Why do all author interviews fail miseraby?

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In my view, because they tell you absolutely nothing about the author. Read one and you’ve read them all…

I’ve read literally hundreds of them over the decades. Without exception they follow an inevitable mind numbingly boring formulae.  I’m sorry, but the last thing I wish to know about is an author’s favourite book, or where they live and with whom. Or even what their latest book is all about and other entirely banal questions!!!

What I really want to know is how their mind works. Don’t you?

To begin to gain an insight into what makes any author tick, all you have to do is read their books for yourself. It couldn’t be simpler! Do that and there is no need for the totally redundant author interview.

Each and every single one of us reveals far more about ourselves in our storytelling than any damned interview ever will. You just have to have the intelligence to sift out the often unconsciously inserted clues which we leave about ourselves by the way we write the text. Believe it or not but actually reading our blog posts (not just liking them) will also help you to get to know something about us you never knew before as well.

Only a publicity seeker (you know the beast – those who refer to themselves as Author Bill or Belinda Smith across the entire social media system) will ever delude themselves into thinking that by having taken part in an author interview, that somehow or other, by osmosis their book sales will automatically increase. What total bunkum – they won’t!

Book sales still only occur after someone has actually bought and read your work, and told their friends about it. Granted, these days they may have been initially attracted to it by its often lurid cover and quite possibly, its range of good and bad reviews.

If you are a fellow writer, take my tip, get on with your writing and forget about participating in any interview until the questions on offer show a far higher degree of intelligence. As far as I can ascertain, the day when interviewers pluck up the courage to dare to break the mold and ask truly pertinent questions of their interviewees, is the day when hell will finally freeze over!

PS – As you will have gathered I have little time for time wasting foolishness in its many forms. Something else you’ve just learnt about me. 🙂

Whether By Accident Or Design, Amazon Has Become A Literary Gatekeeper.

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“Hearken to my words writers of the world. Know that once your book passes through these portals, it shall never see the light of day again unless hell freezes over first, or a miracle occurs!”

~~~

Call me a pessimist if you must, but after over two decades of writing and publishing, I’m forced to the inevitable conclusion that despite self-publishing and print on demand still being the way to go these days, it is also the quickest way for your book(s) to rapidly disappear from the public’s attention, due to the sheer number of titles on Amazon since it became the major player in the self-publishing game.

Unless you are extremely lucky, no matter how well written and edited it may be, no matter how spectacular the cover, or for that matter, the amount of time, effort and money spent on marketing it, within a few short days after launching your book on Amazon, its destined to join the slush pile of over five million others as more and more titles appear each day, nudging your work farther down the list.

What is the alternative? Indeed is there one, given that these days even glowing reviews are no guarantee of keeping any book in the public eye for very long. First of all, don’t give up. Carry on writing. But don’t expect to be read by anyone other than your nearest and dearest if you decide to publish on Amazon in the accepted sense of the word.

My anthology of Goblin Tales is a classic case in point. More people have read the tales since I began posting them here on my blog during the last few weeks in an attempt to keep them in the public eye, than have actually bought a copy for themselves from Amazon to read at their leisure, during the entire time the anthology has been available for purchase.

This realisation, epiphany, call it what you will, gave me an idea. Why not try what Charles Dickens did back in eighteen thirty-six, even though, unlike him, I’m up against literally millions of other writers?

~~~

The whole publishing ethos has changed so much in the last few years since self-publishing and print on demand became a reality. Everywhere you look there are people only to willing to creat covers, promote your book, review it, edit it, even format your manuscript, all for a fee of course. Therefore the cold hard reality is that they are the only ones who benefit in any way shape or form from the product of all of your hard work.

Yes but it’s what you have to do to bring it to the attention of the reading public – right? That and hawking paperback and hard cover copies of it around all your local book fairs, conventions, book shops and libraries.

Are you sure about that?

I’ll tell you what I think the problem is. It’s a modern-day catch-22 situation. Don’t publish and no one will read it. Publish on Amazon, and still no one will read it because it is one of over five million titles. Ask yourself how many people you know who actually bother to look beyond the top one hundred recommended books these days? Practically none!

What is the ultimate goal for any writer? Surely it’s to be read…

That’s true, but when your book winds up in Amazon’s slush pile within a few days of it being released, no amount of money spent, or marketing will bring it to the attention of the jaded reading public, despite what the many pundits out there with a vested interest in making money from your book may say.

Not too long ago before the sheer number of books in Amazon’s title list got totally ridiculous, the big five traditional publishing houses relied on one star reviews for any book appearing on Amazon to turn people off self-published titles. These days there is no longer any further need for this less than acceptable practice to continue, thanks to Amazon’s open door policy and its slush pile. Conventional publishing houses do not hoard titles like Amazon does. If a book isn’t selling, all unsold copies get pulped. As a self-published author you can’t even remove one of your own titles, because Amazon insists that it must stay on your Author page, just in case someone might want to return it years down the line. Highly unlikely I would have thought, wouldn’t you?

Whether we as writer’s like it or not, if we don’t want our book(s) to be read, all we have to do now is self-publish on Amazon or Smashwords. To that end, both Derek Haines and myself are seriously contemplating the unimaginable – no more self-publishing of our books.

I can’t speak for what Derek’s solution to the problem may be. Or even if we both change our minds, and simply carry on. But in the meantime I’m now seriously considering doing what Dickens did back in the nineteenth century when he serialized his first work – Pickwick Papers, to raise awareness of his writing. In my case taking a leaf out of Lucy Brazier’s book by publishing each chapter here on my blog.

At least that way any further books by yours truly won’t get buried and forgotten about before anyone has had the chance to read them. Plus by adding the post(s) as I produce them to Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc, and the many writer’s groups on Facebook, that’s a whole lot of potential readers (especially on Twitter) for each episode, always providing they feel inclined to actually read them and not just ‘like’ them. Even what I’m proposing is no guarantee that anyone will want to avail themselves of my books. But then again, doing nothing is not an option either.

All I’m asking you to consider is to seriously think about what I’ve said before you rush to publish the product of all your hard work. Meanwhile I’ll continue on with my promise to Adele, Kate and a few others to rework and reformat Goblin Tales for its 3rd edition, this time as a paperback…

😉

What’s The Ultimate Conundrum?

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No not the Dodo – read on!

When it comes to that book we as writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?

Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly talking/blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote some time back that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase it’s chances in today’s saturated market. In short we’re talking about idiots!

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of spending money on changing its cover or having it properly edited, together with purchasing a number of copies of the new version from your publisher to give away in a book store or writer’s convention in the vain hope of promoting it to an already jaded public, will make one iota of difference in the end. What you are doing is flogging a dead horse!

Despite what so many still foolishly believe, the fact that you have availed yourself of the services of an editor and maybe even a publicist, or perhaps you have spent money having it’s cover, hook and link added to one of the countless number of book advertising web pages who demand payment for your doing so, spending your own money before the first sale has even taken place. Or maybe you even shelled out yet more money by employing a professional reviewer to help kickstart your book’s chances. Even then, using all of these options still doesn’t guarantee sales. No marketing strategy ever does, no matter how professional it may appear to be to the average man or woman.

There is no magic formula for literary success.

In the end, the only thing that does matter when it comes to sales, is whether or not the story in question actually appeals. It’s immaterial that you and your immediate family circle and close friends loved it. After all, you and they are too close to it to be objective.

So, what might the discerning reader be looking for? I can’t speak for others, but when I am perusing the millions of books currently available, first of all I narrow down my search to the genre that has appealed to me my entire life. Next, I totally ignore the often gawdy covers, if I want to look at pretty pictures I’ll buy a glossy magazine, published for air-heads who don’t read!

Instead I begin with a book’s hook. If what I’m reading intrigues me, bearing in mind that as a successful science fiction writer, I am extremely hard to please these days, then and only then will I read the first few pages. If I feel that the story appears to show promise, I’ll buy a copy. If not, I move on to the next one.

Oh, and before you ask – no I don’t take any notice of a particular book’s reviews, no matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. Unlike the vast majority, aka ‘The Great Unwashed’, I prefer to make up my own mind. The other thing to remember is that having enjoyed reading a specific work, when I see another by the same author, I will always seriously consider it.

What do I mean when I say does a book appeal? There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. If a story has been carefully thought out. If it builds towards a climax, with the odd red herring thrown in for good measure. If the characters and their relationships with one another are believable. Then and only then do I consider that any given book appeals/works.

There are a few other things to remember. In this business, to succeed you have to gain a reputation as a storyteller – not an easy thing to achieve. To do that first you have to have written several books, preferably honing your skills with each one. Normally your first few won’t do it for you. Secondly, you will find that even though your book or books are beginning to be read as a result of those free giveaway promotions, (more often than not by tightwads) there is no guarantee that you’re book(s) will actually sell in their thousands, meaning that you will earn serious royalties. Even if they do sell, the chances of more than ten to a dozen copies per year is slight, no matter how much time, effort and money you may have put in to promoting them.

Only one of mine ever became a best seller. Because of it, I earned that most elusive of epithets from my fellow published writers – consumate storyteller.

At the risk of repeating myself – unlike so many of you today, never once have I pinned my hopes on whether or not any of my covers appeal. What ultimately matters is what’s contained within any given book’s pages, and whether or not the story actually appeals. Remember, in this game you are only as good as your last book…

😉

For Goodness Sake – Think Before You Act!!!

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I’ve said this all before on several occasions. But apparently you decided to keep on doing it anyway…

As writers, whether seasoned or a newcomer, explain to me why it is that you have totally swallowed the marketing ploy created by your publisher(s) that giving away hundreds, sometimes thousands, of copies of your books is somehow financially beneficial to you?

The only ones who benefit from your moment of completely misguided naivety, or should that be madness, is your publisher and one particularly evil, not to say tight, group of readers. I refer to those individuals who know that sooner or later you will become desperate enough (or should that be foolish enough) to decide that it is a good idea to give the product of all your hard work away for nothing! Think trolls, pedants, armchair critics and good old fashioned skinflints. Letting the first three get their hands on a free copy of your book gives them all the ammunition they need to tear apart your reputation as a writer even before you have established one! Just take a look at all of the one star reviews on sites like Amazon if you don’t believe me…

Before you join in with this idiocy, take a moment to think it through. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving away a dozen copies of an eBook online, or a dozen signed paperback copies at a book fair, or in your local book shop just once. It makes total promotional sense. Number one, with the paperback, the cost of getting that many printed is negligable. Number two, despite what eBook publishers may say, the cost of producing an eBook is practically zero. If those who got their copy from you this way like what they read, they will soon spread the word.

The nasties usually don’t attend book fairs and bookshops…

Put your thinking caps on for a moment. If instead of being a writer you were a painter, or a sculpture, would you give your work away to get yourself noticed? No, of course you wouldn’t. So why do you think that you will become popular among readers if you give away hundreds or thousands of copies of your book(s)?

Once again I ask you to think before you act. While your eBook or paperback may be free to the readers for a promotional period between two to five days, your publisher still receives a financial reward simply by delivering the copy to the readers, while you get nothing.

Let’s face it people. You decided to get your book published. You spent many months slaving over it. In a lot of cases, you spent more money than you could afford at the time having it edited as well as getting the cover made. Giving away thousands of copies will not help you recoup your financial outlay. Only real sales do that. While you may believe that it is a good idea, take it from one who knows – it isn’t! Divide the total cost of your outlay by the retail price of the book. That will give you some idea of how many copies have to be sold before you begin to see any profit in the form of royalties.

If the loss of thousands of pounds/dollars etc in the form of royalties doesn’t bother you, I give up. You are a hopeless case. I’ve mentioned all of this in previous posts. So have many other seasoned writers. Yet, each day I come across more and more writers giving away precious copies of their book, hoping to be recognised, even though they know they are playing into the hands of the literary vultures waiting in the wings, hoping to feed on the next writer’s sheer desperation.

You know that it is totally ridiculous and yet you still do it. Why? For your own sakes, not to mention your dwindling bank accounts, cease and desist! You wrote the book. Therefore you are entitled to reap any financial reward derived by its sale.

 

Arrogance, Snobbery and Professionalism in the Writing World

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One of the comments in yesterday’s blog post Writers, Believe in Yourselves – Stand On Your Own Two Feet touched on the arrogance and downright snobbery rife within the editing and publishing communities. She quoted the following, which as writers we have all seen in various versions on writing sites and in literary magazines and newsletters over the years – “A writer who decides to be his/her own editor has a fool for a client. Only a professional editor can ensure that the indie author will produce something better than crap.”

She chooses to ignore the simple fact that there is no accrediting body for editors, so no editor can call themselves a professional!!! The problem is that all editors and literary agents delude themselves into believing that they are a cut above the very people who guarantee them employment – the humble writer, be they in one of the big five ‘stables’ or as in my case, a successful self published mid list author. How arrogant, let alone ungrateful, can a person be? Without us they would not make money! Here’s a question for you, how many editors and literary agents do you know who have produced a best selling novel of their own? I can’t think of one, can you?

Before you start, no I’m not being arrogant. I’m merely stating the facts. When it comes to professionalism, most writers who enjoy regular sales of their books can be considered to be professionals. Not that any of us do. At best we consider ourselves to be ‘seasoned’.

In the case of the editors, just because they attended a university somewhere, gaining a lowly BA in English Literature, they automatically assume that they now know far more about story telling and structure than the writer. Could it be that they are envious of the writer’s natural bent for story telling perhaps?

Without naming names, the chief editor and owner of the small press I made the mistake of signing up to several years ago, before I finally saw sense and parted company with him, is still a senior executive in a well known american computer company. Like most editors, he considers himself to be a professional. He is a ten a penny company executive. The one thing he defiitely is not, nor can he ever claim to be, is a professional editor!!!

Is it any wonder that so many hard working writers have had enough of the arrogance and the snobbery endemic within the establishment, choosing to leave the traditional publishing world to become an independent self- publisher?

I think not…

Obsessive Writers

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It has to be said. A proportion of today’s self-published writers, those who churn out six or a dozen books each year, have to be suffering from some form of desperate obsession. What other explanation can there be for their compulsive need to flood the market with poorly written books? Perhaps they honestly believe that they will gain a large readership, in which case they are deluding themselves? Who can say? If only they were OCD sufferers. Then at least their books would be well written, and would clearly show their need for order and detail.

Normal well adjusted writers, which is the vast majority of us, may publish one book each year, or perhaps every two years. We gain our faithful readership by producing well written books with a strong story, not by doing things the way the obsessive writer does.

Oh yeh clever dick – what about spelling mistakes in self-published books then? I am always finding them.

Not that old chestnut again!!!

Once again, just for you. Yes its true that spelling errors are held up by armchair critics as a reason why you should not buy a self-published book. But even mainstream produced books are hardly error free. I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but I have news for you. There is no such thing as a perfect book. There isn’t one that doesn’t have the odd spelling error. The writer of the book you are reading cannot be held responsible for a copy or line editor missing the odd one or two. All he or she can do is hand over a manuscript as error free as is possible to his/her editor. Once the editor has placed it in the hands of a publisher, it is largely out of the writer’s control.

When it comes to works originally published as paperbacks or hard covers, in a lot of cases when they are converted by mainstream publishers to gain a foothold in the eBook market, they often contain larger than normal gaps between words as well as gaps between the letters making up a word, rendering them unreadable. This practice of churning out a cheap and nasty product, does nothing to enhance an author’s reputation. Sadly it is becoming more prevalent as the major publishing houses look to the growing eBook market.

As writers, once we have a story in our heads, its true that we do become obsessed up to a point with getting it onto paper and/or our computer screens. But in general that is as far as our brush with obsession goes. We don’t overly concern ourselves with whether or not it will become the next best seller, unlike the obsessive writers appear to do. What the next best seller will prove to be is in the lap of the gods. There is nothing any writer, publisher, agent or editor can do to influence that, no matter how hard they may try.

Irrespective of which format is used, the mark of a good book is whether or not it is still being bought several years after it was published. Four of my six are. How about you?