Tell Me Another is about stories and storytellers, and I talked about that, I guess? Actually, I pretty much forgot everything I said except: I recommended a book I read recently, I recommended a noirish movie on Netflix Streaming that I loved, and I went into my rant about vampires and vampire lore at some point. Presumably, I said other things, too.
Also, if you go the the podcast site, you’ll see a picture of me. Go ahead if you want. I’m not ashamed. (Much.)
Yep, shocking but true. I spent decades of my life reading and writing, studying texts and story, and sweating over revisions of my own work only to hoodwink readers. You got me!
Or maybe I think that Amazon reviews are not especially important. Maybe I think an unknown number of the reviews are completely fake/done as a personal favor. Maybe a substantial number are written because the reader has some weird axe to grind that has little to do with the book at hand. Certainly many of the reviews are written by readers eager to share their honest opinions without much evidence that those honest opinions actually have an impact.
I’ve been trying to come up with a metaphor for this, but nothing seems right. Not every reviewer is being paid, so you can’t call it a whorehouse. Not every reviewer is friend or family to the author, so you can’t call it a theatrical review of a grade school play. Not every reviewer is a twitchy reactionary lunatic, so you can’t call it a recruitment session for the Libertarian Party (I kid, I kid).
I suppose I could ask if anyone reading this can think up an appropriate metaphor, but seriously, fuck you guys.
For folks who don’t know who Harriet Klausner is, a brief introduction. Here’s the full text of her review of my debut novel, CHILD OF FIRE:
In Hammer Bay, Washington, the ecomony is booming due to the toy factory; however, residents even those who work at the prime employer fail to realzie that some of their offspring can use magic.
Twenty Palace Society field agent Annalise Powliss hunts and kills rogue magic practitioners. Convicted felon Ray Lilly is her chauffeur, but they share a not so kind past as he betrayed her so he knows she plans to kill him at the most opportune time. The Society learns of the goings-on in Hammer Bay and led by take no prisoners Annalise plan to destroy the factory and kill anyone of any age who uses magic. However, the execution fails and Annalise is hurt; Ray must finish the assignment against a much more powerful sorcerer who sacrifices humans especially children to gain incredible amounts of power.
The key to this small town fantasy is the use of magic as collateral damage is not only acceptable it is preferable if needed to complete a mission. That premise ties the rogue and the Society together as innocent bystanders die in high numerical waves, which in turn brings a sense of realism to the exciting story line. The dysfunctional relationship between the driver and his boss enhances the tension of an exhilarating High Noon paranormal thriller.
All spelling infelicities in the original; this is just a cut and paste.
As Klausner’s reviews go, this one is better than average. Yes, it appears to have been written as quickly as possible with little regard for spelling or how it reads. Yes, some details are wrong; Ray isn’t anyone’s chauffeur, although he is driving the beater van at the start of the book. However, most of the plot details are correct, which isn’t always a given in Ms. Klausner’s reviews. However, she did give my book her lowest review: only 4 stars. For her, that’s practically a slam.
So, yeah. Her reviews are not insightful and some this year she will post her 30,000th on Amazon.com. That’s, er, a lot. I’ve heard that some times she posts as many as six reviews a day; how many books could you speed read in a day?
But whatever, right? No harm done… unless you’re the sort of person who’s Bothered By Things. See this 2012 “investigation” into Klausner’s reviews, which discovered that she received free ARCs from publishers, gives them positive reviews, then hands them off to her son to sell for COLD HARD CASH.
Nevermind that The Strand bookstore is floor to rafters with resold ARCs from other book reviewers. Nevermind that there’s no difference in what Klausner does and what other reviewers do besides scale. Apparently, she’s a woman reviewing badly for nefarious purposes and a group of people have begun to follow her around and badmouth her reviews. That link takes you to Sharon Lee’s new book Carousel Sun; how pleased would you be to discover that, on the week your book comes out, Internet Melodrama is breaking out on the book’s Amazon page that has nothing to do with the author. (Buy her book, folks, to help soothe that pain.)
[Edited to add: There are, as of this writing, 46 comments under Klausner's review, many justifying the decision to follow Klausner from page to page to taunt and mock her including one comparing her to Timothy McVeigh(!). Ugh.]
You might think I would be upset about what Harriet does–write universally positive reviews so she can continue to churn out incomprehensible reviews on books she’s barely skimmed for a few thin bucks, but once again you’d be wrong. My take is this: It’s a hard hard world. If she can make a few bucks (nobody is getting rich selling ARCs on fucking half.com) for herself and her family, and if publishers want to keep sending review copies to her, let them. As sins go, this isn’t half so terrible as the moving flame war hitting the Amazon pages of author after author.
Klausner-stalkers, find something useful to do. Advocate. Make something. In fact, Instead of reviewing Klausner’s work (fish -> barrel) write your own, and make them good. If your lives are so comfortable that a minor transgression like this annoys you so much, give thanks to whatever deity you worship and go volunteer at a food bank.
Because this thing where you follow a woman from page to page to insult her? That’s just sad.
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.
Must be seen to be believed.
The podcast War Rocket Ajax created the Worst Christmas Mixtape Ever for their War on Christmas episode.
Aside from the warning in the subject header, you should also know these are not just incredibly terrible and physically painful, some are downright offensive.
making books The Great Way: a blessing of monsters internet moi? publishing
by Harry Connolly
So! As many of you know, last September and October I ran a Kickstarter for my new epic fantasy trilogy. My goal was $10K, which was barely enough to cover the cost of cover art, interior design, a map, printing, copy editing, etc. In my original budget I had about $80 worth of wiggle room, which I figured would be safe enough; if costs went over, I could cover them with the Twenty Palaces POD edition which is coming out soon.
Then this happened:
The project hit its goal in about 8 hours and doubled it the next day. This post is going to be about what happened, why it happened, what I did right and wrong, and what I learned from it. more »
making books: a blessing of monsters internet publishing
by Harry Connolly
making books: a blessing of monsters internet publishing
by Harry Connolly
The Kickstarter topped the $40,000 mark. That’s over 400% of goal with 47 hours left to go. Thank you.
making books: a blessing of monsters internet publishing the auntie mame files Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
I have generally avoided asking people to help spread the word, but the whole purpose of writing these books was to bring in new readers. At this point in the campaign, I’m going to create this as a resource for people willing to share news in their own social media spaces.
For friends who prefer ebooks:
At the $12 pledge level, they’ll get THE WAY INTO CHAOS, the first book in the trilogy (including the Chris McGrath cover). The basic description of the series is right on the main Kickstarter page:
The (pre-edited) sample chapters start right here:
They’ll also get A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, the urban fantasy novel with a protagonist in her mid-sixties. The book is sort of like The Dresden Files if Harry Dresden was actually a cross between Auntie Mame and Gandalf. A more complete description can be found here:
They’ll also get the comic fantasy novelette my son wrote as part of the homeschool project, with cover art by Kathleen Kuchera:
Finally Also, they’ll also get a copy of TWENTY PALACES, the prequel to the books in my Del Rey series. More detail here:
And finally, we’ve just this morning unlocked the last book, a short fiction collection that will include the Twenty Palaces short “The Home Made Mask” along with other new and reprinted stories from me.
That’s a short fiction collection and three novels (plus the novelette my son wrote, with cover art) for only $12. For someone who is unfamiliar with my work, that strikes me as a pretty good deal.
At the $25 level, they’ll get all of the above and the other two books in the trilogy. That’s five novels all together, including all three of the Chris McGrath covers, plus the short fiction collection and the novelette.
If they’re gamers, too, then only $5 more will get a game supplement, too, so backers who play FATE Core can run a game in the setting of The Great Way.
Also, as I write this, we’re only 30 new backers away from unlocking a FATE Core supplement for KEY/EGG It’s unlocked. There will be two FATE Core supplements for everyone at this level.
For people who prefer paper books,
Well, that’s a heavier lift, because the reward levels for the trade paperbacks are well above the typical market rate for books.
Twitter-friendly sample posts:
If you’re new to Harry Connolly’s fiction, the last hours of his Kickstarter have some good deals. http://kck.st/18DEKAL
Four ebooks for $12 and six for $25. Be sure to check out Harry Connolly’s fiction: http://kck.st/18DEKAL
Also! The hardcover omnibus edition offered at the King/Queen level and above is not going to be available after Saturday evening when the Kickstarter closes. If you’re the sort of person who likes rare (if not necessarily valuable) books, this will be the only opportunity to score a copy.
ADDED LATER: The new stretch goal is STRETCH GOAL: YOU, which means that backers can set a goal for them to create something they can share with all the other backers.
One of the option is an expanded writeup of the FATE Core Voidcallers game setting. Now, I’ve had people asking me for a Twenty Palaces rpg for a while and frankly, FATE’s Voidcallers is it. They capture the feel of the setting and the magic far better than I ever could.
So if you would like a Twenty Palaces rpg, help the campaign reach 1200 backers.
Also on offer in Stretch Goal: You: audio fiction, music, and I know someone else is working on a historical 20P game writeup.
I can’t pretend this isn’t exciting. Not just because of the numbers, but seeing other people jump in with their own ideas is a real thrill.
Thank you, everyone, for the support you’ve given me so far.
making books personal Twenty Palaces Books: a blessing of monsters internet people publishing Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
If you’ve been following the recent research on happiness, you might be surprised by some of what has been discovered. Yes, buying material objects can increase your happiness, but only in the very short term. Buying new clothes or a new hat is nice at first, but we quickly become accustomed to it and the happiness fades.
What makes us most happy–and makes for long-lasting happiness–is experiences, especially experiences that will be happening sometime in the not too distant future. The reason is that it’s not so much the experience (the vacation, the concert, the road trip) itself that brings joy, but the anticipation of it. Read this article in The New Republic for a magazine-length discussion:
One interesting finding was that people enjoyed TV shows more when they included commercial breaks, because that little teasing delay between acts increased their anticipation.
Why do I mention this? Well, books are both material objects and experiences, and sometimes it can be a long wait for a book to come out. That seems like the best of both worlds.
But I’m not bringing this up because of my Kickstarter, which ends this Saturday and which promises a fun experience some months from now when the trilogy (plus the unlocked bonus books) are finished and released. I mean, sure, you might think this topic would be a good way to promote a Kickstarter, but that’s not why I’m here.
I want to officially announce a paper edition of TWENTY PALACES, the self-published prequel to CHILD OF FIRE and the other Twenty Palaces novels.
No, it’s not available yet. I’m still trying to get the cover to work (that’s today’s task, alongside setting up a new Time Capsule) but telling you now so you know it will be out soon increases happiness, right? If, that is, you’re one of those people who wants to read the prequel but doesn’t do ebooks.
Why has it taken two years to get a paper edition? Two reasons that are really one reason: It’s a lot of work, even with help, and it was too depressing. When the cancellation of the series happened, I was really really down about it, and doing all the work needed for a self-published POD Twenty Palaces would have been too painful. Now, with a little distance, it’s more manageable.
With luck, it will be available by Christmas time.