So, there are two hot topics on my mind these days. Hell, you might say, in a way, they go hand in hand.
1) Some government moron decided it would be good to allow a woman's EMPLOYER and/or insurance company to decide if they want her to take birth control or not (deciding whether insurance will cover costs). And then, the little lemmings in office ran with that disgusting little idea in the form of The Blunt Amendment - which was killed in the Senate recently - thankfully!
2) Paypal, under supposed influence of the major credit card companies - IE: BANKS, have decided that Indie authors can no longer sell erotica titles that deal at all with the following topics: Rape, Incest, & Bestiality.
I'm going to tackle these separately - birth control first - because I want you to stew over those three questionable erotica choices for a few minutes first.
My Body... My Choice... My Birth Control...
Even when I was abstinent (that means not having sex, people) I still took "the pill."
Why on earth would anyone take "the pill" if they aren't trying to stop pregnancy?
It's simple, that little pill, that may keep me from not getting pregnant when I actually have sex, is also the same little pill that helps reduce the God-Awful PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) symptoms I suffer with. What is that? In short, it means that the week before and during my period I am prone to serious bouts of anger issues, irritability, and mood swings thanks to my body's stupid response to hormones! It also means that I have other exaggerated period symptoms - like a super long, super heavy period, severe - drop you to your knees cramps, bloating, and super-tiredness. You'd be super freaking tired too if you were bleeding to death and in torturous pain, all while super duper emotional!
So, what does "the pill" do for me and why is it important? I take Yaz, which helps lesson all those symptoms a LOT! As in, I can actually function, and have a normal life, without resigning myself to bed and making sure no one disturbs me. I REALLY, REALLY wish my hormones were normal, and that they got along with the rest of my body, but they don't. So, I take the pill to moderate between the two. It works. :)
Women - voters - take note of who tried to take away your right to choose, and stand strong at the polls next time! Any government official who believes that a woman's right to medicines should be regulated by her bosses, insurance agents, and the government needs to lose their damn position - immediately!
And what do you suppose is going to happen if they one day get their way, maybe other hormone therapies will be on the chopping block next. Those silly "fat people" don't have a REAL thyroid issue. It's all in their heads, and the food they're eating!!! You laugh now, mark my words, if you let the government, insurance companies, and especially our employers start dictating what can and can't be covered based on their own MORALS and VALUES (cough, laugh, cough) then you are asking for exactly that to happen! It will not stop at Birth Control or Plan B.
I'm sorry, but my body is just that! MINE! And if I don't ever want to get pregnant again - that is my damn choice, as well as my own business! I, personally, already have 4 children. I have done more than my part in over-populating the world thanks to my rabbit like reproductive abilities. The last thing I need is another one, and no - you pious sons of bitches, I am not giving up sex! If God didn't want us doing it, he wouldn't have made it feel so good! ;)
Big Business & Censorship
Okay, before I go off on another tangent, let's move along to the second issue... CENSORSHIP by BIG BUSINESS!!
Don't think this happens? Think again! It's happening RIGHT FREAKING NOW! Smashwords, a fantastic resource for Indie Authors to get their books distributed to many retailers, including ibooks, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, is currently in talks with Paypal about the censorship request that Paypal handed down last month.
What is Paypal trying to censor? Well, they have put Smashwords on notice that they will sever business ties with them if erotica books dealing with the following themes are not taken down immediately: Rape, Incest, and Bestiality.
"Those are all three amoral, horrible things," you say."Who cares," you say. Well, I do! Now, I'm going to tell you why.
If I want to read FICTION about any of those subjects, it's no one else's business! If I want to WRITE fiction about any of those things, again, it's no one's business, but mine and the consumer who wants to read it. Take a look at free source places like Literotica.com (WARNING that link is for an ADULTS only site!) and you will see that in their "top lists" Incest is one of the biggest read genres, for whatever reason. I'm not here to judge anyone else's fantasies. What I am here to do is protect our ability to write stories, read stories, and not have a business tell us what we can and can't say in them!
Because, as with the above jump from birth control to thyroid medication, if we don't stop it somewhere... it won't stop. Next thing you know some Visa exec has issues with trolls, or dolls, or those freaky clowns that plague my nightmares! Think I'm stretching things? Think again. Under the current rules that Paypal has handed down to Smashwords ( again supposedly in response to pressure from the major credit card companies) world famous author Laurrel K. Hamilton wouldn't be able to have her best selling, extremely popular Anita Blake series for sale. Why? It has instances of rape and bestiality. Go ahead, let the gasps out. How can a NY Times Best Seller have anything to do with bestiality? Well, children, Mrs. Hamilton writes about fantasy creatures, were-creatures, humans who change into animals. In one of her books, these were-creatures were forced to have sex on tape (RAPE), and forced to shift into their animal form during sex (BESTIALITY). Snuff films were being made - if you don't know what that is, look it up yourself, I'm not Wikipedia! And anyway, I am sure "snuff literature" will be added to the list soon too. lol
If that example didn't work for you, think about it like this... Twilight is wildly popular right now, but damn that dirty Bella! She's a necropheliac - I mean, come on, she had sex with a technically dead person! I'm sure necrophelia will be added to that list of taboo - censored books too! And when she was hanging out with Jacob, she was in danger of committing bestiality, he's a freaking wolf after all! You see where I am going with this? Yeah, that's what worries me. Once we allow BUSINESS to censor what we read, write, and sell they will not stop. There goes Fantasy and Sci-Fi books because God-forbid Captain Kirk have sex with those aliens, or werewolves and humans fall in love! In closing, I would like to say:
The People have a voice, if we make it loud, and speak up for our own fundamental rights, then maybe we can hang onto those rights for a little while longer! :) Happy reading and breeding! ;)
- If you don't personally want to take birth control for religious/moral reason - then don't do it! And good for you, for sticking to your beliefs and not being a hypocrite, really! I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
- My beliefs and yours are NOT the same though. So, I will respect your decision to have 15 more children because you don't want to use birth control. Please, respect my decision not to suffer from PMDD and to do the responsible thing and not have any more children. I don't want to bring more into this world than I can care for!
- Also, if you don't want to read about RAPE, INCEST, BESTIALITY, CLOWNS, VAMPIRES, or HOW TO MAKE SMILEY FACE PAINTINGS OUT OF COKE BOTTLES... then don't read those things! I understand it goes against your beliefs, but no one made you buy it, and certainly no one sat there and made you read it! If you don't like it, leave it alone. If everyone that reads it goes to the hell of your imagining, then so be it. It was their choice to go! Leave them to it!
I know this has been a long time coming, but thanks to some family emergencies I had to put a few things on hold for a while. Now that I've had a moment to myself, I was able to get started on my dear friend's second book cover in her Zerrin series. As with the Fantasy Book Cover Creation blog I did previously, I am going to take you step by step through the process of how it was done. Step One - is always the same... you start with an idea and a base image...
I used a different shot of the same girl from the Smitten cover to start on Bitten.The problems to overcome with the original picture and challenges I faced with using this one for the cover...
Here's how I tackled those things:Step one - hair color. I know this is going to be my easiest fix, so I got out my handy-dandy burn tool that I described in the previous blog. And I burned her hair until she looked like this:
- Her hair color and texture - again
- that hideous shirt
- Both sides of her body are cut off and the top of her head, making placement a challenge.
She's still not perfect and that hair is nowhere near what I need it to be, but this is how it all starts. I'm showing you the ugly in-between so you don't become disgruntled when trying it yourself. Yes, sometimes things get ugly before they all come together! :D
So, the next step in this process became placement, thanks to her missing body parts. Some times it is not worth trying to work around those missing pieces. These are things that need to be considered when choosing a model to begin with! I knew I could eventually come up with something for her, despite her lack of limbs and missing the top of her head... so this is how I did it...
Again, before I can place the girl, I need a good background image. It just so happens that when I got the other "sea background" for Smitten I was able to snag a couple variations and this is the one I am using for the Bitten cover.Now that I have a background, I need to drop my girl up there into it and make her look as though she belongs. There are few things I need to think about when getting ready for this step.
- Remember, she's missing limbs - placement is important
- Lighting - it's going to be an issue because this background has a definite source of light that will be visible and we want to be able to blend that light into the girl.
- She's going to be underwater, so as I did with the first cover, I am going to have to make her hair light and floaty
Okay, I forgot to save some of my in between moments here, so bear with me. :) This picture is what I call a rough draft. What I have done is placed the girl - making sure that I addressed the following things:
BUT... I don't like it. Her hair is yuk! The author's name is bugging me for some reason. The title is having issues with the lighting, and my damn mermaids have disappeared. Now it looks like "Vampires Under Water" or something. SO... here come the fixes.
- Her arms are both cut off, so I had to make sure she extended out to both sides of the cover.
- The top of her head is cut off, so I had to fluff her hair a bit, and also make it "float in the water. This was all done with the smudge tool.
- She needed bite marks because she gets bitten (hence the title). The blood, as described in the story is a bluish tint...
- Lighting, I added blue tinted light to each of her eyes to make them stand out, I also added a light source located above and to the right of her head.
- Title and author name - obviously have been temporarily placed as well...
So here's what I have done now...
And now, Patria has book cover #2 in her new Fantasy trilogy. Book Three will be on it's way soon, and there are already some pretty cool ideas flying around about that one. It will be a little different. You're going to see a LOT more of our little cover girl from both the front and the back as she's finally going to see her reflection! That's all I can give away for now. Stay tuned for the third and final installment in Fantasy Book Cover Creation...
- The mermaid tale is back and placed just so beneath the title. It catches the light in all the right places, adds a bit character to the cover, and lets people know that vampires probably aren't camped out under the sea after all.
- Makeup... the poor thing was bitten, but she didn't have to be washed out. Seriously, she undergoes a transformation, and the makeup is going to help illustrate that in this cover.
- The author's name - the lighting was toned down a bit and the name was off centered, as it was on the first cover. It just works for some reason - so I stuck with it.
- Hair - the hair has been softened and allowed to float a bit more. Now she doesn't look like a greasy crack whore who's been bitten by underwater vampires! ;) At least, I hope!
How to pick your friends on Goodreads...
Once an Indie Author has published their first book, the most asked question becomes: "now, how do I publicize it?"
I do not claim to be an expert here, but I am going to share a few tips with you on a couple social networking sites that I am familiar with.
There are many more places you can go to promote your books (many genre specific too), but the same rule holds true for all of them. Make the most of it! Make sure you learn the ins and outs of the program/ network/ website and utilize to your benefit.
- Goodreads: There are some fantastic opportunities on this site for up and coming authors. Step one, head on over there and CLAIM YOUR AUTHOR PAGE! Your author page has many advantages over the regular reader pages. The biggest advantage being, people can automatically see all the books you write in one place! Yay! The next thing being, book give-a-ways, and networking with people who read your genre! Speaking of people who read your genre... Something to keep in mind when picking your friends on Goodreads is to pick people who have a lot of books in common with you. Sure Peggy-Sue may have 38 friends in common with you, but if they don't have any books in common what are you going to share? Witty banter only goes so far when you have nothing in common. If I don't have at least 20 books in common with someone I don't go looking for their friendship. Don't think that sounds snobbish of me. I have very eclectic tastes in books. While I may pick up a Clive Custler novel and like it, I'm not a huge fan of the genre! Hence, my 20+ books-in-common rule. This guarantees that I will have something in common with the people I am becoming friend's with. It also means that they may end up being interested in the books that I write as well (since I write in the genres I read the most). Don't forget to link your RSS feed (blog for those of you who have one) and Twitter account to your Goodreads profile. It gives your other pages more exposure when you link everything.
- Twitter: The biggest thing to remember with Twitter is hash tags. #books and #bookreviews are both terrific hash tags for promoting your books, or the latest reviews about your books... or book reviews that you are doing for other people. This will also get your book or review noticed by several paper-li contributors. Also try hash-tagging your genre ( #paranormal #fantasy #mystery) along with your post. Many times you can just throw a # in front of words you are already using!
- Shelfari: Just as with Goodreads, you want to go and check out your own author page, update it with useful information that helps readers learn a little more about you. The important thing to remember about Shelfari is that they are directly linked to Amazon.com. Go to your Author Central Account (if you don't know what I am talking about see Author Central below this) and link it to your Shelfari Account. This will enable you to have the author tag on your Shelfari account. Once you've done that, be sure to go to your book page (all of them) and fill in all the missing information, make sure you are listed as the author. Sometimes, there's more than one Bill Jones out there and books can be accidentally linked to the wrong author (this is also something you need to check on Goodreads!) The added information (character info, quotes, etc) are pulled over to your book's page on Amazon, so make it work for you!
- Author Central: If you have a blog, you can add your RSS feed to your Author Central page, your Twitter feed as well (linking everything gets you more exposure, eventually). Make sure you include an author bio even if it's just a small snippet about yourself. Readers love to learn new and interesting things, if they can identify with you on some level, they may want to read what you had to say!
- Scribd and Wattpad: These are awesome ways to get sample chapters out to people who may not see your book by chance on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or where ever else you may have it for sale. If you write YA books and stories - get your butt over to Wattpad, sign up, and make friends! Your target audience is there, waiting to be dazzled! As with any other social networking type websites, these will require a little time and maintenance to build a following, but it can be well worth your time.
One more parting bit of advice for my fellow authors. Reviews are a fantastic way to get your readers interested in your books, but readers are growing weary of over-inflated reviews in the Indie market! To quote one reader (she commented on a one star review of a book I also recently reviewed) "Initial post: Aug 4, 2011 9:56:11 AM PDTJust as an FYI - I 've found a trend with a lot of the YA books I've found lately. Especially the ones that are under a dollar and are sold by "Amazon Digitial Services," and have very top-heavy ratings (25+ 5-star reviews, only a handful of the others).
These are self-published titles (and this is a total guess), but I think the majority of the 5 star reviews are from acquaintences. I've fallen into this with 3 other books and it's made me a much more leery reader.
While we all want good reviews, we should be trying harder and striving for "real" reviews on our books (not book swaps with pre-determined outcomes). The book in question that received the one star review (mentioned above) garnered a 3 star review from me, because while I found issues in the book that needed attention, I also found a story that was pretty good. And I mentioned both of those reasons in the review. I know we can't help what other people write about our own stuff, but be mindful when you review for others! A 3 and 4 star review is still a "good thing" being honest is even better for sales than you can imagine, because as the reader stated above - all the 5 star reviews are making her a leery reader!
You want your book to stand out in a crowd, don't you?
I know this topic has been hashed out all over the blog-o-sphere, so why do another blog on the importance of book covers? Because I still get requests for reviews from Indie Authors who's book would never cross my radar in a million years. Why? They are either lacking any sort of cover image or it's not the greatest in the world.
Who am I to judge? Well, I am a reader. I am a person who believes that the cover of a book says a lot about it. I am also an author who got her start with a rushed, not so great, didn't sell well cover! I do realize, as in my own case, that not everyone can afford to plunk down a massive $500+ for a book cover that some of the artists are charging. For that matter, I had trouble scraping together the $50-a couple hundred dollars it would take to get mine done. Times are certainly tough, but I am not without resources! Are you planning on making a career out of being an Indie Author (at least till that elusive publishing deal comes knocking on your door)? Then, either you need to scrape together some cash or you need to pull up a beautiful program like Photoshop (the cheap Photoshop Elements version works great) or Gimp (freeware people - money is no issue here) and start learning! Don't think that you will be designing the word's most clever book covers from the start, but with a little practice you can manage something a little better than a monotone background with some words thrown across it.
Now, I know, I just shocked the hell out of some of you. Make my own book covers? *GASP* Learn yet another program? *SIGH* Where on earth will I find the time to do that too? My question to you is why not take your time and put out beautiful books (both inside and out) so that you actually make money off of them, instead of rushing to put out something no one will buy?
And while we are on the subject, go peruse through some of the best sellers lists and take a look at what those people, you know - the success ones - have for covers! I don't see many that look like their six year old helped draw the cover, unless of course the book was meant to be read by a six year old. In other words, if you have a hardcore fantasy novel that is geared towards adults - you better come at those adult readers with a cover that is up to par!
Something else to think about before you get started is this: If you have a series or trilogy you may want to think the entire set through as one item! After all, you don't want people to overlook the next book in your series because they couldn't recognize it. Keep the same font, the same basic theme, that darling little yellow bird at the top corner, whatever, so long as readers can easily identify it as a part of the same series!
Another thing to think over is stock photographs. I have seen on many a blog where stock photos should be used sparingly or not at all. Why? Because everyone has access to them and you may end up seeing the same images on several books. This is where I differ in opinion. Those images need never look much alike. I mean, if you are just going to take the stock photo as is and slap it on your book cover and call it good, you may have issues, but with a little finesse, you can take that plain old photo and make it into something amazing! Something, in fact, that if seen on another cover won't even be recognizable as one in the same. Once again, being able to do this will take a little practice. And if you aren't up for the task, find someone who is!
Do you know someone who's great with photo shop and might doctor up an image for you? Even if you toss them a $20 and buy the pizza while they work, it's got to be better than going with what little Susie made in kindergarten last year!
So, I'm done preaching the importance of book covers and I will leave you with my own mishap of a book cover. While my six year old didn't make it, the cover was rushed and didn't sell well. The new cover - thankfully - is selling daily! :D
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 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. ;)
What do you do when you grow up having Déjà vu type dream/reality experiences that, while cool, scare the crap out of you?
If you're me, you turn it into a book, but not just any book. I suppose that is where this blog begins, with my dreams that used to come true. A fellow author recently read my book and she wanted to know first of all if I was a witch because after reading my book, she really thought I must be. And then she asked how I came up with the idea for my book.
I have said before in an interview
that the book came out of a dream I had, and it did. There is a longer story to it than that and it goes back to my younger years when I would dream conversations that would happen the next day. I would dream entire days that would happen the following week. And I dreamed of an accident that really happened. People call it Déjà vu. I know where it came from, my dreams. I have always had really vivid dreams. I have read books, watched programs, and heard tales of people only dreaming in black and white and I have always scoffed at the idea. I mean, when I dream I get dropped into the middle of a very bright and colorful kind of world. In my nightmares snakes are all colors and they are out to get me! In my best dreams I can watch the sunset from so many different places in the world, and some not of this world, and almost tangibly feel the beauty of the colors around me. I suppose I am a very different person, indeed.
I often wondered, when I would experience an episode of Déjà vu type dreams, if I was time traveling while I thought I was sleeping? That would be cool, and if so I wish I were more scientific so I could control it better and go grab those damn lottery numbers ahead of time! That hasn't worked out for me so far! What used to happen, and what inspired Caislyn Vadoma in my book was that I used to have these dreams. I would remember having them, and then they would happen. It could have been something as simple as a conversation I was having with my friends at our lockers in school. But the one that has always stuck with me, the one that really got me thinking and scared the pants off of me, was the reoccurring dream in which my dad got in a car accident.
The dream started out, at first, with my dad asking me to head to Virginia (we lived in northeastern North Carolina then) with him to go pick something up. I would go with him and on the way back we would be on a country road passing a sign on the side of the road, going through a curve, and then the car would veer off the road for some reason. CRASH!
I had this dream repeatedly for nearly a month. I told my mom at one point and I told my friends about it, because I wasn't getting sleep. This dream was so real that I could feel my adrenaline spike each time that car crashed. As the month went on, the dream changed a bit. Mind you, after having this dream, I was afraid to now get in my dad's little commuter car he had at the time. So, the dream changed. I was no longer in the car. I was just an out of body observer watching as this accident played out.
Right around a month after I started having these dreams my dad was in a car accident. Luckily, he wasn' hurt. When I got to see the actual crash site - well I can't describe the emotions that go along with seeing the exact place that I had dreamed about. It was with that emotion, that feeling of helplessness, that years later I would dream into my character, Caislyn.
A friend and I had been talking about my dreams and how I didn't have the Déjà vu dreams as much any more. I went to bed dreaming of dreams. I dreamed that instead of just remembering them when I woke up that I would go into some auto-sketching fit in the middle of the night and be able to have evidence of my dreams laid out before me. That idea probably also came from the fact that I have on numerous occasions wished on shooting stars for the ability to plug my computer into my brain at night to record the "blockbuster movies" that play there sometimes! Either way, out of that scenario - Caislyn was born. Along with her was the knowledge that she was not human and that the "other than humans" had come out of hiding and were walking openly amongst us mere mortals!
I had originally intended for Birthrights to be a first person point of view alternate history/urban fantasy. I got a big case of writer's block at one point when I was trying to piece it all together and I took it to a friend of mine, Jennifer L. Oliver. We started bouncing ideas. Jennifer didn't like writing in first person. She couldn't do it. We all have our own writing styles that we are comfortable with. So, I scrapped everything that I had already written and started from the beginning in third person and Jaxon Delaney was born out of that re-start. The alternate history was scraped too, sort of. There is an alternate history woven into the trilogy as a whole, but it's part of the big secret the Brotherhood is keeping, so you won't know it until book three. Of course, every novel has its many incarnations before it is born. Mine was no different and it's always fun to go back and look at those early notes!
Now, I go back to the first comment/question... Am I a witch?
The simple answer is no. Not by any definition of the word. The long answer goes something like this:
I do not like organized religions. Before you balk at the idea, hear me out. I have gone to numerous churches in my lifetime. I have gone to so many variations of Christian churches that I probably couldn't name them all. They all had one thing in common, they hated each other! I used to think, how can these people who all believe in a supreme being hate each other for their differences in beliefs? Every one of us is individual. We all have our own look, our own thoughts, and here - in this thing called religion - we are chastised for believing differently.
I didn't like it. The very last church I ever went to, a Lutheran church in North Carolina, really did me in. I went with friends to try it out, and at first I was thinking, "yes, finally someone gets it!" I sat in the Sunday School class that was being held and the teacher was talking about which "other" religion they would be studying next. He went on to explain that they believed in tolerance and that they tried to learn about others beliefs so that they could truly understand. I wanted to scream from the rooftops, "Finally!" And then the letdown. The next words out of his mouth went something like this:
"It's been suggested that we talk about these Wiccan people."
I can already hear the tone going awry.
"I'm not sure that's appropriate talk for the church."
I'm thinking, 'WHAT?'
And then he says it, those words I have been waiting for, "I think it goes without saying that they are going against God and we just shouldn't even discuss that."
Well, that was the last church I ever went to. Here's why... Many religions preach that their God has given people free will to choose. We were made intelligent beings. We are all different. I can not bring myself to believe in a God/Goddess/Whatever that would require these free-thinking, free-willed people to all worship in the same manner or damn them for finding a different path. So, from a young age, I researched religions. I could have stood up and told those people in that church all about my favorite things about the Wiccan world, had they allowed it.
Part One: (From the Wiccan Rede) "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"I have always loved that line! I think it sums up how we should live perfectly!
Part Two: The Wiccan Hand-fasting ceremony (marriage ceremony) where two people's hands are bound together and instead of promising "until death do us part" they promise "for as long as we both shall love." That just seems a little more realistic to me.
I have always likened "An ye harm none, do what ye will" to the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." I think that, in essence, they mean the same thing or at least were meant to mean the same. In my eyes, those two things (and there are more examples) have always stuck with me as what I would like to incorporate into my own beliefs. I have also taken the beautiful things from many other religions and put them together in my own little belief package! So, while I can not claim a single religion of my own, I say I practice a worldly spirituality that is perfect for me. In doing so, I have done research - lots of research! So, while I am not a witch I definitely know how to portray one. And now, I am going to tiptoe out of the heavy subject area that is religion. We are all inspired everyday by the things we live through, the things we accomplish, and the failures we meet with. Sometimes those things we live through lend themselves to a creative outlet. For me, The Awakening Trilogy was born.
* Originally posted on Blogger Saturday, May 14.
I suppose it's a boon to my writing that I have so many personalities living inside my head. They all get to come out and play as various characters. Growing up with all those voices wasn't easy. Not that I ever grew up! The voices have just found new and creative ways to express themselves.
Ever since I was a kid the one constant in my life has been my passion for writing. Along the way I also had many other passions. I wanted to be a marine biologist, a journalist, a lawyer, a veterinarian, and about a billion other things that grabbed my interest along the way. What I tend to forget is that I am a writer and I can turn myself, or rather the characters I develop into any one of those things. Essentially I can live that life vicariously through my stories and the characters that inhabit them.
It was when I made that realization that something clicked with me and those voices began to calm a bit. They are still there, egging me on to be this or be that. The difference is, now they are organized and they know they just have to wait their turn and I will eventually create a life for them on the page.
I also came to the realization that any normal human being hearing me talk about the various voices and personalities in my head would quickly jump to the assumption that I must be off my meds. No, I am not schizophrenic. After hearing different, yet similar tales from other authors out there I have come to believe I suffer from another malady altogether. Creative minded people are just different. We have our quirks and we can fit in with the normals out there, but I think there is something different about us on a cellular level. I am positive that some day one of the people in my brain will conduct a study on this very thing to prove my point, but until that day - it's my theory!
On a final note - just remember - the characters you love so much from your favorite book, tv show, or movie were all once part of the craziness residing in someone's head! Happy reading!