Today we have a guest post, courtesy of my son. I told him a story of seeing a tiny chicken coop set out between the curb and the sidewalk like a discarded couch (Seattle is full of residential chicken coops) and he wanted to write a post for my blog, which turned out to be a pastiche of his current favorite book: Hyperbole and a Half. Interestingly, he wrote it from “my” point of view. Here it is:
Yesterday, while walking to my local Starbucks, I passed a Large-ish (is that a word?) Box out on that grassy strip of space between the road and Sidewalk.
I stopped to take a closer look, as boxes sometimes have interesting contents. The Box was really a sort of Wooden frame, filled by chicken wire, and It contained chickens. One was kind of lying there, dragging itself across the cage back and forth, seemingly with no real goal. The other chicken, however, Looked like it was from a horror movie where aliens invade chicken’s brains before they realize chickens are kept in neat little cages.
It repeatedly slammed itself at the walls of the cage.
The chicken didn’t seem to be attacking me in particular, but instead, the shape of the house. maybe this is why the chickens were abandoned out here in the savage sidewalk-roadlands.
I can almost imagine a sign that says “FREE POSSESSED CHICKENS!”
I may have to go back with some paper and a sharpie.
You know how it is: you write things, you put them out into the world. Sometimes people like them, sometimes not. Worst of all, sometimes people just don’t seem to care.
But let’s imagine you’re a book reviewer who is becoming frustrated by the fact that you aren’t becoming as prominent as you used to be: What’s the next step? How do you give yourself the boost to prominence you’re hoping for?
If you answered: “Write better, more insightful book reviews and dare to be honestly controversial in a way that gets people talking,” you clearly need to be more entitled. Try this instead:
I operate on a Quid Pro Quo system. I will continue to promote authors that do the same for me. Not only that, but the more times promoted, the more buzz you will see. Tweet to your followers, post on Facebook, etc.
See, getting a review is a service provided to the author. If you mark her Amazon reviews as “helpful”, sign up for her newsletter, like her Facebook page, circle her on G+ and… oh christ time to start skimming this ridiculous list.
Anyway, “Bookiemonster” is frustrated that authors just aren’t meeting HER needs.
What I would (gently) suggest in response is that reviews are for the benefit of readers, not writers. Sure, it’s publicity, and yeah, it sells a few copies, but not many. Not many at all. I can see my own sales, and I know what the bump from a review looks like (spoiler: not large). Reviews are not for writers. In fact, a great many writers never ever look at their reviews. Not ever.
If you doubt that reviews are for readers, not writers, consider reviews in other fields: are film reviews just unpaid publicity? Nope, they exist to drive filmgoers to a newspaper (or whatever) so they can decide what to watch. Same for theater. What about critiques of art galleries? Nope. they’re an attempt to say something worthwhile about art, and to engage the aficionado on the subject.
It’s the same for books. Reviews are there to share an enthusiasm for the written word with other enthusiasts; in fact, a decent reviewer should excite readers with their expertise. This is about an exchange of ideas, not moving product.
You write reviews because you think there’s something worth saying to other readers. Maybe you think a book is wonderful. Maybe you think it’s toxic sludge. Maybe you think it’s emblematic of the sort of toxic sludge we see all too much of lately. Maybe it’s part of a movement that no one other than you has noticed. Maybe it reflects a certain kind of cultural change. Maybe you could talk about those things.
Or you could just write stuff like this:
The novel is witty, intense and keeps your interest from start to finish. It reads fast, I mean super fast and not that the book is short, it just reads that well. Nothing stumbled me. And that rarely happens. While some Zombie snobs may not like this book, I certainly did.
I also felt that prior to Mary becoming a prisoner in a walking dead corpse, her conflict with Azrael the Angel of Death was vague and undefined. More details on how Mary discovers Azrael’s scheme to take over the spirit realm would justify him sentencing her to an undead dungeon as well as her rage toward him.
Dead Boys was a welcome departure from what I find myself usually reading. Would I have picked it up had it not been submitted? Probably not. Why? Because short stories aren’t my normal thing. Simply because I enjoy investing the time to get to know the characters and follow a story through it’s arc. Penkas succeeded by giving me the appetizer, but I still wanted the main course. Thankfully, his concepts were intriguing and thought provoking enough to make the read satisfying.
You say your book review site is not as prominent as you’d like? Inexplicable.
I’m a writer. I put non-fiction on the blog and fiction in my books, and when they don’t sell or languish in obscurity, it’s not because someone didn’t hold up their end of the quid fucking pro quo. It’s because the thing I wrote didn’t earn it.
The same goes for reviewers. Your words will bring you the attention you deserve. If you feel you deserve better, do better. Be more thoughtful and original. Write with care and style (advice I could certainly bear to take myself). If some of your reviewers can’t manage that, let them go and put less (but better) content on your site.
But don’t come around with some quid pro quo, because ugh.
I’m going to make my blog inaccessible for a while while I try to install a new theme, fuss with it for way too long, then give up and go back to how it is now. Again. The main page, www.harryjconnolly.com will still be available.
Added later: Yep! Changing themes is a pain in the ass and I can’t be bothered to waste time on it. Back to the same old boring look.
Christ, I meant to watch a few minutes of THE MAN FROM NOWHERE and now it’s quarter to three in the morning and I’m supposed to be getting up to work in the morning.
Anyway, I hate writing short blog posts–esp if it’s just a link to something on another site–because it feels like such a cheat. WordPress automatically posts notice of the new entry on my Facebook, Twitter, and G+, and all people find when they click it is a link to another site. So, for example, if I want to let people know how to write for a game company like Evil Hat, it would make more sense if the tweeted link they’re clicking was the direct one. Just saying.
But the weird thing is that fewer than half the people who click a link to my blog actually bother to click the direct link. It’s like they click the one, see another link and just give up. They cared enough to click once, right?
I feel like Werner Herzog in JACK REACHER: “They always choose the bullet. I do not understand.”
Oh god I’m tired.
It’s obvious the guy writing this is a photographer, but I’m not sure if he’s a journalist, activist, or curious citizen. In any event, his own words:
I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.
via Sherwood Smith
Apparently there are companies you can hire to create infographics now? I mean, it makes sense, but I didn’t realize it was a thing. Anyway, people love stats about books and reading, so these guys have put together an infographic called “The DNA of a Successful Novel.”
It’s the usual bullshit. “Books priced at $3.99 earn the most revenue!” “Ninety nine cent books sell the most copies!” I also seriously doubt that science fiction earns more than romance, even if you combine it with fantasy.
And of course it doesn’t touch on the actual content of the books at all: voice, character, plot, none of that. It’s page counts, prices and genres.
Still, if you’re wondering if more people will finish a short book or a long one, they got that covered.
“Part of the problem is that the major publishers ignore the genres that sell the best. This is a head-scratcher, and it nearly caused a bald spot when I was working in a bookstore. I knew where the demand was, and I wasn’t seeing it in the catalogs. Readers wanted romance, science fiction, mystery/thrillers, and young adult. We had catalogs full of literary fiction. Just the sort of thing acquiring editors are looking for and hoping people will read more of, but not what customers were asking me for.”
You know what? The last time I walked into a Barnes & Noble, I stood looking at all those shelves full of books and thought “Jeez! If only I could find books that I want to read!” Too bad those multi-million dollar corporations don’t have a sharp guy like Howey around to explain to them how their business works. All you have to do to get bestselling authors to renegotiate their contracts en masse is to put them on a mailing list with struggling midlisters! Gosh, it’s so simple! Amazing that no one realized this before.
And yeah, get out of New York City, publishing! Why would you want your business in a hub full of smart, creative people who share your interests and might have the skills your company needs. Telecommuting! Email! The car-centric hell-hole that is Houston! Because efficiencies are less important than an easily understood number like “rent in Manhattan.”
(Actually, most of that post is pretty embarrassing. h/t Mr. Hornswoggler) #sfwapro
The process of setting up my book in Lightning Source is now complete. That means you can buy it from Barnes & Noble or any other brick and mortar store that sells books. If you like buying from indies, swing by your local shop and ask them to check the computer for you.
They might ask you to pay ahead of time, because the discount is thin and I made them non-returnable (to keep the price low) but the books are finished and ready.
One thing: a friend offered to do the interior design for this one, and she matched the book design of the other books in the series beautifully. Seriously, I’m not sure if she wants credit for this, but she did a fantastic job; the inside of the book looks fabulous.
Any complaints about the cover are on me.
In other news, I have a lot I want to blog about and no time to write it. My life is consumed by homeschooling, revision, and trying to get enough steps every day to satisfy the FitBit parasite attached to my wrist. More on that another time.
At the moment, I have finally, FINALLY created a POD edition of Twenty Palaces for people who prefer to read (or gift) in paper. Yes, it would have been better if I’d managed this before Giftmas. I know this. I wish it had been possible.
[Added later: Yep! Now available at Barnes & Noble, which means your local indie will be able to order a copy for you through Ingram. They may ask you to pre-pay, though.]
And if you hate Amazon.com with an icy fire and refuse to give them your money: watch this space. I hope to have more options soon. Very very soon.
If case you forgot what it looks like:
making books personal The Great Way: moi? publishing
by Harry Connolly
This was a tough, weird year.
It started off badly. I was in the dumps, THE WAY INTO CHAOS was not getting any bites from publishers, and the computer we got for our son (which he swore would not be a source of obsession) became an obsession. As the year went on, it became a bigger and bigger source of conflict.
In April, I signed on to a themed Kickstarter anthology called “Walk The Fire 2″ (theme: certain people are able to enter special fires and emerge from a fire elsewhere and elsewhen. They’re space-faring/time travel/whatever you want stories about travel) and it was funded. I turned in my story “A No Without A Thank You” but am still waiting on the edits (for perfectly understandable reasons).
I also tried an experiment in April: since sales of the ebook for Twenty Palaces had been waning, I dropped the price to $2.99. End result: no advantage. Sales were slightly better but the money it brought in was pretty much the same. This was a problem because it didn’t look like my agent was going to sell THE GREAT WAY and my only ebook was bringing in $100 a month, approximately.
I’d hoped to finish the zero draft of THE GREAT WAY in the spring, but it actually took me until August. While I was wrapping it up, I was also busting my ass trying to get the Kickstarter ready. I wanted it to run from August to September, but I couldn’t get everything ready in time.
As it turns out, pushing things back a month was a good idea.
The thing is, this was a very stressful time. Money was tight. I kept asking my wife if she wanted me to go back to temping, and she kept reassuring me that I didn’t have to, not yet. Also, it was looking like Christmas was going to be pretty thin.
The Kickstarter turned that around, but I’ve talked about that here at length already.
While the campaign was ongoing, KING KHAN finally came out. It’s the rpg tie-in for the Spirit of the Century game that was a stretch goal for a completely different Kickstarter from last year. (Or the year before, it’s hard to keep this straight.) It’s a fun, upbeat, bright book, but I wish I’d had a chance to give the text one more polish.
I also got invited to submit to a John Joseph Adams anthology of sf/f Kickstarter campaigns, which seems like a weird idea but I wrote up a love potion KS and PUA satire called “Beyond the Game.” JJA sent me his notes last week and the story is almost ready to return. Royalties! Boy, it sure would be nice to get some royalties.
Kickstarter is sorta running my life right now.
Anyway, things went from omg we have no money and this Kickstarter goal is too large omg can’t sleep feel sick all the time I should get a job mopping floors somewhere to Holy shit! for the last few months. We’re still pinching pennies, but I managed to replace my aging laptop with the cracked cover this Christmas, and I’m hard at work on revisions.
For 2014, I have to get the books out to people… and onto the market so they can start earning money again. I’ll also have to publish the two stretch goal books, which will take some revising. Someday soon I really hope to write original long form fiction again.
Must be seen to be believed.