August Falter

2017 has been a good year for me so far in terms of my writing. Both Brynnde and the collected Sherlock Holmes stories have done fairly well. Alas, August has been a bit of a dip. I had half as many page reads and sold less than a book a day. I don’t know if it’s due to everyone focusing on going back to school? I also think I probably should have spaced Brynnde and the SH stories a bit farther apart. Releasing two books (one new, one a compilation + audiobook) at the beginning of the year means the end of my year might not have as much oomph.

I did hope/expect to have something done for the end of the year, and my current WIP is coming along at a nice clip, but I don’t know when it will actually be published.

By law of diminishing returns, maybe the high point of my writing year is already behind me. I hope not! I’d like it to at least remain steady. Hopefully August was a fluke and September will be a pop fly that somehow sails right out of the park.

(Am I using the baseball metaphor correctly? I like baseball, but I don’t always get the lingo right.)

P.S. Remember you can read many of my books for FREE via Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited! And you don’t need to own a Kindle to do it! You can use the free app to read on your phone or tablet!

How Do You Build Your TBR Pile?

I’ve written about this before, but I’m wondering what makes you, as a reader and/or fellow author, pick up a book to read?

There was a debate in one of the Facebook groups to which I belong—how much do reviews matter? By which was meant Amazon reviews, reviews left by general readers. Do you take them into account when choosing a book?

When posed with this question, I tried to mentally go step-by-step through my process. There are variations depending on whether I’m seeing the book online or in the store or library. After all, a library requires less commitment from me than spending money on a book.

Okay, so, best I can tell, here’s how it works for me in a store or at the library:

  1. I see a book. The cover and/or title are interesting.
  2. I pick it up and read the blurb on the back. If that sounds promising…
  3. I open to the first page and read a little bit of the actual book. If it’s good…
  4. I borrow or buy the book.

Now for online books I think it’s harder to sell me. Which sounds weird, right. But the product is not right in front of me, even if it’s an ebook. It’s not something I’m picking up and handling. So say I’m browsing Amazon and I maybe see something in the “Recommended” section*:

  1. The cover and/or title are interesting.
  2. I glance at the star rating. Here is where I may or may not continue. I’m pretty forgiving, but if the star rating is less than 3, I probably won’t bother. Still, if the cover is pretty enough, I might still look to see if I can figure out why the rating is so low.
  3. I click and read the blurb. This will usually give me a sense of whether the writer can actually write. If the blurb is a wreck, forget it. If the blurb is good…
  4. I click the “Look Inside.” If there’s no Look Inside, I probably won’t buy. I don’t want a nasty surprise. If the sample is good…
  5. I buy the book.

Extra points for books I’ve heard of or seen around the ‘net. They say we need to see things repeatedly some 7-10 times before we’ll take them seriously, which means getting your book in front of readers about a dozen times (and in different places) is necessary to boost sales.

And of course I’m more likely to risk 99 cents on an unknown author than $4.99. So while I agree we shouldn’t devalue our work, I think having at least one free or less expensive book makes a nice gateway for potential readers.

So how do you find books to read? What’s your process for selecting a book?

*On Amazon there’s so much content that it’s pretty impossible to find a book unless you already know what you’re looking for, or the recommendations are good. If you’re an author, few people are going to stumble across your book by some blessed accident. Which is why you need to do all you can to be where readers will find you.

This Handbook for Mortals Thing

I won’t go into the details—there are plenty of articles all over the ‘net that will give you the blow by blow if you want it—but the basic story is this: a new YA novel titled Handbook for Mortals suddenly turned up in the #1 spot of the NYT Bestsellers List. That’s not so outrageous, one supposes. Nothing can stay at #1 forever, and The Hate U Give had been there a while. But this was a book and author no one had heard of. It hadn’t climbed the list, it just sort of appeared. Like magic.

Some curious parties went sleuthing and discerned that someone—the author, her publisher, maybe the would-be producer of the film version of this book—had gamed the system by calling NYT-reporting bookstores and placing bulk orders for HFM. Never mind that physical copies of the book are not available (or weren’t at the time). Apparently whoever was ordering all these books “for an event” wasn’t concerned about, you know, not having them. ??? Seems weird. Especially since every order came in at just under the number of books that would have flagged the order as a corporate sale.

The nail in the coffin seems to have come from associates at the bookstores who mentioned being asked whether they were NYT-reporting stores before the mysterious caller(s) placed the order. Way to be subtle, yo.

The author, Lani Sarem, denies any knowledge of such antics. She says they had encouraged stores to order in bulk in advance of upcoming events and conventions. She also says the marketing for the book has been targeted at said conventions, which is why the book wasn’t well-known in wider YA circles. In other words, just because no one has heard of her in one circle doesn’t mean she can’t sell a bunch of books. Because there’s more than one circle.

Though, usually, if something is getting traction at conventions and such, I feel like the publishing world keeps track of that too. The publishing community is seldom sideswiped by something or someone in its blind spot.

That said, I got curious. I wondered if maybe HFM was just a really good book, an underground hit rising to the top. So I went and read the free sample on Amazon.

Um . . .

No.

It’s really not very good. (That being my personal opinion, of course.) Boy does she love the word “basically.” And the author seems keen to hawk her ties to the entertainment industry and all her famous friends. Much of the criticism lodged at Sarem and her book is based on the idea the “marketing” (aka, the buying of a top spot on the NYT list) was designed to launch investor interest in the movie version rather than sell the book at all. Per IMDb, the main character will be played by Sarem herself. Which is probably why the book reads like a bad Mary Sue story.

But here’s the truth: publishing isn’t a meritocracy. Good books aren’t always what sell. Great writers are often buried by popular trash. Someone who takes the time to lovingly craft a story is going to get run over by the writer churning out half-baked manuscripts because these days it’s quantity over quality if you want to make any kind of money.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take the time to write a good book, get it edited, etc. I’m just pointing out that readers aren’t always as picky as the writing community. All writers should be readers, but not all readers are writers, and the readers who aren’t writers aren’t looking at all the details writers do. Anyone can admire a beautiful house, but a builder is going to look for the nuts and bolts. Or whatever houses have.

I will say, the cover of HFM leaves one to wonder whether artist Gill Del-Mace gave permission to have his work adapted? Per the copyright page, they did at least get permission for some song lyrics.

Do I think HFM tried to game the system? Evidence points that way, but who knows? Maybe there are people really buying and reading the book. It hardly matters now since the NYT revised their list and restored The Hate U Give to the #1 spot. Handbook for Mortals is MIA.

To Do

The remainder of my year promises to be very busy. Here is my working to-do list:

  1. Write a guest blog post. (Deadline: 29 Sept)
  2. Finish Hamlette. (Deadline: 30 Sept)
  3. Edit this one project for a client.
  4. Edit this other thing for a friend.
  5. Edit this thing for my mom.
  6. Finish Faebourne.
  7. Finish Changers: The Great Divide.
  8. Keep working on Sel & Am.

The client’s project is open ended at the moment but naturally takes precedence over work I’m doing for friends and family.

Then, of course, there is all the non-work stuff: kids’ school events, doing things like laundry and dishes and grocery shopping. There is my physical therapy (I’ve injured my right shoulder), which eats into my time. I’m trying not to resent it. After all, I want to be healthy and well! I just also want to be productive and write.

So, again, apologies if I’m spotty with my blog posts. But I’ve got a lot going on and I hope you’ll find it was all worth it when my next project(s) are released!

Moving Forward

Remember that it’s okay to be wrong and make mistakes. In writing and in life. We live in a society where we think we must be perfect and feel like we’re being judged constantly. Maybe we are. BUT. As Methos once said, “We’re none of us perfect, MacLeod.” Expecting ourselves—or anyone else*—to be perfect is holding the world to an impossible standard. Have high standards, yes, but not unachievable ones. Otherwise your life will be one long disappointment.

*Be sure you’re not judging others harshly, either. Focus on your own work and don’t worry about anyone else’s. If someone wants your opinion, be grateful they think you’re worthy, and then be kind. Honest, of course, but focus on the positive.

Semifinalist

Well, my original television pilot Hunting Victor Frankenstein made it as far as the semifinals in the Creative World Awards. Unfortunately, it was eliminated at the finals. I’m still really proud of the script, and hope it can one day find a home somewhere. It’s written more for network television than cable (and Fresh Voices did call it “worthy of network consideration”), but I do think readers and producers are more interested in cable-style scripts these days. Everyone wants a deal with HBO or Netflix or FX or something, which HVF just isn’t that kind of material. So that may have worked against it.

Mostly I’ve been focused on my prose projects these days, but I still harbor tiny hopes that some of my screen work will one day be produced.

WIP

Bea and Gwendolyn found us then, and Liam used the distraction to slip his arm out of Rosalind’s hold. “Hey, ladies,” he said, and my heart wilted a little as his eyes lingered on Gwendolyn. She wilted, too, as though trying to make herself smaller under his gaze.

Why do cute boys have to be so dumb? Can’t they see who wants their attention and who doesn’t? Then again, maybe it’s a matter of who deserves the attention. Rosalind certainly didn’t. But while Gwendolyn may be the most kind-hearted person in the world, she surely didn’t warrant Liam’s unwanted interest. For someone who’d been so sensitive to my needs minutes before, Liam sure was being stupid about Gwendolyn’s. I’d like to believe it’s because he and I had some special bond, but I think attraction makes guys’ antennae malfunction. They see something they want and can no longer discern what the girl wants. It’s no excuse for bad behavior, of course. Men shouldn’t be catcalling or cornering women who don’t want their advances. Just something I’ve noticed, how even normally good guys can make really stupid choices if a cute girl is involved. I wished Gwendolyn would say or do something to put Liam in his place, though. Knowing Liam, he didn’t want her to be uncomfortable. If anything, he was bending over backward to make her feel special. Which made her uncomfortable.

What a mess.

Fine, I’d do it. “Liam,” I said. “Don’t stare. You’re freaking Gwen out.”

His mouth dropped open. He looked at me, then at Gwendolyn. “Am I? I certainly don’t mean to.”

Gwendolyn looked up, her eyes full of hope that her ordeal of tolerating a gorgeous university student might be nearing an end.

Why did we always want what—and who—we couldn’t have?

The Adventures of Sel & Am

So I’m putting up this little serial story one piece at a time. You can find it here. I’ve always really envisioned it as a manga, but I can’t draw.

Seladion and Amaurodios, if you’re somewhat new to my blog, are Ninatat, which are akin to angels. They exist as part of my parageographic project AElit. You can read more about that in this old post. AElit is something I’ve developed over time and keep meaning to organize into . . . I don’t know, but something. My graduate thesis danced along the margins of it, and I may yet rewrite that and publish it.

Sel & Am, though, are two characters close to my heart, and while their stories are something of a side project at the moment, I hope in time others will come to love them as much as I do.

WIP Wednesday

Most of you know I’m writing like mad to finish Hamlette. This is for One Line Wednesday:

The thing about having the Prince of Wales glowering at you and trying to get you to walk toward him at the same time is that when he’s glowering at you like that the last thing you want to do is walk toward him.

Death of a Newsletter

I’ve made attempts to build my newsletter, and I still send one out every month, but I think I’ll be ending that soon. Despite many authors insisting that newsletters are the best way to find readers and sell books, I’ve never seen much ROI. I did what many do and offered giveaways and free, exclusive content but . . . As soon as people signed up and got whatever was being given, they unsubscribed. Maybe I don’t have a knack for it. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong. I don’t know. But with so many outlets to choose from and only so much actual time, I have to be picky about my tactics. I enjoy posting stuff for my Facebook followers, and I even enjoy Tweeting now and then, or posting the occasional Instagram photo. I like blogging here, and reviewing on spooklights and Goodreads. That is, I think, more than enough. When you consider my editing jobs and, you know, actual writing, I stay plenty busy! And based on interest, or lack thereof, readers have shown me my newsletter is the least of my efforts. They’d rather I do other things in other places, and I’m happy to drop the excess weight.

If you’ve been following The Adventures of Sel & Am, well, I hope to find another venue for posting it. Right now it’s not a particularly active project, more of a side hobby that I’m tinkering with. I have so many other things that need to get finished, and I want to be able to do right by Sel & Am, both of whom I adore. Seladion in particular would surely be angry if I were to let him languish, or worse, be sloppy with him. Their adventures span centuries, too, so there’s lots to tell. I promise I’ll do so when I find the right home for them.

ETA: I did put the first part up on Wattpad.