an overall opinion of the story. The writer takes all this information and uses it to make the book better. Just as a developer won’t change everything the testers complain about, an author won’t change everything. But they will make the story better as a result of the Beta Readers’ input.
Authors need a cross section of beta readers. I recommend you get a few who don’t read your genre. I recommend a few that are writers. Also a few that are editors. And then a few that are just readers of your genre. Can you have too many beta readers? Yes. If you get overloaded with information it won’t do you any good. But if you have too few readers, then you won’t get a good sampling for your book. The number is up to you. Somewhere between not enough and too much is what I recommend.
Beta Reading shouldn’t be confused with Advanced Reader Copies (ARC). Typically ARCs are finished. They are handed out to reviewers in exchange to get review quotes to hopefully use on the book itself. That’s how all those review quotes wind up on the book the day it is published. Sometimes review quotes are gathered from Beta copies, but that isn’t the purpose of a beta reader. The beta reader is there to improve the work so the author can put out the best story possible. Advanced Readers are there so the author can better market their work.
Why self edit again?
If you took all the information from beta readers, and did nothing with it. Well that would be a complete waste of everyone’s time. While you might not change everything the beta readers point out. If the majority of them say that a certain scene doesn’t work. It would be best if you made it work. Once you make significant changes you need to review those changes for yourself, the same way you did the first time. That will involve a whole rereading. But it is worth it to put out the best book you can.
Once you’ve got the meat together in you sandwich, it’s time for the top piece of bread. Get a professional editor and have them review it. Then your sandwich, um I mean story, will be ready for the masses.
I’ve talked a lot about getting used to rejection. But, most of the time I am referring to the rejection letters from editors who don’t want to publish your work. I’ve always found that rejection from editors is easy to accept. That is a personal thing. I just have always braced myself to hear “No” from an editor.
Rejection from readers, well I hadn’t really prepared myself for that. Sure, I had heard about it from other authors. Sometimes readers won’t like what you do. They won’t like what you write. They just won’t enjoy the stories you have to tell. Rejection makes it sound harsher than that. I’m certain people have read my stories and not liked them.
But the other day I got my first real hate email. I use the term hate, because it wasn’t my story they hated, it was one aspect. A small part of the story really. Truthfully, I hadn’t even given much thought to the element of the story. It was just there.
This person wrote me an email, roughly three pages long, insulting me because one of the main characters in Dissolution of Peace is a homosexual. If you haven’t read the book, you might not know what I am talking about. But one of the main characters discovers she is a lesbian through the course of the novel. The email writer went on to call me the “devil” and that I was a “demon” at several points. She clearly read the whole book, as she referenced parts from throughout the novel, but she just wasn’t happy it included a lesbian couple. She told me, “I can’t believe you ruined this excellent story by putting homosexuals into it.” and “You could have just as easily made one of those characters male and kept the book clean.” and “You just used this story to push your pro gay agenda.”
Frankly, the email shocked me. It shocked me for several reasons. First, I never gave a second thought to Janice’s relationship with Willard. Second, I just never had anyone so upset with something I had wrote. And the best part, she never even mentioned the scene in which Carlson walked in on Willard and Janice during sex.
Typically I don’t respond to negative comments about my work, but since many will see this blog as a form of response, I must say a few things. First, I am very happy to hear that this person thought my story was “excellent”. Several times she told me how great the book was, in between the other points she had to make. I have no “pro gay agenda”. I am not opposed to homosexual relationships, and I am not opposed to gay marriage. But, Dissolution of Peace is not about that. If you only find a “pro gay” message in that book, well each reader will see the message that calls to them. Finally, I couldn’t have made Willard or Janice a male character, because that is not who they are. Writer’s know that their characters become real people. Janice became who she became, regardless of what I wanted (or didn’t want) her to be. I couldn’t have changed her any more than I could change the person who emailed me’s mind.
As a writer, you may never want to put a homosexual person in your stories simply to play it safe. But where do you draw the line? Will you never have any discussion or mention of politics? What about feminism, social commentary, or even humor? If you sterilize your writing to try to keep everyone happy, you will wind up with a story that few will want to read. Even if you can write an excellent story that walks the line and avoids hot button issues, someone won’t like it because of your style, plot, or for no real reason at all. We are a vast and diverse world. It is a beautiful thing. But is also means that eventually someone will read something written and simply not like it.
Should you go out of your way to offend? No. Shock value rarely works either. Write the story you want to write with the characters, world, and plot that you want. Writers want people to enjoy their stories. But not everyone will. You just can’t please everyone. Don’t try to. Just write the story you want to tell and let the chips fall where they may.
And for the readers out there, please understand something about writers. To build worlds and create believable elements we must include people of all types regardless of our personal beliefs. Writers have to include murders, corrupt people, evil people, and bigots in our worlds. Why? These people exist and will likely exist for all time. I don’t condone murder, but the antagonist of Dissolution of Peace is a murder. A writer might write a racist character, that doesn’t mean the writer has an “agenda” against a particular race. Most readers know this, and see a story for what it means to them.
I appreciate the readers, and the feedback. Even the negative feedback helps me as a writer (even the feedback I don’t agree with).
I’ve not been around much. And those of you on Twitter, Facebook and here have probably started to wonder where I have been. I assure you I am fine. I have just been very busy. And a bit sidetracked with other things to get my weekly posts done. As far as Facebook and Twitter go. I guess I have just been quiet. So here is what I have been doing:
Oh how I love and hate my day job at the same time. The last two weeks I worked sixteen hours of overtime. They have decided to unveil a new system at work, and I was chosen to be one of the trainers on this new system. While the system will make one aspect of our job so much easier, it takes time to teach everyone. Work already takes over 40 hours a week of my life. It would be great to make my writing and editing my day job.
Now here is one project I love to do. But let me tell you how much work it takes. Issue 4 has been one of our best and most highly read issues to date. That is great news. But the talent submitting to us has become so good that picking just eight to ten stories every two months has become very difficult. Even my earlier reading editors are finding it harder to reject stories. I think it is great to see so much talent coming to our magazine. As a writer, I love to see other writers succeed. As a business man, I love to see some of these big names seeing my publication as worthy of their work. As an editor, well my work has become a lot harder. For issue five I had to narrow down 25 great stories to just the eight that would fit in our issue. That is hard work, and very time consuming. I debated for a long time on many of those stories.
Speaking of Business.
I had two magazines approach my company, Plasma Spyglass, and ask if we would be interested in taking over their magazine’s production. I won’t name the magazines, but I will say I think they are great publications. So I had to make some tough business choices over the last few weeks. While Plasma Spyglass does have every intention of putting out more magazines, I had not expected to do it so soon. Plasma Frequency is not even one year old yet. And for the time being we are going to focus on growing that publication first. We still have the goal of advancing our pay rates to pro-rates, and I want to follow through on that. Plus we have our year one anthology coming soon. And we will be announcing more about that in Issue 5. So much is going on, or about to go on, with Plasma Frequency that I had to pass on these other two great offers. But don’t count us out. I think Plasma Spyglass will be publishing a number of different publications by 2014. And by 2018, I suspect we will be doing very well in the short fiction market place.
We do have plans for a charitable anthology coming soon. Once I have heard back from the charitable organization, more details will come. We are also considering many other great things. So, needless to say business has taken up a lot of my time outside of work.
Just last week I finally got more written into my next novel. I plan to make an announcement on that one very soon. The first draft should be completed by next week (fingers crossed). After which I will begin rereading and editing. And, I plan to contact a cover artist soon. So I am thinking that I will announce the release date with the cover art in April. Get ready for this one, it promises to be a great one.
Speaking of great books, the sales for Dissolution of Peace have faltered a bit. I think this is because all of my great followers now own a copy. So it is time I branch out and reach some new followers. I am planning on doing a blog tour. Perhaps in May? Maybe sooner. I would really love one in April. But scheduling these things takes time (as I am am learning). So I plan to get that underway soon. Watch for more details on that. Make sure to share some love with those blogs that host my tour.
I thought I was a grown up now and work was my chore. Well the front and back lawns seem to disagree. There is a ton of yard work to do around here, and I get stuck doing it. Some people love that stuff. Time in the yard pulling weeds, mowing the grass, that is fun for them. For me, not so much. I’d much prefer to hire a landscaper and just admire how great it looks when they are done. But writers can’t afford landscapers, and besides my wife would insist we got a maid first.
My family and I don’t see each other much right now. My wife works on the days I am off, and I work when she is off. My hours don’t lend well to having school age kids, as I am at work all afternoon and evening when they are home. When I get home, they are in bed. So I have been trying to make some extra time for them around all this other madness. I took my kids to their first professional hockey game, actually their first ever hockey game. My middle child was so overly excited, it was a great thing to see. Besides that, I try to make some time for TV, movies, and other activities with them. Family is important. More important than everything else I’ve listed here. So I make time for them and I hope someday my kids will really appreciate the fact that their dad pursued his dream to publish novels. I also hope that one day, I’ll make just enough money on my dream that I don’t have to “work” any more. Ah, the good life.
Many of you may not have heard, but February is apparently Letter Writing Month. I had not heard of it until this year when a writer colleague on Google+ mentioned it. I know what you are thinking; finally Google+ has a purpose.
But in all seriousness, I loved the idea. First, supporting our post office and keeping them sending letters is important. Those are jobs that could be lost if we continue down the path we are on. I like the post office. I use them for all my package shipping, and besides it would be nice to get something in my mailbox other than a bill and pizza coupons.
But there really is more to this for me. I am a fan of the letter. I have been since back in high school when I would write them on sheets of binder paper, fold them up into all different crazy types of shapes and then write SECRET on it. There was something about the written correspondence back then, and the waiting for a response was even better. Nothing was cooler then knowing someone took time to write to you, most likely when they should have been doing something else.
I’m not some old man either. Though I have been out of High School for nearly fourteen years, we had email and instant messenger back then. What we didn’t have was texts, we used pager code. And email, we actually used that to send letters. We used instant messenger back then to meet people, I met my only two serious loves via the internet.
Let’s face it; messenger wasn’t a substitute for the letter back then. We still mailed letters, we still sent birthday cards, we even hand wrote things back then. Slowly we stopped sending letters and began sending emails. But emails were still long, and talked about everything going on with us that week. At first, email was simply letters we could get faster.
And now, well now we don’t email anyone. We don’t have time to email anyone, let alone write a letter and send it in the “snail mail”. We’ve resorted to texts, Facebook statuses, Tweets, and private messages.
Yet, as we are able to instantly communicate with each other so easily, we seem to be drifting farther and farther apart. I hardly talk to my closest friends anymore. One tells me; sorry I haven’t emailed you back I’ve been too busy. I can’t even get a text from her. The other sends me a few texts once a month when I have to contact her about something else. Three live in the same city as me, yet we never seem to catch up. And another one is in another country so chatting sometimes doesn’t work out so well.
And there is the beauty of the letter. You can write it at three am when you can’t sleep, and I can read it at four pm when I have a free minute at work. You can tell me some of the best things about you, and I can share them with you. We can go back to writing questions like: What kind of food to do you like? What is our favorite color? What sports do you like? And much more. You can really find out something about someone. So much more than the fact that they like to post mad cat pictures.
In a time where I can find out so much about a person simply from a Facebook page or a blog, the art of conversation is really becoming lost, the written word even more so. But there is more to it than that.
There is no greater feeling in the world then seeing that I got some letters from a friend, even an email from friend. There is a little bit of excitement when you open the mailbox and there is something there other than junk. You feel like you mattered to someone. Someone cared enough to take the time to really connect with you. I’m a social person, and I am a person that needs to be appreciated. I need to know that people care about me. Letters, even emails, show that.
So that is why I was excited about Letter Writing month, or LetterMo as others say. It means that I get to send out 28 letters and hopefully they will send me something back. Who knows, maybe I will even meet a few more people and we can exchange letters year round.
I miss the days of long letters and emails. I miss really connecting with people and learning more about them. I don’t want to see letters go the way of so many other things. We live in an age where we have each other literally at our fingertips, yet we are so distant from each other in any real way.
It is only the fourth of the month. So go over to LetterMo.com and join the challenge. Fill a few mailboxes with affection and make a real connection with someone. You will probably find you like it a little bit better than the text message.
One of the number one compliments that Dissolution of Peace has received, has to do with the characters. I even started receiving emails through this page from people asking how I made my characters so enjoyable. That was a really tough question for me to answer, I just created them. I didn’t set out to have excellent characters. Let me rephrase that. Every writer wants believable characters with a strong presence in their story. Not all stories are character driven, but without believable characters the story always seem to fall flat. So when I say I didn’t set out to have excellent characters, I simply mean that I didn’t actively sit down and think about how to make people love and/or hate my characters. I just developed them into “real” people and told their story.
You essentially have three types of character types in story. There are the protagonists, in most stories this would be your Main Character (often abbreviated MC). Next you have your antagonists, these are the adversary to your MC. Finally you have you ancillary characters. These are the other characters that support your MC quest. Some might argue that you have a forth group her, the background character, the extras if you will. But, if a character is not in support of the story, I find it best to eliminate them. If you have a bustling market in a movie, there needs to be extras. But if you describe the market in your novel, the reader’s brain provides the background characters.
Antagonist and Protagonist
The Antagonist and Protagonist are often confused with villain and hero respectively. But this is not true. In some stories, your protagonist is the bad guy (though they may not think so). And his adversary, or antagonist, would be the man in the cape. And in some stories, the label of good and evil is not so cut and dry. In this case your MC (protagonist) might be a poor, underprivileged track star who must overcome a leg amputation to win a race again his rich, well to do, rival (antagonist).
It is better to think of your Protagonist as the main star of the show. The person whom we might spend most of our time with. The person who is trying to overcome some obstacle and achieve the goal that is your story. Essentially your novel is the protagonist’s story. You can certainly have more than one protagonist in a novel. I feel my novel has three, and perhaps four, protagonists. But they are also all trying to overcome different obstacles. Ask yourself whose story you are telling. The character you choose is your protagonist.
Think of the antagonist as the person in the way. The person who must be “defeated” in order for the protagonist to advance. In Dissolution of Peace, there is one clear cut antagonist, but I would argue there are at least two more. But in many stories, there is no clear cut bad guy. I’ve read some great stories where the antagonist is a faceless group. Ask yourself who stands in the way of my protagonist and his/her goals. The answer is your antagonist.
These are the people that help tell the story. They could be the protagonist’s friends, family, and allies. They can be related to the antagonists desire to stop the protagonist. Or, they can be other characters that provide help, inspiration, or motivation for the MC. They can also provide despair, discouragement, and other negative emotional impacts for the MC. These are the characters your MC meets along his journey one way or another, and propel the story further in some way.
So you know what the characters are, now what? Well now it is time to make them real. Real characters are what people want. Readers enjoy character they can relate too, are comfortable with, and feel like the are real people. That is where the real challenge comes. Anyone can take a character, plop him into a story, and name him George. But real characters are a lot harder to craft. And they do take some work. That is where character development comes into play.
You may be an outline writer, where you need to outline the specific structure of a story on paper. Or you could be like me, and just let the story take on a life through your fingers on the keyboard. But no matter what way you plan a story out, you need to develop the characters. You can do that in your head or on paper but always put some thought into your characters.
What does your character look like? You may not write out this description in your story, but I find it helps to have a mental picture of my character in place before I start working with the character. Of course, many argue that leaving your character’s description vague in a story allows to a reader to better relate with a character. The logic is that they can imagine a person who fits within their comfort zone. Again, you may not describe the character outright in the text, but you should have some idea of the basics of your character. If you have trouble with getting a mental picture, look at ads and other images and see if you find a picture that suits your characters just fine. (Note: I do not suggest using that image as anything more that a mental building block. Using the image for promotional purposes such as book covers can get you into trouble.)
Name: It may seem obvious that your character needs a name, but this is often the hardest part. I find I like more unique names, and I always struggle with male character names. Just imagine the struggle my wife and I had naming our three boys. Find a name that works for you. I disagree with the idea that it is okay to put any name in place and then change it when you think of one. This is because I believe a name is an identity. And a character with no identity is lost. I suggest Behind the Name to search for all types of fist names for your character.
Descriptors: Think how the police describe a subject: Ethnicity, gender, age. Those are a great start. How about height, weight, build, and clothing they like to wear. Are they even human? These are all important attributes for you to understand your character better. Again, you might not write these out in a text of the story, but they are important. Besides a name, this is the second way we recognize someone. Think of it this way, you ask a friend if they know Greg and they say they’re not sure. What is the next thing you might say? “You know Greg, the really tall white guy. He always wears a tank top. You know, with the really big arms.”
You character has to have a personality. Everyone in real life does. They may be outgoing, they may be a fitness nut, they may be afraid of confrontation. Even someone who seemingly has no personality, does. You just have to know them better. So get to know your characters better.
Likes and Dislikes: What does your character like? What does s/he hate? Do they have a fear of spiders? Do they love to work out? If your character wasn’t stuck in the story you gave them, what might they do for fun? What activities would they avoid? Not only does this build a character’s personality, but it might give you an idea to create a little tension for them at some point down the line. Put me in a room full of spiders and tell me to go get the million dollars on the other side, and I might well wonder how important money is.
Traits: Does your character love to talk? Are they just chatty or very charismatic? Would your character prefer to be left alone? Are they well spoken or more the type to drop an f-bomb? These are all traits readers of one type or another can relate to. Figure out what it is about your character that makes them far more unique than every other five-eleven woman, who likes to work out, but loves chocolate more. Dig deeper and deeper until you’ve created a monster, or a hero, or even better… an unlikely hero.
Now it is time to really make this character into someone. Make them more than just a person in a book. Make them someone real. Give them a bio.
Friends: Who does the character hang out with? What are their friends like? Why would your character choose these people as friends?
Partner: Romance may not be a theme in your story. Though my editor of Dissolution of Peace pointed out that he felt it was the romantic tension in my novel that would sell copies. But not every story needs it. But I do think it is important to take a moment to think about who your character would choose for a mate. It may even be determined that your character has no interest in romance of any type. But why? If they wouldn’t choose a partner, then explain to yourself why.
Family: Where where they born? Who are their parents? Where is their family now? Siblings? Cousins? I know some authors that have an entire family tree for their characters. But also think about how this character relates to his/her family. Remember you can choose your friends and your spouse, but not your family. Your character might be the black sheep of the family, or they could be the family matriarch. Regardless of how we feel about our families, our relationship with our family relates to how we are as a person. The same will be true of your character’s family.
The Past: Consider your character’s past. Where have they worked? Schooling? Did your character witness something that changed them forever? Did they always want a certain job, but they could never have it because of some reason or another? To know where your character is going, you have to know where they came from.
The setting: Consider where your story is taking place. Military and police are all unique individuals, but there are common traits among these people. Same with regions of the world. Where this character is at now is just as important as the past.
Growth: Your characters, especially the MC, need to grow as the story progresses. We all grow as our own lives progress and major events sculpt who we are. They same should be true of your characters. They should grow as they go through the life changing event you have set out to tell. The growth of a your character through the story is just as important as the development you do before the story.
Tips and Tricks:
Walking Cliche: Avoid making your character a walking cliche. The villain who was never loved by his family. The hero who was born to be one. The tall, dark, and handsome MC. They nerd in glasses and a lab coat. I could go on forever with this. There is a world of cliche characters. And I would dare to say there is a bit of cliche in all of us. But, the walking cliche is not going to relate with readers.
Find Examples: Take a look and some of the books you’ve read. What are some characters you really enjoyed? For me, more recently, I love Kara in S. M. Boyce’s Lichgates, Sonata in Beyond the Cell by Sara Tribble, Guile and Kip in Brent Weeks’s The Black Prism, Katnis in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Hank in Robert S. Wilson’s Shining in Crimson are all very strong characters for me (I could list so many more). I rooted for them, felt for them, prayed for them, and wanted desperately to see them succeed. These are the kinds of characters that I enjoy and so when I write characters they are likely to possess some of the same traits as the characters I mentioned. Please don’t take a Gandalf and drop him into you novel, but only call him Ron instead. People will notice that. But if there was something about Gandalf that you really held on to, a character trait of his you admire, then you might put that is Ron the wizard.
These examples don’t have to just come from fiction either. I have an old supervisor of mine that has always stuck in my head. There are traits about him that I think are great, and I use them in my characters. When I look to create romantic chemistry between characters, I draw from real life romantic situations I have seen or been in. In fact, I bet most of our larger than life characters came from traits real people have shown an author.
Characters Talk: One of the big benefits, in my opinion, of not being an outline writer is that I simply let my characters tell the story. I know where the end game is, but I let the character take over the keyboard for me. I let them tell their story through my fingers. I know that sounds like a multiple personality disorder, or at the least the rambling cliches of a writer. But the truth is, when I am writing in a character’s viewpoint, I simply have to become that character. I have to let them talk. I am telling their story, if I don’t listen to them they won’t talk to me anymore. The bottom line here is that if you want to have a believable character you have to treat them like a real person.
Even if you do write outlines. Don’t be so rigid with it. If your characters tell you they want to go on a side quest, perhaps you should let them. I have often found that my characters know a lot more about where my stories are going than I do. And they teach me something new about themselves all the time.
Overly Evil: We often associate the antagonist with evil. This is because if many stories they are the bad guy. But don’t over do it. I’ve heard it said many times, in a variety of ways, so I’ll repeat it: Readers should love to hate your antagonist. They should be able to connect with him on some level. S/he has to be a believable character. They may even be convinced they are doing the right thing. If evil is an element in your antagonist, keep it in line. An overly evil antagonist can be believable, after all there are some incredibly evil people in real life, but too much will turn off a reader. Use the same advice above for creating an antagonist and you will find you can create one with just as much “punch” and the diehard villain, and they will be better for it.
When you go through all these steps you will get great characters. Add some great story telling and you will have characters that are memorable, and worth every moment of the readers time. Each character is different, and their roll in the story will determine just how deep you go into the development of them. But the more you make them real before you start writing, the stronger they will be in the readers head.
If you are looking for more on the topic of character, I strongly suggest you check out Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters and View Point by Orson Scott Card. I learned a lot from that book and reread it often.
Head over to this page and check it out. I think they are still building the page to include descriptions ect. But feel free to leave a review if you have already read it. If it does well on Nook, I’ll start releasing all my titles on Nook on release day. Happy reading.
Don’t forget the Paperback is also available at Amazon.com for $7.99. That is a Trade Paperback at mass market price!
Deep down I think we all seek some type of validation. It could be with a loved one, in our careers, and in our friendship. It can also be with parking. We all need it. I have a confession though, I self doubt a lot. That is to say that I am constantly needing validation that my choices are the right ones. This is true of my writing career as well.
But I think writers are a group that need a special type of validation. There are a lot of people out there that want to be writers. There are even a lot of people out there who say they are writers and really don’t know what they mean when they say that. But deep down we writers want to be validated as authors. Unfortunately validation doesn’t always come.
So at what point are you valid in claiming you are an author. Well, that is a bar that we set for ourselves. Some set the bar really high, claiming they can only be an author when they get that first professional sale. Some claim that they can be called an author simply because they say they are.
But what really validates the claim to that title of author? Well for me it is the recognition of my peers, my readers, and friends.
Last year I felt really good when I took 2nd place in the science fiction and fantasy short story category of the 2011 Preditors and Editors readers poll for “Death Watch”. I felt even better at all the nice comments I received. I even felt validated as a short story author. The sale of my first two short stories in a matter of months helped a lot, but being recognized in that poll was special to me.
But what I really wanted to do was sell novels. So in 2012, I didn’t work on many short story projects. I put my work towards publishing my first novel, and I did it. My goal was to get a lot of new readers, and I did that. My goal was to get a lot of reviews and praise, but that has not really happened. I’ve had 8 reviews on Amazon US and 2 on UK. Don’t get me wrong, I am very pleased with those reviews. But one of my roll models, the person that inspired me to get Dissolution of Peace out, seemed to get a lot of reviews very quickly. Even a lot of editorial reviews (of which I’ve only had two). It is my opinion that he made a big splash in the Horror scene, while I seem to have made only a slight ripple (like a pebble dropped into the ocean) in the Sci-Fi scene.
So, I started to question the validity of my claim to be a novelist. Some of my role models in the independent scene, including the person above, have not even shared (to my knowledge) the work I have done. I think perhaps I expected too much from those I thought would return the favor. But the point is that I began to question if I was any good at what I was setting out to do. This is that self doubt I was talking about.
The problem not feeling validated, is that you tend to slump. And I did a significant slump. But then the readers poll came around again. I was nominated for best Science Fiction and Fantasy novel. There were also 85 other novels nominated. In the end I took another top ten finish, coming in 5th for the 2012 poll.
There were some great comments in there too. I take great pride in how much people love my work and my characters. I was ecstatic to see some of these things, they mean a lot to me.
I think the important thing that this post should point out. If you are a reader, like I am, you need to set out to review ALL the books you read but especially the ones you enjoyed. You need to make sure to share that with everyone. Because if you want to see writers continue to write, they need to feel validated. And for many of us, your reviews, purchases, and kind comments validates our purpose. I think this is more important than a professional sale, and or even a large book deal, though those all help. After all, it isn’t about who publishes what we write, but about who enjoys what we write.
So to those who continue to buy my books, vote for my books, comment on my books, review my books, and share my stories: I thank you. You fuel my my writing career and make it that much more likely that I will someday reach all my writing goals.
As for the parking, I think I will just pay for it. That is a validation that can be impossible to get.
I rarely do two blog posts in a week, let alone in a day. But I was just extremely excited that I couldn’t wait to share this with you.
I have made it no secret that I didn’t like how Duotrope handled their new business plan. It seems there is a new alternative that arrived today.
The folks over at Diabolical Plots made an announcement today:
We have been actively working on creating a Duotrope replacement for which we will never require a subscription fee. Anthony Sullivan has been our technical expert, as our resident web guru. I have been the monkey with the wrench that hits things to see if I can break them, as well as market data entry. The Submissions Grinder is already running and ready to go, though we have some work to do yet updating the market listings.
I was really excited to hear this. I knew someone would put forth the effort to try to replace the void that Duotrope has left. David Steffen appears to have had some of the same frustrations I had. And a lot of his came from the same places mine did. I just didn’t like how it was being handled. And while many of us took to the blogging world to say we didn’t like it. Steffen and his colleague Anthony Sullivan have put together The Submission Grinder.
I’ve already registered because I liked the idea and I know the folks at Diabolical Plots put out quality product. And I will tell you what, I absolutely love it. It is simple. But what do you really need? There is a market search, a submission tracker, and pieces manager. In fact, those of us who are used to Duotrope will find the user interface and information to be virtually identical in most ways.
If you downloaded your Duotrope data from the site, you can upload that Excel CSV file right into their site. I did that today and now all my submission data is saved right onto The Grinder’s “my submissions” section. Best of all, your submissions will create a rapidly growing market listing on that site. I’ve already pledged my support to these folks, if nothing else for the fact that they have proven that they care about writers. Plasma Frequency will also happily do what it can to support these guys.
So please go check out the hard work these guys put into this. Be patient with the bugs, as any new (and even veteran site) has them. But I think you will see that this will quickly become everything you needed when Duotrope went paid.
Recently I had my first three star review for Dissolution of Peace. There are many who believe that writers should avoid reading reviews of their work. Of course, as a new writer that can be tough. There is a certain quest for validity when you are first starting out. This is especially true of independent writers, those not publishing through one of the big house publishers. But you also have to have a certain level of thick skin when it comes to reading reviews. It is the same thick skin you have to develop when you get those first critiques back from beta readers. I think I am fairly good at taking a bad review or critique. I am willing to admit that my writing isn’t for everyone. I don’t think every story is for everyone. In fact, I don’t think there is one story that is for everyone. Tastes vary, and I can appreciate that.
But there is one chink in my review armor, an Achilles heal of bad reviews, and that is grammar. Nothing makes me feel more incredibly horrible as a writer, or even as a human being, then when someone points out bad grammar. The worst part is so many people feel compelled to do so. I have a friend who doesn’t even like to read who will point out just about every grammar mistake I make on social media. My sister-in-law loves to do it as well. My wife, she can do it all the time. She especially loves to point out bad grammar in my speech. My mom even pointed out that she thought I had a bad editor, because of the mistakes she saw in my writing. I found this even more disheartening because I thought my Editor did a great job helping me polish this out. So my first thought was how horrible the original could have been without his help.
Every time someone points it out, I feel like a hack. I have an insecurity when it comes to my grammar. This includes my spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Really any of it gets me down. So while a three star review is decent, the text of his review got me down. Down to the point that I nearly scrapped my current novel in progress and packed up the keyboard. Nothing makes me feel more like a want-a-be writer than when I get hit with grammar points.
But like any Achilles heal, I’ve had to learn to deal with it. There are two reasons I never pursued my original dream career, one of them was a mentor of mine who repeatedly pointed out my horrible spelling skills. I don’t think she ever called them horrible, but that is what I heard. So when the second thing came along, I never bothered to overcome it because deep down I was self conscious of my ability to deal with spelling. I can’t let that become the stumbling block for my dream to write.
If it wasn’t for spell check, my spelling would be worse. But one can not rely on spell check alone. It isn’t a perfect system. Sure, I could resort to blaming others. But that really isn’t fair either. In fact, I really haven’t found a trick to dealing with this. I try my damnedest to learn everything I can about grammar, and do my best to catch it all. I hire an editor to make sure my grammar is on point. And I listen to those grammar complaints from everyone who points them out, even when it gets me beyond angry.
I also try to remember that I am not the only one. I know others that have had, or continue to have grammar difficulties. So here are some tips I use to help me deal with my Grammar Sensitivity:
Frankly, many don’t know what they are talking about. There have been a lot of people to point out grammar mistakes for me to spend time looking up only to find they were the ones that are wrong. But, just because they are wrong doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a little more about grammar.
2. Learn what you can about grammar.
If you are like me, you hate learning about grammar. I don’t like it at all. But if you have the dream of being a writer, it is something you have to deal with. When someone points out a grammar mistake, look it up. And when you are not sure, look it up. There are many ways to look it up. A fellow author shared this site with me: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ It has helped me out a lot. But if grammar is your stumbling block, learning it may not be so easy. But you could also be making it harder of yourself.
3. Don’t over think grammar.
Once of the biggest draw backs to constantly studying grammar has been that I am now constantly second guessing myself. I don’t know how many articles I have read on then versus than. Yet, I still make the mistake. And 95% of the time, I make the mistake because I spent so much time over thinking the way I was using it. And spending too much time thinking over the grammar only slows down your progress on the story.
4. Grammar can be fixed
I believe I have said this before. But grammar can be fixed while the ability to tell the story generally can not. Story is much harder and sometimes impossible to fix, but changing a semicolon to a period is easy. But only if you can catch your mistakes.
5. Hire someone to catch those mistakes
Hire a grammar cop to edit your stories. If you know grammar is your weakest link, get a grammar strong editor. Get grammar strong beta readers too. And don’t restrict them from pointing out grammar issues, especially in later readings. I’ve made this mistake before. I’ve been very restrictive on grammar comments from beta readers and in the long run it only shoots me in the foot.
6. Have a safe zone.
My friends tend to make this impossible. But I used to use social media as my reprieve from grammar. That is why I have made it one of the rules on my blog that there be no Grammar policing on my site. This is my break. But, my mom still feels compelled to point it out. While there is no real safe zone from grammar cops, you can do your best to make some sort of buffer area. It is why I get so angry with my friends on social media when they get grammar crazy. It just isn’t the place for it.
7. Grammar mistakes are not a stopping point.
Grammar mistakes should not be something that stops you from realizing your dreams. I wish I understood that ten years ago. Grammar mistakes can actually be a starting point. They can be a spring board for you to learn from. You can make yourself a better writer by getting these mistakes brought to light. And then learning about them.
8. Watch out for the ones that point out grammar too much.
Yes, there can be too much grammar. Those that expect perfect grammar in dialogue for example. But it has also been my experience that many who are absolutely crazy about grammar are not exactly good with story. I know some people are going to go nuts over that comment. But it is still my firm belief that when you are writing a story, you should be obsessed with the story not the grammar. If you have people around you that drag you down over grammar, they may not be the type you want to have around. But that ones that want to build you up by helping you with grammar, those are the keepers.
Here is a trick to tell which type of person they are: It is all in how they point it out. If they point it out with a rude comment, then it is obvious they are the “drag you down” type. But sometimes it isn’t so cut and dry. The sarcastic joke, the laughing at you (even an LOL or a count as laughing at you) for your mistake, and the constant pestering of you for your grammar. Those are all signs of the “drag you down” type of person. And most of the time, the “drag you down” person is jealous of some other aspect of your writing, such as your story telling ability.
But the person who wants you to succeed will point out resources for you to learn. They will explain the grammar error to you. They will do their best to tell you how to fix it, how to learn more about that mistake, and how to keep from making it again. That is a person that wants you succeed. They are happy that you have all the talents for writing that you do have, and they want to help you make grammar another one of those talents.
Don’t get me wrong. If you don’t think a work is acceptable and you are self publishing it. You can pull it down. But, if you have been following some of my other tips and tricks, you likely did all you could to make it the best possible work you could put out at the time it was published. Going back and changing something after every review that points out a mistake, will only lead to an inability to move on and progress as a writer.
10. Push on.
I mentioned above that I was ready to give up on writing over the grammar review I got. It hurt. But I also had to recognize that it is also their opinion. And, I think it is a bit exaggerated. But even if it isn’t exaggerated, the point of Amazon reviews is for a person to give their honest opinion of the product. Even if it gets all one star reviews, you have to move on. You have to move on and start on that next project. You have to keep pushing for that dream. Giving up on it now will only cause regret later. I still kick myself for giving up on my career goals. Giving up on my writing dreams will not work.
If you are going to be a writer, you will have to deal with grammar. Even worse, you will have to deal with grammar critics. If you have a sensitivity to grammar correction, like I do, you will have to learn to work around it. I hope with a few of my tips you can at least manage to keep writing.
I haven’t done one of these updates posts in a long time, and I have some things to tell you all.
Dissolution of Peace
Dissolution of Peace is doing okay will the sales. The second two free eBook promotions did not do nearly as well as the first one did. I think that in order to have continued success with the free promotions, I need to widen my advertising audience. But in terms of sales it is doing okay. Getting reviews is going slower than I thought I would. But I have six on Amazon US and they are all 4 and 5 star reviews. So I am more that pleased to wait if they remain so positive. I’ve been toying with an idea to reward honest reviews on Amazon.com with some type of giveaway. But that feels awfully closed to “buying” a review and I don’t know that I am comfortable with that closeness. So I think for now I will stick with waiting it out. If you haven’t got your copy, or left a review, please visit this link. If you have thought of borrowing Dissolution of Peace via the Kindle lending library, it will only be available until January 5th. After that, I plan to release Dissolution of Peace on Barnes and Noble for the Nook.
I have been nominated for the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. I was nominated last year and took second place for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short story with my short story “Death Watch“. This year Dissolution of Peace was nominated for best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel. It is currently in second place and could really use your vote. You can vote for Dissolution of Peace by clicking this link. Make sure you check your email for the confirmation email and click the confirmation link it includes. Otherwise your vote won’t count. The Polls close January 15th, so vote right away.
Daddy is Tired
You have all heard me talk about my son’s picture book, Daddy is Tired. Sales have slowed down on that tremendously and he could really use your support. We are putting all the money in his College Savings account. You can go get your copy, or leave a review, by clicking here.
His book is also in the Preditors and Editors Reader Poll under the Children’s Section. So a vote for him would be great too. Since you can vote once per category you can vote for both of us.
Before I started writing this blog, I accepted the last of the stories for Issue 4. We have brought on a great Assistant Editor, Molly Moss, and she is doing a remarkable job easing the pressure on me to run this magazine. There will be a lot of great talent in Issue 4. And if you haven’t ready our three issues from this year, you can read them free by visiting the website.
Also, with Duotrope going to paid we are considering the idea of adding our own response time statistics to our website. This way those that can’t afford, or don’t feel Duotrope is right in charging, can still see the same information. In fact, our statistics will be 100% accurate because they will include 100% of our submissions. I think it is just one more way our magazine will demonstrate that we are very much pro-author.
This is just one of many big plans we have an Plasma Frequency and at Plasma Spyglass.
Plasma Frequency is also honored that some of our content has been nominated for the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. Lindsey Duncan’s “Mythocraft” from Issue 2 is nominated in the Science Fiction and Fantasy short Story category. And Tais Teng’s stunning cover art work for Issue 1 is nominated under the Magazine Cover Artwork section. Again, take a moment to go vote for those by clicking the links.
This Year is Summary
As far as writing goes, this looks like a slow year. I only have one short story published (you can read “Miles From the Future” here) and only two written. But I did publish my first novel this year and put in a lot of work to get Cinco’s book out this year. So in terms of words published, I did much better this year as apposed to 2011. And when you factor in starting and running a publishing company, I’m actually proud of what has been done this year. I can only hope for continued success in 2013.
Upcoming Projects for 2013
I am currently in progress on a Novel. It is not the sequel to Dissolution of Peace (I can hear many of you groaning on that one). It has a tentative title and a very rough release date of March/April 2013. I plan to announce an official release date when I have the cover art done. Perhaps around February 2013. So look for that coming soon.
The yet untitled sequel for Dissolution of Peace is the next project in my “to-write” list. I can’t give you a release date for sure, but I sincerely hope to have it done before the end of 2013. Knowing how hard it is to wait for a sequel, I am trying my best to get it to you as quickly as possible. So many people have begged me to give them a hint as to what happens next. I really hadn’t expected there to be so much love for the characters in this book. By far the number most comments on the novel have been about the attachment readers feel to the main characters. I have a very deep bond with these characters as well. They are the first characters I have ever created with any seriousness of being published. So I really have to get back to telling their story.
Yesterday, a third idea hit me. I’m not sure if it will be a short story or a Novel. The idea sparked up from an odd dream. It will also be very much character driven. But it is still in the infancy stages and may not be ready well into 2014. But as I play with the idea, we will see where it leads me.
Well, 2012 has been a crazy year. I went from brand new short story writer to a novelist, and publisher, in a year. I’ve discovered that people really do enjoy the style I bring to the pages, and I expect to gain a lot of new fans in 2013. Of course, I have to thank all my fans that have been following me since “Death Watch” and all those that have joined me along the way. I write for my readers, and I am always grateful I have readers.
And because I couldn’t resist ending this with a slight cliche; See you all next year.
I really have never addressed this topic. It is funny that I have not talked about it since I quite simply love to curse. There is little else that makes certain type of point than a well placed “fuck” or a perfectly timed “bullshit.” And in the work I do, I am certainly well adjusted to hearing swear words, including some very nasty ones directed at me personally.
So when it came to swearing in writing, I never really gave in much thought. I like to write stories with believable characters, and we live in a world where people curse. But when it comes to telling a story, cursing can be off putting to some readers, and there has to be a balance. There are many things to consider when you type that first swear in your fiction. Let’s take a look at some:
Who is this book intended for? It might be most obvious to eliminate, or at the least tone down, cursing in a Young Adult novel. You will likely have none in Middle Grade. And I am certain your children’s book will be swear free. But it is more then just the category of your novel. Are you writing to diehard Sci-Fi readers? Grandmas? Church goers? Parents of young kids? Military readers? and on and on. Each of these needs a consideration as well. If this group of readers will be easily offended by the content of your novel, including swearing, you either need to change your audience or remove the words.
Is it Fitting?
Does the curse words fit the story, the world, and the context it is used in? If you are writing a book about an alien world who have never met humans, I highly doubt they would use the word “shit” in any way. If you are writing about a character that is getting shot at, I can almost be certain they will swear. If you are writing a military or police novel, they swear. Do they all swear? No. But I’ve been around enough of both to know that when things get ugly, a swear might slip out. You have to find out if the swear belongs in the world, the environment, and the type of story you are telling.
I touched on this a bit above. If you are writing about the military, there may be curse words. But if your Main Character is a very mild mannered person who was drafted into the army, s/he might not be prone to swearing. If you are writing about a priest who is trying to help a teenager get out of a bad situation, he is unlikely to swear. But then again, he might slip in a minor curse word if the teenager has just pushed the priest too far. Or the priest feels that is the only way to get through to the kid. Think about each of your characters. As you are developing your character, did you ever think of them as the type to swear a lot? If not, then it might be best to leave them out. Consider the character’s background. Growing up rich with a lot of servants and proper etiquette might yield a different swear result than the inner-city bully.
To some the word “fuck” is vulgar in itself. I am sure if that is the case they stopped reading my blog a long time ago. But to others, the way it is used determines the level of vulgarity. There is a big difference between yelling out “fuck” in an adrenaline rush situation and saying you will “fuck” someone. The vulgarity of the use of a swear ties in to the character, the suitability of the use, and your target audience. I swear a lot, but there are certain words, when used a certain way, that even I take offense to. In the end if you are going for shock value, it should be removed. Shocking your audience in a vulgar way, will likely knock them right out of your story. Sometimes to the point they won’t keep reading.
Is the word distracting/excessive?
When you read the text, is the word distracting to the action? Do you, or your beta readers, seem to notice the word more than the actions of the overall scene? If so, it probably doesn’t belong. Have your characters done nothing but curse the entire novel? If so, you may be taking away from the character and that will only hurt the story. The most obvious test is if you notice. The second test will come from beta readers.
Excessive is hard to define. You can’t say that a certain number of curse words is the limit in any novel. You have to test it with a sample audience, the beta readers. See what they say. See what your editor says. Consider all of it to decide if it works for your novel. In Dissolution of Peace, we have a military setting, with aggressive and stressed out characters, in a world on the brink of war. I can tell you that there is cursing in the novel. My friend asked me if the novel would be appropriate for a 14 and 9 year old. Before I could message him back and say, “Probably not.” He told me that he searched the novel. The word “Fuck” came up fifteen times and “shit” twenty plus times. When I first saw that, I was surprised. I hadn’t thought it was so much. And that really does seem like a lot. But not one beta readers, or my editor, made a single comment on the cursing. The fact that neither myself or my beta readers noticed proves the fact that it is not excessive.
Of course, others might consider it very excessive. That goes back to audience. So far, in both editorial reviews and customer reviews, there has been no mention of the cursing. So far, it seems, that no one considers it excessive. As I go back and read the novel, the curse words fit the situations they are used in. You almost don’t notice them.
To curse or not to curse. The debate.
Curse words are a big debate in the writing community. I’ve not noticed forum discussion on the topic that did not have strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Many have argued that if the right way to use a curse word is to leave it unnoticed, than what it the point of using it anyway? I often argue that sometimes not using a curse word can be more distracting. I read a detective novel, very well written, but I just couldn’t see this detective yelling out “dang!” when he got shot at. To me that was deliberate censorship and it stood out far more than a “shit” or a “damn it” would have. If the author was against cursing, simply leaving it off might have been better.
And that sort of sums up the use of curse words in a novel. They will never make or break a story. I’ve seen excellent novels based in various settings that both use and didn’t use curse words. But even in those that used the curse words, it wasn’t the curse words you remembered. You remembered the story. Curse words are like many other character and story accents. If used correctly, no one will remember them but they will love your characters and story.
Swears are a lot like sex scenes. In many cases the story will work just fine without either. So the choice is entirely up to the author. But when used correctly, swears are no big deal either. Only the writer can decide if they belong or not.
For well over a year, perhaps closer to a year and a half I have been very openly supportive of Duotrope. They have offered a great service that was 100% free for users, and all they asked in return was for donations to help keep the site running. Unfortunately, according to Duotrope, only 10% of the users donate. As a result they feel compelled to begin charging users a subscription fee for use of their services starting January 1st.
As a business owner, I understand needing to cover your expenses. I can’t even blame them if they want to make a profit (though they have never said they want to do this), but I can blame them for a lot of bad business choices they are making by passing this cost on to users. Especially at the crazy price of $50 a year.
It is my prediction that this move will ultimately lead to the downfall for Duotrope. Not because of this choice to charge, but because of how they have implemented it. I don’t think they really have given much thought to this. Recently they posted on Facebook that they did consider this for some time, but this has all the markings of a hastily made decision rather than a carefully thought out one.
Here is why I say “Shame on You, Duotrope.”
You didn’t consult your users for their thoughts:
The users are the life blood of a service such as Duotrope. You need their submission stats to get the information other users come to your site to gather. And you spit in their face by not even offering a simple survey of your users to see what options they would prefer to keep the site running. Ads on the website, subscriptions fees, multilevel publication listings, and much more are all options that could have been put on a survey to see what your users would prefer. It would have also given us more time to prepare for the idea of Duotrope charging.
You gave us no time to get acquainted to this idea:
The first announcements came December 1st. Giving us one month to be prepared for this idea. Past posts on Facebook gave no hints to this plan. There was nothing in the newsletters to prepare us. You sprung this on us with one month’s notice. This is where the above idea would have benefited us all. If you had told us three months ago that donations were down and in order to keep the site up, Duotrope was considering other options to make money. Then if you offered a survey for user ideas, we would have known something like this was coming.
You’ll become another service trying to take advantage of writers:
Let’s face it. Duotrope offers little more than you can already track yourself. After all the most valuable feature to the writer, is the submission tracker. To be honest, all you have to do is make an excel spreadsheet to do that. I admit that the response stats, acceptance rates, and “Top Market” lists are fun. But you really don’t need any of that information to be an author. And if you want to find markets, Google works for free. Ralan.com is also free. And all the writer’s groups you are in are also free. They can tell you about markets. The main appeal of Duotrope was that is was convenient and free.
Writer’s don’t make a lot of money. Lets put this is perspective here. $50 a year means selling 5,000 words a year at one cent per word. Not to bad, if you are a good writer. But if you are like me, who has a lot of other projects going on at one time. I don’t always get 5,000 words sold in short stories each year. And considering the bulk of Duotrope’s listings don’t pay anything, there is not much chance of making any money on your $50 investment.
This puts Duotrope right in line with other rip off services, such as markets that charge you to submit to them. There is no value in the $50 a year you will spend. You get nothing of real value from it that isn’t free elsewhere. They are doing nothing more than tricking you into paying for something you can get for free. That is the definition of a scam.
There are better ways to make money:
There are a lot of better ways, but they take work. I admit that charging users is the simplest and easiest answer to their funding problem. But there are ways that are better for their users and Duotrope in the long run. This includes selling advertising space on their website, charging markets to list on their site, and multilevel listings. I like the multilevel listing and website ads options best. As the owner of a publishing company, I would gladly spend a little extra to be a “featured listing” on Duotrope. I’d pay $50 a year to do that or even $100 a year depending on what I got for the money. As a writer, I’d pay to have my book get an ad on the website. The traffic I am sure Duotrope currently generates would make advertising with them a worthwhile investment.
I’m sure that if they really put their minds to it, they would find these would make far better choices than charging users.
They won’t make anymore money from this:
The reasoning behind this choice was to make enough money to run the website. The problem is that simply won’t happen. Read the comments on the Facebook announcements. You will see that most of those that say they will pay, say they already donated anyway. Many say they donated more than $50 a year. I suspect that 10% of users that donate, will likely stay the same. That is, I think only 10% of the current users will subscribe. And if many of them donated more that $50 a year, then Duotrope will actually lose money from this. Even if 15% of current users subscribe, they won’t make that much more than the donations. And by the time they reverse the decision and try something else, the damage will be done.
Statistics will no longer be reliable:
If the number of users decreases by even just 50%, the statistics they collect will be damaged significantly. I suspect the users will decrease by 90% or more. This will destroy the integrity of the Duotrope’s statistics. So even if you plan to subscribe because you like the stats, you won’t get what your think your paying for.
Currently Duotrope.com represent around 30% of the actual submission to Plasma Frequency. And that is high. Other editors are reporting that Duotrope’s stats are only reflective of 10% of their submissions. Imagine how much lower this is going to drop when Duotrope’s user pool shrinks by 90%.
This will change what Duotrope is all about:
Duotrope has been free for seven years. For seven years Duotrope has been about helping writers find markets for their writing. Duotrope now wants to be about making money. Don’t let them fool you into thinking that $50 a year goes to running the site. Because it doesn’t cost a lot to run a website. I run two of them right now. Let’s look at this by using costs from Go Daddy:
Domain name: $14.99 a year, unlimited disk space hosting is $179.88 per year. Now, assuming they build their own website (and they now have the templates all in place for every new listing). That is all the real cost associated with running this site. $194.87 per year, if they didn’t take advantage of any of Go Daddy’s regular sales.
What they (the owners of the site) want to be paid for is their time. Does this make them evil? No. Business needs to make money. And clearly Duotrope wants to be a business now. That completely changes the dynamic of the site. This will now be about paying for them to do the work required to run the site. Something they already admit to doing part-time. But if four users can pay the operating expenses of the site itself for one year, how much are the owners going to take in for their time? A lot.
I don’t pretend to know all their costs. And they refuse to tell us (see below). Even when they did donations, it was just blind percentages. There was no defined dollar amount to run Duotrope. So now they plan to charge writers so they can make some money, rather than continue to be a valuable resource for writers. Once again, this goes back to the fact that I feel they are simply trying to take advantage of writers.
Duotrope doesn’t care about the user:
This is the part that inflamed me the most. They could care less about writers. They’ve made that clear by everything above. And they have practically said so. The overwhelming majority of comments on Facebook are against this, yet they just continued to repeatedly post the same generic announcement. This morning they finally posted something more, and it angered me. You can read the whole thing if you want, but I’ll just address what made me mad:
“The decision to become a paid service was not made lightly; many, if not all, of the suggestions mentioned on social media were considered, but in the end our current subscription model is what we determined to be the best compromise all-around. I know some of you want specifics on our numbers, our decision process, etc. While we understand your desire to know the inner workings of Duotrope, we are a private company, and our internal data is not public domain.”
Why can’t you share your operation costs with us? User numbers? The amount of money you are losing each month? Is it because, as I showed above, the real costs are not all that much? I think so. Do they have to share this information with us? No, they don’t. Should they? Considering the outcry from users, yes they should. It is my opinion that they should give us some idea of why this has to be the way it is and why it has to happen in January.
“We knew going in that many of you would be terribly upset over the upcoming change. We are extremely sorry that this has caused you anger, sadness, and the like. However, the decision has been made, and while we are certainly not inflexible about adjusting to upcoming challenges, our subscription model needs to be allowed the opportunity to go into effect before it can be evaluated fairly. Time will tell what the future holds, but time will be allowed to pass before any changes, if any, are made to the way Duotrope plans to operated as of 2013.”
If many of your customers will be upset, and you know it, then it is not the right choice for your business. The problem with putting something out there and evaluating it on the fly, is that the damage will be done. If I leave, Duotrope, I won’t come back. Even if they go back to free. It took seven years to build Duotrope, they can destroy it in 30 days.
“This is the basic principle of quantity v. quality. As just one oversimplified example, many casual users (and we do mean many!) will report a new submission to a market and then never follow-up on it, leaving that entry as a sort of orphan in the overall data. That is the type of data problem we predict will be reduced significantly under the new model, increasing the accuracy of the statistics on listed markets. We know this is not specific enough for some of you, but we hope that over the many years Duotrope has offered its services for free we have managed to earn at least a little bit of your trust.”
When it comes to statistics you need quantity. As I mentioned above. A smaller statistical sample will not mean a better result. The writers that can afford this will be writers who are accepted more often than others. Therefore the statistics will become skewed to only experienced writers who sell a lot. Right now, it is reflective of a broad range of writers.
And don’t even get me started on trust. We trusted you, and you are expecting us to keep trusting you. Trust is a two-way street. You want us to share money and trust you with it, but you don’t want to show us where the value is. You won’t explain in depth why seven years of free service no longer works. Trust me, I am a Nigerian Prince who wants to give you ten million dollars, just send me $5000 to facilitate the transfer of funds. Come on.
“We have always known this decision meant parting ways with some of our users. If you will not be joining us, then we thank you for all the support, promotion and participation over the last seven years, and for helping grow Duotrope from an experiment into a mature company and service.”
A business that makes a choice knowing that users will likely leave, is making a foolish choice. And thank you for acknowledging that you used us to grow your company into a money-making venture and then tossed us aside for the people who can pay you.
Duotrope is moving in the wrong direction. I can no longer recommend anyone use them. They need to take a pause, listen to the users, and postpone this going paid idea. They need to really evaluate the priorities of Duotrope and make choices that better follow the goals of the company. But if the goals are to make money, at the expense of writers, which is exactly what this will be doing, I will want no part in this. I still firmly believe that money should flow in the direction of the writer. We writers already make so little, we don’t need this new scam sucking money from us.
Go to Duotrope, back up your data. And track your submissions the old fashion way, with an excel spread sheet. Then join the countless writers groups on Facebook, Twitter, and online to find new markets. Go check out Ralan.com for market listings. It may take a bit longer, but it will save you $50 a year you likely can’t afford to spend.
Yesterday I did my first KDP Free Promotion. For those that don’t know, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has an option to sign up for KDP Select. This is a 90 day period where you allow Amazon (and by default Kindle) to be the only electronic form of your book sold. Some people balk at the exclusiveness this implies. But there are some pluses. You get to be part of the Kindle Prime Lending Library. This means that people can borrow your book for free and in return you get a part of the collective “pot” of money. I’ve not had any borrows yet. Some authors have told me that you get more borrows for higher priced books, since prime users can only borrow one book per month. I don’t know about that.
The other thing you get to do is pick five days per 90 day period to make your book free. You don’t have to do that. You don’t even have to pick the days when you publish your book. You can go back and set up your days when you want. You can do all five together or pick and choose a few days spread out. The choice is entirely up to you.
As you probably saw in yesterday’s post, I made Dissolution of Peace free in honor of Veterans day in the United States. It was free on all Amazon sites globally. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to see how well this KDP Free Promotions thing would work. Second, I have a special place in my heart for those that serve in the armed forces. It may even be why I enjoy writing military fiction. So I decided to honor those people in a way that was important to me.
The real question is, do promotions like this work?
Success is truly something only you can decide. But, I will show you what it did for me in just the one day since the promotion. You can decide from there if it could be successful for you.
I would also like to point out that I did not market my free book on anything other then this blog, my Twitter, and Facebook. I didn’t announce it on one the the many free eBook blogs. I just spread the word myself.
Getting Books in the Hands of Readers
The point in writing a book is to have it read. I’ve stressed that making money is not my goal in writing. My goal is to get readers and maybe get a few fans who want to read anything I write. So did the promotion get my book in the hands of readers. With out a doubt it is a huge success in that fashion.
In Amazon US, I had about 19 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released. Nineteen times more readers in one day then in the four weeks since my book was released.
In Amazon UK, I had 88 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released. The UK was phenomenal in this free promotion. I’ll get to more on that soon.
In Amazon Germany, I had 7 times more downloads yesterday then in the four weeks since it was released.
I even had my first download in Italy.
In comparison to other promotions I have done, this was by far the most successful. My own eBook giveaways resulted in only around 10 free eBooks being given away. This includes those sent to reviewers. But if I wanted to get more readers, this was certainly a great way to do it. They may not read it right away, I am sure there are people who just won’t pass up free, but there a whole lot more people with copies of my book now. This means there are a lot more people in the pool to write reviews, tell their friends, and look for future titles I release.
Creating Awareness of my Book
This is a really hard thing to do. Getting your book noticed by potential buyers is very hard for any author, especially the indie author. You are fighting an up hill battle with major authors, major publishers, and the rest of the indie market. It is not easy to be noticed.
One way to get noticed is on Amazon’s Best Seller Lists. The thing that always frustrated me about many “help” sites that talk about these best seller lists don’t let you know the secrets to getting on the lists. The truth is the secret is simply getting sales. But Amazon does one great thing here. The Best Seller Lists of the Top 100 eBooks sold is listed right next to the Top 100 Free eBooks. Number 5 in sales is right next to number 5 in free.
This means that when someone is looking for the best sellers on science fiction ebooks, they are also seeing the best sellers in free science fiction ebooks. You still have to get the downloads to get on the list, but you can get a lot of benefit once you get on the list. If nothing more than getting the cover of your book seen by more eyes.
I mentioned how great the UK was in this free promotion. The first time I checked my Amazon UK page yesterday was at 10:16 in the morning. My book had only been free for ten hours, which is a fair amount of time, especially considering the time difference. But at that point I was #48 on the Top 100 Free Science Fiction eBooks. And by the end of the promotion I was #19. In that time I had been on the same page as H. P. Lovecraft, Jules Vern, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and more. I was even next to George R.R. Martin at one point. That is some good company to hang out with, even on a virtual level.
In the US, it was a slower start. This, in part, has to do with two factors. First, the US site has a much larger pool of shoppers. They include India, and many other places that don’t have their own sites. But, KDP free events also start at 12:01 am Pacific time. Right when most of the US is still asleep. But by 12:45 pm, twelve hours into the the promotion, I was on the top 100 list at number 61. And by the time it was over, I had made it to 28. So while the UK really came through on the Best Seller’s list, the US still put me along side the great names of Science Fiction past and present.
I would say that overall that is a successful way of gaining exposure to my book. I don’t know how many people browse the Top Sellers list. But I do know that I often look for books online this way. So overall even if I didn’t get downloads, people saw my book cover. And book covers are the brand image of books. Like all brands, the more the image is seen the more it becomes known and in some cases trusted.
You might be wondering where my book ranked at in the over all ranking for Free eBooks. In the US it was #779 and in the UK it was #425. Not bad considering how many thousands, probably millions, of books are on Amazon.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth advertising is probably some of the best. People often choose books based on the recommendations of friends and family. While I doubt anyone recommended my book the same day they downloaded it. I got far more downloads then I have Facebook, Twitter, and Blog followers. This means people had to hear about it from other people. So people were at least mentioning my book. I also noticed that many people were downloading my book in the US before it broke on to the top 100 list. So they had to find it some other way.
But this huge pool of new readers who downloaded my book will contribute to the word of mouth advertising that will continue to increase traffic to my book. And will hopefully increase my sales volume.
I don’t know if this will increase my reviews. Before the promotion I had two Amazon reviews, and one Amazon UK review. But, the increased reader pool also means an increased reviewer pool. So that has to cause a higher chance of being reviewed. But only time will tell on this.
Again, only time will tell on this. But my point has never been to get money. Some people see the free book giveaway as nothing but lost revenue. But to date, nothing has got Dissolution of Peace in the hands of more readers than the Amazon free promotion. I’ve never thought of writing as a way to make money. For me it is has been about readers, and maybe making enough money to cover the costs associated with publishing it. Would I complain if my book starts flying off the shelves? Of course not. That is the goal of most writers, but not for the sake of money but for the sake of the volume of readers.
From what I have heard from others, the sales will increase but that takes time.
I can’t really see it any other way. KDP has hit a home run with the idea of allowing authors five days to make the book free. And if you use those days through out your 90 day period as a promotional tool, you can really gather a lot of new readers. And many readers who might not have otherwise picked up your book. I’ll likely do another two or three of these free promotional things in the next few months. I see nothing but success here. And if I enjoyed this much success with limited announcement outlets, imagine if I branched out from my circle of followers.
Of course, many people are turned off be the exclusiveness of KDP Select. They feel like they are excluding a market of readers that use other eReaders. Personally I have had little request for ePub format. But, 90 days is a relatively short time. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to renew it. Personally I think it is worth a try.
One of the biggest reasons I enjoy writing and reading military science fiction is because I admire the things our troops do do keep me free to write and read whatever I want. It is easy to forget sometimes just how good we really have it.
Our troops go to places around the world, most of us would never visit. They have to see and deal with things most of us have never been a part of. They spend months and years away from their families. They do it all for minimal pay, and they do it all for us.
Dissolution of Peace, my debut novel, is centered around the military of the future. And to honor our troops, I have made the Kindle Version of Dissolution of Peace free for today only. Get one for yourself, send one to a loved one over seas, and share the link with the troops you know. The least I can do is give them a little entertainment while the serve their country.
Thank you to all the service men and women serving around the world for this country.
Every one in my writing communities is asking me if I will be doing NaNoWriMo this year. For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you start, and complete a novel in November. It is actually a great idea. Especially if you need a quick kick in the ass to get writing that novel you’ve been telling yourself you’d write for years.
I won’t be participating this year. When I tell my fellow authors that, they all want to know: Why? I can even hear some of them looking down upon me for my choice to exclude myself. So I put together my ten reasons why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo. You may call them “excuses” but the word “reasons” makes me feel better about myself. Besides, every now and then I like to put something together that is a little tongue in cheek.
1. November is a production month for Plasma Frequency:
Yep, that is right. I run this magazine and Issue 3 has to be ready December 5th. That means that I will be spending much of my non-day job hours working on getting Plasma Frequency laid out and ready for print. Not to mention designing ads for the issue (you should get an ad to advertise the novel you finish during NaNoWriMo). And since I likely will be paying for most or all of Plasma Frequency‘s stories and artwork out of my own pocket, I’ll also need to pick up some extra hours at my day job.
2. I have to work my day job.
Believe it or not my writing doesn’t pay all my bills. I have to work a day job to try to pay my bills. A day job that doesn’t even pay enough to pay my monthly rent. So that also means I will be needing to pick up any extra hours I can. Since I have to pay my rent, phone, internet, power, water, and Plasma Frequency‘s running costs. In all, I have to put up a lot of hours at work to try to make ends meet. Those extra hours are all hours I normally reserve for writing, editing, and family time.
3. My family needs me too.
Yep, I am throwing them under the bus here. But it is true. And there are a lot of family events happening in November. My birthday and Thanksgiving being two of them. These are often all day events in my family so that means two more lost days in the tight schedule.
And since my birthday is in November, I don’t have to do NaNoWriMo. I think it is in the rules. If it isn’t in the rules, than I am adding it to my own personal NaNoWriMo rules.
4. I have volunteer commitments
I volunteer on the Board of Directors for my local soccer league. And, I coach in that league. And, two of my three boys play in that league. The season ends in November. So there are two year end parties to attend. And there is one weekend ate up to the end of season tournament. So there are four more days that NaNoWriMo can’t have.
5. I already started a Novel.
I have already started a novel. My second novel is already in the works. And in NaNoWriMo you are supposed to start and finish in November. So if I participated, I would be cheating. And no one likes cheaters. I could start the sequel for Dissolution of Peace, but I am not a person that can write two novels at once. I can edit one and write another. I can even write a short story while doing a novel. But I just can’t do two novels at once. It is my writing style.
6. I didn’t participate last year.
I didn’t do NaNoWriMo last year, in fact I have never done it. I don’t need to explain myself for past years, those are past years. But, I am far to busy to start something new in November.
7. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed.
I get that you don’t have to have a print ready manuscript by the end of November. The point is to have the first draft done. But the first draft is the foundation for that final manuscript. You have to have something to work with or the story is lost. At least that is my opinion. And as you can see I already have a lot of things taking up my time. I bet I probably could still throw 50,000 words down in the time I have left, but I don’t think they would be worth the paper, or disk space, they are written on. I would feel like I am sacrificing quality just to get it done on time because of my crowded schedule.
8. I don’t want to be another blogger spending all of November blogging about NaNoWriMo.
Every year the writing blogs fill up with constant talk about NaNoWriMo. Or even worse, they virtually shut down for a month. Both, I don’t wish to do. Sometimes my schedule is so crowded that these posts are the only writing I get done for weeks or months. And I don’t want to take a break for writing my novel, to tell you about how NaNoWriMo is going. I’d prefer to be the destination my followers can come to read a post or two that is away from the topic of NaNoWriMo. Don’t get me wrong, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, you may want to read about the progress of others. I just don’t feel like blogging about it, and/or not blogging for a month.
“But Richard,” you say. “You are blogging about NaNo right now.” To those people I say, this doesn’t count. It is still October.
9. I have a current novel to promote
We have established that my schedule is tight. Well, Dissolution of Peace needs to sell. And it won’t sell with out someone marketing it. That someone is me. My October sales have slowed drastically, and I hope to kick it into high gear for November and December. That means more free time used to find reviewers, advertising, and self marketing. Maybe even trying to set up a book signing or two. That all takes time. So rather then starting a third novel (just yet), I need to market the first one.
10. I have nothing to wear.
You heard me correctly. No one wants to see me sitting around naked in my office writing a novel. What does one wear to a virtual writing gathering anyway? Is it a virtual black tie? Or is virtual business casual okay? Perhaps a virtual suit is sufficient. That’s the thing, I simply don’t know. And to save myself the embarrassment, I simply won’t attend. Besides, I heard it was a Sadie Hawkins event and no one has asked me.
NaNoWriMo is a good thing
Sure, I am not attending. But NaNoWriMo is a great event. And perhaps one year I will be able to do it. But that year is not 2012. If you have time and want to do it, I suggest you check out the website. There is no better way to stimulate your writing glands and put together something great. If you are stalling to start writing, but just haven’t done it, NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump in. At the very least, check it out. Every year I do. And as I said before, one year I will do it.
Perhaps I will have my own personal NaNoWriMo. Who says November has to be the only month you write a novel in? If you are like me, perhaps you make January your month, or even July. And even though I joked about the NaNoWriMo related blogs, I tend to learn a lot more about writing when NaNo is going on than I do other times of year. Authors are always willing to help each other out. So even if you don’t participate, you are bound to learn something this November.
So I have been trying to sell copies of Dissolution of Peace now for almost two weeks. And I am discovering a few things that I didn’t expect to discover along the way. I know I have touched on some of this before when I wrote “Is Anybody Out There?” but that was more about making a plan for marketing. This is more about what I am learning that may surprise some of you.
I’ll go ahead and start with common questions about marketing books and give you my answer two weeks in.
Do giveaways work?
The short answer is that I don’t know yet. I’ve done a giveaway on Goodreads for Daddy is Tired. I did it at the recommendation of another who told me it really worked for him. So far, I’ve not seen any boost in sales. In fact I think I’ve sold one copy total since that give away ended at the end of September. So I am not sure how it “works” but it didn’t for a children’s picture book.
I’m running two giveaways for Dissolution of Peace. One ends at the end of October, the other ends at the end of November. Surprisingly the one on Goodreads seems to be getting a lot less reaction than the one on my Facebook page. There is one advantage to the Facebook Page give away. Both my Twitter and Facebook followers have gone up significantly. Though that hasn’t translated into sales. We will see what happens come the end of the giveaways.
I did two other giveaways. I gave away fifteen free copies of Dissolution of Peace for Kindle on Twitter, of which only one was ever claimed. I did the same on Facebook, giving away ten copies. Two were claimed. Not exactly a very strong presence there. My hope was to get twenty-five copies of my book out there and hopefully get ten reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I’ve not had any reviews (from the giveaway) on either one.
Based on these numbers, you might think that giveaways don’t work. To be honest no one has ever really told me how they work to get sales. They just tell me it works. So Perhaps by the end of the year I will see an increase in sales. The giveaways don’t cost me anything. The eBooks are free. And the signed paperbacks will cost me less than $20 when I factor in the shipping charges. So when you consider how little it costs, it is worth a shot. But if you try something, like my eBook social media give away, and it doesn’t work. Don’t repeat failure. Even if it cost you nothing monetarily, it will cost you your time.
The good thing about Raffle Copter (which I am using to give away one signed paperback) and Goodreads giveaways, is that it doesn’t cost you but a few minutes of time. And, like I said, I am getting new followers as result. That may be of significant value later.
Does Posting to Facebook or Twitter work?
I suppose this is the new form of word of mouth. Word of mouth advertising does work. But only if it is done correctly. But I will clue you in on some surprises I learned.
First, don’t count on people to share it. All the people I thought were certain to share it, some who were even instrumental in helping create it, have not shared it once. Many of these people are fellow authors, whom I have promoted heavily myself. Of course, I didn’t promote them expecting them to do the same. Though I did kind of hope they might. Most of them I promoted well before my novel came out. There are some I have even promoted their business (they are not authors) and they haven’t shared my book either.
But, there is an upside to this. I have had complete strangers share my book, mostly on Twitter. These are people who recently jumped on and followed me. In fact, one person who follows me retweeted it and then five or six people who don’t follow me also retweeted it. Facebook on the other hand has been all shares from family or friends. I appreciate everyone who shares it, and I try to help them out when I can. But remember, just because you help someone else out, don’t expect it in return. The deal here is that you should share what you want and other will share what they want. Even though it is disappointing when family and friends don’t.
Facebook groups are another way of spreading the word. Two things to remember. First, don’t break the groups rules. Your post will just get deleted. Two, don’t expect much from it. I belong to several writing Facebook groups. The problem is, all of them are so flooded with self promotional posts, that mine rarely stay within a readable number of posts for more than an hour. Also, I’m not sure how many people are actually reading what others post there, versus just posting themselves. Some even seem to post every hour or so. Which is bullshit if you ask me. They are spamming the feeds just to keep their book on top. I’ll get more on spamming later.
Okay, I’ll talk about spamming now. If all you post on Twitter or Facebook is your novel. You won’t get anywhere. It doesn’t take long before people tune you out and/or unfollow you. Personally I only post about my book a few times a day. And lately it has been cut back to just once. I post about other topics: Jokes only I think are funny, blog posts that helped me, Plasma Frequency, the NHL lockout, and more. I also comment on other people’s posts, try to answer comments on mine, reply to tweets, and retweet things that I liked. All of these things make me a human being. Not a constantly tweeting about my book robot. I think that is equally important as getting the word out about your books. After all, if you lose followers, what is the point of tweeting to an empty room.
Think of it this way. If every time one of your coworkers, friends, or even family members saw you, all you said was “Buy my book. It is on Amazon.com and it is great.” How long before you wouldn’t see them again? Of course you will tell your friends about your book, but I am sure you talk about other things. The same should be the case on Facebook or Twitter. Be a real person and you might wind up with more results and more help for your followers.
What to you thing about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?
First of all, PPC advertising works on a the principle that a site puts up an advertisement and when someone clicks on it you pay a per click fee. Many places let you bid on the per click rate. Lower bids mean you are not shown as often as larger bids. You can usually choose who you target and even set up limits per month.
Right now I am using Goodreads. From all the research I have done, Goodreads is supposed to be better at targeting readers than Facebook or Google PPC ads. I have three ads. One for the Paperback targeting US readers of Science Fiction 16 or older. One for the Kindle Version targeting US readers of eBooks and Science Fiction 16 or older. Last, I have a Paperback/Kindle ad targeting UK readers of science fiction 16 or older. All three ads are in one campaign. I pay 20 cents a click for one, the other two I pay 10 cents per click. I started the ad on the 16th in the evening. So in about four days I have had 3,500 views. Views just mean it came up on the page, it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw it. Of all those views I have had two (2) clicks, both in the UK. And both UK clicks resulted in zero new UK sales.
The good news is you can change your ads any way you want until you find one that gets you more clicks. I recommend you send the clicks to Amazon or Barnes and Noble for sales. This is because it eliminates extra steps to get your book sold. The real trick if making an ad that really catches readers attentions. Though part of this falls on Goodreads. Frankly they put the ads in a terrible spot. That even on my large screen, I have to scroll down to see them.
The bad news is, I dumped $90 into this PPC campaign based on recommendations from others that Goodreads PPC ads really jump started their book sales for the first 30 days. At this rate, it will take me a long time to burn up $90. So learn from my mistake and start with a smaller number. Then once you find an ad that gets you a lot of clicks, you can increase. Another tip: Keep in mind how much you make in profit on each sale. If you make $0.30 per eBook sale and you bid $0.30 cents per click. Someone would have to buy on every click just to break even. $0.10 is the lowest you can bid on good reads. So if you book is less than $1.99 you’re expecting a lot for the ad.
Here is the thing, I think PPC can work. But you have to stay on top of it. You have to find an ad that works, and that means watching the numbers and changing the ad until you get clicks. And then hopefully clicks will turn into sales.
What about website advertising?
I don’t know. I haven’t tried it yet. I contacted one site that had a really good deal with a few questions. That was a week ago and they never answered me. So I’ll continue to look around. The think on website advertising is you want to find a site that attracts readers of your genre.
What about print/magazine advertising?
Although I have not tried it. I know this works. If you put your book in a fiction magazine for your genre you will get the word out there about your book. The readership numbers matter. This is why if you want to advertise in some of the bigger science fiction magazines, you will pay a lot for it. Smaller presses charge less, but you get less readers.
Book Reviews / Author Interviews?
I’m in the process of getting a few book reviews. But finding sites to do it is a lot harder than I ever thought. Many have “closed” because of overload. Many more have lengthy lead times. One who has accepted my book has already told me it could be 8-12 weeks. Another is reading it now, and two more have put me on “the list”. But these book review sites have readers. I don’t agree with paying for a review. The most I am willing to do is provide a free book.
Author Interviews. I have not done any of these yet. And it seems that the only places I have found that do them, charge for them. So I don’t know.
It the end, blog reviews and author interviews are another form of word of mouth. Word of mouth works, it is proven in multiple industries.
Amazon or Goodreads reviews. The thing with these is to be prepared to have to beg for them. Just getting people to like the book or add it to a shelf has been nearly impossible. Then asking people to do the Tags thing on Amazon has been impossible. Over all it has been a nightmare. But the truth is, people don’t buy things on Amazon that haven’t been reviewed. And the more reviews you can get the better people will feel about paying for your book. But it takes time. People have to read your book. And after they read the book they have to feel the need to go back to Amazon (or Goodreads) and rate it. Many readers aren’t that motivated to do all that. If they are active on Goodreads, that site does a good job of integrating at least a star rating into the experience of the reading progress. But there is nothing to encourage someone to go to Amazon.com and review your item. The encouragement could be that the book was so good they have to say something or it could be it was so bad they had to say something. More often they have to be encouraged by someone to do it. That someone being you.
So does marketing work?
Many authors will tell you that they have seen no benefit in marketing. This is because, like me, they have a preconceived notion that buying an ad automatically equals sales. Or that all their friends and family will share their book. Or that giving a few books away will mean that everyone who didn’t win will go buy it. The truth is far less. Advertising takes a tone of work and it takes a lot of time before it really takes off. The truth is most of us are not marketing geniuses and advertising becomes a trial and error. And since books vary as much as their authors, it is also possible that what you try won’t work for you but will work for me.
The best thing to do is to keep at it. Spend just a little money until you know what works. Invest your money wisely. As I learn more about what works for me, I’ll share it with you all.
When I started out as a writer, I went to work with short stories. There are tons of markets to share my stories with. When I got my first form letter rejection, I wasn’t surprised. I’d known rejection was part of the game and I had been warned that most markets use the Form Letter for rejections. The question no one could really answer clearly was: Why?
I’d first been told it was because of the sheer volume of submissions. Which I wasn’t sure about since I didn’t think it took but two seconds more to tell me why I was rejected.
I was told it has to do with editor policy. Which is true, but doesn’t really answer the why.
I was told it was just the industry standard. Again true, but not really why.
The point is, every writer danced around the topic because frankly none really knew why. We just accepted it as the way of the writing world, and went with it. After all there really isn’t anything any of us can do to change it, unless we all just stopped sending in submissions. But I’m not going to stop sending in submissions over the type of rejection I get.
I’ve been running Plasma Frequency now for five months and we’ve put out two issues. And up until yesterday we offered personal rejections on every submission. Even as our large volume of submission came in, we continued to provide personal rejection letters. Why did we do that? I thought that was what writers wanted. They wanted to be told why their story was rejected. They wanted to learn from the rejections. They wanted to know if the editor even finished manuscript. And if not, why. So I thought, lets tell them.
The problem is this. Authors don’t really want to know. Not truly. When they find out from the editor that the opening was boring, it upsets them more than the form letter did. When an editor say the manuscript wasn’t formatted and submitted correctly, they get aggravated they were rejected on a technicality. When the editor says the story was great but doesn’t fit the publication, they get mad that the publication doesn’t accept “great” stories.
I realize this is an over generalization. I get upset at personal rejection from time to time, but I really appreciate that they took the time to tell me why. And in the end, like most writers, I just move on. I fix the problem, or don’t, and send it off to the next place.
The problem is that there are a significant number of authors who are not professional enough to move on. They have to say something back. Those authors should read my blog post, “Inside an Editor’s Mind (Tips for Writers)”. The problem is they are rarely correct in their anger, and it is almost always misplaced.
My staff and I have been threatened, cursed at, CAP LOCKED, and cyber bullied. I already nearly lost one editor because of it. Here are some of the things we’ve gotten back from authors.
“Well you would know about “overly sexual” you whore.”
“I will find everything any of you have ever written and I will ensure everyone I know rates it as poorly as possible.”
“You can suck my dick!”
“I consider myself above your petty opinions.”
“You must be sleeping with the Lead Editor to get your job.”
“I will tell everyone about your lack of professionalism.”
“YOU CAN ALL EAT SHIT!”
“You are by far one of the UGLIEST people I’ve seen.”
“I will find you and you will regret rejecting ME.”
Your first thought might be that we are doing something wrong. That we are rude in our personal rejection. But I discovered I am not the only one getting this behavior, we just rarely talk about it.
John Joseph Adams, editor for Lightspeed, and in my opinion one of the better editors in the business recently tweeted: “This week, have been both called a “tool” for rejecting someone & had a writer reply “FUCK YOU!!!” Still so surprising when people do this.”
While he is one of the only ones I know to publicly say so, many other editors have privately shared the same types of stories. Writers who complain about how unprofessional we are, while writing to us in an unprofessional manner. Frankly it is embarrassing to writers as a whole, and if we editors wanted to be truly unprofessional we’d share with you their names so you could rise up against them. Because the fact remains that the main reason editors stop providing personal rejections is because of the abuse that writers like these give us.
The problem here is the professional divide. There are many websites warning writers of bad editors. Editors that take advantage of writers. There should be. There are also plenty of people who take to the internet in persecution of an editor or a company simply because of a rejection letter. That is not right. I personally have yet to find a website that warns editors of unprofessional writers. Writers who say things that I’ve mentioned above.
Why? We have to take the high road. We have to be professional and accept that is is part of our job. We are trying to give our opinions to help you understand why your story didn’t make the cut. They are our opinions. We are then persecuted, bullied, and abused for giving those opinions. We just wanted to help. It makes many editors quit. And as their boss, I can’t really allow it to happen. We can take limited steps to protect ourselves, such as switching to form rejection. That is why we, at Plasma Frequency, stopped providing personal rejections to first read rejections. We hope to continue to provide them to second and third read rejections. Hopefully the writers at that level can handle our opinions.
Once again, I recognize that most writers don’t behave this way. This might come off as a bit of rant. And in a way it is.But the point is, it is my opinion that many publications use form letters simply because of the abuse the get if they used personal rejections.
Of course, as an editor I still very much respect writers. I am thankful for the submissions we get. I couldn’t run my magazine with out them. I’ll likely still send out a few personal rejections to those who might appreciate the opinion.