Don’t You Love It When You Find New Things To Love

I believe that songwriters are perhaps the most gifted of all writers–across all genres and mediums–for they are the ones to capture an entire moment, memory, milestone or a lifetime in the span of four minutes and breathe real life into it.  That’s why songs make us cry, make us laugh, make us dance…because the authors of them hold a gift and they use it perfectly.  Songwriters can make it real for you with a simple melody and thoughtful lyrics.  They can pull you back to your first kiss, transport you to your senior prom, your wedding day, the day you first saw your child, the moment of your first bittersweet heartbreak, the moment you knew life would go on or even last Saturday night.  Every good movie has an amazing score behind it that sets the scene.  Every good book was written to playlist.  Music is a thread, woven intricately through our lives.

I have fallen in love with Christina Perri.  Deeply, madly, truly in love.  That girl, now, she’s a songstress.  She has the most beautiful voice–earthy, deeply noted, fresh and just plain, old fashion good in the era of auto-tune.  She’s a little Anna Nalick, the best of Sarah McLachlan, touches of Jason Mraz, and lull of her own exceptionally unique brand.

Her song, Jar of Hearts, first bled through the speakers on a winding road while I was driving home.  From the hook, I needed to know who she was.  Her voice, her song–it was magic–it put me back in that moment of bravery, the moment when your heart is broken but you decide to move on because no one has the right to hurt you so much.  I downloaded it and was instantly a fan, not simply of the song, but of the artist.  Then, as if fate spun in, I found out she was doing the theme song to Breaking Dawn part 1.  A Thousand Years…well, now that song may just be my favorite song ever.  Being a Twilight fan, owning all of the past soundtracks, I feel Christina was able to hammer home to the heart of Breaking Dawn.  She was the perfect person to do this…and she did it very well.

I think we can all learn something, as traditional authors with our thick books and long chapters, from our lyrical counterparts.  What they can create in those moments, it is art.  They give something.  They truly, no matter the subject, can evoke feeling in the reading, as we should evoke feeling in our readers.   What they can do magically is bottle it up for us.  They don’t need 400 pages, though the effect is often the same.  There is something beautiful in the soft, short span of it.

As I begin the second book, I think I’m going to try for a different format, a different rhythm…because I realize, it can be done. Glimpsing life without giving it all away.  Give the reader the what matters, pull them in, make it real and make it resonate.  THE MILESTONE TAPES isn’t that.  It’s a slow build, a small fire that eventually, page by page, grew.  Book two, it will be flashes of warmth all the way along.

Do you write to music?  Do you learn from it?  Does it set the scene of the blank canvas for you?  Are you inspired by it?

And as a reader, when you’re reading, do you hear a soundtrack in your mind?  Does knowing what the author listened too while writing make the book better for you?  Do you wish books came with scores?

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The Sort Of Rejection I Can Get Behind….

And no, this has nothing to do with yours truly…

Casey Anthony consumed my summer.  I watched very moment of the trial, and I followed the case for much longer than that.  Adorably sweet Caylee Anthony went missing on the coattails of Stacey Peterson–who lived the next town over from where I reside.  Naturally, I followed the coverage of one case into the next.  Praying the little girl would be found and harboring such disgust for the ‘mother’ who couldn’t be bothered to report her daughter missing for 30 days because her supposed La Bella Vita was just too precious.  I was touched and bothered on all levels.

Casey Anthony, while found not-guilty in a court of law, will always be guilty in the eyes and minds of the public opinion.  She’s a monster, a cold hearted, manipulative monster–the stuff nightmares are made of.  And man, how I wished things had worked out differently…

Casey Anthony, aside from being a real life villain, also is in critical debt.  She needs money and with no formal eduction to fall back on, she has decided to write a book.  Only, here’s the catch, like so many authors, she can’t seem to place it with a publisher.

Sucks to be her.

Here’s the story:

Casey has interest from NBC for an interview, which I’m sure would give her access to copious amounts of cash (shame on you, NBC).  Only, her demands aren’t Twizzlers or only blue M&M’s in the greenroom and a particular brand of bottle water served at room temp.  She wants something a bit more substantial … Casey wants the producer to find a home for her book.

Normally, that sort of clout (I can only imagine) would have serious weight when it comes to closing deals.  But, Casey is persona non grata…and the big 6 won’t touch her or her book with a 10 foot pole.

Hurray big 6, you’ve all earned my gold-star-sticker of the day!

The quotes only add to the simple pleasure of knowing she won’t be able to profit from the death of her child:

Simon and Schuster:  “We are 100% not interested.  We are NOT NOT NOT  interested. Simon & Schuster is not publishing, and has never intended to publish, any book by Casey Anthony, her family, or any member of her team.

Harper Collins: “We are planning on publishing the Prosecutor’s book who was involved in the Casey Anthony case, so we have no plans in releasing a Casey Anthony book.  We’re sticking with the prosecutor.”

Penguin Group:  “We have no plans on doing a book deal with Casey Anthony.”

Another publisher went so far as to say, “Hell no … it’s blood money.”

My thoughts:

Normally, rejections cause me moments of sadness…not this time!  I have to say…if anyone was ever deserving of being turned away from the gates based on the morality and vitriol of the book they’re peddling…it’s all Casey Anthony, for sure.

So, Authors…any thoughts on the matter?

 

 

 

 

Then There’s The Matter Of a Broken Heart

Life is full of rejection.  Big ones and little ones a like.  The type that stay, linger forever in the back of your mind.  The sort that are fleeting, in and out so quickly it hardly resonates.  I never thought a book could break my heart.  But, like with everything about this trek through the publishing web, I should really stop being surprised when it goes to a whole new level.

One of my readers, Deshipley, gave me sound advice a few days ago.  She said, when the rejection comes–based on your book, after a professional has read it–it hurts.  She was right, totally correct…it does hurt.  It’s pounds of hurt and disappointment and self doubt and fear and so many other emotions I can’t pinpoint them.

I’ve taken a lot of no’s with this story.  I’m so tired of that word.  I can sit here and say it’s a matter of taste, I can reason that it’s not my fault or the book’s fault per say.  I can say all of that and sometimes I can even believe it, but other times, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy it.  Today…I’m having a pity party for one.

I submitted my book to a small publishing house.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know.  The sample contract was extremely limiting–no print books, little control over my edited manuscript, 50% profit after the royalties of eBook sales–which we know is already a lowly sum to begin with. The gains were little, all things considered and weighed evenly. But still, I queried.  And with that single try, I managed to get a full read.

The publishing house I went after was tiny, a start up only a few months old.  Maybe I did it simply because there is an innate desire in me to have the backing of a real publisher, no matter the size of their muscle. Maybe that desire is something I cannot quash, no matter how promising Indieland is, and maybe that’s what it’s always been about.   You always want most what you can’t have.

The editor got back to me so quickly initially, and she had such nice things to say out of the gate after reading the first 30 pages.  I actually had the gull to be hopeful despite logically knowing better.  I apologize for not posting about this full read on the blog–but I wasn’t sure what to say…

This morning I received the following rejection:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your submission to <name removed>.  Unfortunately, this story does not meet our publication needs at this time. The beginning of the story felt a little awkward, and as I moved further into the manuscript, the story didn’t really catch and keep my interest.  
That’s a really sad way to start the day.  It broke my heart just a little bit, just like Deshiply promised it would.  All with all rejections, rebound is inevitable, I’m certain, but still…it stings.
I think the hurt mostly pours from the very personal message in the body of the e-mail. And this is why…
I tried, of that I’m positive, to write a book that was gripping.  But, it never to be your stock women’s fiction novel– not in the way commercial fiction grips you, not in your expectations of speed.  It’s unconventional, I know that, but to tell the Chamberland’s story, there was simply no other way.  It had to have the pace of real life, it was why I didn’t write “chapters” but rather “months”.  I designed the book to feel that way…a slow build to a moment of utter grief, and the length and effort it takes to heal from that–it all happens by inches, across measures of time and life, not chapters.  It was never supposed to be a fast burn.  I wanted the readers to meet Jenna, to love her and understand her so completely that come what may, they’d have a richer, more profound, understanding of who she was.
If that doesn’t resonate from the pages of the story…then I’m simply lost. I thank God that I have an editor on board who will help me refine what I’ve written.  But, I understand today that I’m at a huge crossroads with everything….and I’m not really sure what happens next…

The Author’s Guild…The Gatekeepers Gatekeeper

If you’re a writer, you fall into the niche of being the “talent”…you join the ranks along with actors or singers, comedians and musicians and now even reality television stars.  You use your gift to entertain the public.  You’re not in the background–although writing is more solitary work than performance art– you’re in the forefront.

In most talent driven industries, there is such a thing know as a guild.  A guild is basically an association that offers benefits to those who do what they do in the name of entertainment, it’s similar to a union for carpenters or ironworks.  Believe me when I say…guilds are everywhere and the perks are as deep as they wide.  The word itself evokes connection to the well know “screen actors guild”–which is one of the big award shows.

When I worked as a makeup artist I belonged to one, although it was called a “union” it essentially worked the same way.  The membership earned me lower insurance premiums, guaranteed wages for work and the chance to be part of “union only” jobs.  Naturally, I had to reach certain levels to meet the threshold of eligibility–to join in the fun…but, as a freelancer, I was able to earn my place in my past professions esteemed society.  I was able to write a small cheque annually and be ranked and counted.  Doors opened simply because I was a member.

Did you know there was an Author’s Guild?  An organization that allows it members–authors–free legal reviews of contracts, insurance discounts, website building, e-mail and domain name registration.  Oh, it also helps authors get on literary panels to discuss the inner working of publishing.

Yes, my friends, it’s all that…to the tune meager of $90.00 a year in dues.

But wait…before you rush off to sign up, there is something you should know….if you’re an Indie Author, you needn’t apply–they don’t want you there.  We, the unsigned masses, are outcasts of the inner circle.

The Author’s Guild is a subjective, members only club of traditionally published authors.  And, wait, it gets better– even if you’re traditionally published by a small house, there is a solid chance you’ll be turned away at the door.  Only small presses with national coverage are allowed into the inner sanctum of this guild.

NOT FAIR…you’re probably screaming at me through the computer.  I WROTE A BOOK–I AM AN AUTHOR!!!  Believe me folks, I’m right there with you, I know you’re an author, and I believe you’re entitled to same perks as anyone else in this profession.  But the fact is, in the eyes of some being an “author” means something totally different.  It’s not simply a matter of writing a book…you need far more than just that.

Writer and president of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow, recently did an interview with a local online periodical in Chicago, The Oak Park-River Forest IL Patch, that caught my attention.  It was toting the unfairness of Amazon, the way the business is “cheating” by becoming a publisher as well as a marketplace with it’s huge draw of readers.  Going so far as to likening the company we adore to villainous Darth Vader.

Scott did the interview at Brothers K Coffeehouse, a small indie joint (can you all but hear the sarcasm and irony dripping from my tone?) on the shores of Lake Michigan in my old stopping grounds, Evanston Illinois.  Yes, I lived there…and yes, I’d had my fair share of “The Count of Monte Crisco” lattes in my day.

Mr. Turow’s interview can be found here

But the cliff notes read like this:

Amazon is the equivalent of Darth Vader in the mind of Mr. Turow.  Amazon stands to break the hull of the ancient ship known as Traditional Publishing with its conglomerate publisher meets seller moniker.  Amazon is working with an unfair advantage, and is essentially on the cusp of becoming a full-blown monopoly, the likes of which are illegal.  With it’s vertical integration (described as management control) Amazon’s move of  becoming  not only the seller but also the publisher is an unwelcome, ill received, dirty move in the eyes of some.

To that…I laugh.

Nothing about Turow’s stance on Amazon makes sense to me–and I like to believe I’m a very sensible person.

Every book publisher, for as long as the internet has stood to host their individual sites, has had a shopping cart neatly posted in the corner of their respective page–encouraging visitors to browse and buy directly, essentially cutting out the middle man from the sale of their books.  Is that really, really, really all that different from the platform Amazon operates on?  I…don’t…think…so.

If you doubt me, I encourage you to visit Random House or Harper Collins or Hachette Book Group or MacMillan or Penguin Group or Simon and Schuster … they all offer a direct buy option for the book they publish.   Touche, Mr. Turow.

But, perhaps the greatest inconsistency I noted was one he never even mentioned.  One that probably wouldn’t have come up in an interview like the one he hosted.  One that is glaring and bright to my eyes…

If Mr. Turow truly stands on the side of lawful, righteous business practices…why is he the president of an organization that neglects to include thousands–if not multiple thousands–of authors?

An author is described as someone who writes books for a living.  Well, isn’t that what we do?  Maybe not full time–maybe we just wish it was full time–but if we write books, even in the wee hours of dawn or dusk–we are still authors.  And that little guild he presides over should be an inclusive place, no matter who does or does not publish our books.

P.S: You can buy Scott Turow’s books at Amazon.com …if you’re interested 🙂

The Beginning of The End

THE MILESTONE TAPES is wrapping up it’s time as being my number one.  I’m soon sending it off to an editor, and I’ve already begun the outline for my follow-up novel. I’m preparing to finish this chapter of my life with Jenna, Mia, Gabe and Ginny–who have become my friends. It’s bittersweet, exhilarating, and scary. This is a time of reflection, the calm place where I can sit back and amaze at what I accomplished–my work ethic that was a little engine that could.  The grind is slowing…a few more stops–the editor, the formatter–and we’ve reached the station.  The book will be published, and I’ll be forced to move on–because that’s we do.  We finish one and begin again.

Mark and I were hanging out in the family room this evening, sipping on mugs of Keurig hot chocolate with stacks of whipped cream floating in the sea of steaming cocoa, and we got to talking about this journey I’ve been on.

Mark believes that the book–in and of itself–is the major accomplishment.  Just my ability to write one left him wonderstruck for a long time–I used to call him and say, I wrote 3,000 words today and he’d be amazed.  I tend to agree with him while also disagreeing–writing only a part of the bigger accomplishment.

For me, everything about this has been an accomplishment, a milestone, which is appropriate because that is the title of my first book.  All of it, from finding the right cover artist, the queries, to the editor, to simply not ripping my hair out at the root and, of course, this little blog, meant something major.

It’s now that I look back on all the people who have you ever said to someone “anyone can write a book?”…after doing it, that sentiment is laughable.  Writing a book is more than typing words.  It’s everything–the feeling of accomplishment truly a sum of all its parts.

It dawned on me, probably for the first time, that writing a book is a lot like being spun up and dropped, head first, into THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Most everyone knows the story of Dorothy and Toto and their band of misfits.  But to look at it from the angle of art, it’s a subtly different context…

At first, as this begins, you’re just a normal person doing the normal things that make up your normal life. Then, a twister comes along and takes you to another place.  That twister is your book, and that land of Oz it the world of publishing.  You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

It’s a magical second world, beaming with colors that juxtapose you’re black and white existence. You can tell, standing there for the first moment, that there are possibilities in this literary land of Oz.  Wild dreams and bright flashes of the future–fame, fortune, glossy books and people who want your autograph–it’s enchanting and encouraging–you want it.  But the road is long.  Fraught with flying monkeys, vengeful trees, fields of poppies, a gatekeeping wizard who hold the key to all you desire and the witch of the west with her broom and cauldron boiling with ways to trip you up.

You listen to the good witch, believe in her–that’s your friends and family who will help, arm you with the tools and encourage you along.

You collect your companions; the editor, the cover artist, the formatter .  They all become your lion, your tin-man, your scarecrow–the odds and ends that you need to make through.  And you set off down the yellow brick road to wherever it may it go.

The trees–they want to grab you and hold you–they can be nothing but the querying process.  All those letters, personalized and delivered by e-mail or post, and all the downtrodden rejections that follow.  But you throw apples of resilience at each one, they can’t hold–try as they might.

The monkey’s–they want to scare you–they are all the naysayers and doubters that raise a brow at your writing.  You find a way outrun that, you fight, because you believe you can.

The beautiful poppies–that’s real life.  The distractions that tire you out, that pull you down, the writers block that comes up at the most inopportune times.

The wizard–no surprise there–he’s the gatekeeper of traditional publishing.  It’s where many people want to land–the written Oz.  A land of impossible realities.

And the wicked witch–well, that’s kind you, believe it or not.  It’s a sum of all your mistakes, all the things you’d do differently given the chance.

Maybe I’m only the crazy one who can think of it like this…but I do.  I’ve loved every moment of my first journey.  And I’m so looking forward to the beginning of the chapter two and what comes next.

 

So…My Balls Dropped

Okay, that is a fairly graphic title–but yes, I guess my balls have dropped–and there is simply no other way to say it.  I’m getting ballsy.

This morning I received a rejection letter.  The agent said…and I quote…”I hope you plan to write another novel, because I do think you have talent. However, both your query and your opening pages need some editing, and the story could use some revision.”

Normally, I’m a “no means no” sorta gal.  My mother raised me that way.  I don’t back talk, and I’d never ever go against an adult.  But hey…this is a grown up world, I’m an adult too and I’m trying (really hard) to find my place.

The fact is, I like this agent.  I like that not only did she take the time to tell me–point-blank–my manuscript needs work, but that she saw something in my work that could be a launch pad for bigger things–things that I want long-term.  It’s not the standard “I’m not right” or “thank you, but we’re not interested”…she communicated with me.  She told me where my problems lie and gave me some real solutions…she just didn’t know I already knew that, that I was already working towards coming correct.

So…back to my balls…

I read, reread and reread again the e-mail.  I thought it over, and in my mind I reasoned–nothing ventured, nothing gained.  My book is going to an editor in 8 days.  It will be revamped and polished and sorted out.  My clumsy first-timer mistakes will be corrected and what remains will be a better, rounder story.

I figured–let’s see how serious that “talent” comment was…I e-mailed back.  This is where I’m dropping the “no means no” pretense of my entire life.  I asked her for a second chance.  I said that yes, I know this MS needs work–but I’ll do it, and I’ll put everything I have into making it right.

Make no mistake about that, I’m as serious as a heart attack when it comes to this in general–this book means everything to me, and it will be perfect, whether I’m an Indie or Traditional, it makes no difference to me…my accountability will be to my readers and they deserve nothing less.

So, I took the gamble.  I rolled the second chance for that first impression dice.  She may say “no way, girl”…but she may not.  Had I not tried…done at least that much…I’d never know.  And that right there, that’s exactly what I can’t live with.  I can take rejection, I can take silence and unanswered queries because I know what they mean…but not trying, that’s not my personal style.  I’ll try and try and try until I run out of road.

I understand what I did was unconventional–I told her as much.  I understand what I’m trying for may be a total literary faux pas. And this is nothing I’d recommend someone doing–because it might be a really, really bad thing. But–what do I really, really have to lose?  She already rejected me once…twice can’t be much worse, right?

***I’ll be updating this post if or when I receive a reply…good, bad or ugly***

Edited For THE UPDATE

I heard back…she said the particular story didn’t interest her, but she’d be willing to entertain other books in the future.  I quickly added her to my address book–Dear Agent Lady, you’ll be hearing from me again someday, unless I get a believer from jump street.

So…I guess I stay true to the course–we’re off to the editor in 8 days (so thrilled) and then, if nothing else, self publishing (super thrilled)…and of course, book two which is already in the worlds (extremely thrilled about that one).

The lesson here is simple and one that, I suppose, we all have to learn by trial and error…

Rejections aren’t always as simple as they may seem.  I’ve, personally, been told so many different things on my journey with THE MILESTONE TAPES–but the base line is this…different agents really do want different things.  That’s not stock font, people.  That’s really, really true–it’s the grass-roots of reading at large.

I’ve always believed–even before I wrote, just when I was an average, everyday reader: One persons beautiful book is another’s wasted space.  And now that I’m on the other side of the coin, I’m realizing, this whole author/agent/query thing…it’s not that much different from being a reader–you turn a book over, you read the back and decide if this novel is right for you.  If it’s not–that doesn’t mean in five minutes another reader won’t come along, swoop it up and devour it in a solitary afternoon because it’s so them and it’s exactly what they needed.  You can be a great author with great talent, and if the book isn’t an agent’s cup of tea or personal flavor, they’ll pass…same thing with any reader, really.  But that’s not a reflection on you as the writer–it’s on them, as the reader.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.  We’ve all done it, we’ll all do it for the rest of our lives in a million different ways.  It boils down to choice.

I love what I do…I want others to love it as well.  If you don’t, I’d rather skip the melodrama of trying too hard.  I’ve hated the query process and all its baggage.  But, what I can appreciate is the lessons I’ve learned…the growing I’ve done because I put myself through querying.  I’m not going to say querying is something everyone should do, many won’t for personal reasons, and that I can respect.  But for me, as someone green, new and fumbling I needed too–not because it’s fun, but because it’s simply educational.  It prepared me for everything else that will come my way in bucketful doses; rejection, adoration, the highs and lows.

My balls and I are happy we e-mailed back.

AMP, over and out!

The Query Fixer Upper (an exclusive invite continued)

Just over 10 days ago I received an exclusive invitation, from an agent I had reached out to on round one, to have my query revamped for salability.  Many folks told me “run”…but I opted against their advice and decided to proceed with what the agent was selling–the opportunity was something I just didn’t want to let slide.  My hope was that she would really tear me apart–word for word.  I wanted to learn from this.

I finally got the query back.

10 days…and she had four comments, okay well three verifiable comments, since one was answered for her in the line above–but, she apparently missed that.

It was my intention to come here and share a blog seeping with information.  And in the spirit of full disclosure and to be honest, there wasn’t anything enlightening or any really rare nuggets of agent wisdom she shared with me.  There’s really nothing to pass on and for that, I apologize.

You all were right…I was wrong.  Bummer.

Today Changes Everything or Nothing At All

I am hesitant to project this outwardly on you all…deeply nervous…but excited; so excited I could scream and dance and cry.

I received my first request, from an agent, for a full MS read.  It took the agent an entire 5 minutes to e-mail me back.  5 minutes and a full…pick me up off the floor, please.

But, this post isn’t about that pre say, because–I as I titled this–it could change nothing at all and I don’t want to get ahead of myself with ambition.  But the emotions…whoa…they deserve a post all of their own.

The first time an agent told me “thanks, but no thanks” that was hard–not bone crushing–but hard.  Hard to read, hard to understand, hard to figure out what I said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do wrong–I’d obviously done something, but what?  And instead of wallowing in the despair of rejection, I learned from it.  I tightened up my query–did my homework, read blog postings and articles and practiced, practiced, practiced.  So, to read now that I’ve somehow managed to be enough for a full MS read…it’s hopeful, and surprisingly, just has a hard.

When I queried, I sent out a lot.  I felt like the door to door sales woman peddling my wears to busy housewives–some ignored me, some slammed the door, others were kind enough to say “thank you, but I’ll pass”.  I was never discouraging.  I’d simply highlight their name of my ever-growing list and move forward.  Now…now I’ve been invited inside.  I have the chance, a real honest-to-God chance, to sell this book.  And there is so much fear and doubt and anxiety that hangs on this small, significant chance.

If this agent says no– she very well may say just that–it’s only about my book.  It won’t be about my lack luster sum-it-up skills.  It won’t be because I didn’t query the right agent.  All of those excuses will be dashed, tired and worn thing–the only thing that remains hinged together and halting the flow will be…my book.

Scary right?  Damn, scary.

Want to know what I did?  I sent out the full MS.  I did so with shaky fingers and so much doubt.  I let go and let God–cliché right?  But what choice did I have?  None.  She wanted it and this is what I do…I write, and I battle self uncertainty–one keystroke at a time.  But really…it was really, really hard.  As I turned the book into a Word.doc, I wished I’d done a hundred things differently.  Wished I’d had an earlier date with an editor.  Wished I had the time go over the book one last time.  Wish, wish, wish, send….

…Then…

I turned my mind off.  Totally and completely.  I grabbed my little white Chihuahua, turned on a rerun of Ghost Whisperer and took a nap.  A short nap, but it was luxury.  I rested and tuned out my inner monologue for a solid hour.

I don’t know if anything will come from this–maybe everything changes, or maybe nothing at all (I kept convincing myself of the latter, so if or when it comes to that I won’t be ruined for days).  Either way, it’s another place this journey was meant to go, and that…is definitely worth celebrating.

What We’re Up Against

Lately I’ve been reading about these amazing flukes of luck in Indie Author Land–multi-book deals, movie options, agents querying the author.  It’s all very motivational and it feels so hopeful.  These stories are a portal to the realization that, without doing anything other than being the best author you can be, beautiful things can happen to you all the time, at any given moment.

But there is a darker side to being an Indie Author.  Some may call them haters…others may associate the hate speech with the guillotine that hangs above every Indie Published book and the reputation that proceeds each new title…I would say it’s a pinch of both…but still…it’s darn good to know what we’re up against so we can arm ourselves accordingly

Amazon offers “Kindle Forums”…where real Kindle readers cluster to discuss.  I don’t frequent it often, but in passing I noticed a thread entitled—How To Avoid Indie Authors (ouch, that hurts!).  Yet, I decided not just run from the topic–but to consider their “take” as a master class on the isolated opinions that would polarize me from my dream.  Frankly, I’m always eager to learn from the ignorance or experience of others…to design what I do to prove them wrong–so wrong it hurts.

Here are a few sample quotes…

When Amazon opened up self-publishing for the kindle, everyone and their dog has suddenly become an “author,” and every rejected manuscript resurrected as a kindle “book.” I have no problem with amateurs posting their stuff to share online in a writer’s forum, but must their writings be intermingled with real books in the kindle store? Is there some way to hide them or weed them out when browsing and searching. It’s annoying to have to wade through all that garbage which has multiplied like a rat infestation in the Kindle store. courtesy of : Greg

Dear Greg,

I wrote a “book”.  It’s 100k words, and I wrote it in 4 months.  It was long process and it required every inch of self-control, dedication and deep love that a traditionally published book requires.  It’s real, and despite what you may believe to be a universal truth–it is, very much, a book, no quotations required.  You are under no obligation to purchase it–and I’d probably prefer if you didn’t.  No sense in subjecting you to my literary “garbage”.  I believe my feelings are probably shared by the others you harbor so much contempt for as well.

Greg, we do what we love.  We share what we love.  We pour over the words and characters and world we create with enthusiasm and joy–sometimes with heartbreak and frustration.  We intend the book to be enjoyed…so if you can’t or won’t simply because we’re not “traditional”…then it’s genuinely your loss–and for that, you have my sincere condolences.

Kindle and Nook ought to flag books that are self-published. At least then we think to check the book out a bit more closely. For me its the copy editing that makes me gnash my teeth and use words my mother would not approve of! courtesy of : KesterGayle

Dear KesterGayle,

It’s good to always check a book out–you might find something you’d enjoy.

I agree that the covers are a major clue. Indie book artwork and graphics are usually abysmal. But an even better clue is the absence of professional reviews. If all you see is a product description and/or quotes from anonymous sources you know it’s an indie. courtesy of : Danica

Dear Danica,

Since artwork and graphics tend to be one in the same…can you really take issue with both?  Or, did you mean font but simply fell victim to your own bad, confusing writing?  Maybe? If so, welcome to the party–writing what you mean to say can be a tricky skill to master. But, all of that aside, yes, I’ll agree with your point, covers are important.  Did you realize most covers–Indie or Traditional–are purchased from similar places?

I suggest we petition the federal government of the United States to create an Independent Author Advisory Board to decide for us what books can be published. This will weed out all the “undesirable” content from being sold. We need to censor all this garbage. Think of it like exterminators for infestation of freedom of press. courtesy of : New Girl!!

Dear New Girl!!

Your ideals fascinate me for the simple ignorance of them.  Amazon is an American owned and operated company…and in America, dear New Girl, we have this wonderful thing called Freedom Of Press–which, thankyouverymuch, doesn’t practice extermination.  Obviously you’re new…but look it up, girlfriend 🙂

Even calling them ‘authors’ is pushing it. Yes, wipe them out. 🙂 courtesy of : Greg (again)

Oh Greg,

It saddens me to see that–despite how simple it seems–you’re unfamiliar with the definition of an author…here, let me help you Greg.  An Author is defined by someone who has written a book, article or report.  Indie is simply a catch term given and used…but, it’s all the same…an author is an author is an author.  Cheers to all the wordsmiths out there!

Psst: You may want to buff up on the proper use of quotations–you use them in all the wrong places.

**names removed for privacy of the innocent** … Stop the self promotion please. That is the problem with indie . They just cannot help but promote their more often than not unreadable/boring work. Either use their friends or gang up together to self-promote covertly passing as unbiased readers. courtesy of : athenadsb

Dearest athenadsb,

Per chance you don’t understand that promotion–in many forms–is part of the job?  Even traditionally published authors promote their work, day in and out.  Your favorite author?  I’m sure has trudged the path of self promotion.  And, on a side note, I didn’t realize our friends weren’t allowed to enjoy our books?  News to me…but I’ll make sure to promote that in the future.

Indie writers: stop being so pathetic, even that Norwegian neo-Nazi killer had the decency of not publishing his 1500 + mein-kampf-ish jibber jabber to Amazon Kindle, learn to be as decent as him, that’s not too much to ask, or you’re just tooo needy and want to poison us with your venom. courtesy of : Brandenberg

Dearest Brandenberg,

Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” (the title should be capitalized, by the way) in 1925 with a second edition published in 1926.  Amazon.com was founded in 1994 and went live in 1995.  Obviously, as you can see, there was no cross over.  However–I believe had Hitler been given the chance…he’d pushed that hate speech out at every turn–he was nothing if not self indulgent.

And…since I can’t let this slide without saying something…

To liken an Indie Author to Hilter is disgusting, it’s wrong, it’s vile and you should be embarrassed.  Nothing you say; before, during or after, will ever be relevant again–it was a nonsensical baseless comparison.  What Hilter did was exactly the opposite of what we, as authors, do.  We sell stories–not hate.  We believe in freedom to say what you want and be who you are–clearly a different agenda then the above mentioned.

I’ll be waiting for that apology, Bradenberg.

***

I think we’ll close the quote portion of this entry with Brandenberg ranking us below Hilter on the decency scale–seems like a good place to me…you?

What I walk away with (after seventeen plus pages of that full on bashing) is that in every dismal compliant there is a spark of truth (save for Bradenberg–but he’s his own man).  And that spark of truth is how we crawl from under the stigma of “just Indie” to be taken seriously as contenders, as good writers and good people.  It’s what we learn from the bad comments that earn us the good comments–the one’s the are listed below the title of our books.  People don’t hand out gold stars and stickers on effort when you’re a grown up doing grown up things–you have to work for it, and if you put in the energy and the money and the balls-to-walls effort…then–and only then– do the accolades come in droves.

Let’s put their objections to good use…they are just readers after all…

-Book covers.  Apparently they matter–a lot.  The age-old saying of “don’t judge” needs to be trashed.  Our covers are judged, probably to higher standard.  Effort needs to be outgoing and the product needs to be outstanding.

-Editing.  Just do it.  Hire an editor, find a beta-buddy…pause yourself, cool your heels…take the time to make it right from jump street.  If you publish a error-ridden work, it’s just that–error ridden.  Stop expecting anyone to read through your clumsy phrasing, and mistakes…they won’t and you lose.  It’s of paramount importance.  Raise the bar–and then rise up to meet it.

-Promotion.  Do it where it should be done.  Put your energies towards the places where you’ll be rewarded.  Every author promotes–interviews, press releases…but bite your tongue at the times where you’d appear to be selling snake oil.  The best promotion is the one that allows your reap the benefits of it…everything else is just clutter.

-Quotes.  If you’re going use them, let them stand for something.  Find reviewers and capture the best phrase of praise and use it!  Be proud of what’s being said–give credit where credit is due.

It can all be done.  Like I said before–prove them wrong.

I’m going to hand off the blog clincher  to Doobie Doobie who will say it better than I ever could….

All of the following were self-published…recognize any of the names?

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
John Grisham, A Time to Kill
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics
Irma Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Richard Paul Evans, The Christmas Box
Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen,Chicken Soup for the Soul
James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy
Beatrix Potter, creator of the Peter Rabbit Classic Series

Also, here are some more self-published authors:
Thomas Paine – Edgar Allan Poe – T.S. Elliot – Carl Sandberg – Gertrude Stein – Deepak Chopra – Upton Sinclair – D.H. Lawrence – George Bernard Shaw – e.e. cummings – Henry David Thoreau – Virginia Woolf – Margaret Atwood – Tom Clancy – Stephen Crane

An Exclusive Invitiation

Since I’m pretty open on this blog–especially when it comes to my bygone attempts to be a “traditionally published author” I’m going to discuss an e-mail received this evening…

In the past few month, since I finished my book and started this blog, I’ve embraced my moniker of “Indie Author”…it’s sort of my thing…a thing I never really intended, but adore nonetheless.  I went into writing, when I decided to publish, wanting to be traditional, thinking that if I managed to push open to gates to the literary world, I’d feel legit.  Give me an advance, an agent, an editor, a thick hardcover, an e-file, a trade paper back and a contract that encouraged me to keep writing.  It would be success, I would be a success.  Let’s be frank, that’s the carrot I was chasing.

Those were my grass root wants.

The reality was something very, very different.  But, I like to believe I embraced it.  My new wants and needs are something different–maybe even more exciting.

So that brings us here….

This evening while I was checking my e-mail, I noticed an “exclusive invitation” from one of the agent’s I queried before.  She had said no to me and my book, and I moved that reply to the trash along with all the other rejections.  But today…that agent reached out again.  Only this time, it wasn’t about my book–but about my query.

What she is offering me is this…

For $50.00, she’ll edit my query, read the first 20 pages of my book, help me use my author-voice to make a salable agent-friendly finished, polished, mainstream product.  No, she’s not going to represent me…no, she doesn’t want too. It’s unethical according to the AAR. But, she does want to help.  She wants to give me industry relevant feedback.  That’s all.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Self published authors are saying…NO, NO, NO…RUN AWAY.

But I wonder…can it really be that bad?  What are the risks?  Do they outweigh the gain?  Can learning to be better–even at cost–be that bad?

The thing is, all of this (every little bit, in every little corner, in every little room) is new.  I’m not a seasoned professional, I’m hardly a paraprofessional, I’m hacking away at this whole “author” thing every single day.  And the truth of the matter is this: it’s not easy.  Every little bit of advice, kindness, help…it matters, it makes a whole world of difference.  It’s where I build confidence to keep going when doors and windows are closing.

I’m getting better at what I do because I’ve sought the people who are already good at those things.  I’m learning.  I’m growing.  I’m figuring out what my potential is by taking the chances required to discover that.

It’s true..what they say…nothing is free.  I pay for a book cover, an editor, press releases…why wouldn’t I pay for a working professional to look at my query with the eyes of an editor?  It’s just not an opportunity every author has…I just happened to query one agent who, although not willing to take me on as a client, is still willing to work with me to make me a better author.  $50.00 won’t break me…but missing the chance to learn…well, that might just be my undoing.

I’m curious.  I wrote this book, I think it’s good–this is my chance to find out why she didn’t agree.  What did I miss?  Where was I lacking?  If she can show me those things, then–although I don’t believe I’ll continue querying– I can jog the lesson to blurb crafting moving forward.

I’m going into this applying the motto that I’ve lived by since the start…nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Stay tuned as this trip takes a whole new turn…I’ll post a follow-up blog where I’ll share my before meets after.  Hopefully we can all learn from this.