No… We’re Not Going to Argue Anymore

I recently took down my “responses to hate mail” page. When I first started blogging, I wasn’t familiar with online politics and I thought the whole ‘responses to hate mail page’ was funny. I was so proud of my ability to hurt a person’s feelings that I felt the need to show everyone how great I was at being a bitch and how easily I could make these people who emailed me look like morons. In short, I was an arrogant asshole who thought she knew everything. And like any know-it-all, I am making this video my change of perspective announcement.

Let me explain the reason I had to to respond in the first place. I have a hair trigger temper and I’m intensely paranoid. I think a few of the readers of this very page have been victims of that. While I might not show it, I am the kind of person who can become extremely angry even over the slightest slight and hold onto that for years.

So when someone emails me, harshly criticizing my writing (often times without reading the article) I get blindly furious. I have been in my share of online fights, that extended all the way from angry emails, to digging up personal info and posting it online, to website hacking.

It’s also part of my industry. While I don’t read my reviews, I know many other writers who do, and even get into arguments with people who don’t agree with them. Lots of reviewers don’t behave any better, using their online clout to attack authors that they think have crossed the line. While I never actually got involved in any of these fights, I’ve watched them from the sidelines, eating my virtual popcorn and saying “wow, these people are all idiots. I’m so much better and more professional than them. Don’t they understand that they’re arguing in circles?”

Somehow, I thought that by only attacking people who attacked my blog, and not my books, I was being a better, more professional writer.

Then I met Russ.

Well, I’m calling him Russ to protect his privacy. We’ve known each other since I released an article called “No, You Don’t Have PTSD. You’re Just Being a Pussy.”

Russ was one of those people who did that thing that irritates me. He read the title of the page without reading the article. Then, he posted about 400 comments on my page and sent me an angry email. I did nothing to diffuse him. I did the opposite. I got angry at him. I deleted his posts, responded to his email by signing off “I hope you get cancer” and wrote an angry blog post correcting his entire hate mail message.

Russ later apologized, agreed to disagree, and then moved on…for about 3 months. Then, I said something that set off his own hair-trigger temper again. He sent another angry email. I again got furious when I read it. He flooded my page with angry comments, using a bot system in order to change his IP repeatedly so he could continue posting without going to spam.

So I found his phone number and posted it on the NSA section of Craigslist with a request for cock pics. Again our fight ended with him apologizing. We both moved on…until a few months later, when something I said angered him again.

I have been playing out this cycle for three years now, with the most recent cycle being him gaining access to my Facebook account and posting a fuckton of messages spamming products like Viagra and adult diapers. Russ has followed me for years.  I should be angry and afraid of this man. He’s threatened me repeatedly, as well as threatened my family. He’s sent me emails in  graphic detail of what he’d do to me if we ever met.

I should be afraid of him, but I’m not. I’m not because I have to admit that as fixated on me as he is, I’ve become fixated on him.

There’s something about the thrill of knowing you’re about to get into a fight. There’s something about wanting to top the person you’re arguing with and make them look stupid, that’s kind of addictive. It becomes easy to make it into the focal point of your life. It becomes easy to make it into the sole reason that you write. You get positive reinforcement for it. Whenever I argue with an idiot online, whenever I post about hate mail, my page views and likes go through the roof. People love a train wreck. They love watching it, breaking out their virtual popcorn and saying “wow, these people are idiots. I’m so much better and more professional than them.”

Because the people watching, they didn’t care about who was wrong or who was right. By the time they reached me, that was impossible to tell. Nothing was in shades of gray. My reactions to Russ’s emails turned me from being the bullied, into the bully. But in my riotous indignation, I just felt superior.


The fact is, no one cares about the argument. The only one who really cares are you and the person you’re arguing with. In the end, everyone else is in it for the enjoyment of watching a train wreck. It’s why people loved “Jersey Shore” and every other copycat show that’s been created since. It’s human nature.


The last time Russ hacked my page, I posted his name, address and social security number on Facebook. Per usual, Russ sent me another apology email. But this time, I decided I was done with this love/hate stuff. No joke, the dude has been threatening me and following me for three years. This needed to end. If he needed an argument, I was more than willing to be his Huckleberry.

I'm your huckeberry

So I told him I was done with his bullshit apologies and asked one question I never asked before.

“Why do you keep bothering me?” I asked, expecting some kind of explanation of how I reminded him of his absentee mother or overbearing aunt.

“Because you keep responding.” His answer was simple. Stupidly simple. Turns out Russ is reasonably smart, but socially awkward. He felt invisible. Getting my responses kept him from feeling invisible. How I gave him attention didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad. He barely even read or acknowledged my responses. It was the fact that I responded at all that made him keep coming back.

I was arguing in circles, getting into a fight with a person I knew would never agree with me, because actually agreeing with me would defeat the purpose of the contact in the first place. By arguing with him, I created a connection that neither of us was willing to let go of.

I wasn’t willing to let it go because something inside of me needed to make this stranger, this person who I had never met, agree with me. Make him admit he was wrong, and I was right. Make him admit he was the bad person and I was the victim. But I certainly never behaved like a victim. There were many things I did to him that were far worse than what he did to me, simply because I’m more tech savvy. I knew I had the advantage and I used it. At the time, it made me feel strong.

But after talking to the dude, it makes me feel like the kind of asshole that would beat up a person in a wheelchair. I’m not stupid. I knew I was dealing with a person who was not at the same level of computer knowledge as me and I used it against him.

Why did I do it? Did his opinion really mean that much to me? Or was I so desperate for attention, even bad attention, that I was willing to engage in an online war that I knew would end badly?

I knew I wasn’t doing it to make peace. I knew we wouldn’t agree on anything. But there was something so enticing about the argument that I kept fighting anyway.

But through writing, through interacting with people, I’ve finally grown. I’ve realized that when you respond to a troll argument, you never win. You are never going to make these people agree with you, because they know from the second they send a message that they are never going to agree with you. This is not what they care about., They only care about the response. They only care about you emailing them to prove they are not invisible. It’s a game and they want you to play with them.

I’m not playing anymore. I don’t want the cheap publicity an online fight will bring. I’m not going to be desperate for you to agree with me. There is a very good chance that we will never agree. There is a very good chance that our opinions on everything differ even at the most basic level. This is not something I can change.

I’m not responding anymore. It’s not because I think I’m wrong, but because I need to believe that things are going to get better. I need to believe that people are interested in more than petty arguments and stupid squabbling. I need to believe I’m a little bit more than a bad car crash on the side of the road that you pull over to look at.

I can’t stop you from saying horrible things about me. I can’t control the way you react. But I can control the way I react to those reactions.

Words are words and the words you use have no power over me. Use them whenever you feel like. I have a delete button on my computer and my phone for a reason. There is nothing in the world forcing me to interact with you. Unless you physically threaten me in person, we have nothing left to talk about. We don’t agree and I can be cool with that. It’s the whole “if a tree falls in the woods”, thing.


If an asshole says something about you that you never read…did he really say it?

I’m going with no. Unless you’re actually, physically in my life, you don’t exist to me. I am not going to argue in circles. I am not going to give you the attention you seek. We can disagree and I can be cool with that.

So the responses to hate mail page is gone. The responses to anything are gone. I refuse to be the online equivalent of the Jersey Shore. I’m better than that and I’m smarter than that. I’m not a fad or a car crash. I’m just Essa and I’m cool with that.

Nothing about me needs to change. It’s only the way I’ve responded to dissenting opinions that does. Trust this; I now, and always will, think I’m right about everything. Essa on Everything remains an aristocracy, with me earning the title of “Dictator for Life.” Your comments will be approved should they pass my stringent quality control test of not pissing me off.

Email comments will go into my spam email address to be reviewed every six months or so, much like the system I already have in place for reviews…where I delete them without reading them because in  my opinion, life’s too damn short to spend it arguing over ‘the principle’.

Because my principle is this, taken from one of those 1980’s movies I love so deeply.

You want to hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.

That’s all there is to it people. I’m Essa and what you see is what you get. That is the very last response to hatemail I’m ever going to make and the only one that matters.

Because I like me, and I don’t give a flying flippedy fuck about your opinion on the subject.

. .

Five Easy Ways to Fail As a Writer

Hey everyone, back again from a short hiatus. It’s been a busy winter and I’m working on something new, so posts will be few and far between, but they’ll happen.

The other night, I was perusing a writer’s forum and I saw a phrase I hate. In syntax it was “I don’t care if anyone reads what I write, as long as I get to write.”

I hate that phrase. I hate that phrase because it removes all ambition from the artistic process. It’s an attempt by a failed writer to prove that they’re artistically above other writers who have had commercial success.

Look, you can be one of those assholes who pretends they never want to make money off their writing, and live in relative poverty until they’re discovered 100 years after they die, but I’m not that kind of chick. I’m a writer first, but I’m also a businesswoman, and if there was no payoff in this for me, I’d do what most middle aged hot blondes do and go sell real estate.

To me a serious writer isn’t a person who hides behind their art. They’re a person who’s willing to make a few sacrifices to satisfy the masses. As writers we are, above all, entertainers.

To people who don’t get that, here are five easy ways to fail at being a writer

1. Keep having ideas without writing books.

Ideas are easy. It’s the writing that’s hard. Setting the scene, creating the atmosphere and writing realistic dialog are all learned skills that are not easy. That million dollar idea you have, that you think no one has thought of? It’s probably already written down, along with 500 others in my scrap file. The problem is, I’ll write it first, because I actually write the books to go with the ideas

2. Hang out in writers forums all the time talking about the book you’re writing.

Writing forums are for two things; kissing your own ass or kissing someone else’s. There are only two personality types in writer’s forums. The blowhards who claim to have made it and the newbs who treat their words like gospel. Both are equally useless to your career. Write your book and ignore the third party opinions. They’re always wrong anyway

3. Staunchly refuse to reconsider your genre

Sad fact people, but certain genres just don’t sell. Poetry, children’s books, and memoirs all have one thing in common. No one wants to read them. Look, everyone thinks their life story is worth a book, but the fact is, unless you’re a former spy, a victim of sex trafficking, or undergoing a sex change, no one wants to hear your life story. The genres that sell are educational nonfiction and fiction with a sexual or mystery angle. That’s it. Deal with it. Even Shakespeare got that.

4. Don’t accept your limitations

So English isn’t your first language and you want to write a book in it anyway? Go ahead. No one will comment on your grammar or spelling. Just kidding. EVERYONE will destroy you for not using appropriate grammar and spelling. You want to sell, write a book in your native language and get a fan following there, then move on to foreign markets. You don’t see me writing books in Spanish, do you? It’s not just because the only things I know how to say in Spanish are learned from telenovas.

I.e. “El abby no es tuyo. Son tus hermanos, Ricardo” (The baby isn’t yours. It’s your brothers, Ricardo.)

It’s because I don’t live in the country, don’t understand their slang and customs, and it would be presumptive of me to try to sell to that market. I’m successful because I accept my limitations. A sure fire way to fail is refusing to accept yours.

5. Refuse to treat this like a business.

All artists have to work to sell their art. All of them. There are no exceptions. You’re not going to get discovered in a closet. Either be willing to stand behind your work, or write all your shit down in a journal. After all, if you don’t care if anyone reads your work, why publish it? Stop flooding an over-saturated market with your words if you don’t care if anyone ever reads them.

Look people, I know I come across as arrogant, but I actually get a livable paycheck from my writing. I’m all in. I’m willing to sacrifice to satisfy the market. So you can bitch to me about your low sales numbers, and talk about how it’s all about the writing for you. I don’t care. To me, it’s all about the now. So go ahead and get famous after you’re dead. I’ll take my fame while I’m still around to enjoy it.

Because only one of us is the real writer here. It’s the girl who files as ‘writer’ on her tax returns. The rest of you are just hobbyists.

Why Buy The Cow? – Tips for Getting Clips

It genuinely amazes me how many people email me asking for free writing, simply for exposure. Look people, if I wanted exposure, I’d travel down to New Orleans and show my tits to a stranger.

Earn those beads

Weirdly, they aren’t quite so accepting of it when it’s not Mardi Gras. Instead of beads, you just get a summons for public nudity. Such bullshit.

I don’t write for free. When I’m working for a client, I charge industry average based on my experience. That starts at 10 cents per word and works its way up to 25 cents per word, depending on the complexity of the article. While those prices might seem high, I can personally guarantee that people will pay them if you’re good enough.

I’m not just good enough. I’m fucking great.

But I wasn’t always this good. Once upon a time, I worked for content mill fees. The first client I got to pay me 2 cents per word, I rejoiced like a fool. Two cents per word!!! I only had to write 50 articles a week to live! So I wrote until my fingers bled and I was thrilled at the fact that I could live on my writing. After all, I was getting exposure! I had clips!

Anyone who has ever tried to break into freelancing before, you probably know how precious clips are. To get clients, you need to show you have published articles on websites. That’s probably why so many people are willing to write for free to get those clips.

But you all need to stop. You ruin your credibility and cut yourself off at the knees when you work for sites that aren’t known to pay people for their work. “A Huffington Post author applied for this job?” The client will say. “That means they’re good, and they’re willing to work for peanuts!”

Is that the reputation you want?

The big companies that do this, Huffington Post included, piss me the hell off. These people are raking in billions of dollars in content views and affiliate sales every year, while the people the write that content get nothing.

Oh, not nothing. I forgot…they get exposure. But did you know you can get exposure without lining someone else’s pockets? Here are some tips on how to do it.

#1 – Start your own website and post your writing samples. You all might notice that I have a page on this site called “Essa’s Writing Samples”. There, I link to a bunch of internal pages I created, covering a large variety of topics. These articles came about when I got scammed on a job. To prevent the scammer from using my original work, I posted it all first. In short, I made lemons of lemonade.

Now, when I’m applying for a new job, regardless of subject, I always have a link to something relevant. I own all the rights, so I can resell the articles if I want. As I’ve always said, never give up your rights in exchange for nothing. That’s just stupid. If someone wants the rights to post your work, they should offer something more than exposure. You can get that yourself by creating your own writing sample page.

#2 – Don’t underestimate your blog, but don’t turn it into a marketing page either. I’ve never really seen Essa on Everything as a moneymaker. That’s why I don’t try very hard to stay professional and PC in my articles. On Essa on Everything, I write for the fun of it. I let myself go and the passion shows through in my writing. It isn’t exactly PG-13. I don’t try to make it that way.

But this blog had gotten me more clients than any completed application. From my “Passion of the Christ” article, I got a movie reviewing job that has lasted at least two years and has led to other work. From my article where I wrote an algorithm to keep myself from drunkenly purchasing things on Amazon, I got a job writing tech articles with a high-profile software company and I sold the algorithm. I never expected to make money on either of these articles. I just wrote what I was passionate about and people responded. I didn’t turn my page into an advertising page. If I had, I would have concentrated on staying PG and none of it would have worked out the way it did.

#3 – Write a book. KDP makes it so anyone can publish a book these days, but not a lot of people realize that. One of my biggest selling points in ghostwriting is how many books I’ve published, their status as bestsellers and how many good reviews they’ve gotten. While you might not hit bestseller status on Amazon with a book, it is a good way to show you understand ghostwriting.

People, you do not need to work for free. Breaking into freelancing is hard, but if you’re willing to work hard and pay your dues, you’ll find your niche. When I started, I expected to be writing dating tips and product reviews for a penny a word. Over the years, I’ve learned that my niche areas are sex and tech, for a much higher amount. They’re very different, but they both pay high and despite what people may think, clients are willing to pay a premium price for premium content.

Google has changed. Their algorithm now rewards page rank based on article quality, and not quantity. That means those keyword stuffers working for peanuts will soon be out of business. So stop working for free. If you think you’re good enough to write for a living, then expect people to pay for it. If you don’t want to get paid for you work, might I suggest working for a non-profit instead?

A Book That Might Change The World (Or at Least One Guy’s Life) – An Interview With Aaron Frale

Playlist of the Ancient Dead

I arrive back from lunch at my publishing house, Twilight Fan Fiction Whores, Inc. for my meeting with Aaron Frale. Aaron is a young, former indie author (my most hated kind. I hate indies. Don’t they understand that the public needs to be TOLD what they like?).

Aaron is waiting in my office when I arrive, despite the fact that I’m 45 minutes late.  That could be because he’s a laid back kind of guy, sort of a handsomer version of Seth Rogan. Or it could be because I’ve just gotten back from a 14 martini lunch and I’m blitzed out of my mind.

Publishing is a rough business.

Which is why I have one goal in mind; turn his book, regardless of what it is, into Twilight Fan Fiction. As I watch him study my posters from 50 Shades of Grey with disdain, I can only assume it’s going to be a very, very hard sell.

I friggen hate indies.


Pitch your book to me like I’m a really stupid, really drunk publisher (as opposed to a really stupid, really drunk author)

My book is a story about a woman who finds a mysterious doorway that didn’t exist the last time she walked by.

(Aaron notices my sudden lady erection)

No, Edward and Jacob are not making out behind the door! (He rolls his eyes disdainfully) They are not even in my book! I’m not going to rewrite my book to include the Twilight cast. I’m pretty sure the rest of the world doesn’t view Bella as that “hoe” that got in between Jacob and Edward.

(I begin to feel queasy at the prospect of publishing something that ISN’T Twilight fan fiction. Aaron immediately grabs his manuscript away and glares at me in alarm.)

Don’t puke on that! Goddamit!

(I swallow back down a 14 martini lunch and continue with my questions)

This book was written from a female POV. Did you have any difficulty with that?

Horror and Science Fiction have very few female characters that go beyond the “fighting fuck toy” and other gender stereotypes. My main character, Caroline, is my part to give women more complex roles in the genre. For me, the writing process was more about actualizing her as a human being with many facets than using tired and over used fallbacks. Caroline is a real person in extraordinary circumstances, anything less would diminish her as a human being. I also have an Iranian guy who isn’t a terrorist, so deal with it Mainstream America!

What made you pull away (i.e. sellout) from the wonderful world of indie writing and pursue a publishing deal with Amazon?  

Who wouldn’t want to sell out? I mean look at Crispin Glover. He made a lot of money doing main stream stuff and can spend the rest of his life being as weird as he wants. Not that I plan to talk with rats or anything, but I spend a lot of my time marketing my books for a very small amount of sales. It would be nice to focus more on writing, and let the publisher do the marketing.

What wine — or illegal narcotic (after all, you are a musician as well) would you pair your book with?

Mushrooms and any other hallucinogen, once you go down the rabbit hole… I’ll let readers discover that for themselves.

You’re given a magic wand with only one power. With one wave, you can you can wipe out an entire genre of books. Do you use it and if so, what genre? If you don’t, why? (And recognize the fact that I will indeed label you a pussy)

Werewolf porn. Aren’t hairy men from seventies porn enough? Do we really need to go to the point of werewolves? I didn’t know it was a genre until I started seeing some of my other stories appear in the Fantasy top 100 list on Amazon with “Back Massages from a Lycan Prince” or something like that. Does “his erection was barely noticeable in the fur” really turn people on?

I heartell that Kindle Scout has replaced the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. How do you feel about that? Did you ever enter the Breakthrough Novel Award before Kindle Scout came around? What was your experience with that?

As a former ABNA participant, I’m thrilled by Kindle Scout. More people will get a chance at a publishing deal than ever whereas ABNA only gave a select few that chance. I’d rather compete against a couple hundred people for an undetermined and flexible amount of slots than ten thousand people for five slots and only one in my genre. For me personally, I know there is an audience for what I write, Kindle Scout gives me a chance to connect with those people and not worry about the rest. Whereas in ABNA if someone wrote a heartbreaking novel about a single mother struggling to connect to her kid with cancer, what chance does my novel have? And when I think about the true prize of Kindle Scout, it’s not the advance, it’s the marketing. If my book doesn’t sell when Amazon markets it to millions of people, that’s on me.


I sigh and put away my checkbook. If this cat isn’t willing to write fan fiction based on vampires, werewolves or the kids from Harry Potter, how can he possibly expect me to sell any of his books?

Ridiculous. It’s as if he thinks the American public wants something different. Like they might want to — think for themselves.


Unfortunately, we at Twilight-Fan Fiction Whores aren’t willing to publish this book for obvious reasons, but if you’d like to see Aaron in print, then be cool and go give him a vote at his Kindle Scout page. If he is published, he will be gifting free kindle editions to voters.

The 2014 Year End Review



God, it’s a bitch to write these things sober. That’s one notable thing I’ve noticed about 2014. I spent a significant amount of it heavily intoxicated. The rest of the time was spent deleting Facebook and Twitter posts made while intoxicated.

Does that mean I’m quitting my drinking and illicit drug use entirely? Fuck no. I’m just cutting back until my ass shrinks down a size or two…same with my liver.

Luckily I do remember enough of the high points of 2014 to review them. So let’s get started.

#1 – I started writing porn

Yeah people, the girl who couldn’t write a sex scene two years ago now makes her living predominantly on books that are nothing more than extended sex scenes. I published my first porn book in 2014, saw 100 sales in a day, and decided to totally sell out.

As a result, my books under the pen name Essa Alroc have fallen by the wayside. So this is my solemn vow. I will publish enough porn this year so that I can go back to writing the books that don’t sell. I actually have two in the works. It’s just, when faced with the option of writing a book that sells, over one that I’m actually proud of, I’ll choose the one that sells every time.

I never denied the fact that I am a complete literary whore. If you’re curious, my porn is under the name Charlene McSuede. Now go look it up and be embarrassed for both of us.

#2 – I went viral

But not in that bad way, like the time I gave everyone at work ringworm. Nope, in the good way where my rantings got shared with a shitload of people, multiple times. I didn’t see an increase in book sales, but I did see an increase in hate mail…which is good, because my hate mail page needed to be updated.

#3 – My overall hate mail went down significantly, while my weird mail went up.

Last year, I was mainly getting messages that told me what a dumb cunt I am. This year, I’m getting messages offering this dumb cunt plane tickets to come visit, promising me money or asking for pictures of my feet.

People, this is not one of those web cam model pages. I don’t want your money (mainly because I am entirely convinced it will be covered in human secretions) but also because I’m not a beggar. I’m doing ok. This is not a Go Fund Me page. I fund myself and I’m good. You want to give to charity, adopt one of those black kids Sally Struthers used to bitch about. You want to do me a solid?

Send weed.

#4 – I made an attempt to home school my kid.

Me and Logan tried it out this year, mainly because of how much I change home bases. It seemed unfair to keep making him move, so I offered homeschooling.

Result? After the first few ‘social studies’ lessons, that mainly involved me getting wasted, showing up in his room at 2 am and spending four hours ranting about the government, Logan said to me, “mom, I think I want to go back to regular school.”

Hey, at least we tried.

All in all, 2014 was a good year. It wasn’t great. It was like one of those filler episodes in a soap opera, where nothing really happens, but they need to advance the plot. That leads me to believe all the crazy shit is going to happen in 2015.

I’m writing my porn with a publisher now and I’m making sales, because let’s be honest, you motherfuckers are perverts. With any luck, I’ll finish my first series, start my second and James Franco will want to make a movie out of it, then get into a huge fight with North Korea, thereby making me go more viral than I already am (and I’m not talking ringworm, people).

I didn’t make the New York Times bestsellers list this year, but I could hardly expect to. I spent it writing spank fodder. With the exception of EL James, spank fodder doesn’t really lend itself to a lot of bookclubs.

But 2015 is going to be a big year for me. I already feel it. Maybe I’ll write some bestselling porn. Maybe it will be one of my real books that actually gets more than 4 sales a month. Either way, I’ll spend 2015 writing and not in a cubicle.

Who could ask for anything more?


Real Housewives that Write Real Books – Author Interview With A.J. Goode


I pull up to a large house, on a street where all houses are the same shade of beige. As I do, I plow my unnecessarily huge silver Escalade into a novelty mailbox, as I am trying to drive while holding my cell phone in one hand and a martini in the other.  Because I am the most important woman who ever existed, I am incapable of putting down my cell phone for even 11 seconds. Right now, I’m using it to shout at my Cuban nanny.

“Marisol, if Lockton is choking, just give him the Heimlich. I don’t have time for this today. I’m doing an author interview.”

“Miss Alroc, your son’s name is Logan.”

“Logan, Lockton, whatever. Just do it or I’ll have you deported.” I snap my phone shut, and congratulate myself on being a fabulous mother, before I knock on A.J. Goode’s door.

My frenemy A.J. has recently released another book, so I am pretending to be happy and supportive. In reality, I’m filled with envy and am dying to shut this down before she becomes more famous than me…or even worse, gets richer than me.

She opens the door and immediately smiles. “Essa!” We give each other high pitched greetings in overly enthusiastic voices before hugging like we haven’t seen each other in months.

A.J. leads me out back. “I hope you don’t mind. I figured we could do this outside while the pool boy finishes up.”

I turn my attention towards a young, well built Hispanic man holding a pool skimmer. “But A.J. you don’t have a pool.”

She smiles and takes a sip of her martini. “I know.”

I pull out my tape recorder.


What made you start writing romance?

I grew up reading my mother’s collection of romance novels, and I wanted to try writing the same kind of books that gave me so much enjoyment over the years.

Who are your books aimed at?

My books are aimed mostly at women who are looking for stories of romance with characters that might actually exist in today’s world.   I try to reach out to readers who are looking for something more relatable than billionaire playboys, lingerie models or vampires.

Tell me about your current project

I am working on the third book in my Beach Haven series, “Their Love Rekindled.”  It’s going to feature a couple of characters who have had a mention or two in my first two books, as well as a few cameo appearances from some more familiar characters.

Even though these books are all part of a series, each one is written to stand on its own so that readers can jump in at any point.

Any real life inspiration behind your characters?

The fire chief, Rollie Griswold, is very loosely based on the father of one of my best friends.  The real Rollie was smart and outspoken, and one of the kindest individuals I have ever known.  He passed away while I was writing this book, and I got his daughter’s permission to honor his memory by naming a character after him.

Other than that, most of the minor characters are based on real people in my life.  Hopefully, my co-workers and friends will all have a sense of humor if they recognize themselves.

Any types of characters you try to avoid in your books?

I really hate the Lonely Billionaire character who falls in love with the spunky poor girl because she’s the only one who isn’t impressed by his money.  Blech!  I can’t say that I’ll never write a book with that type of hero, but I have no desire to write one at this point.

Don’t you wish you wrote something more respectable than romance? I mean, how big is the market for trashy novels anyway?

I’m proud to write in a genre that exists to class things up a bit in comparison to all of the trashy porn being written today.  Then again, you do pretty well with your porn, don’t you?

It’s erotica. < stressing the word erotica in the most pretentious way I can.>

<smirks> Right

What other novelist would you gladly drown in a river if given the chance?

Would you like to go for a swim after this interview?

Just kidding, of course. <her tone indicates she’s really not and I’m very glad she doesn’t have a pool>  I don’t think anyone would miss E.L. James or Kathleen Hale.

Was the decision to let yourself go related to the fact that you work from home? Or was it just general laziness?  

I didn’t want to live up to the cliché of the sexually-deprived  romance writer who lives vicariously through her characters.  You know, the type of woman who goes the whole Botox-collagen-bleached blonde route to try to LOOK sexy because there’s nothing actually going on in that department at home.

Which reminds me, I meant to tell you how much I like the look you’re going with now.  Most women our age couldn’t carry off the dark roots, but it really helps keep anyone from noticing that you can’t blink.

<I struggle to blink just to prove I can and bite my collagen filled lower lip> Well then, I think we have enough for the interview.


Our interview is currently deteriorating to snark, so I know it’s time to quit before someone flips a table and starts screaming “prostitution whore!” I give one last licentious look to the pool boy as A.J. goes back to her writing.

If you want to check out A.J.’s new release, it’s called “His Heart Aflame” and it’s available now on Amazon. To check out her other works, see A.J. Goode’s author page.




Find the Right Publisher or Self Publish? – Alternate Title; Don’t Give in to Vanity

Every month or so, I check my Gmail to clear out my hatemail and respond to anyone who’s written to me. This mainly involves me blankly hitting delete on subject lines that say ‘you suck” or more frequently (for my reading comprehension challenged readers) ‘u suk’.

But occasionally I get an email from a hopeful or curious writer who is looking to break into the novel world. As you all know, I like to brag that I can support my affluent lifestyle of having a shitty car and an apartment in the ghetto on book sales alone. It only took me two years, two pen names and eight books to get there. As a result, sometimes I feel the need to pay it forward.

Be warned and buckle up. This is going to be a long post.

The other night, I got a question from a reader that made me friggen cringe. I won’t screenshot the question, as I don’t want to embarrass the writer, but here it is, paraphrased.

“How much did you pay to get published?”

People, if you are truly serious about your writing, this is never a question you should ask. In fact, I’m going to refer you to something that I learned when I started researching publishing in the first place. It’s called “Yog’s Law.” It was penned by a successful writer named Jim McDonald, and it’s very simple.

“Money flows towards the writer.”

If you want to turn your writing into a bill paying career, learn that, live that and love that.

I publish in two mediums. I have a small press publisher and I self publish. There is a third type of publishing, called vanity publishing, that I would never consider using. Not with today’s resources. This is what the person who emailed me was asking about.

Here’s what happens when I submit a new novel to my small press (i.e. real) publisher. They assign it to a reader. After a few weeks (timeline varies on size of the publisher) I get an offer. The offer includes a flat advance against royalties, along with a royalty percentage rate. Half the advance is paid up front, while the other half is sent once the editing process is complete.

They assign me an editor. My editor is a retired author (in my genre) and journalist with a degree in language arts, who graduated suma cum laude from an accredited university (this will be important later). She is my assigned editor for every book and reviews the book for plot issues, flow, grammar and punctuation.

Once edits are approved, she sends ARCs (advance review copies) to volunteer readers who provide reviews once the book is released.   While that is happing, the graphic arts department develops a cover concept. The audio department works on creating a ‘book on tape’ file. They create all the files for eBook and audio. They manage the print copies as well.

When the book is released, it is SEO optimized for Amazon, shopped to various book stores and placed on my publisher’s website. My publisher’s website is designed for readers and people predominantly go there to buy books (this will be important later). While there is a submission’s page for new authors, it is not the sole focus of the site.

Please note that all of these services are provided by my publisher free of charge. This is because it is in their best interest to create an excellent book, in order to make back the money they spent on me.

On the other hand, I also self publish. I write my book and then hire a proofreader. A proofreader is different from an editor in that they are there to check for grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors and nothing else. As I have confidence in my prose and storyline, I go with a proofreader over an editor as they are cheaper. This runs me anywhere from $200 to $500. A true editor would run me well over $2000, so I make sure my book doesn’t need one before I hire.

I send the book to beta readers that I have gathered on my own. These are volunteer readers who are simply fans of my work. I let them decide whether or not to leave reviews. These beta readers might warn me about editing, but they are mainly there to check for story flow.

I work with a cover artist who hand draws my covers. This costs me around $100.

I format my books (it’s incredibly easy) for Smashwords and Kindle and upload them. They usually go live within 24 hours. I use Createspace for print books. These are all free services.

My blog, Facebook fan page and word of mouth are my marketing routes. I pay $20 a year for my blog’s domain name.

In the end, I spend under $1000 self publishing and maintain a royalty rate of about 75% on all sales. I make my initial investment back in about 30 to 60 days and write off the full amount on my taxes.   However, I put a minimum of 6 months, 40 hours a week work into every title before I elect to release it.

When you have a true publisher, they do the work for you and pay you for the right to distribute your book. They make the money back in the percentage of royalties they get from sales of your book. When you self publish, you have more control over the process and get a higher royalty rate. Both of these are excellent options if you want to make writing your career.

Vanity publishing is not.

Here is what happens when you vanity publish. You submit your work via their flashy website. At their flashy website, their sole marketing efforts are directed at writers, not readers. They may or may not admit they have a fee up front. You may have even gotten to their site via an advertisement on Google or Facebook, stating they were ‘looking for new writers”.

Real publishers don’t take on advertisements on Facebook or Google. They don’t need to. The big houses get so many submissions a year, they’d be far more likely to take out an add asking people NOT to submit. Many won’t even accept un-agented submissions.

A real publisher’s goal is to sell books, not solicit new writers. A real publisher’s webpage will be set up to sell books, not solicit writers. If you doubt me, check out Penguin, Randomn House or even smaller niche publishers like Harlequin. All of these pages are designed to sell books, not solicit manuscripts.

With a vanity publisher, after submitting to their site, you will get a ridiculously quick response. I’m talking like 48 hours. This is another red flag. When I submit to my publisher, it takes them a week to even assign my manuscript to a reader. I only get that five star treatment from them because I’m an established author with their company. Most newbies wait a month or more.

No true publisher will read and decide on your book within 48 hours or even a couple of weeks (again, unless you have an ongoing relationship with them). I mean, chances are it took you months or even years to write your book. Do you really believe that someone read and loved your book in only two days?

This is where the flattery comes in. They’ll skim your novel, pick out few key points and send you an email talking about how marketable it is, how it’s the finest thing since Chaucer and how they couldn’t put it down.

Another point, real publishers don’t talk like that.

I consistently write novels that reach the top ten in their genres and still get emails saying ‘it’s good but…’. This is because my publisher is also a negotiator. She’d never gush about how great my book was, even if it was, and then try to close the deal. I mean, would you go to your local car dealership, drive a new car, and then tell the salesperson “it’s the best thing I’ve ever driven. I must have it, no matter what the price?”

No, you wouldn’t, because you’d get screwed.

The same holds true for publishers. Real publishers won’t gush about your novel unless you have a pen name exclusive contract or you’re of the same caliber as JK Rawlins. Or until after your editor is already handling it, because you’ve signed the contract. My editor thinks I’m brilliant, but my publisher thinks I’m an idiot. It’s all part of the process.

Vanity publishers are doing exactly what the name suggests. They are appealing to your vanity.   They will tell you exactly what they know you want to hear. Let’s admit, as writers, we’re a vain group. That’s why when we hear how great our latest masterpiece is, we don’t think “scam artist” we think, “finally, someone has recognized my genius!”

After they’re finished flattering you, they hit you with the even better news. They’ve decided to publish you! They’ll overnight a contract.

All you need to do is send them X amount as part of your ‘partnership agreement’.

Vanity publishers want you to ‘invest in your future’. They’ll call these ‘fees’ tons of different things. Marketing fees, publication fees, partnership fees. Regardless of what they call them; if they are a publisher who wants to charge you, they are a vanity publisher.

But isn’t vanity publishing the same thing as self publishing?

Not even remotely. With self publishing, you manage every aspect of your novel. You get a higher royalty rate and you get to choose the people you work with. You decide who distributes your work. Also, you pay reasonable fees for only the services you need and again, you control every aspect of what those services are. When I need a cover, I go to a guy I hired on Elance with an excellent history of producing remarkable artwork (much love, Evan Ringuette!). When I need a proofreader, I select a bid based on a large network of proofreaders with excellent and verifiable credentials. I pay a competitive, industry based rate and I have complete control over what these people do for me.

Most importantly, the rights are always mine because I am the publisher. If I want to (and I’ve done it before) I can resell a self-published book to a publisher whenever I want.

With a vanity press, you get none of that. You pay for a ‘package’ and they outsource the work to whoever the hell they want. They could submit your novel for editing to a person they’re paying $0.12 per hour in the Philippines. They could buy your cover off of a premade cover site. They could do ‘print on demand’ at a free site and claim it costs them $1000 to have it professionally printed.

Vanity presses have one goal in mind and it’s not your success as a writer. It’s to get you to pay them to make you a successful writer. Their business isn’t a book selling business. It’s a volume business. The more writers they sign, the more money they make.

This is where the credentials come in. You might see on these vanity sites that they hire ‘the best in the business’. The fact is, they don’t specify what this ‘business’ is. The business they talk about could be the business of selling corn dogs on the boardwalk. Semantics are key to vanity publishers.

They offer very few verifiable credentials, meaning your novel could be getting edited by someone with less of a grasp on the English language as you. They can mark up their services and gullible writers will never even verify they’re getting what they’re paying for.

“But what about marketing?” You might be shouting at your computer screen now.  “They’re going to set me up with on TV and send me to book signings! They’re going to get me into all the big bookstores!” Or even worse, “but they’re an exclusive vanity publisher! They don’t accept everyone. In fact, they have only a 3% acceptance rate.”

I’m going to handle each of these one at a time.

I’m going to be on TV! – Let me ask you this. When was the last time you bought a book because it was advertised on television? While you’re mulling this over, you should know that buying a spot on a local cable access show is relatively cheap. I can get one on mine for $150. If your ‘publisher’ claims they can get you on anything bigger, chances are your story is intriguing enough to have gotten you there without their help. Think memoirs of kidnapping victims or people who were in cults. If that’s the case, you should be looking for real publishers.

Book signings – I don’t do book signings and it’s not because of my stalker. I’d actually really like to meet him. If he’s handsome, I‘d totally ignore the whole ‘wanting to wear your face as a mask’ thing and toss him a pity lay, just to be cool.

I don’t do them because they’re a waste of time.  Most authors who do book signings wind up sitting alone, all embarrassed, waiting for someone to come buy a book (usually a friend or family member) Book signings are incredibly easy to set up, no matter who you are. All you need to do is call a local business and say “I’d like to offer some publicity at your shop, at no cost to you. Also, I will bring 20 of my closest friends to buy your stuff.” Can you blame them for saying yes? The worst book signings occur at places that don’t even sell books. Restaurants are a popular place, especially cafes and coffee shops, because they like to sound all deep and shit. Save the book signings for when you get big and need to kiss your fans asses. They will do nothing for you as a midlist.

They’re going to get me into book stores/ give me name recognition – I’m just going to say it, no matter how many emails I get from vanity publishers. Ever single important person in the publishing world knows who the vanity publishers are and they avoid them like the plague. Because vanity publishers aren’t very selective, at best your submission will get treated with the same respect that someone submitting alone would.(you’ll be regulated to the slush pile).

At worse you will deal a company who has a terrible reputation, and your submission will go right in the garbage. At least a self published person can say “I’ve sold this many novels on my own and would like to sell the rights to you.” A vanity publisher says ‘they’ve sold this many novels and you’ll have to enter into a long, complex legal contract filled with tricky jargon and clauses before we’ll sell the rights to you”. The fact is, once you vanity publish, you get that vanity publishers stink all over you. Those real publishers will smell it, hold their noses and walk away.

The same goes for book stores. If you’re considering a vanity publisher, go to your local bookstore. See how many copies from those publishers books they have on hand (by on hand, I mean in their warehouse or their shelves, not how many they can order for you). You’ll notice that very few vanity releases are actually carried on the shelves, unless they’re from the author’s own local neighborhood. That’s usually a result of said author begging to be carried and again, is something you could do if you self published.

All distributors, whether they be major publishers or book stores, have the same opinion. They have the same faith in your novel that your publisher does. If you had to pay to publish, that’s no faith at all and they will quickly bypass. Publishing with a vanity will do more to hurt your career than they will to help it.

“But they’re an exclusive vanity publisher! They don’t accept everyone. In fact, they have only a 3% acceptance rate.”- “Exclusive” has been used as a marketing ploy since marketing was invented. Hell, I could claim my comment section is exclusive, simply based on my “real person” to “spam” ratio.

Come on people, try to post in my EXCLUSIVE comment section. I only publish 1 out of every 50 comments I get. If you make it, you’re special; you’re one of the elite few!

Many of these vanity publishers claim a high rejection rate when people are actually rejecting them. For example, if I submit my novel, not realizing it’s a vanity press, and then get an offer to publish, for the low low price of $5000, I turn it down. And suddenly, I’m in that 97% of people they didn’t accept.

Claims of exclusivity are again playing on your vanity.

Sometimes, these vanity publishers can be tricky. They might send you a contract and not ask for a fee at all. That just means they’re prepping for the up sell. So you might sign it, and then three weeks later, you get an email saying that you need to send in $900 for editing services. Then, they’ll try to convince you you’re required to send in that money on account of the fact that you signed a contract.

For that, I’ll refer you to something called ‘the contract of adhesion’. This mainly means that disputes regarding the terms of a contract will always be decided in the contractees’ (that’s you) favor. If your initial contract was ambiguous (did not specifically state costs up front) a court will decide in your favor. Don’t fall for that bullshit. Tell them to stuff their ambiguous contract. Trust me, you won’t get sued.

This vanity crap needs to end. The age of true self publishing (which many people, including me, are making a success of) is helping to put a dent in it. But I still see my friends getting tricked by these vultures. I want it to stop. Unless you are a true self publisher, you should never ‘pay to play’.

Most people won’t say this about vanity publishers, but I will. They’re all scams. There is nothing any of them can offer you that that you could not get on your own, cheaper, while maintaining the rights to your own work.

Of course, don’t mistake vanity for self publishing. When you self publish, you’re not paying. You can put up whatever book file you want and assign an ISBN for free. Self publishing sites like Kindle, Smashwords and Createspace are fully above board in what they offer and they have made my career. They distribute and take a small cut of my royalties in return. They do not ask for money up front. It is free to publish but you are charged a nominal fee every time one of your books is sold. That is a true distributor partnership.

Companies that charge you an assload up front to work with sites like this are just plain scamming you. Let me make this clear.

  • If they want the rights to your work, while at the same time demand you pay them, they are scamming you. I don’t care what they call it. Whether it be their $4000 marketing fee or their $2000 ghostwriting fee, they are scamming you.
  • If they have no eBook presence at all, in a world where upwards of 30% of book sales (and growing rapidly) are made on eBooks, they are scamming you. The majority of my money comes from eBooks.
  • If they expect you to do all of your own marketing and put a heavy focus on ‘book signings’ they are scamming you.
  • If they promise you’ll get your money back after you sell 1000 copies of your book, they are scamming you. Think about it, they now have a vested interest in making sure your book doesn’t sell that much. Why would you agree to that?
  • If they encourage you to buy hundreds of physical copies of your own books, without offering any free courtesy copies, they are scamming you.
  • If they charge a disproportionate price for your books, they are scamming you. When people could pay $9 for a book from a best selling author like Tim Dorsey, why the hell would they spend $14.85 on your memoir, when they have no idea who you are? You’re being scammed.
  • If your ‘publisher’s site’ is nothing more than an advertisement for soliciting manuscripts from writers, they are scamming you.

Here’s the deal. A real publisher reads your novel, likes it and OFFERS YOU MONEY, for the right to sell it. My advances aren’t high. I get anywhere from $500 to $2500, but I get advances. I don’t pay people to publish my work. If I am paying it’s because I’m publishing my own work. I’ve taken on the risk of being a publisher, so I get the reward too. (i.e. all that money that keeps me in Ramen Noodles every month)

Above all, do your research and do it right. Finish your novel, polish it and look up actual publishers in your genre. Don’t start looking for publishers for the idea you’ve half formed. Having the idea is easy. Writing the book is hard.

Once your book is ready, look at the novels in your genre and see who the publisher is. Look them up online and see if they have a submissions policy. Follow it to the letter and then wait…forever sometimes. The same applies for literary agents.

If you’re looking for a publisher, don’t pay fees. Reading fees, submission fees, editing fees, any kind of ‘fee’ is the mark of a scam publisher.

If you want to be your own publisher, stay tuned for an equally long winded post where I describe step by step how to get it done. Be prepared, because it really is like setting up your own business.

If you’re taking all the risk with your work (i.e. spending all the money) you should keep all the rights to your work. If you’re selling someone the rights to your work, then they should be taking the risk. That is how real novelists’ careers are made.

Just like any job, you don’t buy your way in. You wouldn’t walk into a store, offer them $3000 to give you a job, and then tell them they never have to pay you, would you? Then why do that with your novel? Give your book the respect it deserves. Either find a real publisher, or actually do the work to be your own publisher.

But don’t give into vanity.