Writing: Popular Pedantry

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Popular Pedantry

I’m going to start this story with its own little story. We’re going to talk, for a few seconds, about the food stamp ‘issue’ in America.

See, there are people looking to beef up food stamp regulations in this country–beef them up to keep folks from buying ‘luxury items’ such as soda, junk food, steak, or lobster. I don’t want to get too into the politics of this–I’ll just say that, if I were on food stamps and they banned me buying soda, I would be a quivering pile of unhealthy and certainly unemployable jelly for a period of months as I got over my Diet Dr. Pepper addiction. Afterward the state would undoubtedly be paying my living wages, as well as for my breakfast, while I picked up the pieces of my shattered sodaless life.

Anyway.

The reason I’m bringing it up is the same reason lawmakers and pushy online commentators bring it up. The reasons folks have been giving for supporting such a bill have little to do with an overextended budget, or a lobster shortage, or what have you. While the purpose of the bill is essentially to curb abuse of SNAP benefits, that isn’t why people support it. The reason folks support this bill is because, at some point in their lives, they’ve been standing in line at the grocery store, and they’ve seen someone pay for steak or lobster or what have you with food stamps. This whole issue blew up because of a receipt some lady found in a parking lot this one time.

I know, right?

Your first question, upon reading this statement, was probably the same as mine: why the fuck were you paying this much attention?

I can honestly say I’ve been standing next to a stranger while he or she pays for groceries maybe, oh, .05% of the time I’ve spent in a grocery store line. Usually, I’m back a polite distance, reading the tabloid headlines. Sometimes, it takes me a minute to notice they’ve left.

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed what card they used to pay.

And that’s been my main reaction to these restriction attempts. Not oh no poor people don’t deserve lobster or gah rich entitlement. It’s been: wow. Are we really this open about our own nosiness now?

We spend a lot of time (and I blame the internet for this, though it’s always happened to a lesser degree) concerning ourselves with other peoples’ business. What women wear, what poor people eat, chance remarks by some C-list celebrity.

And, in writerly circles: about typos and grammar.

Why are we all so suddenly concerned about the Oxford comma, someone’s placement of who and whom?

Don’t get it twisted, if someone published a novel and the grammar therein is execrable, by all means, point it out. This is a serious problem, and it denotes sloppy editing. If you didn’t care enough to figure out the basics, I don’t care enough to give you five stars. My reasoning for this has nothing to do with me liking you as a person, or caring deeply about English grammar–your lack of care interfered with my ability to read your story. It made your story crappier. It lessened my ability to enjoy your novel. A more conservative person than I might point out that your tax dollars are going into that food stamp purchase–so I might argue your money went into the purchase of this sloppily edited book. Therefore, if the grammar got in the way of you enjoying your money’s worth–well. Mayhap the literary steak and lobster of grammatical license isn’t to be given.

Y’see, grammar exists for one reason, and one reason only. English grammar is the set of rules that help a reader decipher meaning in the complicated code of the English language. If your shitty grammar gets in the way of someone understanding what you said, you have a major problem, and you need to correct it.

If, however, your use of the fucking Oxford comma doesn’t meet Chicago style handbook regulations, boo hoo. The situation where an Oxford comma is necessary is relatively rare, so why is the internet blowing up about it?

The fact is, typos and grammar errors happen. Every once in a while, you’re going to make one, and you (and your proofers) are going to miss it. It’ll burn you, when you’re rereading your published masterpiece. It sure will. But it happens. Even if you think it hasn’t happened. You might not even have noticed it yet.

I’m mentioning all this because I picked up an indie novel recently. I noticed, in perusing reviews, a reader had complained about the grammar in the novel, and had given a three-star review for that reason. So I opened the book with some trepidation, but hell, it was only a buck.

Imagine my surprise when the grammar was just fucking fine. There were a handful of typos, and a few occasions where I might’ve made a run-on sentence a little shorter, but overall–just fucking fine.

Were those small infractions really worth dinging a story two stars?

I didn’t think so. The story was good, the plot cohesive, the characters well drawn. I enjoyed it. I had no trouble reading it. I’ve occasionally seen more typos in ebooks released under a major publisher.

My point: we sometimes use grammar criticism for our own nefarious purposes. We use it as a way to bolster our own literary appearance and writerly status. This needs to stop. Grammar is a tool, and a story is infinitely more than the tools it was built from. I’m a grammarian and an amateur etymologist by nature–I love me some words, basically–but even I recognize there are occasional faults in the machine, even (grammar gestapo, go ahead and gasp) places where poor grammar works better than perfect. If it works, reward that.

Writing is a magical and mystical process, in which you put a bunch of typed characters together and, if you do it well enough, images are generated in someone else’s brain. It’s a little bit like telepathy. If poor grammar stops or damages the flow of these images, by all means, ding someone a star. If it doesn’t–if, basically, you only noticed it because you were looking–consider letting that dangling gerund phrase go.

In short: stop looking in other people’s literary carts. Mind your own business–when reading a novel, the business of a reader–and ask whether or not the story worked for you, not whether or not it plays by the rules.

And, again, to quiet the hounds: if you feel your literary ‘tax dollars’ are being misspent, do what the food stamp folks are doing. Take to the internet and complain about it. Bad grammar might be a reason the story does not work. Ruinous grammar is, well, you got the idea from the adjective.

But a typo or two? Not the mistake of the century. Not lifting your out of the story too much.

And a note: if you must be Gina Grammar to someone’s self-published ebook, at least be helpful. You ‘found a few typos?’ List them, and where they are. Ebooks can be republished at a few hours’ notice. If you’re kind enough to list, the author will probably thank you. Nobody wants typos, and it’s far easier to correct them when someone tells you where they are.

The King’s Might: Excerpt

Here y’go, first part of TKM for you. In case you’re blind or you don’t usually follow me, this story will be available on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and All Those Other Places very soon (7/21/15). It’ll be free to start out with through Smashwords, and .99 on Amazon until I can make it free there as well. Hrmmhrmmm. My gift to you.

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*PROLOGUE*

The girl had been down in the earth for a long, long time.

She had once–weeks ago, months ago, maybe even years ago–been a bright and chubby little thing, full of laughter and smiles. But they had been traveling through the Mountains of Vigilance–her parents had turned away, for just a moment, to consider the crossing–and she had fallen, playing on an outcropping of stone.

She had fallen into a ravine. She had fallen father, deeper. She had fallen into this place, this sunken city, cold and dark and lonely. There had been dead brush, to save her from the worst injuries, but there had also been silence, and limitless dark.

She didn’t know if they had tried to find her. They probably had–she had been well loved.

There were mushrooms and lichens to eat, glowing faintly in the dead libraries and bedchambers of the swallowed city. There were pools of water, dripping from cracks in the wall and forming in buckets and plates from long ago. There was a constant filth, a mixture of soot and new soil that wouldn’t scrub off. There was the sound of her own voice, echoing down the endless stone halls.

There was nobody else.

She was sure of it. Looking and calling had been the first things she had done. Her mother had taught her this, to look and call if she got lost. No one will hurt you, her mother had said. You’re only a child. They will help you find the way back to us.

The little girl remembered her mama, and her papa, and in this dark place, lit only by phosphorescent fungus and the eyes of sightless creatures, she wept.

There was nobody else, and no way out. All the paths curved downward. All the doors led downward.

She didn’t know how many tons of rock were over her head. She had walked down many hallways here in the dark, gone down many flights of stairs. She could feel the weight of it all above her–crushing weight, impossible to lift or navigate.

All paths led down.

Even when she tried to turn around, go back the way she had come, all paths led down. 

Which is why, when she woke in this dark place at some unspecific time–it could have been midday, for all she knew, and she could have slept a hundred years–she was surprised to hear voices.

They were indistinct, these voices. Gauzy shreds of whispers. Barely real. She had to strain her ears to catch them, and her hearing had become very keen indeed.

But they were voices. Up ahead.

She ran. She left her tattered cloak and the handful of mushrooms she had planned for breakfast behind her.

Down, down, down. All the paths went down, but the rock overhead didn’t seem quite so crushing, the place quite so airless.

Voices!

And, like her mama had taught her, she called. Her own voice seemed deafening in the darkness, a thing meant for the world of light and movement.

“I’m here!” she screamed. “I’m here! Here!”

The echo came back to her: here, here, here.

The voices–were they louder now? Sibilant whispers. They might have scared her, if she hadn’t been scared for so long already.

“I’m here!”

Here, here.

Her little boots were loud against the paving stones, flap flap flap. She ran through what must have once been a great hall, its ceiling extending neverendingly up into the darkness, ornate columns receding with each footstep to her right and left. She passed through a meaner hall, its columns plain, its ceiling low.

The voices were almost deafening now, hissing, whining, cajoling.

There was a door in the hall. There was frieze on the door, a hunting scene, figures so worn they were barely visible. The voices came from behind the door.

“I’M HERE,” the girl shouted, with all her might.

From below–though how there could be more below, with all she had traveled, she was not sure–there were cracks and scrapings, as though something vast had stirred from its sleep.

The door creaked open.

Inside, in a room that was dark but not quite as dark as it should have been, it was very cold. The girl wished instantly for her forgotten cloak, for the stout fur vest that existed somewhere above with her parents. Frost coated the walls and the flooring, turned the few furnishings remaining into half-visible lumps.

There was a man in the room, lying on one of the tables. She thought he was asleep, until she crept closer–though he lay very still, his eyes were open. They were the color of old blood. His breath–so shallow it might have almost been her imagination he breathed at all–let wisps of white frost into the air.

She might have been afraid of him, in the world up above. He lay so very still, and the face underneath his long pale hair was as cold as the room around him. Here, he was the only other person she had seen.

She jumped into his arms, buried herself in the ancient blanket someone had wrapped around him. He blinked, once, twice. He raised himself a little off the table. His movements were slow, careful, and filled with terrible certainty.

“Hello, child,” he whispered. “Are you, then, the one the earth powers have chosen to wake me?”

“Help me,” she said. “You’ve got to help me. We were going through the pass–through the mountains. I fell. I can’t find mama. You’ve got to help me find my mama.”

“Shh,” the man said. “Shhh.”

There was calm to him. Terrible calm. Though she should have felt comforted, should have been overjoyed, she felt only lightness, only unending cold. His hand twisted through her hair–a hand nearly skeletal, white as frost, thin and long-fingered. She didn’t want him to touch her, but it had been so long since anyone had held her, had comforted her.

“I’m looking for someone, too,” he said. “A boy. He’d be–about your age, perhaps a little younger. A golden-haired boy.”

“I want my mama,” said the girl.

The man smiled. It was not a comforting smile, and there was little pity in it.

“Your mama is long gone,” he said. “There is no time, in these deep places. There is only the earth.”

She began to cry. She had forgotten why, precisely–she had forgotten why she was unhappy. The tears froze to her cheeks. The pale man picked them off, his spiderlike hands gentle.

“Your home is here now,” he said. “You are the Waker, and for you to be the Waker there must be something of the old powers in you. Did you hear the voices, little one? Did the earth speak to you, as it speaks to me?”

She nodded. She remembered, vaguely, thinking the voices were something else–human voices. The memory was tinged with white, as though seen through a thin sheet of ice. It was silly, to have thought they were human voices.

They were the voices of the earth–of the hefenta, of the deep powers of earth. And this man–this man was their creature. She knew it, somehow, though she did not know why or what precisely it was she now knew: the earth was a part of her people, the Norchladil people. The cold was in the bones and the blood.

She shuddered.

The man wrapped the blanket around her. She noticed, distantly, how very old it was–the threads breaking with the gentlest touch, something staining it that may, long ago, have been blood. The man’s robes were stained as well, their style ancient. Even as she watched he drew the robes closer to him, and they brightened and whitened, as though touched by frost.

“Who are you?” she asked. Though she knew the answer–though her bones, and the ancestral memories inside them, knew the answer.

“I’m a magician,” the man said. His mouth twitched. “A Northmage. A relic of a time long before. A ghost. The worst sort of ghost–a ghost that knows your name.”

And, bending to adjust the blanket–bending so his cold breath blew right in her ear–he whispered it to her, in the old language of blood and death and the angry earth.

And she was no longer what she had once been.

Some things are that simple.

“Come,” the man said, standing and stretching his ancient bones. “If we’re to find the boy, we’ve much work to do–and you’ve much to learn. Macher tanith ii, they will call you–she who is servant of the dark world.”

Twisted up in his hair, a white comb winkled–the warrior’s comb, malat ma’a. The man withdrew it, held it out to her–its teeth were sharp and long, and its weight was cold and deadly in her hand.

“You shall hold this, for a time,” he said. “You shall learn of its power. But don’t grow used to it, for it must go to the boy. We shall pass it along, when the time comes for me to deploy you.”

He was almost handsome, creature of ice and frost that he was. His hair like white silk, his eyes the same blood burgundy as the eyes of the carving on the comb.

She could almost love him, almost. After all, who else did she have to love?

“Papa,” she whispered. The word died unheard in the airless dark. The man had turned, begun to walk. He didn’t turn around or even pause to witness its death.

Her last thought, as the final pieces of her mind that belonged to her dissolved, came to her in a strange woman’s voice, a voice she no longer recognized or cared for.

No one will hurt you. You’re only a child.

WRITING: Book Advertising For Broke Slackers

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Book Advertising For Broke Slackers

Let me start this off by saying: I don’t advertise often enough. I’m terrible at it, I have a job, life, family, etc. So if I ever start giving you in-depth marketing strategies, run for the hills. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and, frankly, I find the ‘paste your novel everywhere’ card a little annoying. I mean, I’m sure it’s effective–sheer numbers suggest it has to be, right? But damn.

But there are a few common-sense type things I do that everyone should at least try once. And the best part: they’re for lazy broke people, like me. So, if you don’t have the time and money to launch a proper campaign, here are some things to do.

1) A link in every blog post.

Sure, I forget occasionally. But for the most part, I have a discreet link to Aurian and Jin embedded in everything I write here (d’you see that? See it? Discreet. Totally.).

As much as we’d all like to think new readers see your posts in their blog feed, are immediately awed by your versatility and eloquence, and go straight for the ‘about’ page, this isn’t true. Most people aren’t going to go further than that one post, or maybe your home page.

So make sure you drop a link in the place they’re looking. Make it EASY for them to find your story. And you can do it again and again and again, a new link with every post–increasing your visibility with very little effort. Almost every time I do this, I get at least one click on that damn link–which might not sound like much, but hell, it’s better than not doing it.

Best part is, it’s a nice and non-invasive way to do it. You aren’t bothering your fans and frequent readers, who’ve already read it/know about it. And keeping these folks happy is sooper dooper important, right? HI FREQUENT READERS, I LOVE YOU.

On a related note: SHARE YOUR BLOG POSTS. Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, whatever you’ve got an account on. Hit that ‘autoshare’ button if you have to, just do it. This way you’re giving folks information and not just a static link to your novel–and well, there’s a link in that information too, if they want to click it.

2) Let your buddies help you.

Sounds basic, right? But the best advertising is word of mouth, and your friends and family can’t tell everybody about this great book Johnny at the bar wrote if they don’t know about it.

So make sure your friends know. They’re your friends–they’ll be super proud of you. Don’t pressure them into reading it–your friend Li who hasn’t cracked a book since high school probably isn’t going to give two shits about the fineries of your plot development–but your friends will be proud of you, and those of them who’re interested in that sort of thing will probably read it just because it’s you. And even the ones who don’t have friends who do, and they’ll likely mention it to them. And those friends’ll mention it to their friends, etc., on and on. A lot of my readers who’ve talked to me have some weird six degrees from Kevin Bacon style relation to me– they’re friends with the mechanic who fixes my aunt’s car, children of the substitute teacher who once taught my friend AP English, etc. It’s fun to figure it out, and it starts a neat conversation.

3) Make your visibility count.

I know we’ve all seen the ‘you need an online presence to sell books’ sort of posts. And it’s true, don’t get me wrong. You need someone to see your link for people to click on it.

But quality over volume every time, people. If you can manage both, go you–but not all of us have a job where we can sit there checking the phone every time it beeps in a Twitterward fashion.

So be pithy. Be clever, be funny, be sweet. Make the time you spend on the internet look like YOU–not just a collection of links, retweets, and jumbled characters. Fill out the ‘about’ sections on profiles when you have one, and make it funny and/or informative. Show your personality, not just your product. This does the dual task of warning away possible haters (‘well, I don’t like what this person has to say, so I probably won’t like this book they wrote’) and inviting possible fans to the table (‘Haha, that was funny! I wonder if this book here is just as funny.’)
Again, it seems basic. But judging from my Twitter feed, we could use this reminder.

4) RESPOND. RESPOND. RESPOND.

Has someone messaged you? Commented on your post? Sent you an email?

For the sweet and salty love of Jesus Cashew-crunching Christ, RESPOND TO IT. How would you feel if you plucked up the courage to send a note to a stranger, and it totally never got responded to? This is alienating behavior, and nobody who wants a fan base should engage in it. Especially if, like me, you only have like five fans.

People like attention. Of course we do, we’re needy bastards and our emotional lives are complex and fraught with peril. And it takes so little, little effort to recognize somebody. Just a simple ‘so glad you enjoyed’ goes miles, and takes half a second to type. If someone has a complaint or a question, answer honestly and non-violently. You’ll get a happy person out of it, possibly a fan, someone likely to remember you and pass the remembrance on to others.

If they reviewed your book–even if it wasn’t a positive review–well, don’t respond. That’s kind of bad manners. But on Amazon, you can always click ‘yes’ on the ‘was this review helpful to you?’ question. A sort of tacit acknowledgement that you noticed the review and you appreciate the time it took, without getting into the nasty territory of responding to reviewers.

AAAAND–

5) Free books, baby.

I’ve already written a post about KDP Select and how I feel about it here, so I won’t trouble you with more of the same. You’ll either do Select or you won’t, and there’re legitimate gripes about it amongst Amazon authors. I happen to love it, and I see a sales spike every time I do a free giveaway.

That being said–nothing gets you advertisement quite like the word ‘free’. Just as an experiment, I did a cold-sell style KDP giveaway a few months ago–even though I did absolutely nothing to advertise it, except (I think) mention it on Twitter, I still gave away about 300 copies in one day, and sold quite a few the day after (I think it was, like, nine. Not one hundred percent sure).

I’ll be honest, the thing I like most about KDP Select free giveaways is my ability to get a spike and some oomph for very little work.

I’d like to repeat: these things won’t make you an instant best-seller. They won’t catapult you to the Top 100 Paid section on Amazon. But, for very little work and no money, they’ll give you positive results. If you want breathtaking results, the sad fact of the matter is you need to put time and money into selling your book. Which some of us don’t have. So. Priorities.

Much love.

Why Reviews Aren’t Everything

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The Silent Majority: Or, A Story About Reviews

So I wrote this book a while back (you may have heard of it. It’s called Aurian and Jin). Since its publication in November last year, I’ve sold, given away, lent out, etc. about two thousand copies of it.

That’s not a big number, compared to the number of people in the world–or the number of bacteria colonizing the screen of your phone, even. But it’s pretty sizeable. It’s consideration worthy. Two thousand people out there (more, if they lent it out) have at least heard of my book, probably read it, probably had an opinion on it one way or the other. I regularly hear things like this, day-to-day: ‘my cousin loved your book! She’s like your biggest fan now.’ ‘Grandpa’s been recommending your book to his coworkers. They have some suggestions’. ‘I left a copy of your novel in the bathroom at the strip club, and now the girls can’t stop talking about it.’ (Okay. Maybe not so much that last one. Though, now that I think about it, gratis copies to strippers might not be a bad policy.).

My point is–even if my friends and coworkers and family are just being nice to me, a lot of people have read this book, and said something good about it. And yet, when I look at my Amazon listing, I’ve only got sixteen reviews.

Now, I could get all chappy-assed about it. I could recommend (read: demand) that people write a review when they finish the book. But here’s the thing about that, kids:

The vast majority of people, even people who really loved your novel, aren’t going to leave a review at all.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

I mean, think about it for a few seconds. Before you got all involved with indie authorship, when was the last time you left a review for something on Amazon? If you’re like me at all, the answer to that is, well, never. Even books you really liked, products you really used. It never occurred to me to do it. I would see the reviews up there, read a few of them maybe, buy or not buy (usually regardless of reviews). In fact, I was more likely to consider writing a review if I was dissatisfied with something–because, in my mind, a review existed to let other buyers know what sort of experience I’d had. I couldn’t tell you at this point whether or not I realized the maker of the product might actually see that review, and it certainly never occurred to me to take their feelings into account when I wrote it. The internet, after all, is a very big place–bigger, in some ways, than the physical world–and I’m a very small person in the scheme of things.

People see your book. They don’t see the praise-hungry author hunched over a keyboard behind it, dreaming of row after row of five solid stars. They don’t see your desire for validation, your need for emotional support, the bragging rights (or causes for shame!) inherent in your Amazon rankings. They don’t know what it’s like, being an indie author with no publishing support system or nice fat advance to live on. Most of them don’t know about your Twitter or your blog or where you’ll be next signing books, and they don’t care. If your editing’s decent, they might not even know you’re indie. They might not even remember your name.

Your book was something to read at the beach, something to read at the dentist’s office, something gotten for free, something lent out by a friend. It wasn’t graven in gold and presented by a burning bush on a mountaintop. In the 100,000 or so words of your story, if you’ve got any sort of pride and decency, your hunger for approval and tacit support wasn’t mentioned once. The support of your readers comes to you in the form of money, which gets you things like cheeseburgers and another month of power, and is about as tacit as support gets, unless you’re the government.

Much as small pub might feel like a validation game sometimes–especially when you aren’t making the millions you anticipated–you made a product and now you’re selling it. Praise isn’t the endgame–it’s more like a happy side effect. You want to make people happy, and you probably have. The written proof of respect your ego so desperately craves is optional stuff.

And, hard as it is to swallow, dealing with that is your business, not the reader’s. You sold your damn book, and that’s what you’ve got to worry about. Somewhere out there, a buyer you don’t know is either happy or sad about it. How happy or sad they are, and whether or not they choose to inform you through the Great Equalizer of Amazon, is their deal. Not yours.

So let’s get Nixonic about this. There is a silent majority of readers–silent, at least, on the interwebs–who probably loved what you have to say. You’ll never hear from them, unless your guys happens to know a guy who knows a guy. But they’re out there.

I’m NOT encouraging you to badger people harder about leaving reviews. That’s not what this post is about, and, frankly, I’ve always found it a little off-putting when people do that to me. Too much of your voice, especially your desperate, pleading voice, detracts from the story you have to tell.

What I’m trying to say–even though you don’t know for sure what these people think, be grateful for them. After all, they bought your book.

And there’s all sorts of life going on in this world that isn’t reflected through the internet or Amazon reviews. You might be famous somewhere in Guatemala right now, where a teacher just loaned a thrift store copy of your book to a kid and made his day. You might never know–but you still, indirectly, made that kid’s day.

So step back, smile, and thank your readers. Not just your reviewers.

Why I Won’t Buy Your Novel

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Five Reasons I Won’t Buy Your Novel

I give you guys a lot of writing advice. It’s heartfelt. Some of it might even be good (hell if I know, right?).

But it occurred to me the other day, as I was out buying YET ANOTHER bookshelf, since my most recent one was slowly sagging under the weight of three different layers of trade paperbacks–it occurred to me that, you know, some of the best advice I can give you has very little to do with me putting my pen to paper.

It has a lot to do with the fact that I read. An assload. Possibly, if the academy will pardon my French, a metric fuckton. If my library were leatherbound and perched on mahogany shelves, Garden and Gun would do a four page spread on it and toss me a free whiskey decanter into the bargain. (As it is, it’s in a two bedroom apartment, piled ass-deep on the cheapest shelving units Target can mass-manufacture. Maybe if I tape a cutout of Hemingway to it and poop out a few Audubon prints…how about that, Garden and Gun? Eh? EH?)

At any rate, I think I know a lot about writing, but the messy fact of the matter is, I know even more about reading. Why would that interest you, you ask? Eh?

Well, let’s fill in the blank. Work with me here:

I am a writer, and I want people to ____ my book.
A) slather whipped cream on
B) read
C) ,in zero G, have a lot of difficulty closing
D) All of the above.

Much as I like to imagine you’re creative and the answer is D, it’s probably B, right?

Well. As a reader–who also knows a little bit about indie pub and What You’re Going Through–I am going to straight up no frills TELL you the reasons I don’t buy books. Because I can’t imagine I’m so different from the mainstream reader that most of these don’t apply across the board.

1) YOU PASTE IT 24/7 ACROSS MY TWITTER FEED.

You know what this behavior is? It’s motherfucking ANNOYING. It is SO, SO annoying. And if my feed is drowning in your book advertisements–if I can’t see one person’s two-part tweet because your fifteen mass-released twitbominations come between the two parts–I will go to desperate, unheard-of lengths to NOT purchase your product. I won’t mute you, because I want to REMEMBER YOUR NAME. I want to remember it so, when the book comes up in my list of Amazon recommendations, I’ll go ‘oh, that asshole’, and IGNORE IT. And I do buy books. Indie books. Just not yours.

A note–posting about it once or twice a day won’t bother me. After all, you wrote something and you’re proud of it. I’ve picked up a few books after seeing seemly and interesting tweets about them. The writer Twitter accounts I follow and remember aren’t spammy or even advertisey, but teach me a little bit about the writer in question or the craft. So please, for the love of JESUS, stop spamming up my goddamn feed with posts like this:

**FREE**TODAY**
#mustread#fantasy#romance#amazon#advertise#advertise#advertise
YOU’LL LOVE IT!!!!
REALLY!!!
**AMAZONBESTSELLEROMG**
(Include picture of unreadable book cover with half-naked girl on front, with or without vampire.)

If you must spam on Twitter–if you absolutely must–have the tact to pay someone else to do it for you. Go through one of the multi-tweet accounts that offer this service (and good luck with that, by the fucking way). Or join IAN, or use #iartg. Because if I follow you, in the naive idea that you sound like a real person and not a mindless spam-spewing automaton, and you spurt your advertisements all over my feed, I will personally become VERY unfond of you, and this lack of fondness will be expressed by not buying your product.

Got it? Good.

2) YOUR BLURB IS POORLY WRITTEN.

This, after tweetspam, is my number two turnoff. Seriously, you couldn’t get through two hundred words without slathering crap all over your own project? After this behavior, I have no hope whatsoever for the 90,000 or so words that make up your novel.

Please, when you hit that publish button, make sure your blurb is typo-free, the grammar is good, and you’ve considered your words carefully. I don’t know how important your first sentence is, but your blurb is literally the FIRST TASTE people get of your writing, with no commitment whatsoever already made, so make it count. Most of the books I buy, I buy because the blurb itself sounds like a cut above the rest.

3) PRICE.

I’m sorry, but this is just too true. If I’ve never heard of you and you’re charging $9.99 for an e-book, I better love that sample so much I name my firstborn after it.

People are less willing to pay ‘big’ money for something virtual, folks. After all, they get no physical object to look at, hang on to, pet covetously, etc. Much as I’d like to pretend I’m loaded, there are times I simply can’t afford to pay the five bucks you’re asking for. Or, more accurately–would rather use it for lunch one day. Does this make me a traitor to bookdom? Maybe. But unless you can sell me on it, convince me in a blurb, cover, and sample that I’m about to discover my new favorite book, I’m spending that fiver on a cheeseburger.

I think just about everyone’s heard this by now, but you should probably looking at $2.99 or under for pricing your self-pubbed novel. I stick with the $2.99, myself–anything less feels like giving my work away (which, I may add, I’m not too proud to do semi-frequently), and anything more is unlikely to find an impulse buyer.

And that’s another thing. Your $2.99 indie novel on Amazon? That’s someone’s impulse buy. No one’s plotting that purchase out, saving up the money for it. So keep that in mind as well, when pricing and advertising–what makes this book worth three bucks right the hell now?

4) NOT IN MY GENRE.

Admittedly, there’s not a lot a writer can do about this–but for the record, I’m a pretty dedicated genre reader, and someone working outside of F/SF or the occasional historical fiction is going to have trouble getting my attention.

So make it easy on your readers to classify you. If your book is fantasy, it should look like a fantasy novel. If it’s SF, it should look SF. If it has romance tinges, give me a girl in a corset or whatever sells romance novels. Same with your blurb.

A quick note about covers–contrary to popular wisdom, a bad cover won’t necessarily keep me from reading something–not like a bad blurb will. So, while I recommend a nice looking cover, as should be blatantly obvious to you anyway, I’d pay more attention to the fact that your cover needs to encapsulate what your book is about. Got it? Pretty half-naked people won’t necessarily sell your fantasy novel to someone not looking for a romance read, and the nicest castle at sunset in the world won’t sell it to someone who is.

5) TITLE.

I share a vital fact with you: there are times when I can tell, just from the title, whether or not I’m going to like something. Am I occasionally wrong? Sure. But by that point, the purchase has already been made or not made, and unless that book comes up in my aimless internet wanderings again, I’m unlikely to think twice about it.

The titles that grab my attention most, actually, are short and original, but still understandable– J. Zachary Pike’s Orconomics (which is an awesome book, by the way, and one you should read if you’re a fan of fantasy satire) got me on title alone. I mean, what a great title. It suggests the fantasy nature of the book, hints at humor, lets me know up front that this author can at least come up with some on point compound words.

A title should, in VERY few words, let me know what it is I’m going to read. Think about that, when naming your work–is the very TITLE of your book advertising to the people you want reading it?

So there you go. A brief look at what makes me buy things. Really, the long and short of this post is: is the small amount of explanation you’re allowed to do on your book’s Amazon page reaching out to the people you want to buy that book? Maybe that’s people like me–I hope it is, I need some new reads–and maybe it’s not. At any rate, market it to your intended audience. Don’t just blather it out into the ether.

The Antidote: Cover Reveal

Oh, man. I had a whole witty and insightful post for today, and instead you get THIS self-promotional bull puckey. I could cry for you. But I won’t: too busy promoting myself. (Don’t worry, you’ll get witty and insightful later on).

The reason we’re interrupting our normal psuedo-intellectual programming is simple: I wanted to show you guys the cover for The Antidote, the Aurian and Jin novelette that’s coming out in less than two weeks (!!!!!) on 4/30/15. Be happy with me. Gush with me. And thank my talented cover artist and designer, known to many as Cissy Russell but to me as Mom, who, when I went off the deep end a wrote a novelette, helped me get ready to release it in record time.

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THE STORY:

After the death of Morda Bonemaker, Aurian and Jin Koch are left gathering up the pieces of society and sweeping them, as only an innkeeper and his slovenly wife can, under the rug. Though they’ve quelled international disaster a few times already, a new personal disaster is looming–Jin Koch, renegade Bonedancer, retribution dancer, mysterious one-eyed soldier and lowborn pain in the ass, is pregnant.

Now, Aurian and Jin have to seek out the quiet life Aurian’s always wanted–with, hopefully, a bigger and better inn somewhere in it. However, Jin doesn’t know how to do quiet, and Aurian’s more or less forgotten. Can they find happiness in the Gold Band farming village of Pretty-on-Picture? Or will Jin’s history of violence and mayhem destroy even the purest of intentions?

A fun Aurian and Jin short of roughly 70 pages, featuring joyful funeral processions, mobs, putting branches through cows, dammed rivers, villagers burdened by a lack apostrophe placement skills, and, of course, drunks. Availiable 4/30/15 for .99 for Amazon Kindle.

WW: KDP Select for Rank Amateurs Like Myself

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WW: KDP Select for Rank Amateurs

Just a quick blog here. I’d like to do a not-so-quick one, but that requires time.

I’ve seen a lot of internets either way about KDP Select free giveaways, and their uses for authors. Some people say their sales numbers surge after a giveaway, some people don’t. Some people find the (admittedly) vast number of people who download the book while it’s free, versus the not-at-all-so-vast number who won’t pay the one or two dollars when it isn’t, fascinating.

I’m among the pro-giveaway faction on Amazon. It might have to do with my status in life, or my lack of money sense, but there you are.

I did a giveaway on Superbowl Sunday. While the Patriots were playing the Seahawks, I was watching my numbers climb with unabashed amazement. I ‘sold’ well over a thousand copies. I topped charts, dammit. Didn’t quite break into the Top 100 Free–I think my highest ranking there was #139–but still. Hell.

And, of course, I got money for none of it.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m a young writer, mostly unpublished. Certainly unpublished in the genre I want to work in. I don’t have an agent to ship me about, or a publicity team to paste pictures all over Barnes and Noble.

Nor do I have a ton of money. I am, in fact, close to broke as we speak (payday is Friday. It’s homemade salads and bits of lunch meat for dinner until then). And I’m not a writer/marketing guru. No, no. I got stuck with a surplus of artistic talent, which, sadly, means I got all the business sense of a brain-damaged llama in a snowstorm.

What those free giveaways do for me–what I desperately need them to do–is offer ADVERTISING.

I wrote a good book. I know it, and I know if the right people read it they’ll love it. But in the glut of similar offerings on Amazon, who’s going to find it? You can’t tell from a blurb–at least, not when folks aren’t being supremely lazy–who can write and who can’t. And with the advent of indie publishing, readers no longer have that comforting middle man, the publishing company, to offer the crudest and most basic form of quality control. It’s a free-for-all in the world of cheap ebooks.

And, like in any free-for-all, the people who come out on top aren’t always the cream. Plenty of other things float, aside from cream.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent good money, money I possibly shouldn’t have spent, on paid advertising. It’s done nothing. Not a damn bit of difference. Maybe I’m not using the right places–I’m almost certainly not spending enough money–but the fact is, I don’t HAVE enough money to advertise well.

Review swaps and requests on Goodreads have also, by and large, been useless. I’ve given away several copies of my book, in the course of the past month. One person–one exceptionally kind and thoughtful person–was good enough to actually do the review. I know patience is probably key here, but I only have so much money, and no real way of giving the book away without spending some of it.

Long and short of it–the ONLY thing that’s worked, the only thing that’s boosted my sales and gotten my name out there enough to make a difference in the search listings, is free giveaways.

Yes, I’ve defied conventional wisdom and done the giveaways without having a second book out. No, I don’t much care. I’m not after the money–I’ve got a damn job.

I’m after the recognition.

Here are a few other blog posts about the nature of the KDP Select beast, and why you should or should not put your head in the Amazon Lion’s mouth:

Ben Zackheim–I don’t agree with him on a few things here: namely, he subscribes to the traditional ‘more than one book’ idea–but there’s a lot of useful crunchy information here.
M. Louisa Locke–One of the more level-headed explanations of what KDP Select can (and can’t) do for you. Damn, I wish I sold twenty copies a day.
Joanna Penn–Mostly just because Joanna Penn is a lady worth listening to.
Hugh Howey–Because Hugh Howey. Hugh Howey’s first WOOL story is a post-apocalyptic dystopian masterpiece, and don’t let anyone tell you different.

A LAST NOTE–

I’d like to see more of these blogs–what works/what doesn’t–from people like me, who’re just starting out at this and have very little money to put behind it. Not everyone’s an expert, and not everyone is ready to turn up their noses at 20 books a day in sales.

I’m certainly not an expert. I’d LOVE to sell twenty copies a day.

And I think more people are in my boat than the ‘successful professional’ boat. And, honestly–that’s marketing from two very different perspectives. I don’t have a name out there, or a ton of established fans–I work for every damn review I get from the ground up, and that’s frankly just how it is. I’m trying to build a base I can count on, and I’m doing it the hard way: the only way of life, unfortunately, for broke people.
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I see a lot of writing blogs, by ‘bestselling’ indie authors, telling me what I’m ‘doing wrong’: some of which is done, not from choice, but the necessity of having a full time job and very little cash flow. I get a little angry at this, sometimes. I’m sure these folks have great advice to offer for people with all the time and money in the world, but not all of us have these things.

So I’m going to try and post a little more on my experiences with self publishing. And I’m going to be honest. Because, if nothing else, I’m usually that.

Thank you, and good whatever-it-is-where-you-are.

EFR