Definitely a wood for the trees moment?

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This post follows on from the other day – https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/a-message-to-the-slackers/ where one of the commenters (Ken Thackerey) questioned my thoughts on reviews being the author’s only real means of knowing how many people actually read a free copy of a book. He got me thinking further on the subject.

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Why do some books become best sellers? Is it the fact that the author promoted their book, hoping for sales, by initially giving it away once it was published? Perhaps it’s because the author publicised it on every book and social media site, not to mention their blog? Could it be because the author let it sit for a while in preorder mode, prior to publication? Maybe its the cover? Maybe its the fact that it was edited by a professional, or that a lot of money was spent having it promoted? Each one of them is standard practice, and yes they all help. But only up to a point. Might it have anything to do with genre? Not necessarily.

Then the penny finally dropped. It’s none of them or any combination you care to come up with. I’ll tell you why some books succeed while the rest don’t. It’s only taken me twenty years to finally figure it out. Call it a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees if you like. It’s blindingly obvious once you see it. The answer was staring me in the face all the time from the books in my library. It’s in yours too.

In this day and age, no matter the genre, or how much time and effort you put into bringing that story to life to make it stand out from the crowd, what any book needs is reviews. It doesn’t matter how good the story might be. Nor does it matter how eye-catching the cover is, or how much money was spent on having it promoted. To become popular, and therefore by osmosis, to be considered a best seller, if it doesn’t have glowing reviews prior to publishing, quite simply you are wasting your time. I’m not talking about those written by the general public after a book is published. Instead I’m talking about presale reviews.

Look at the cover of any book coming out of any traditional publishing house. Whether the author is a known quantity or a newcomer, all trad publishers ensure that each book they put out receives a smattering of excellent reviews prior to publishing, one or two on the front cover. Others inside after the title page, and maybe one on the back cover along with the author’s bio. It’s simplicity itself when you think about it.

What about Indies? Does this apply to them as well? Emphatically yes. I known what I’ll be doing with my next novella or novel before I publish it. Oh, and no more free samples…

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Are Book Reviews Really Necessary?

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In a word, yes!!!

To survive, books need reviews like you need to breath. In their case reviews are necessary to bring them to the notice of potential readers out there. Without several reviews they will rapidly disappear into the slush pile along with the millions of unread books out there. One review, no matter how praiseworthy, is not enough to ensure a book’s future. But one negative review will soon attract others, ending a book’s chances of surviving!!

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make a scrap of difference how eyecatching a book’s cover may be. What helps readers to make up their mind about any book are its reviews. Without them books simply don’t generate curiosity among the millions of jaded readers.

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To give you an example, here are the numbers so far for each of my nine books:

The Adventures of Ursus the Bear (a story for tiny tots) – 1 five star

Cataclysm (a Science Fiction novella) – 4 five star, 3 four star

The Guardian (my latest Science Fiction novella) – 2 four star (with two more reviews promised in the immediate future, which I’m looking forward to it receiving)

The Forgotten Age (an Archaeological adventure) – 5 five star, 7 four star, 1 two star, 3 one star

The Seventh Age (an Archaeological adventure) – 7 five star, 8 four star, 8 three star, 10 two star, 20 one star

The Next Age (a Science Fiction novella) – 3 five star, 1 four star, 1 two star, 1 one star

Goblin Tales (a Fantasy anthology) – 1 five star

Turning Point (a Science Fiction adventure) – 8 five star, 5 four star, 2 three star, 3 two star, 3 one star

Onet’s Tale ( a Science Fiction Space Opera) – 5 five star, 1 four star

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No prizes for guessing which of the above titles consistently sells and which don’t. Believe it or not if potential readers see nothing but five and four star reviews, they are immediately suspicious and won’t buy.

As the old saying goes, “there’s nowt as queer as folk,” especially when it comes to buying a book. The other thing to remember is that these days, anyone with an axe to grind will automatically give any book a one star review, hoping to put off potential readers.

To counter their attack, if you enjoyed it, review that book you’re reading as soon as you finished it. But before you do, take the time to think about what you are going to say. As much as you may be tempted at times, always leave objectionable reviews to those who are insanely jealous of the particular author’s success.

Plus, don’t forget to tell your friends about the book and where they can get a copy of it if you enjoyed it.

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Have you ever wondered…

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Have you ever wondered why it is that a writer prefers to work in one particular genre instead of any another? In my case, ever since my late father thought it was high time I put away the books of my early childhood, to read something far more worthy of my time, at least to his way of thinking, by giving me one of Arthur C Clarke’s brilliantly written science fiction books to read on my ninth birthday back in nineteen fifty-seven, the genre has remained my first love.

When I finally plucked up the courage to become a serious writer in nineteen ninety-five, the first book I ever wrote, and later self-published, was a science fiction tale entitled Turning Point predominantly set in my other home country – New Zealand.

If you saw my recent post (yesterday) not only showing you my body of work to date, but also the Amazon links you need to find them, you will have realised that writing tales that fall within the boundaries of the science fiction genre, is what I enjoy the most. Yes it’s true I have written a couple of books in other genres, namelyย Goblin Talesย  a pure fantasy, and also The Adventures of Ursus the Bear a delightful tale I specifically wrote for parents to read to their tiny tots. What can I tell you, they both needed to be written. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Like all genres, the heading science fiction covers a multitude of… Oops, I almost said sins. No, lets make that definite possibilities. That’s much better. Now where was I? Oh yeh; some science fiction writers prefer to set their stories in the far distant future, while I tend to set mine either in the present day, or at a stretch, within a plus or minus period of one hundred years from the present. Having said that, my second science fiction novel Onet’s Tale was also set way into the future. It was the only novel of mine to be published by a traditional press, albeit one of the small pursuasion, which, entirely due to the hissy fits and tantrums of its capricious owner/senior editor, is no longer available, despite the fact that it still appears beside my name on Amazon. Then people wonder why I have no time for business executives who think it would be a good idea to set themselves up as publishers, purely to impress their equally shallow colleagues and social set. Life is too damned short to waste your time arguing with them…

If you are wondering why it still appears along with all of my others, join the club along with every other writer. Amazon flatly refuses to delete any title on their list just in case someone may want to sell their copy back to them – yeh right, pull the other one Amazon, it’s got bells on it!

I finally shifted my science fiction writing into the time slot I far prefer in 2012, when I wrote my best seller to date, The Seventh Age. Ever since then, each and every science fiction tale I have written is set roughly within the same time period. My latest WIP The Guardian occurs not too far into the future in the next century – the twenty-second.

I leave the humorous, totally bizarre, fantastical and utterly unbelievable brands of science fiction to other writers. Let’s face it, this is one science fiction writer who would much rather write a thoroughly believable tale any day. As well as always trying to achieve that, I also ensure that the technology my characters use is either from present day, or is currently either in the design phase, or being field tested. For instance, In The Guardian I’ve ensured my current crop of character’s weapons are actual, such as the LSAT 5.55mm calibre Assault Rifle, the M110 Sniper Rifle and the XM25ย Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) air burst grenade launcher, along with some old favourites that most males will be totally familiar with, such as the Claymore anti-personnel mine and C4 plastic explosive.

If you will pardon the pun – In my book(s) there is no place for light-sabres or ray guns in any belieavable science fiction story. I leave that kind of thing entirely in the hands of the George Lucas’ of this world. These days I also tend to leave ET style aliens to Steven Spielberg and co, preferring my characters to be human, even though I did include one in two of my books a few years back. I’m not averse to the idea of slipping in the odd artificial or virtual intelligence into one or other of my stories now or in the future.

Well, now that I’ve bored you to death – sorry, I mean now that I’ve given you a brief insight into how this science fiction writer not only thinks, but prefers to work. If you want to know more, why not pose me a question as a comment below this post? Remember to keep them valid. In other words, no silly questions concerning things like inside leg measurements etc, if you don’t mind.

Meanwhile its back to writing The Guardian WIP.

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Of Pie Charts And Other Things

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There is always a very real danger when producing anything related to a specific subject, in particular when presenting facts, that unless you offer a true representation of the said subject you are offering an opinion on, as in the blog post linked below, which states that only a few genres are doing well with one reader group – children, that you will be seen at best to have offered an incomplete view.

Recently I followed the link provided by Chris The Storyreading Ape’s blog to this post published on the blog Taipei Writer’s Group – https://taipeiwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/books-sold-by-genre-or-why-you-should-write-childrens-books/

While it is clearly headed ‘Books sold by genre, or why you should write children’s books’, it can never be considered to be a true representation of all book genres’ sales to children when so few genres are included. In this particular case I suspect that the author of the post has either created, or imported, Pie Charts to suit their purpose. At the time of reading it, I left a comment on both Chris’ site and TWG’s – “Why isnโ€™t Science Fiction featured?” So far TWG have failed to respond to my pertinent question. In Chris’ case all he could say was that he had merely reblogged their post. Like me, he had no clue why sci-fi did not appear in the breakdown of books for children.

To TWG, I merely say this – be fair. Don’t think I am making a mountain out of a Mole hill, far from it. Nor am I suggesting for one minute that you are wrong. But like most sci-fi writers, all I want is an honest reason why you decided to leave out our genre, let alone infer that today’s kids don’t like reading sci-fi based stories, when you and I both know that isn’t the case. Thanks to popular science fiction television series like Dr Who, sales of sci-fi specifically written for children is doing fine thank you very much. You would have known that TWG, if you had bothered to do your homework.

One other thing for anyone contemplating producing a post like the aforementioned, purporting to show the ‘facts’, make sure that you are doing just that, not merely using certain facts to support your argument.

To use a quote, attributed to the sixteenth American President, Abraham Lincoln – “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time”. Those of us who make our living within the literary world are not fools TWG. We are all fully aware of what sells to varying age groups and in what quantities. Being selective about the facts to suit your personal or collective point of view is never a good idea. If, on the other hand, your blog post was published to cause debate, you have succeeded. Although probably not in the way you envisioned…

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A question for you all…

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What do you think constitutes fantasy?

If, like most of today’s younger generation, you blindly accept without question what the film and television industries insist is the case, then you need look no further than the US series Game of Thrones or the UK series Merlin.

I’m sorry to disillusion everyone, but television and films did not invent fantasy. It was books that first made it popular. There is so much more to the genre than either of the above, dare I say it, boring examples. While undeniably they look spectacular on our television screens, wouldn’t you far rather conjure up your own visions in your mind? In other words, use your imagination. Give it a try. You never know, you may find that picturing each scene from a book is far more satisfying than merely vegging out in front of your television sets to look at pretty pictures.

Back before television and film killed off the urge to read among the young, destroying their attention span, books like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, written in 1865, first brought the genre to the attention of the public. In the twentieth century writers like C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, to name but two, gave us wonderful escapist fantasy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and many more.

These days you are hard put to find any pure fantasy books like the above titles. But don’t despair, all is not lost. I know of at least one. I give you Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales, an anthology of thirty related short stories. Click on the highlighted title above to purchase your copy. Then prepare yourselves to be magically transported into a true fantasy world.

Goblin Tales by [Eason, Jack]

If you don’t live in the US, you can find it at the Amazon outlet near you. It’s also available in paperback.

Happy reading…

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Progress Report 9

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It might even be here. What might?

Well folks, the word count now stands at 13,119. Or if you prefer it, twenty-five A4 pages. I’m still working on Chapter Seven. While I’ve added those two extra characters I was talking about in Progress Report 8, I’m still trying to work out how I draw one particularly nasty individual out into the open – the second of the new characters. There are so many ways to achieve this. I just have to decide which is the best scenario, considering my main characters and the way they react when it comes to any form of danger to themselves. To that end, progress in this chapter is slow. But, I’ll get there.

This story is definitely dictating how it wants to be written. So far I have broached two highly controversial subjects, Religion and Sexual Identity, within the context of the story. My character’s views on both thorny issues are guaranteed to upset some thin skinned people out there who are easily offended. All I will say is that they/you need to remember one thing. When you read this novel, it isn’t reality. It’s nothing more than a fictitious tale. That’s the beauty of fiction. You can ask questions, or suggest explanations for practically anything you care to name, without it reflecting your own personal beliefs and prejudices. Some individuals forget that when they read a book.

With all of the clues I’ve given you so far, do you think you know what the story is all about yet? Maybe they’re not clues at all. Why have I used photographs of various cityscapes for each of these progress reports? Could they be Red Herrings? You’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you. Even some of the categories listed below this and all of the ‘Progress Reports’ could be nothing more than Red Herrings.

More later, but only if you’re good.

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Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

I totally agree with what Horace says. How about you?

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge.

Progress Report 8

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It might even be located here…

Well, I’ve just finished outlining Chapter Six. Things are beginning to get complicated, or should that read –ย  the plot is taking on a life of its own dictating what will happen next? I’ve just inserted yet another Red Herring. I had no choice, the plot demanded it, so there! That’s the fifth one to date – I think. You’ll have to take my word for it for now. The word count now stands at 11,232.

I have to admit it, I’m really having fun. Thinking about it, I’m in totally new territory in that I have temporarily departed from the way I’ve written up to now. This book is completely different from my normal practice of writing books that I personally want to read. But then again, even though that is the case, it is intriguing enough to hold my interest. That may sound a bit screwy as I’m its author. But my fellow writers out there will understand (I hope).

Sticking with one writing formula doesn’t necessarily compute. There is a tendency for you’re writing to become stale. Let’s face it, as writers we’ve all felt like we were producing fomulaic stuff from time to time haven’t we? With six mostly successful books under my belt, it’s time to experiment. What have I got to lose with number seven? Nothing. Either it appeals, or it doesn’t. The point is, I’m thoroughly enjoying writing it.

I chatted with Chris, aka The Story Reading Ape yesterday. As you may know he is a dab hand at making book covers for a reasonable cost that won’t break my bank balance. I sent him an email spelling out what I was looking for this time. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

At the moment I have three, no make that four, chief characters. Besides the main character Dr Gilbert Briggs, who is English, two are New Zealanders like myself. In fact they’re based on two friends I worked alongside during my days at The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. I use pure ‘kiwi’ when either of them speak. The fourth is a ‘god’, or is he? You’ll have to wait and see. I’m about to introduce two more characters in the next couple of chapters, not necessarily human.

In the past I’ve published ‘snippets’ of one or two of my books here on my blog. Sorry folks, with this one, the more you are curious about it, the better. How will it be received? Well, that’s in the lap of the gods, if you’ll pardon the pun. Earlier in a previous ‘Progress’ post I said that it has a certain science fiction element about it. While that’s true, think of various myths and legends from the past concerning gods. Some of them are involved. No, I’m not telling you which ones.

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PSย  – I’m taking a well deserved rest until Monday morning. Meanwhile I’ll continue cogitating over whether it will be an eBook, or a Paperback, or both…

Progress Report 7

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It might even be located here…

Well folks, I can report that I have now outlined four chapters (seven thousand, five hundred + words). I’m really getting into the flow of the story – thank goodness. I still don’t know how long it will be – short story, novella or novel. As I said in a previous ‘Progress’ post, it all depends on how it pans out. I will say that it definitely has a certain scifi element to it. But mainly it is a physical adventure story about searching for a people and a place. That’s about it this time round, other than the fact that with this book, I’m relying heavily on the vocal interaction between the two principle characters.

I’ve got the beginnings of Chapter Five swilling around in my mind. I must get it down and sorted. More later.

PS – I’m toying with the idea of making this book less of a target for the trolls by only publishing it as a paperback. We’ll see. I may just decide to say “to hell with them” and just publish it as my seventh eBook as well as a paperback…

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