Staying Positive Online

Every day we do a little something to build our platform: send a Tweet, write a blog post, post an update on a Facebook Author Page. As authors, we need to stay relevant; we need to produce content to stay visible. We want people to find us and our books, and that won’t happen if you neglect a blog or don’t update your social media. The more you post, the more visible you are—that’s how it goes.

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But it’s difficult to produce content, and it’s just as difficult to remain upbeat and cheerful all the time. Sometimes you need to let out a little negativity, a little frustration. The chapter you just wrote is shitty—let’s tweet that out there for some sympathy. You tell your fans on FB that you’re having a bad day. You dropped a jar of pickles on your foot and you post your black and blue toe on Instagram. Sometimes those things aren’t bad, but your fans, the people who read your books, don’t want to hear it all the time. Twitter is a great place to pout because misery loves company; when I’ve had a bad day, there’s always someone there who can relate. But I don’t want to be known as Twitter’s Debbie Downer and neither do you.

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This goes for other things on the internet as well. There’s a lot of controversy about whether or not to leave “honest” reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads. This isn’t controversy as a whole—a reader who reads a ton of books every year and reviews them can say whatever s/he wants. They are readers and consume books as readers only.

But.

We are writers as well as readers, and that can be a problem because every review you leave is added to the foundation of your author platform. This question comes up a lot: Do you post honest reviews? Most authors will tell you that no, they don’t leave poor reviews—it’s not their place. Especially if the book they’ve read is an indie book. Some authors will say no because they don’t want people to do the same to their books. Some don’t just because they don’t want to post any negativity online. I tend to agree with the authors who say this simply because I try to keep my online presence as positive and as cheerful as I possibly can. I’m a contemporary romance writer. I’m supposed to be in love with life, right?

When I first was introduced to the indie world, I read a lot of indie—and I quickly became discouraged.  Poorly formatted books, books that needed an editor, books that were boring—I discovered why indie publishing has a bad reputation. I read some good ones too, don’t get me wrong, but the books that weren’t that great—I didn’t review.  Because let’s be honest, I was new the game, (still feel like I am most days) and who in the hell was I to criticize a book? It’s not like I’m selling a hundred books a day (though I aim to change that sooner rather than later.) But even then, while my success may justify a negative review, do I want to throw that kind of negativity out there?

Unless part of your platform building is being known as a reviewer who will give an honest review no matter whose toes you step on, then I would suggest not giving unsolicited advice in the form of a review. I’ve given advice to my friends who ask in private messages. I’ve beta read for friends. I’ve edited for free. Doing that, one on one, can do more for your platform than giving a book a bad review. Throw good karma into the online universe, and good karma will come back to you.

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But I believe that advice is good for every situation, not just book reviews. One night at Olive Garden the waiter forgot to put our order in. My sister and I were going to a movie, so we didn’t have time to wait for him to fix his mistake. We had to make due with our drinks and the salad and appetizer we ordered. Did I bash Olive Garden online? Did I tweet to them to get better service in their restaurants?  No. Well, I posted on my personal Facebook profile that if you wanted to actually eat the food you ordered, eat elsewhere, but I made it into a joke and I did not post any harsh words related to the event. That night we were kind to the waiter, and we left. (The chocolate martini I drank probably helped.)

When the movie theater gave us stale popcorn, did I post about it? No. (Luckily that occured on separate evenings, otherwise that would have been a bummer of a night.)

Sometimes I get down just like everyone else, and I do tweet to ask for advice or a cheerful word, but I do not make those posts the mainstay of my platform, just like I don’t use my blog to bitch about the publishing industry or my lack of sales.

I share my frustration with and about the indie community: I want our reputation to turn around. I want people to think quality when they think of an indie book. I want people to want to buy indie over a traditionally-published book. So I will post advice, I will write about things I wish indie authors would do (take the 8 point space between paragraphs out of your manuscripts please, and can you full-justify your file even if Mark Coker tells you not to?). But I would never post a book review and say this author needed an editor, or the formatting was so screwed up I couldn’t read it and too bad I wasted 13.99, you shouldn’t either.

Stay positive online, put a smile on someone’s face, be a friend, be a contributing, productive writer in the indie world, help where you can, offer advice when asked.

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In the words of my oh-so-wise mother-in-law, “Don’t crap where you eat.”

What do you think? Let me know!  Vania Blog Signature

 

(Thank you to pixabay.com and unsplash.com for the photos.)

 

You’ve Written Your Book. Now What?

There’s a lot of talk in the publishing/writing community about what to write. Ask anyone, and the unanimous answer will be, “Write what you love and worry about the rest later.” And that’s okay; definitely write what you love because if you’re not, it will show in your writing. If you don’t love it, no one else will, either.

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But after you’ve written your book, what then? If you want to query, what you’ve written will decide almost 100% if you’ll get picked up. Agents sign books they know will sell, and they know what books will sell because they are in close contact with editors in publishing houses and know what books the editors will buy.  But what are those books?

There are books that will never go out of style because they encompass the bigger genres: romance, mystery/suspense (combine the two and you’re golden), a little science fiction, some fantasy, maybe. When you choose one of those, you’re choosing a subject or topic that will never stop selling.

But indie authors rarely go generic, and that’s a lot of the problem. Say I’ve written this wonderful story about a fairy princess set in modern times who is a pediatrician and she’s in love with the warlock neuro surgeon down the hall. Her father demands she go home to the fairy world to claim the throne and she’s torn away from her warlock lover. After she’s home and takes up her duties as royalty, she finds out she’s pregnant with her warlock lover’s baby. Now what?

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This story is near and dear to my heart, maybe. It’s all written out, all 99,000 words of magical goodness. I have plans to turn this into a trilogy.

Excitedly, I shop it around.

Agents pass, editors at publishing houses pass. A kind agent takes the time to email me and says, “This is great, the writing is solid. But fairies in adult fiction aren’t selling right now, and I don’t know when they will. I can sell it if you turn the fairy and warlock into humans.”

What she did was make my story generic. She turned it into a simple romance she’d probably sell to Avon.

But that’s not what I want, so she offers me, “I’ll sign you and keep it in my drawer. When fairies come around again, I’ll try to sell it.” This isn’t exactly what I want, either, and I wonder if I want to take her offer because how long do I want to wait, exactly? Selling my book could take years, or she could never do it. It doesn’t mean my book or writing is bad, it just means the publishing industry isn’t selling that kind of book right now.

We can all think of books that have had their day: vampires/werewolves (Twilight), dystopian societies (The Hunger Games), mommy porn (Fifty Shades of Grey).

But look on the NYT Bestseller list and we can see what’s hot right now: mysteries, The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware), The Couple Next Door (Shari Lapena), Seeing Red (Sandra Brown), The Store (James Patterson). Simple romance, Two by Two (Nicholas Sparks). General Fiction, Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate), Exposed (Lisa Scottoline).

 

There isn’t a fairy, vampire, or elf on the whole list. Even Young Adult has is having a grown up moment: The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas), One of Us is Lying (Karen M. McManus). Third on the list is about faeries, but it’s part of a series by Cassandra Clare. She has her name and history behind that book, something you wouldn’t have. (Just sayin’.)

The reason I’m writing this blog post isn’t to tell you to write boring—write what you want to write. But I am saying that there may not be room for your book when you’re done with it depending on the climate of the industry.

#PitchWars just ended on Twitter. It’s a program (for lack of a better term) created by agent Brenda Drake. A writer submits their manuscript and hopes a “mentor” will take them on and help make their manuscript queryable.

The problem is, these mentors know what is selling and will choose manuscripts that have the best chance at being picked up. If that happens, everyone looks good; that’s the goal.

There have been a lot of hurt feelings because manuscripts haven’t been picked up by mentors, and I’m willing to bet it’s not the writing but the genre and plot that made a mentor decline a book. Vampires, out. A teen learning what her true gifts are just in time to save the world, out. Clumsy girls who fall in love with billionaires, out.

The stars have to align for a book to be published these days. Your book has to be on target with the plot, the characters, and the trends at the time. It has to resonate with an agent, who has to find the perfect editor who wants to take it on.

I would never feel bad if my book didn’t get picked up. There are so many things that have to go right for that to happen; I would never take it personally.

But lots of people do.

Let me know what you’re writing. Do you think your book would get picked up after seeing what’s being published right now?

Vania Blog Signature

 

(Book and Fairy taken from pixabay.com. Thanks to Amazon for the book cover pics.)

#Smutchat Editing Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who participated in #smutchat tonight! I hope you maybe learned something from chatting about editing!

Tonight’s giveaway is:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King

Have a great weekend everyone! I’ll see you next time!

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Have You Heard of Kindle Scout? I Haven’t Either

I was going to write a blog post on a very important question–when you are published by an Amazon imprint are you considered Traditionally Published? Because these imprints won’t take just anyone–you have to submit just like you would an agent or a publishing house. But is that the only difference between being published by an Amazon imprint or hitting publish on KDP?

That’s a great question but one we’re not going to explore here. I found something else during my research: Kindle Scout.

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What is that, you ask? Good question because I didn’t know what it was either. Chris McMullen’s blog post about Amazon Imprints popped up when I was doing some research on imprints and I came upon another publishing option Amazon offers.

Kindle Scout is a book competition open to writers in qualifying countries. The book must be 50,000+ words and never been published anywhere before. It’s similar to self-publishing in that you have to submit your own cover, (I’m assuming you can hire someone) do your own editing (again maybe hire someone), blurb, and formatting. It is then vetted by Amazon staff and if it is chosen, it is entered into the competition.

What happens after that is up to you, as it’s called a competition for a reason. You’re supposed to drive all your friends, family, and fans to the Kindle Scout website where they are to vote for your book. After the nomination process, once again your book is vetted by Amazon staff. Which is a sneaky way of saying, even if your book received a million votes, Amazon Scout still may not choose it. I guess that’s a safety loophole for them.

If your book is chosen, Amazon will pay you a $1500.00 advance and 50% royalties after you earn out.

The whole process takes 45 days.

I summarized the whole process, so anyone who is considering this should look at their submission guidelines carefully.

Here are a couple other blog posts about it:

Jane Friedman had a guest blogger on her website who used it as a book launch. (If your book isn’t chosen Amazon gives your book back to you after the 45 day period is over and you do with it what you want.)  I think that is a great idea, and her blog post is here.  (Thanks to Gareth S. Young, you can find him here, for the heads up on that article.)

Another great blog article, courtesy of Gareth, is by Victoria Strauss, who is a Watch Dog contributor on Alli, (Alliance of Independent Authors) and she gave it a tentative stamp of approval, and you can read it here.

Overall, it doesn’t sound like a bad program. You can go on the website and browse the books that are entered and see for yourself what kind of competition you would have.

Good luck!

 

#SmutChat Traditional Publishing Giveaway

Today’s give away is Green-Light Your Book by Brooke Warner. Thank you for participating in chat tonight! I hope you had a great time!

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When Should You Redo a Book?

I was listening to a podcast today–I know, shocker. I listen to them all the time, and it sure makes scooping the kitty litter a little more tolerable.

Anyway, so the two hosts went through their usual, what are you working on, what are you working on?  And the male host (I won’t say who it was or what podcast this was) said, I’m going to redo my first book. New cover, new title, redo some of the plot, the whole thing. And the other host was like, oh, that’s great, blah blah blah.

I don’t know what I was doing then. Cleaning my bathroom? Sweeping the kitchen? But I was like, wait, what?

Rereleasing a book isn’t a new concept to anyone. Traditionally published authors (or their houses) do it all the time, especially for old books. You know it when you’re reading and someone lights up in a restaurant. You think, I just bought this book at Walmart yesterday. Smoking in a public place hasn’t been legal in years. How the *bleep* old really is this book? Oh, the first copyright was 1982. That explains some things, right? Maybe you keep reading it because the story is good, maybe you don’t because you like your characters to have cell phones and access to the internet, but if you keep going, maybe, just maybe, by the time you read to the end, you realize you already read it–30 years ago.

 

This is Linda Howard’s Almost Forever.  Kinda different huh? There are more covers between these two. The original was released in 1986.

 

Again, pretty different.  It doesn’t make the inside change–but would you feel cheated if you bought this book today then found it it was published in 1989? There are other covers between these, too.

 

Unfortunately, this is the same book. I never would have known had I not gone on Goodreads and looked for the old cover of Breathless Innocence and found He’s Just a Cowboy. The descriptions are slightly different as well.

 

I realize there’s a difference between submitting a new file to CreateSpace to fix typos or if you’ve redone the cover and completely redoing a whole book. We’ve all done it. I did it for 1700. I fixed typos, redid the cover, fixed some formatting issues. It was my first book. Mistakes were made.

But where do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line between fixing the mistakes that you should have caught the first time, but were too damn excited to see or care about, to revamping an entire book?

See, I think of it this way. Your readers bought your crap version. Let’s just call it the way it is, okay?  People shelled out their hard-earned money to buy your mistake-riddled book. Should you have released better, yes. But you didn’t. I didn’t. So people bought it and maybe they didn’t care about the mistakes, maybe you ended up on their author shit-list. That’s on you, and that’s on me.

But say you have some time on your hands and you decide, you know, this book was great, but it’s got a crap-rep now (and maybe the reviews to prove it). I don’t want it to go to waste so I’m going to fix it up. A new title, new ISBN number, let’s fix those plot holes, give the MC a few extra demons, maybe real ones! Yank the old one and let’s watch the sales come in.

Is that fair? Is that fair to the people who bought the first version of your book?

What if you have a decent fan base? Maybe you don’t write as fast as you’d like so when you release a book, people buy it. That’s great. And how are they going to feel when they read a quarter of the way through it and realize that they’ve read this story before?  Yes, it sounds better, no there’s no typos this time around. The cover looks amazing because you learned some things. But . . .

People will think it’s very unfair if they pay twice for the same book. Only authors who have written for longer than you’ve been alive are allowed to do this. You know, authors who have 50+ books in their backlist. Then, only then, are the chances of the same person reading the same book slim. And when publishing houses do this, they are releasing the same book. Authors are too busy writing new material to rework a plot. Their houses are re-releasing books with a new up-to-date cover, and while I may not be too big a fan of that either, it’s a lot better than what we’re talking about here.

I’m not suggesting you don’t fix mistakes. But what I am suggesting is maybe you *don’t* revamp the entire book. Maybe you fix the mistakes, redo the cover, but leave the story and title alone. Leave the ISBN alone. Write a better book next time.

To me, writing is continually moving forward, not back.

What do you think?

Vania Blog Signature

 

You can read another opinion about this here.

(Book pictures were taken from http://harlequinblog.com/2017/05/8-wonderful-contemporary-romance-re-releases-we-love/ and http://www.goodreads.com)

What Do You Say When People Ask You . . .

. . . why did you write/are writing your book?

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Some authors say their characters called to them and wouldn’t let them go. Some say a plot jumped into their head, and they had to get it down on paper before it disappeared. Some say it was part of a series/trilogy, etc. and they had no choice but to continue or abandon ship.

Why did I write Summer Secrets?

Because I’m insane.

That’s the short and easy explanation, but in reality, it’s much longer.

I had just come off from writing On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. If you haven’t read it (and I know you haven’t because I can count the copies I’ve sold on my two hands and feet), you’ll know that it’s actually two novellas. One in the male’s point of view called 1700 Hamilton and the other novella is the same time frame but from the female’s point of view called On the Corner of Hamilton and Main. I know, completely crazy titles, and this was the new author in me—mistakes I won’t make again.

But I digress.

Anyway, so what I’m getting at is that writing novellas is fun, easy, and quick. I wrote on the weekends at work, transcribed once a week and actually had a life outside of writing, but I still felt like a writer. Writing novellas isn’t as daunting as writing full-length novels. By the time you reach 10,000 words, you’re halfway done. There’s something freeing about that—there isn’t so much pressure.

So, I kind of got sucked into writing novellas, and I wanted to write more.

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Conveniently, after 1700 was published, I was brainstorming with my friend Jewel, and we were talking about writing novella series. She had her own ideas, I had mine, and at work one day I outlined five novellas, characters and all.

This is where the insane part comes in.  I didn’t realize how long it would take me to actually write five. I’d just signed away five to six months of my life. But hell yeah, it sounded like fun. How bad could it be?

It wasn’t that bad. But in the middle of the 5th novella, a character “called to me” (yep, I just wrote that) and I realized he needed his story told. So five novellas I’d estimated at about 20,000 words a piece turned into 6 novellas, and after it was all said and done, turned out to be almost 160,000 words.

It takes a lot of time to edit 160,000 words. It takes a lot of time for someone else to edit 160,000 words. Let’s not mention formatting them and designing covers.

Never mind losing six months, I lost a whole year. On novellas.

But damn, are they good.

See, that’s why I can’t regret writing them. They are well-written, they are all part of the same story, told chronologically, and I learned so much writing them and editing them that I could never feel bad that I decided to do it.

Maybe I’ll be a little sad if they don’t sell—but I won’t be too worried about it, either. They are not the genre in which I want to keep writing, so building an audience won’t do be a lot of good unless they want to branch out as readers.

Never feel bad about what you’re writing. Somehow, some way, your project will serve a purpose.

What are you writing about and how did you decide to start?

Vania Blog Signature