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.
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.
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.
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.
Sites associated with this blog:
My Amazon book page
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.
So what works when it comes to marketing your self-published book?
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.
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?
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
Author Amazon Page https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
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
One of the most interesting things about this book is how attitudes have changed in regards to what it means to be an author.
The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, was published in 1984, long before the advent of online platforms that make self-publishing free and easy to any and everyone.
This is not your "How to Write a Novel for Dummies" and Gardner definitely would not have supported "everyone's right to publish" as proclaimed by many indie authors and the entire self-publishing industry.
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".
Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader.
Though the book contains good suggestions on craft they're not presented point by point but rather embedded within the text. That means enduring a lot of with Gardner's rather academic, elitist attitude.
Is it worth it? Definitely - if you're serious about becoming an accomplished author.
I recently received an 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?
What interested me was how she went about selecting reviewers? It must be an onerous task to go through reviewers on Amazon, even after applying the appropriate filters in regards to genre, and extract their emails. And once you have them there is no guarantee they're going to review your book, or for that matter give you a good review.
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. To sweeten the deal I even purchased her book, very uncharacteristic for me.
She responded favorably and has been very forthcoming. Here's what she has undertaken so far in producing and marketing her novel.
She says she wrote this book, her second in a series, taking into consideration the requirements and preferences of traditional publishers because she thought she might approach agents and traditional publishers with it.
"In the end, after reading several articles and consulting with the other authors in my two writers' groups, I decided that self-publishing is actually the better option. If you're interested in my reasoning, let me know."
I am interested and will be asking her why she'd turn down a traditional publisher to become a self-publisher? Her previous book was also self-published so it's not like she switched.
So how did she come up with my name and email address and those of other reviewers?
The answer is she bought a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (lots are available on the internet).
It works like this - you choose as many books as you want that you feel are similar to yours and receive what's essentially an excel list of all the people who reviewed those books. The vast majority don't have an email address but there are plenty that do.
So what to do with those email addresses?
She down loaded an app called Group Mailer because it makes sending out group emails easy.
So how is she doing?
"In about three days I've 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."
Now that's impressive, not the forty-five who agreed to review it, but the twenty who declined a free review copy and bought one. Who are these people?
She says she has another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she has yet process.
She'll be 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.
She also has had no problem asking friends, colleagues and clients to buy her book and she anticipates reviews from about twenty percent of them.
She's asked the other writers in her writers' groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and has started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.
If that isn't enough, and it probably isn't, she's considering spending $720 to have BookBub promote her book. BookBub claims the campaign will sell 2700 books, and the members in her writers' groups unanimously support these stats saying they've received three times the return on their investment with such a promotion.
There's a caveat here - BookBub only accepts professionally produced, error free books. They seldom accept new releases, preferring you have a proven track record with reviews. If you qualify be prepared to cut your price to the bone. Even if you want to promote with BookBub you may not make the grade.
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 as she just happens to be one herself.
So far her hard costs have been $375. Results are pending.
A lot of what she's doing I've done:
- I have an Advance Reading Team e-mail list of a little over 200 who receive my new books free to stimulate buzz and encourage reviews.
- I have run giveaway promotions on Goodreads, LibraryThing and BookLikes.
- I send a press release to local media offering them a book in return for a review
- I blog, and promote on Facebook and Twitter
- I have three beta readers who read my books free and are recognized on the book's Acknowledgement Page.
- I edit my own books and design my own covers
Some of what she's doing I'll never do.
I have never solicited family, friends, colleagues or clients to buy my books. In my opinion it's unprofessional. Besides I want my books to be bought because they're well written and entertaining, not out some misguided obligation or as as way for someone to ingratiate themselves to me.
My hard costs on my last book were zero.
And so have the results.
Of course, there's always the elephant in the room - the quality of the book.
I'm watching how this book launch does and hoping I can learn something. Maybe you will as well.
Speaking of book marketing...
CreatorCollabs Boosted Tweets
So out of the blue I get a promotional tweet about CreatorCollabs (CC) Boosted Tweets. Basically, post a tweet and share it on CC. Other CC users see your Tweet and share it with their online audiences. In-turn, you need to share content created by others to ensure your points stay high to continue to get access for your tweets.
There's a free and paid plan. Of course, I used the free one.
For a week I loaded Tweets about my plays, Harry's Truth and End of the Rope, available free on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin until December 31, 2017. In return I retweeted content about the books of other authors.
They have a stats bar so you can check how many people you're apparently reaching. Here's the results of one of my tweets.
- The number of retweets my tweet received from my own twitter followers = 0.
- The number of retweets my tweet received through CreatorCollabs Community = 7
- Number of my followers my tweet reached = 50
- Number of followers my tweet reached through CreatorCollabs Community = 10,131
Increase in books sales in response to this enormous increase in reach = 0
Increase in activity on my website and book sales platforms = negligible.
Just another case of nobody being interested in anyone (or their books) but themselves - including me.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
Web addresses associated with this article:
Book Reader Magazine http://bookreadermagazine.com/
Discount Book Man http://discountbookman.com/
Author Amazon Page
I appreciate the mystery genre has dozens of sub genres with sleuths whose expertise, as well as solving murders, include operating bake shops, book stores, and thrift shops just to name a few. For some the setting is equally as important as the detective with an incredible amount of murders taking place in quaint British villages, on cruise ships and in exotic locales. Still others feature cats or dogs that partner with their owners in solving the crime, and some even get help from gumshoe ghosts.
So I was receptive to Yoga for Detectives: Interconnected by A. E. Prero, whose protagonist practices yoga and is the owner of a yoga school in Manhattan, as well as an amateur detective.
The term suspension of disbelief has been defined as "a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment."
I have to admit I'm a bit of a fanatic when it comes to suspension of disbelief in any type of novel. As soon as I have one of those moments where something illogical happens that belies common sense or the protagonist does something totally out of character the story's credibility becomes compromised. When the story is compromised so is my appreciation and enjoyment of it.
In Yoga for Detectives: Interconnected this began right away. I had pause with the way Jaya, the protagonist and a practitioner of a discipline that's leads to self-discovery, self-mastery and self-realization, responded to her stepmother with insults, profanity and intense anger.
After beginning with the stepmother incident the real story starts when Maria, described as a friend, approaches Jaya and tells her that her brother in Lima, Peru has gone missing after finding something while cleaning out his grandmother's apartment after her death.
On the strength of that Ansui, the yoga master at Jaya's school immediately boards a jet and flies there. The next day Jaya receives an email from Ansui telling her to round up her crew and catch a flight to New Delhi.
Incredibly, Jaya agrees and not only that, she decides to take some young teens and their grandmother along as well. The fact the children would likely be an impediment to the investigation and might even be in danger is briefly discussed and summarily dismissed.
I can't help but wonder who is picking up the tab to search for a young man his own sister describes as " a troublemaker", "unreliable", "no stranger to the police" and "in and out of their offices many times", but more to the point, why are they committed to look for him?
The why is provided by Ansui once the decision to fly everyone to Delhi has been made, which is kind backwards if you ask me - motivation usually prompts action rather than the opposite.
Ansui provides a recording that suggests St. Francis, yes, that St. Francis, is responsible for some dire deed that happened over four hundred and fifty years ago, though no evidence whatsoever is provided.
Why, this reader wondered, would Miguel, who is certainly not a religious scholar and maybe not even religious, not an archeologist, indeed he is the only one of his siblings "not to go to university", take an interest in something that happened nearly a half century ago? Why indeed would anyone other than perhaps some academic who specializes in the field?
At this point the plot has lost all credibility and I'm only about five percent into the story.
I persevere to the end of the book but, this question, the crux of the plot, is never answered to my satisfaction and the solution to the "mystery", seems irrelevant.
Prero's characters are extremely fond of using wise sayings, adages, aphorisms, parables, riddles, axioms or whatever you want to call them. Everyone from the Yoga master to the cab driver to the children use them and for every situation. Subsequently they have no significance. Since real people don't talk that way, at least none that I've met, it hurt her characterization.
The author interjects words and entire passages in foreign languages. I for one could not understand them, but not to worry since she usually translated them in the next paragraph. What that is about I have no idea except perhaps it's the author trying to
Much of the book doesn't advance plot or develop character, instead it is a history lesson, travelogue and a food guide. For example I would guess more than half the chapters include a meal with the menu items explained in some detail. I suppose this this could appeal to some readers but I would suggest substantial editing could have been done in these three areas.
The writing randomly jumps from one character's point of view to another's and even frequently uses third person omniscient. There's no rule against doing this except it's confusing for the reader and a bit of a cop out as a writer. There are also frequent dumps of unmotivated backstory as well as character description.
I never did understand the relationships between Jaya, Daniel, Rose, Tal, Arielle and Yardin. I imagine all these characters were all introduced in the previous novel, Yoga for Detectives Lesson One, but it might be a good idea for Prero to consider not every reader is going to read every one of her novels and if they do, maybe not in the order they were released so these relationships need to be explained in every book.
For this reader Yoga for Detectives: Interconnected was more disconnected than interconnected.
Amazon Author Page: https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
This time of year is when theatre groups, big and small, amateur and professional, experimental or conventional unveil their new season.
I love live theatre. I was even a member of the Vancouver Playwrights Theatre Centre and under their mentorship wrote two plays.
One of the biggest thrills I ever experienced was to have professional actors perform a reading of my one-act play, Harry’s Truth. It was truly mind-blowing to witness other people interpreting my work in ways I never imagined while still staying true to the script.
To celebrate live theatre I’m offering the scripts of Harry’s Truth and End of the Rope free until December 31, 2017 to any individual, drama class, amateur or professional theatre group to read, workshop or produce. Here’s what one reviewer had to say about Harry’s Truth.
“You show the interactions between the five of them and let us have a glance at everybody’s past. A lot gets revealed in every scene. I like the detailed stage instructions and the symbolism in the last scene. One can read Harry’s Truth as if it were a short story. I’d really like to see this play on a stage someday…”
Often theatre groups are inhibited by the price of mounting a production. I will sign off on all production rights during that period and also authorize you to reproduce the copies of the script.
As the reviewer I quoted pointed out, these plays also make entertaining reading even if you’re not a theatre buff.
If you send me an email I’ll forward the website address and the coupon codes so you can download your free e-book scripts of Harry’s Truth and End of the Rope.
If anyone would like to take advantage of this offer I’d love to be involved as a script consultant or in any other aspect (no, I won’t pay to produce the production). Who knows maybe I’ll even come and see it.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00SD6LEU
According to Michael Kozlowski, Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader, the leading news website devoted to digital publishing, e-books, and e-reader news I'm a bad writer.
How does he come to that conclusion? In his own words, "You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer... the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers. Once we can define a good writer from a bad, we can start to segregate them."
Which brings us to another of his suggestions, segregating self-published books according to sales.
"My suggestion is for all major online bookstores that take submitted indie content to create their own sections for self-published writers. These titles should not be listed side by side with the traditional press. Indie titles should have their own dedicated sections until such time as they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore."
Why, you ask, does Kozlowski think this is necessary?
"There are a copious number of online self-publishing companies that promise aspiring authors the opportunity to distribute their e-book all over the world. Millions of authors publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press and Smashwords. Most “authors” who self-publish an e-book never sell more than a handful and over seventy-five percent of all authors never earn a living through their writing."
And the result of this plethora of self-published dreck (my word) is that "We live in a world full of terrible e-book titles that ruin e-book discovery and make it difficult to find a good book. It is no small wonder why e-book sales have plummeted in recent years."
The comments on Kozlowski's blog https://goodereader.com/blog/author/michael-kozlowski on this topic are mostly specious in that they don't respond to the problem he's addressing. They range from outright denial to dismissing his ideas because there's a typo in his text.
As one who actually reads and reviews the work of unknown, randomly selected indie authors I'd have to agree with his assessment and his solution.
When I decided to write fiction about ten years ago I had about forty years of journalism as a formative base. But even though I'd written hundreds of thousands of words up to that point it, fiction was a different style of writing. To learn how to write fiction I attended writer's groups, joined online critique sites and read dozens of books and I continue to do so.
Writing fiction is a craft and it can be learned and mastered, to some degree, by learning the fundamentals and then practicing - a lot. It's evident that the vast majority of the indie authors I've read haven't even bothered to learn the basics and have spent no where near enough time practicing.
As Kozlowski says "Indie titles have no quality and control, often they are merely submitting a Word document to Amazon and clicking publish."
Kozlowski's not suggesting all self-published books are crap and all traditionally published books are classics, just that "there is some expectation of quality" in reading a traditionally published book", and that's definitely not the case with reading a self-published work.
From the beginning of my venture into writing and publishing fiction it became apparent to me the only way to measure success was with book sales. This is an industry of illusion and delusion and the majority those involved are, as Kozlowski suggested, subject to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
“Unskilled individuals that suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”
I have come to accept that I am "inept" until my book sales prove otherwise.
Accordingly, I'm prepared to have all my books segregated in "dedicated sections until such time as they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore."
I'm sure there will be very good books that never attain that threshold (mine?) and I'm just as sure there will be those who, rather than hone their craft to the point they can write a good book, will find ways of attaining that threshold fraudulently.
However, this is a solution I am prepared to considered in hopes "the cream might rise to the top".
If Kozlowski's is right that by 2020, fifty percent of all digital books will be written by indie authors and that will account for 25,000 new titles a month being submitted to online bookstores than something, indeed, has to be done.
Amazon has author and sales ranking graphs that are updated hourly. On Sept. 5, 2017, someone purchased one (1) e-book edition of my novel Saving Spirit Bear. That single sale boosted the novel's ranking from 8,787,432 to 201,692 an increase of 8,585,740 points. My author ranking subsequently increased 582,673 points from 825,278 to 242,605.
What do these numbers mean? I'd say a few sales a month and an indie author would be among the top 100,000 selling authors on Amazon. Would that get you into "the majors"?
Who cares, you'd still be making peanuts.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
Find reviews, blurbs and buy links to my eight novels and two plays at
Facebook for writing news, my experience as a writer as well as promotions, contests, and discounts regarding my books
Video book reviews of self-published authors now at
Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ
Cover Art of books by self-published authors at
More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin
View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/
Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music
Steven Spatz is an author, marketer, and the President of BookBaby. He writes the bookbaby Blog at http://blog.bookbaby.com/
It's a thinly veiled promotional blog that encourages self-published authors to use the services of BookBaby to prepare and publish their manuscripts. I compare it to the weekly newsletter I get from a local realtor where despite rising interest rates, falling house prices and any other economic calamity that might be happening "it's always a good time to buy or sell property".
Here's my response to his most recent blog entitle "Book Reviews: The Ultimate Word Of Mouth Promotion".
Let's crunch some numbers shall we. You shouldn't mind because they're ones you provided.
You write in your recent BookBaby blog that book reviews are critical to promoting my book. I agree. You write " "There are literally thousands of book reviewers and bloggers online, and most of them review books even though they aren’t paid."
I'd be doing a little more research before making a statement like that if I were you. I'll bet you'll find the majority of these bloggers and reviewers though online aren't active.
After making this unqualified claim about thousands of bloggers and reviewers who want to review my work at no charge you then "recommend the following sites:
Midwest Book Review that charges $50 a review;
The Indie Reader at $255 a review: and,
The Self-Publishing Review at $119 a review.
If I was to "purchase" one review from each site it would cost a total of $394.
What happened to the thousands of unpaid book reviewers and bloggers? Why didn't you list a few of them?
You can purchase an e-book of mine from Amazon for $3.99 of which I get 35% royalty or $1.35. I'd need to sell about 291 books to pay for these three reviews.
And what if they're bad reviews?
According to your 2017 Self-Publishing Survey
of the 4300 authors who took part only 5%, or about 215 authors, made $5000 a year from their writing. The other category you draw comparisons from which is obviously significantly larger, is the one you call lower earning authors who earn less than $100 a year from their writing.
The inherent conflict of interest of "paid for reviews" aside, how in good conscience can you recommend to the majority of indie authors, making less than $100 a year from their writing as indicated by your own research, that they spend that kind of money on reviews?
So which is it, Steven? Are either totally out of touch with your own research and our plight, or part of the pack who prey on naive and delusional new indie authors who are prepared to throw money away chasing that elusive dream?
Most days I get ahead of the morning. I’m up and busy with the mindless tasks that paradoxically fill my mind. It’s good to be engaged, interested, anticipating the challenges and rewards of the day unfolding.
Then there are days I awake anxious and for no particular reason. I don’t indulge these moods but despite my best efforts they prevail. I become disconcerted and irritable. Little things seem difficult, difficult things seem insurmountable.
On days like these I’m more keenly aware of intolerance and bigotry, of ignorance. I despair at people’s motives and am appalled by their actions. Frustration gives way to anger, gives way to cynicism, gives way to a feeling of hopelessness.
I’m running out of optimism. I know for a fact that everything is not going to be all right.
I would surrender, but to whom? I would retreat, but to where?
Nothing constructive or creative will happen until I shake this pall of despondency. I gear up and head out.
Even as I approached them my mood begins to lift.
The Maples of Kensington. Eight stately giants – so huge, so proud, so magnificently impersonal.
These are Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), the largest of the Maple family perhaps 300 years old, maybe 50 metres high. Being tightly clustered they have developed a narrow crown supported by a trunk free of branches for about half its length.
I stand beneath them, I press my palms against their bark, I take a deep breath and listen.
And they speak to me.
High in their lofty branches the leaves rush and whisper and their sound soothes and reassures. Slowly their benign energy renews my confidence and restores my vitality. The desolation passes, and I feel unburdened, at peace and prepared.
The summer had inhaled
And held its breath too long*
A strange mood ascends on me as summer slowly draws to an end.
The days have a listless quality, time seems suspended. There’s a feeling of deja vu – though not of an experience, rather an emotion, a dream sense, vague and inarticulate.
It’s like a lost memory – tinged with warning.
It’s about ending – something good, something sweet and easy. It’s about something approaching – new, different, challenging. The anticipation of change sends a ripple of foreboding, but I feel resigned, accepting.
One afternoon I find myself at Trout Lake, the local swimming hole.
When I was a kid the entire family would walk here from our home on East 4th. Sometimes I’d go with my neighbourhood buddies. It was a different world then, no structured play dates, we roamed free seeking and finding adventures. Most of these people are gone now, yet standing on the shore I can hear their happy voices, catch glimpses of them splashing into the green water.
This lake was witness to many rites of passage and figures prominently in my writing. The beach is small and less crowded than I remember. The raft I nearly drowned trying to swim to is not so far. Could it possibly be sixty years since I swam here?
Suddenly I’m enveloped in a sense of longing for a phantom life that almost was, but never will be.
I run across the hot sand, splash through the shallows and dive in.
The water is cool, slightly murky, exactly as I remember it and for brief seconds it washes the years away. I kick hard, go deeper, then roll over. Up through the depths the sun sparkles, shards of diffused light. I’m eight years old until I break the surface and look back to shore.
And I’m still here.
*From Coming Back to Me, written by Marty Balin,
On Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, 1967
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6HEU
The 9th annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is drawing to an end with thousands of E-books, including mine, offered free or at deep discounts through the month of July, 2017.
You might want to take advantage of this offer and download some of my books free since I am resolved not to give anymore of my work away with the exception to my ADVANCE READING TEAM.
Why is that, you might ask? And why now?
There is a school of thought among book marketeers (no, it's not a typo since I consider them in the same category as racketeers) that giving away your work will create readers who will write reviews that will generate book sales.
It's a lie.
Take for example this Smashwords promotion. A total of thirty-seven copies of the five books I offered free were downloaded. My other five titles were offered for fifty-percent off. Zero were downloaded. The vast majority of the two hundred and five books that have been downloaded from Smashwords over the past five years have been free. They've generated zero reviews.
There are two things about offering your work free to readers:
- there's no downside. The reader has invested nothing, so if he doesn't read it he's lost nothing.
- free is equated to no value. The reader thinks the work is garbage (and he might be right) and that's why it's free.
I think my work has value, but I'd still might consider offering it free during the launch if I thought it would generate future sales. It doesn't so there's no point in continuing to demean it.
The exception might be the first book in the Mattie Saunders Series I'm writing featuring an independent young woman with a social conscience and a bad attitude, who loves animals, but not so much people. There's some good evidence that offering the first book in a series free encourages readers to buy the rest of the series. I'll let you know once I have a few more books in the series written and published.
Members of my Advance Reading Team will continue to get free and discounted books as well as an opportunity to read new work before it's released to the public. You can become a member by clicking this link
No spam, no tips to live by, no click bait,
Here's a list and the link to my books, in e-book format, available free or deeply
discounted for two more days during Smashwords sale.
Loving the Terrorist - Free https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/579221
The Rocker and Bird Girl - Free https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720
The LOCAL RAG - Free https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/671782
End of the Rope - Free https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/655643
Harry's Truth - Free https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649522
Saving Spirit Bear - 50% OFF https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/575296
Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients - 50% OFF https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/700967
FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend- 50% OFF https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/515038
Abandoned Dreams - 50% OFF https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/573742
The BIG PICTURE- A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic - 50% OFF https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/515877
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
East Van Saturday - four short stories and a novella, has just been sent out to three more Canadian publishers.
The process began in November of last year when I decided that self-publishing another work (currently I've self-published eight novels and two plays) wasn't going to achieve what I wanted.
What do I want?
Critical, serious consideration for my writing and you're not likely going to receive that as an self-published author.
Why? Because it's now dead easy to self-publish and guess what, everybody's doing it. In 2015 alone, 625,327 ISBN numbers were issued for individual indie books.
In the past six months I've submitted to five publishers. If you think sending out submissions is easy, well, I guess it depends on what you're comparing it to.
- publishers are obsessively specific about how your manuscript should be presented: what font style, what type size, margin widths, headers, etc.
- part of the submission package is to explain why you think your work is a good fit for them,
- you must provide details on how you're prepared to market your book,
- in most cases they will not accept simultaneous or multiple submissions,
- they won't let you know they received your submission,
- you are under no circumstances allowed to contact them in any way,
- they won't let you know if they reject your work, they'll just shred it, using "a secure process".
Okay, so it's not that difficult, it's just extremely annoying to have to deal with their arrogance - and that's without ever having the opportunity to speak with any of them.
To make it even more galling, in 2014-15 these guys (and gals) received $30 million dollars in Canadian government subsidies - that's my tax money.
And what exactly do they do for this money now that all the services: editing, cover design, production, marketing and distribution can be done by the author or purchased from experts relatively inexpensively?
They're the gatekeepers to literary acceptance. If you're an indie author you're a joke, if your traditionally published you're accepted by the literati.
Not that I'll make any more money. Emerging authors are lucky to receive a fifteen percent royalty on traditionally published books.
So here we go again.
East Van Saturday Night - four short stories and a novella, are to some degree autobiographical and impart to the reader why you can take the boy out of East Van, but you'll never take East Van out of the boy.
Though the stories are all set in East Vancouver (with the exception of Hitchhike, which is a cross Canada misadventure during the "summer of love"), the themes have universal appeal and the music, the fashions and the culture are distinctly familiar to "boomers".
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
I've just completed comparing the results of three survey's recently sent to me regarding self-publishing and self-published authors to see what the take away is (if there is any).
All three of these surveys were undertaken by companies that are, in the most part, dependent on authors like me who use their platform or services to self-publish their writing.
The survey sample is skewed since the respondents are, in some form or another, clients of these three enterprises. They either publish and distribute their e-books with Smashwords, advertise their e-books on one of WrittenWord Media's four sites, or possibly are doing all the above as well as contracting editorial, graphic design and marketing services from BookBaby.
The findings provided here are likely their optimistic interpretations.
Experience counts (maybe): Successful authors (in terms of book sales) have more writing experience. They spend more time writing and subsequently have more books available in their catalogue. They also contract more professional services, particularly editors and cover designers.
This, of course doesn't answer the question of how they became successful? Did they achieve success because of all these things (experience, time, hiring professionals), or once they achieved some success were the the able to spend the time, develop the catalogue and hire the professionals?
What to write. Fiction sells better than non-fiction and romance (especially contemporary, paranormal and erotica) sells far better than any other genre or literary writing. Under served markets include the romantic subgenres New Adult, Contemporary and YA.
How long should your book be? So much for all those pundits who claim novellas are all the rage because they can be read in one sitting or during a commute. Best sellers, again according to Smashwords, average ninety-two thousand words.
Book Marketing. Offering your e-book for free draws thirty-three times more then priced titles, but what's the upside to offering your books free?
Okay, so money doesn't matter to you, it's about making that reader connection, about putting forth your view of the world. Does offering your work at no charge achieve that? How many free books actually get read?
Not very many has been my experience both as a writer and a reader.
I've had hundreds of my books downloaded free and it's resulted in an insignificant number of reviews. On the other hand my ibook library is filled with books I've downloaded free and have yet to read.
See what I'm getting at. There's no downside to clicking and getting a book free.
This might explain why over sixty-one percent of published authors have asked friends or family members to review their books.
However, if you're writing a series, and series are more than likely going to generate best sellers, than offering the first book free is a good marketing ploy.
Speaking of FREE E-BOOKS. I'm participating in Smashwords Summer Sale and until July 31, 2017 my entire catalogue, eight novels and two plays are either FREE or 50% OFF. Go to https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin
What's the right price for an e-book? So if you opt not to offer your books free how much should you charge? Interestingly, e-books priced at $3.99 and $4.99 did better than those priced less - or more, at least on Smashwords.
In the end it was a lot of reading for very little worthwhile information, most of which was self-evident if you really think about it.
Here's how the sage folks at WrittenWord Media summed up the findings from their survey.
Indie publishing is a viable path to success. Many indie authors signed traditional publishing deals on the strength of their self-published books and many traditionally published authors are becoming indie authors because of more control and higher royalties. Hybrid publishing gives you the benefit of both paths.
This rosy prediction in light of the fact that 727,125 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2015, representing 625,327 individual indie books*.
Well, really, what did you expect them to say?
These surveys would have been more credible if they'd had similar terms of reference. WrittenWord Media considers a "successful author" as someone who makes $100,000 or more in a single year from book sales. Book sales of $500 or less categorizes you as an "emerging author".
At BookBaby you're a successful author if you've earned $5,000 or more annually from book sales. Those who earned less than $100 were labeled "lower earning authors".
We definitely aren't comparing apples to apples here. How can one company consider a successful indie author as earning $5000 a year while another has it pegged at $100,000?
But it gets even weirder. Of the forty-three hundred authors who completed the BookBaby survey a little less than five percent fell into the category of the "high achieving group" earning $5000 or more.
If only about two hundred BookBaby authors earn $5000 or more how many WrittenWord Media authors earn over a hundred grand?
Or put another way, how can twenty successful BookBaby authors only be equal to one WrittenWord Media successful author?
See what I mean? It's like they're comparing different species.
The take away? Only that I now know how to categorize myself. I'm a "lower earning emerging author".
And on that we all agree.
Stay calm. Be brave. Watch for the signs
*According to Bowker, the exclusive U.S. agent for issuing International Standard Book Numbers.
WrittenWord Media https://www.writtenwordmedia.com
My Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU