Archive for February, 2012

Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Self-Publishing–Instant Fame or Slow Build

There are a lot of debates happening online over the self-publishing movement. Some people are screaming that the ebook bubble has burst because sales have flatlined for the first time in years. I don’t think so, but it will eventually…several years from now. Others are attacking the technology bringing readers ebooks. Talk about a lost cause. Then there’s the other side, the creator side of the coin. The most vocal of this particular group seems to be traditionally published authors. Their opponent isn’t the format or the tech. They fight is aimed at other traditionally published authors, who have ventured into self-publishing. Some of the traditional authors rallying have tried self-publishing without a lot of success. Some are too frightened to even consider it. I was one of those authors who thought I’d never try self-publishing. NEVER. Nine traditional books and nine epub books later, I’m finding it difficult to imagine ever going back.

Although self-publishing is a lot of work (i.e. covers, formatting, editing, isbn’s, etc.), I’m having the most fun writing that I’ve had in YEARS. Self-publishing has brought back my love of writing. I didn’t realize how much the traditional business end of publishing had interfered with that joy, until it was removed from the equation. Could I have self-published when I first started out? Yes, but for me, it would’ve been a BIG mistake. I didn’t understand how to write a book or edit a book. Heck, I’m still learning how. I needed the time I spent entering contests and submitting to epubs to learn the craft. Even now, I wouldn’t trust myself with editing anything over 30K. It’s just too easy to ‘miss’ mistakes and leave out important stuff that should be in the story. It’s why I intend to hire an editor for my longer works.

One of the things I’m seeing lately is frustration from a lot of traditionally published authors, who’ve released a self-published work (new and backlist). Their expectations are not being met. One commonality that all the authors seem to share is they haven’t given their releases enough time to catch on. They expected to have a nice income within a couple of months of their releases. They also haven’t released many books. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but that hasn’t been the case for me. J.A. Konrath was right. You have to continue to release books to build up your ‘shelf space’. Two years ago, a writer could release an ebook and have a pretty good chance (if the book was decent) of hitting it out of the park. That was before the tsunami of self-published authors hit. Now, it takes time to find/build an audience.

I’m still working on building an audience. Like many of you remember from one of my earlier blog posts, I FINALLY had a jump in sales last November. It took me ten/eleven months to do so. Yep, nearly a year to ‘start’ finding my audience. Part of it is because of the minor popularity of a pre-existing series (thank you Phantom Warriors), but I believe most of it comes from releasing new work. I also believe it’s taken that long for readers to FIND me.

I have no doubt it is frustrating for traditionally published authors who’ve already established their reader base to have so-so ebook sales. I was frustrated in the beginning, too. And I was not working with a big reader base. It was made worse by knowing that my reader base like my writing is all over the place. (Yes, I love to write in multiple genres, so shoot me.) What the authors that aren’t already huge have to keep in mind is that building an online readership is a bit like starting over in the business. Sure, they may have heard your name before, but that doesn’t mean they’ve read any of your work. You have to ‘prove’ yourself to the new audience and that unfortunately takes time. So be patient and keep at it. The readers and the algorithms will eventually catch up.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Where Do You Draw The Line Between Reviewing and Bullying…An Observation

Reviewing has always been a tricky thing. Like with any job, there are good reviewers and bad reviewers. I’ve been fortunate over the years to mainly have been exposed to good reviewers. This doesn’t mean that they’ve all liked my books. Far from it. Good reviewers give what I call fair impartial reviews. There are no personal attacks on the author/editor/publisher (i.e. I can’t believe anybody would publish this author. This author has no imagination and can’t write a sentence. An editor couldn’t have touched this book because of all the mistakes, the editor is an idiot for buying this book, etc.).

When you’re an author, you go into this ‘game’ knowing that your work will eventually be analyzed for review. (Far better to be destroyed on the field, than while sitting in the bleachers booing the game.) The experience of receiving your first few reviews is both exciting and painful. It hurts when someone doesn’t appreciate the hard work that you’ve put into a story. Anyone who’s ever written a book/painted a painting/recorded a CD knows how hard it is, even if the final outcome isn’t what you were aiming for. At the same time, we know that not everyone is going to like what we create. That’s okay. I don’t like everything that I read/view/listen to either. That’s just life.

Good reviewers know there are ways to review a book they dislike without making the author feel like they’re receiving a proctological exam by Captain Hook. When I see a review calling for a book to be destroyed or burned or buried, it becomes apparent that I’m not reading a professional review. I’m reading something by someone who is more interested in their own words, than what was found inside the book. When I say professional review/er, I’m not talking about someone who is paid for their work. I mean someone who spends all their time reviewing books. Most good reviewers avoid these types of land-mines. They are quite capable of writing reviews that are informative without becoming entranced by their own writing and veering off into personal attacks.

To be fair, I know there are authors who melt down if their books receive anything less than glowing reviews. We’ve all seen this online. It’s never pretty. I feel bad, watching them dig holes for themselves and their work. It’s never fun watching someone bury themselves alive. They haven’t been in the business long enough to grow a thick skin. It’ll come…or it won’t, depending on the personality. Some people never develop one. They tend to either always look up their reviews and make themselves miserable or they avoid reading reviews altogether. The latter is probably safer and less painful for this type of author.

When I was a new writer, it definitely hurt when I received a bad review. I knew that they were going to happen. You try to prepare the best you can, but ultimately it’s still painful. As time has gone by, I’ve paid less and less attention to my reviews. Sometimes I catch them in passing, which is always odd. I still occasionally get frustrated by them, but for the most part I try to ignore them. Not because I don’t think they’re important. Reviews ARE important. It’s just that they don’t ‘add’ anything to my life. It’s taken me a long time to realize that my target audience may read reviews, but they don’t tend to post reviews.

Which brings me to my final observation, there seems to be a new kind of reviewer these days. Well, ‘new’ is probably not correct. This type of reviewer has been around for years, but there seems to be more of them now. The type of reviewer I’m referring to is more interested in shredding work than they are in really reviewing the books. They build an audience by covering books with a ‘vomitous’ diatribe of self-important spewing. They protect themselves by surrounding themselves with like-minded ‘individuals’. These reviewers have a pack mentality. They sic the pack on certain books/authors, calling for blood. When this dog-pile behavior happens, we’re no longer talking about liking or disliking a particular book or author. Reviews go out the window. This is purposeful, destructive manipulation or in other words, a power trip. I blame the reality star mentality that’s prevalent everywhere these days for this type of bad behavior. I do know that authors aren’t supposed to say anything to a reviewer. Ever. I get that the motto is ‘Lie back and think of England’, when you’re getting reamed online. Don’t have to like it, but I get it. For the most part, I’m capable of turning the other cheek. I pride myself on being able to ignore a lot…unless I’m confronted in person. I don’t have the temperament to handle venomous spewing in person. Fair warning.

I haven’t been on the receiving end of a pack mentality attack, yet. I’m sure I will at some point. Probably once I publish this blog entry. LOL! It has however happened to several people that I know. Some were writers, some were kids. When it’s done to kids, they call it online bullying. When it’s done to an author…

I understand that in real life there are a lot of people who feel powerless. I also get the need to feel important. Everyone wants to believe that they matter. But it seems like a few people have taken this desire for attention and twisted it into a level of self-importance that doesn’t exist off-line. What I wish that these types of reviewers would remember is that just because you hate a book/painting/CD and think it’s a waste of shelf space, doesn’t mean that the next reader/viewer/listener isn’t going to LOVE it. When you sic your pack on a creator and tell them how to behave, you are depriving those readers/viewers/listeners of finding out for themselves whether they love or hate the artistic creation. Perhaps that’s the intention. It is nice to feel like the all powerful Oz on occasion, especially if it’s not happening in real life. I get it. I really do. But at the end of the day, you’re still standing outside with your face pressed against the glass hoping to gain a bit of magic by touching other’s creations.

I got some advice YEARS ago. Pretty sure it came from a multi-published author. She said, “Always remember that the book that you HATE is someone’s FAVORITE book.” For some reason that has always stuck with me. Whether I’m judging contests or reading for pleasure, I always keep that in mind. It’s hard sometimes to think about books/paintings/music that way, but logically I know that it’s true. Perhaps if more people thought about that before they put their fingers to the keyboard, we’d have less vomit in our eyes and more useful information to digest.