Tag Archives: publishing

To Blurb or Not To Blurb

I subscribe to a blog called The Passive Voice, and if you are a writer you should be subscribing and reading this fantastic blog. Yesterday there was a post about blurbs that I found fascinating.

What is a blurb?

blurb    /blərb/
noun
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
or
verb
write or contribute a blurb for (a book, movie, or other product). 
The article was about the second definition.
What we’re basically talking about here are endorsements from other authors and/or celebrities, those compelling “reviews” popped onto a book’s back cover or first few pages, to get the reading public to buy the book.
For a self-publishing writer these acclaims can help sell books, and when you are talking about having to self-promote, every little bit helps. Including blurbs.
For example? Go Google The Martian by Andy Weir. Completely self-published beginning as an online serial then going onto Amazon at $.99 then selling 35,000 copies in four months in 2013. That’s when it got Hollywood’s attention. In March of 2014 the book was no. 12 on the New York Times bestseller list, and by November that same year the book sold 180,000 copies. A huge coup for self-publishers.
But what happens when you get people to read your book and leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon?
This became a huge concern of mine just before summer. You see, Amazon, in all its amazing glory, decided to take down any reviews if it was discovered that these reveiws were written by friends of the author. I have put up reviews for writers who, at the time, were not my friends. I met them through blogging and became a source to them for helping their promotion efforts. Eventually, through further interaction we did become friends but does that make my blurb/review of their work any less credible?
What about those well-known authors who seem to write blockbuster after blockbuster? Do blurbs really help them since they are well-known already in the industry? I mean, honestly, what more can you say about a famous author that hasn’t already been said, or read? Critiquing their current work is one thing, but seriously, how many times do we need to hear how he/she is today’s  Tolstoy, Austen, or Shakespeare? And let’s be honest, they aren’t those writers, and their writing resembles the classics the way a goose resembles a swan. They may be birds and have feathers and can swim and fly, but one look tells the truth.
Personally, when I buy a book, whether it is self-published or traditionally published, I ignore the blurbs. I don’t care for them. I’m looking for word of mouth and my own interests. If someone I know tells me I should read a certain book then I am more likely to do so than reading an endorsement from a celebrity or well-known author. Those people do not know me, but my friends and people I talk to often know my tastes or can guess easily. And if there are people I know personally endorsing a book then you can bet I’ll be reading that book. In fact, I have a lengthy list of books on my Goodreads Want-To-Read list thanks to those friends whose books I have read and heartily endorse.
To blurb or not to blurb, that is today’s question? Should blurbs be done away with and the writing stand on it’s own? Or do we like blurbs and think they are a useful marketing tool? Sound off in the comments.
Jesi

What to do?

The past several days have been exhausting but enlightening ones both on a personal and on a professional level. Our local library has been holding its annual book sale and I’ve been doing what I could to help out. Now, before you start thinking I’m a socially-minded gal who loves to volunteer, remember, books. Thousands and thousands of books I get to play with. Some new and some going back to the early 1900’s. It is a bibliophiles playground.

One of the parts of helping at the book sale I love the most is being able to talk with the people who come in looking for bargains. Some come in with detailed lists of what they are looking for. Others bring in lists of what they have already read so they don’t duplicate what they already have in their library. There are even dealers who come in with their bar code readers or appropriate apps to see if we have anything they can snap up for a bargain and sell for a profit.

Those folks are fun to work with but the ones that get my writer’s brain to working are the folks who come in looking for recommendations for a new author or a title they haven’t read before. Sometimes they are wanting to return to reading a genre they left years ago because of the way the genre had changed. Most often, those folks once read every fantasy and science fiction book they could lay their hands on and then, in the 80’s and 90’s — and later — left the genre as it became more about writing to the message than writing to the story. Now they are hoping there are authors writing to the story again and come looking for such books — or books from the time when they still enjoyed reading the genre.

Then there are those who are looking for certain authors, often names I remember from my childhood and early adulthood as authors my father enjoyed reading, as also eye openers for me as a writer because of why they want to find the likes of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney and others. The reason they are looking for books by those writers or others like them is the ease of the story, the emphasis on plot and character and not on sex. The lack of f-bombs every other word.

And that all makes me, as a writer, think about what I should be writing. Yes, I have to look at what the market wants. But the market is much broader and certainly much deeper than traditional publishing believes. Who knows how many readers have felt left behind by the emphasis by traditional publishing on putting out books that are nothing but clones for Fifty Shades of Gray or the Hunger Games or the Da Vinci Code.

That is why the influx of quality indie published and small press published books has been so good for the reading public. For those who have made the transition to e-books, it means a return to affordable reading. Most indie and small press e-books top out at $4.99. That’s a big difference from the $13.99 currently being asked by the publisher for Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the somewhat controversial follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. Then there is James Patterson’s latest, Alert, that is currently selling in digital form for $14.99.

But even more important is the fact that the upswing in indie and small press publishing have brought back a lot of the sorts of books folks have been looking for and not finding. Science fiction, once viewed as the the very poor red-headed step-child of publishing has seen a number of indie authors not only making money but making good money writing space opera and military science fiction that celebrates things like honor and duty and gives the reader a story that takes them on a roller coaster of events and emotions. Sweet romances and those with just a hint of sex have returned to the scene and readers are celebrating because not everyone wants to have the down and dirty played out in graphic detail once, much less multiple times during the course of a book. They want the romance, that dance that sometimes goes awry before everything finally falls into place.

So, when I see articles like one that came across my feed this morning telling writers to write to the market, I frown and get ready to fisk the article. Most often, those articles tell you to look at the New York Times or USA best seller lists to determine what you should be writing. (Of course, those are also the articles that tell you you should be trying your best to be traditionally published before ever considering going the indie route.) My issue there is that those lists are not only manipulated by publishers and book sellers and determined by pre-orders and then by Bookscan numbers. Then there is the little fact that those lists are also completely at the whim of the publication putting them out. Remember how Ted Cruz was kept off the list for awhile because the publication in question accused him of bulk ordering his own book, or having others do it for him, thereby artificially inflating the numbers? Finally, after Cruz and his publisher as well as others came back and publicly denounced and denied the accusations, days later the publication allowed the book onto the list. (I won’t go into the possibly political reasons why the book was initially kept off the list).

However, when an article tells you to look at the Amazon best seller lists, I find myself agreeing, especially when you look at the sub-genre lists. Why? Because you are seeing what folks are buying in basically real time reports. Amazon updates those lists every hour or so. You can see what books and e-books readers want. That means if you want to write space opera, you can go to that list and see what sort of books are selling. You can even sample those books for free, no matter who the publisher is — unless, of course, the publisher has decided not to allow you to and that, usually, is a red flag for a bad book.

So, all of this is a roundabout way of saying that you can write to what is selling but that what’s selling now is a far cry from what traditional publishers want us to believe. Don’t give up writing that sweet romance or that cozy mystery where your heroine is chaste or whatever. There is probably someone out there wanting to read it. But, do your homework. Go to Amazon and check the genre and sub-genre lists. Just remember, the deeper into the breakdown of the lists, the easier it is to get listed in the top 100. Those books may not be selling more than a few a month.

However — and this is a big however — if you write a good yarn, if it is well edited and well formatted, if it has an interesting cover and blurb and if you tag it with the right meta tags AND IF YOU FOLLOW UP IN SHORT ORDER WITH THE NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES OR ANOTHER IN THE SAME GENRE/SUB-GENRE the bigger the chance your sales will increase. It takes time but if you keep putting out quality work and keep rewarding your readers, you have a chance of building your readership. No guarantee but then there are very few guarantees in life, are there?

So go read a good book and write a better one.

 

Unemotionally Attached

I am sitting here with absolutely nothing to post about today. My mind has been preoccupied with new and old story lines, trying to edit something for an upcoming workshop, and dealing with Month End issues at work. So as I sit here, wracking my brain with something – anything- to blog about, my mind keeps going back to CJ’s post yesterday.

It was a good post, and I loved reading her point of view on the matter regarding the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. CJ linked to some great articles giving you an insight on the drama that has been circled around Ms. Lee here of late.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that a lot of people hold dear, something they remember fondly reading while growing up. So the idea of this new book painting Atticus as a different man than he was in TKAM is unfathomable to some.

But what if you don’t hold To Kill a Mockingbird dear?

I don’t.

Up until a year ago, I never put much thought into the book other than it was a classic that I would get around to reading someday. Then last year at the end of a writers meeting with my group, Joe mentioned that his favorite novel of all time was To Kill a Mockingbird, we discussed it for a minute before departing and that was it.

Then over the holidays, I was out with my grandfather and we were browsing the books when we came across a used copy for a dollar and he said he remembered reading it when he was younger. I asked what he thought about it and he encouraged me to buy the book and find out for myself. So I bought the book and proceeded to shelve it.

Now I am not sure if he came across one of the many news articles about Harper Lee and her books recently or not, but he asked the other day if he could borrow the book from me. Seeing as how I still hadn’t read it, I figured I needed to do so quickly so that he can have a go. Then I mentioned to my grandmother about Go set a Watchman being released and all of the negativity surrounding it. We decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird together since she hadn’t read it in so long and, well, since I still hadn’t read it at all.

After we finish TKAM, we will probably read Go Set a Watchman together.

If the articles are true and that Ms. Lee was not of sound mind in letting this “draft” be published, then that’s a damn shame. But. What if she was? None of us really know except for Harper Lee herself.

I am not emotionally attached to either of these books in any way. After all is said and done, I probably will be, but come on, I am reading them with my grandparents – who both read To Kill a Mockingbird willingly as adults when it was first released. How cool is that? And now I will get to share Go set a Watchman with them too. We might hate it. We might not. No one can find out until they read it.

So now that I’ve got CJ and JesiKay shaking their heads at me… What are your thoughts on the matter? Share with us in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

~AJP

(Once I finish To Kill a Mocking bird AND Go Set a Watchman, I’ll let you know if I loved/hated either of them.)

No More Excuses! My Son Is Making Me Look Bad

My eldest son doesn’t realize it yet, but he has become a writer. He just spent the last week writing a story. He has over thirty chapters. He would wake up every morning and get on my laptop and write. No matter when I’d see him, I would always find him on my computer writing. He is so excited about his story.

And I’m a bit jealous.

He found it so easy to write, and his excitement was palpable. He couldn’t wait to share it with me. We talked about editing, and just getting what’s in your head written down and then going back later. We talked about people commenting on your writing and how a writer has to have thick skin. It was great.

It reminded me of when I had that same passion at his age to be published. I didn’t know what I was going to publish, just that I wanted to be published. What really struck me was his enthusiasm. It got him sitting down every day to write. I realized that if I am ever going to reach my goal then I have to find that same enthusiasm. And sadly, it’s been missing recently.

And then, my son asked me to come read something. He had reached out to one of his favorite writers in this group he’s become a part of and she responded. He wanted me to read her response and help him because he wanted to respond back. So I read it. I was incredibly moved. This writer I don’t know suffers from the same thing most writers know well. She thinks her writing isn’t good. She was very humbled by my son’s comments on her writing, and she was glad he enjoyed it. But she seems to struggle with thinking her work is creditable, that anyone reads it and likes it.

I gave my son some advice about how to respond and he did, and I was very moved by it (he let me read it, too). He goes away to college soon and I am doing my best to encourage him to continue writing even though he’s not looking to make it his major. He has a real gift for it, and his excitement and interest in it sparks my own. I have been struggling myself lately with finding the desire to write. Granted, I’ve had a lot going on lately in life, but that’s not really an excuse. My son has been helping his dad and step-mom get a house ready for sale, helping with household chores, doing yard work, going through his aunt’s estate after she passed away a few months ago, and getting ready to go to college. During all that, he found time to write twenty-six chapters of a story he had in his brain. This past week he was here with me visiting and he wrote ten more chapters non-stop.

So what’s my excuse?

Last week, I wrote about accountability. Now, I’m going to hold myself to it. I have plenty of ideas in my head. My goal is to get at least one chapter written by my next writing crit group meeting which is in two weeks. I may not have it ready but I will have something down so I can look Amanda in the eye and say “why yes, Amanda, I have been writing.”

So You Want To Be A Writer One Day?

 

 

london bus

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

If…someday…one day…when I get around to it.

If there’s one thing death teaches us, it’s that there’s not enough time. And yet, we let the opportunities pass us by because we think we’re immortal. Even when we’re staring at a corpse lying in a coffin proving otherwise. The lucky ones are those who realize that anything can happen at any moment and decide to not let their fears stop them.

Today, it’s personal.

Two years ago, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer, the one that by the time the symptoms appear, it’s too late. He lived for three months before he succumbed to it. I had three months to prepare, but it still hit like driving 60 mph and hitting a brick wall. I knew, if I let it, it would drive me straight into a black hole of depression. So, why didn’t I? I had every right to grieve. I lost my dad, one of the only two reasons for my existence on earth, my second true love. (My mom is my first.) How do you NOT let yourself fall into a pit when you lose one of the most important people in your life?

Well, to begin with, I turned to poetry. The musical lines and words were a balm. They kept me from going under. I don’t know how many times I listened to John Hannah’s reading of Funeral Blues from Four Weddings and A Funeral, or read it myself. Desiderata also played an important part in keeping me from losing it. Two lines stood out from that one:

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”

And

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I repeated those lines to myself. Especially the part “you have a right to be here.”

With that line, something began vibrating inside me. I felt as if someone had begun to tighten my strings, oil my gears, and bring me back into the light of the world. I have a right to be here. And so began my second life.

I took a good hard look at myself and I realized, I was unhappy. I hadn’t accomplished anything, or so I felt. What had I done other than produce offspring? What contribution to society, what impact, had I made? What legacy would I be leaving behind, and is that the one I wanted to be known by?

(I have a right to be here.)

I can be one determined woman when pushed. And so, I pushed. That’s right. I pushed myself. I became my own personal trainer/life coach/cheerleading squad. I forced myself to lose over 40 pounds because I deserved to feel good about myself again, which I hadn’t for a very long time. I began thinking positively and trying to eliminate as much negativity as possible. And I began writing again. Yeah, I stopped writing. For three years. The “why” isn’t important. It was life taking a reckoning and making a point, I suppose. But, now, I began writing in earnest. I knew this was my calling. So, I listened, and let the Muse take control. Do you know what happened then?

Things began changing and rearranging, and Opportunity began throwing doors in my path. All I had to do was open them. And I did.

(I have a right to be here.)

One of those opportunities came in a form I least expected. A friend who I hadn’t seen in months asked me to go to a writing group meeting at a local library, and I said I’d go with her. I joined, she didn’t. She was more of an artist, not a writer. To be honest, I’m not really sure why she had wanted to go in the first place. But, ours is not to reason why. If I hadn’t gone with her, you wouldn’t be reading this. (There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.)

Writing saved me. I turned to it when I had nowhere else to go. When I was angry, I wrote, and it showed me how to deal constructively with that anger. When I was sad, I would write, and I could leave people with tears in their eyes and saying how good it was. Writing has been my salvation. But let’s be honest here. I was the one who made the choice to write. I saved myself. I have a right to be here.

I want you to pretend you are waiting on a bus. It’s taking forever to get to your stop and you’re already late. You check the time. The clouds look like they might open up any minute and drop buckets of rain on you, and of course, there’s no cover and you forgot your umbrella. You tap your foot. You pace. You check your cell phone. Finally, you realize the bus isn’t coming, so you call someone to come help. Just when your ride arrives, the bus shows up, too. Of course it does. What do you do? Do you get on the bus, or do you take the ride you called? The choice is completely yours.

By the way, did you catch a glimpse of the destination sign on the bus? It reads: One Day (and it’s totally being driven by AJ which is why it’s late.)

Here’s the thing. Every time I turn around I hear “I need to do that. One day I will.” One day. One day. I hate those two words. Guess what…one day never comes if you don’t take action. So you want to be a writer? Begin writing. Oh! You want to be a PUBLISHED writer. Do it. Stop sitting on your laurels (oh, how that’s not a strong enough word but I’m trying to keep it PG) and just. do. it. You will never get there by waiting and saying “one day.”

I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know words are easy to say and actions hard to perform. But you regret those opportunities you let pass you by. And who am I to tell you these things? I’m you. I used to say the same exact things. I used to think exactly the same way. But, I am doing it. I will be a published writer. I had to make the decision to ignore my fears. Oh, they’re still there, believe me, but I am not going to let them rule me.

You have a right to be here. You have to save yourself.

So, do it.

Jesi

P.S. This post was inspired by two people: our very own AJ Prince and my ex Sister-in-Heart who passed away last week. She was doing it. I don’t think she regretted it.

(Also, thanks to our Joe who drew the bus for me. It’s awesome, and I love it!)

 

 

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

 

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

“Popular” Writing versus “Good” Writing

 

angry crowd

The success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ got me to thinking about popular writing versus good writing. Not that they can’t be one in the same, of course. Often they are. It’s just that, well…often they’re not.

Now, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t give an opinion on it. A lot of people I know have, however. Read it, that is. Not one of them liked it. As a matter of fact, several couldn’t get through it. These are people who, in my humble opinion have some pretty good tastes in literature. And most professional book critics seem to have torn it apart.

And with ‘Fifty Shades,’ not only has it become a runaway best seller, they went and made it into a flick which is doing very well in the theaters. On top of that, there’s a sequel planned, I understand. The writer of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is obviously very rich at the moment and probably isn’t caring very much about what the critics think. And why should she (Or is it a “he”) care, anyway. She’s giving the public what they want and they’re eating it up. And copy-cats have sprung up. One is called ‘Fifty Shades of Blue.’ The author is I.B. Naughty. Ya’ gotta love that one!

So, as a new writer, I can’t help but wonder how much I really need to work to try and turn out a successful book. I can’t help wondering if I’m trying too hard. Maybe I didn’t need to take three years to write ‘Jenny.’ Maybe I could have slapped a few hard core sex scenes in there and not worried so much about the story. If that’s what the public wants, why not give it to them? After all, there’s nothing wrong with sex. Right? It’s good. I’m not a Puritan, I’m all for it

But how would I feel about it, even if the book sold well? Roll around in my money and not care whether or not I’m considered a “serious” author? Or guilty that I had sold out? Hmmm…money would buy a lot of pretty things. And my wife really wants a house on the beach… (Sigh!).

There’s always a pen name, of course. Yeah…that would work. I.B. Naughty seems to have been taken. But I’m sure I can come up with something. How about Hugh R. Hornee? That’s not bad. I could write as Hugh and watch the money pour in while I satisfy the literary part of me by writing my “serious” book. I’m weak, though. I’m afraid that if I did that and started to see thousands of dollars rolling in from Hornee’s work I’d kick the “serious” work to the curb. Hell, if Hugh R. Hornee’s novels just bought me a yacht, screw Joe Bucemi and his high-falootin ways!

But, what if you can’t have it both ways? What if it was time to make a deal with the Devil? He gives you two options. You can write a trashy book that critics are practically laughing over, but sells a million copies and gets you a multi-million dollar movie deal. Or you can write one that is generally regarded as one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature ever seen by human eyes. The trouble is, hardly anyone will read it and you will barely make enough money on it to pay your electric bill. Ironically, it will become popular ten years after you’re dead.

Hmmm…again. Would I start to think of all those pretty words, or all those pretty things and that house on the beach? I would have to make sure my wife wasn’t in the room while I was making my decision. I know which one she would pick.