Tag Archives: self publishing

Separating Indie-Published Wheat From Chaff

I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Tsunami of Crap” theory, even if you’ve never heard it explained:

Now that anybody can publish anything, all these wanna-be writing hacks will take whatever drivel they have moldering around their houses and dump it onto the self-publishing platforms, and the world with be overwhelmed by a tsunami of this crap and nobody will be able to find anything good to read and California will sink into the ocean and the Spanish Inquisition will rise again and the earth will spiral into the sun and won’t somebody please think of the *readers!*

Whoa!  Time to calm down, take a deep breath, and look at this theory a little closer.  I’ve heard this from lots of sources, some of them big publishers.  Oh, the angst!

My biggest gripe with the argument, hands down, is that it tacitly assumes that readers are sheep, reading whatever is thrust in front of them with no ability or will to find what it is they like.  Without the gatekeepers, how will they know what is *good?*

The same way readers have always known what is good, my friends–read it.  If you like it, it was good.  If you can’t finish it, it was not.

So, here I am, faced with a tsunami of new reading options.  My reading time is limited–I don’t want to waste any of it on unreadable drivel.  What can I do to minimize my chances of buying something I’m not going to like?

Cover — I know it isn’t nice to say so, but I’m afraid I do tend to judge books by their covers.  So do many readers.  It isn’t so much a conscious decision as an instinctive response–when you see a book with a lousy, unappealing cover, your brain will instantly assume it is filled with lousy, unappealing prose.  It is natural to figure that if nobody cared enough to make the cover compelling, nobody cared much about the story, either.

Blurb — The back cover text, or blurb, is the next thing I look at.  When you look at a New York-published book, a professional copywriter wrote that back cover blurb.  In the indie world, though, blurbs are generally written by the author–the same author who wrote the text inside.  If the blurb is badly written, boring, full of typos or grammar errors or otherwise doesn’t sit well with me, I am unlikely to look farther.  I also don’t particularly like blurbs that are comprised mostly of marketing push and quotes from reviews, giving me very little idea what the book is actually about–but that is just a personal preference.  Your mileage may vary.

Reviews — You hear a lot about falsified and shill reviews, but I don’t think they are actually as prevalent as the conversations imply.  I have seen false negative reviews too, or “grudge” reviews.  How can a person know which reviews to trust?

The content and tone of the review itself is usually the first clue.  A review can be very positive without necessarily being a shill.  I look for the positive reviews that explain what they liked, or why.  “ZOMG this is the best book evah” is at best an unhelpful review, at worst a shill.  On the other hand, “This is the worst book ever written, they should burn it and bury it and bury the author too” is likely to be a grudge review.  (Although if they explain exactly what it was that made it so awful, I might change my assessment.)

Does a negative review, or several negative reviews, mean I won’t buy the book? Not necessarily.  It depends on why they are negative.  Sometimes the very things that another reader complains about are the things that make me think I might enjoy this read.

Reviews can be tricky.  They are a resource we as shoppers never used to have–the most we had was critic’s reviews in newspapers–and we never had them right there in the store while we were making decisions.  But they are a welcome resource, and I’m sure over time there will be mechanisms to help root out the shills and grudges.

Sample — One of my favorite things about ebooks is the ability to download a sample and read it on my preferred reader, immediately.  And if I like it, I can buy it right there from within the book.  If not–well, it’s easy to delete samples as well.  🙂

I think of this the same as the way I flip through books in the bookstore.  It’s my chance to find out if this author’s style works for me, if the text is riddled with errors and grammar mistakes, or if it violates some personal peeve of mine (like the same uncommon word three times on a page.  “He shifted awkwardly.  “Wow,” he said awkwardly, “that was awkward.”  delete)

I’ve heard people argue that they don’t have time to read samples–I don’t subscribe to that argument, myself–if I have time to read the whole book, I have time to read the first few pages to make sure I can stomach it before I pay for it.

Will all of these precautions guarantee I never buy a book I don’t like?  Will it catch serious errors like unsatisfying endings, degenerating plots?

No.  But then all of the careful vetting I did in bookstores never saved me from those things, either.  And realistically, most of the “tsunami of crap” everyone keeps talking about would never make it past the blurb stage–maybe even the cover stage.

So chin up, readers, writers, everybody.  Writers will keep writing, and readers will keep finding things they like to read, and if the earth spirals into the sun, I don’t think it will be tomorrow.

Happy Holidays!  Have fun reading!

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Break Out the Champagne–Concerto’s in the Top 100!

The day has dawned!  Forgive my enthusiasm, but I’m proud to announce that today Concerto broke into the top 100 in several categories on Amazon.com!

Right now, the exact stats are:

  • #29 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense
  • #29 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Romance> > Romantic Suspense
  • #75 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense>

And it’s in the top 1K in the Kindle Store overall, so that’s great!

Right now, Concerto and Lost Concerto are still on sale for .99 so I encourage you to grab a copy if you’ve been thinking about reading them.

Wake Up, Writers!

Brace yourself, gentle reader, because I am about to do something I do not generally do. I am going to ask you to drop everything and do something.

In this case, read something. And it isn’t on this blog. It isn’t even something I wrote.

But I strongly believe it is one of the most important things you can read right now, especially if you want to be a writer, or already are a writer, whether you self publish or publish through New York.

I know many self-publishers have been gleefully predicting the demise of Big Publishing for months, sometimes years. I am skeptical of this, simply because their pockets are so very deep. We will lose some smaller publishers, and some big ones will morph into something quite different than what we knew in the before-time.

But with backing from the prodigious bankrolls of their parent corporations, I think a lot of publishers will stumble through and continue. They will feel the crunch of this sudden change, and they will respond to it by tying writers up in bad contracts.

And writers will sign them.

Not every New York deal is a bad deal. I have said before, the only important thing is to make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting & giving when you sign any contract. Make sure you have reasons for accepting the deal; reasons will be fulfilled by the contract you sign.

But be aware that many contracts harbor hidden demons–rights in perpetuity, rights of first refusal that sound harmless but may keep you from sending out anything until the current work hits bookstores, at least, non-compete clauses that may seal off your created universe to you forever, should your publisher decide to drop you. And ebook royalites.  Horrible, horrible ebook royalities–perhaps the only light in the darkness for publishers right now.

Paperback sales are tanking, Borders is gone, traditional book sales are circling the drain with reduced shelf space at every available outlet, the midlist is defecting to self-publishing–and publishers are still making money.

How?  Kris Rusch lays it all out:
http://kriswrites.com/2011/11/16/the-business-rusch-how-traditional-publishers-are-making-money/

Read it, pay careful attention, and remember what you learn. Common wisdom is that publishers were blind-sided by the ebook revolution. I don’t know, learning that tradition publishers began negotiating ebook royalties separately–and negotiating them down to a pittance through brute force–ten years ago makes me look at that differently. They are huge, lumbering mammoths who take a long time to change direction–perhaps that is why they start planning ten years in advance, when everyone else thinks what they are arguing is unimportant.

I’m not saying run away from any deal that comes your way. I’m saying be careful. These increased profits these publishers are so proud of are made up of money that would have gone to the writer in the past. We are swimming in a big, rough, open ocean, and these guys are more than willing to push you underwater to save themselves from drowning. Do you really want to swim with a buddy like that? Be certain before you sign.

The wolf may not be at the door. He may be in your living room, and he may be holding a contract.

It’s Here!

I have to admit, it was actually here October 27th.  I have been pretty sick since then, and am just now getting back into the swing of things.

But I’m going to celebrate anyway, because The Lost Concerto is available now in paperback, hardback, Kindle, Nook and other eBook formats!

If you enjoy fast-reading, tightly-plotted suspense with a gripping story, you may find that the Alexis Brooks series is for you.

You can find out more about The Lost Concerto here:

http://pgtc.com/~slmiller/lostconcerto.htm

And more about the Alexis Brooks Series in general here:

http://pgtc.com/~slmiller/AlexisBrooks/

I’ll return you now to your regularly-scheduled day, but if you find a free moment, do a happy dance for me and the new novel!

Concerto is the Frugal Find of the Day

Come see Concerto, the Frugal Find of the Day over at the Frugal eReader.  If you haven’t been to this site before and you have an eBook reader, you are missing out!  I’ve found quite a few great books through this site that I never would have discovered otherwise.

http://thefrugalereader.com/2011/08/08/the-frugal-find-of-the-day-concerto-the-alexis-brooks-series-sandra-miller-2-99/

Can writers be editors?

Or perhaps more importantly, can writers self-edit?

If you hang around in places where self-published authors talk, you know the hard-and-fast wisdom handed around right now is that a self-publishing writer MUST hire an editor.  You are strongly advised to hire a cover designer, and sometimes even an interior formatting designer, but the one thing everyone is in agreement on is the absolute necessity of an editor.  It is unquestionable–a writer cannot edit their own work.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and voice an unpopular opinion.  I think that writers can be their own editors.  Or at least, writers can learn to be their own editors.

I think the heart of the problem here is that so many writers never really learn about story mechanics.  Writing classes, from secondary school to college and on, all seem to focus on either the very low level–parts of speech, sentence construction–or the low level–this is foreshadowing, this is allegory.  Most classes do not teach, or even attempt to teach, basic story mechanics.  Concepts like setting stakes and escalating them, building tension, pace, how multiple story threads are worked together so that the reader doesn’t lose sight of any of them…these things are usually not discussed in writing classes.  Or maybe I just took the wrong classes!

Editing requires a different view of your work.  You have to stop looking at your story as this precious thing you created, take a step back, and really examine what is there on the page, not what was in your head as you wrote it.  Does the story on the page work?  If not, how can it be fixed?

These are questions most writers are ill-equipped to answer.  But that does not mean they can’t learn.  Personally, I think an excellent place to start is Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course.  She teaches various methods of taking that step back and evaluating the bones of your story, which is what developmental editing is all about.  If you’ve done the course, you’ll remember the index cards–to me, that is a great example of getting away from the story in your head to the story on your page, and showing you in simple terms what is not working.

I’ve heard the argument tossed around that writers can’t edit their own work because they are too close to it.  I don’t know.  I wonder, doesn’t that make the writer the *most* qualified person to edit that work, assuming they can achieve that necessary distance?  Nobody knows better than the writer what they were trying to do with a given piece.

I’m not talking so much about line editing and things like grammar checking, spelling, etc.  Those things are pretty objective.  But developmental editing is very subjective–no two editors are going to suggest the same changes to a manuscript.  An editor needs a firm understanding of what makes a story work, and how to fix it when it is broken.

These skills are not black voodoo magic.  They are not handed down from on high to a chosen few.  They are learned skills.

Most writers aren’t going to have these skills out of the box, as they say.  But I do believe that most writers can learn them.  What do you think?

Dorrin’s End–Free on Amazon

I’m pleased to announce that starting yesterday evening, my fantasy short Dorrin’s End is a free download on Amazon.com

It also includes excerpts from The Crystal Cave, The Enemy in the Mirror, and Concerto, all of my other currently available works.

I hope you’ll drop by and pick up a copy!  You can order it free and have it delivered right to your Kindle or computer here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dorrins-End-ebook/dp/B0054RHNHW