Friday, January 27, 2012

Blog Hopping 1/27/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week, I published a playlist for my forthcoming novel. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Where do your books that you read come from? The bookstore? The library? Do you prefer to own a book, or have it on loan?"

Generally, from the local public library. I don't have a lot of money or bookshelf space, so their services are most appreciated. I do collect a few choice high-quality series, because good authors should be supported. I also occasionally receive self-pubs from other authors for review.

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

LupLun's First Novel Mixtape

So, a fellow blogger and I got into a minor tiff over playlists the other day. You know how authors will share lists of songs that they think go well with their work? Where did that start, anyway? I know it was unique and different when Carrie Vaughn did it in '05...

Well, anyway, since that was on my mind and I didn't have a better idea for this week's blog post, I spent an afternoon bringing together a playlist of songs that I think go well with Bonds of Fenris. Some of these have been associated with scenes in the book since first draft, others are newer additions. I hope it'll give potential readers an idea of how the book "feels".

"Under the Milky Way", Church
"I Need A Dollar", Aloe Blacc
"In Too Deep", Sum 41
"Sinnerman", Nina Simone*
"Mad World", Gary Jules
"Losing My Religion", R.E.M.
"Letters From The Sky", Civil Twilight
"Going Under", Evanescence
"Twenty-One Guns", Green Day
"M4 (Part II)", Faunts
"Crockett's Theme", Jan Hammer**
"Glad You Came", The Wanted***
"Just What I Needed", The Cars
"Trouble", Coldplay
"Scars", Papa Roach
"Hash Pipe", Weezer
"My Friends", Red Hot Chili Peppers
"All I Want", The Offspring
"Dig", Incubus
"Knights of Cydonia", Muse****
"The Piper", ABBA

*Not sure about this one -- the air of increasing panic is perfect, but the ending less so. And frankly, the song goes on about 6 minutes longer than it needs to.

**Yes, from Miami Vice. And Pure Moods. Shut up.

***I did not know this was a boy band until I looked up the video. I thought it was a David Guetta-type song, not five identical-sounding "cute" guys. I almost replaced it, but decided that "too happy to care about embarrassing yourself" works with the scene in question.

****Epic, or mock epic? You decide!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blog Hopping 1/20/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week, I had some frank things to say about the Goodreads vs. authors drama, and about bad review drama in general. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Which book from the last 10 you've read would you recommend to a friend?"

I think we've done that question before rather recently, but nevermind. I'd like to say Lunatic Fringe, but I'm not sure most of my friends would appreciate being recommended lesbian erotica. So, between the last 10 I've read, it boils down to Brush of Darkness and Wolf Mark. Of the two, I'll have to go with Brush of Darkness, if only because Wolf Mark kinda falls apart halfway through. But all three of them are books well worth reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why you shouldn't worry about bad reviews

It happens, every once in a while, that someone posts a negative review online. And most of the time, it passes without much incident. The internet either nods silently or mumbles disagreement, and the world moves on. But on occasion, some author decides to take personally the fact that someone on the internet didn't like their book. Results are generally bad all around.

Well, it looks like we've got another batch of drama on our hands. I'm not up on the details, partially because I'm not really in the loop about what goes on at Goodreads and partially because I don't really give a crap. From what I understand, some authors took exception to some Goodreads reviewers logging poor opinions of their books, which eventually led to two factions spamming 1-and-5-star ratings at each other.

Now, I'm not going to judge anyone involved since, like I said, I'm not really up on the details. But I'd just like to point out that an author who publicly criticizes a negative review of his work is, at the very least, employing very bad marketing strategy. Believe it or not, bad reviews are good for you.

Since I've been reading too much Cracked lately, I'll handle this as they would: A list of numbered points.

1) A bad review still gets the word out.

Let's be realistic: the sole reason authors submit their works for review is publicity. Certainly, a good review will make for good publicity. But even a scathing review, if it's competently written, will give the potential reader an idea of what the book has to offer. Whether or not the reviewer likes it is immaterial: he's still getting the word out to the potential reader, who will know better than the reviewer what he wants to read. 

For example, take every gamer's favorite cantankerous Aussie, Yahtzee. Nearly four years ago, he published a rather scathing review of The Witcher that is what convinced me personally to buy the game. (Which I have never played, but that's my own damn fault for not checking the system requirements.) How? He mentioned a number of features: an in-depth alchemy system, strategic rather than twitch-based combat, and a bevy of sidequests, that appealed to me. He obviously found these to be flaws in the game design, but that doesn't matter. I knew what I wanted out of a game, and what he was describing matched my expectations. 

Your readers are not stupid, nor are they sheep. They go where they can get what they want, and a review, good or bad, will let them know what you have to offer.

2) A bad review is still a mark of the reviewer's respect.

Most writers want two things: to make enough money to support themselves just through their writing, and to be listened to. And good or bad, a review of your work indicates that you're worth listening to. If your work is read but not reviewed, the implication is that the reviewer doesn't find you worth notice.

Put another way: let's say you're at a party, and you ask your pal Alan about a mutual friend Bob whom he respects but has recently had a disagreement with. Alan will probably say something along the lines of "Oh, well Bob says [whatever], and you know Bob's my friend, but personally I think he's way off the mark here...," and so on. That's the bad review. On the other hand, ask Al about another mutual friend Chuck, which he has the same disagreement with but doesn't like one bit, and he'll say "Pfft. Who cares about Chuck? Chuck's an asshole." Since Bob has gotten the bad review, you may think Chuck has gotten the very bad review. And you're wrong. Chuck has gotten no review. He has been dismissed as unimportant. He is not worth the reviewer's time.

As a book blogger myself, I can tell you: we have a lot of books to deal with. Recall my graph from last week and note that even on a slow month, there are around 40 new books in my particular subgenre to deal with. True, many of those are re-releases, new editions, or random not-really-on-topic stuff, but what remains is still a lot to go through. You have to whittle it down somehow, and the most common way is to cut out books you doubt will be worth talking about. So when someone posts a review of your work, it indicates that they were confident enough in your skills to give you a shot, and they found enough substance in your work to comment on it. These are both good things, regardless of whether or not the reviewer liked what you had to say. If you repay their respect by questioning their right to critique, who's the real asshole here?

But let's be honest. Not all reviewers are worth respecting. There are some who just post two lines (or less) on an Amazon page, attach one star, and call it a day. Shouldn't you worry about them giving you an undeserved bad name? No, not really, because:

3) Nobody listens to generic hate.

Let's take for example that great literary kerosene on the fires of the internet, Twilight. Look up New Moon on Amazon, or just follow this link because I did the work for you already. Specifically, look at the customer reviews, sorted by how many people found them helpful. At the top of the list, reviews are detailed and thoughtful. They're not always positive, but there's much more meat to them than "OMG TWILIGHT SUX WHY THIS POPULAR I DONT EVEN". No, to find those, you have to head down to the bottom; to the reviews that nobody found helpful.

Potential readers aren't swayed by people who obviously don't know what they're talking about. I mean, think about it. Say you have this friend Deb, whom you ask about the new book you know she's been reading. She says, "Ugh, I hated it." You ask why, and she says "I just did." Does that give you the information you were looking for? Of course not. It just tells you that Deb didn't like it. Deb also doesn't get The Big Lebowski, which is obviously one of the great movies of the 90's. How does Deb not liking the book, without context for her dislike, predict whether you will enjoy the book?

And this assumes that you actually know Deb. 99% of the time, you don't know the people who post things to Amazon. They could be illiterates from Outer Mongolia for all you know. If all they say is "I hate this and it's stupid", that doesn't help you make any kind of buying decision. So you ignore it. You go to someone who can actually articulate why he likes or hates your book.

But what if it's not just one bad review, but numerous ones? A huge tidal wave of negative hype sweeping the internet? Surely that's going to put a dent in your sales, isn't it? Wrong.

4) People will buy a hated book for the purpose of being able to talk about it.

Let's introduce another pal into your circle of alphabetically-organized friends. His name is Ed, and you meet him at the water cooler each day to chat for a bit. Say Ed is a fan of Generically Repulsive Reality Show, a show that you wouldn't touch with an eleven-foot pole. Truthfully, Ed doesn't like it much either, but it has the fascination of a slow-motion car wreck, so he watches. And every day, without fail, he shows up to rail on how awful it was the night before. Since you don't watch it, you can only shrug and say some noncommittal stuff, and Ed walks away feeling that you don't like talking to him. However, your coworkers Fanny, George, and Haley do watch the show, and are more than willing to discuss how awful it is with Ed. You're left out of the loop. Before long, you're going to be watching the same show. Not because you think you'll like it, in fact you're pretty sure you won't. But it's what everyone's talking about, and you need to keep up.

The old saying goes that there's no such thing as bad publicity. While that's not entirely true, a big buzz can  work for you even if it's negative. You can be the show everyone's watching, even if they're only watching you to laugh at you. Hey, their money's just as green.

But let's be brutally, brutally honest here: as dumb as they can be sometimes, the Internet does not simply pick random works out of a hat to hate on. Usually, there's some motivation behind it. Face it: if people are hating on your book, your book is probably bad. And this is why you need to get panned most of all:

5) Negative reviews tell you what you're doing wrong.

Nobody's perfect. If you think you are, you're an idiot. Yes, it's true, a lot of reviewers will misinterpret what your book is about, and what you're trying to say about it. But let's face facts: art is communicative. Your job as an author is to spin a story that will get your ideas across to the reader. If you were misinterpreted, or misunderstood, or the reviewer just plain disliked you, chances are you didn't do your job.

No, this doesn't mean that you should do what the critics all think you should do. It's your book, and ultimately what you say goes. But any good writer wants to grow as a writer, and that means you need someone to be able to tell you when you're screwing up. More than that, you need to listen to them.

So, when you get panned, your first thought should not be "This person doesn't understand my work. What's wrong with him?" It should be "This person doesn't understand my work. What did I do wrong?" Sometimes, you didn't do anything wrong, and the reader is an idiot. But if that's the case, there's nothing you can do about it. You can, however, look at what he says, see if maybe he has a point, and if so, use his criticism to make your next book stronger. 

But I've been dancing around the point. I've thrown out a lot of ideas regarding how pans are good for you, but no reason that you shouldn't get upset about them. What exactly makes confronting your critics poor marketing strategy? It's very simple:

6) Authors who create drama over reviews will go unreviewed.

To be blunt, critics don't need that crap. As I said before, they've got a lot of stuff to work through. If you have, in the past, created trouble for them over a review, do you think they're going to review you again? Of course not. They put their time and effort into crafting a good, honest, thoughtful opinion that could help you out, and you repaid them with stress headaches. To hell with that. If you'd rather be ignored than criticized, you wouldn't have become a writer in the first place.

Nobody can please all of the people all of the time. Someone's always going to dislike what you're doing. You can make a big stink about it, and have the internet decide your the asshole, or you can use it to drive yourself to do better. It's a matter of worldview, ultimately. You can have the siege mentality of everyone being out to get you, or you can have the hopeful outlook that you'll do better next time. Which perspective is likely to help you grow as an artist?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blog Hopping 1/13/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week, I returned to bloghopping after a few weeks' absence, and also returned to regular posting with some amateur market research. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Which books are at the top of your list to be read this year (new or old releases)?"

Hmm. Well, it depends on what's coming out, but I have a few specific things I'm looking forward to: the latest Kitty Norville, naturally. The third Raised by Wolves novel, Taken by Storm, just as naturally. The followup to Lunatic Fringe, which I think is called Hunger Ghost. Bloodrose and Destiny and Deception, both of which I'm actually a bit nervous about; the most recent chapters of both series were a bit of a letdown. I was going to mention the third Intertwined book, but word is it's been delayed until 2013. A pity. The series may be a guilty pleasure, but it's still a pleasure. Oh! And lest I forget: A Sliver of Shadow.

As for older books, there are a few series I have to keep up with. I'm only halfway through Rachel Vincent's werecat books, I've got a new series called The Wolf Chronicles to deal with, courtesy of a Christmas gift from my girlfriend. Also, I would at some point like to pick up Roger Corman's autobiography again. I read it once years ago, and I think some of the stuff he talks about might be applicable to independent authors.

And, one trend I am definitely hoping comes to fruition in 2012: Thanks to e-readers and the self-publishing revolution, gamebooks are back! ^_^

Monday, January 9, 2012

Market Research on a Shoestring

So, I sat down to look for an editor today, and decided that instead of that, I had to give my book a release date. Trust me when I say that the path from point A to point B made perfect sense when I was walking it.

See, one thing I don't want to do is just release my book at any old time. For one, a little time to build a good buzz might be worthwhile. For another, not all release dates are created equal. While doing the review blog (which I will get back to at some point, I promise!) I noticed that there were peaks and troughs: some months I had multiple releases to contend with, others I had time to go back and look at stuff I missed. As a new author, I should probably aim for a trough, when competition will be lighter. If I hit shelves during a peak, I'm liable to wind up lost in the shuffle. I ought to think like a real wolf: pick the prey which is most easily available.

The problem is, how do I figure out where the peaks and troughs are? I'm sure there are numbers on this somewhere, but I've got no clue how to look for them.

So, I decide to get the numbers for myself.

I head on over to Amazon. They may be the bane of brick-and-mortar stores the world over, but they have a huge selection of books, which means plenty of data. After some messing around with the Advanced Search, I figure out how to search by publication date. So, I conduct my own ad-hoc, one-afternoon statistical study. First I do an Advanced Search: keyword "werewolf" (not exactly a genre, but close enough), publication date: Dec. 2011 or earlier. I get 4,293 books, which I ignore. The important thing is the number: 4,293. I record it in a spreadsheet, then punch the back button and do a new search, changing the date criteria from Dec 2011 or earlier to Nov. 2011 or earlier. A simple subtraction gives me the number of werewolf-related books released in December 2011. Go on to the next month, do the same thing, and keep going back to January of 2009.

It's all very duct-tape-and-chewing-gum, but at the end of it all I have a graph that I'm fairly confident in:

Cute, huh? ^_^ Well, aside from not fitting the blog at full resolution...

Anyway, looking at this, (click to enlarge, naturally), we can see a few different things: One is a massive spike in releases in 2011, to the extent that the lowest month of that year almost equals the highest month of the previous year. This makes sense; after all, the Kindle was one of Christmas 2010's most-gifted items, and there's a lot of authors clamboring to fill that market. Even before that, there was a steady increase between '09 and '10, thus indicating that there is still a perceived market for werewolf literature, despite naysayers calling it a fad and haters bashing paranormal for all it's worth.

But this isn't the information I need. What I wanted was trends month-to-month. And some trends do become apparent from this graph. There's a spike in January, followed by a sharp dropoff in February, one of the lowest months of the year. The spring months are middling, with the possibility of a dropoff in May or June. Summer is a busy time, and fall tapers off, with November and December being low months. That spike in December 2011 is something I'm at a loss to explain. Could be an anamoly, a flaw with my statistical methods, or an attempt to capitalize on the Christmas rush.

In any event, it seems the low points are February, May, and November. February is the lowest point, but there's no way I could have the book ready by next month. May, however, looks very promising. Not only is it a trough, but it's a trough leading into the big summer rush, when people have more free time to look for new and interesting books. A strong strategy for me, therefore, is to spend March and April building up buzz, release in May, and then ride the wave over the summer.

Hey, look at that, I can do statistics. ^_^ Truly, an entrepreneur makes friends with many skills.

So then, Bonds of Fenris now has a semi-official release date: May 2012. And holy bajesus, I've got a ton of work to do before then. TTYL, folks!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Not so fast, Mr. Gordon

Late last year, I put nearly everything on hold to focus on revising Bonds of Fenris. It was annoying, since I've been revising practically since I've finished it, and each time I told myself that this one would be the last. But this time I meant it. This time, I have a finished book. I told myself I would can the blogging, can the queries, can the other writing, put everything aside and just get the book to a point where I am proud of it. Again.

Well, I succeeded. A few days before New Year's, I wrapped up the final tweaks to the final chapter of my eventually-to-be debut novel. Now, with a brand new year before us, it's time to buckle down and get the book out, and no more of monkeying around with a publishing industry that has too many manuscripts on its hand and no way to fish out the good ones. I'm going indie. I'm doing it myself. But, I can't go it alone. So, I nosed around for advice on how, exactly, to go about this. I checked with Smashwords, I checked with Ms. Moon (whose book, I must add, is awesome), I checked with the Self-Publishing Review, and all of them said the first step was the same: hire an editor to help you revise it.

Le sigh.

Don't get me wrong, I know they're right. Every writer thinks their work is the best, and so every writer needs someone to beat them over the head for their failures. But it's the same problem I had with the query process: lots of wheel-spinning without a feeling of going anywhere. So I whine, and I moan. But still and all, I can't send my book into the wild unprepared, can I?

Happy New Year, all. Anyone know a cheap and reputable freelance editor?