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Posts from the ‘authors’ Category

Book Bits: Catherine Chung, Sharon Heath, ‘Cygnet,’ Amazon, Linda Holmes, Mueller report

At my age, a vigorous, bone-crushing, muscle twisting workout comes from spending several hours on the riding mower. While recuperating, I found a few links you might enjoy. Or you might not. Long-time readers of this blog know that ever since high school, I’ve been fascinated by writings about Carl Jung, alchemy, and quantum mechanics (the many worlds interpretation), so I’m happy to see a review of a very readable book that has uncovered multiple levels and/or universes of meaning (Item 2) since we’re all entangled one way or another.

Have fun exploring the books and authors links this week.

  1. Essay: On Being a Woman Who Loves Math, by Catherine Chung – “All my life I’ve been aware of the disheartening fact that as a society, we generally find intellect off-putting in women, and do our best to squash it.” (Lit Hub)
  2. Review: Tizita (2017) By Sharon Heath, Deltona, FL: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, by Frances Hatfield
    “Tizita, like the first novel before it in The Fleur Trilogy, The History of My Body, is as utterly original as its chief protagonist, and in some of the same, brilliant, moving, and laugh-out-loud hilarious ways.” (Psychological Perspectives)
  3. Excerpt: ‘Cygnet’: Featured Fiction from Season Butler – “Publishers Weekly called the book poignant, adding that ‘Butler has created an appealingly rich world with quirky, flawed characters and a dramatic landscape determined by the constant action of wind and water. Butler delivers a potent and finely calibrated novel.’” (The Millions)
  4. Opinion: Amazon Says It is Not a ‘Lawless’ Retail Platform As Charged by ‘NYT’ – “The New York Times’ recent feature on Amazon, which focuses on how much control the tech giant exerts over the book business and how detrimental that control might be for the sector’s health, has provoked a response from the company. Specifically, Amazon responded to claims in the article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post, that it ‘strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products’ and ‘takes proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero.” (Publishers Weekly)
  5. Interview: Linda Holmes with Stephenie Harrison – “I have wanted to write a novel . . . always. I can’t remember when I didn’t think that would be the absolute greatest thing I could do. But I would start things, write a few pages and just get intimidated that I couldn’t keep going. I played around with writing fiction for many years and got a little more serious in 2012 when I decided to devote some time to this story. But again, I worked on it for a while, then left it alone. I didn’t pick it up again until sometime in the fall of 2016.” (Book Page)
  6. Quotation: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” ― WC Fields
  7. Wikipedia photo

    Feature: How Jenna Bush Hager became the new book club queen, by David Canfield – “Around 10 minutes into my interview with Jenna Bush Hager, I make a careless mistake: I assume her new Today show book club isn’t merely a one-woman band. ‘You say ‘You guys,’ but you really are just talking about one person — me!’ she responds, laughing. ‘Reese Witherspoon was on the show the other day, and we were talking about it. She’s like, ‘I have a whole team, Jenna!’ The problem is, I definitely need to read the whole book before I recommend it — and I’m a pretty picky reader.’ (Entertainment)

  8. Wikipedia Graphic

    New Title: A Mueller Report graphic novel will be released by San Diego publisher, by Michael Schaub – “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has become something of a publishing phenomenon, with several book versions of the report flying off bookstore shelves. Now a San Diego publisher is planning to release a version of the report for those who might find the original a little too dry. IDW will publish a graphic-novel adaptation of the report next year, the press said in a news release.” (Los Angeles Times)

Book Bits is compiled randomly by malcolm R. Campbell, author of the “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”

 

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Dear readers, your reviews really do help

Reader reviews on Amazon not only help spread the word to prospective readers, but they attract those readers’ attention in the first place. These reviews also impact how Amazon displays a book in a reader’s search results. Needless to say, more people review the books of widely known writers than the books of so-called “midlist” and small-press authors. As many emerging writers have said, the authors who don’t need the reviews or the interviews are the ones who get them.

Some authors try to make placing a reader review sound easy, suggesting that all you have to say is “I liked it.” I don’t agree with that. “I liked it” isn’t a review. If a prospective reader reads such a review, they learn nothing about the book and might even think the reviewer knows the author and potentially didn’t even read the novel.

Suffice it to say, honest reviews with a few details explaining why a reader liked or didn’t like a book are better than reviews with nothing more than “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” For readers who review multiple books, it’s disconcerting that they’ll take the time to review a well-known author’s book that has, say–3,000 reviews already–but don’t spend the time to review an emerging author’s books. I seldom review major books on Amazon because I don’t think there’s much I can possibly add to the conversation that already involves a thousand or more reviews. I’m more likely to review these books on my blog.

In social media, it’s quite common to hear that dozens of people liked an author’s latest book. These opinions are treasured and very nice to hear. A lot of those people wish the author well, and yet, most of them don’t go out to Amazon and leave a review. They probably have no idea how vital their reviews are to the book’s success. Amazon’s book-display algorithms count reviews; so do various blogs and newsletters where books can be advertised. (It’s hard to get your book into one of those book newsletters if it has few reviews.)

Basically, it comes down to this insofar as midlist and small-press authors are concerned: if readers don’t help support the book, it isn’t going to sell.  Yet, authors really can’t say this to readers on Facebook or Twitter because it’s unseemly and probably turns readers off who really don’t know anything about leaving an Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N review. Plus, it’s generally considered bad form to beg for reviews. Authors are rather stuck. When a reader tells them on Facebook that their latest novel was the best book they ever read, it’s a bit crass to say, “have you posted that viewpoint on Amazon yet?”

Readers certainly have no obligation to post reviews. Most readers don’t. They read a book and move on to the next book. So, I think it’s an imposition for an author to “lean on” readers in the social media by asking them directly for an online review even though many of the books will fail without those reviews. Authors often feel stuck. They need the reviews but it’s bad form to ask for them or to keep posting little generic notices on their Facebook authors’ pages to the effect that reviews help spread the word.

Frankly, I wish professional book reviewers, critics, and bloggers would do better keeping up with small-press books since those are the books that need the exposure. Nobody is really served well when a critic/reviewer posts review number 5,000 for a well-known author’s book. But, for an emerging or small-press author, even a three-star review helps bring a book some much-needed online attention.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,’ “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena,” all of which are available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook editions.

 

 

 

 

Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang from Poets & Writers

“What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?

“I would have to say the loneliness of falling out of step with society. When I’m out celebrating a friend who has just made a huge stride in their career, someone would ask me, “Hey how’s that book coming along?” Then having to tell them that I have a desk in an ex-FBI warehouse and I’ll be sitting there in the foreseeable future, occasionally looking out the window, trying to make imaginary people behave themselves.” 

Source: Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang | Poets & Writers

Many writers and aspiring writers might easily share Wang’s answer to the challenges of writing books. You have to be able to accept a lot of prospective loneliness that comes with being out of sync with everyone else.

Personally, I don’t like the question “Hey how’s your book coming along” because most people want a quick answer. They don’t want to hear about the plot or your trials and tribulations and doubts. Chances are, they would be impressed if you told them you’d just signed a $100,000 deal with HarperCollins and that your agent is already in negotiations with Hollywood. Otherwise, the best answer is “slowly, but surely.”

Anything other than that, and people’s eyes glaze over and they find excuses to go to the bathroom, head over to the bar for another drink, or simply disappear. You have to be crazy or filled with a lot of passion to sign up for this.

If you’re a writer, do you feel that you’re not part of the hustle and bustle of “real life”?

Malcolm

 

Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books 

Quiet books are often misread, misunderstood, or, sadly, missed altogether. If a book is labeled quiet in a review or in literary conversation, an author and her readers will likely see it as an insult—sharp criticism of some deep-rooted flaw in the writer’s storytelling abilities. But for me, someone who leans toward anxiety and is easily overstimulated, startled, and stressed out—especially these days—quiet books offer a calming space, a place of rescue. I’ve been told more than once that my writing is quiet, and I always take it as a high compliment because I know how much I long for moments of rest and reflection in the books I read, the movies I watch, the places I go, and the people I encounter along the way. I suspect I’m not alone. 

Source: Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books | Poets & Writers

Leesa Cross-Smith has always liked quiet spaces from which to write, especially in today’s raucous political climate. I feel the same way. This is a nice essay about her work and her love of quiet books.

–Malcolm

Now that we’ve moved past the author’s newsletter idea. . .

. . .we’re back to being content to write a blog, maintain a website, and keep up with an author’s page on Facebook.

I read an interview this morning with an author whose focus is memoirs and essays. The interviewer said he thought she tended to use an extraordinary amount of personal material in her nonfiction. And she said, when she cared enough to write about an issue, it was usually because she had personal experience with that issue and so all her fears, battles, and second-guessing of herself flowed into the essay making it very personal.

I’m afraid that would happen if I wrote a newsletter. The thing is, a newsletter–like most of an author’s promotional efforts–is supposed to be all about you (the prospective reader) and not all about me (the author).

So, a newsletter filled with all my personal demons really isn’t going to cut it. When I see interviews with emerging authors, I really want to see more about the work they’re focussing on rather than memories about their experiences in English classes when they first wrote fiction or poetry. I want to know about their work, not their demons.

I’ve written elsewhere about the mistakes nonprofit organizations make when they advertise events and focus their news releases on how worthy their causes are rather than on what the public will get out of paying to attend the events. While it sounds crass to put it this way, when most of us see a news story about a book or a concert or even about a product, our primary consideration usually includes asking what’s in it for me? Will I enjoy the event? Is this my kind of book? Do I really have a use for the product?

So, like other small-press authors who don’t have a heavy schedule of events to publicize, a newsletter could quickly degenerate into an all about me kind of thing. That seems presumptuous. And, if those receiving the newsletter make book selections like I do, they buy a book because it looks entertaining, not because the author had to take three Xanax a day to get the thing written.

Most small-press authors don’t have enough news to put in a newsletter, so considering starting one requires a lot of thought. If you send out a newsletter too often, people start thinking they’re getting SPAM. If you don’t send out a newsletter often enough, then they probably won’t remember signing up to get the thing. So, if an author isn’t prolific and/or doesn’t have a heavy schedule of appearances, it’s doing to be difficult thinking up enough news to justify mailing anything out.

Better to leave people alone, I think, and hope they find my blog or website or Facebook page.

Malcolm

Those gurus, bless their hearts, say I need a newsletter

When I went away to college, my parents expected me to write home every couple of days. I said I wasn’t going to do that because I had nothing to say. That was true enough because every day was just like they day before it: I sat in a classroom, ate meals, studied, watched TV, went to bed, got up the next morning and sat in a classroom.

Some writers’ newsletters sound about like that. When they do, they’re so boring we can’t bring ourselves to write them, much less expect you to suffer through reading them. It’s hard enough thinking of something reasonably interesting to put in this blog. Heaven help me if I had to turn out a newsletter three or four times a month.

I’ve toyed with the idea of a fake newsletter. I could name it Trigger Warnings and fill it full of stuff that will push a lot of buttons that shouldn’t be pushed. Some folks used to argue that if a person put something nasty in quotes, they couldn’t be blamed for saying it. Trigger Warnings would be like that. I warn you with some introductory boilerplate, say stuff you don’t want to hear, and then hit the send button.

That kind of thing strikes my fancy because I have a trickster approach to life. If one just doesn’t say a thing, I want to say it.

Since quotation marks absolve me of misspeaking–as politicians often say–I could begin my newsletter with “Dear Bastards” and it would be okay. So then I could say, using an old-fashioned grin symbol <g> that while I appreciate your “congrats,” “great story,” and other fine comments on Facebook about my novels, I want to point out that if you don’t leave an Amazon reader review, my book is toast.

My wife–who has known me since 1979–is often surprised at what I say while we’re talking to “normal people.” Those “normal people” tend to get drunk after talking to me because I love saying what shouldn’t be said.

Trigger Warning: This might make you sick

Presumably, “normal people” would sign up for my newsletter and then immediately unsubscribe the first time I wrote about roadkill salad. On the plus side, roadkill salad is free unless you add mayo. And chopped pecans.

But I would want to be honest. That means if I was thinking about writing a poem about “roadkill salad,” I would have to tell you that and see what you thought. Sure, you might need a couple of Xanax to get through the newsletter, but it would still be liberating. See, that’s what tricksters do. We liberate you from everything that makes you sick, embarrassed, crazy, and politically inept.

Or, I might suggest that every subscriber had to buy 1,000 copies of my books and give them to relatives, prisoners, and random people on the street.

You can see, can’t you, why I don’t really think this newsletter is a great idea?

Malcolm

 

 

 

National Poetry Month: Harjo Wins Jackson Poetry Prize

“New York, NY – April 25, 2019 – Joy Harjo has won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize. The prize, endowed by John and Susan Jackson, is awarded annually by Poets & Writers to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It carries a significant monetary award, increased this year to $65,000, and aims to provide what poets need: time and encouragement to write.”

Source: JOY HARJO WINS JACKSON POETRY PRIZE | Poets & Writers

Best of news. Of course, I’m biased. She’s one of my favorite current poets, mentioned here earlier this month

–Malcolm

Kylie Chan is creating Fiction | Patreon

Hi there! I’m Kylie Chan, an Australian writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction based on the Gold Coast.

My books are successful in my home country of Australia, and I’ve been shortlisted many times for awards in my country. Not so much overseas. This means that although I’m popular and well-known here, I don’t have the same sort of profile (and success) elsewhere. Australia has a small population (and book-buying market) so this dramatically affects my earnings.

I’m making enough to live on as a full-time writer: I’m not rich but I’m getting by. (I make much less than most people think I do. If I worked nine-to-five I’d be bringing in minimum wage. This isn’t really relevant, though, because 1. It’s a fourteen-hour-day and 2. I don’t really consider it work.)

Source: Kylie Chan is creating Fiction | Patreon

Students of literature and other arts know that in years gone by, many writers, composers, and artists had patrons. From time to time, I read of modern-day authors setting up subscription services and crowdfunding plans to help them raise money for their work. In addition to that, grants and awards help many authors complete work they’d otherwise be unable to do.

So, I support the concept and hope that Kylie Chan’s multi-tiered benefits for various levels of monthly subscriptions will help her travel for research and go to conventions for her promotional efforts.

I am currently on my second reading through her nine-volume Xuan Wu epic fantasy series (three linked trilogies) set in Hong Kong and its traditional celestial realms. It’s an enjoyable and ambitious work.

Many authors are not widely enough known to apply for grants and/or set up patron-style crowdfunding plans. Chan’s readers will note, of course, that she is published by Harper (not an easy thing to accomplish) so she is starting from a higher platform than small-press authors who find it next to impossible to even get their work reviewed by mainstream media outlets, much less have it considered by major competitions or best-of-the-year lists. Whether one goes Chan’s route with a major publisher or goes the self-published or small-press route, the odds of success for authors are more discouraging than going to Vegas and making a profit at the casinos.

I wish Chan well and I wish the media would expand its book coverage and actively consider saying something about authors who don’t have huge conglomerate publishers behind their work.

Malcolm

Bestselling Fantasy Writer Christopher Paolini Kicks of New B&N Residency Program

Book Bits Special

from Barnes and Noble

New York, NY – February 4, 2019 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest retail bookseller, today announced that it will host fantasy writer Christopher Paolini for a 10-month author residency to celebrate his internationally bestselling Inheritance Cycle series, as well as his new collection of three stories set in the world of Alagaësia: The Fork, the Witch and the Worm. As part of this national tour, Paolini will appear at 11 Barnes & Noble locations from March through December 2019 with an enhanced customer experience that includes a presentation by Paolini, a booksigning, exclusive trivia, social media photo opportunities with an exclusive backdrop, and an exclusive giveaway, while supplies last.

“We are so excited to be working with Random House Children’s Books to host author Christopher Paolini on this exciting author residency tour,” said Stephanie Fryling, Vice President of Merchandising, Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble. “Fans will have the chance to have an exclusive experience with Paolini and enter the world of Eragon in a way like never before at Barnes & Noble stores across the country.”

Wikipedia Photo

Christopher Paolini is best known as the author of the Inheritance Cycle, a bestselling series comprised of four books including Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance. Paolini wrote Eragon shortly after graduating high school at age 15. The Fork, the Witch and the Worm is Paolini’s newest book in the fantasy series, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list.

“It has been such a blast meeting so many Eragon fans while on tour for The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. I look forward to meeting even more of them on my national Barnes & Noble 2019 Residency Tour,” Paolini said.

The tour will kick off in Paolini’s hometown of Bozeman, MT, on March 4. The full list of tour dates are below.

Barnes & Noble Christopher Paolini 2019 Residency Tour Dates:

Bozeman, MT, Monday, March 4, 5 PM
Boise, ID, Saturday, April 13, 6 PM
Albuquerque, NM, Friday, May 10, 7 PM
Edina, MN, Sunday, June 9, 1 PM
Briargate, Colorado Springs, CO, Friday, June 14, 2 PM
Exton, PA, Saturday, July 13, 1 PM
Akron, OH, Friday, August 9, 7 PM
Springfield, MO, Saturday, September 14, 3 PM
Grand Rapids, MI, Friday, October 11, 6:30 PM
Orem, UT, Saturday, November 9, 2 PM
Stonebriar Mall, Frisco, TX, Sunday, December 8, 2 PM

Poll – why do you like self-publishing (if you do)

I’m curious why so many writers go directly into self-publishing rather than trying to find a traditional publisher or an agent first. How do you feel about it?

Note, with a mainstream publisher, you don’t pay for editing or cover design and you may have a shot at major review sites and interviews that are difficult for self-published authors to get.