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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That Darned To Be Read Pile

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Ok folks, its high time you all confessed. How large is your To Be Read pile? For my part I’m proud to say that I have reduced my backlist of novels to be read by four over the last twelve days, since I launched my latest novella. Now I only have one more to read and I’m all caught up. You see, unlike many people out there I don’t merely collect books. I actually buy them to read, and do so.

Full time writers like myself have an excuse for not catching up with our own reading, well almost. We often read the books in our physical and eBook libraries as part of the research necessary for our next book. But not necessarily the ones in our own TBR lists, unless we bought them as research material, which in my own case is the norm.

Whereas the rest of you have no excuse at all. What is the point of buying a copy of a book, while at the same time claiming you have no time to read it? What complete nonsense. Make time! If you want to collect something, try seashells or postage stamps. While we’re all grateful that you have bought a copy of our book(s), unless you read and review them, how will others know whether or not the book appeals to you’re intellect?

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You know what to do. No more excuses. Books are meant to be read, not treated as decoration in your living rooms!

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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.

 

What It Takes To Be A Serious Writer

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In the good old bad old days, wrongly or rightly, writers were shielded by their agents and publishers from their reading public to maintain an air of mystery, and to shield them from the more repugnant elements of society, among other things. These days since the internet became reality, it has become a necessary tool for all writers to be able to let their readers get to know them.

Even so, as a writer you need to be cautious. There are a few drawbacks. The  spread of internet trolls, armchair critics and pedants springs to mind. But, always providing the writer doesn’t engage with them, they remain where they belong, lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet fora. With the way the review system operates on a lot of book sites these days, they do their darnedest to put people off buying books written by every writer they hate. Usually their stupidity, bile and invective has the complete reverse effect. Some foolishly think that they will be able to get at any writer who maintains a blog by offering a less than civil comment. If you are a member of one of the three groups mentioned above, know that your comment will never see the light of day…

The time has long since gone when serious writers simply wrote books. Contrary to popular belief, being a writer is not only a lonely existance, but also unless you are one of the fortunate few, the amount of money we receive in royalties is minute to say the least. Any serious writer who makes £12,000 per annum, or more, is doing well. Most mid-listers make far less; new writers, practically zero.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time either with our own webpages where we advertise our wares, or as in my case (and that of many other writers) we operate a blog like this one, contributing to it on a daily basis. Let’s face it, people are curious about us. They want to know everything about their favourite author(s). Once again there is danger involved in maintaining any form of public forum. How much do you reveal about yourselves? Short answer – think before you type. There are people out there who will think nothing of revealing your innermost secrets to the world in an attempt to turn potential readers away from your work. After all, like everyone else, we are human beings with the same character flaws, hates, foibles, desires, regrets, financial and health problems as anyone else.

Besides writing that novel, the odd short story, and maintaining a blog, we also interact on popular social media sites as well as placing links for our latest novel, novella, anthology and blog posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc, etc. Participating in all of these activities has become an absolute necessity since the concept of publishing, and what publishers were prepared to do for their writers changed for the worse from the point of view of the writer a few years ago.

To keep our names in forefront of the reader’s mind we need to ‘self-promote’. The myth that any writer worth their salt does nothing but slave over their latest manuscript is just that – a myth. Some of us attend various book fares, book signings and conventions. Some of us don’t. I am one of the latter, owing to poor health. Besides which, until someone comes up with a way for writers like myself who write purely for the eBook market to digitally sign your copy, I won’t be doing it.

For all writers, being able to meet you when you visit our blogs, like what you’re reading, and become a follower, means everything to us all. As readers, while you might never consider reviewing something of ours on an internet book site, being able to read your comments on our blogs as well as chatting to you on Facebook also means everything to us. Plus, never forget that always providing we post on our blogs and talk to you on Facebook etc, at least you know we’re still breathing.

So, if you are thinking of becoming a serious writer, all it takes is dedication, mental strength, doggedness, and above all, you must become resigned to the fact that you will be living on an income well below what is commonly held up as the ‘poverty’ line. If you are serious about writing, be prepared for the long haul.

One other thing, if you want to know more about me, why not wade your way through the over three thousand posts I have produced to date on this blog?

Post Script

Today’s reader only thinks about one thing – getting a free copy of your book. Even when so many offer their work for a paltry $0.99 in an effort to be read, the vast majority still refuse to buy.

Now is the time to put them to shame. If we were to charge the reading public the true price of a book based on the number of hours we spend writing, editing and perfecting the manuscript, the cost would be astronomical. Most books take several months to complete.

If I charged a penny per hour for a book that took me say six months to complete for publication, the purchase price would be £43.80 per copy.

So stop whining about a book being priced at £/$0.99 or £/$2.99, when you think it should be free, and support its author! Of course you could join those who constantly tell authors they like the sound of their book(s) and will add them to their TBR list (to be read). Which of course they seldom if ever do. Personally I prefer my own approach – ignore the one, two and three star hate reviews. Or worse, the spoiler variety. First I read the book’s hook. Then I browse a few pages. If I like it I actually buy a copy. Now there’s a novelty…

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For Goodness Sake Make Time!

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I forget how many times I have told people, especially new writers, to pace themselves. I was having a conversation on Facebook with one of my female writer friends yesterday. She has bought copies of five of my eBooks, which I am eternally grateful to her for. Three of them are short novellas, averaging 168 pages. I don’t know about you but I can read a novella in an afternoon, or a morning. For instance, if I start reading at twelve noon, I will have finished it by seven in the evening, barring interruptions and calls of nature. When I read a full length novel (150 – 200,000 words) it takes me the best part of three twelve hour days.

As writers, if we are going to do justice to our own writing, there is nothing more stimulating than spending hours reading other people’s books. From them we glean those ideas that hadn’t necessarily occured to us. With every book I write comes endless reading beforehand. Its called research. The writer in question makes me laugh. She claims that she has no time to read. When I told her about my reading a novella in seven hours, she assumed that what I’m doing is speed reading. Sorry to disagree with you my dear friend but it isn’t. It’s just a normal reading pace. She seriously needs to make time to read. In other words, she needs to pace herself.

I’ve seen photographs of her with a library of books in the background. I’m assuming that given her profession, the library is her own. Maybe not. If, as she claims, she has no time to read, why does she have access to one, if not to read the books? in my case my own library is divided up into actual physical books in my five shelf bookcase, as well as eBooks and PDF files on this laptop. I’ve read every single one of them at least five times. Some like Graham Hancock’s epic work Fingerprints of the Gods, several dozen times. In that case it will usually take me a week, simply because its seven hundred and nineteen pages are jam packed with information…

Currently I have one hundred and seventy three eBooks and one hundred and twenty physical books. I also have one hundred and forty-two PDF files which I constantly refer to when I’m in research mode.

How many books do you have? Have you read them all?

A lot of people buy books, millions of us in fact. But how many can truthfully say that they have read every book in their possession? Some people like to kid themselves that by having a large physical library in their home, it will impress their visitors, by creating the illusion that they are well read, and therefore intelligent.

If you want to impress the hell out of your visitors; read the damned books in your personal library to become fully conversant with the content of each of them! That way when your visitors ask you about a certain book you won’t be caught out in a lie.

Despite what some idiots believe, books are not for decoration, even though the multicolours of the jacket’s spine undoubtedly creates a splash of colour.  Every one of them contains the end product of a writer’s accumulated knowledge and hard work. They are meant to be read, not just looked at!!!

PS – I will admit that since I became a fulltime writer, I no longer read for pleasure. Plus, these days when I read a book, the editor in me is constantly on the lookout for poor grammer, spelling and punctuation.

That is the one major drawback with full-time writing; the end of spending hours simply reading for pleasure…

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Writing – Passion or Obsession?

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If you are a writer, what we do becomes one of two things, either a passion or an obsession. Some new writers simply can’t, or won’t, take the time to pace themselves. It appears that they are driven by an impossible dream – to become famous at any cost!

As we progress, we all learn our craft. We all make mistakes along the way, and hopefully, we learn from them. With some of the obsessives, they either don’t care, or they ignore all of their mistakes and errors in their quest for fame and fortune. All that matters to them is quantity, not quality.

Because of the obsessive’s attitude towards writing, no matter that we are either conventional or Indie writers, we are all lumped in with them when it comes to the increasing amount of criticism we all encounter each time we produce a book for publication. It doesn’t help that the review system of many publishing outlets has degenerated to the point where it is no longer a place to find fair, unbiased opinions on a book, written by normal people with no grudge to bear towards the author of the book being demonized by the self appointed armchair critics and pedants that frequent all review sites today.

It’s bad enough that writers are constantly being taken to task by grammar nazis over something like a split infinitive, without armchair critics and other assorted self-appointed guardians of literature, or as I prefer to think of them, stick-in-the-muds trapped in a timewarp of their own making, chipping in with their often totally wrong so-called ‘reviews’.

So what is to be done? Simple! Take a long hard look at why it is you write. If your are an obssesive, wanting to become an overnight success – forget it! Most so-called overnight success stories in writing took decades of practice to achieve. If you can’t pace yourself and learn, then may I suggest you find some other craft to destroy in your attempt to become one?

Leave writing to those of us who are prepared to learn through experience, taking the tried and true long route…

As Writers, We Demand To Know!

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In fellow writer Derek Haines’ recent post Who Are Your Readers, he raises some pertinent points regarding demographics when it comes to the literary world. Without exception, all publishers be they traditional or self do not pass on the information to we writers. Why? Because they keep it to themselves, guarding it jealously to sell books. We’ve all seen examples of how they use it. Think about those annoying emails from Amazon et al. You know the ones I mean. They begin with “Since you showed interest in etc, etc”.

Well, as the writers of those self same books, we also need access to that knowledge!

Just think about it. Wouldn’t you like to know which gender your books appeal to? Which genre is selling? Which is not? As Derek says, you can’t draw any real conclusion from reviews these days, since their value was cheapened by the likes of Amazon and Goodreads when they gave over their review systems carte blanche to their inhouse trolls, and the growing number of self important armchair critics and pedants that crawl out of the woodwork.

As a writer, what do you think?

When we write a book, no matter the genre, in effect we are reduced to adopting a ‘hit or miss’ approach. Will it sell, or won’t it? If the publishers shared the knowledge with us, it would go a long way to deciding what that next book would be. If, like me, you write purely for the eBook market, you soon find out that the largest market for that particular format is the US. No one told me. I had to find it out for myself!

What about paperbacks or hard cover? Which countries are hungry for them? Which are not? Which country loves Fantasy? What about Adventure? Which gender prefers which genre?

All this information is held in secret by all publishers. If only they would tell us, we wouldn’t spend months writing a book that no one wants to read. But then again, when have publishers given a tinker’s cuss about writers?

My fellow writers, do yourselves a favour and reblog the living daylights out of this post to all the writers you know. It’s high time we showed all publishers that we mean business. Let us become organised!!!