Rod Raglin

This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection,  the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.

Great editing tips, well presented

 

Okay, so 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers is promo material for ProWritingAid, an "editing tool that highlights style issues and compares your writing to the best writers in your genre". It's even written by the founder Chris Banks and editor of the ProWritingAid blog, Lisa Lepki.

 

Does that mean it's all about flogging their site?

 

Yes, with almost every editing tip there's an explanation on how ProWritingAid identifies the issue so you can make the appropriate edits.

 

But what about those twenty editing tips?

 

Surprisingly, at least for me, they are all excellent advice and well worth the not-so-subtle sales pitch for their product. And as a bonus, each tip is presented in an easy to read info-graphic style and comes with examples.

 

I downloaded this e-book free using a link provided by BookBaby. https://cdn.prowritingaid.com/ebook/ProWritingAid_EBook.pdf,

 

If you prefer you can pay for it - it's worth it and less expensive than a subscription to their site.

 

 

 

Free and Easy Book Launch Basics

Cold-Blooded - Rod Raglin

 What's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews?

 

Paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for someone to launch your new book for you and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Cold-Blooded, Book 2 in the Mattie Saunders series was launched with a pre-order on Smashwords on January 15, 2018.

 

The Mattie Saunders Series is what I now go back to when I'm between, or need a break from, the major novel I'm working on. Mattie is a modern young woman dealing with new adult issues of relationships, career and family as well as addressing the contemporary challenges confronting society.

 

I'm actually taking subjects right from the nightly newscast and examining them from a fictional perspective. Because my overriding concern is wild places, plants and animals there's also a subplot that examines this problem as well.

 

In Cold-Blooded Mattie deals with the opioid crisis, a crumbling relationship and the exploitation of reptiles by the exotic pet trade.

 

This series of novella's are fast paced, somewhat irreverent and short - about one hundred pages.

 

The book was published on February 23, 2018, as an e-book on Smashwords and Draft2Digital and as an e-book and paperback on Amazon.

 

At that time I sent out approximately two hundred and thirty-four emails to members of my Advanced Reading Team with a coupon code for a free download of Cold-Blooded from Smashwords. Follow up emails went out March 4th and 13th.

 

The launch continued with giveaways on BookLikes and LibraryThing beginning March 18. I use these two sites because they don't charge you to offer your book for free like Goodreads that now charges $119.

 

If I ever thought I'd have to pay to give my books away I may have reconsidered becoming an author.

 

I used Goodreads prior to them charging to list giveaways and despite having a far greater audience than these other two sites I never found it generated more reviews.

 

After a month, BookLikes had two people requesting Cold-Blooded and LibraryThing had twenty-six.

 

I use free coupon codes on Smashwords with both my ARCs and giveaways so I can see how many actually redeem the coupon. Totally coupons offered, 271. Totally coupons redeemed, 27.

 

To date, marketing for Cold-Blooded has generated two tepid reviews and no sales.

 

It is now May 13th and I've just generated a free coupon for The Rocker and the Bird Girl, Book 1 in the Mattie Saunders Series, on Smashwords. The strategy is by offering the first book in the series free, readers will purchase the second book. Here's the link if you're interested. It expires June 3, 2018.

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

 

I'm likely going to enroll The Rocker and the Bird Girl on KDP Select so I can take advantage of offering it free for five days over the course of the three month exclusive commitment to see it that will generate any interest in Cold-Blooded.

 

What's the take-away?

 

This is classic book launch marketing, something you can easily pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for and I did it all free.

 

Okay, I got zero results, but if you're and Indie Author and considering investing in marketing your self-published book ask yourself, why should you expect a different outcome? Unless you've got a real good reason, consider going the free route as outlined here or you'll likely learn the hard way what's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

Links associate with this blog:

Author Amazon site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Link for free copy of The Rocker and the Bird Girl https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

BookLikes http://booklikes.com/giveaways

LibraryThing https://www.librarything.com/more/freebooks

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

Draft2Digiatl https://www.draft2digital.com/

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/

KindleDirect Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/

Createspace https://www.createspace.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burdened with excessive detail, Orfeo drifts to a predictable, melodramatic conclusion

Orfeo - Richard Powers

Orfeo

By Richard Powers

 

Peter Els is a composer of new music, an old man, a adjunct professor who has been put out to pasture. When his dog, Orfeo, his only companion, dies suddenly he's so distraught he mistakenly calls 9-1-1. He abruptly ends the call which brings the police to his home only to find he's been passing his time cooking up variant biological strains in his kitchen laboratory.

 

Is this crackpot a bioterrorist? When the authorities come to investigate, Els goes on the lam.

 

Author Richard Powers has the narrative go back and forth between Els' past and the present until they converge. Gradually a picture emerges of the a man obsessed with music, music that sounds like noise to most people.

 

I was never sure if Els was a genius, delusional, lazy or just stubborn, but his obsession manages to wreck every career opportunity and relationship he comes in contact with.

 

As a protagonist Els is not sympathetic, he's frustrating.

 

Powers burdens the story with extensive passages about experimental music and minute details on musical composition. It's excessive and redundant as are his passages of transcendence the composer feels when in the thrall of his muse. The plot seems to drift as if the author wasn't sure where to take it and the conclusion is as predictable as it is melodramatic.

 

Throughout the book the author has inserted intrusive sentences presented in a different font and separated from the text by bold lines. I had no idea what the quotes were referring to, who they were by or what part they played in the story other than pulling me out of the reading experience.

 

 

...and those who can't, teach.

Nickel Mountain - John Gardner

I began reading Nickel Mountain by John Gardner because I wanted to see if one of the most renown teachers of fiction could actually write as well as he expected others to.

 

Gardner felt that aspiring to be an author was almost akin to a "higher calling" and required rigorous study and practice. As well as hard work and sacrifice such a career choice came with duties and responsibilities.

 

The most important of which is telling the truth, and not just getting facts right, but making sure your fiction is believable and not perceived by the reader as a lie. Foremost it must "affirm moral truths about human existence".

 

Well, okay. That's quite a tall order so I was curious to see if his fiction reflected all that high-minded stuff.

 

Henry Soames is middle-aged but acts and thinks like an old man. He runs a truck stop restaurant by himself on a lonely highway. Everything about him is depressing; he's morbidly overweight, he's got a bad heart, he's filled with self-pity and shows it, he blames his overbearing mother and failure father for his station in life. This guy is your classic victim and one of the most unsympathetic protagonists I've ever encountered.

 

When an acquaintance suggests Soames hire his teenage daughter to help run the place he agrees. Why does he agree when there's no indication he needs help and is about as misanthropic as a person can be? Gardner doesn't tell the reader.

 

Which is interesting because the relationship between Henry Soames and Callie, his sixteen year-old employee is at the crux of the story.

 

Technically, Gardner starts with promise - his opening sentence is brilliant. However, he delays the inciting incident until it's almost too late, and when it is revealed it's tepid.

 

Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader, but his writing is difficult and complicated, not at all vivid and continuous.

 

Since I abandoned Nickel Mountain at page 33, I can't say whether moral truths about human existence were ever affirmed, but for the pages I did read I can affirm the story was depressing and monotonous, filled with insignificant details I imagine the reader was supposed to infuse with meaning, meaning which bordered on creepy.

 

My conclusion is that rigorous study and endless practice is indeed necessary for an author, but it's obviously not a guarantee he'll write a good book.

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Fi: Writing as a moral act

"True art is moral. We recognize true art by its' careful, thoroughly honest search for an analysis of values. It is not didactic because, instead of teaching by authority and force, it explores, open-mindedly, to learn what it should teach. It clarifies like an experiment in a chemistry lab, and confirms."

- John Gardner, On Moral Fiction, 1978

 

Okay, so this is a bit high-minded, but still it's something I aspire to in my writing.

 

I've tried to write strictly commercial fiction, but my characters and plots won't let me. At some point they tell me, "Hey, I'm not that shallow, superficial person and I won't let you portray me as such." At this point the vapid story I've been writing takes an unexpected direction and everything gets out of control and I'm back dealing with three dimensional characters in complicated situations that test their integrity.

 

Or at least I'm trying to.

 

How then does a writer, if so inclined, build their fiction on strong, ethical ground?

 

I subscribe to the method suggested by Carol Bly, Author of The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart’s Truth into Literature. She suggests that even before beginning to write a story, consider composing a “Values Listing,” a written record of the things that are most important to you.

 

Then, throughout the writing process ensure these values continue to be identified in your work. That means these values are present in the issues and conflicts your characters confront and that they themselves are grounded in or address these same principles.

 

Here's the Value's Listing Questions. My answers are in capitals

 

VALUE’S LISTING:

 

1. Two goals or values which make life good or bearable or would if they were in operation. PRESERVING ENVIRONMENT/ ENCOURAGING THE HUMAN SPIRIT

 

2. Two goals or values which cause injustice and suffering or lessening of joy. WEALTH/MATERIALISM and the NEED TO CONTROL

 

3. Two missing goals or behaviors. As a child, you thought grown-up life would have these. Now that you are an adult you don’t see them around. HONESTY/INTEGRITY and RESPONSIBILITY/CREDIBILITY

 

4. Two injustices you see about you and should keep an eye on, even on your wedding day. RACISM/DISCRIMINATION and DESTRUCTION OF WILDERNESS

 

Considering my the list of my values, it's not surprising four of my novels could be categorized as Environmental Fiction, interpreted as a story of any genre; romance, mystery, literary, etc., with a subplot that addresses an important environmental issue.

 

In writing ECO-FI my hope is readers will be entertained by all the elements of a good story and will also come away a little more wiser about the environmental issues important to me and that effect us all.

 

ECO-FI TITLES:

SAVING SPIRIT BEAR - What Price Success?

LOVING THE TERRORIST - Risking it All

MAD MAGGIE - And the Wisdom of the Ancients

FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend

 

This stand-alone series will be part of my back-list promotion throughout 2018 and 2019 that will include upcoming FREE book days on Amazon. To be included in free offers of my existing books or the opportunity to receive Advance Reading Copies on new work, consider joining my ADVANCE READING TEAM at http://eepurl.com/cj5wjj

 

Buy links for these books include:

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Smashwords - http://www.smashwords.com

Draft2Digital - https://www.draft2digital.com

 

Book Awards - To compete or not to compete?

To compete or not to compete?

 

Does entering writing competitions achieve anything other than deplete your bank account and inflate others?

 

Maybe - for the few who win, place or show.

 

Last year I researched contests, this year I'm entering them.

 

Why?

 

My writing career is going nowhere and doing the same things and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, right? So to delay that diagnosis last year I sent East Van Saturday Night - five short stories and a novella to maybe a dozen traditional Canadian publishers hoping they could take some of that grant money they get from the federal government and publish my book. Indie authors get no respect, and in most cases don't deserve any, but traditionally published authors get it whether they deserve it or not.

 

Most didn't even bother to reply, a few sent generic rejections and one, Thistledown Press, actually wrote a letter saying "while your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van, we do not have an audience presently to support such work."

 

Nice, but no cigar.

 

This year I'm thinking some recognition from a notable contest might generate some interest among readers and publishers. At the very least I could use the phrase "award winning" or "shortlisted" to stimulate my webpage and social media sites.

 

I began by submitting The Death You Choose, a story about a senior who realizes he has dementia and decides to take his own life rather than be relegated to the living dead, to Writer's Digests' Short Short Story contest in January.

 

The fee was $30 and the submission was an online so no additional costs were incurred.

I can't find out who won, but obviously it wasn't me, however, the fee might have been worth the exercise in editing a story about four times too long down to the required 1500 words.

 

Next I entered The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Prism, a literary publication put out by The Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia.

 

I was ambivalent about this submission because I feel there's an inherent bias in favour of submissions from fellow academics, and that's not me. I mean how would it look if someone without a degree in Creative Writing won a contest sponsored by a Creative Writing Department?

 

However, they kept extending the deadline which I interpreted as they were light on submissions, which means my work might have a better chance. Publication in literary magazines can fast track a career. I know it's hard to believe, but in Canada it's true.

So I sent in East Van Saturday Night and the Paper Shack, two short stories from the anthology that traditional publishers have all but given up on.

 

Why two? The entry fee for one was $35, and only an additional five bucks for a second one. Again, an online submission so no additional costs.

 

Results are pending.

 

I chose my novel Abandoned Dreams to submit to the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards in the category of literary fiction. Here's where it starts to get expensive and that question about sanity begins to arise again.

 

Submission fee is $99.00 CA plus you have to send a paperback so add $20 for the cost of the book and shipping.

 

The submission process was the same for The National Indie Excellence Awards to which I submitted a paperback edition of Mad Maggie.

 

By the middle of April I plan to submit Forest to The Book Pipeline Competition which seeks material for film or television adaptation. They want approximately the first 5,000 words and full synopsis (1-3 pages). I think a good movie about Sasquatches is long overdue, don't you?

 

And once I finish this blog I'm going to submit The Big Picture to the 2018 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest to get their early bird discount of $89 USD. I'm entering this competition primarily because I like that "all entrants receive a mini-critique which will provide ratings on five key literary areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability."

 

If you lose, at least they tell you why?

 

As the year progresses I might even enter more contests - until I run out of money, or go back on my meds.

 

Want to preview the books I've entered? Go to my Amazon Author Page at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Readers' Favorite Annual Book Award Contest

https://readersfavorite.com/annual-book-award-contest.htm

 

The 5th Annual Book Pipeline Competition

https://bookpipeline.com/

 

 

Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

 

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Win one of 100 copies of Cold-Blooded - The Mattie Saunders Series Book 2

Cold-Blooded - Rod Raglin

The second book in The Mattie Saunders Series, Cold-Blooded, has just been released and you can enter to win one of 100  free E-Book editions on BookLikes until April 15, 2018.

 

In Book 1, The Rocker and the Bird Girl, you'll meet the heroine, Mattie Saunders, a twenty-something, slightly eccentric loner who loves birds and so far has devoted her relatively short life to the rescue, care and re-homing of exotic ones people keep as pets, like parrots.

 

The sanctuary her grandfather left her is out of funds and in an effort to raise some money so her birds won't be homeless yet again, she reaches out the Bodine, the lead guitarist of the bad-boy rock band Seditious. She's learned Bodine has a pet Macaw and since she assumes he's fabulously wealthy hopes he'll by sympathetic and use some of that wealth to help these precious creatures.

 

Telling you more would be like shooting myself in the foot since I want you to buy the book.

 

In Book 2, Cold Blooded, Mattie receives a call from Liz, an old friend from high school, asking if it's possible to temporarily board some reptiles at Saunders Bird Sanctuary. The Reptile Refuge where Liz volunteers has been closed be police while they investigate a suspicious death that took place on the premises.

 

Mattie's not concerned with the circumstances and sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with Liz as well as help some animals in distress, but she soon discovers it's not just the displaced inhabitants of The Reptile Refuge that are cold blooded.

Cold-Blooded also addresses contemporary issues including love, friendship, family, the rescue and rehabilitation of exotic pets including birds and reptiles, and the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic.

 

Links associated with this post;

Link to BookLikes Giveaway http://booklikes.com/giveaways

 

To purchase The Rocker and the Bird Girl, Book 1 in The Mattie Saunders Series as either an E-Book or Paperback go to my Amazon Author Page at

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

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An entertaining story about a disturbing problem - growing up First Nations in Canada

 

Jared is a fifteen year-old First Nations youth living with his mother, Maggie and her boyfriend in a small town in northern British Columbia.

 

To say Jared's family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. His mother has a homicidal temper and has been jailed for assault and mandated to take anger management programs. His home is a party house from which his mother and her boyfriend sell drugs and partake in other criminal activity.

 

Jared's a smart kid with a smarter mouth and struggles to maintain some normalcy in his life despite his role models. This becomes increasingly difficult since it's not only his family but all his peers who indulge in similar destructive lifestyles.

 

Indeed, author Eden Robinson has included almost every type of self-destructive and anti-social behavior you can imagine including domestic violence, bullying, promiscuity, self-mutilation, S&M and, of course drugs, more drugs all topped off with binge drinking.

 

As Jared's life lurches from crisis to crisis he copes by staying stoned or inebriated or both. Soon he can't tell what is real and what isn't. When he reaches out to some elders for help, including his paternal grandmother, he discovers they have an entirely different agenda for him.

 

Yet despite the magical power of the cultural mythic creatures that align themselves with Jared in his time of need his salvation comes in a very conventional form, which unfortunately makes for an anti-climatic ending.

 

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson is a page turner for sure. The author does a remarkable job of defining her characters through authentic dialogue and dramatic action. The story in some places is laugh out loud funny and in others almost too painful to read. Her portrayal of Jared's young life as a First Nations youth is brutal and honest though never didactic.

 

In this era of "Idle No More", mainstream media has come under criticism for it's coverage of First Nations people and their issues suggesting they are always depicted by the three "Ds" - drumming, drunk or dead.

 

As a journalist and an author I agree with the criticism and am attempting to understand more about the issues and the people so it can be reflected with honest and empathy in my writing.

 

Though an entertaining book, Son of a Trickster is an extremely negative representation of First Nations people. It's a good thing Robinson is a First Nations person herself, otherwise it's unlikely her book would have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Canada.

 

 

 

 

The benefit of a bounty of Beta-Readers

 

I am constantly amazed at how many errors there are in my manuscripts.

 

And I don't mean the first draft.

 

Nothing is more frustrating for me than finding errors in my books, or worse, having others point them out. As well as being patently unprofessional I feel it shows a lack of respect for the work, not to mention the reader. I suppose this could be resolved by hiring a professional copyeditor.

 

Bookbaby's Copy Editing services include, "A word-by-word edit that addresses grammar, usage, and consistency issues." My soon-to-be-released novella, Cold-Blooded, The Mattie Saunders Series Book II, is about 100 pages and would cost $700.00 to be copyedited by Bookbaby

 

If I sell the e-book edition of Cold-Blooded for $3.99 on Amazon my royalty will be $1.40, which means I'd have to sell 500 copies to pay for the copy editing alone (in my dreams). So I'd rather recruit non-professionals who are committed to making my work error free.

 

Beta readers can be anyone, though I tend to shy away from friends and absolutely won't use family. I'm not asking them to review or comment on the story (though I don't discourage it), just read it and make note of the errors. Right now I have two who had previously reviewed my books (favourably). I contacted them to see if they'd like to beta-read my new works. The other one is a friend. None are professionals and they all do it for a free copy of the finished book with their name on the acknowledgements page.

 

Prior to sending the manuscript to my beta readers, I've developed a process to make it as error-free as possible.

1. Each time I sit down to write I re-read and revise what I wrote during the previous session.

2. After I finish a rough draft I revise it thoroughly, then let it rest.

3. After I've got the story out of my system, which means I no longer have instant recall for each line written (minimum three months), I pull it out and revise it again with fresh eyes.

4. Then comes the computer spell-check.

 

Then I send it out to my three beta readers.

 

I used to be pretty confident once I'd done all that I'd caught at least most of the typos and filled in the dropped words, but it's embarrassing how many errors they still find. It's also remarkable how what one misses the other catches.

 

Once they get back to me I do the corrections which entails another revision. Finally, uploading it to Smashwords, Kindle and Draft2Digital gives me another opportunity to check it since I always do a visual review for formatting glitches.

 

I strongly urge you to begin recruiting beta readers - from your email list, through your website, on social media, a supportive friend, a note pinned on the bulletin board in the local library, or like I'm doing here in a Booklikes blog (see below). You simply cannot have too many and they tend to fall away.

 

If you're patient, methodical and persevere you can self-published a respectable book.

 

Besides, there are no guarantees a professionally edited, self-published book will have any more success than one that is carefully vetted by a group amateurs committed to making your work the best it can be.

 

Plus you'll save a lot of money.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

30

 

If you'd like to become a beta reader and have an opportunity to read (and improve) my new work free, please send me an email at rod_raglin@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Web links associated with this article:

Bookbaby Editing Services https://www.bookbaby.com/book-editing-services

Kindle Direct Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US

Draft2Digital https://www.draft2digital.com

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com

Rod Raglin's Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

An autobiography long on author's accomplishments, short on practical applications

 

The Way of the Writer, Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling is filled with the accomplishments of Charles Johnson, his philosophy in regards to writing and the benefits of academia. Somewhere among this rather high-minded autobiography (because that's basically what it is) are some insights about actual writing (that would be literary fiction with a capital L since Johnson considers anything else "pork" or industrial writing and not worth the effort).

 

Much of his philosophy is similar to John Gardner's who was his teacher and mentor. Indeed, one might be better off reading Gardner's On Moral Fiction as well as The Art of Fiction for more specifics on these two areas unless you're want to know more about Johnson's career highlights beginning in grade school.

 

I did find it interesting that he places more emphasis on plot than character development which could be considered a contradiction since one definition of literary fiction is that it's character driven. That's it you ask? Perhaps it's his lifetime as an academic, with thirty of those years as a teacher, that gives him, in my opinion, a rather limited point of view.

 

Though I'm now inclined to read at least one of his novels - to see if it is actually as good as he thinks it is.

 

 

 

Rich, but unsatisfying

The Golden House: A Novel - Salman Rushdie

A man of extreme wealth immigrates from Mumbai to Manhattan along with his three adult sons. They change their identities and keep the reason for leaving their previous home a mystery though they don't live like recluses, just the opposite, they embrace their new homeland with excess and extravagance.

 

The Golden House is about this family and the unraveling of their mystery as told by a neighbour, a film maker, who takes an interest in them because he hopes their story will provide the plot for a movie he wants to make.

 

Salman Rushdie's characters are larger than life, and I mean down right over the top. Indeed, there are no ordinary people in this novel, every one is eccentric, brilliant, extremely talented, very well dressed and beautiful beyond description though Rushdie does his best to describe all the above lavishly and extensively.

 

In fact he spends so much time on sumptuous imagery, on references to Greek mythology and on quotes that might make sense if I knew author of the quote and the context in which it was being used, I very soon became bored and early on found my self skimming pages to find something that advanced the plot.

 

The Golden House is an "insiders" book. If the reader knows the locales, events, jargon, trends, author of quotes, context of quotes, the heroes and heroines of Greek mythology and their significance then I imagine you're supposed to feel included, with it, up to date, part of the club, and oh so contemporary. If you don't you're a boob, a rube, a member of the cultural lumpenproletariat and don't deserve to know what's going in his book.

 

Rushdie obviously is an excellent, clever, educated, intelligent, sophisticated member of the upper crust of society and he sets out to prove that in every paragraph of this book.

The writing is so rich, so decadent I felt the same way I did when during the Holidays I overindulged in Christmas cake, shortbread and mince tarts - well fed, yet ironically, unsatisfied.

 

Keeping with my New Year's resolution of not enduring to the end books I'm not enjoying, I abandoned The Golden House about a quarter way through.

 

 

 

My 2017 writing year in review

This is a review of my writing for 2017. You couldn't call it a success, nor could you call it a failure since something would have had to have been achieved in the first place. Get what I'm saying? If you've never been up how can you be down?

 

If you don't, well, that's okay since I write this for myself to put the previous year in perspective.

 

Last year I decided to see what it would be like to take part in public readings and conduct writing seminars. The idea was to raise my profile while at the same time sell my books at these events.

 

It didn't take much to get booked for both, but the experience was not very satisfying, akin to pitching from behind a table you've rented at a flea market. After my initial experiences I didn't look for more opportunities. Sales just aren't that important to me.

 

The only thing I self-published was a novella, The Rocker and the Bird Girl. It began as an experiment on Inkitt to see if a shallow story about a rock star and a young woman who ran a bird sanctuary would be popular with the juvenile readers who populate that site. Unfortunately, or fortunately - I'm not sure which, I was soon having so much fun with this story and became so enamored with my characters (though very few Inkitt followers did) I decided to pull it from that site and self-publish it.

 

Novellas for "New Adults" (protagonist between eighteen and thirty) seem to be trendy likely due to the diminishing attention span of this age group and the fact they're read on cellphones during commutes. Quite unexpectedly I discovered I had a lot of story ideas for this heroine and I could easily expand it into a series. Series, according to the "experts" sell better than stand-alones so what the hell, nothing else is working.

 

Despite a thorough launch for The Rocker and the Bird: listed as a pre-order on Smashwords three weeks in advance of publishing, email ARC copies to my Advance Reading Team, giveaways on Booklikes and Library Thing, two weeks free on Smashwords, free with coupon on my website, and promoted unabashedly on my social media accounts  - it so far has had two reviews and no sales.

 

Undeterred, the second in The Mattie Saunders Series, Cold Blooded, is set to be self-published in March of this year. Here's the blurb:

 

"When a suspicious death at the The Reptile Refuge closes it down, Mattie receives a desperate call from Liz, an old friend from high school, asking if it's possible to temporarily board some reptiles at Saunders Bird Sanctuary. Mattie's not concerned with the circumstances and sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with Liz as well as help some animals in distress.

Unwittingly, Mattie's drawn into a dark intrigue and soon discovers it's not just the displaced inhabitants of The Reptile Refuge that are cold blooded."

 

Still determined to break into traditional publishing I spent the balance of last year polishing the manuscript of East Van Saturday Night - four short stories and a novella and submitting it to Canadian publishers. The list of rejections continues to increase from those publishers gracious enough to send me one.

 

What's ahead?

 

This year, as mentioned, the second in my series will be self-published, the third is already outlined (okay, only in my head, but it's only January 4th) and a first draft will be written, plus I'll continue to work on another full length novel with the working title, The Triumvirate - three exceptional people, one insurmountable challenge. I've already stopped submitting East Van Saturday Night and, once the disappointment abates somewhat will take another look at the entire project.

 

Promotions of my backlist are also a consideration for 2018.

 

Book sales from all sources in 2017 amounted to $174.44. Expenses including book proofs, book orders and postage totaled $253.88. You can draw your own conclusions.

 

Oddly enough I'm optimistic. Why not?

 

Besides, writing for me is its own reward - really.

 

Stand calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

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Sites associated with this blog:

https://www.inkitt.com

https://www.smashwords.com

 

My Amazon book page

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Miller's Valley entertaining and satisfying despite the incongruity of the ending

Miller's Valley - Anna Quindlen

 

 

Mary Margaret Miller is a young girl growing up on a farm in Miller's Valley, a small community in rural America in the 1960's.

 

There's nothing unusual about her family or her life: she has two older brothers - one's away at college, the other is a lovable rogue, her father works the farm, her mother is a nurse at the local hospital, an aunt lives in a small cottage on the farm.

 

The only thing that makes Miller's Valley different from thousands of similar rural hamlets is the government has plans to raise a nearby dam and flood the valley displacing the few families who live there.

 

This a theme that runs throughout the book looming over the lives of the Miller family though never really effecting them since there is no set timeline for the flooding.

 

Through the point of view of Mary Margaret the reader comes to know a loving and, more or less, functioning family, their friends and neighbours living in middle America during this period.

 

Quindlen is such a fine writer I was immediately drawn in. Her gift is that she makes the reader feel like they know, have known, or know someone just like her characters. Her prose is so seamless you don't realize you're reading a book - more like experiencing it.

 

Unlike some of Quindlen's work that can leave you with PTSD (Every Last One, One True Thing, Black and Blue) nothing really dramatic happens in Miller's Valley. There's regular love, life and death but it's not agonizing, unimaginably violent or pathologically cruel. It's just your run of the mill stuff - strokes, abortions, infidelity, drug abuse - but it's balanced with love and real caring.

 

Sound boring? It's not. Every time I sat down to read it was like catching up with a friend.

 

I had no idea how Miller's Valley would end and apparently neither did the author, because what she implies in the last few pages is incongruous to the story that has come before. I simply could not believe it.

 

Despite the rather bizarre ending, Miller's Valley is a satisfying and entertaining read.

 

 

Book launch case study results

 So what works when it comes to marketing your self-published book?

 

Nothing.

 

Well, maybe that's being overly cynical. You may find some things work infinitesimally, but let me assure you there is no book marketing "silver bullet". At least that's been my experience over the past seven years with my eight novels and two plays.

 

But, hey, I'm ever the optimistic (what's the alternative?) and so when I received a promotional email (no personalized salutation) from an indie author saying she noticed I’d reviewed a book similar to one she had just written and if she sent me a free e-pub edition would I be interested in reviewing hers, I was curious as to know how she culled my email address from the millions on Amazon.

 

So I agreed to review her book on the condition she tell me how she got my email address and any other tips she might have on marketing. She responded favourably and was very forthcoming.

 

This all transpired in early October 2017  and I wrote a blog (see my previous blog entitled Book Launch Case Study) about what she had undertaken to produce and market her novel on October 18th.

 

As promised I read and reviewed her novel and rated it two stars. It was classically amateur. As well as posting the review I sent her a long, constructive (at least I thought it was) email with suggestions on improving the book and her overall writing.

 

She sent a terse reply saying I clearly did not enjoy the genre and her book obviously was not for me.

 

Fair enough.

 

So I thought I would wait and see if the money she spent on marketing would increase the popularity of what I considered a bad book.

 

Her book was published Sept. 27, 2017 and here's what she'd done and spent up to the point of sending it to me:

- To produce her book she hired two beta readers at $50 each and got a book cover artist from her writers’ group to design her cover for $65. No editor was needed she said as she just happened to be one herself.

- She purchased a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (that's how she got my email address).

- She uploaded the culled emails into Group Mailer and had "about forty-five people agree to read and review a free version of the book and an additional twenty who declined the free copy and purchased the book to review it.”

That's 65 people who agreed to review her book. Keep that number in mind.

In addition, she said she had another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she had yet process.

- At the end of October she was running a 99¢ campaign for the e-book edition for two days on Amazon and one-day free book promotions on Pretty-Hot Books and Discountbookman, spending ten dollars for a featured promotion on bookreadermagazine and running a giveaway on Goodreads.

- Let's not forget her friends, colleagues and clients whom she apparently had no problem asking to buy and review her book. She also asked writers in her writers’ groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and had started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.

 

All this cost her $375, and, I might think a bit of personal integrity and perhaps even a friend or two. But who isn't prepared to sacrifice their integrity, friends and even money if it means hitting the Amazon Best Seller list?

 

In the 71 days since her book was released she's had 7 customer reviews on Amazon with an average 4 star rating. Her book is currently ranked 3,359,000 on Amazon.

 

So what's the take away from this book launch case study?

 

  1. - Promises are not reviews or sales (remember those 65 people who promised to review her book, buy her book, or both) they're just promises.
  2. - Offering your book free or for 99¢ does not generate reviews or sales.
  3. - Since her family, friends, professional colleagues and clients didn't step up and review her book maybe you shouldn't go there. Relationships are more important than a book review and you really never know how much harm you're doing. Think of the friend who got involved in that multi-level marketing scheme - do you really want to be like him?

 

Am I happy she fell flat on her face? No. Am I vindicated that her efforts fell miles short of what I imagine her expectations were? No (well, maybe a little).

 

Mostly I hope she's gained some knowledge, maybe a bit of humility and carries on, but with emphasis on improving her craft rather than her marketing schemes. Maybe even get that email I sent out of the deleted file and take a look at what I suggested.

 

And always remember what Nietzsche said, "Art is the proper task in life."

 

And that would be whether it sells or not.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

 

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Author Amazon Page  https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Book Construction Blueprint - an essential reference book for self-published authors

Whenever I search the internet trying to find some information to resolve a self-publishing issue invariably an article written by Joel Friedlander comes up.

 

I've read a number of them and found them professional, helpful and, most importantly, understandable.

 

When I was offered all this knowledge free in his book Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander - Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books it was a no-brainer.

 

Book Construction Blueprint is a comprehensive guide and includes preparing your manuscript, interior book design, cover design, printing and working with professionals.

 

A good deal of it wasn't relevant for my needs but some was invaluable including the section Cleaning Up Your Word Files. Pretty much all the problems you're confronted with when you upload your original manuscript to a self-publishing platform can be attributed to formatting glitches in your Word file. Friedlander has some nifty tips, accompanied by screen shots, that saved me countless hours of hair-pulling frustration. They're now incorporated into my pre-upload check-list.

 

Ever wonder about the order of your book's front matter? What goes on the Copyright Page and does the Dedication Page come before Acknowledgements? It's all spelled out in Friedlander's book.

 

He also has some great suggestions on what components make an eye-catching cover, designing running heads and font choices.

 

I try to review a lot of new indie authors and it's very distracting and unprofessional to read poorly or incorrectly formatted books. I know what a challenge it is and mine still aren't perfect, but they'll be a lot better now that I have Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander - Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books to refer to.

 

I downloaded this book free from the BookBaby Blog

https://www.bookbaby.com/free-publishing-guides?utm_campaign=BB1748&utm_source=BBeNews&utm_medium=Email&spMailingID=55458812&spUserID=MjIyOTk1NTA0MTUzS0&spJobID=1285048504&spReportId=MTI4NTA0ODUwNAS2