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Reading Other Author’s Books

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A fellow author, Rose Montague, author of Jade, posted an open query yesterday on one of her social media pages concerning reading other writer’s material. Since making a brief post on that thread yesterday I’ve been giving the matter some additional thought.

Let’s start off with a qualification. Writers may seem the natural sort of person to approach for feedback on something you have written but if you submit your manuscript to an author for review be sure you have a thick skin. You see, your fellow writers can be brutally honest sorts. Also the more experience we have in dealing with editors, the more little quirky things we pick up and hone in on. In other words, be prepared to be told your baby is ugly. That manuscript you have labored over for the past weeks, months or even years may need some cosmetic surgery before it is ready to put out there for the world to see.

Over the past few years I have acquired a disproportionate number of authors as friends (not exclusive to social media) when compared to non-authors. I suppose the birds-of-a-feather thing may prevail there. More likely I’m drawn to other creative people because I seem to have a number of friends who are artists. That’s not a problem. I like being around creative people. The rub comes when one of the authors asks me for a professional opinion on something. Most of my friends know me well enough by now to expect some frank feedback. Those who have never asked before I warn in advance. I will not publicly post a bad review of something, though, unless the author is aware of it. I offer feedback directly to them. And I always qualify it with a general understanding that I am not a professional editor or book critic.

Here’s the problem writers have with other writers reviewing their stuff. We are creative but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are attuned to the same creative flow or our muses speak the same language. In other words, I may or may not get the message, the point or whatever about your masterpiece. That doesn’t mean it is not art or worthwhile as a piece of literature. It means simply, I didn’t get it – nothing more than that. It happens. I like what I like and I tend to write in a few genres with which I am comfortable. I may venture outside of my comfort zone to read a good book, but generally I read sci-fi and fantasy. For some reason, over the course of the past couple of years, I have read several paranormal novels and some romance, mostly historical.

It is the bane of being a writer to be asked to read something for comment. I do some of that too, approaching my friends with a new manuscript. Some will read it others will not. Many will post reviews when a book is published, some won’t. Sometimes a review isn’t posted for the simple reason that writers do not like trashing the hard work of others in a public forum. Privately, well, that’s another matter.

I hate assigning stars to reviews as a means of rating. It is a way of quantifying something that is subjective and therein is the rub. My 3-star may be someone else’s 5-star. Why? We key on different things. So there really isn’t any standardization for the ratings unless one considers the source. Even then, do you, as a reader, pay more attention to an author who has reviewed another author’s book than you do to someone you don’t know – and for all you know they might be the author’s uncle or best friend? Would it be best to focus on what other readers say about a book as opposed to a writer? Each reader and potential buyer must decide who to listen to and perhaps once you find a reviewer who seems to share your interests in books you follow that person’s reviews in the future.

Star ratings are particularly misleading when one considers this: Amazon.com, the largest domestic venue for buying books online, considers 1, 2 and 3-star reviews ‘bad’ while 4 and 5-star reviews are ‘good’. Amazon will headline the most popular ‘good’ review directly next to the most popular ‘bad’ review to give some contrast for the reader to make a buying decision. The glaring inequity of this is when a ‘book troll’ posts a purposefully negative review for no other reason than to trash an author and his or her work. All an author can do is post a complaint to Amazon but it is almost impossible to get Amazon to remove the unfair review. After all, a review is just an opinion. Everyone has one.

Also, readers who look only at the star ratings without reading the content of the review do not understand that in the mind of the reviewer the star rating equates to a specific point on the following scale: bad=1-star, fair=2-star, good=3-star, very good=4-star, excellent=5-star. Some reviewers offer a rare 6th star – meaning outstanding. I have also seen a couple of reviewers assign a 0-star rating meaning awful.

Knowing the system at Amazon I refuse to post a ‘bad’ review without the author’s knowledge. My 3-star review means I liked the book but there are things that could be improved that would have made the book more appealing to me. I will never post a 2-star or 1-star review because I know what that does to an author’s overall rating. There may be something I don’t like about a book that is just me and totally because I am a writer. If I rate something lower because of something the average reader wouldn’t notice then such a rating would not be fair. However, I will provide feedback to the author concerning what I did not like about the book and what I think could be done to improve it.

Having said all that, there are professional reviewers, bloggers and critics out there who rarely give 5-star ratings. Their rationale is persuasive, though. They consider the highest rating reserved for a book that truly exceeds expectations, an instant classic, or something so cutting edge that it will set a new standard for everything that follows. Some use established, best-selling authors in a category as a benchmark, pegging their work as 5-star and measuring every book against that. I don’t have a problem with this method except that so many others do not do it that way and so the value of a 5-star rating has been diluted to the point that an honest 4-star from a critical reviewer – which is a very good review – makes a potential reader think there is something wrong with a really good book.

For a couple of years I actively posted on a writer’s website called Fanstory and found it most helpful to receive almost immediate feedback on my writing. Receiving the opinions of ten or twenty other writers was beneficial, especially when they spent the time to mention things that worked and didn’t work for them as a reader. The problem I had with the site was that they also used star ratings. And, just as with the Amazon.com situation, there was inflation of the ratings rendering them meaningless in most cases to the point that an honest reviewer’s critical rating would severely impact the author’s overall ranking. That is one of the reasons I no longer post there. However, I do read and comment on the submissions of authors I have followed for a few years, now. In the process of belonging to the site I have learned that there is a wide variance of opinion on whether something is or is not good.

It’s hard to take criticism but it is absolutely essential that you learn to do so if you intend to become a professional writer. Your goal must always and ever be to improve you craft and the quality of the work you produce. Even if you don’t agree with what a critic says you  need to pay attention and determine whether it is valid and might make your story a better reading experience. The reader is the ultimate critic for every writer. And so, it becomes moot whether a critic liked your story or even how you feel about your work.

#writing #criticism #reviews #authors #Amazon

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Author Ken Donaldson Interviews Me

I’m not enigmatic and I’m not reclusive though it occurs to me that some think I am. It’s probably because I spend a lot of time in my creative space writing and because of that I’m not out carousing. Anyway, in an effort to tell more people about me I’ve been giving interviews. The following is a recent one my good friend and Australian author Ken Donaldson did with me and posted on Goodreads. It is used here with his permission.

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KD: I have seen you online, as I am sure many other readers have who are familiar with you from the self-publishing forums. Give us a little insight into your background as a writer.

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EW: Since I was 13 years old I have wanted to be a writer. I recall picking out a pseudonym that I have never used. In high school I wrote a few creative things and was a co-editor of my high school’s newspaper. That’s how I became interested in journalism, which is what I studied at Purdue University. While there I took several writing and literature courses and wrote a manuscript, portions of which eventually were incorporated into my first published novel, From the Inside. A few years later, while I was in the Air Force I served as a historian for my unit and composed an award winning 400+ page document, which was technically my first publication. Over the years I suppose my various muses and I have not always been on the best of terms. At one point I decided that I needed a lot more life experience before I could write the kinds of novels I wanted to produce. Mostly, I think I had to find my author’s voice and, of course, establish a better connection with my personal muse. In the mid 1990’s I drew together my notes and drafts that turned into the manuscript of my first novel in 2001.

KD: Tell me what other authors do you enjoy, who inspired you or influenced you the most to become a writer?

EW: I drew a little from Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Douglas Adams. I like the sense of irony in the works of both men. Also I particularly enjoyed Samuel R. Delany, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. In college I learned to appreciate a variety of other genres. I was particularly fond of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Steppenwolf and Beneath The Wheel. Ernest Hemmingway was someone whose simple writing style I came to admire. Lately I’ve been enjoying a number of up and coming authors like Teyla Branton, Karen Perkins and Margaret Snowden. There are a lot of really gifted storytellers out there who at the moment are obscure but I’m confident you’ll be hearing about them very soon. I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends.

KD: What made you decide upon the genre you are currently pursuing?

EW: As I said before, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy when I was younger. So it felt pretty natural to slip into that genre. It affords a writer great latitude in expressing his or her creativity. Since I’ve been told I have a wild and vivid imagination I tend to push the boundaries a bit and have never felt confined to the real world. Reality is an illusion, anyway.

KD: What is special about how you write? Do you have any set routine of method you follow?

EW: Early in the morning seems to be my most productive time, before the world around me wakes. When I start laying out a novel, I create the character profiles first and through dialogue I allow the characters to expose the conflicts. Later I go back and write the narrative pieces that connect things together, describing the settings and establishing the mood. Otherwise it is used to facilitate action sequences. However, sometimes the action is delivered through arguments between the characters. Novels with excessive narrative can be tedious to read and I personally feel narrative is more boring than dialogue. A reader should feel as if he or she is part of the story, maybe one of the characters or a bystander listening and observing what’s going on. Dialogue can drive a story in an immediately intimate and compelling way. The realism of the exchanges between characters is key to telling a story. I spend a lot of time making certain that dialogue flows well and sounds as natural as possible.

KD: What are the future plans you see for your writing next?

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EW: I’m working on a sequel to Fried Windows and several other projects. Always have at least two or three things going on at a time so that whenever one hits a snag you can move on to another. That is how I combat writer’s block. The next novel I have coming out is Becoming Thuperman, which is scheduled for release in January 2015. It’s a fun departure from Fried Windows about two kids – a boy and a girl – who are best friends. It’s summer vacation and like most kids they enjoy riding their bikes to the community park where they play baseball. There’s a big scary dog that lives down the street in the old house that everyone says is haunted. A spinster and her brother live there. Oh, and by the way, the kids are just discovering that superpowers run in their families.

KD: Do you have any brief thoughts in passing you would like to share with the readers?

EW: I’d like to express my gratitude for everyone’s support of my writing. There are more authors out there these days and there’s a wide variety of stories from which to choose a next favorite read. When someone tells me they have enjoyed Fried Windows or one of my other books it makes my day. Every author feels the same way. If you love an author’s work support him or her with a review – just a couple of lines telling other potential readers what you liked about the book. You don’t realize how important that is in the decision process for the reader or for the success of an author’s story reaching as many people as possible.

KD: I do wish you all the best in the future. Certainly has been a real pleasure Talk with you Elgon. That is where we conclude this Interview.

Link to Ken’s Amazon Author’s Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Ken-Donaldson/e/B00E6Y02E0

Link to Elgon’s Amazon Author’s Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Elgon-Williams/e/B001K8TYXU

#Interview #ElgonWilliams #KenDonaldson #Writing #Authors

 

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Do You Believe You’re An Author?

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Publishing a book has never been easier. For would be authors that is good news. With the means to upload your manuscript and self-publishing it literally anyone can become an author. But there are some other, intangible factors making two questions key in the process. 1) Do you believe you’re an author? 2) Does the public believe you’re an author?

The ease with which books can be published has created degrees of authorship. Technically, the act of making a book available for the public to read makes one an author. A professional author makes at least a portion of his or her living form selling the books he or she writes. A successful author makes the majority of his or her living from writing. A best selling author is someone whose book reaches and maintains high ranking on a list of best selling books, whether by genre, class, time period or other consideration. So clearly just becoming published, whether it is self fulfilled or executed through a publisher, is only the initial step. The reader’s buy-in literally makes a difference in whether a writer is effectively an author.

There is a question about the legitimacy of self-published books. Some of that carries over from the past when vanity presses would publish any book for a fee. Critics refused to read such offerings and largely the process existed for writers to print personal memoirs to be shared with friends, family members and colleagues. However, in some cases, certain authors used vanity presses to print their manuscripts that major publishers rejected for whatever reason and  sold them personally  in much the same way as books were produced and marketed in the 19th Century. A few authors have gained the attention of literary agents and major publishers from bonafide sales of self-publoished works. This process continues even today.

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Major publishers may see themselves as gate keepers charged with filtering the variety and  volume of books to find those fit to print. But there are countless examples of books major publishers rejected that have gone on to be insanely popular, just because the publisher worried about the controversial nature or the material or failed to see its marketability. The single fact is that the five major publishers do not know what the reading public will like. They guess, same as anyone else.

What major publishers traditionally offer are editing, cover design, promotion and distribution services. Also they lend the company’s brand name, image and prestige as a badge of quality for the produced work – whether perceived or real. In many cases the quality component of their offerings comes from the simple process of professional editing.

Other services major publishers offer can be obtained in other ways… for a fee. Anyone can contract professional cover designer and arrange for appropriate channel distribution to have a book listed for bookstores and libraries. Promotional services can be purchased through contract with established marketing firms specializing in specific media that offer publicity and advertising in trade publication as well as general print and broadcast channels. Tech savvy authors may develop a personal following through social media and use that to leverage an initial pop for sales for a new release. As major publishing houses control over the industry has continuously eroded more and more authors weigh the value of their services and decide whether to do more of the work themselves and reap the rewards of higher royalties.

From a reader’s perspective the rise of self publishing has provided millions of new titles that might never otherwise exist. But with the plethora of material out there the reader may be at a loss for which books to choose. The book cover and description become all the more important in the decision process. Reviews, recommendations and other factors such as previous purchase experience matters as well. If a reader has an overall positive experience the author may gain a new fan. Also the reader may effectively recruit other readers for an author through word of mouth recommendations and a fan base may begin to grow. But if the reader’s experience is bad it will be difficult for an author to regain lost trust. Also the negative word of mouth may spread and quickly destroy the author’s chances in the market place. The recent addition of try before you buy programs offering samples of books or allowing the actual borrowing of a book help counter the hesitation in the buying process. But still, it is the quality of the book that will close the sale.

From a consumer perspective the cover and description may be critically important in making a purchase decision, but the quality of the reading experience always determines the success of the book. If there are numerous errors, whether lapses in editing, misspelled words or critical flaws in the plot, the reader may forego reading the balance of a book and move on to something more appealing. This is why every author, whether self published or working with a publisher, needs to have a professional editor. Any author who believes that he or she can edit his or her own book is foolish. Regardless of editing or basic proofreading skills when dealing with other peoples’ works it is a proven fact that when working with one’s own writing an author tends to see what should be there as opposed to what is actually there. For the reader, coming across a glaring mistake interrupts the flow of reading and breaks the suspension of disbelief necessary for complete immersion into the contrived reality of a book.

If you are to become a successful, best selling, professional author, you must have a supportive fan base that loves your books. Your readers validate you as an author, not how the book was processed and made available for purchase. Without loyal readers your status as an author is questionable.

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#readers #authors #writing #publishing #self-publishing

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The Zone – Being Creative On Autopilot

 

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Fried Windows strikes a few chords with a lot of people who read it. What’s interesting is how many different things people take from it. Some have asked me If I planned that, or did I intend for this to be in there. Not wanting to be as evasive as this sounds, the answer is yes and no.

Any author of fiction will tell you about his or her method of writing – where and when they do it, and what the experience is like. For some it is scheduled at a certain time of the day. For others it is more spontaneous and serendipitous Others will tell you about being in The Zone.

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It’s a place that, if you’re lucky, you get to where the words flow well and almost everything you write is pretty darned close to perfect and magical in the first rough draft. No, it doesn’t last for more than a couple of hours or  maybe four. When you emerge from the state you are drained and pretty-much unable to write anything else. But what you’ve written is a keeper.

That’s not to say it might need some revision. It’s not to say that something else might need to connect with it to complete the vision you wish to convey. But you know you won’t discard what you just wrote. It is good enough that even in a raw state you just feel there is something special about it. It shines.

Maybe if you stayed in The Zone all the time you’d burn out or wind up a babbling idiot – not that I’m not getting there for other reasons. I believe writers and other artists can force their minds into an alpha wave state similar to dreaming but do it while conscious and functioning. While there we lose track of everything else and the creative energies of the universe flow through us.

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Okay, that’s out there. I’ll grant that. But I know there are some artistic folks reading this nodding their head right now

What separates authors from writers is the ability to find The Zone on a fairly regular basis. For a while, because of a lot of other issues in my daily existence (I won’t call it a life because it certainly didn’t merit being called that) I drank in order to get there. I believe other artists use drugs or alcohol to read a near meditative state of consciousness. Others can find it in different ways. When I wrote Fried Windows, for example, I had quit drinking. In response to a personal challenge I wrote a poem and from that exercise I reconnected wight he feelings and sensations of being a child. Also, I relayed that the child I had been fifty years ago was still there alive and well inside of me.

I’m not saying that a writer can’t produce good stuff worthy of accolades if he or she was not in The one while writing it. It’s just being there kicks things up to another level. When you can  connect with The Zone daily for a period of time what you write has universal appeal. Others will pay attention to it and enjoy in a special way.

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I don’t know if being The Zone is a gift or blessing; it just happens. After a while, if you have been practicing putting your feelings into words and expressing everything you sense in as much detail as possible, you make the connection. Reading the words of other authors who are adept at doing what you strive to achieve will help you get there. But at some point you really must shut out the world around you and allow whatever it is that compels you to write, your inspiration, to drive the process.

Being in The Zone is a high and like a drug it gives you an emotional surge and a physical rush. After you’ve been there you can’t wait to get back there. Connecting regularly with your muse or whatever you term what it is that gives you the experience is something you cannot turn away from. I sort of think that inspiration is only a guide, showing you the way that will lead you to The Zone. It takes some effort and concentration to be creative but that lays the foundation for finding you way top the euphoria of achieving art at a higher level of consciousness.

My mind is far from the adventure land that some may believe it is. I will admit to not being normal and even state proudly that I have never wanted tone considered normal. There are a lot of things going on in my head including fears, self-doubt of unrealized potential and misguided ambitions. In everything I have done in life, though, I have attempted to be the best I could b. Writing has been the only thing I have done that allows me to feel accomplishment without questioning why I did it. I answer to no one else when I write. I do it because I must for my survival as a human being.

A while agoI wrote in this blog about not being in competition with other writers. I truly believe that. Every writer had his or her reason for doing what they do. All that matters is that we write better today than we did yesterday or the day before. If we can continually improve we will eventually write something others will want to read. A part of that is finding the path to The Zone. Once there it’s obvious why we do what we do. It’s like everything else in the world shuts down. We float in our imaginations for hours.

There is are not breaks from the moment of being in The Zone. The phone may ring but it goes unanswered and unacknowledged. Cars drive by outside your house or apartment but no one hears. Anyone with the great misfortune to know and live with you will be ignored. While in The Zone hours elapse that seem like they passed in seconds. The duration is evident from the pages generated and the feeling of satisfaction when the words are read even if you wonder where some of them came from.

The Zone is unlimited and not exclusive to those of us who can dream wide awake. It is a level of heightened awareness that transcends being alert. All artists experience it. I’ve known professional musicians who feel it when they have written hit song, for example. When it comes it seems easy and you wonder how you ever missed making the connection before.

When I wrote the core sixteen short stories that followed the first 5000 words of Fried Windows I had those feelings daily for about a month. At times during the revisions, when I was writing connective pieces and additional story elements, I felt it again. It was like I knew the connection was there and what was emerging was magical, beyond anything I had ever written. That’s why I had no doubt the book will be successful. Everyone who reads it shares the magic that somehow passed through me while I was in The Zone for those periods during its composition

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Integrity in Life and Writing

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These days the word ‘integrity’ may have lost a lot of its meaning for most people. After all we are lied to constantly from every direction until we come to accept that nothing is really as it seems. We suspect everyone and everything, even expecting that our institutions are not always honest with us. But one of the many good lessons I learned from my father years ago was to be honest and truthful. My dad taught me to have integrity because, as he said, you have to be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience.

I bring this subject up because over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve learned a lot about the modern state of affairs in the publishing business and a lot of what I have learned disgusts me. Maybe what is going on hasn’t infected all levels. I hope that is the case. Certainly no one associated with my publisher condones the activity. And as far as I know all the authors with whom I associate do not participate in any unethical activities regarding the promotion of their books. None of them would risk losing their credibility with their readers and fans. Still I’m appalled that what I have heard is going on and is perhaps a lot more widespread than I might think.

For some of it I suppose Amazon is partially to blame. It wasn’t intentional as I can’t see why any business would support such a thing. But here it is, bold faced and out in the open. A short time ago I was asked in a quid pro quo sort of way to post a review for a book that I had not read in exchange for someone doing the same for me and my latest book. Of course, I declined the offer for reasons of personal integrity. If I review a book I have read it. And I expect the same of others who review my books.

It makes me wonder, though. How many of the reviews others have posted on Amazon are real? I’d like to think the vast majority are and those that aren’t the author knew nothing about. But now I have some doubts because some authors are writing their own reviews and providing the verbiage to others to post just to pad-out their totals with five-star reviews.

I don’t agree with all of Amazon’s policies or practices but, as the 800-pound gorilla that they are in the publishing world, everyone has to deal with the reality that they account for upwards of 80% of all books sold. They have acceptance criteria for reviews that sometimes allow for mistakes and people taking advantage of the system. Every author is exposed to the possibility of people posting nasty and untrue things about their books and it’s a long, difficult process to get Amazon to remove a review once it has been posted. So, for the most part, you live with the unfair criticisms as well as the honest ones.

However, I’m appalled that not only are some authors writing reviews for others to post on their behalf but also some reviewers charge fees for the service they offer, whether or not they actually read a book. This smacks in the face of credibility for both the author and the reviewer. I’m sure if Amazon had proof of such things going on they would remove the reviews and perhaps ban the reviewer as well as the author. But how do you prove such a thing is happening?

I’m only aware of the practice because I was approached and ensured that it is done often. It was explained to me that there is additional promotional support offered to books having many favorable reviews. Gained attention for a new book may push it into the ranks of a best seller in a genre or category, which will help push the book even higher on recommended lists. Apparently 50 reviews is a magical number that opens a lot of doors for authors in getting recognition. As I’m not there yet I can’t say directly if this is the case but what was explained to me makes some sense of how the process works.

I’m reporting this to make others aware that some reviews may not be true and honest appraisals of a book. Be especially suspicious of reviews that gloss over details or seem especially slick as if they are promotional pitches. Also, I want to assure everyone that every review posted for my books has been the legitimate result of someone reading the work. With Fried Windows I sent out a number of advance copies to fellow authors and reviewers. At no time did I pay any fee to anyone or make any arrangement other than the customary ‘I’ll read your book if you’ll read mine’. That is totally legitimate and highly ethical. The reviewer receives a free copy of the book in exchange for the review and there is no guidance or expectation of the review rating.

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When I post a review for something I had read it is an honest appraisal. The reason my reviews are mainly in the four and five star range is a reflection of two things. First, I do not post any reviews for any work that I feel does not merit at least 4 or 5 stars. It’s a personal thing. I know how hard it is to write a book a publish it. If a book needs serious attention in editing or structural revision I will inform the author separately and decline to post a review. I offer to review the book again once the problems have been fixed. Second, no one pays me for my reviews. I don’t consider myself a professional book critic. I tend to find the good in every story and give far more weight to the quality of storytelling than the mechanics of language. I ignore a lot of wrong words and mistakes, though I will note them and mention them to the author so they can be fixed.

I don’t post reviews for books I don’t want to read. Generally I will read a variety of genres, but there are some types of books that I do not prefer and generally I don’t read those. If I am not familiar with a genre I will mention it in my review and judge the book on its merits as a story not how well it fits into a specific genre. As my own work tends to span several genres I hate the necessity of categorizing books especially since Amazon and others require a book to be assigned one or a very few genres. Labels serve as an aid in searching for books of similar subject matter. I get that. A reader wants to know what he or she is getting in advance of purchasing it. I’m just saying that all fantasy or sci-fi books are not the same and the fact that mine are considered in those genres may not reflect the actual content of the book. My stories contain romance, mystery and many other things as well.

I’m not sure how Amazon can effectively police the review process. That’s up to them. I don’t want to see them go to an extreme where they require verified purchases for the posting of reviews because that will prevent legitimate reviews based on author/publisher supplied advance readers copies (ARC’s). That would be unfair to the author who is operating within accepted industry standards for receiving critical attention for a new book prior to its official launch.

The matter rests with each individual author and his or her artistic integrity. Rest assured that to the best of my knowledge every review posted for any of my books is a real review from someone who has read the book.

#reviews #integrity #authors #Amazon #books

 

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The Importance Of Readers

Every author knows that without readers he or she isn’t really an author. Usually the distinction between an author and a writer is that the author sells what he or she writes. I suppose intention also needs to be considered because a writer may write something without any intention of publishing it while an author writes with the a potential reader is mind. The distinction is important these days when anyone with a computer and enough spare time to write a manuscript can eventually upload it and press the publish button. Technology has forever blurred the demarcation between author and writer. Although it creates a plethora of material from which a reader may choose it has also overwhelmed the public with choices.

A possible criterion for a new definition of author might be a writer who has been published (whether through a publisher or self-published) and has sold a piece of writing for the purpose of having it widely distributed to a base of fan established solely from publication of his or her writing. With this definition, personal friends and family members who purchase books based on a relationship apart from the usual reader/author connection would be excluded from the determination.

My point is that with million of books now being published each year, the vast majority of which are offered through self-publishing, the term author needs to be qualified for the sake of a reader’s understanding. With upwards of 70% of all books published fail to recover production costs – and that figure is probably going up as more and more people self-publish – the simple ability to publish a book should not make someone an author. This is not intended to dismiss the work of self-published authors. Some are highly successful. But they are successful because they do something well that has nothing to do with whether he or she has self-published. They have established a credential as an author with their readers.

It is no surprise to authors and writers alike that what we do is not an lucrative enterprise. Even for successful authors, by the time one composes, revises, edits, revises again, edits again and then submits a manuscript for publication the author has earned far less than minimum wage. But successful authors, those who have an enduring kind of brand – don’t write for the money. The readers is the focus and perhaps that is what truly makes someone an author instead of just a writer.

Authors are professional writers who create works with the intention of sharing them with their readers. That may be the best definition of what an author is. It removes the crass necessity of selling books from the equation at the point of inception for a written work and delivers something for the reader to determine its success or failure . You see, if given the choice, most true authors would prefer being read and appreciated to making any money on the transaction. These days, so few authors make a living solely from writing that it is clearly not money that com els us to write. So, that brings me to the real point of this blog post – the importance of readers.

Without a reader an author is a failure. There is a relationship created when an author convinces someone to read his or her book. In some ways it is similar to asking for a first date. If the date goes well there may be another date and another and son on until it is a serious relationship based on trust – that the author will provide for the reader’s need for a certain sort of diversion.

Readers need to escape for whatever time from whatever they are dealing with in real life. A well-conceived story offers that. You see, at some point a writer must evolve into an entertainer in order to attain the next level, authorship. Whether he or she writes fiction or non-fiction the ability to tell a story is paramount to the development. I’ve often heard other authors tell me that the highest praise they can receive from a reader is being called a storyteller.

It is the quality of the story that compels a reader to read on to the conclusion, write reviews praising a particular work and recommend the read to friends. That part of the process of building a fan base is sorely lacking in modern publishing where almost anyone can become an author without much more effort than merely writing something. Why so many authors fail to sell  is that a book to succeed it doesn’t need huge launch events, blog tours or full page ads in major market newspapers – although those things may contribute to a enticing new readers to try a book. What must happen at some point in the process of building an authors reputation is for a reader to like a book enough that he or she convinces three or more people to read the book and, subsequently, those three or more people convince three or more people each to also read the book – an so on. That and only that supersedes all the hype. That creates a viral effect of popularity necessary for a book to become a best seller and its author to earn a living doing what he or she loves most, writing.

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#writing #readers #books, #publishing, #authors, #writers

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An Author’s Friends and Family

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I’ve decided not to overanalyze anything to do with the response to my recent book release. As there is nothing really controversial in Fried Windows I don’t expect a lot of fallout from anything I have written. Maybe I stretched my imagination a little more than usual, at least as much as I bent the truth, but it’s intention was mainly harmless fun. I’m not sure why my friends aren’t flocking to read it, but that’s okay. Mostly my friends never paid that much attention to anything I said before I started writing. So why should it be different now?

Anyway, part of becoming an authors is seeking new friends. They’re called readers. The reason is not to discard and replace old friends but to acquire followers as a supplement to those who have known the author since before… Unlike old friends, the new friends find it easy to become fans. Why shouldn’t they?  They know an intimate part of the author, what he or she writes. I’m not sure every old friend can become an avid follower and reader of an author. It may have something to do with being there in high school and knowing the real story. Old friends saw the stupid crap we did. They were the ones carrying our drunken asses to dorm rooms in college. They were the ones we confessed any number of things to here and there along the way.

Family isn’t much better as as source of readers. There are exceptions, but most buy an authors book out of familial obligation. Few ever read the book all the way through. Those who do probably deserve a medal for perseverance. I get that.

You see, like friends, family knows us for our flaws and secrets. They know some things abut us better than friends because they share a genetic identity. They understand our special level of crazy because they were not only there with us while growing up together but also they have some of the same traits.

Like fiends, relatives hear a real voice when they read our words in print. Sometimes that is at least unsettling. I suppose it can be unnerving, especially when reading a fictional account that seems kind of familiar. Moreover, family is used to giving us advice, not necessarily hearing concoct long, convoluted stories that may actually make some sense – especially when those stories come pretty darned close to revealing things that really happened to this or that other family member.

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In Fried Windows I have tried not to borrow too much from reality. But there are some situations that some might recall. The book is a fantasy, though. There are always pieces of an author’s life that find their ways into a book. That why names are changed to protect the author as much as anyone else. The parts that borrow from real life distort the facts enough to be mostly idle fabrication.

On balance, I think I’ll gain friends from having written the book. I doubt I’ll lose any friends along the way – I hope not. I wrote the book to be a fun read and I think it accomplishes that. I wanted it to change the way every reader looks at the world around them. Maybe it does that. For those who will read it, please let me know what you think. And yes, there is much more of Brent’s story left to be told.

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