Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fed Up

I give up. The integrity of publishing is gone (as I feared it would be when self-publishing became a viable option for everyone).

The final straw? A book entitled "The Vampire With The Dragon Tattoo". I have nothing against the author, Kerrelyn Sparks, and I wish her much success (she is obviously more successful than I am already, so...good on ya, Kerrelyn). I did not read the book (#14 in a series, if I understand correctly) nor do I plan to. My complaint is with the mashing up of popular topics, just to get a book to come up on a search engine. Vampires, of course, are still disgustingly popular, so it makes sense an author would want to jump on the band wagon before the fad dies. Also popular (though not so much now as a year or so ago) is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, an excellent story by the late Steig Larsson. (It was turned into a great movie in Switzerland...then turned into an overblown Hollywood rip-off later.)

You see this a lot with self-pubbed authors (Kerrelyn Sparks is not self-pubbed, just fyi, so blame her marketing team, not her). The reasoning behind it is that you will get more visibility because your book will show up in searches when people are looking for those popular phrases. My problem is this...why not write the book that you really want to write instead of what you think the public wants to read? You can't force creativity like that. You'll just end up with a book full of words that you don't really even care about. And if you don't care about it...the audience most certainly won't either. However, there are some people that have done exactly that. They've written the book exactly the way they imagined it since they were wee little writers. Then...they find some popular words to use as a title and some sexy cover art and kick the book out into the world...to join the millions of other books written by authors doing the exact same thing.

So, how do you know where to find a good book? Well, Good Reads and Amazon used to be reliable sources of such information. Alas, recently there have been allegations of authors "buying" reviews in bulk batches. I'm sure that is true to some extent, but it doesn't really matter, does it? The thought is out there now and judging from a couple books I read recently that had decent reviews, I'm liable to believe there were at least several "friend" reviews on there.

Okay, what about the old faithful authors? Well, I've been a fan of Dean Koontz since I read Phantoms (which was also turned into a horrible movie by Hollywood. Even Ben Affleck couldn't save that one.) So, I thought pretty much anything I picked up would be good. Enter: The Darkest Evening of the Year. It was available to borrow at my local library (via the OverDrive app that I listen to audio books at work with). Keep in mind that I have absolutely loved most of the books Mr. Koontz has written. Darkest Evening is a horrible book. I love animals. I prefer cats over dags, but the fact that Koontz decided to use this book as a platform for his...obsession...with golden retrievers is beyond insane. On top of that, it is classified as a horror book, which is laughable at best. So, how did this book get published? Easy...the publisher knew it would sell because Koontz wrote it. Again...I'm very sad...because my favorite author seems to have sold out. Again, I can't really blame Koontz, though. It should have been the publisher's job to send the manuscript back with a note reading simply: "Thank you, no."

(Don't get me started on The Dark Tower series...I'm not even a King fan, but I got sucked into that debacle.)

My hat off to J.K. Rowling, though, for trying to publish her post-Potter book under a pseudonym. It is too bad that she got illegally outed by her own lawyers. I do wonder, though, how she felt when the book was lying dormant and not selling very much. If you ever wanted to know how important marketing and celebrity is to book sales...take a look at that case. Her novel "The Cuckoo's Calling" sold less than 1,500 copies. After the reveal...it was sold out and hit the top charts. To show what a great person she is...she donated the undisclosed settlement money from those who leaked her identity to charity.

So, if J.K. Rowling can't make it based on quality alone what hope do the rest of us have? I'm not rich, so I can't buy reviews and I can't purchase a marketing package to get my book out there to the public. I'm not a well-known author, so I can't just let my fame do the work for me. What should I do?

Some people say that the cream will rise to the top. Some people are naive. The world doesn't work that way. Money talks and if you don't have it, then you won't be heard and your book will drown in the ever-rising tide of crap. It isn't a theory. I've seen it. Some of my favorite authors never hit the top 100 or probably even top 1000. Meanwhile, books that have no substance except a fleeting reference to a passing fad skyrocket into the top sellers lists.

So, I've been asking myself lately...why bother doing it at all? On the off-chance that a book hits the public's ADD at the right moment? Those aren't good odds. So, what then? Quit? Just hang up the quill and find another hobby? Sure, I could, but the problem is that I enjoy writing...or at least, I did. I was spitting out a couple books a year...until I started looking at self-publishing. Now I question everything I write and I try to think about what kind of marketing campaign I can put together. My output has dropped to 0.

So, I have to ask myself the hardest question of all...what do I hope to gain from writing? Do I want to make money? Do I want to become famous? Or do I just want to entertain people? If my hope is money...well, I think I've covered that already. Become famous? Not likely. I gave away A Faerie Tale to WattPad members. Of the 800+ people who sampled the book, 3 took the time (what? maybe a second?) to click the Like button on it. So if you're hoping that merely circulating your book out there for free will bring you recognition (or...dare I say it...reviews?)...I have my doubts. So that just leaves entertaining people. Is that what I really want? To put months of work into writing a novel and then just give it away to people? That would be nice for people that liked my books, but as my WattPad experiment revealed...I'm probably not going to know if anyone likes it or not. So it will probably get pretty depressing to send my beloved stories out into the world and never hear back from them.

So, I'd like to make an announcement...are you sitting down? (Yeah, Matt, I'm talking to you...I think you're the only one that ever comments on these blog posts...)

I'm halting all attempts to publish/self-publish my novels. In fact, after I attempt this year's NaNo event, I'm not even planning to write another novel. I will, of course, but I'm changing my focus. About two months ago, I started a list of short stories that I'd like to write. I think I'm going to work through that list. Spending a few weeks or a month on a short story to give away for free is way more acceptable to me than a novel. I can only hope that by doing this, I will be able to reach an audience that will appreciate and enjoy the stories and characters that I create. Who knows, I might even stumble across a fan or two along the way.

After all, you don't paint a masterpiece with huge brush strokes...it takes lots of little ones in just the right places...with just the right color...over a long period of time. I might as well get started.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


So, here I am sitting in front of my keyboard staring at my current "in-progress" books. Over the past month or so, I've added words to 4 of them. I know that most people suffer from writer's block, but what do you do when you have too much information in your head and you can't figure out how to productively channel it all?

I mean, I've got solid ideas that I feel compelled to get onto digital paper...I just can't prioritize them!

I don't know what's up with my muse. Maybe she's been partying too much or something. If she could simply make up her damn mind, I might be able to get something done. As is, I'm making progress on all 4 books, but it is really slllooooowwwww progress. Sure, I'd love to be able to finish 4 books within the same month, but I don't want to wait a year or more to do it.

I was actually doing pretty good on Cierra. Good focus for at least a week. Then, I listened to an audio book at work and suddenly I started thinking about a different project. I started thinking about it so much that now I can't think about Cierra anymore! On top of that, I feel my own internal pressure to get the next Striker book done. It has been a while, after all, since Shirakuh was finished.

And then, of course, there is the Faerie Tale. The cursed Faerie Tale that seems to be the bane of my very sanity. I've nearly resolved myself to the notion that it will never be completed, and I would do better to just shove the whole thing into a drawer and try to forget about it.

Did I mention that I started writing a musical?

Seriously, what's up with this muse? I think she's on drugs.

So, if anyone has any suggestions...I'm all ears.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Hello my minions!

This is my premier blog post. I hope that I am able to continue with this endeavor and start to build an audience for my mental musings and literary scribbles. That said...I'm probably going to anger some people with this one. My friend list count will plummet!

After spending the last two years tinkering around in the self-publishing world, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • I have not written anything substantial in the past two years. 
  • Grammar is a thing of the past. Feel free to ignore it and spread the ignorance. (The rules will eventually change to accommodate you, anyway.)
  • The market will soon be flooded with horrible books. (If it hasn't already, I honestly don't have the time to go panning for gold in that river.)
  • Cover art and a good opening hook are way more important than a solid story. (After all, it just needs to be good enough that they buy it right? You don't need a fan base. Just change your pen name for the next book you write.)
  • It is better to write a book that will be popular for a year rather than a book that will last generations. So, feel free to use today's "hot topics" and catch phrases. I'm sure people twenty years from now will understand what you mean.
  • The internet is full of "experts" who will happily tell you what you are doing wrong. (It will far out-weigh what you are doing right, I'm sure.)
You're still here? Well, you probably fit into two of three possible categories then. The first being those people who agree with what I said, and the second being those people who just came here because we're related...thanks, Pix. (The third, of course, are the people who I'm talking about...and they probably didn't read past the fourth point.)

As I think about the direction in which I was being pushed to make my book more marketable, I realize that some of my favorite books would never make it in the self-publishing world. I am a huge fan of Robert Asprin's "Myth Adventures" (the torch has been handed off to Jody Lynn Nye, now, if you are curious. RIP Robert, you are missed). While they were never as successful as they could have been, I enjoyed every one of them completely and totally. So...I'm the freak, right? I mean, you could never accuse me of being "trendy" or "popular"...(of which I am eternally grateful, thank you, very much). If Mr. Asprin had been rejected and those books were never published, it would have greatly impacted my life. The reason I started writing was because of Myth Adventures. After I read all the Myth books my brother (and his friend Bill Fisher) had, I asked him for something similar (he read a lot more than I did). Guess what! There weren't any. Sure, there were other good books, but nothing like the Myth books. So, I started writing my own...and the rest, as they say, is...er, well, I hope it isn't history yet. I haven't even published anything.

Harry Potter was rejected by every publishing house JK Rowling sent it to. Why? Probably because it didn't fit their "market mould". Just imagine the world without Harry Potter for a moment. It almost happened. If Bloomsbury hadn't decided to give it a shot, the whole thing could have been lost to The Great Circular Bin In The Corner Of The Room.What a tragedy that would have been...don't you agree?

Another huge influence on my style and writing development was Douglas Adams. I think most people by now know Mr. Adams' work. I think it is safe to say that his voice and style are unique to the publishing world. Only a certain number of people will "get it". (That number will probably decrease with devolution of mankind...thank you, Devo...Duty Now!) Just to drive that home...The Harry Potter series has sold about 450 million copies. Let's assume each individual book sold an equal share, just to be fair...which means the first book sold 64 million copies and has been on the market for 15 years. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was published in 1979, has been on the market for 33 years, and has sold only 14 million copies.

To be honest, though, Adams and Asprin had more impact on me than Rowling did. Okay, maybe it was because I didn't get to read Rowling until I was an adult (well set in my ways). But still, I've been affected by other authors, too. (Dean Koontz, Stephen R. Donaldson, Roger Zelazny, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and F. Paul Wilson just to name a few.) Were any of these wild successes? Not really. Not to Potter levels, anyway. Would they have succeeded in the self-publishing world? Hard to say.

I guess what it boils down to is my fifth point above. (Go ahead and go look, I'll wait...ready? Okay.) I don't write books in an attempt to become famous or rich. I write books because...1.) I enjoy writing books and 2.) I have the hopes that some day...somewhere...someone will enjoy one of them as much as I enjoyed Mr. Asprin's books (and those other books, too, of course...)

If I had the choice of choosing between having one major breakthrough success that died out after a couple years (ie Twilight) or a small faithful audience of people who thoroughly enjoy what I write (Xanth?)...yeah, I'd pick the latter. (For those that fall into point #2 above...Lat-ter Adjective: 1. Situated or occurring nearer to the end of something than to the beginning) Self-publishing will probably never give me either one of those, though. That is why I am abandoning it as a viable option.

What options do I have left? Traditional publishing, of course! Oh yeah, I forgot...I don't write books that fit into their commercial market view. Damn.