Surviving the War of the Page

An excerpt from an interview over on Horror Novel Reviews where I talk about staggering creativity, an enviable imagination, and Venti Caramel Half-Caf N0-Whip Mocha Frappucinos.

Oh, and Proseuche. Of course.

So, really, that’s why I’m here. Because you do what I do and you know how difficult and frustrating it can be. Especially if you’re that falling tree in the forest that no one hears. So I’m standing before you for a nod, a small smile. Maybe even a handshake. One survivor of the War of the Page welcoming another comrade to its ranks, if you will.

 

 

Obsession and Oblivion

From a recent guest post I wrote:

Why do I do what every indie writer does every single day?

Because I’m curious. No, scratch that. Because I’m obsessed.

This obsession can’t be stopped by the absence of a Big Publisher brandishing a goody bag of guidance and media connections. This obsession won’t be quieted by the lack of a sizeable advance propping up my bank account or the implicit promise of three martini lunches in suit-and-tie restaurants. With tablecloths. And flowers. Or not.

In fact, my obsession — perhaps I should be calling it a sickness by now? — isn’t even disheartened by this apparently endless wandering among the parched, wind-blasted dunes of NoSales Desert.

My characters, my stories, my books steamroll everything else into oblivion.

“get over it and write”

A quick glimpse at an interview I recently gave:

… write your words unapologetically. Don’t worry about people liking it or wanting to read it. I guarantee you someone out there will hate it and think it’s worthless drivel. But someone else will love it and it might even change someone’s life. You have no control over how it will be received, so get over it and write. A lot.

… and a very brief snippet from a new review for The Wounded King

The Wounded King: The Martuk Series is a story that will grasp readers from the start. Jonathan’s masterful combination of words to create potent images into the minds of his readers is exceedingly entrancing.

Enjoy!

dancing unicorns of hope

A friend of mine, seeing how “easy” it was for me to publish a few books, has decided that THEY now want to jump in the game and, I don’t know, write something. (their words, not mine)

Now, I’m a supportive, encouraging friend even if I’m not at all confident this will actually happen. And I’d love to be something of a guide to this person. Steer them away from the mistakes I made and maybe make the transition from fantasy to reality a little easier. Perhaps prepare them in some way for what waits after they click Publish and their baby goes Live.

But they are SO not open to hearing any of that. They’re convinced they’re unleashing the next 50 Shades of Grey and will most definitely get 10,000 sales a day and soon be supping with Spielberg, so …

I’ll just go ahead and tell YOU.

As a self-published Author without a strong platform (read: blog that’s a few years old and has massive traffic i.e., a built-in fan base), your first month will probably be your best.

Why?

That’s when friends and family and friends of friends and friends of family and coworkers and friends of coworkers and so on and so forth and whatnot will buy your book.

And that’s it.

You see, the second month, when everyone you know already has you locked and loaded on their Kindle (which they may or may not read), that’s when the reality of what you face hits you. And unless you’ve already laid the groundwork via your blog (see above) or other blogs (a process that, if done with sincerity, can take many months), no one will know you exist. And if you don’t exist, how do you sell books?

Reviews.

Reviews from your built-in fans (family and friends) come almost right away. They rave, they weep, they insist this is the best thing since sliced bread and you HAVE to buy it. And savvy ebook buyers tend to discount them just as quickly. The reviews that matter are from well-known reviewers on well-known blogs who, like it or not, are going to be honest. If your book sucks, you’ll hear about it and it can hurt not only your bottom line, but your career as well. If they love it, you’ll see sales pick up.

Now, to get those reviews.

It can take months. Even upwards of a year. Or more.

Bitter pill to swallow? Yep. But don’t you think knowing stuff like this would be helpful if you’re just starting out? That the minimal sales you see as a new author are the same for practically every other new author? And that most books don’t find their rhythm or readership for at least the first six months? And that’s if it’s strong work that’s smartly promoted?

Don’t you believe it SHOULD be common knowledge that the work in getting your book noticed is an ongoing, laborious, lengthy process holding no guarantee of success? And, let’s face it, it’d be a HUGE help knowing that the interest of those closest to you peaks in the beginning and then, after that, becomes polite support. That’s a good thing to understand, don’t you think?

Of course. Or at least I think it would. And I haven’t even touched on promotion via excerpts and guest blogging and Twitter and Facebook and blah blah blah blah blah.

So, for you writers out there gearing up to begin your self-publishing journey, I hope you find the above useful.

It’s not offered to prick your balloons or throw cold water on your dreams or suffocate your prancing, dancing unicorns of hope. It’s simply out there so can be prepared and understand what’s happening instead of believing it’s because you suck and your book sucks and no one cares.

It’s a business, this publishing thing, and the more you know going in, the better off you’ll be.

So consider this your friendly reality check.

(^~^)

How to fuck up Twitter

Okay, I love La Twitter. Love it. Love joking around, reaching out, saying Hi, sending support and congrats and whatnot. Love that I’ve made some solid business connections and a few fairly good friends. Love that those I Follow are directors and producers and actors and dancers and writers and teachers and painters and sculptors and ordinary Joes and Jills who have a rollicking sense of humor. And I love that Twitter has the potential to be a very powerful marketing tool.

Do I Tweet excerpts to this blog? My new book? Interviews I give? Yes, yep, and hell yeah. Are they on constant rotation? God no. Do I actually get on and talk with people? OF COURSE! And that’s why Twitter has been such a success for me.

If you take a moment to dig beyond the black pixels on white and dive into the heart of what it COULD be, Twitter has a lot to offer IF it’s used smartly.

Smartly? Yeah.

Give me a sec while I pull on my Bitchy Britches …

What I hate — HATE — is having my TimeLine filled with Authors spamming me links to their books. “Riveting read”? I could care less. “Better than Clive Cussler”? Good for you. “Best book I’ve EVER read!”? Somehow I just don’t believe your Aunt Sally. “The next Stephen King”? Probably not.

Listen, I understand the desire to market. In the self-pubbing world, it’s an absolute necessity. How else will we find our audiences? But how effective will you be if your marketing degenerates into thoughtless bullshit that annoys your Followers and alienates potential Readers? Link after link after link quickly becomes a predictable, repetitive white noise and soon we find ourselves just … not … caring … anymore.

Okay, we got it. You wrote a book. Good for you! Congrats and good job! No, seriously. It ain’t easy, that’s for damn sure. Sacrifices were made, blood might have been spilled, tears certainly were shed. I have a book, too. A few, in fact, with more on the way. Books are not easy things to do.

Now, show me who you are! Why should I click your many links? Why should I buy your book? And why should I commit the time necessary to walk with you through your pages if I have no idea who you are and you evidently have NO interest in knowing who I am?

So listen up, Author:

Want to sell me a copy of your riveting read? Talk to me. Be a real person. Engage me when I Tweet you a congrats.

And DO NOT auto-DM me a “Thank You for Following” with a link to your opus and FB page when I decide to Follow Back. That’s a bit like staring at the ceiling before patting me on the back and then sticking your hand out for your $20.

Now, not all links are worthless trash. I discover A LOT of great articles and interviews via Twitter. That’s all well and good. I expect that kind of content from those particular Tweeps. These are people I’ve dealt with and enjoy. And of course people have schedules and can’t be on Twitter all day, so pre-scheduling Tweets is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

But what are you Tweeting?

I’m writing two books, one screenplay, and two plays. And that’s not counting the other three books I’m chapter mapping, the play I’m doing rewrites on, and the other screenplay I’m scene mapping. Oh, and the life I’m living. You know, dogs to play with, an Other Half to placate, family to love and/or argue with.

Twitter, for me, is like a mini-break. I get on, set the clock, give myself 15 minutes or so to absolutely annoy the shit outta people, and then, once that time is up, sign off with a “Gotta get to work on my WIP, Tweeps” and that’s it. Personal and to the point and I love it.

Maybe I’m a naive fool — definitely a strong possibility, kids –, but I kind of think of Twitter, sometimes, as a big book signing, minus the books to sign, of course. People approach me, like the link IN MY PROFILE (thank you), chat me up, we laugh, I answer their writing questions, we laugh some more, and, lo and behold, I find myself with a sale. Is that the goal? No, of course not. Buying my book never comes up nor should it. That’s not why I’m there. The goal is to make a connection and inject some enjoyment into my day. The sale is just a nice surprise and always gets a happy dance. Still.

And it didn’t come about because of a link in a Tweet or a snippet of a gushing review. It happened because, perhaps for only a brief time, I became a real person to them. I was no longer a name on a cover, but instead someone who took an interest in their writing, their career, their questions and confusion and doubts. Their successes, both big and small. It happened because I sincerely appreciated them taking a chance and reaching out to say “hey, I loved that excerpt on your blog. I’m a writer, too. Any thoughts?”

Oh yes. I have thoughts.

The best way to fuck up Twitter — or at least MY version of Twitter — is by hiding who you truly are behind a dizzying array of auto-Tweets. Choosing the easy path of pre-set automated links and gushing snippets and ALL CAPS urging me to BUY. Not caring enough about your potential readers to actually, you know, give a few minutes every now and then to put fingers to keyboard and say “Hey, what’s up?” and then actually reply to those who respond. Nothing turns off a reader more than Tweeting back a quick “Nothing much, Awesome Author with a Great Book. What are you up to?” and receiving nothing in return. I mean, really? How long does it take to type “Argh, working my butt off here!” or “LOL” or something?

Even three small letters is a hell of a lot better than condescending silence.

So, dazzle me not with empty Tweets riddled with hyperlinked blue. Dazzle me with who you are because that’s the person I’m going to find in your book, isn’t it? IF I buy it, that is.

And that, dear Writer, is up to you.

Does the cream really rise?

This fascinating article by Carl Purdon is worth a read. The Crib Notes version is his assertion that, although the market is awash in a sea of poorly written books by well-intentioned, ambitious self-pubbed authors (he used different words, but that’s the gist), the cream will rise to the top.

But is that true?

I’m not sure.

I think it could be, perhaps. Carl has several links to truly outstanding books that are fantastic reads and absolutely worthy of their success and subsequently high Amazon rankings. But there are other authors with equal success and equally high rankings that, in my opinion, aren’t very good.

In fact, in some cases, they’re embarrassingly bad.

So was their success because of their talent for writing? Were these books the cream that rose? Or was it more a matter of marketing prowess and the proclivity of people to follow the herd and buy what their friends are buying.

Well, in a world of Present Tense, dialogue tags, and one-dimensional characters, I’d say yeah, I think so.

If that is the case, where does that leave those with very, very good books, but little to no publicity, the absence of a platform, and very little blog support?

Dog paddling in a sea of drivel, I suppose.

But Carl makes another point in this article which I think could be the Unknown Author’s Saving Grace.

You see, the Big 6 are driven by marketing data. They know what’s selling, they track what’s selling, they’re obsessed with what’s selling and, being all about the Bottom Line, they focus exclusively on that. So, if you’re a huge fan of paranormal romance novels where a teenage girl is probably caught in some sort of love triangle with, I don’t know, a hottie Vampire and maybe a hunky Werewolf or something, well, you’ll find mountains of joy waiting for you at the New Release shelf in your local brick-and-mortar.

Or, as I call it, the Land of Interchangeable Voices Retelling Familiar Tales Already Told.

If you’re searching for writing with a strong unique voice and, oh, let’s say a story centered around a tortured Immortal seeking redemption and release, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Maybe here? (forgive the plug, but it is my blog)

In any case, it’s a good point to make. Self-pubbed authors — and I can only speak for myself, really — don’t follow the Flavor of the Month because oftentimes we’re so busy writing we don’t have time to track what the Flavor of the Month IS. We just write. We tell our stories, we create our worlds, and we put it out there trusting someone will share our passion and hear our voice.

And our voices ARE unique. They’re not tamed by marketing concerns, reined in by Projected Sales Goals, or shaped by Editors insisting we follow Rules. Our voices aren’t afraid of offending or gun-shy at the prospect of disappointing sales and a lifetime spent bundled in the bargain bin or paranoid by the loss of readers.

More often than not, there aren’t any readers to lose!

So we just write what drives us, allowing the characters to speak and live and stumble and sometimes die. We edit it, we shape it, we polish and package and format it. And then we publish it.

Circling back to the beginning, does the cream rise to the top? If you’re farmland milk fresh out of an udder, yeah. Given time.

If you’re a great story well told, I’m gonna roll the dice and say yes, too.

Given time.