Monday, February 23, 2015

Know-It-Alls are Assholes

I got rather jacked over this article last year, but decided to let it go because I had other things to worry about. But then I came across it again, and got jacked all over again. So now I'm saying something about it.

I'm sure the author of this article has seen her fair share of truly whiny and "entitled" authors who can't figure out why their book isn't a bestseller two hours after they've uploaded it to Amazon. I get that, because I've run into a few of those myself. HOWEVER, apparently all of us who complain at some point about the unfairness of it all are lumped in with whiny, unmotivated authors. We aren't doing enough, she claims, so it's entirely our own fault that our books aren't getting noticed.

Let's take a peek at what this professional states is a MUST for those of us trying to get our work noticed (taken straight from the article hyperlinked above. My comments are in red.):

-- a spectacular book (professionally edited, formatted, designed, proofed) (Read: "lots of $$$$" I've seen truly atrocious books become extremely popular because of the marketing hype behind them. So having a spectacular book isn't really a requirement; the $$$$ IS.)
-- reviews (minimum 25) within the first few weeks 
(And how, pray tell, does one get that many reviews if you're not already noticed? Either by recruiting friends and family, or having a great marketing campaign, which equals $$$$)
-- beta or ARC readers before you release 
(This is doable through friends/social media buddies. Otherwise, you're spending $$$$)
-- an optimized website (professional graphics, social media icons, key wording, HTML, CSS for faster loading, etc... all to increase your SEO). Not sure what it means? Look it up. 
(Again, we're back to $$$$. So far, we've racked up HUNDREDS of $$$$ in this list of "requirements.")
-- an active blog (once weekly minimum) 
-- a book trailer (share on your own site, social media and YouTube) 
-- participate in memes like‪ #‎MondayBlogs‬ or chats -- meet cool peeps, learn, promote others 
-- interactive social media (not spammy) at minimum Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (important for your Google ranking) following readers, book bloggers, book reviewers, book clubs 
(Doable to a point, otherwise you have to be independently wealthy and therefore rolling in free time and/or can hire someone to do it all for you. So, time and $$$$)
-- groups (important to establish connections with peers) Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ 
(Again, with the time and $$$$ if you want to spend the time this author thinks you should be spending.)
-- an eBook version (duh) Don't care if you hate eBooks. What do your readers want? 
(Uh, that's how most of us already publish?)
-- a virtual blog tour (won't sell books. DOES increase visibility, SEO, reviews, connections with readers and bloggers, and Google Ranking) 
(Oh, virtual blog tours. MOAR $$$$)
-- Google AdWords (get advice on how to do it correctly, study and research, or pay someone to do it for you), or FB or Goodreads or blogger ads. Something! 
-- book clubs 
(Possibly doable, unless you're like me and THERE AREN'T ANY NEARBY)
-- book signings 
(Only doable if you've already gotten somewhere with your writing, else it's a great big flop/bookstores don't want to have you/whatevs. Again, we have to spend a minimum of about $1000 to creep an inch closer to this point.)
-- swag (bookmarks, pens, postcards, etc) 
(Sigh. $$$$)
-- guest blog guest blog guest blog (and not only about your book and how wonderful your toenails are) 
(Well, back to the "you have to be noticed before you get here," which takes $$$$)
-- interviews (give and do for others) 
(See the comment immediately above. $$$$)
-- don't argue with reviewers (from The Author CEO Naomi Blackburn) 
(Everyone should already be doing this, and if you are arguing with reviewers, SHAME ON YOU!)
-- giveaways, promotions, etc. 
(I'm getting tired of repeating myself. $$$$)
-- email newsletter (aka, email marketing) 
-- Give back, for fuck's sake. Stop talking about yourself all the damn time. 
(Totally doable, and should be done without being told!)

In other words, all us self-pubbed authors frustrated with getting our work out there have only ourselves to blame for not having unlimited money and time to throw at promoting ourselves. We are "whiny" and we are "assholes" because we didn't starve ourselves and our families in order to get on that book tour. We are lazy because we don't spend every second of our free time on social media because--GASP!--we have the audacity to have jobs and families and lives and can't devote every second of every day "interacting."

Not to mention those of us with disabilities that make it literally impossible for us to do all of it all the time. But we're just failing ourselves, you know. It's all our damn fault for not being independently wealthy or in fantastic health or whatever it is that's holding us back. And in reality, according to the list above, what's really holding us back is our reluctance to live in a shack and starve in order to fork over all our hard-earned dough to marketing ourselves.

So, forgive me if I sometimes get despondent over not having the money to make money. I'm so sorry that I have a disorder/disability AND A JOB that makes it difficult for me to hang out on social media 10+ hours a day to get my interaction in. I'm so fucking sorry that I've struggled my whole life and find it very, very difficult to become something as an author, regardless of how good people think my books are, because my money is limited. So goddamned sorry that my particular circumstances--which are identical to a HUGE percentage of struggling self-pubbed/indie authors' circumstances--are so goddamned rant-inducing.

So sorry.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Don't Be That Author

Look, I'm all for writing what you love. YA, romance, fantasy, erotica, mystery, a combination of those, whatever. Definitely write what drives you, write what you have a passion for. Stay in one genre, branch out to others, invent your own, go for it! 

But please, for the love of all that's holy, be original.

Let me elaborate by first going to what appears to be a completely different topic. The rise of self-publishing through sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and others has been phenomenal. It's given authors whose works would otherwise never see the light of day a chance to have their novels read and enjoyed (or not enjoyed, whatever the case may be) by millions of people the world over. Self-publishing takes out the middleman, and gives everyone a shot at making it.

The downside of this, of course, is the sheer glut of people looking to make it. You've got great authors, so-so authors, and horrible authors (you know the ones--you wonder if they've ever seen a dictionary, and for whom "editor" is a foreign concept). Snagging an interesting-looking indie book is ultimately a risk readers take--you never know what you're going to get.

However, one thing you are almost guaranteed to get is the same damn plotline over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. The rise of self-publishing means there has also been a rise in writers all writing the Exact. Same. Story. This is especially true in the romance, fantasy, and YA genres, and it's old. Very old. So old, that these plotlines have gray hair, wrinkles, and one foot in the damn grave.

So incredibly worn are these plotlines, that I have stopped reading most books published by independent authors. I just can't take the unoriginality anymore.

I talk about this somewhat in my post about strong female characters, but plan on going into further detail here. Why? Because it's my blog and I can.

So, we all know that stories follow a basic pattern--you have the character in their normal world, something happens to change it all, whether that's a conflict or threat to their species' existence or whatever, obstacles to overcome, and then the resolution of whatever it was. That's the basic pattern and we all stick to that pattern, and that's fine. What livens up the pattern are the plot twists, surprises, and mystery. Many of us manage to accomplish this. The vast majority of us do not, and instead rely on worn-out themes and old tropes to write a story.

Oh, the male MC and female MC hate each other? I'm willing to bet by Chapter 5 they're banging like rabbits. 

Oh, your story is about werewolves? I'm willing to bet there's a whole lot of focus on who's an Alpha and who's a Beta and who's an every other letter of the Greek alphabet. (Ok, to be fair, most authors don't get past Beta, but you get my point.)

Story is about vampires? $1,000,000 says they're either tortured "I'M A MONSTER" emo souls, or they are sadistic and animalistic with no real personality, other than evil, eviller, or slightly less evil.

It's a murder mystery? I bet it's the one guy who no one (except every reader with a brain) expects but who acts super-shady every other scene. (We'll discuss foreshadowing in another post.)

If you're at all familiar with Metalocalypse, you'll get this. Otherwise, get familiar with Metalocalypse, that show is funny as hell:

Ok, not me specifically, but again, you get the point. For instance, I actually caught some flak because my male and female MCs got together with very little fuss. There was some fuss, but not the fuss you'd expect from every other romantic situation out there. There was no triangle. They didn't hate each other. One character had some issues concerning vulnerability, but got over it. That was all the fuss.

And I did it that way on purpose. You see, I'm sick of long, drawn-out romantic bilge. And I certainly didn't want to write a romance the way nearly every other author in existence wrote it. I see no reason why romance has to be all tortured and agonizing and argumentative all the damn time. Why does there have to be misery, or a love triangle, or some other kind of depressing crap? WHY CAN'T IT BE NICE, especially when the book is most assuredly not a romance and more like an action-adventure novel?

Why do werewolves have to live in packs? Why does there have to be Alpha that has to be challenged and there's some kind of fight to the death for the title? WHY?

Why can't vampires actually enjoy their vampireness without being evil? Do they always have to be so damn tortured? (Please see my novels for that exact refreshing breath of vampire air.) 

For that matter, why do vampires and werewolves always have to hate each other? 

Why can't the killer act more like Dexter and manage to keep everyone off his/her trail? Why can't you actually surprise me, dear authors, with who the killer is?

These are the kinds of questions that plague me. And, authors, they should be plaguing you too.

In other words, stop writing what you're reading. Don't get me wrong--reading is a great way to get inspiration, but stop writing exactly the same thing everyone else is writing. Come up with something new. Like, new new. So new, it's shiny and sparkly and makes your readers go Oooooooooh when they see it.

Indie authors who have managed to pull this off for me include Helen Boswell, Jason Cantrell, Dan Rix, Paul Jones, and Michael R. Hicks. There's more, but those are the authors I can remember right offhand without going through my enormous library. They write about stuff we've all seen before--aliens, magic, demons, angels, the apocalypse--but they do it in such a unique way, with such an original spin to their stories, that I am well and truly impressed. Their imaginations are not regurgitations of what's already out there glutting the indie book market. No, their stories are fantastic and a true credit to writing outside of the box.

Those are the kinds of writers you want to emulate. And by "emulate," I don't mean write the same exact story with slightly different characters. I mean you should emulate them in that you come up with your own spin, discarding all the worn-out dirt-stomped predictable plotlines and creating something truly interesting and different.

So that's your challenge for today to everyone who is guilty of this peeve of mine. Write something different. Do something daring, come up with a new mythology, really make that killer so damn good that I never figure out who it is until you slap me upside the face with it, M. Night Shyamalan-style. Give me a story I can't predict, one where by page 10 I'm still hooked, and where I haven't got the whole thing figured out and can tell you exactly what's going to happen, including the ending.

Surprise me, surprise all your other readers, and stop making me regret all those free downloads that I can't get rid of and that I've only read 1% of because they were so yawn-worthy or in such desperate need of an editor as to be unreadable. They are clogging my Kindle library, dear authors. I'd rather my library was clogged with goodness. So...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015


That's how I feel, in so many ways. Every day is a struggle, every day is a new round of weird symptoms and fighting to keep going. Every day is another day of pain, another day of crushing fatigue, another day of wondering when, and if, this is ever going to end.

It's suspected that I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder. It doesn't just affect my joints--it attacks various parts of my body, including my inner ears. That results in near-constant vertigo and dizziness, all day, every day. 

Imagine it, if you would, waking up in pain every day, staying in pain every day, constantly fighting the urge to sleep, and terrified a wave of vertigo is going to hit as you're walking down the stairs. Imagine sitting at your desk, so dizzy you think you're going to puke, and still having to remain upbeat and do your job. Depression and anxiety are also eating away at you, a result of all the things going wrong with your body.

That's me. That's me every day, 24/7. But my disorder and--dare I say--disability isn't something you can see, and probably not something you'd even notice looking at me. It's an invisible disease, one that is wrecking my life in almost every way imaginable.

On top of that, I've become invisible to others. Not everyone, mind you--there are some absolutely fantastic friends, both old and new, who have been absolutely supportive and non-judgmental, even when I've disappeared because I've been wrapped in a nightmare of depression (You guys know who you are, and THANK YOU). But there are others who have quietly faded away, despite their former assertions of friendship, and I am essentially invisible to them now.

And that hurts. It doesn't help, knowing you've got this huge fight ahead of you--a lifelong fight, mind you, against a disorder that is most likely going to shorten my lifespan and create even worse suffering in my old age, for some of the people who claimed to forever be there just leave you, abandon you, like so much trash alongside the road.

It makes you attack yourself, in your darkest moments. You tell yourself it's because somehow you're not worthy of their friendship, that your disorder--which you have no control over--somehow makes you less of a person, both to the supposed friends and society at large. 

It's not a fun place to be, invisible. Invisible disorder, invisible to people who supposedly cared about you, just...invisible.

Again, I thankfully have some steadfast friends who are unwaveringly there for me, and I can't express my gratitude enough to them. They are what have kept me going, and have helped me deal with the issues that plague me, both physical and mental.

My writing has suffered as a result, and I know this. I haven't been able to write as much because of everything that's been going on. So forgive me, readers, for the delay. I am working on it--again, with the help of the lovely people I mentioned above, I'm starting to get back there. But it's a long, rough road, and I can't guarantee I'll be done with the books anytime soon. I promise you though, I am working on it.

I guess the moral of this story is to not assume what others' lives may be like. Spread kindness as much as possible, because you have no idea what struggles another person is going through. Many people are invisible, like me, their disorders and battles just as hidden as mine. And cherish the friends that are always there for you no matter what. There are too many people in the world who will drop you faster than you can blink the second you are anything but "normal," whatever their definition of "normal" might be. Keep those people close to your heart, and be there for them as much as they are for you.