The Support System Struggle: For Writers

9 out of 10 writers will tell you that writing is a solitary endeavor. After just a few years in the game, I think I know why.

As a writer, there’s a part of you-a pretty damn big part, depending on just how obsessed you are with your ‘hobby’-that you have to protect from almost everyone you know. And there are two reasons you have to do this.

1- You can’t share your struggles.

If you complain about how hard any part of this is, you’ll inevitably be met with some variation of this response: “If you hate it so much, why do you do it?” It boggles the ‘normal’ mind why a person who is perfectly capable of pursuing any number of interests would pursue one that challenges them so. You know why you do it. The motivation behind each of us is different, but it all comes down to one very simple thing: you’re simply compelled to write. The world is dark when you keep all your words inside you, and grows darker still the more you force it down. But when you write … bliss. It’s fleeting, like a butterfly that alights nearby but flutters off the second you try to reach out and grasp it. But for that one moment, if you just be still and enjoy whatever small success you have achieved, you know peace. Speaking of successes, that brings me to my next point.

2- You can’t share your successes.

At some point, you’ll manage to pull off something you’re really proud of. Go ahead and tell someone that short story you blogged got 30 likes. Unless it’s a fellow writer or blogger, “they” won’t get it. They may even respond with something like, “Talk to me when you’re making enough money to pay the bills and then I’ll be impressed.” They are effectively telling you that you’re wasting your time by doing what you’re doing and wasting their time telling them about it.

It’s not this way for everyone, but it is this way for enough writers, collectively, that we have accepted that writing is a lonely endeavor. I don’t think I have any advice on how to deal with this. I’m struggling with it myself.

I do have a great support system, just not close by. The online writing community has saved my shattered confidence more than once. And, of course, my #1 fan: my mom. And I do have friends who know, instinctively, that “Congratulations” is the appropriate response when I share news I’m excited about, and that “It’s okay, you’ll get past this” is what I need to hear when I’m venting.

I guess if I had any advice on how to deal with the support system struggle many authors face, it’d be this: protect your successes and your struggles from those who simply cannot understand them. And share them with those who do.

Keep doing what makes you happy. To borrow a line I’m particularly fond of from someone whose name I’ll have to google …

“Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” -[Google was not helpful with this one. Apparently there are many versions of this, and it seems to have originated from the bible. So there you have it. Even God agrees I’m right about this much. :P]

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The Dark Side of Working with Publishers

Specifically Small, Independent Presses

I’m a caring, sharing sort of person. I like to toot my own horn when I accomplish things, and give a nod to my friends when they do. I try to be encouraging, especially to authors brand new to the public writing/publishing scene. But I think we all know it ain’t all rainbows and sunshine. When the opportunity to work with a publisher comes up, here’s a good rule of thumb to remember:

Sometimes you have to swallow your pride, that’s a given. You should NEVER have to sacrifice your self respect.

Believe it or not, there are “professionals” who can’t be bothered to respond when you try to contact them (and I’m not talking Big 5, either), professionals who, when you finally do get through to someone, meet your queries with aggression and belligerence. You think publishers who don’t have time to send out a form rejection are bad? I’m here to tell you, there are worse publishers out there.

A lack of communication from the outset, especially after you’ve received a letter of acceptance, is a big red flag. Bear in mind, I’m still relatively new to this industry. I’m speaking from experience, but only one bad experience. For the most part, my journey has been a positive and encouraging one. But thanks to this recent … let’s call it a mistake, shall we? … mistake, I know what to look for in the future. I learned the hard way and, hopefully, you don’t have to.

Never sacrifice your self respect.

Further vs. Farther (Quick Writing Tip)

I recently got some feedback in a critique group regarding the correct usage of further and farther. Naturally, since I learned something new, I wanted to share it with you (as I do).
Irregular FormsAccording to Woodward English, the correct usage of farthest is when referring to distance only. Furthest, on the other hand, can be used for various purposes. Even Grammar Girl says, “If you can’t decide which one to use, you’re safer using further because farther has some restrictions.” And just because I like to be thorough, I checked the Oxford Dictionaries as well. Originally, further and furthest were restricted to abstract use, but not anymore.

Now we know. 🙂

A Book by Any Other Name; A Dishonest Trend in Today's Publishing Industry

There is a difference between a series of stories that all tie in to one major conflict, and an incremental release of excerpts. It’s a fine line to walk, but painful when a reader spots the difference.

 

A couple of nights ago I read a book that wasn’t a book. It started out great. Based on the writing alone I’d have given it four stars. The characters were a little unbelievable, but if the story and writing are good, I’ll let it slide. I was really getting invested in the characters and enjoying the pace and all that good stuff when it just … ended. At a pivotal moment in the book, about 70% in, I found out that if I wanted to continue reading this story, I’d have to buy more books. Not just one more book, but four. Apparently, this is a popular new trend among publishers. Writers are producing novels, and publishers are releasing them in increments and calling them serials. They aren’t, and this practice is, I believe, detrimental to the industry.

 

Am I being a bit dramatic? Maybe. I’m a writer, it’s kinda what I do. But as a reader, I was furious! And the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got as a writer, too. This gimmick makes every single one of us look bad. Because these excerpts (and that’s what they are) are being labeled as books in a series, that whole section of the industry is now questionable. Amazon’s review system is already becoming something of a joke, a way for authors to barter for reviews. The industry keeps sacrificing it’s work ethic, and this is yet another example of that.

 

Not only does this make writers and publishers in general look bad, but it also encourages this bad behavior in new authors as well. This is who I’m writing for right now. If you read an article that advises you to write a book and sell it in increments, DO NOT LISTEN. That’s bad advice. NYT bestselling authors are doing it, sure, but they can afford the dozens of 1 and 2 star reviews they’re getting because of it. You can’t. Your career will end before it even starts if you do this.

 

I typically offer a “This is just my two cents” disclaimer when giving advice. Not this time. Selling a book in increments (not a series of shorter stories, either – there is a difference) is a great way to boost your visibility, to have your name and the name of your book turn up multiple results in a search instead of just one. Every cover reveal and guest blog post boosts the chances a reader will find out about you via Google or Bing. Sounds pretty good, right? It’s a marketing gimmick, and many readers can see right through it.

 

Again, NYT bestselling authors can get away with it because they have (and continually gain) a solid readership. It sucks. It’s not fair. But that’s just how it is. If you’re an unknown author pulling this shit, you won’t make it far. We all do what we can to gain visibility, and there are certainly ways to go about doing that without putting your morals or work ethic in question. A good rule of thumb is do unto others as you would have done unto you. Seriously, how pissed would you be if you bought a book, got to a really good part, only to find out you have to buy more books to get any kind of resolution? A series will carry a main thread throughout a collection of books, but each will contain a complete story within the larger whole. That’s why comics and TV shows work. Each episode contains its own points of conflict and resolution.

 

As a writer of short works, I am incredibly disturbed by this new trend in publishing. I write short stories that offer a brief glimpse into other worlds. Each one of them introduces conflict, and resolves that conflict at the end. If I choose to revisit that same world and those same characters again in the future, I certainly can, but I will NEVER write a book and sell it to you in pieces. I promise. I’m so adamant about this because the publishing industry is already gaining a questionable reputation. How many times have you heard, “Anyone can write and publish a book,”? That’s bullshit. That right there tells me that readers in general (not all, though, thankfully) have a very low level of expectations.

 

That. Is. Bullshit.

 

It’s up to each and every one of us to produce the best we can, and offer our efforts humbly and honestly. Hold yourself to a higher level of expectations, no matter what you’re doing in life, even if no one else does. I might end up a cashier at the local Dollar General, and I might not be the best there ever was, but I’ll be the best fucking cashier I can be. I might not be much of a writer, and I may never be among the best, but I will be the best writer I can be. I will give you my best effort, every time, whether I’m offering a blog post, flash fiction, a short story, or a novel. All I ask is that you do the same for me. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. I’ve made my fair share, and will continue to do so. No one’s perfect. Just be straight with me. I’m not a dollar sign, I’m a person.

 

Below is the initial rant I posted at Facebook yesterday, because even after reviewing the book at Amazon and Goodreads, I still couldn’t let it go. It was my first negative review, a 2-star rating, and I don’t like being put in a position wherein I feel it’s necessary to share my thoughts if they aren’t presented in a positive light. I certainly don’t like the position this gimmick puts all of us in. Question the advice you’re given, always. Use your own morals and ethics as a mental compass, and do what’s right, even if you disagree with the majority. You might be the only person holding yourself accountable, and at the end of the day no one cares more about whether or not you succeed than you do.

 

Best wishes in your every endeavor,

 

~ Jess

 

Dear Readers, Writers, and Publishers:

 

The difference between a short story and these chopped up novels authors and publishers are putting out these days is in the conflict resolution. It’s okay if the main conflict is threaded through every book in the series, as long as each book contains its own conflict that is resolved at the end.The first of Joriah Wood’s Five Lead Slugs is a perfect example of a series opener that holds the main thread open while closing the door on the first “chapter” of the series.

These books that are chopped up novels being sold in increments are not books. They aren’t stories. They are excerpts. And a “series” of excerpts is not a series, it’s a book sold in increments to boost the author’s (and that book’s) SEO ranking, and (in the hopes of the publisher) their sales. It’s a cheap tactic to get that author more visibility in the charts. Instead of their names being displayed in search results once for each book, the search returns three or four results. This wouldn’t be so bad if they delivered complete stories. Since they aren’t, it’s bullshit.

I am speaking out against this new trend in publishing because it gives authors like me, those of us who are fond of both reading and writing shorter works, a very bad name. I love Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and Edgar Allen Poe’s collection of shorts. Those are the short stories I look to for comparison when reading and reviewing a short work, or for inspiration when writing my own. Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels and Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels are good examples of series. Each novel within both series carries a main thread, the major conflict, while offering a new challenge within each to be resolved by the end of the book.

Woelf Dietrich’s Seals of Abgal, the first book in his Guardian of the Seals tales, is another good example of a series. Seals is not a short story. At 130 pages it’s an almost novel length novella, but my point stands. It tells a story complete with a beginning, middle, and end. The main thread, however, is revealed at the end and will continue the series. But the conflict introduced at the beginning and delineated throughout was resolved by the end.

I sincerely hope readers don’t take all short stories or series as equal. They aren’t. Some of us write with the same purpose a novelist has; to entertain you, educate you, or inspire you. Some want to see just how much money they can milk from you.

Please take the time to read the book’s description carefully. If you purchase and read a book and feel you’ve been mislead, that the book itself was misrepresented in its description, leave a review so other readers know what to expect. By sharing your thoughts on the matter, you’ll also discourage other writers from putting out bits of books and calling them parts of a series.

Thanks for reading, especially if you made it all the way through my little rant.

Regards,

~ Jess

If you want to read the comments to this post at Facebook, you can do so here.

A Book by Any Other Name; A Dishonest Trend in Today’s Publishing Industry

There is a difference between a series of stories that all tie in to one major conflict, and an incremental release of excerpts. It’s a fine line to walk, but painful when a reader spots the difference.

 

A couple of nights ago I read a book that wasn’t a book. It started out great. Based on the writing alone I’d have given it four stars. The characters were a little unbelievable, but if the story and writing are good, I’ll let it slide. I was really getting invested in the characters and enjoying the pace and all that good stuff when it just … ended. At a pivotal moment in the book, about 70% in, I found out that if I wanted to continue reading this story, I’d have to buy more books. Not just one more book, but four. Apparently, this is a popular new trend among publishers. Writers are producing novels, and publishers are releasing them in increments and calling them serials. They aren’t, and this practice is, I believe, detrimental to the industry.

 

Am I being a bit dramatic? Maybe. I’m a writer, it’s kinda what I do. But as a reader, I was furious! And the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got as a writer, too. This gimmick makes every single one of us look bad. Because these excerpts (and that’s what they are) are being labeled as books in a series, that whole section of the industry is now questionable. Amazon’s review system is already becoming something of a joke, a way for authors to barter for reviews. The industry keeps sacrificing it’s work ethic, and this is yet another example of that.

 

Not only does this make writers and publishers in general look bad, but it also encourages this bad behavior in new authors as well. This is who I’m writing for right now. If you read an article that advises you to write a book and sell it in increments, DO NOT LISTEN. That’s bad advice. NYT bestselling authors are doing it, sure, but they can afford the dozens of 1 and 2 star reviews they’re getting because of it. You can’t. Your career will end before it even starts if you do this.

 

I typically offer a “This is just my two cents” disclaimer when giving advice. Not this time. Selling a book in increments (not a series of shorter stories, either – there is a difference) is a great way to boost your visibility, to have your name and the name of your book turn up multiple results in a search instead of just one. Every cover reveal and guest blog post boosts the chances a reader will find out about you via Google or Bing. Sounds pretty good, right? It’s a marketing gimmick, and many readers can see right through it.

 

Again, NYT bestselling authors can get away with it because they have (and continually gain) a solid readership. It sucks. It’s not fair. But that’s just how it is. If you’re an unknown author pulling this shit, you won’t make it far. We all do what we can to gain visibility, and there are certainly ways to go about doing that without putting your morals or work ethic in question. A good rule of thumb is do unto others as you would have done unto you. Seriously, how pissed would you be if you bought a book, got to a really good part, only to find out you have to buy more books to get any kind of resolution? A series will carry a main thread throughout a collection of books, but each will contain a complete story within the larger whole. That’s why comics and TV shows work. Each episode contains its own points of conflict and resolution.

 

As a writer of short works, I am incredibly disturbed by this new trend in publishing. I write short stories that offer a brief glimpse into other worlds. Each one of them introduces conflict, and resolves that conflict at the end. If I choose to revisit that same world and those same characters again in the future, I certainly can, but I will NEVER write a book and sell it to you in pieces. I promise. I’m so adamant about this because the publishing industry is already gaining a questionable reputation. How many times have you heard, “Anyone can write and publish a book,”? That’s bullshit. That right there tells me that readers in general (not all, though, thankfully) have a very low level of expectations.

 

That. Is. Bullshit.

 

It’s up to each and every one of us to produce the best we can, and offer our efforts humbly and honestly. Hold yourself to a higher level of expectations, no matter what you’re doing in life, even if no one else does. I might end up a cashier at the local Dollar General, and I might not be the best there ever was, but I’ll be the best fucking cashier I can be. I might not be much of a writer, and I may never be among the best, but I will be the best writer I can be. I will give you my best effort, every time, whether I’m offering a blog post, flash fiction, a short story, or a novel. All I ask is that you do the same for me. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. I’ve made my fair share, and will continue to do so. No one’s perfect. Just be straight with me. I’m not a dollar sign, I’m a person.

 

Below is the initial rant I posted at Facebook yesterday, because even after reviewing the book at Amazon and Goodreads, I still couldn’t let it go. It was my first negative review, a 2-star rating, and I don’t like being put in a position wherein I feel it’s necessary to share my thoughts if they aren’t presented in a positive light. I certainly don’t like the position this gimmick puts all of us in. Question the advice you’re given, always. Use your own morals and ethics as a mental compass, and do what’s right, even if you disagree with the majority. You might be the only person holding yourself accountable, and at the end of the day no one cares more about whether or not you succeed than you do.

 

Best wishes in your every endeavor,

 

~ Jess

 

Dear Readers, Writers, and Publishers:

 

The difference between a short story and these chopped up novels authors and publishers are putting out these days is in the conflict resolution. It’s okay if the main conflict is threaded through every book in the series, as long as each book contains its own conflict that is resolved at the end.The first of Joriah Wood’s Five Lead Slugs is a perfect example of a series opener that holds the main thread open while closing the door on the first “chapter” of the series.

These books that are chopped up novels being sold in increments are not books. They aren’t stories. They are excerpts. And a “series” of excerpts is not a series, it’s a book sold in increments to boost the author’s (and that book’s) SEO ranking, and (in the hopes of the publisher) their sales. It’s a cheap tactic to get that author more visibility in the charts. Instead of their names being displayed in search results once for each book, the search returns three or four results. This wouldn’t be so bad if they delivered complete stories. Since they aren’t, it’s bullshit.

I am speaking out against this new trend in publishing because it gives authors like me, those of us who are fond of both reading and writing shorter works, a very bad name. I love Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and Edgar Allen Poe’s collection of shorts. Those are the short stories I look to for comparison when reading and reviewing a short work, or for inspiration when writing my own. Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels and Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels are good examples of series. Each novel within both series carries a main thread, the major conflict, while offering a new challenge within each to be resolved by the end of the book.

Woelf Dietrich’s Seals of Abgal, the first book in his Guardian of the Seals tales, is another good example of a series. Seals is not a short story. At 130 pages it’s an almost novel length novella, but my point stands. It tells a story complete with a beginning, middle, and end. The main thread, however, is revealed at the end and will continue the series. But the conflict introduced at the beginning and delineated throughout was resolved by the end.

I sincerely hope readers don’t take all short stories or series as equal. They aren’t. Some of us write with the same purpose a novelist has; to entertain you, educate you, or inspire you. Some want to see just how much money they can milk from you.

Please take the time to read the book’s description carefully. If you purchase and read a book and feel you’ve been mislead, that the book itself was misrepresented in its description, leave a review so other readers know what to expect. By sharing your thoughts on the matter, you’ll also discourage other writers from putting out bits of books and calling them parts of a series.

Thanks for reading, especially if you made it all the way through my little rant.

Regards,

~ Jess

If you want to read the comments to this post at Facebook, you can do so here.

3 Tips for Indie Authors

If you’ve been following my journey into writing, or even taking my hand and leading the way at times, then you know I’ve been at it for a year and a half now. In that time, I’ve made it a point to share things I’ve learned along the way. I’ve written writing articles when I learned something that I thought was significant, something that would be helpful to a beginner. I’ve done the same with editing articles. This summer I made the decision to publish independently, and, naturally, I’ve been writing about that, too.

Get Past the Fear

The first book I published was a Fantasy short story geared more toward younger readers. One of my daughters wanted me to write her a story, so I did. She liked the story, but she LOVED seeing her name on the acknowledgment page even more. I published that book and a Historical Romance/Erotica short story to both Smashwords and Amazon as a way to test the waters, and myself. I intentionally refrained from advertising so I’d have a basis for comparison when I started. The only advertising those books got were a couple of blog posts and social media shares. Between the two books I sold 33 copies, 21 via Smashwords. Through Smashwords, I sold an additional 48 copies to Barnes & Noble readers. Many of those were during free promotion days, so the actual sales were minimal. But, I got over my fear of the publish button. I’ve familiarized myself with the process, and I’ve made and corrected mistakes. It didn’t kill me and I didn’t blow anything up. (What a relief.) I’m comfortable (if a little nervous, still) with publishing independently.

Be Selective

Along the way, I experimented with book review bloggers and Facebook groups. I’m not going to say that those avenues don’t work, they just aren’t for me. I love socializing on Twitter, but not so much on Facebook. I adore my Google+ Communities, but you won’t find me in many Facebook groups. Most of those groups operate on a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” motto. That, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. It’s the way they go about accomplishing the tit for tat that bothers me. There are legitimate book review bloggers out there, but finding the good ones is like weeding through the thousands of “publishers” out there, and you’ll jump through as many hoops to actually get through to one, landing flat on your face and walking away empty-handed more often than not. This is where being selective comes in. Do your research (THOROUGHLY), and rely on the recommendations of friends and acquaintances you trust. This goes for not only book reviews, but guest blogging as well. Some “book review blogs” are just going through the motions. And. It. Shows. Don’t waste your time. Be selective when it comes to seeking out reviews and guest blogging opportunities. Go in with reasonable, clear expectations, or not at all. And it doesn’t hurt to have a goal outside “Gotta Sell My Book”.

Pick a Genre

I have three short e-books out, and they couldn’t be any more different from one another. It’s fine to write across several genres, but if you spread yourself too thin you’ll stunt your own growth in all of them. Narrow it down just a bit. I’m focusing on Horror and Fantasy because those are my favorite genres to read and write. I also enjoy the occasional Romance or Erotica, though, so I’m not excluding them entirely. The downside of having such a varied taste is that it will take me much longer to become “known” in any one genre, if I ever do achieve that level of recognition. I’m fine with that, either way. I’m in this for the long run. But if you’re looking to make it big, and as fast as you can in this industry, pick a genre and stick with it. If I had three books out in Western Horror, for example, there’s a better chance my name would be seen multiple times in one Amazon category. That kind of thing gets a reader’s attention. And from a reader’s perspective, I can tell you I’m more willing to buy a book from a writer who has several books in one genre. It’s a subliminal mark of expertise. I won’t restrict myself to one genre, but I do recommend doing it if you can.

I’ve learned a few things about the processes that go into publishing an e-book. (I’ve yet to do the hard copy thing, but it’s coming. Soon.) I talk about editing, formatting, and cover design, and offer a few examples of the prices of various services in How Much Does Self Publishing Cost?. In my first guest post at Bad Redhead Media, Want to Make it as an Author? You’ll Need Branding and Social Media, I talk about the social aspect of being an author, and this article actually applies to anyone trying to run a business online. I plan to delve further into the topic in a future post on communication and the writer’s platform, but it’s on a very long to-do list. In another upcoming guest post at Bad Redhead Media, I discuss the importance of a publishing and marketing plan. Look for that post on Sunday, October 12, 2014. Everyone’s journey is different, my goal with these posts is to help a beginner in the way so many similar posts helped me.

And now, the self-promo …

Click the ad below to go straight to the book’s Amazon page. That’s enough promo for now. 😉

Cheers,

Jess

99¢ for 3 Days Only