Pointing fingers: Who’s fault is a bad book?

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Taken from Stephenie’s website, stepheniemeyer.com

There was a lot of hoopla on writer Twitter last week when Stephenie Meyer announced that she would be finally releasing Midnight SunTwilight only from Edward’s point of view. Twelve years ago, halfway through writing it, someone leaked it, and heartbroken, Stephanie didn’t finish it letting the half-done manuscript sit on her website.

The vitriol on Writer Twitter started immediately. I even saw someone make a parody of the cover of Midnight Sun which features a pomegranate. In the parody, the designer used a peeled banana. It didn’t take me long to get sick of the scathing remarks.

Coincidence, or maybe not, I saw on Instagram that E L James is starting to write the last 50 Shades book from Christian’s point of view.

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And a few days ago, someone on Twitter posted a poll: Who is the worst best-selling author among Ken Follett, Nicholas Sparks, and Dan Brown. It was an unnecessary and meaningless post. I told her so, and we got into a little catfight until ultimately she told me to grow up. I found that funny because I wasn’t the one tearing down best-selling authors in public.

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But all this mud opinion slinging, all these disparaging remarks, begs a question: whose fault is a bad book?

It’s easy to pin in it on the author. Readers take passages from a book to make fun of it, they make gagging noises when reading the Look Inside of a book on Amazon, they live tweet their reactions to books hoping to start a mob of dislike. (Public Twitter shaming is big in YA, especially if the topic of racism/race is involved.)

Is it always the author’s fault when a bad book is published?

In the indie world, it sure is. Whether indies don’t hire an editor because they can’t afford it, or don’t think they need one, or they hire one then ignore everything that editor says because it’s “their book and they can do what they want,” when an indie self-publishes, everything from cover to cover is their responsibility.

Some say it’s not really fair. Finding resources, resources that are affordable and trustworthy, is hard. I totally get that and it’s why I’ve stopped reviewing indie books. Sometimes no matter how hard an author tries, their book isn’t going to be good enough. When it comes to Stephenie Meyer or E L James, their best obviously wasn’t good enough for some people, either.

Though, when an author gets picked up by an agent, when that agent sells work to a publishing house who employs several editors, when does the responsibility shift from author to publishing house? Is there no differentiation? When you publish a book, your name is on it. It belongs to you. You’re responsible for the outcome, good or bad, and I guess when you’re a reader, you don’t stop to consider that a “bad,” traditionally-published book has been looked at by probably close to five sets of eyes–one belonging to an agent who deemed it sellable in the first place. Twilight was actually found a slush pile by agent assistant at Writers House who passed it along to a senior agent, Jodie Reamer.

If you get picked up by an agent, and she sells it, and an editor edits it, the house publishes it and puts a few thousand dollars at marketing it, are you that remiss in thinking that your book is good or that you’re a decent writer? Agents are gatekeepers after all, and it’s why some writers still query and never self-publish even if they never find an agent. They need the validation. They need to be told their writing is good.

And all these musings beg another question: When an agent, editor, publishing house says an author is a great writer, but the readers say she is not, who is correct? The house who pays the author an advance, or the readers on Twitter who tweets live what a piece of shit it is?

Is it the author’s fault they believe the agent, the editor, and the publishing house? Of course not. Is it the author’s fault the editor skimped on edits and pushed the book out to meet reader demand and take advantage of social media momentum like in the case of 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t think so.

So why all the finger pointing at the author when the book is taken out of their hands?

I mean, do you think E L James’s editor pulled her aside and told her to join a writing critique group? Probably not. Erika didn’t have time anyway, she was too busy rolling in money and watching Jamie Dornan strip on set.

The thing is, as writers, we’re bound to get better. I read The Mister and it was definitely a change from 50 Shades. She got better. Now, we’ll probably never know if she took some creative writing classes or read some craft books, or if that time around her editor took more time with her and The Mister went through more rounds of edits than 50 Shades.

I tell indies on my blog and on Twitter all the time–it’s not your editor’s responsibility to teach you how to write. If you get a 1,000 dollar editing bill from a copy editor, you’d be better off investing in two English/creative writing classes. Which do you think is the better investment? The classes that could help you for your entire career, or the edits from one book?

If you’re an indie and your editor highlights every single sentence because of grammar, punctuation, or it simply doesn’t make sense, you need to take the future of your writing into your own hands. Not every writer is going to have an MFA, but if you don’t understand tension, conflict, stakes, plot, and character arcs, you best figure it out or you’re always going to have problems and your books will never sell.

That’s a big difference between bestselling authors who use too many adverbs and an indie who doesn’t know how to plot–story. Stephenie’s and Erika’s agents knew a good story when they read one, and so did their publishing houses, and most importantly, so did their readers.

Maybe it’s not fair of me to blame an indie for their weaknesses and not a traditionally published author. In the case of a “bad” book, though, it’s not an author’s fault if their agent and editor tell them that their book is good. Those people are supposed to be in the know–and they didn’t end up wrong–numbers of copies sold proves that.

As Grace Metalious said of her runaway bestseller Peyton Place, “If I’m a lousy writer, a hell of a lot of people have lousy taste.” A sentiment I’m sure E L James shares, and a sentiment that brings the literary versus commercial fiction argument full circle.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily

If books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are so offensive because of sparkling vampires, horny main characters, and typos so abundant that even the free version of Grammarly would meet its match, why do so many people read them? In one of my tweets to the writer with the poll, I told her she can read who she likes. No one is forcing her to read Nicholas Sparks.

There are a lot of ways a book can be “bad.” The story can be well-written but more boring than hell. The author may not know her grammar and punctuation, or subject-verb agreement, or maybe she has a crutch word issue like the girl from Tik Tok pointed out making fun of Stephenie’s use of the word “chuckled.” (An editing failure, in my opinion.)

We all aspire to write “good” well-written novels and we chafe when we do so (or we think we have) and we’re not recognized. That’s luck and what’s hitting the market at any particular time, and you’e not proving anything to anyone showing off sour grapes because an author you deemed “not worthy” has found that luck and niche in the market.

What can you do besides wasting time with useless polls?

Work on your craft. Read books that won’t offend your high-society taste. Query your heart out or learn marketing because, honey, that’s the only way your book will see the light of day.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily-2

So, who’s fault is a bad book? I suppose after such a long blog post hashing out the question, we can determine there are no bad books written, only bad matches between book and reader. The only difference is some readers are more vocal about their unhappiness and some aren’t.

I wish Writer Twitter weren’t so vocal about it. It’s not like a lot of those writers have anything to brag about. Sometimes I find the reader who complains the loudest is only making themselves feel better because their books fall into the same camp they’re trashing online.

I wish Stephenie all the success in the world with Midnight Sun. And I hope Erika’s critics never stop her from writing.

There are books out there for everyone. Read what you like and leave the rest of us alone.


Resources I used for this blog post:

The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers


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Another update, because, why not? And other musings of a #stayhome life

I had a blog post planned for today, and it’s even written out in my notebook. I need to type it up and get it out there, because it’s part of the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media. I would like to get that series finished up so I can blog about other things. Though, with this virus stuff going on, (and I don’t mean to make light of it at all; I know it’s affected many people) it feels almost strange to be carrying on in any normal sort of way.

silhouette-4233622_1920Even with my rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, write, write, write mentality I like to shove down people’s throats on this blog, I haven’t been doing much of that.

That’s not to say I haven’t been doing something. I was dismayed to find one day that some of my Vellum files for my books went missing. It’s not technically a big deal. I mean, I still had the .mobi files for Kindle the PDFs, but I didn’t like not having the actual files that upload into Vellum. So I took it upon myself to take the PDFs, convert them back into a Word docx and put them back into Vellum.

It’s just as convoluted as it sounds, and when you convert a PDF into a Word docx, the formatting isn’t 100% the same. And when you put that Word docx into Vellum, it gets messed up even more. So what I did (for my own peace of mind and my weird anxiety I get when I think about my books) I decided that while I was fixing the formatting in Vellum, I would give them a light edit and push them back into the world.

I’ve taken the last two weeks and I did All of Nothing, The Years Between Us, and Wherever He Goes. I guess because the formatting changed, or maybe I chose a different font for the text, who knows, I had to redo cover dimensions for All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes. That wasn’t too big a deal, since everything was saved in Canva and I had all my stock photos still saved there. Recreating them with a different canvas size didn’t take too much time, and I’m getting good enough that I didn’t bother ordering proofs before publishing them (something I used to do every time I made a change to the paperback).

It was actually kind of interesting to go back and read my books again, and I learned a couple things along the way:

1. I need to keep my baby name book with me. ALWAYS. I used the same names over and over again. There’s a Jared in Wherever He Goes, and there’s a Jared in my Wedding series. I reused the name Max, as well. Dismayed, I found I used Erik in All of Nothing, and there’s an Eric in Don’t Run Away. There’s an Elmer in Wherever He Goes, and an Elmer in the new trilogy I’m editing (I’ll change his name, for sure). You know, there are so many names available, I shouldn’t have reused the names at all. It’s not like I’m 60+ into my backlist and I’ve run out of choices. For consistency and scared I would do more harm than good, I didn’t change any of the names. Maybe in the future an Excel sheet will come in handy.

2. I use the same imagery. I’m consistent in imagery, and I guess that’s what people mean when they say they know a book’s author by the way it’s written. Though some of the metaphors and cliches change from book to book, it’s evident I like the sound of a certain way of comparing things.

In the mirror, I give myself one last look. The dress shows off just enough leg, my hair is a blonde mess of curls down my back, my eyes have just the right amount of shadow and eyeliner.

I’ll pass, if no one looks too closely.

After all, even imitation gold shines in the light.

This is an example of some of the language I like to use from book to book, and while it’s pretty, I need to make sure that I’m mixing up my imagery or my books will start to sound the same.

3. My themes are the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been told that a consistent theme weaving your books together will help with marketing. My theme, so far, is when you fall in love with the right person, you can find your place, you can find your home. Of course, in romance you have to be careful that the woman isn’t losing herself in her man, that her world doesn’t revolve around him. So it’s important that you give your female main characters their own backstories and make sure they have their own arcs so they fall in love and find their place with their man on their own terms. All my female characters battle their own demons before allowing themselves to find happiness in a relationship. This is the way romance has evolved, but I don’t have any complaints. No one wants to read about a doormat who doesn’t have her own life outside of her love interest.


I could tell that when I was writing Wherever He Goes that I was a bit stiff at the beginning and I did take the chance to smooth out some sentences and make the scenes and paragraphs flow a little better. I didn’t hit my stride with that book until the middle, and I find it interesting because already by Wherever He Goes I had already written quite a few words. But that book was my first standalone after the my Tower City Trilogy and I guess I was getting used to new characters and plot.

I don’t know if I’m going to do every single book I’ve published. The box set file for my trilogy is still intact, so pulling those out and making the books single again to recover my Vellum files won’t take that long, and they won’t require proofing unless I want to go back and read them. I suppose I could since in the back of my mind I feel like those are mediocre offerings at best and I’m reluctant to advertise them. If I read through them and fix typos, etc, then maybe the time I invest doing that will come back to me since I’ll be more comfortable promoting them. That’s committing to a lot of work, and for now I’m going to do 1700. I don’t have the file for that cover anymore–that was way back when I was doing covers in Word, and Canva wasn’t available yet. So I want to revamp that and reformat the insides with Vellum. I’m excited to do that–and it won’t take me long. The whole book is barely 50k. I already edited an old paperback so I just need to add them in and make the interior pretty. It’s a romantic fantasy, and once I update the cover and keywords, it might actually make a few sales. It’s a cute little story, and even though it’s the first one I published, I’m still proud of it.

I think I even found a stock photo that might work:

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I know the font will play a big part of the cover, and to be honest, I totally fucked myself with the title. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is atrocious, and if I cared at all, I would unpublish and start over. But while it’s a sweet little thing, it doesn’t mean enough to me to completely revamp it. As they say, mistakes were made, so what’s the point of pretending they weren’t?

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing with my time. It’s amusing, at any rate, and it’s actually kind of heartening to know that I like what I write and I feel like though there were typos I had to take care of, my books are solid and I’ll have confidence in running ads to them in the coming years.

Tell me what you’ve been up to! Are you doing little things to keep your mind busy or have you been able to write?

Let me know!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 3

Hello writers and authors! This is the third blog post in this series that is exploring the findings in an author survey conducted by Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy and other promotional tools.

You can read the intro to this blog series here and read the second part about how much time career authors spend writing here.

The third thing this survey found about these authors is that they invest in professional editing.

hand holding red pen over proofreading text

Editing can be costly and scary, but it’s much needed by every author.

Remember, emerging authors have six books in their catalog, have never made more than 60k in a year, and spend on average 18 hours a week writing.

60kers have 22 books in their catalog, and, on average, spend 28 hours a week writing.

100kers have 28 books in their catalog and spend, on average 32 hours a week writing.

As we can see by the graphic below that accompanied the original survey, all three kinds of authors use a professional editor the most. But when it comes to editing, new authors have it tough. We’re not making money yet, but we never will if we’re not selling a good product.

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And while technology makes it easier than ever to find typos (thanks, Grammarly) technology makes it easier for readers to complain. When you read a book on a Kindle, for example, a reader can highlight a typo or mistake and report it.

Crazy, huh?

It stands to reason a well-edited book will earn you more money in the long run. But when you have no money, it’s hard to come up with the fees.

Not to mention, there are different types of editors, and you may not understand what kind you need, and the cost can add up if you need more than one kind.

If you’re a new writer, you may want to invest in a developmental editor. They’ll weigh in on character arcs, character development, plotting, and pacing. Readers aren’t going to like a book with flat characters and plot holes. Learning craft is hard, but you may only need to hire a developmental editor once to steer you on the right path for the rest of your writing career.

A line editor is different. They check facts (does your sun set in the west and rise in the east?), word usage, and syntax. They’ll correct you if you used the word sporadic when you meant erratic. If you’re not good with details, this kind of edit can help you a lot. I still use advice and tips I learned from the people who beta read and edited my earlier books. I used a lot of garbage words and learned how not to echo words in the same sentences and paragraphs.

Proofreading is a quick read through of the book as a last step for typos, missing words, etc. before publication. This is also the cheapest kind of editing.

If you can afford editing, make sure you ask for a sample first. The indie community is full of people charging for services they have no business providing because they don’t know what they’re doing. Be smart. Reedsy offers a list of professional editors, as well as Joanna Penn.

As for me, as I said above, early on I asked for lots of feedback and I took a lot of their advice. My first beta reader, Joshua Edward Smith, gave me invaluable advice that I still use (and I still laugh over some of my mistakes and his comments).

These days, against popular opinion, I do a lot of my own editing. I have nothing in my defense except that so far I’m not making a lot, and it’s hard to justify the expense. I do use beta readers, and they’ll look for typos for me after I run my manuscript through Grammarly.

2019-11-24You could argue I’m not making any money because my books aren’t edited properly. Maybe. But I’ll use this reasoning instead. Remember Alex Newton’s K-lytics report from one of my previous blog posts? I prefer to blame the saturation of the industry. Shh! I don’t spend much on marketing, so I would prefer to think people don’t know my books are out there.

Can you get by without an editor?

That depends on where your skills are with the craft, how much writing you do, how much feedback you listen to and apply. It depends if you can catch all your own typos, or if you know enough to use Grammarly effectively. (Not everything Grammarly flags needs to be fixed, so you can’t trust it blindly.) Usually the answer to those questions is no.

Would I advise a new author to publish without an editor? Nope. There’s no denying a book will sell better with a strong plot, three-dimensional characters, great grammar and punctuation than one without those things. And if you’re a new author, you’re unlikely to catch all those things on your own, or even know what to look for while editing.

You can building a writing career on a bad book, but it will take you longer than if you start strong.

What can you do?

  1. Join a writing group on FB and swap with someone in your genre. Just be careful and have a thick skin. Ideally, you’d want to form relationships with people in those groups before you ask. At least if you’re more than acquaintances they’ll hopefully be kind and actually be helpful. People can be cruel, and some just like to tear others down out of their own self-esteem issues, or they think they’re better than everyone else. You may need to pick through a few people before you find a good match. Twitter is also good if you search #betareader with maybe a hashtag of your genre. There’s been lot of activity on the #writingcommunity hashtag in the past six months or so. Just look for someone who will be willing to give you some real and useful feedback.
  2. Do what you can on your own when it comes to craft and grammar. The cleaner your manuscript when you hand it off, the less time an editor will have to spend on it, and that can cut down on costs. There are a lot of books out there that can help. Two of my most favorite books are James Scott Bell’s VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Sit down and read it just like you would any other book. Mignon is funny and very easy to understand. She didn’t write it like a reference book, and you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know. Another good editing book that everyone at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference I attended a couple years ago said was a must have is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. How to Edit Yourself into Print. 
  3. Publish on WattPad for feedback. I don’t really condone this, as I feel that if you’re going to use the platform as a publishing site, putting up work only to take it down to publish it elsewhere might not sit well with your readers. On the other hand, I’ve heard from other writers that do this, and it seems to be an acceptable thing. If WattPad has turned into kind of a testing site for books and stories, then I’m not one to say anything. It’s something to consider at least, if you think a plot isn’t working, or you want general feedback overall.
  4. Keep an open mind. When you ask for feedback you need to keep an open mind. I hear some writers say they would never change their plot/characters/POV whatever based on feedback alone, yet they say they’re querying. A book being published without needing edits is almost unheard of, so if you’re querying without an open mind, you’ll never get published and you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you are honest and know that you’re not going to take people’s valid opinions into consideration, you’ll never grow as a writer. There is always room for improvement.

This wraps up the editing portion of the survey. Smart authors get their books edited/apply feedback, and the authors who don’t will deal with the consequences (ie, bad reviews and poor sales).

Next up, the survey asks about book covers and what the three levels of career authors do in that instance.

See you then!


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Editing The Rocky Point Wedding Series. Where I’m at cutting time and cutting the fat from my books.

These past two weeks have been not so much as hit and miss as totally miss when it comes to the blog. I apologize for that, but this week I’ll try to catch you up on what I’ve been doing!


a rocky point wedding social media graphicYou all know I’ve been writing my Rocky Point Wedding Series.

I tweeted the other day that I was finished the first sweep of editing Book One. I felt like I missed a few important things, so I’m in the middle of editing it again. I’ve lost another 200 words on top of the 2,000 that I lost the first time around, and my final word count for that book will be about 72,500. A far cry from the almost 75,000 words I ended it with, but I think it’s reading a lot better.


In the past my editing schedule has gone like this:

  • Edit on screen. Maybe I do this once, usually do it twice. Not sure. This is where I look for typos, but it’s also where I usually get a rid of a lot of filler that drags the story down. Of course, this is the place to do the biggest changes, and I usually lose a lot of words here.
  • Another sweep on the computer.
  • Print it out. This stage is where I added a lot of the words I took out the first time, only making it sound better. This is where I tackle some syntax issues as well. This is a time-consuming step because after editing on paper, you need to take the time to put them all in the computer file.
  • Have Word read it to me. This step is also very time-consuming, but in the past I felt it was worth it. You can hear how your book sounds, listen for clunky sentences, fix syntax issues and all get a feel for it spoken. I like this step because authors are putting their books into audio a lot more lately, and places like Find A Way Voices through Draft to Digital are scrambling for ways to make this affordable for every author. While Word’s robovoice isn’t 100%, you can still get an idea if a narrator is going to stumble over a paragraph with twenty sentences in it.
  • Then I would proof the paperback proof. This step is pretty awesome too, because your  book is a book then, and it’s easy to spot typos and words like peek, peak, and pique that aren’t caught during editing.
woman using laptop

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

You might be saying that’s a hella lot of editing, and it is. You might also think a person could skip some of this if she hired someone, and you would be right again. I never have, and it’s not a secret I do all my own editing. Sometimes I catch stuff, sometimes I don’t, but I’ve read books that have been pro-edited that have had mistakes. We’re all human, and I do give myself a little slack.

But this kind of editing takes on a whole new meaning when you’re doing four books at the same time, or at least back to back. So I’ve decided to cut out a couple editing steps and I have a proofer lined up who will help me. I’ve decided to take out the printing step, because that’s just a lot of paper, and I’m debating on taking out the listening step. If I don’t, I have to figure out where I want to put it in my schedule. I don’t want to touch it after my proofer gets a hold of it. That’s just asking for trouble.

I don’t like skipping the proofing the proof part because it really is important to read through the book after you’ve gotten it. You catch more than spelling mistakes and typos. Even inconsistencies are easier to spot since you are reading your own book as a reader. How can you not when you’re holding it in your hands?

I went through all that because I did want to touch on one other thing in regards to editing. As you get better writing, plot construction, character arcs, and learning grammar and punctuation (or you should be! listen to your feedback!) your books won’t need as much editing. It feels WEIRD giving up an editing step or two, but as you write, your first drafts will be cleaner, and clinging to editing steps may just be a waste of time.

Be careful that you’re aren’t changing something just to change something. Change something to make it sound better, or you’re just wasting your time.

A great book to read on self-editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Subsequent Edition by Renni Browne (Author), Dave King (Contributor). When I went to a writing conference in Santa Barbara a couple years ago, this book was recommended by nearly everyone.

Another good book that will help you edit is Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty. Even if you’re going to pay someone to edit or proofread for you, it’s always cheaper to do as much as you can by yourself, this includes knowing where commas go, what a comma splice is, how to correctly us a semi colon, that kind of thing. Little details like that are a KILLER on an editor’s time.


I was going to add a couple other topics to this, but I had no idea going through my editing process for these books would take so long. I’m at almost 1,000 words already, so I will say goodbye for now and fill you on in what I’ve been doing with Amazon Ads later on this week.

What kind of editing do you put your book through? Betas? Yeah. An editor? Proofreader? Nothing?  Let know!

 

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The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


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What do you do when you publish a bad book? 5 Ideas.

Writing tools_ What can you do when you publish a bad book_

As indies, this is bound to happen. Hell, if you’re traditionally published, this can happen too. See my blog post on The Wedding Date.  (Spoiler Alert, I wasn’t impressed.)

As indies, we rush to put out content. Maybe it wasn’t edited the way it should have been, or maybe you didn’t catch a plot hole before you hit Publish. Maybe there’s more telling in there than you thought, or maybe you had some head hopping and you didn’t know you were doing it.

No matter what the issue is, you’re getting bad reviews. People don’t like your book. If you have more than one book out, maybe you feel like it’s not a big deal. But the problem is, if a reader happens along that book–they may not give you another chance to redeem yourself.

bad star reviews

So, what can you do?

  • First, admit your book still needs work. I see lots of people in denial over this. They don’t want to see the truth that their book was published before it was ready. It’s a scary and sad thing to admit. It’s especially heartbreaking when you thought it WAS ready, like The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. I had beta readers. I had an editor. It was as good as I could do at the time. But, now, after writing so many more words and getting better, it wasn’t that great. This can happen to anyone.
  • You can fix it. 
    This presents its own issues with ISBN numbers, and other little things like feeling like you’re ripping off the people who have already purchased it. Time is also a factor because depending on how big of a mess your book is, it could take a few months to rewrite, get it edited again, reformat it, and maybe redo the paperback cover if the number of pages changed. Fixing your book is almost as time-consuming as the launch.
    There is also the ethical question of is it right? Like I said, will you feel like you’re cheating the readers who have paid for your book? What if those reads resulted in bad reviews? Fixing it won’t make those bad reviews go away, and the only thing you can do is add to your blurb on your selling page that your book has been re-edited. This isn’t such a problem if not many people have bought your book, or you caught your mistakes before you started to promote it. This is the ideal scenario, but then you have to ask yourself if you’re going to pull it while you fix it, or hope that no one buys it while it’s in edits.
  • You can unpublish it.
    If your book really sucks, like, it should be hidden in a box under your bed with the dust bunnies and not the plot bunnies, then you can take it down. If you published a paperback, your book will always be there. Goodreads won’t take your books down. Bad books can linger, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t recommend unpublishing. At some point you believed in your book enough to publish it. So deal with the consequences and learn from your mistakes.
  • You can write more books and hope you bury it. 
    If you don’t promote it at all, and never talk about it, there’s a good chance you can bury it. I’ve heard the stat bandied about that 50,000 books are published every month. That’s a lot of books, and it’s not so hard to think that if you never, ever, talk about your book, people will forget you wrote it. In fact, (and I know this to be true) you can soft launch quite a few books and no one will ever know you’re a writer if you don’t say anything.
  • You can leave it alone and start a pen name. 
    Starting over is hard. It means new social media. It means new business cards, new email. It means starting from ground zero. And maybe that’s your thing. Maybe that’s what it takes to feel better, have a fresh start. Lots of people write under different pen names. They abandon series that aren’t working. They want to write in different genres. They have no problem leaving the past behind. They have the time to make a new pen name work–and actually write under that pen name. I listen to  lot of podcasts, and this seems to be quite common. Letting the chips fall where they may and never looking back.
    This certainly is a viable option. If I ever get around to editing my fantasy books, I’ll release those under a pen name. That doesn’t mean I’ll be letting go of my contemporary romance name (which is my real name) but sometimes taking on a different name is smart. Can you do it every time you make a mistake with a book? Probably not. You won’t get anywhere. It’s hard enough as it is to make it under one name consistently putting out quality content. If you keep changing up your names because you keep making mistakes, that’s just wasting time. Time you may not have. As Mark Lefebvre says in The 7 Ps of Publishing, the golden age of Kindle is over. You can’t make a living publishing a couple of books. Making any kind of profit from your writing takes dedication and commitment. It takes consistency and quality work. You have to ask yourself, is the time it takes to let go of that book and start over worth it? Or is it better to take a month and edit the old book, and make it the book it should have been in the first place?


choice

The great thing about being an indie is choice. You have the freedom to do whatever you think is right for your business. And, if presented these choices you feel your book isn’t that bad after all? That is up to you. Promote it. See where it goes. In the scheme of 50,000 books a month, your book really may not be that bad. That’s your choice an author. Take the risk.

This same advice holds true for the authors who are not just publishing but querying. If you’re getting rejection after rejection, or the feedback indicates that your book just isn’t up to par, you have to decide if you want to keep hammering away, fix it, or if you want to put it aside and write something new.

It never ceases to amaze me how many first time authors think their book is wonderful. I was one of them. I learned better, and you will too. It’s what you do with that knowledge that will shape the rest of your career.


A long time ago I  listened to a podcast where the author talked about revamping his series because it wasn’t selling. I was new the indie scene, and I thought that just sounded so wrong. Unfortunately, redoing and rebranding books is an old practice and not just for indies. Traditionally published books have done that for their authors for years. I wrote a pretty in-depth blog post about it, and you can read it here. 

What are your thoughts on redoing books? Worth the time? Or is it better just to forget? Do you still promote your book even though you know it can be better?

For more opinions on what you can do with a bad book check out these links:

https://chrismcmullen.com/2013/09/25/unpublishing-republishing-and-updating-your-book/

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/04/28/changing-book-titles/

https://selfpublishingadvice.org/why-i-unpublished-my-back-catalog/

EL James has written another book! (And why does anyone care?)

e.l.-james-the-mister-livre

Photo taken from iD Boox. Click here for the article.

There was some big news in the book world last week: EL James has written another book!

50 shades

I heard about it in a few Facebook writing groups I’m in, and Publisher’s Weekly had to mention it in one of the newsletters I subscribe to.

The thing is, I don’t understand why anyone cares, and so passionately, it seems.

Well, I understand. Her 50 Shades of Grey took the romance community by storm and sold a record number of books. The trilogy was turned into movies, which, in turn, made E L James a household name and millionaire. It’s what any indie writer, or any writer, for that matter, dreams of.

el james books

She was a so-called “overnight success” (though her fanfiction of Twilight had been online for free for years prior) and the inventor of what is now called “Mommy porn.”

But why is it such big news that she’s writing again?

Even if you didn’t like 50 Shades of Grey, you have admire a woman who could write a few books that captivated so many people. Regardless of how well, or not well, they were written, James told a great story. If you want to read about what made her trilogy so intriguing, read The Bestseller Code. The authors of that book break down what James did (either purposely or by mistake) that made her books so un-put-down-able.

I didn’t read her books. I bought the trilogy a long time ago from a thrift store, and I flipped through the other two in a Target while my kids looked at toys. But I didn’t buy them.

I did, however LOVE the movies. I own them and rewatch them all the time. And yep, I paid to see them in the theatre. If the movies followed the storylines of the books at all, I can see where people would be intrigued.

But in terms of the indie community, I don’t understand the derision aimed at poor Mrs. James. I mean, if you’re going to roast her over an open flame for the bad writing, what are YOU doing to improve yours?

christian grey had his tools. do you have yours_

I’m glad that EL James has written another book. I’m glad she had the courage after being treated how she was by the writing community (proving once again that writers are not readers. READERS purchased her book, and it was the READERS who lined her bank account.) I’m glad she wasn’t intimidated by her own success.

I think this is an opportunity for writers to support other writers. What can we do to support other writers?

  1. Stop tearing each other down.
    EL James wasn’t fully responsible for her book being what it was. She was a first time author, and her publishing house could have supported the editing process more than it did. Instead they pushed out her book to make use of her popularity online. It paid off, but I’m not denying her book could have been edited better.
  2. Leave positive feedback. 
    Even the most horribly of written books can have positive things you can say about them. And if you feel you can’t be nice about anything, just don’t say anything at all. Sometimes silence really does speak louder than words.
  3. Don’t read outside the genre of your preference.
    The thing that made the most angry were the people who were dissing 50 Shades of Grey weren’t James’s target audience. 50 Shades was a New Adult, possibly Young Adult novel, and if you couldn’t appreciate the book for what it was–Anastasia Steele trying to find her place in the world while falling in love–then the book wasn’t for you to begin with.
  4. Learn from James’s mistakes.
    Instead of laughing at the kind of book 50 Shades is, take a look at what you didn’t like about it, and learn how to avoid those things in your own writing. Did she not pull off 1st person? Too many adverbs? Was her book too wordy? Were there plot holes? (The movies indicate there were.)
  5. But also realize she did SOMETHING right.
    She had to have, otherwise no matter how much marketing she had behind her, her books never would have taken off to the extent they did. What did she do right? She’s a good storyteller. Christian Grey was notably, romantically flawed. He was everything a reader wants in a romance novel hero.
  6. Be careful what you wish for.
    Success comes with people who will be jealous of you, and who will want to cut you down just for the fact you made it and they didn’t. To be ostracized for success isn’t something anyone wishes for. And while James seems to have had all the luck and success in this world, you want people to keep your books on their shelves–not donate them to a thrift store.
    This isn’t the kind of reading nook you want people to build with discarded copies of your books.

    50 shades fort

 

Congratulations to EL James on her release! Let me know if you plan to read it. 🙂

The Mister is on pre-order until April 16, 2019. If you want to preorder it, click here.

Thanks for reading!