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Listen to Your Critics

free-lemonsWait, what? No I didn’t typo the title of this blog.  I really do plan to talk about reasons you should listen to your critics.  Sure there are countless blogs posts about all the reasons you should ignore your critics.  I have even written one (or two).  There are lots of great posts on how bad reviews and the critics of your work should be ignored.  You can’t please everyone and you can’t win them all.  But, after careful consideration, I am not sure that is really the best tip to provide authors, or any artist for that matter.

Working in the art industry, and we can’t forget that writing is an art, attracts all kinds of people.  You have the people who love just about everything.  You have the people who hate just about everything.  Then you have the people who really don’t know what they like or hate.  And finally you have the ones who know what they like and why they like it (and they usually know why they don’t like something too).  One might argue that you can also attract the jealous artist.  The one who wants to do what you do (and probably could) but they never bothered to really work at it.

In the past two years I have written a ton of book reviews.  I realized that reviewing a book on Amazon and Goodreads really helped authors.  Soon I was writing them for Plasma Frequency, and now I am writing them for my own blog.  And in all those reviews, I used to feel guilty when I wrote something critical about a book.  I felt like maybe I was being a jerk.  And I knew how critical reviews bothered me sometimes.  But I’ve realized that I am only sharing my opinion.  Other readers, and the author, can take it or leave it.  It is just my opinion, and I am but one reader.

But over the past few weeks, especially after all the inspiration I got from WorldCon, I have realized that perhaps I am thinking about reviews the wrong way.  That ignoring the bad ones, and basking in the good ones, was not necessarily the best method.

First, we should get this out of the way.  There is one review that you can always ignore.  That is the review that just bashes your book to bash it.  There is no logic to the reviews.  That would be the “This book sucks because I said it sucks but I won’t tell you why it sucks” kind of review.  Any blog reviewer worth your time won’t publish a review like that.  But on Amazon and Goodreads you will see those from time to time.  When I say you should ignore those reviews, I mean just that.  Don’t bother with it.  Don’t waste your time getting it removed or asking all your friends to vote the review as being not helpful.  I just mean ignore it.  It isn’t worth the time you put into it.

Recently I have seen an explosion in sales and reviews for Dissolution of Peace.  I was lucky to sell five copies each month in the past six months.  And I thought five was a great month.  I also seemed stuck at 12 reviews for a long time.  But now, I find myself looking at my 18th review on Amazon.  And 28 text reviews on Goodreads, which is great in my opinion.  I’ve also sold an average of 1.75 books per day (not counting my free promotion earlier this month).

So things are going well right?  Yes, and no.  There are some critical elements in these reviews.

I’m consistently seeing reviewers that love the story line of my book.  There has been a sprinkle or two suggesting better character development, and another sprinkle or two that love the characters.  There have been a few that hate the ending.  There have been a few that love the ending.  But one critical comment has been consistent.  They don’t like the grammar and spelling.  They seem to find errors that I didn’t catch.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am very self conciseness when it comes to grammar.  So my first step in dealing with this was to follow the advise we see across the blogging world.  I simply ignored it.  In fact, anything critical, I ignored.  Anything that people loved I relished in, I noted it for the sequel.  I even bragged about it.

But that is a disservice.  Not just to the reviewer, who took time to review the book (which we know many readers do not do), but it is also a disservice to yourself.

Every artist can grow.  And listening to your readers is a great way to learn where you might want to focus your growth.  It also tells you what you can fix to increase your sales.  For example, I’ve hired a new editor to review and fix the mistakes in Dissolution of Peace that I simply can’t catch.  Once she fixes those, I’ll update the book with a new version.

But grammar isn’t the only critique I have got.  I am looking into how I develop my characters and the way I end my novels.  I am looking into what it is that people really enjoy about the way I write stories.  I’m listening to my readers, even the critics.  Because that is how I will grow as a writer.  That is how I will become better.  And once you think you can’t get any better, you’ve become to arrogant and your readers will eventually notice there is no progression in your work and you will fade out.

So while critics are everywhere, they are also extremely helpful to the arts.  You, as the artists, may not take all their tips.  I am not saying you have to.  But I am saying you should at least listen.  You will benefit from that. If the majority of readers have a consistent complaint, I would suggest correcting that aspect of your writing.  Either in your current book, or in future works in progress.  For those more 50-50 splits, the choice is yours as an artist.  It could be something to change, or it could be that your style is not their style.

But if you want reviewers, you have to listen to them.  You can’t bash them and ignore them.  You can’t accept only the good.  You have to listen to your critics.

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WorldCon Upcoming and Other News

Last week I didn’t do my normal blog post, the one from the Monday before was very emotionally draining and I needed a break.  I wasn’t surprised that post got little attention, even from my friends, but there is still something about laying it all out there that drains you.  The good news is I am feeling much better.  I wrote more on my work in progress, got a very good review on Dissolution of Peace (see below) and have been working hard to get ready for WorldCon.

WorldCon!

For those that don’t know about WorldCon, it is the World Science Fiction Convention.  It is held annually and also is the host for the Hugo Awards.  I’ve been trying to go to one for three years now.  When I first learned about WorldCon, I tried to go to Renovation, but at the last minute I had to cancel.  That was a shame because it was only about a four hour drive from my house.  Chicago was just not going to happen, the cost was too much.  But finally this year I get to go.  Lone Star Con 3, in San Antonio looks like a ton of fun.  But I made several mistakes that I will have to plan for next year (though I don’t think I will get to London, I hope to get to the North American Science Fiction Convention (takes place when WorldCon is not in North America).

First, I had no idea about the panels.  That is to say, I knew that there were discussion panels to see.  What I didn’t know was that I could ask to be on them.  Second, I delayed to long to get back to them about a signing.  Third, I couldn’t get a Dealer’s Table for Plasma Frequency.  But, I think this actually works out better.  I get to experience the convention, learn all there is to learn about it, and hopefully next year I will know better where I can help out.

I am beyond excited.  I’ve got some business cards to hand out for the magazine, and I have some postcards to hand out during the event.  The postcards are for my book and they are announcing a way to get both my books free.  I’ll explain that more soon.

Whether you are a fan of my books, fan of Plasma Frequency, or a writer/artist looking to talk to me in person about getting your work in Plasma Frequency; I hope you will seek me out.  I’d love to meet with writers, artists, and other professionals in the industry.  If you see me there, please feel free to say Hello!  If I have  a moment I would be happy to talk to you.  Also, I understand that you can leave a message for me on the Voodoo message board.

While I was not able to get involved in any of the panels as a panelist.  I fully plan to attend a lot of convention activities.  Below is a list of some of the activities I plan to attend.  Of course, I may have to cancel some of these depending on what else I discover.  But maybe I will see some of you at these. (Sorry if I butchered any of the panel names, I wrote them from my memory).

Thursday:

4pm Self Promotion

5pm Opening Ceremonies

9pm Best Practices for Booksellers

Friday:

4pm The Romance of Military SF

5pm How Magazines are Changing in a Digital World

8pm How to build a Book Campain

Saturday:

11am How to Write a Short Story

12pm Planning a Starship

2pm LSC3 Film Festival

4pm The shift for Print to Electronic

5pm Writing Combat

Sunday:

10am Mars and/or Bust

11am Should SF consider the Furture

1pm Crowdfunding

2pm Real Animals in a Fantasy World

5pm Extend your book into Social Media

8pm Hugo Awards

Monday:

10am Writing outside Genre

12pm Armed Society is a Polite Society

3pm Closing Ceremonies

The rest of the time I will be either moving around the convention to see the exhibits or out sightseeing in San Antonio.  I plan to spend some time at the Riverwalk, the Tower of the Americas and the Alamo. When I get back, I plan to write a blog post all about my experiences there.  I’ll also be on my Twitter and Facebook with updates of where I am and what I am seeing.  I also will have an article in Issue 8 of Plasma Frequency all about the trip.

Get My Books Free!

Design by Mister Signs

Design by Mister Signs

Design by Mister Signs

Design by Mister Signs

In honor of my first WorldCon and because I can’t think of a better way to get the attention of a ton of Science Fiction readers, I have made Dissolution of Peace and Volition Agent free for Kindle from August 29th to September 2nd.  Five full days to celebrate my books and WorldCon.  I would really like to see my book make some “Top Seller” lists on Amazon.  My readers did wonders with Dissolution of Peace on its first free day.  So please spread the word that these books are going to be free on Amazon.  The more people who know the better!  Thank you!

New Dissolution of Peace Review!

Bookworm Babblings reviewed Dissolution of Peace today!  They were very excited about this book and said some excellent things.  It really brightened my mood.  Please go give it a read, and leave a comment if you’d like.

 

Hope to see some of you at WorldCon!  See you next week for my post about the trip!

 

 

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News, Updates, and a Few Favors to Ask

I haven’t done an updates blog in a long time, so I thought I would start August with one.

Dissolution of Peace

ob hall of fame finalistFirst, lets talk Dissolution of Peace.  In late July, I noticed a bunch of new reviews on Goodreads for the book.  Based on what I read from those reviews, it was a Book Club that reviewed my book.  It was very nice to see positive reviews come in mass like that.  I think I know which book club it was, but I am not sure.  Either way, I thank them for selecting my book and reviewing it.  None of the reviews were below four stars so I guess they must have liked it.

The sequel for Dissolution of Peace has been a tough time coming.  I know most who have finished the first book are dying to know what happens next.  When I originally wrote Dissolution of Peace, in its infancy, I wrote a second manuscript to go with it.  This manuscript did not take over right when Dissolution of Peace ended. It took over some time later, and the problem is I thought I’d want to write what happened in that time as the second book.

Dissolution of Peace went through a significant rewrite from the original to the current book.  So now, I feel the time between books might need to be told.  Well, I have sort of stalled on telling that story. And I now find myself wondering if I want to actually start the story in at “some time later” as I had planned all those years ago.  What I think I really need to do is reread Dissolution of Peace and reread the other manuscripts from the past, this way I will find the inspiration of where to go from here.

In other Dissolution of Peace news, and for the first favor: Quality Reads UK Book Club (in partners with Orangeberry) have nominated Dissolution of Peace for their Book Expo Hall of Fame.  They have several categories, and Dissolution of Peace has been named with four other books for the Hall of Fame.  The rest is up to votes.  It seems my book has already traded the lead with another title several times. So if you don’t mind, please head over and give Dissolution of Peace a vote.  You can vote by clicking here.

Volition Agent

Volition Agent - Kindle Cover (Hires jpg)Volition Agent is still trying to pick up some steam.  I am proud of this book, and I am still a bit down about the slow start.  However, we did have a recent giveaway end, and though it didn’t get very many entrants, that will put the book in more readers hands.  I’ve already mailed out the Paperback winners.  And when I am done with this blog, I will be sending out the Kindle winners via email.  I have canceled the photo contest, no one entered or expressed interest in entering. Some marketing ideas just don’t work.

There is still a chance to win a copy of the Volition Agent.  You can do so by entering the Goodreads giveaway.  That runs until the end of this month (if I remember correctly).  So please consider entering and sharing it with your friends.

Current Work in Progress

I do have a work in progress going.  I put a lot of words down quickly on this project (which is still untitled) and I really think it is coming along nicely.  As I get farther along on it, I am realizing that a lot of my heart and soul in going into this work.  There is a lot of my own personal struggles placed in each of these characters.

Once again I find the three characters alternating POV works for me.  There are three main characters in this story: Liam Fisher, the military leader of the City-State of Lagoon Hills.  Talya Brooks, his second in command.  Rachel Tabor who is a person from Liam’s past who he never expected to see again.

The project is my first take at a post apocalyptic story.  I don’t think you can call it a dystopian, the people are rather happy thought the world we know is no longer around. It takes place several years after the government of the United States (and the world) collapsed due to a variety of things including disease, economics, social unrest, and a mass die off of the human race.

Anyway, I am really enjoying writing this book.  Though for the last week time has not permitted me to write as much as I want.

Plasma Frequency

Plasma Frequency recently published Issue 7, our first issue in our second year of publishing.  This is very exciting and we have worked hard to get to this point. We have a lot of plans for our second year.  We plan to switch over to Amazon for our publishing needs, selling both the Kindle and Print issue through them.  This will significantly lower our print costs. We understand that for the amount of fiction we publish, that the $9.99 price point Magcloud forces on us (due to their per page cost) isn’t fair.  We don’t even make money on the print issue.  Amazon will allow us to reduce that significantly and put our price more in line with other print magazines.  We won’t cut ties with Magcloud because of their ability to sell our PDF issue.  I’ve not found another source for that.

I really want to pay authors and artists more. But the current 1 cent per word comes out of my own pockets.  That has made it rough for me, and I can’t even consider paying more unless I have more funds. So after our reader survey, we thought we would try an IndieGoGo campaign.  So far, we are way short of our goal and it doesn’t look like we will be paying anymore in year two.  But that can change if you will help (see another favor).  If everyone who downloaded our issues donated just $25 we’d break our goal in no time flat.  But you don’t have to donate that much.  Even just $5 or $10 helps.

Even if we don’t hit our goal, Plasma Frequency will still be around for many years to come. I just won’t be able to pay anymore just yet.  To donate, or share with others, click here.

So that is what I have going on right now.  Oh, and don’t forget to share (one last favor) the Author Features that I stated on Friday when Jennings Wright came by for an interview. This Friday I have a guest post.  Jump in and get some free publicity.

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The Ups & Downs (and way downs) of Being an Independent Author

AuthorBeing an Independent Author sounds easy.  It sounds like a ton of fun.  First, you get to write.  I love that part.  Second, you don’t have to deal with the hassles of agents, query letters, chapter submissions, and the countless months waiting for answers.  I love that part, too.  And with the invention of KDP, Nook Press, and Smashwords (just to name a few) it is fairly easy to get your work published.  All this adds up to a very quick time from finishing a book to having it available to readers.  All of these reasons are exactly why I went the Independent Author route.  I had stories I wanted to tell and I wanted to reach readers quickly without the hassles of the traditional route.

Sounds easy doesn’t it.  A lot of people say it is easy.  Well that isn’t entirely true.  No one ever told me it would be easy.  They made is sound easy, they made it seem like the right path.  But no one ever said, this is the easy way to go.  And, I’m telling you right now… This is not the easy way to go.

Marketing as an independent author is hard, bordering on impossible.  There are so many authors standing on the roof tops yelling, “Buy my book!” that no one really listens anymore.  I am a member of several Facebook groups, and they are filled with nothing but “Buy my book” posts.  Now I wonder if anyone going to these groups looks for books to buy, or are they all coming to these groups to tell me to buy.  And your Facebook page and Twitter page will only reach a limited audience, and if all you do is try to sell you’re follower numbers shrink even more.  I love my blog audience, but again this is a tiny group of people.

Independent Authors talk a lot about the way we should share each others posts, help build the word of mouth, but in actuality they rarely step up to the task.  Is that bad of them?  No, they should only share what they want to share.  Not just share because I say they should.  But the point being is that social media is not the selling tool everyone thinks it is.  It is not a direct selling method.  That is to say that if you expect to tweet your book link and get clicks and sales from that, it won’t work.  But if you expect people to follow you for you (because they like what you post about), well then you just might get somewhere.

Don’t even get me started on how Facebook has destroyed the ability for the Indie author to reach out.  Let just say, now that only roughly 10-25% of my followers even see my posts, it has really killed my ability to use them for anything.

With the release of Volition Agent, a novel which I thought was anticipated by my readers, I have found that there are many down sides to being an Indie Author.  My sales numbers for Volition Agent have been so low I’ve found myself fighting off a bit of depression.  It is hard when you’re very excited about a novel, and the release day comes and you get no love.  It stings actually.  No, stings isn’t the right word.  It makes you sink so low that you wonder if writing is even your calling.  It makes you want to throw everything away and yell “FUCK IT” and walk away.

Then you get your first review on Amazon.  I was so happy to see a five star rating on Amazon.com.  It was a short review, “Although I’m only a third of the way through the book, I’ve found the ideas and writing style to be so good that I want to read more. Highly recommend this.”  But that review lifted me up.  They like the book, they like it so much they want others to know before they even finished it.  So naturally I shared this with all the writing groups I am on.

In one particular group, another user commented.  That user said. “Only a third of the way through the book, and already recommending it? Based on what I’ve seen I would wait for it to come the the library, rather than pay money for it.”

Talk about a slap down to Earth.  This hurt for several reasons:  First this is an authors and artists group.  Not one other Author in that group spoke up in my defense.  Not even the admin.  It is a fairly standard rule the constructive criticism is acceptable, but there is nothing constructive here.  The comment was meant solely to crush my positive review.  What happened to the Independent authors banding together?  Of course now, I find it funny that he would criticize a review simply because they passed judgement when they were 1/3 through, but he passed judgement without reading a word.

Then I go to seek comfort in my sales numbers, to which I found no comfort.  I simply slipped way down into the depths of a depression and the “screw it” mentality that I stopped planning anymore writing projects.  I simply shut down, and had enough.  Being an independent author hurts and there is no respect in it.  I’ve tried a lot to get some hype built.  My giveaway on Goodreads is doing well enough. My giveaway on Rafflecopter is a laughing matter, with only 7 entries.  The photo contest will likely be canceled because of no entries.  I’m still trying to get people to click on my Goodreads ads (with no luck and a lot of money still tied up).  And neither book has even broke even yet.

It isn’t about money for me.  It never has been.  I just want to be read, and accepted by readers.  I just want people to enjoy my stories, but how do I make them aware I even exist.  I love the fans I have, and I am sure some of them are telling their friends to get my books, but I want to find some new readers.  For the independent author this is the hard part.

So between this new level of depression and the 60 hour work weeks of my day job, I haven’t bothered to care about writing anything.  I know I am not the only indie author that feels this way.  I know I am not the only one that feels like they’ve tried everything to get people excited and talking about their work, only to find that no one cares.  I know I am not alone, but it certainly feels that way.

There are ups too.  Like getting an Amazon review, a Goodreads review, and especially a blog review.  Yesterday I got a very nice, actually it was excellent, review from the Devoted Mommy of 3 blog.  I know of a review coming for Volition Agent, though I don’t know when yet.  And I’ve had a few positive words from others about my books.  So, I started another novel.  I’ll keep writing because I have faith that eventually readers will discover me, and when they do they will want to read as much of what I have written has they can find.  So for them I keep writing, and for them I will stay on the independent path for now.

Now many of you writers might be reading my blog and thinking; Oh man, Independent Authoring sucks!  I’m going traditional.  Well, that is a choice that is up to you.  I think every author needs to ask themselves three questions before deciding if traditional or Independent in the right choice for them.

Why do I write? If you are writing to get your stories out to readers as quickly as possible then that leans to the independent side.  If you are writing to get “discovered” and make a good living on it, you might want to think about the traditional route.  That doesn’t mean that indie authors don’t get discovered, it just means that your odds are lower.

Where do you want to see your books sold? If you want to see your books in B&N stores nationwide, traditional.  If your writing to see your works published quickly on the major online retailers, indie.  If you are happy with local book sellers, you might try the indie route, but be prepared to do some convincing.  If you want book tours, book signings, and all that fun stuff, traditional is your choice.  If you want blog tours, indie is good.

Do you want to make this your career?  If you plan to write for a career, I don’t know that Indie is your choice.  It certainly isn’t the faster way to do it.  I am still in the negative for Dissolution of Peace, which I have spent roughly $500 on to date.  I think I have made about $150 on the book so far, I am still -$35o on the book.  I’m already into Volition Agent for around $350, I’ve just now hit $15 into that.  You don’t get rich in the indie market, at least not easily.  All marketing, cover art, editor, and promotional costs are on you.  I haven’t even included the free books I’ve give away in the costs above.  You won’t make a lot of money easily.  But, there is no guarantee you’ll make it big in the traditional method either.  Even if you make a sale, most books don’t earn out their advance and start earning royalties.

Typically this would be the part where I tell you that you can help me in a few simple steps.  You know the drill because it is on every Independent Author blog.  You know, write reviews, tell a friend, blah blah blah.  I’m going to skip all that.  You’ve heard it before and either you are doing it, or you are not.  That is your choice to make.

The point of this blog is simple.  Being an independent author is not easy.  If you are planing to be one, or are one, because you thought it would be the easier way.  You’ll get a rude awakening.  The independent author road is filled with a lot of ups and downs, and the down can be really bad.  But don’t give up either.  There will be critics, there will be praise, and most commonly there will be readers who will say nothing.  Just breath, get out of the funk, and start writing the next one.  I’m glad I saw that and started my third novel.

 

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Don’t Let Others Bring You Down

I had sat down here today to write a ranting blog about how disappointed I was with certain things that had happened recently in regards to my writing.  But as I got ready to write the post, I kept staring at the screen.  I didn’t want to come off whiny, or complaining, or even like I was ranting.  That was when I realized that no matter how I wrote that post, I would be writing a whiny complaining rant.  So I scrapped it.

What was I going to rant about?  I was going to rant about how the people closest to me seemed to treat my choice to be a writer as a joke.  As if I was just doing a cute little hobby.  About how I have family and friends who ignore everything I post about my writing, who never share it with their friends and followers, and on and on and on.  See, I am already starting to rant again.

But as I sat there looking at the blank Ranting Blog I was about to write, I wondered to myself, Why do I care?  Why do I let these people bring me down?  The answer is pretty simple.  It is the same answer to why rejection bothers writers.  It is human nature to care about what others think of you.  You may not like it.  You may even deny it.  But we all care about what others think.  We care even more when it is family and friends.

But in reality you are just letting those people drag you down into the depths.  There are many reasons why people belittle artists.  I am well aware that writing is not the only art form that suffers from the “that is a cute little hobby” remarks. I think every art does.

Art isn’t the Focus

We don’t live in an art based world anymore.  Wait, that is not entirely true. Art is all around us.  We don’t live in an art focused society.  At least not here in the United States.  We cut art from schools, we close museums, we cut music performances, and we close the local theaters.  When money is tight, we cut from the arts first.  Because our society see’s it as more important to get “real jobs” in the corporate world. If you like to write, perhaps you should get a job writing training documents for a major HR company.  If you like art, perhaps you should get a job designing advertising.  If you have a glorious imagination, you should be an inventor.  Better yet, just learn Math and get a job as an executive that will never use those math computations.  Schools, here is my idea.  Just cut math, give every kid a calculator, and bring back art.

No teacher, that I have seen, has told my oldest son, who has a very active imagination, that he should consider a career in writing, acting, or art.  Instead they tell me he has ADD. Or they have the nerve to say, “If he would focus that energy on math he could be a great scientist or inventor some day.”  I say, how about you… Teacher… realize your personality won’t match every student.  How about you foster his imagination and recommend he find an outlet for it?  They didn’t make those recommendations.  Instead my wife and I are seeking out art and acting classes for him.  How about the fact that you admit he knows the material, so clearly he must have paid some type of attention.  And if he knows the material, put your pride aside and stop worrying about if he paid attention to you.

Wait… breath…. I am ranting again.

The point is this.  Our world see’s art, music, writing, and all other art forms, as hobbies.  They are something to be done when you have time around your 60 hour work week.  Writing is not a career.  Photography, never.  You want to draw pictures all day?  You’re lazy.  You want to be a painter, no way.  You want to act? This isn’t Hollywood.  This is one reason people bring you down as an artist.  They just don’t see the arts as a realistic career.

Jealousy

There is a lot of talent in all of the arts.  And well, we don’t all have that talent.  I can hardly color within the lines, let along draw a realistic human form.  The best photographer I can ever be is with my Android phone and I don’t pretend to even know how to use that.

Could I learn any of those things?  I think so.  There is an amount of natural talent needed to do any of the arts.  Some are just not that into art.  Others, they simply wish to do what you do.  They are jealous of the fact that you are doing what they want to do.  Why don’t they do it?  Well they either don’t think they can, or they don’t make the time to do it. Others still, are simply jealous that you’re reaching for a dream while they accepted they’d never reach theirs.

We all get jealous from time to time.   The same is true with artists.  You are making a dream of yours come true, and to others that is a symbol of dreams they never accomplished.  I’d argue that Jealousy is one of the most powerful human emotions.

Misunderstandings

The last of the three main reasons people bring you down, is misunderstanding.  This is a two way street folks.

They misunderstand what you are trying to do with your life.  They may not think that your writing is anything more than a hobby to you.  They may think that writing is an easy, leisurely activity.  They may not understand just how important a “share” or a “like” from them is to you and your career.  They may not understand that adding their Amazon review would mean the world to you and your career.  They don’t know that for a writer, their recommendation to their friends is the life blood of your success.  They could think they don’t have the time to help you out, not realizing that the simple two second share on social media means a lot. This list can go on and on.

But you could also misunderstand.  You could assume that they don’t share your stuff because they think you are just “messing around.” But it could really be that they don’t read.  Or it could be that they didn’t see your post.  You could assume they hate your writing, but they have just been too busy to read one line.  Even though they have been dying to read it and write you a review, they just haven’t had a chance.  Or you could be assuming they never pay attention, but in actuality they are reading everyone of your blog posts, publications, and social media posts.  They just never said so.

So, Stop letting them drag you down.

This sounds easier than it really is.  When you find out someone you care about, and follow their career closely, doesn’t do the same for you.  Well it is soul crushing.  But it is also a downer when you find that others just don’t care about what you do.  Naturally you will get a little down.  And the critics.  Those that bash you just to bash you.  Or, those that simply don’t understand what you want to do for a living.  They are the hardest to deal with.

But you can’t let them pull you all the way down to depths.  These people have had me doubt myself more than I can admit.  These people have made me give up on a number of my dreams in life.  I can’t let them win this round. I have to rise above them and achieve my dream for a change.

Prove them Wrong

This is a powerful motivator for many people.  It is the old, I’ll show them.  It works for me in many ways.  I’ll be honest I even fantasize about becoming famous and snubbing those people when they come calling for something.  Sure, that sounds cruel. But when I am really ready to quit, the idea of being able to shove someone’s nose into their own… well let’s just say it works.  I feel a burst of motivation.  It is also perfectly natural to want to show someone you did what they said you can’t do.

But more so, you have to realize that in many cases they are wrong.  So show them they are wrong.  If they say you can’t do it because you’re too old, show them you are never too old to learn.  If they tell you you can’t because you’re not the right “type of person”, show them that art takes all types of people.  If they tell you that there are too many other people out there trying to do the same thing, show them that there is room for you.  As I have aged, I have quickly learned that nine times out of ten, the people telling you you can’t do something are wrong.  So don’t let them be right.  Show them you can, you will, and you have.

Make them Jealous

While I had said Jealously is the reason so many hate, or say you can’t, you can use it to help you too.  If they are jealous, well that means you are doing something right.  You are succeeding someway to warrant their jealousy.  Rather then let that work against you, let that be something that raises you up.  People envy that you can make time for your art.  They envy that you can work forty hours, run a business, have a family, and still tell great stories.

Get Rid of the Negative

Rid yourself of the negative people.  This may not always be something that can be done.  I’m not about to cut off my family over something simple like, they won’t share my books with others.  But if they are trashing me, perhaps I will be done with them.

But friends are a different thing.  With sites like Facebook, we throw the word friend around a little too much.  My wife has some 300 plus “friends” on Facebook, but I bet she really only knows about 15-25% of them.  The same is true of me.  Though I only have a 150 or so.  Even fewer are actually my friends.  I doubt again that I would get rid of any of them because they don’t actively support my writing.  Though I actively seek their approval, I’ve also come to realize they likely won’t give it.  By recognizing that and trying to move on from it, I lose the negative without getting rid of the person.  Same is true of family.

But those that are actually dragging you down are a different story.  The ones that don’t support you are one thing.  But the ones that drag you down, bash you, and down right don’t care.  Get rid of them.  You don’t need them around you.  I don’t care if they are friends or family.  If they are dragging me down, they are not really good at being a friend or family.

Rise Up

The artists of the world are what have kept books around, entrain us with movies, provide us with stunning photographs, and mesmerize the world with their drawings.  You need to ignore that fact that society seems to shun artists, because in fact they need us.  If the artist disappeared tomorrow, there would be nothing on TV.  There would be nothing to read.  Music would fall silent.  The corporate world would have no one to design their ads, write their jingles, and they wouldn’t be able to sell.  All the people would have is sleep and the corporate life.  And the corporate world wouldn’t last long. The world needs us, even if they don’t see it.

Take a moment to remember that.  Take a moment to see the art that is all around you and such a instrumental part of your lives.  Look deeper and you will see the arts all around you.  That means someone else ignored what everyone had to say and rose up.  They succeeded and so can you.  When the negative seems to eat you up, focus on the positive.

I’m a pessimist at heart.  I always see the negative first.  But I can’t let people drag me down.  You can’t either.  Sometimes all it takes is a slight adjustment of how you view the world to set you back on track.

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You Can’t Please Everyone

swearing_3421243I’ve talked a lot about getting used to rejection.  But, most of the time I am referring to the rejection letters sent by editors who don’t want to publish your work.  I’ve always found that rejection from editors is easy for me to accept.  I have always braced myself to hear “No” from an editor.

On the other hand, I hadn’t prepared myself for rejection from readers.  Sure, I had heard about it from other authors. Sometimes readers won’t like what you do.  They won’t like what you write.  They just won’t enjoy the stories you have to tell.  Rejection makes it sound harsher than that.  I’m certain people have read my stories and not liked them.

But the other day I got my first real hate email.  I use the term hate, because it wasn’t my story they hated, it was one aspect.  A small part of the story really.  Truthfully, I hadn’t even given much thought to the element of the story.  It was just there.

This person wrote me an email, roughly three pages long, insulting me because one of the main characters in Dissolution of Peace is a homosexual.   If you haven’t read the book, you might not know what I am talking about.  But one of the main characters discovers she is a lesbian through the course of the novel.  The email went on to call me the “devil” and that I was a “demon” at several points.  She clearly read the whole book, as she referenced parts from throughout the novel, but she just wasn’t happy it included a lesbian couple.  She told me, “I can’t believe you ruined this excellent story by putting homosexuals into it.” and “You could have just as easily made one of those characters male and kept the book clean.” and “You just used this story to push your pro gay agenda.”

Frankly, the email shocked me.  It shocked me for several reasons.  First, I never gave a second thought to Janice’s relationship with Willard.  Second, I just never had anyone so upset with something I had wrote.  And the best part, she never even mentioned the scene in which Carlson walked in on Willard and Janice during sex.

Typically I don’t respond to negative comments about my work, but since many will see this blog as a form of response, I must say a few things.  First, I am very happy to hear that this person thought my story was “excellent”.  Several times she told me how great the book was, in between the other points she had to make.

I have no “pro gay agenda”.  I am not opposed to homosexual relationships, and I am not opposed to gay marriage.  But, Dissolution of Peace is not about that.  If you find a “pro gay” message in that book, well, each reader will see the message that calls to them.

Finally, I couldn’t have made Willard or Janice a male character, because that is not who they are.  Writer’s know that their characters become real people.  Janice became who she became, regardless of what I wanted (or didn’t want) her to be.  I couldn’t have changed her any more than I could change the person who emailed me..

As a writer, you may never want to put a homosexual person in your stories simply to play it safe.  But where do you draw the line?  Will you never have any discussion or mention of politics?  What about feminism, social commentary, or even humor?  If you sterilize your writing to try to keep everyone happy, you will wind up with a story that few will want to read.  Even if you can write an excellent story that walks the line and avoids hot button issues, someone won’t like it because of your style, plot, or for no real reason at all.  We are a vast and diverse world.  It is a beautiful thing.  But is also means that eventually someone will read something you’ve written and simply not like it.

Should you go out of your way to offend?  No.  Shock value rarely works either.  Write the story you want to write; with the characters, world, and plot that you want.  Writers want people to enjoy their stories.  But not everyone will.  You just can’t please everyone.  Don’t try to.  Just write the story you want to tell and let the chips fall where they may.

And for the readers out there, please understand something about writers.  To build worlds and create believable elements we must include people of all types regardless of our personal beliefs.  Writers have to include murders, corrupt people, evil people, and bigots in our worlds.  Why?  These people exist and will likely exist for all time.  I don’t condone murder, but the antagonist of Dissolution of Peace is a killer.  A writer might write a racist character, that doesn’t mean the writer has an “agenda” against a particular race.  Most readers know this, and see a story for what it means to them.

I appreciate the readers, and the feedback.  Even the negative feedback helps me as a writer (even the feedback I don’t agree with).  But, I just have to learn that I can’t please everyone.

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Richard, Where Are You?

I’ve not been around much.  And those of you on Twitter, Facebook and here have probably started to wonder where I have been.  I assure you I am fine.  I have just been very busy.  And a bit sidetracked with other things to get my weekly posts done.  As far as Facebook and Twitter go.  I guess I have just been quiet.  So here is what I have been doing:

Working.

Oh how I love and hate my day job at the same time.  The last two weeks I worked sixteen hours of overtime.  They have decided to unveil a new system at work, and I was chosen to be one of the trainers on this new system.  While the system will make one aspect of our job so much easier, it takes time to teach everyone.  Work already takes over 40 hours a week of my life.  It would be great to make my writing and editing my day job.

Plasma Frequency. 

Now here is one project I love to do.  But let me tell you how much work it takes.  Issue 4 has been one of our best and most highly read issues to date.  That is great news.  But the talent submitting to us has become so good that picking just eight to ten stories every two months has become very difficult.  Even my earlier reading editors are finding it harder to reject stories.  I think it is great to see so much talent coming to our magazine.  As a writer, I love to see other writers succeed.  As a business man, I love to see some of these big names seeing my publication as worthy of their work.  As an editor, well my work has become a lot harder.  For issue five I had to narrow down 25 great stories to just the eight that would fit in our issue.  That is hard work, and very time consuming.  I debated for a long time on many of those stories.

Speaking of Business.

I had two magazines approach my company, Plasma Spyglass, and ask if we would be interested in taking over their magazine’s production.  I won’t name the magazines, but I will say I think they are great publications.  So I had to make some tough business choices over the last few weeks.  While Plasma Spyglass does have every intention of putting out more magazines, I had not expected to do it so soon.  Plasma Frequency is not even one year old yet.  And for the time being we are going to focus on growing that publication first.  We still have the goal of advancing our pay rates to pro-rates, and I want to follow through on that.  Plus we have our year one anthology coming soon.  And we will be announcing more about that in Issue 5.  So much is going on, or about to go on, with Plasma Frequency that I had to pass on these other two great offers.  But don’t count us out.  I think Plasma Spyglass will be publishing a number of different publications by 2014.  And by 2018, I suspect we will be doing very well in the short fiction market place.

We do have plans for a charitable anthology coming soon.  Once I have heard back from the charitable organization, more details will come.  We are also considering many other great things.  So, needless to say business has taken up a lot of my time outside of work.

Writing.

Just last week I finally got more written into my next novel.  I plan to make an announcement on that one very soon.  The first draft should be completed by next week (fingers crossed).  After which I will begin rereading and editing.  And, I plan to contact a cover artist soon.  So I am thinking that I will announce the release date with the cover art in April.  Get ready for this one, it promises to be a great one.

Speaking of great books, the sales for Dissolution of Peace have faltered a bit.  I think this is because all of my great followers now own a copy.  So it is time I branch out and reach some new followers.  I am planning on doing a blog tour.  Perhaps in May?  Maybe sooner.  I would really love one in April.  But scheduling these things takes time (as I am am learning).  So I plan to get that underway soon.  Watch for more details on that.  Make sure to share some love with those blogs that host my tour.

Chores.

I thought I was a grown up now and work was my chore.  Well the front and back lawns seem to disagree.  There is a ton of yard work to do around here, and I get stuck doing it.  Some people love that stuff.  Time in the yard pulling weeds, mowing the grass, that is fun for them.  For me, not so much.  I’d much prefer to hire a landscaper and just admire how great it looks when they are done.  But writers can’t afford landscapers, and besides my wife would insist we got a maid first.

Family time.

My family and I don’t see each other much right now.  My wife works on the days I am off, and I work when she is off.  My hours don’t lend well to having school age kids, as I am at work all afternoon and evening when they are home.  When I get home, they are in bed.  So I have been trying to make some extra time for them around all this other madness.  I took my kids to their first professional hockey game, actually their first ever hockey game.  My middle child was so overly excited, it was a great thing to see.  Besides that, I try to make some time for TV, movies, and other activities with them.  Family is important.  More important than everything else I’ve listed here.  So I make time for them and I hope someday my kids will really appreciate the fact that their dad pursued his dream to publish novels.  I also hope that one day, I’ll make just enough money on my dream that I don’t have to “work” any more.  Ah, the good life.

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Characters: Are you doing it right?

One of the number one compliments that Dissolution of Peace has received, has to do with the characters.  I even started receiving emails through this page from people asking how I made my characters so enjoyable.  That was a really tough question for me to answer, I just created them.  I didn’t set out to have excellent characters.  Let me rephrase that.  Every writer wants believable characters with a strong presence in their story.  Not all stories are character driven, but without believable characters the story always seem to fall flat.  So when I say I didn’t set out to have excellent characters, I simply mean that I didn’t actively sit down and think about how to make people love and/or hate my characters.  I just developed them into “real” people and told their story.

Character Types

You essentially have three types of character types in story.  There are the protagonists, in most stories this would be your Main Character (often abbreviated MC).  Next you have your antagonists, these are the adversary to your MC.  Finally you have you ancillary characters.  These are the other characters that support your MC quest.  Some might argue that you have a forth group her, the background character, the extras if you will.  But, if a character is not in support of the story, I find it best to eliminate them.  If you have a bustling market in a movie, there needs to be extras.  But if you describe the market in your novel, the reader’s brain provides the background characters.

Antagonist and Protagonist

The Antagonist and Protagonist are often confused with villain and hero respectively.  But this is not true.  In some stories, your protagonist is the bad guy (though they may not think so).  And his adversary, or antagonist, would be the man in the cape.    And in some stories, the label of good and evil is not so cut and dry.  In this case your MC (protagonist) might be a poor, underprivileged track star who must overcome a leg amputation to win a race again his rich, well to do, rival (antagonist).

It is better to think of your Protagonist as the main star of the show.  The person whom we might spend most of our time with.  The person who is trying to overcome some obstacle and achieve the goal that is your story.  Essentially your novel is the protagonist’s story.  You can certainly have more than one protagonist in a novel.  I feel my novel has three, and perhaps four, protagonists.  But they are also all trying to overcome different obstacles. Ask yourself whose story you are telling.  The character you choose is your protagonist.

Think of the antagonist as the person in the way.  The person who must be “defeated” in order for the protagonist to advance. In Dissolution of Peace, there is one clear cut antagonist, but I would argue there are at least two more.  But in many stories, there is no clear cut bad guy.  I’ve read some great stories where the antagonist is a faceless group.  Ask yourself who stands in the way of my protagonist and his/her goals.  The answer is your antagonist.

Ancillary Characters

These are the people that help tell the story.  They could be the protagonist’s friends, family, and allies. They can be related to the antagonists desire to stop the protagonist.  Or, they can be other characters that provide help, inspiration, or motivation for the MC.  They can also provide despair, discouragement, and other negative emotional impacts for the MC.  These are the characters your MC meets along his journey one way or another, and propel the story further in some way.

Character Development

So you know what the characters are, now what?  Well now it is time to make them real.  Real characters are what people want.  Readers enjoy character they can relate too, are comfortable with, and feel like the are real people.  That is where the real challenge comes.  Anyone can take a character, plop him into a story, and name him George.  But real characters are a lot harder to craft.  And they do take some work.  That is where character development comes into play.

You may be an outline writer, where you need to outline the specific structure of a story on paper.  Or you could be like me, and just let the story take on a life through your fingers on the keyboard.  But no matter what way you plan a story out, you need to develop the characters.  You can do that in your head or on paper but always put some thought into your characters.

Description

What does your character look like? You may not write out this description in your story, but I find it helps to have a mental picture of my character in place before I start working with the character.  Of course, many argue that leaving your character’s description vague in a story allows to a reader to better relate with a character.  The logic is that they can imagine a person who fits within their comfort zone.  Again, you may not describe the character outright in the text, but you should have some idea of the basics of your character.  If you have trouble with getting a mental picture, look at ads and other images and see if you find a picture that suits your characters just fine. (Note: I do not suggest using that image as anything more that a mental building block.  Using the image for promotional purposes such as book covers can get you into trouble.)

Name: It may seem obvious that your character needs a name, but this is often the hardest part. I find I like more unique names, and I always struggle with male character names.  Just imagine the struggle my wife and I had naming our three boys.  Find a name that works for you.  I disagree with the idea that it is okay to put any name in place and then change it when you think of one.  This is because I believe a name is an identity.  And a character with no identity is lost. I suggest Behind the Name to search for all types of fist names for your character.

Descriptors: Think how the police describe a subject: Ethnicity, gender, age.  Those are a great start.  How about height, weight, build, and clothing they like to wear.  Are they even human?  These are all important attributes for you to understand your character better. Again, you might not write these out in a text of the story, but they are important.  Besides a name, this is the second way we recognize someone.  Think of it this way, you ask a friend if they know Greg and they say they’re not sure.  What is the next thing you might say?  “You know Greg, the really tall white guy.  He always wears a tank top.  You know, with the really big arms.”

Personality

You character has to have a personality.  Everyone in real life does.  They may be outgoing, they may be a fitness nut, they may be afraid of confrontation.  Even someone who seemingly has no personality, does.  You just have to know them better.  So get to know your characters better.

Likes and Dislikes:  What does your character like?  What does s/he hate?  Do they have a fear of spiders?  Do they love to work out?  If your character wasn’t stuck in the story you gave them, what might they do for fun?  What activities would they avoid?  Not only does this build a character’s personality, but it might give you an idea to create a little tension for them at some point down the line.  Put me in a room full of spiders and tell me to go get the million dollars on the other side, and I might well wonder how important money is.

Traits: Does your character love to talk?  Are they just chatty or very charismatic?  Would your character prefer to be left alone?  Are they well spoken  or more the type to drop an f-bomb?  These are all traits readers of one type or another can relate to.  Figure out what it is about your character that makes them far more unique than every other five-eleven woman, who likes to work out, but loves chocolate more.  Dig deeper and deeper until you’ve created a monster, or a hero, or even better… an unlikely hero.

Biography

Now it is time to really make this character into someone.  Make them more than just a person in a book.  Make them someone real.  Give them a bio.

Friends: Who does the character hang out with?  What are their friends like?  Why would your character choose these people as friends?

Partner: Romance may not be a theme in your story.  Though my editor of Dissolution of Peace pointed out that he felt it was the romantic tension in my novel that would sell copies.  But not every story needs it.  But I do think it is important to take a moment to think about who your character would choose for a mate.  It may even be determined that your character has no interest in romance of any type.  But why?  If they wouldn’t choose a partner, then explain to yourself why.

Family:  Where where they born?  Who are their parents?  Where is their family now?  Siblings? Cousins? I know some authors that have an entire family tree for their characters.  But also think about how this character relates to his/her family.  Remember you can choose your friends and your spouse, but not your family.  Your character might be the black sheep of the family, or they could be the family matriarch.  Regardless of how we feel about our families, our relationship with our family relates to how we are as a person.  The same will be true of your character’s family.

The Past:  Consider your character’s past.    Where have they worked? Schooling? Did your character witness something that changed them forever?  Did they always want a certain job, but they could never have it because of some reason or another?  To know where your character is going, you have to know where they came from.

The setting:  Consider where your story is taking place.  Military and police are all unique individuals, but there are common traits among these people.  Same with regions of the world.  Where this character is at now is just as important as the past.

Growth:  Your characters, especially the MC, need to grow as the story progresses.  We all grow as our own lives progress and major events sculpt who we are.  They same should be true of your characters.  They should grow as they go through the life changing event you have set out to tell.  The growth of a your character through the story is just as important as the development you do before the story.

Tips and Tricks:

Walking Cliche: Avoid making your character a walking cliche.  The villain who was never loved by his family.  The hero who was born to be one.  The tall, dark, and handsome MC.  They nerd in glasses and a lab coat.  I could go on forever with this.  There is a world of cliche characters.  And I would dare to say there is a bit of cliche in all of us.  But, the walking cliche is not going to relate with readers.

Find Examples: Take a look and some of the books you’ve read.  What are some characters you really enjoyed?  For me, more recently, I love Kara in S. M. Boyce’s Lichgates, Sonata in Beyond the Cell by Sara Tribble, Guile and Kip in Brent Weeks’s The Black Prism, Katnis in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Hank in Robert S. Wilson’s Shining in Crimson are all very strong characters for me (I could list so many more). I rooted for them, felt for them, prayed for them, and wanted desperately to see them succeed.  These are the kinds of characters that I enjoy and so when I write characters they are likely to possess some of the same traits as the characters I mentioned.  Please don’t take a Gandalf and drop him into you novel, but only call him Ron instead.  People will notice that.  But if there was something about Gandalf that you really held on to, a character trait of his you admire, then you might put that is Ron the wizard.

These examples don’t have to just come from fiction either.  I have an old supervisor of mine that has always stuck in my head.  There are traits about him that I think are great, and I use them in my characters.  When I look to create romantic chemistry between characters, I draw from real life romantic situations I have seen or been in.  In fact, I bet most of our larger than life characters came from traits real people have shown an author.

Characters Talk: One of the big benefits, in my opinion, of not being an outline writer is that I simply let my characters tell the story.  I know where the end game is, but I let the character take over the keyboard for me.  I let them tell their story through my fingers.  I know that sounds like a multiple personality disorder, or at the least the rambling cliches of a writer.  But the truth is, when I am writing in a character’s viewpoint, I simply have to become that character.  I have to let them talk.  I am telling their story, if I don’t listen to them they won’t talk to me anymore.  The bottom line here is that if you want to have a believable character you have to treat them like a real person.

Even if you do write outlines.  Don’t be so rigid with it.  If your characters tell you they want to go on a side quest, perhaps you should let them.  I have often found that my characters know a lot more about where my stories are going than I do.  And they teach me something new about themselves all the time.

Overly Evil: We often associate the antagonist with evil.  This is because if many stories they are the bad guy.  But don’t over do it.  I’ve heard it said many times, in a variety of ways,  so I’ll repeat it: Readers should love to hate your antagonist.  They should be able to connect with him on some level. S/he has to be a believable character.  They may even be convinced they are doing the right thing.  If evil is an element in your antagonist, keep it in line.  An overly evil antagonist can be believable, after all there are some incredibly evil people in real life, but too much will turn off a reader.  Use the same advice above for creating an antagonist and you will find you can create one with just as much “punch” and the diehard villain, and they will be better for it.

Summary

When you go through all these steps you will get great characters. Add some great story telling and you will have characters that are memorable, and worth every moment of the readers time.  Each character is different, and their roll in the story will determine just how deep you go into the development of them.  But the more you make them real before you start writing, the stronger they will be in the readers head.

If you are looking for more on the topic of character, I strongly suggest you check out Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters and View Point by Orson Scott Card.  I learned a lot from that book and reread it often.

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Curse Words in Writing

swearing_3421243I really have never addressed this topic.  It is funny that I have not talked about it since I quite simply love to curse. There is little else that makes certain type of point than a well placed “fuck” or a perfectly timed “bullshit.” And in the work I do, I am certainly well adjusted to hearing swear words, including some very nasty ones directed at me personally.

So when it came to swearing in writing, I never really gave in much thought.  I like to write stories with believable characters, and we live in a world where people curse.  But when it comes to telling a story, cursing can be off putting to some readers, and there has to be a balance. There are many things to consider when you type that first swear in your fiction.  Let’s take a look at some:

Audience

Who is this book intended for?  It might be most obvious to eliminate, or at the least tone down, cursing in a Young Adult novel.  You will likely have none in Middle Grade.  And I am certain your children’s book will be swear free.  But it is more then just the category of your novel.  Are you writing to diehard Sci-Fi readers? Grandmas? Church goers? Parents of young kids? Military readers? and on and on.  Each of these needs a consideration as well.  If this group of readers will be easily offended by the content of your novel, including swearing, you either need to change your audience or remove the words.

Is it Fitting?

Does the curse words fit the story, the world, and the context it is used in?  If you are writing a book about an alien world who have never met humans, I highly doubt they would use the word “shit” in any way.  If you are writing about a character that is getting shot at, I can almost be certain they will swear.  If you are writing a military or police novel, they swear.  Do they all swear?  No.  But I’ve been around enough of both to know that when things get ugly, a swear might slip out.  You have to find out if the swear belongs in the world, the environment, and the type of story you are telling.

Characters

I touched on this a bit above.  If you are writing about the military, there may be curse words.  But if your Main Character is a very mild mannered person who was drafted into the army, s/he might not be prone to swearing.  If you are writing about a priest who is trying to help a teenager get out of a bad situation, he is unlikely to swear.  But then again, he might slip in a minor curse word if the teenager has just pushed the priest too far.  Or the priest feels that is the only way to get through to the kid.  Think about each of your characters.  As you are developing your character, did you ever think of them as the type to swear a lot?  If not, then it might be best to leave them out.  Consider the character’s background.  Growing up rich with a lot of servants and proper etiquette might yield a different swear result than the inner-city bully.

Vulgarity

To some the word “fuck” is vulgar in itself.  I am sure if that is the case they stopped reading my blog a long time ago.  But to others, the way it is used determines the level of vulgarity.  There is a big difference between yelling out “fuck” in an adrenaline rush situation and saying you will “fuck” someone.  The vulgarity of the use of a swear ties in to the character, the suitability of the use, and your target audience.  I swear a lot, but there are certain words, when used a certain way, that even I take offense to.  In the end if you are going for shock value, it should be removed.  Shocking your audience in a vulgar way, will likely knock them right out of your story.  Sometimes to the point they won’t keep reading.

Is the word distracting/excessive?

When you read the text, is the word distracting to the action? Do you, or your beta readers, seem to notice the word more than the actions of the overall scene?  If so, it probably doesn’t belong.  Have your characters done nothing but curse the entire novel?  If so, you may be taking away from the character and that will only hurt the story.  The most obvious test is if you notice.  The second test will come from beta readers.

Excessive is hard to define.  You can’t say that a certain number of curse words is the limit in any novel.  You have to test it with a sample audience, the beta readers.  See what they say.  See what your editor says.  Consider all of it to decide if it works for your novel.  In Dissolution of Peace, we have a military setting, with aggressive and stressed out characters, in a world on the brink of war.  I can tell you that there is cursing in the novel.  My friend asked me if the novel would be appropriate for a 14 and 9 year old.  Before I could message him back and say, “Probably not.” He told me that he searched the novel.  The word “Fuck” came up fifteen times and “shit” twenty plus times.  When I first saw that, I was surprised.  I hadn’t thought it was so much.  And that really does seem like a lot.  But not one beta readers, or my editor, made a single comment on the cursing.  The fact that neither myself or my beta readers noticed proves the fact that it is not excessive.

Of course, others might consider it very excessive.  That goes back to audience.  So far, in both editorial reviews and customer reviews, there has been no mention of the cursing.  So far, it seems, that no one considers it excessive.  As I go back and read the novel, the curse words fit the situations they are used in.  You almost don’t notice them.

To curse or not to curse.  The debate.

Curse words are a big debate in the writing community.  I’ve not noticed forum discussion on the topic that did not have strong opinions on both sides of the debate.  Many have argued that if the right way to use a curse word is to leave it unnoticed, than what it the point of using it anyway?  I often argue that sometimes not using a curse word can be more distracting.  I read a detective novel, very well written, but I just couldn’t see this detective yelling out “dang!” when he got shot at.  To me that was deliberate censorship and it stood out far more than a “shit” or a “damn it” would have.  If the author was against cursing, simply leaving it off might have been better.

And that sort of sums up the use of curse words in a novel.  They will never make or break a story.  I’ve seen excellent novels based in various settings that both use and didn’t use curse words.  But even in those that used the curse words, it wasn’t the curse words you remembered.  You remembered the story.  Curse words are like many other character and story accents.  If used correctly, no one will remember them but they will love your characters and story.

Swears are a lot like sex scenes.  In many cases the story will work just fine without either.  So the choice is entirely up to the author.  But when used correctly, swears are no big deal either.  Only the writer can decide if they belong or not.

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Do KDP Select Free Promotions Work?

Yesterday I did my first KDP Free Promotion.  For those that don’t know, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has an option to sign up for KDP Select.  This is a 90 day period where you allow Amazon (and by default Kindle) to be the only electronic form of your book sold.  Some people balk at the exclusiveness this implies.  But there are some pluses.  You get to be part of the Kindle Prime Lending Library. This means that people can borrow your book for free and in return you get a part of the collective “pot” of money.  I’ve not had any borrows yet.  Some authors have told me that you get more borrows for higher priced books, since prime users can only borrow one book per month.  I don’t know about that.

The other thing you get to do is pick five days per 90 day period to make your book free.  You don’t have to do that.  You don’t even have to pick the days when you publish your book.  You can go back and set up your days when you want.  You can do all five together or pick and choose a few days spread out.  The choice is entirely up to you.

As you probably saw in yesterday’s post, I made Dissolution of Peace free in honor of Veterans day in the United States.  It was free on all Amazon sites globally.  I did this for two reasons.  First, I wanted to see how well this KDP Free Promotions thing would work.  Second, I have a special place in my heart for those that serve in the armed forces.  It may even be why I enjoy writing military fiction.  So I decided to honor those people in a way that was important to me.

The real question is, do promotions like this work?

Success is truly something only you can decide.  But, I will show you what it did for me in just the one day since the promotion.  You can decide from there if it could be successful for you.

I would also like to point out that I did not market my free book on anything other then this blog, my Twitter, and Facebook.  I didn’t announce it on one the the many free eBook blogs.  I just spread the word myself.

Getting Books in the Hands of Readers

The point in writing a book is to have it read.  I’ve stressed that making money is not my goal in writing.  My goal is to get readers and maybe get a few fans who want to read anything I write.  So did the promotion get my book in the hands of readers.  With out a doubt it is a huge success in that fashion.

In Amazon US, I had about 19 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released.  Nineteen times more readers in one day then in the four weeks since my book was released.

In Amazon UK, I had 88 times more downloads yesterday then I have had since my book was released.  The UK was phenomenal in this free promotion.  I’ll get to more on that soon.

In Amazon Germany, I had 7 times more downloads yesterday then in the four weeks since it was released.

I even had my first download in Italy.

In comparison to other promotions I have done, this was by far the most successful.  My own eBook giveaways resulted in only around 10 free eBooks being given away.  This includes those sent to reviewers.  But if I wanted to get more readers, this was certainly a great way to do it.  They may not read it right away, I am sure there are people who just won’t pass up free, but there a whole lot more people with copies of my book now.  This means there are a lot more people in the pool to write reviews, tell their friends, and look for future titles I release.

Creating Awareness of my Book

This is a really hard thing to do.  Getting your book noticed by potential buyers is very hard for any author, especially the indie author.  You are fighting an up hill battle with major authors, major publishers, and the rest of the indie market.  It is not easy to be noticed.

One way to get noticed is on Amazon’s Best Seller Lists.  The thing that always frustrated me about many “help” sites that talk about these best seller lists don’t let you know the secrets to getting on the lists.  The truth is the secret is simply getting sales.  But Amazon does one great thing here.  The Best Seller Lists of the Top 100 eBooks sold is listed right next to the Top 100 Free eBooks.  Number 5 in sales is right next to number 5 in free.

This means that when someone is looking for the best sellers on science fiction ebooks, they are also seeing the best sellers in free science fiction ebooks.  You still have to get the downloads to get on the list, but you can get a lot of benefit once you get on the list.  If nothing more than getting the cover of your book seen by more eyes.

I mentioned how great the UK was in this free promotion.  The first time I checked my Amazon UK page yesterday was at 10:16 in the morning.  My book had only been free for ten hours, which is a fair amount of time, especially considering the time difference.  But at that point I was #48 on the Top 100 Free Science Fiction eBooks.  And by the end of the promotion I was #19.  In that time I had been on the same page as H. P. Lovecraft, Jules Vern, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and more.  I was even next to George R.R. Martin at one point.  That is some good company to hang out with, even on a virtual level.

UK Best Sellers of Science Fiction on 11/12/2012

In the US, it was a slower start.  This, in part, has to do with two factors.  First, the US site has a much larger pool of shoppers.  They include India, and many other places that don’t have their own sites.  But, KDP free events also start at 12:01 am Pacific time.  Right when most of the US is still asleep.  But by 12:45 pm, twelve hours into the the promotion, I was on the top 100 list at number 61.  And by the time it was over, I had made it to 28.  So while the UK really came through on the Best Seller’s list, the US still put me along side the great names of Science Fiction past and present.

 

US Best Sellers of Science Fiction on 11/12/2012

I would say that overall that is a successful way of gaining exposure to my book.  I don’t know how many people browse the Top Sellers list.  But I do know that I often look for books online this way.  So overall even if I didn’t get downloads, people saw my book cover.  And book covers are the brand image of books.  Like all brands, the more the image is seen the more it becomes known and in some cases trusted.

You might be wondering where my book ranked at in the over all ranking for Free eBooks.  In the US it was #779 and in the UK it was #425.  Not bad considering how many thousands, probably millions, of books are on Amazon.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth advertising is probably some of the best.  People often choose books based on the recommendations of friends and family.  While I doubt anyone recommended my book the same day they downloaded it.  I got far more downloads then I have Facebook, Twitter, and Blog followers.  This means people had to hear about it from other people.  So people were at least mentioning my book.  I also noticed that many people were downloading my book in the US before it broke on to the top 100 list.  So they had to find it some other way.

But this huge pool of new readers who downloaded my book will contribute to the word of mouth advertising that will continue to increase traffic to my book.  And will hopefully increase my sales volume.

Reviews

I don’t know if this will increase my reviews.  Before the promotion I had two Amazon reviews, and one Amazon UK review.  But, the increased reader pool also means an increased reviewer pool.  So that has to cause a higher chance of being reviewed. But only time will tell on this.

Increased Sales

Again, only time will tell on this.  But my point has never been to get money.  Some people see the free book giveaway as nothing but lost revenue.  But to date, nothing has got Dissolution of Peace in the hands of more readers than the Amazon free promotion.  I’ve never thought of writing as a way to make money.  For me it is has been about readers, and maybe making enough money to cover the costs associated with publishing it.  Would I complain if my book starts flying off the shelves?  Of course not.  That is the goal of most writers, but not for the sake of money but for the sake of the volume of readers.

From what I have heard from others, the sales will increase but that takes time.

Summary

I can’t really see it any other way.  KDP has hit a home run with the idea of allowing authors five days to make the book free.  And if you use those days through out your 90 day period as a promotional tool, you can really gather a lot of new readers.  And many readers who might not have otherwise picked up your book.  I’ll likely do another two or three of these free promotional things in the next few months.  I see nothing but success here.  And if I enjoyed this much success with limited announcement outlets, imagine if I branched out from my circle of followers.

Of course, many people are turned off be the exclusiveness of KDP Select.  They feel like they are excluding a market of readers that use other eReaders.  Personally I have had little request for ePub format.  But, 90 days is a relatively short time.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to renew it.  Personally I think it is worth a try.

 

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