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Posts tagged ‘authors’

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

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Zero Tolerance: White Supremacists Take Over D.C. Bookstore Reading

White supremacists briefly took over a reading by author Jonathan Metzl at the flagship location for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. on Saturday, shouting “this land is our land” and marching through the store yelling the name of a group that helped to organize the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

Source: White Supremacists Take Over D.C. Bookstore Reading

I am worried about the future of free speech because this kind of crap marks people of either major political party as targets for disruptive actions. That makes it harder for a person to speak out–or to have the guts to speak out.

As my novels suggest, I have zero tolerance for racism and white supremacy in any form. I also have zero tolerance for jeopardizing the right of anyone to speak out whether it’s from threats of violence at planned speeches by members of either party at campuses and other venues or hate campaigns against authors/bloggers online.

If a person or a group won’t even let the opposition speak, that person or group is bankrupt and without any value whatsoever.

–Malcolm

 

KDP Print vs. IngramSpark 

“Last month, I wrote a refresher post comparing Smashwords and Draft2Digital. This month, I think it’s probably time for a refresher post comparing KDP Print and IngramSpark. First up, KDP Print Own…”

Source: KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) vs. IngramSpark | Celebrating Independent Authors

This handy overview lists the pros and cons of both routes of taking your book into print. Self-published and small-press authors have many decisions to make about production, publicity, and promotion, so finding this kind of information cuts through the chaos.

The author has also written an article comparing Smashwords and Draft2Digital here.

–Malcolm

Be careful when asking for opinions about stories you haven’t started writing

“Hold off asking for opinion. The earlier you ask for feedback, the more likely you are to get deterred from what might be your best writing. The best judge of a good idea is you, but only after you’ve mulled it over for a long while, or tested it by writing a draft, or rewritten it three or four times. After you’ve read similar works to compare. After you’ve honed your writing skills to develop the chops to even write the concept.” C. Hope Clark

I can’t find the quotation now, but Hemingway once warned writers against talking their ideas away. That is, telling others the plots of stories they were about to write. After all was said and done, possibly at a table with several bottles of wine, the author would realize that in all the give and take about his or her prospective project, s/he had lost it.

In this week’s Funds for Writers newsletter, Hope Clark expressed similar reservations about rushing out and telling friends, fans, and other writers what you’re thinking about writing–all in hopes of getting feedback about its viability.

Personally, I don’t understand this at all unless, perhaps, you’re floating an idea with your publisher or agent about what you want to write next. Otherwise, early on, what the hell kind of feedback could anyone possibly offer? So, telling–let’s say–your usual beta readers that you’re starting a new series may elicit a lot of pats on the back with little useful feedback.

The more you say, the more likely it is that their comments and questions will derail the project or somehow change it into something outside the scope of what you want to do.

Personally, I don’t like or understand the concept of beta readers unless I’m writing nonfiction and am looking for an unofficial peer review of my approach before devoting too much time researching the project. So I never ask anybody what they think of a prospective story idea because any input I get is doing to be detrimental to what my muse and I are considering.

If you feel better asking for feedback, my suggestion is to wait until you have the first draft. At that point, you have enough of a story for others to understand your plot, theme, characters, and style. When you wait, you’re more sure of yourself and your story, including its focus and ending, and distracting and negative comments are less likely to derail you. Now, quality beta readers may, in fact, find holes in the story, inconsistencies, and other issues that fall far short of destroying your work in progress.

Malcolm

 

 

 

What It Felt Like When ‘Cat Person’ Went Viral

“So what was it like to have a story go viral? For a few hours, before I came to my senses and shut down my computer, I got to live the dream and the nightmare of knowing exactly what people thought when they read what I’d written, as well as what they thought about me. A torrent of unvarnished, unpolished opinion was delivered directly to my eyes and my brain. That thousands—and, eventually, millions—of readers had liked the story, identified with it, been affected by it, exhorted others to read it, didn’t make this any easier to take. The story was not autobiographical, but it was, nonetheless, personal—everything I write is personal—and here were all these strangers dissecting it, dismissing it, judging it, fighting about it, joking about it, and moving on.”

Source: What It Felt Like When “Cat Person” Went Viral | The New Yorker

Most authors hope this will happen to one of their articles, short stories, or blog posts because they have been working for years as a virtual unknown writing what reviewers and friends tell them is good stuff even though none of that good stuff sells well on Kindle or anywhere else.

We don’t think about the flip side. Do we really want the world peering through our online windows asking who the hell we are, why the hell we wrote what we wrote, and what exactly was the whole point of it?

When a writer’s novel suddenly becomes a bestseller, the old joke is that s/he is an overnight sensation that was years in the making. That his to say, the public discovered the writer today even though s/he has a resume full of books written over a decade or more that few people noticed.

The dangers of things going viral are, I think, greater with a magazine article or a short story because even if the primary version appears in print, the online version will have a link that makes it easy to access and read quickly in its entirety–as opposed to a 400-page novel. Suddenly, everything about the author and his/her piece is all over the Internet and people are saying this sucks or this is great. Yes, writers dream about becoming known, seeing their work sell, and actually earning a living off their efforts.

I’m not sure going viral as Kristen Roupenian describes in her article is the way I’d want to go. How about you? If you write a short story that does viral, you’ll probably be able to get an agent and a publisher for your book. Yet, are you sure the intrusion of the universe into your writing room is worth it?

Malcolm

This is a great time for writing by women – so why are we still considered second-rate?

“Do men learn from women? Often. Do they admit it publicly? Rarely, even today. Let’s stick to literature. No matter how hard I try, I can’t think of many male writers who have said that they were in any way indebted to the work of a woman writer.”

Source: This is a great time for writing by women – so why are we still considered second-rate? | Life and style | The Guardian

This essay by Elena Ferrante asks timely questions: are male writers ever influenced by female writers? When a male writer likes a female writer’s book, does he think it’s “good for a female writer” or good with the arena of all books?

Personally, I don’t see fiction or nonfiction written by women as second-class work. Apparently, a lot of people do–and perhaps some publishers and bookstores as well. What a shame.

–Malcolm

P.S. Click here to enter my GoodReads giveaway for a paperback of “Lena,” the third novel in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy.

 

Happy Birthday to Indies Unlimited

“Seven years ago, the Evil Mastermind launched Indies Unlimited. Since then, we’ve had over 2.5 MILLION page views, been named as one of Six Great Blogs for Indie Authors in Publishers Weekly, and ranked as one of the top writing-related sites by Alexa.”

Source: Indies Unlimited – Celebrating Independent Authors

Indies Unlimited is the go-to blog for writers learning their craft and then learning how to market their work in competition with the one million self-published books released each year. Since the blog is run by volunteers, it’s obviously a labor of love, though I hate using that hackneyed old phrase to describe their work.

Even if you don’t have time to check the blog every week, a scan through their archive of posts will usually materialize what you’re looking for whenever you have a question or the need for a little inspiration.

I hope Indies Unlimited is going strong seven years from now.

Malcolm

 

Can an author quote from a review?

“I heard a rumor that some authors were wondering about the rules regarding quoting reviews of their books. Whether you’re doing this in a tweet, a post on Facebook or your blog, or using the quote as a blurb in an advertisement or on the back cover of a paper book, the same basic rules apply. The considerations fall into two groups: those that are legal issues and those that are more a matter of etiquette.”

Source: Book Reviews: Can You Quote Me on That? – Indies Unlimited

I liked seeing this article because it helps clarify points about quoting and copying that have gotten rather fuzzy with our online world. Most people, including authors, don’t seem to grasp the fact that there are rules and those rules really don’t allow somebody on Facebook (for example) to copy an entire article or poem and then say “infringement not intended.”

That makes about a much sense as busting into a store and claiming “breaking an entering not intended.”

A good review is a godsend, so as authors we really don’t need to step over the line when deciding how to use them or cite them. This article will help keep us out of trouble.

–Malcolm

Breaking up is hard to do

Some say that a writer begins a book and a reader finishes it. That is after the book has been written and published, readers either like it or they don’t and see in it one thing or another because it’s time for the writer to move on.

For the writer, it’s like breaking up with a lover.

S/he has to begin writing the next book. Not too quickly, though, or the next book will turn into a rebound kind of thing, ill-conceived and overly filled with everything the newly released book didn’t have.

Some writers have book projects stacked up in notebooks, each waiting to capture the writer’s time and heart. I don’t. Not that I go to bars looking for them or sign up with online dating outfits: “meet beautiful Russian ideas just waiting to please” or “sexy singles in your town hoping for marriage.”

No writer wants people to say s/he’s on the make. That seems, somehow trashy as though s/he’s going to turn to a beach read or the kinds of books you find in airports or worse yet a book on a street corner that might really be a vice cop waiting to grab the writer in a hurry.

It’s sad when a writer gets so desperate to move on from the break-up from his most recent book, that s/he picks up a bereaved idea from an accident scene or a funeral like a cheap lawyer chasing a client, any client. And then, too, there some writers apparently get drunk or go nuts and pick up an idea that’s young enough to be their son or daughter or, at best, arm candy that will lead nowhere good.

Then there are the matchmakers. They have an idea or know somebody at their church with an idea or play duplicate bridge in a group with a lot of sweet young ideas all of whom are God’s gift to the right writer. Some are desperate, while others are bitter and resigned to never making it into marriage, much less into print. Others are a little rough, but I’m told they’ll “clean up nice.”

If all this is drifting into the kind of post that sounds sexist, I should tell you that an author’s relationship with a book idea is in many ways like a love affair and has similar hopes and jealousies and wrong things said (or written) at the worst possible moments. If one rushes into the right book idea too quickly, it will burst into flames and later when you chance to meet in some gin joint at a fated moment, you can say, “we always had Paris” and think sadly about the book that might have been if you hadn’t acted to crass with the delicate possibilities before the idea was fully formed in your heart and soul.

Sure, if my writer’s life was a movie, some well-meaning colleague who’s already going steady with a book idea would tell me to shave, put on a clean set of clothes and go with him or her to a nearby barn dance or USO canteen where the camera shots, dialogue, and music would clue in the audience before I knew what hit me that “this is the one.” I wish it were that easy.

Lord knows I can’t go looking for ideas at Walmart because we all know what kinds of ideas hang out there.

So, with the release of Lena, I’m sitting here alone at a silent keyboard, ashtray full of cigarette butts, a wastebasket overflowing with empty Scotch bottles, vicariously reading other people’s books.

Whatever you do, please don’t try to “help.”

Malcolm

 

Book Bits: Amazon algorithm, ‘We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,’ Sam Hawke, Anne Tyler, Indies Unlimited

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we’ll be seeing the fourth Comoran Strike novel from J. k. Rowling this fall. I like the series and will be looking forward to the release.

Here’s some more news for your Monday.

  1. Viewpoint: The Amazon Algorithm Myth – “A problematic feature of the world in 2018 is that the social networks we have built seem to spread misinformation faster and wider than its more accurate counterpart, and this can lead authors to make decisions counter to their interests. One of the enduring myths surrounds “’The Amazon Algorithm.’” David Gaughran
  2. Review: We Don’t Eat our Classmates, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins, ages 3-7 – “When a young T. Rex named Penelope starts school, she learns some lessons about her classmates; most importantly, they are not for eating…Fans of macabre, tongue-in-cheek humor (and twist endings!) will enjoy time spent with Penelope.” Kirkus Reviews
  3. NewsCooking and Sci-Fi Are the Hot Print Segments This Year So Far, by Jim Milliot – “The cooking/entertaining and science fiction categories had the strongest print unit sales gains among the adult categories in the first half of 2018 compared to the first six months of 2017, according to NPD BookScan. On the downside, religion had the largest decline among the adult fiction categories, with units dropping 50%.” Publishers Weekly
  4. Interview: A Particularly Potent Brew, Sam Hawke with Noah Fram – “I love a good assassin story but I wanted to write the kind of inverse to that: the tale of the spoiled and pampered officials being targeted, rather than the tale of the assassins themselves. What I particularly love about Robin’s books, and what makes them stand out from other assassin romps, is that the poisonings and manipulations performed are never presented in a glorified or glamorous way.” BookPage
  5. EssayReading Raymond Chandler in the age of #MeToo, by Megan Abbott – “And yet, even reading Chandler’s harsher passages, I find myself not turning away but moving closer. Trying to understand something. Am I still entranced? Even as I resist the faintly gendered connotations of the term, its suggestion of female helplessness in the face of male potency, I still feel the pull. What fascinates and compels me most about Chandler in this #MeToo moment are the ways his novels speak to our current climate. Because if you want to understand toxic white masculinity, you could learn a lot by looking at noir.” Slate
  6. Review: Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler  reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum – “”CLOCK DANCE is a riveting and wholesome story of family, relationships, humanity and self-discovery…. [Anne Tyler] is at the top of her writing game in this outstanding novel.” Book Reporter
  7. News Source: Indie Author Newsbreak, This news feature will offer author, publishing news, and tips every Friday. I found the Amazon Algorithm (item 1) story link here. Should be a good information source from the popular authors’ website. Indies Unlimited
  8. Quotation: “Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things–childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves–that go on slipping , like sand, through our fingers.” – Salman Rushdie
  9. Interview: Don’t Make Me Pull Over by Richard Ratay, with by Randy Dotinga – “I came up with the idea while on a family vacation. I found myself on a beach chair, looking at my young sons, who were then aged 6 and 8, and I thought about traveling 1970s America at that age with my own parents and siblings. It hit me how profound those experiences really were. They gave me some of my fondest childhood memories, they broadened my horizons in so many ways, and they profoundly shaped my relationships with my parents and my siblings for a lifetime. But I knew little about how the great American road trip experience developed.” Christian Science Monitor

Book Bits is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the upcoming novel “Lena” from Thomas-Jacob Publishing. Click on the book title to see the trailer.

–Malcolm