Thursday, February 10, 2011

Step Away from the Computer or Shoot Yourself in the Foot – the Decision is Yours.

It's been a busy week on my blog. If you haven't heard about this, you can read the nine yards of 'oopsey-doodle, I'm making an ass of myself' here.

I was reading this kerfuffle as an objective author who's received more than her fair share of 'less than glowing' reviews and shouting in my head to the author, "Stop. Stop now while you're behind."

Temperance like tolerance are the better sides of valor. You have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes you have to bite holes in your tongue to keep from shooting yourself in the foot. Those are all things you learn when you take a dip in the professional author pool (or if you intend to walk out your door and deal with people in the real world). It's the whole "Stop. Stop now while you're behind."

There are things you learn in this industry when it comes to reviews.

First and foremost, buy yourself a pair of teflon-coated panties and get ready for the wild ride that is having a book out for public consumption and criticism. Never, ever take a bad review to the web and then call the review site non-professional. It comes across as an inability to work and play well with others. Aside from that, it's dishearteningly childish.

Second, you are a professional who is running a professional business. You are the face of that company. You have to conduct yourself as you would if you were meeting with a client in the real world or having lunch with a potential business partner. That's a simple fact of running a business and it is imperative in this industry.

Third, a bad review will happen. It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. Take it, nasty or great, for what it is worth. If it's tear-worthy and sucks the air right out of your lungs, get over it. If you get a glowing review, count your blessings and move forward.

Fourth, if you haven't learned how to make lemonade from lemons, whip out a cookbook and do so real quick or just walk away. I mean that sincerely. Just walk away if you don't know how to take a bad review and make it into something fantastic.

Fifth, but probably something that gets lost more often than not, it's a fricken' story. It's words on a page. It's however long it is. It's not a baby. You didn't give birth to it. It's a story, and hopefully not your only one. Reviews like edits are not personal. If you aren't prepared to separate yourself from those two simple facts do not walk but run for the exit.

We can debate/discuss skin thickness all we want to when it comes to reviews, but the decision is yours to make. If you think you are going to just waltz through this industry with a stellar portfolio of 5 star/ribbons/puppy dog tails or whatever the review site uses to grade stories you aren't being honest with yourself. You will face the brutal reality that not everyone loves your story.

But the decision is yours. Step away from the computer and all the trouble you can get yourself into by going on a rant about a reviewer or shoot yourself in the foot because your feelings were hurt. It's that simple.

Trust me – opening the industrial-size can of worms that may happen if you do take your self-righteous indignation to the web is seriously not worth it.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who the hell is peeing on my parade?

Sometimes you read something and it's so true you just want to sit and cry then mix yourself a cocktail of rat poison and antifreeze. The blogpost I'm referring to is this one (warning – this blogpost contains several four letter words and the bitter truth).

Of course the author stayed away from e-publishing (for the most part). He's with NY, I get it, and that's not the topic I want to take on. Most every author who goes e-pubbed knows we're viewed as the steerage class on the Titanic. The NY authors glare at us as if we are ants which are begging for Raid to be brought out of the pantry and deserve to be given a double dose simply because we actually aspire to call ourselves authors. There's a truth neither NY nor e-pubbed authors can get away from: to compare the two is like trying to compare a Ferrari to a Cadillac. They are only slightly similar, but not very much.

Nope, not going there with the whole why e-pub is great and NY is not. I'm doing the flipside of this argument. I'm doing the e-pubbed side.

You think it's tough in NY? You think you see the iceberg in the distance and are screaming "hard to starboard"? Try swimming in the trash-choked, scum-coated ocean that is e-publishing. Come on, just stick a toe in the shark, piranha, and nasty skin-eating algae-infested water—I double dare you.

There are many reasons writers go to e-publishing. Some don't write novel length. Some are way too racy for mass market unless they intend to have their book come out with a plain brown wrapper. Some have been rejected by every agent under the sun and now look to the web. Whatever the reason, we're here.

Let's take a good, long look at e-publishing. And, people who know me know I love my e-pubs except for one (but that's a totally different rant which I will NEVER discuss on the web).

If New York is getting tighter then e-publishing is caught in an orgy of whoever meets whoever and voila baby publishing house is born. Sometimes, these little houses pop up because, well hell, might as well put a name to my company, but I'm actually self-publishing. You know, ride out the tightening of New York because it, eventually, has to get better. Right. It'll get better when Hell freezes over and you build a time machine so you can travel ten years into the past to destroy the inception of the internet. And don't give me that trite excuse – why do I need a publishing house? Well, 99.9 % of authors need one to tell them their story isn't great. It needs editing. It needs a flipping major rewrite. It needs you to take this stinking pile of garbage and actually look at the thing not once but eight times. That's why you need a publishing house.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to open an e-publishing house either. Computer – check. Software – check. Internet connection – check. Build a website, make yourself some friends and there you go – you're in business.

Some of these baby pubs are open for submissions with their no scat/orifice stuffing/rape for titillation stipulations. Here's the real truth--Authors don't know dick about these houses. Of course, there are those forum sites out there who will warn you don't go there and the likes, but then again, a lot of these forums are more to the point 'if you aren't with publisher XYZ then you aren't even third class, you're the barnacle on the bottom of the boat'. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Newbie authors read the posts and say – "it won't happen to me." They say, "But I have this book, and it's great. Okay, maybe not great, but in my opinion, it's worthy of a Pulitzer Prize and my crit partners just loved it."

So with stars in their eyes and manuscript ready to be e-mailed, newbie writers and even some veterans go out on the web to peruse the multitude of e-publishing houses. The houses are just there—they're pretty, they sport flashy banners and scream, "We're different." They tote great tag-lines and seem so convivial. "We want to be your friend." "You'll love us here." Sure they're different, they love you, they want to be your best bud, and I have a big ship to sell you. Did I mention it sank a century ago? Huh? People died on it? Huh? Huh? It's being eaten as you are reading this post by iron-gobbling bacteria and said massive luxury liner won't exist in fifty years. Huh? Huh? Huh?

The expiration date of most e-publishing houses isn't even that long. Some have stood the test of time, had problems, gone to ground and rebounded, but most won't be around five years from now. Hell, some won't be around five months from now.

Here's the thing that sets e-pubbing apart from NY. There's always a house (new or otherwise) that will take a stinking pile of crap. Why, you might ask? Because they are desperate. Not believing me? Just look at some of the fly-riddled poopy piles that have been published lately. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, oh starry-eyed writer. They'll take a pitiful, riddled with typos/grammar errors/plot holes/poorly developed characters because they need to fill a slot.

It's that simple.

No math involved.

Please don't delude yourself to think your editor will help you make your story so much better (this isn't exactly the norm but is beginning to really show up due to the lack of experienced editors). I can tell you, fighting with your editor is the best way to have them laugh at your manuscript and say, "take an effin' leap."

Let's not forget the publishing houses. They employ editors who are predominantly writers. That's not a big issue in my opinion, but you have to recognize they are going to edit your story to fit the rules they've had drilled into their heads not from the publishing house they are working for but from their crit partners and/or other editors. Still, do these publishing houses train their editors? That's laughable. Most of these pub houses don't even have a style guide. They don't give their editors anything more than a formatting sheet, a list of a few simple rules which are predominantly 'don't piss off our authors because we need them' and then say, "have at it." **My best advice is to read a few excerpts from a potential publishing house and look for mistakes (that means turn off your reading cap and put on an editing cap) – if you find mistakes the publisher probably isn't ready for primetime. And if they only give you five hundred words in a 5k or above story excerpt – steer clear.**

So, let's look at this from a hypothetical aspect. You have signed a contract, you've gotten your cover art (great or not), gone through your edits and are now sitting at the very edge of your release date—which should be called your 'damn, I'm screwed date'. Your elated but – oh, damn it, I have to promote my book which is now a bigger stinking pile of garbage because I fought with my editor or my editor didn't give a flippin' A (you just didn't see it, because you still think you've written the next best seller). But, because you are new, hope, faith and dreams of big money just suck you into the chasm that is actually having a book available for purchase from any number of third party sites and the publisher's website. Yep, there you are. You've been sucked down into the icy cold water that is the chilling reality of being an e-published author. You dream of the kaching, kaching, kaching of everybody from Seattle to Uzbekistan buying your book.

And then you get your royalty statement.

That first statement can be a real shock. I've had great ones and not so great ones. Sometimes I can afford a Starbuck's coffee because of my royalties other times I've bought a pair of designer shoes I've been eyeing. That's the nature of this beast.

I was taught early, if you are in this for the money then you are in it for the wrong reason.

You've got to choose – it's a love of doing this or the pipe dream of big money. Grab the lifeline that is actually learning the craft, implementing your new tools, growing as an author and leave the fantasies to the fools.

For me, it's an easy choice. I love writing. I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it because that's what I do. I've never quit my day job with aspirations of becoming some big name on Fictionwise (shameless plug here – Intimate Space is number 9 on Fictionwise – lol).

The truth for me is nobody is peeing on my parade; I've just never deluded myself to think I'm bigger than the sum of my characters, plots and sex scenes. Reviewers (and this is a totally other blogpost) love or hate my work. These are facts I can live with.