When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

Can You Please Stop Saying Your Work Sucks? What if Someone Believes You?

hatewriting2

You would think writers would love their work. We sit for hours and hours holding pencil or pen to paper, or sitting in front of our laptops, or holding a microphone to our mouths weaving plot and character together to hopefully create story.

Yet, writers are first to degrade their own work so completely that if you listened to every word they said, you’d fully believe your kitten could do better.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I don’t mean insecurity, or doubts while you’re writing. We all have those. We should have those. We all have more to learn and we need to stay open to new ideas. Thinking you’re the best will close your mind.

Mainly, what I’m talking about is Twitter behavior in the #amwriting community. And perhaps this isn’t such a big deal. But writers have to remember Twitter is still a public forum. Do you want a potential reader to stumble upon your handle, excitedly look through your tweets only to find you bashing your own work?

Of course not.

But we do it.

I’ve seen it enough times by authors that, no, I won’t spend money on their books. Why should I waste money on a book when its own author says it’s crap? They would know, wouldn’t they?

Why do writers hate on their own work publicly? I have a few ideas:

  1. They do it to fit in.
    The #amwriting community is full of doubt, insecurity, and competition. We need allies in this writing war. Why stand out when you can blend in? You don’t want to alienate anyone by actually being proud of you what you’re writing. Blend in or get out. No one wants to be your friend if you know what you’re doing and like it.
  2. You need sympathy and people to commiserate with you.
    There’s nothing more boosting to your ego than if you tweet that you just wrote twenty-five pages of crap and have ten people pat you on your virtual back and say, “You did not! Read it in the morning and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” Or, “I just deleted two chapters of sludge. Here’s a hug and shot of whiskey [insert whiskey GIF here].” Uplifting. Encouraging. You’re not suffering alone.  Well done.
  3. You want to put your work down first.
    Say all the bad things before anyone else can. Beat them to the punch. There’s nothing better than posting a snippet with an “I know this is bad, but I’m tweeting it anyway” warning label. Besides, you know it’s not that great, even if you did rewrite it five times before you tweeted it.
  4. You’re not going to brag because what if you think it’s good, but it really does suck?
    There’s nothing worse than saying you are super proud of your work, and then later finding out it’s only sub-par. Too many filler words. You tried to be too flowery, so WTF does your line even mean? Better to admit it’s crap because really, your betas and editor will tell you it is anyway.

The thing is, at some point, you have to be proud of your work. You have to be. Or you wouldn’t query, submit to contests, or publish. Very few authors honestly look at their work, say, “This is crap,” and while believing it, still click publish.

publish image

So if you have pride in your work, why not say so? Maybe your excitement will boost someone else. Maybe your enthusiasm will open a door. You could be invited to participate in an anthology, or an agent who is thinking of signing you will be charmed by the simple joy you have in your projects.

Why sabotage your writing career?

We all have doubts but find a trusted friend and vent offline. Not everything belongs in a tweet.

Stop saying you hate your work.

Because you don’t. If you really did, you would stop writing.

And we all know you don’t want to do that.

self-confidence-2076793_1920

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

The Continent~~Book Review

This book has had a bumpy start. No one in the publishing industry or Writer Twitter missed all the controversy surrounding this book and the original ARCs people had been able to read last year.The Continent

While I acknowledge that, (I was not one who read an original ARC) those controversies and/or original content of the book are not what this review is about.

I admit I read The Continent primarily because Ms. Drake is a friend of mine on Facebook, and I was curious to see what the book was about. I’m not able to make comparisons between the original content and what was actually published, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed The Continent.

The book is about Vaela Sun, a 16-year-old girl who is given a tour of The Continent by her parents as a birthday gift. The Continent is home to two peoples, the Xoe and the Aven’ei. Their history is filled with war and violence.

Tours of The Continent are made to view these peoples and their constant war, as war and violence in that extreme are a novelty to the people of the Spire, where Vaela Sun lives and has grown up.

During the tour, Vaela’s plane goes down. Though her parents and their traveling companions perish in the crash, she survives and must make a new life on The Continent.

Luckily, she is taken in hand by Noro, and he, along with his Aven’ei friends, welcome her.

The threat of the Xoe is never far, and we watch as Vaela tries to meld the peace she’s grown up within the Spire to the violence she must tolerate and learn in order to survive.

I’ve read of the racial issues this book supposedly (I say supposedly because again, I haven’t read the original manuscript) contained, and I witnessed none of that here. Race (skin color) of the people of the Spire, Xoe, and Aven’ei take distance place to the story.

We see Vaela lose one family, but with her strength and determination, and never a loss of faith that life can be better, we see her find another.

Vaela learns a lot of lessons during her time on The Continent. The past doesn’t always lay the groundwork for a pleasant future. People deserve second chances, no matter what they’ve done. And with strength and perseverance, something beautiful can always be found in something ugly.

This book is no different. Do not judge this book on what you know or what you think you know about its history.

The Continent is beautiful. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.

And you will definitely want to find out what happens next.

Follow Kiera on Facebook, here.
Follow her on Goodreads, here.

And full disclosure, this is the 4-star review I left on Amazon. I was feeling a bit stabby and snarky, and a bit defensive on Keira’s behalf.
Enjoy!

This isn’t a verified purchase because I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble. (LIke you all should, if you don’t want the only remaining bookstore in America to close.)
Anyway, I’ve read the reviews, and this book ISN’T THAT BAD. There isn’t anything racist about this book, and there is not any “white savior” crap going on.
Vaela gets trapped there, okay, yes. And she saves those people, yes. But the fact that everyone is missing is, SHE FELL IN LOVE. She fell in love with Noro, she fell in love with his sister, Kiri, and she fell in love with the rest of the Noro’s people. She made friends, she became one of them. In the end, she was saving her own people.
There’s a lot of talk about her stupidity, and her naivety, but you know, most people who grow up with money are like that. And you can argue all you want against it, but Paris Hilton made herself a brand based on being spoiled, and the Kardashians are doing the same thing.
I’m not arguing that Vaela didn’t have a lot to learn, but her learning that the Spire was not all she thought it was, or that she finally understood she was a spoiled rich kid with an erroneous viewpoint of the Continent’s peoples, were part of the lesson, part of the character growth, part of the plot arc. She crawled to them and begged for help on behalf of her new family, and she was denied. It opened her eyes. And it made her grow up.
Anyone who complains this is slow–hey! It’s part of a trilogy. There are going to be unanswered questions.
Anyone who didn’t like it based on silly little things like, where did that Xoe Warrior find his orange?? How old are you? This is a YA novel. If you want a more complex plot, go read Sing, Unburied, Sing, or Lincoln in the Bardo, or Manhattan Beach. Those might be more up to your delicate sensibilities.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day–A book review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and may contain triggers as the review refers to child molestation.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, numerous books that copied characters and plot were published as quickly as writers could produce them.

crossfire seriesThe Crossfire Series is one of these series. comprised of four novels, I read Bared to You, the first.

The book is about Eva and Gideon, how they meet, their issues, backstories, and all their flaws.

You can’t help but compare Bared to You to Fifty Shades by the very first page, and I do not resist. Eva meets Gideon by literally falling on her ass, and later stumbling into his office, ala Anastasia Steele.

Gideon Cross, seemingly owning half of New York, is extremely emotionally damaged, not to mention drooling hot. I won’t waste time going into how much more or less he’s like Christian Grey because it doesn’t matter. Either you liked Fifty Shades enough to read these or you didn’t. So if you liked Fifty but were put off by the poor writing, you may like the Crossfire Series as they hold similar plot elements and characters, but they are better edited.

Eva is also emotionally damaged, unlike Ana, who was just innocent and naive. Eva has a heartbreaking backstory, and anyone who has triggers regarding children being raped and molested by step-siblings should steer clear of this book.

I do find it rather odd that while Eva has been in therapy most of her life to deal with being sexually assaulted at age ten until she was fourteen by her older stepbrother (and her mother only finding out about it because Eva was brought to the ER for a miscarriage), she has a mainly healthy attitude towards sex. I guess she would have to because she and Gideon do it all the time.

As natural pacing of a four book series, we find Gideon also has a heartbreaking backstory as well, but Day does not reveal what it is saving some secrets for later books.

Overall, if you like Fifty Shades of Grey, and want more of it, by all means, give the Crossfire Series a try. I read Bared to You, but I will not be reading the others. Day, like James, counted on emotional upheaval to keep readers turning pages, and all Eva and Gideon do is fight and have makeup sex.

As perhaps someone who is too old to be reading the series, I need more. More plot. More character motivation.

If they truly do love each other, as they say they do by the middle of the book, then the small spats Day gives such weighty importance to should not do the damage they do.

Maybe books two through four will have more . . .  something, but I don’t need to find out.

 

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst–A book review

Every writer could use a guidebook, a map, perhaps a mentor who can say, “If it were me I do this.”

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success last year, but as a series of book reviews I’m starting for my blog, I pulled it out again and reread some of my favorite chapters.write naked

In Write Naked, Jennifer Probst takes you through from the beginning of her career, when she didn’t think she would make it, to present time, when indeed she has made it, evidence being she’s able to add best-selling author after her name.

It’s gratifying to know that even a best-selling author has fears, flaws, and has made mistakes, but being she has made it to the other side, she also gives us tips and tricks to overcome our fears and if you really want this thing called a writing career, what to do to achieve it.

Some of my favorite chapters include:

Chapter 4
Green With Envy
Jennifer acknowledges that yes, writing is a community, but that community is steeped in jealousy, cruelty, and fear. I see it on Twitter. I read it in a poor book review by another author, sometimes even a malicious review. I see it in the passive-aggressive interactions between me and my other writer friends. Pretty soon you don’t know whom to trust, who really is happy for you and your success. Jennifer writes a chapter on this–a very honest and forthcoming chapter. She says on page 34 of the paperback  . . .  “jealousy . . .  is an endless vicious cycle.” Don’t let it consume you; there will always be someone doing better than you, and you will always be doing better than someone else.

Chapter 5
The Write Path
1. You’ll make mistakes. Costly mistakes.
2. Overnight success is never overnight.
3. Once you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

This may seem like a downer of a chapter, and perhaps it is. Jennifer reminds you that a writer’s journey is tough. There is a reason why writing is compared to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Your journey takes a ton of preparation–years of writing, years of learning the craft, refining your work. It takes many books. One foot in front of the other for years. Then what do you do when you reach the top of the mountain? When you bury a flagpole in the summit and can call yourself a success? You climb down and do it all over again.

Chapter 8
Trademarks of Bestselling Authors
There are no shortcuts. Sit down, do the work. But what is the work? Jennifer, along with other romance authors, gives you an idea of what it takes to get where they are. This chapter includes writing advice, networking tips, and thinking about writing as a career, not a hobby.

Chapter 12
The Indie Revolution
Jennifer did publish as an indie author, and she gives her readers a few tips on how to publish a good book. You may not like what she has to say, but all of her advice has merit. Probably the biggest takeaway from this chapter is indies need to remember they are writing for readers. You want and need them to like your books. Publish accordingly.

Toward the end of the book, say the last third or fourth, Jennifer goes into what makes a romance book an addicting read. Snappy first lines, lovable characters. Setting up and delivering on a hook, keeping up the sexual tension, keeping your middle from sagging. She touches very briefly on all these and more, so if you think you have any of these issues in your own writing, find other craft books to study with, because these chapters tell you what I know many don’t want to hear – write a good book and keep reader expectations in mind as you write. As with any genre, there are tropes and rules you must follow, or all you’ll do is make your reader mad, and that could result in a bad review.

Jennifer’s last chapter is Happy Endings. She coaches you on how to end your book on the best note possible. But finishing one book isn’t the end! There will always be another book to write, another mountain to climb, another race to run.

Jennifer-Probst-2-1Jennifer won her gold medal, and she tries for another every time she sits down to write.

I recommend reading this book in its entirety, and I pull it out every now and again for a pick-me-up or a reality check.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any books from authors you like to read that give you tips or a much-needed reality check? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

Your First Novel–Book Review

Writing a novel is daunting. Not only because of how long (many words) a novel can typically be, but because of all the components a novel contains. And if your novel is missing any of those pieces, a reader may not enjoy it which could translate into a poor review. Worse, if you plan to query, if your novel doesn’t have all the parts an agent or acquiring editor is looking for, your book will never be picked up.your first novel

One of the biggest problems a writer can face is writing a book and not knowing their novel is missing pieces.

I have never queried any of my books, and may not ever query anything I write, but I still found Your First Novel to be a very informative read. Written by an agent and a published author, (Ann Rittenberg, Laura Whitcomb, Camille Goldin, Dennis Lehane (Foreword), Your First Novel walks you through the writing and querying process.

The first half of the book explains what a good book needs to contain in order to catch the eye of an agent or editor. If you don’t plan on querying, that’s okay. Your first book still needs to have all those elements or you may find your book has flat characters, not enough of a plot, or both. Remember–your agent wants what a reader wants–a good story told well.

Part two contains information about what to do with your book once it’s written. There are chapters such as What a Literary Agent Does–and Why, and Before You Submit your Manuscript.The authors of this book offer information a writer could find useful if querying for the first time–or helpful hints on what to fix if querying didn’t go how an author envisioned (rejection letters).

There are pieces of advice a writer may take offense to, such as on page 163 of the paperback. The first couple sentences of Chapter 12 read, “As any seasoned novelist will tell you, most first novels are not actually first novels. The real first novel is locked away in a drawer, never to see the light of day.” Or on page 166, “Agents and editors should not be your first readers.”

This book isn’t for a writer with delicate sensibilities or are too precious about their work. The authors of this book want to help you find an agent and get your book published, or self-publish the best book you can. Sometimes that’s more than holding your hand and giving you advice. Sometimes that’s giving you a kick in the ass and telling you to do the work.

Writing a book and signing an agent takes a lot of time and hard work. One of my favorite parts of this book are all the resources it contains. From websites and online articles to more books, there is always something to learn about writing/craft and the publishing industry, and the authors of this book give you a long list to start work through. Keep your ear to the ground–you never know what you’ll hear about that could help your career.

Will this book help you write the best book you can and land an agent? I don’t know, but I do know it’s a good place to start.

Buy Your First Novel on Amazon here.

Other articles on querying:

How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Submit?
By: Chuck Sambuchino

How Do You Know When Your Book is Ready?
BY KRISTINA ADAMS

Are You Ready to Contact an Agent? Take This Short Quiz and Find Out