We've all been there, as writers, second guessing every chapter, page, word that we have written. So, when is it enough? When do you stop and put down the pen, the keyboard, iPad, or whatever you use to write with these days? I ask this because I think it's something we all struggle with to a degree. Did I use enough adjectives, did I spend enough time on this scene? Should I have killed off that crazy crack dealer in that manner? Do vampires really drool?Okay, you get the picture! Seriously though, it's a question that has been plaguing my mind lately. I recently gave a bit of advice to a fellow author who was considering going back and editing her novel (which is already published) because she had complaints about a scene in her book wrapping up to quickly. Well, I have read her book and I feel it was a neat, clean, scene based on what would actually happen in a real situation. Her other readers were apparently like the hungry little mob waiting to pounce on the pedophile down the street! They are like the crazy zealots at the witch trials who were standing in line to help weight the witch with stones before tossing her in the river to see if she floated. These readers were out for blood and were simply unhappy when they didn't get enough of it.Now, I am not speaking ill of this author's readers. Having read the book, I understood the sentiment. We all come up with clever endings to our favorite villains. Sometimes, we think they are better than what the author has envisioned! But as I said, the scene in question was well written. My advice to the author was this, "You are NEVER going to make everyone happy with what you write, the minute you start trying to do that, you might as well hang up your computer and give up writing all together!" I say that because reading a book is a subjective thing. I have read books that were absolute misery for me to get through, while my friend was in love with them. There will always be someone out there who complains about some aspect of your writing. I think as a writer, especially one who ever wants to publish their works, this is the first thing you have to come to grips with.And that brings me back to my question. When do you say enough is enough? We all have crit partners, beta readers, proofreaders, editors, or just friends with good intentions who tell us what they think before we turn our creativity over to the world. So, where do you draw the line? How much of that critique do you take to heart when you start making changes? How many changes do you make before you're ready to share with the world? And how many revisions are you willing to make to your work once you have published it?For me, unless a glaring mistake has been made/missed that gets pointed out after I have published, then I am done. Now, mistakes happen and I am willing to correct those. For instance, it just came to my attention recently that my novel was missing half a sentence towards the end of the book. Apparently, it got cut off in the copy/paste/formatting for e-book process - Eeepp! After the initial panic set in and I thought about all the poor people who already purchased the book and won't know what that last half of that very important sentence said, I began the correction process immediately! This is where I would love to be able to play "stalker author" and track down each and every one of those readers and say, "I'm so sorry, here's the entire sentence!" That is the only case I can see for changing my already published work. There was an obvious error or mistake in the publication process. I can't fathom changing my book because a couple readers didn't like how I wrote something. There are plenty of books that I have read and wished things were a little different, but I wasn't the author. It wasn't up to me how things turned out, I could only hope for the best. Which is one of the things I love about reading. You have the element of surprise while the author takes you along for the ride.
If you read any of my books, stories, etc. and find something you don't like about them, this is what I will give you: "I'm sorry, maybe you'll like the next one better!" Because my stories are, each and every one, a labor of love. In the end, I have to be happy with what I hand over to the public and I have to accept that not everyone will like everything I do to my characters! My answer, in short, I stop writing when I am happy with the results!
What is my worst nightmare?
Answering the question, "Oh, you wrote a book, what genre?"
*Bangs head on desk, repeatedly*
This is where things get tricky. I've been saying for year -YEARS - I tell you, that a new "fantasy" genre needs to be set up for the books I like to read and write. If I say "fantasy," people have misguided notions that I am writing about orks and ogres smashing and bashing their way through some far off realm. If I say "Urban Fantasy," some people look at me as though I have two heads, because they simply don't understand what that jargon means. And if I say, "paranormal" I get the typical response, "oh, it's a ghost story!"
*Frustrated guttural scream can be inserted here*
So, I wonder, does anyone else have this problem? Or did I miss the "how to classify your book neatly into a specific genre class," because I didn't meant to not show up! Well, okay, I was probably a little busy writing my next "I don't know how to classify this but it's gonna be a big hit, book!"
And for those of you who have been lost throughout my tirade, let me further explain. I write the kind of fantasy about vampires, witches, were-creatures, and faeries. Not the cute, cuddly, silly little pixie dust tossing Disney fairies that go about their day riding purple unicorns. No! I write about the ones who like to cause trouble, the ones who want to see humanity brought to its knees just for fun! I write about bad-ass, sometimes confused, witches who do spells and poof into thin air with hostages! Oh yes, you will find werewolves within my pages too, but alas, no ogres crunching on fair maiden's bones. At least, not yet!
So, my question again, how do you classify these types of books? I ask this because today I found my book, Birthrights, on Amazon-UK with ROMANCE as the top search word and Paranormal just beneath that. There's flirting, a tad bit of temptation and longing, but romance? No one even ... well I don't want to give away spoilers, but I dare say a romance, it is not. Now, it is a part of a trilogy and a little romance will follow, but I feel as though I've been improperly described in this category of "paranormal romance" simply because my beings are other than human.
Now, my fellow Urban, Paranormal, Magical, Otherworldly, Stranger than human writer friends, what exactly would you classify your books as? I used to go with Urban Fantasy, again with the funny looks though. "Ogres in the City? Wasn't that done in Shrek 2?" *bangs head* Then I started saying Paranormal Fantasy, but that leads to people jumping on the "paranormal romance" kick. I don't mind the paranormal romance mix-up so much, but neither do I want my readers mislead. What is a writer to do?
I clicked on a link the other day to an author's blog post and what I read there really stuck with me. It was not in a good way. Her (she will remain nameless) post was talking about a recent conversion from a regular Facebook page to a fan page. She was extolling the virtues of the swap, with things like: I don't have to see the spam from other authors who don't understand that they are my competition. She talked about writers needing to find people in their reading demographic to hock their books and blogs too. There were several points that just got under my skin.
Yes, as writers, we are all each others' competition (genre specific), but we can also help boost each others' sales. For me, one of the best things about becoming self-published and having to seek out other authors was not a boost in sales, but the camaraderie I have found within an awesome network of people. I belong to an author group who help each other with things like critiques, editing, formatting, cover design, morale boosting, promotions, and the list goes on. We don't have agents, editors, publishers, and publicists to answer our questions or hold our hands so we formed our own community of people who do that. We return the favor for others. It's an amazing thing. On this very website I have a space dedicated to some of my favorite Indie Authors. I don't have to do that. I do it because we all need every little helping hand we can get when we go it on our own. Maybe the author who wrote that blog simply never had to struggle. Maybe she really does see everyone as her competition and therefore shuts them out. Maybe she was just having a bad day with stalker authors sending her repeated messages about buying their books. Who knows?
I think probably the most visible example I could give of "the competition being friendly and sharing trade secrets" would be actors and actresses. Think about it, they are competing on a much more hard core level for those paychecks and yet you still see them in the "news" hanging out together, you hear them in interviews supporting one another. What is so different when authors get together to talk shop? I don't see a lot of difference. I also see those actors showing their support by heading out to each other's movie premiers.
My target demographic, my readers, are anyone who enjoys fantasy novels. If you love witches, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, fairies, and other fantasy creatures and humanoids then you are in my target audience. Most authors I know are avid readers. We love books. Writing them is taking that love one step further. So, for someone to say that I shouldn't point another author to my book is ridiculous. I am an author. I go out seeking other people's books when I am bored. Many of them are my competition, because that is the genre I LOVE! I obviously can't sit around reading my own book day in and day out to avoid giving the competition a bump in sales. I mean, I already know most of it by heart. The whole point in reading is to find something new and different to loose yourself in. Maybe, somewhere along the line authors get jaded and they forget why they are writing, or what made them write to begin with. For me, writing has been a part of my life as long as reading has. They have always gone hand in hand. My book shelves and e-readers are lined with books in my genre. They will continue to be. So, if you have a good book you think I will love - feel free to suggest it to me!
I understand people who message you on a regular basis with messages like, "hey, read my book!" are annoying. Some people tend to get a little over-excited. But, I will never begrudge people who advertise their own work in their news feed, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever. It's not necessarily directed at me anyway. It may be directed at their other 5,000 friends and/or followers! And you know what - it's okay for people to be proud of their work and to want to share it with the world.
I believe my genre's audience is larger than some people think. I know for a fact that there are three generations of fantasy readers in my house. That's an age range from teens to sixties. I also know, from hanging out in the Twitterverse, that there are a ton of male readers and writers for YA fiction, including urban fantasy, which I've always thought of as hardcore chick lit. ;) So, really, you'd be surprised sometimes by who's actually reading or writing in your genre!
I have had an immense amount of support from fellow authors in and out of my genre. I have also given support to others. I think it's okay for us to have our own little community, I think it's okay to buy your fellow author's books too! Sure, we may be competition, but we might also be friends. And I might really like your book! :D
So, tell me what you think. Do you think it's cool to have writing communities, to be friends with fellow authors, and talk about your various works among one another or do you take the "we are competitors" route and avoid other authors and their books?
I promised updates about my book sales here and there. As I hit and surpassed another milestone, it's time for another update.
I've officially moved into the triple digits now with my book sales and they are continuing to climb! Thank you! The past few weeks have been pretty darn good both in the North American sales markets as well as the UK!
I firmly believed something that has helped increased my sales exponentially was my decision to change both the book cover and the blurb. Both of those things were rushed in the beginning of the process and one lesson I learned was that those are both things that need to be given plenty of time and consideration. Publishing my first book and doing everything on my own since it was written has definitely been a learning process.
While I am going to keep this short and sweet I would like to thank a few people who have helped me find the success that has started (and hopefully continues) to come my way.
Thanks to all the authors and illustrators over at The Literary Underground for their ongoing support and input. They are an extremely talented group of people who have built this amazing system of support for their fellow authors. Their creativity and enthusiasm have definitely helped to boost my own. Do yourself a favor and check out the books listed in the Lit-U Store
because there are some amazingly entertaining reads there! If you like the freebie kind of fun you should head on over to their sister endeavor and play around with the choose your own adventure stories posted on CHOOSE OR DIE
! I promise, you will be entertained!
I would also like to thank my author friends, Patria Dunn-Rowe (who can be found here at Moonlit Dreams) and J.A. Paul
. They are both amazing writers, and always there when I need a bit of advice or just to vent my frustrations with writer's block, book covers, formatting, or website woes! :D You guys are awesome!
Kindleboards, Twitter, Facebook - without these things, Indie Authors could never make a go of it on their own the way they can today! So, thank you technology and social networking!
Thank you to my readers who have gotten Birthrights and the Bonus Edition sales into the hundreds! I'll be seeing you again in the thousands! Until then, check out some of the reviews here at Moonlit Dreams. There are a lot of amazing books out there today, not all of them come from publishing houses. Some of them come straight from the heart. I try to blend a little of both worlds here, so there's always something for everyone.
There was a recent thread on the Kindleboards
that has been censored into oblivion about authors helping each other out with "Likes" on Amazon. Allow me to give a little information here for those who aren't aware of what this means.
When you look at books (and other items) on Amazon there is a "Like" feature which enables you to promote that item via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. There are Indie authors who are exchanging "Likes" with each other's books in order to (theoretically) bump their book up in searches. There are also "Tag" exchanges and "review" swaps.
Tagging is where you list several keywords about a book so that when someone searches for those key words that book will pop up in the search list. If you are web savvy you know this is similar to what is done for websites. In theory, the more tags you have, the more visible your book will be when searches are done using those key words.
Every author wants their book to be highly visible. Our first goal, as an author, is to have people reading what we wrote. The secondary goal is to make money off of the time that has gone into all the writing, editing, formatting, promotions, etc. Authors who don't have a major publishing house behind them have to get creative. Let's face it, many of us don't have the advertising dollars that major publishers have to throw around. We don't have the big names to lean on to get the word out. That being said, there are tag exchange threads on forums, there are "like" exchanges, and there are even review exchanges (where authors read each other's books and review them).
Before I get into that ethical debate and censorship, I'd like to point out where I stand on all this. I am an author, a reader, and a reviewer. It's important to remember, in my stance, that I am all three. When I make decisions for my own books, and for the reviews that I choose to do or choose not to do, it is made with all three of those things in mind.
If I join a "tag" exchange, how does that affect me as an author? It possibly pushes my books, as well as some fellow Indie authors' book, higher in the search results. Is that good for my book? Yes, it is more visible. Is it unethical for other authors to "tag" information about a book they haven't read just to help someone else out? That is one of the questions that was being debated on the Kindleboards recently in the writer's cafe.
My answer in short, NO! Now, here's why...
I have been an avid reader for a very long time. I was reading the likes of Stephen King by the time I was in third grade. Long before there was a venue for reviews online, I was telling people about my latest reads, as well as the books I looked forward to reading in the future. I was, in effect, telling people about books I had not read. I was telling them what I knew (basically verbal tags) of books I had not read, yet. I still do this today. If I see an interesting book cover that pulls me in and I read the blurb and think, 'man, I've gotta read that book!" Then, I tell people about it, long before I ever read it. And I will tell people what I eventually thought of it after I read it too. I consider tagging people's books with key phrases and words as the same thing. I am telling you, not that I have read this book, but about some simple key words that describe it. If you really like books about vampires and "BOOK A" is all about vampires, the tags should lead you there. When I know a friend likes books about pirates I tell them about the pirate books that I come across. It doesn't mean I have read that book, just that I am pointing out that this is about pirates and you may want to glance it over and see if it's something you would buy. That is what tags do. Tags are not reviews. You do NOT have to read a book to tag it. Just as I did not have to read that pirate book to know that it was something a friend might like. I've been telling people about the books, "Wither" and "Divergent" for a while now. I haven't read either in full yet. I know about what I read in the blurb and I basically regurgitate that information to people who may also be interested. Again, this is a form of "verbal tagging," in my opinion.
As an AUTHOR:
- Tagging will possibly lead people to my books who may not have discovered them any other way - GOOD
- Tagging will tell some readers that they may not like my books (not everyone likes paranormal) - GOOD (Yes, it is good because I don't want someone who really won't like my book to read it and leave a bad review just because it's something they don't like - normally wouldn't read. I want my readers to know exactly what they are getting and tagging helps with that.)
As a READER:
- Tagging lets me know exactly what I am getting into, generally they tell me genre, the types of characters I might find, and some of the themes of the books. If I don't like insects and I see a tag of "insect infestation" I know this book may not be for me. If I see vampires and paranormal tagged, I think, 'hey, I need to check this out further.'
- Searches have lead me to some of my favorite books, if tagging helps with those search results - please, everyone go tag as many books as you can! I want to be able to find them all easier!
As a REVIEWER
- My points as a reviewer as similar to the reader, for obvious reasons. I want to know that this book is in a genre I love to read before I try to do a review.
- I take requests for reviews, but many of the books I review I do based on random searches where I find books that look interesting to me - I check tags to make sure the book is a good fit!
- As a reviewer I tag my blogs with specifics too, if the book I am reviewing is a young adult horror short story anthology then I am going to tag with YA, horror, Short stories, Reviews, and books so that people who come to my blog can find the reviews for what interests them. I feel that online stores should work the same way. I want to be directed to the books that I want to read, without the tags - it's that much harder.
- Tag exchanges introduce me to books by authors that I haven't heard of before. My TBR list has been doubled based on tag exchanges with other authors. That is a very good thing for those authors who are not only going to get a sale from that tag exchange, but possibly a review as well!
The "LIKE" Button is a very similar feature to me. I said it earlier in this blog, I tend to recommend that friends check out books that I THINK they may like based on the information I have on hand. I am very upfront with whether I have or have not read said book. I am not perpetrating a lie of any sort. I am not telling people that I have read this book and love it (unless I did and I do). I am simply stating hey, this book looks interesting, go check it out and decide for yourself if you will like it. That is what the LIKE button is, in my opinion. If i want to know what people really thought after reading a book I am not going to look at how many "likes" the book has, I am going to read the reviews! When I advertise something on my own personal Facebook or Twitter accounts, I usually do so with a targeted audience in mind and I always let people know if I have read a book or if I just thought it looked interesting. Either way, the author of said book is getting the benefit of my word of mouth. Their book just got a shout out whether it's a 'hey this looks cool' or a 'hey I read this, it's great.' No matter what I say, informed consumers will go check that book out before clicking the "buy now" button. They will check out the cover, read the blurb, check out tags and reviews, maybe even read the sample chapters, and make an informed decision before purchasing. My suggestion may have gotten them there, but the author/book information is what will eventually sell them!
So, when the question of ethics popped up on the Kindleboards recently, I was actually in awe. I have to suppose that these same people who are against authors promoting each other through "tag" and "like" exchanges have never said to a friend, "hey, that book looks like it might be pretty good." Because their argument for ethics is that this should never be done unless you have already read the book and really do like it. I can't tell you the number of books I have ended up buying based on someone saying, "hey, this one looks like it might be good."
Personally, when I walk into a book store with friends or family, that is exactly what we do. We browse, we discuss what looks good to us, we take notes on which books to add to our "to buy later" lists, because I can never afford to buy every single book I want at the same time. One of us will say, "oh, I like this, it looks interesting" and so it goes on the list. "Oooo, look at this one!" It's the same as me pressing "LIKE" on Amazon. It's the same as me sharing on my Facebook a book I haven't read yet, but one that caught my attention and made me want to take a closer look. I do the same thing with movies, games, electronics, etc. Where, oh where is the ethical dilemma in that scenario?
AS A REVIEWER: I never review books that I don't like. This is where my "as an author" comes into play. If I don't like a book, I will just tell the author (if they are available) what I liked and didn't like about it and let them know that I can't do the review because it would not be positive. Why don't I write negative reviews? Because reviews are personal opinions. I may hate your book, but there is someone else out there who may love it. I do not want to put on permanent record how much I hated your book, because that negative review may chase away a person who truly would have loved it. I will tell people when I love a book, because it can't hurt the book or author. Besides, when I love a book, I will scream it from the rooftops. I will tell anyone who will listen. I will especially tell the people who I know read within that genre.
So, that brings me to the "review" exchanges. I have reviewed books and had authors turn around and review mine too. I have offered to do review exchanges before, but I never give a good review of a book for any form of payment. That is to say, even if I agree to a review swap, it is with the understanding that if I don't like your book I won't review it. I will tell you why I didn't like it and I expect the same consideration and honesty in return for my own books.
That is the only ethical issue I see worth talking about when author exchanges are discussed. If you agree to "swap" reviews then do so with the full knowledge that someone may not like your book. I tell people who read my book that I want to know their honest opinion. If I gave them a glowing a review and they hated my book, I'm cool with that. It's not for everyone. I will not compromise my reviews of other books just because you gave me a glowing review either. Doing so would result in an ethical violation for me. If you've read a review here at Moonlit Dreams, then you have read my honest opinion.
If you see (somehow) that I have "Liked" a book on Amazon or know that I have "tagged" a book on Amazon, Shelfari, or Goodreads, but you don't see a review yet, you can rest assured I have not read it, but thought it looked interesting (either for myself or someone I know). If you see my "To Be Read" list on any of those sites, you can rest assured I found something about that book interesting and I plan to read it eventually. I consider my TBR list to be just a step higher than me hitting the "LIKE" button on Amazon.
Sometimes, I think people want to see the negative in everything. Sometimes, I think in making rule after rule for behavior and conduct in the cyber world, people forget what they do in their day-to day lives. If you have no problem looking at a book (movie or anything else) and tapping the person next to you (be it friend, family, or complete stranger) and saying, "hey, this looks like it might be good" then why on Earth would you have a problem with someone doing that in cyber-land with a "LIKE" button?
OH - and I almost forgot before signing off, I'm not sure why that thread that I mentioned disappeared from the Kindleboards. Perhaps, (and I really hope this is true) I simply lost the thread somewhere and this is a case of operator error on my part. I certainly hope it wasn't a sign of blatant censorship from the administrators who saw an ethical violation where others did not, but alas, I am not privy to these things. So, I will simply say this, as an author it astounds me that other authors would seek to censor their own. Is this what intelligent adults do in lieu of book burnings these days? Do we now decide that if someone has a difference of opinion with us that we should just shut them down and make sure the rest of the world doesn't get the chance to hear it? Now, there - there, my friends is the real ethical dilemma.
You don't have to agree with me, and I welcome comments from everyone - no matter which side of the fence you sit on. My final say is this, as far as reviews go - they should be honest and you should have read the book before doing one. The "LIKE" button doesn't necessarily mean you have read the book, just that (like in a store) you may look at it and find it interesting and pass it along to those who would like it, or add it to your TBR list. Tagging is helpful to everyone! You don't need to read the entire book to know the blurb says it's about vampires, witches, and a retro-virus that may save humanity from itself (or whatever). Tagging helps readers find books, it helps authors sell books, and it's just plain smart!
Censorship because you don't like someone's opinion is never cool though!
*EDIT: Just to update, the aforementioned post has suddenly reappeared on the boards again. Perhaps it was just hidden for a while. ;)