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.

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.

Impossible.

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.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/13MS0QT3I7YVE

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

aflame

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.

 

In the Next Year – An Essa Birthday Special

Today I turned 34. Now I must say my life is a lot better at 34 than it was at 24. Based on the fact that my happiness seems to double every 10 years, I’m pretty sure being 44 will kick ass.

But I need to put some plans in place if I want to make it to 44. So as my demographic changes from the ‘young persons box’ to the ‘adult’ box, I have made the following changes.

I will stop cyber stalking people that piss me off.

Seriously, there is nothing more I like in the world than starting a fight. Unfortunately, those fights seem to suck up a lot of my time. I mean, what’s more interesting? Writing a 700 world article on the benefits of RLSA in a paid search advertising campaign, or hunting down a hate mailer’s personal details and posting all his info on Craigslist with a discreet request for some hardcore S&M man-on-man action? Can you blame me for being immature and choosing the latter?

But I am a professional and I need to spend more time actually working as opposed to pretending to work while I hunt some poor internet douchebag down so I can call him at home at 3 am…14 times in a row. Jesus, I have got to stop drinking.

I will stop drinking…so much

I’m pretty sure I have 4 out of 7 of the early signs of liver failure. On the upside, I’m losing weight like crazy. 6 pounds in a week? Most cancer patients on chemo can’t brag about that much. It’s easy to lose weight when your diet consist of hops, barely and disdain.

So I will stop drinking so much. I will do the responsible thing.

I’ll switch to marijuana.

I will be less afraid of bugs

I have had the same dead roach on my bathroom floor for the past few days, because I’m afraid of picking it up. I’m not sure if it’s dead. To anyone who has ever dealt with a roach, you know the second you pick that thing up to throw it away, it starts twitching around and freaks you the fuck out. Seriously, they’re like the terminator. Just DIE already.

I’ll publish enough to live on my book sales.

Right now, I can live on the royalties alone. Hell, I sold 1509 books in the month of May, but that will taper off. I’m planning on living on my royalties for the summer while I expand my catalog. Expect to see the end of the Strangely Sober series in July, as well as the beginning of the Blue Suede series in August. Then expect my lazy ass to take a few months off while I roll around in a giant pile of money.

I’ll start brushing my hair again

Yeah, I haven’t in weeks and I don’t even have cute white girl dreadlocks anymore. Instead, my hair has congealed into a tennis ball sized mass at the back of my head. Before you call me out on my lack of grooming, you need to understand what it is to be a Floridian.

Namely, the second you step out of your shower, you already start to sweat and feel dirty again. Something like that will really kill your motivation to look pretty. Your only goal becomes preventing yourself from dissolving into a ball of humid goo. Hair-brushing tends to take second place.

That doesn’t work as well when your hair reaches your waist. So either I’ll start brushing it, or I’ll just get drunk and cut it all off, but either way, I will make a decision.

It’s amazing to me how much the past few years have changed my life. I haven’t seen the inside of a cubicle in two years and I’ve been avoiding my student loan officer for the same amount of time. I’ve gained a fan following, gained a following of anti-fans and might even have a hate site by now. I’ve written 6 books, pissed off men, pissed off women, pissed off everyone in my home town, learned how to buy weed on the internet and learned how to tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.

I have a feeling that 34 is going to be a kick ass year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 6 Month Review – Alternate Title – I Don’t Owe You Shit

Every six months, I pull together all my pen names and do an average ranking based on the reviews. I’m going to be honest with you all here; I don’t actually read the majority of my reviews. I really only look at my average ranking on Amazon when I’m trying to make business decisions.

Give me a break people, I write under three different pen names and Essa Alroc isn’t nearly close to being the most popular. I blog under Essa because she is the closest to being who I really am. I write other books in more popular genres and let those other two identities spend most of the money on bullshit. Between the three of us, our budget for candy apples and leather pants is ridiculous.

Always a wise investment...always.

Always a wise investment…always.

Under all those pen names, nearly 200 people have given me opinions on my books, everywhere from 1 to 5 stars and I really don’t have time to read them all. I’m too busy actually writing books.

Here’s the thing…I don’t mind bad reviews. They roll right off my back. I don’t even mind reviews that trash me as a human being. I only get concerned when a rating dips below three stars, because that has the potential to impact my sales. When that happens I take a look at the reviews to see if there is a glaringly obvious problem with formatting or grammar. If so, I fix it. If not, I move on with my day. You can’t please everyone and to be honest, I’m not really the kind of person who worries too much about pleasing anyone.

But you know what annoys me? When someone posts an opinion that in any way, demands I do something. Let me give you a very generic example, rather than embarrassing the asshole by posting the review here.

“The author had a good book to start, but then decided to (insert complaint here – .i.e. mistook ‘woman’ for ‘women’/was insulting to religious people/talked about alpacas in an unflattering way). Because of that, I can’t endorse this writer’s novels until she (insert demand that I do something here).”

Here’s the thing reviewers; you can pan my writing. You can call me an idiot and say any number of unflattering things about me. Hell, you can set up a page that claims that I sexually molest dwarf hamsters for all I care.

What you don’t get to do is tell me what the fuck to do. No, I won’t revise my writing because you find it offensive. I won’t fix my novels to remove all the profanity and then send you a free copy to re-review. I certainly won’t apologize for anything I wrote, nor will I offer you any explanation for why I wrote it the way I did.

The indie publishing age has given birth to two very annoying things; authors that think they are better than they are and reviewers that think they are more powerful than they are.

The authors that think they’re better are kind of obvious. I’m talking about authors who write a 2400 word story rife with spelling errors, slap it up on Amazon, and expect to become millionaires. I don’t need to discuss those people because they know who they are and they will fail without the assistance of anyone else.

No, I think we need to talk about reviewers that have an over-developed sense of self-importance. Over the past few months, I have had reviewers from book blogs email me on a regular basis, requesting review copies.

I write a series and I once made the mistake of giving a part of that series away for free. As a result, I now have people who have book review blogs emailing me and demanding more copies for free.

Jesus fucking Christ people, not ONE of my books is priced at more than $2.99! If you like my writing, is it really asking that much for you to break a $5 to get the rest of the series? If you hate my writing, why the hell are you emailing me for more in the first place?

I get that you want to save money, but you need to understand that this is a lose/lose situation for me. If you like me and I give you a free copy of my book, I just lost an actual sale. If you hate me and I give you a free copy of my book, I just paid you to say shitty things about me.

Let me put it in a way everyone can understand.

There is a guy who just opened a business in town. If you give him $4, he will do one of three things;

  1. Smile at you briefly
  2. Ignore you entirely
  3. Punch you in the nuts as hard as he can

You have no say over which one of those three things he will do. He might smile and tell all his friends about how you made him smile. Or he might punch you in the nuts, and then encourage all of his friends to punch you in the nuts as well.

Does that sound like a viable business model to you?

Indie publishing has given rise to that very business model. As a result, because I write indie (no real publisher in their right mind would pick me up) I regularly get emails from people who seem to think I owe them something. Some of these people have left me horrible reviews on the first two books in my series, and then expect me to give them a free copy of the third.

Now, I have an MBA that I earned through showing up in classes drunk, stoned or disinterested, but even I know that’s a terrible business plan.

When these people email me, I try to be cool. I give them a Smashwords discount code and thank them for their interest. Then, I go on about my day.

I have NEVER received a thank you for the books I’ve given away. In fact, I’ve had some people come back to me with the audacity to demand I send one of my books to them in a different format. You know what fuckers?

Beggars can’t be choosers.

To date, not one single review I’ve gotten (and I’ve gotten reviews from the biggies) has changed my sales in any significant way. Hell, I have 28 excellent reviews on Strangely Sober and I barely sell four copies a week.

On the flip side, I have one book under a different pen name and it has one 1 star review. I average about 20 copies a day.

I don’t solicit reviews because I don’t even read reviews. I fell out of that habit in the first year of being an author, after garnering 4 of my absolute worst reviews on a free giveaway day. Trust me, I learned my lesson.

Yes, you are free to say whatever you want about me, but in no way am I required to pay you to say shitty things about me. If you want to insult me, I’m going to need you to pay for the pleasure.

I am sick to death of reviewers acting like they’re doing me the biggest favor in the world by considering reviewing my books when they can’t even be bothered to say thanks for the free fucking copy.

You know what? I don’t owe you shit. I write my books the way I want to because THEY ARE MY STORIES. They are not yours. Those are my characters that I created and I get to do whatever I want with them. You don’t get a say.

I will not apologize to you for the fact that you think I don’t like Christians, men, women, gays, Gary Busey, alpaca farmers or anything else. I’m not going to change my main character in a major novel because she doesn’t fit your personal tastes…because as far as I’m concerned, your personal tastes are shit anyway.

I’m not required to do anything for you and I don’t owe you shit.

As for free books, from here on out, I offer one. It’s called The Apology. I give it away because it’s a short novella that fully displays my writing style. If you can’t figure out if you like the way I write in 27,000 free words, there is absolutely no point in reading anything else I wrote, because you clearly don’t like me. That’s cool. We can move on from that. Leave your terrible review and let it go. Don’t email me for more of my books so you can insult me again.

I’m only a masochist in the bedroom people.

Reviewers, you are one single person. Your opinion is subjective, and judging from my sales, it does not make or break me. You do not have the power to make me change my writing style, my plotlines or my endings. You are one damn person running a blog that barely any paying customers read.

Let’s be honest. I’m pretty sure the majority of these people who write book blogs have not actually paid for a copy of a book in years, and are being read by people who don’t actually pay for books, because they are book bloggers as well.

If I really wanted to make money, I’d move into pirating instead. I always thought I made a kickass pirate.

Reviewers, you have an over-inflated sense of self importance. You seem to think that threats to one star me will make me do something for you. It won’t. Maybe other indies will kiss your ass but I won’t. If you want to leave a scathing review of one of my novels, you can go ahead and open your wallets to do it. I’m not going to be some dumb fuck who hands you the money to buy ammunition to shoot me with. Buy your own damn bullets.

I don’t read my reviews anymore because I don’t care about my reviews. Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.

And I have no intention of paying you money to see yours.

 

Dear Alleged Friends Demanding Free Novel Copies

Do I show up at your office demanding free tax returns? Do I show up at your boutique, demanding a free shirt? Do I show up at your day care center, demanding free child care?

Then how the hell do you feel justified demanding a free copy of my book?

Look, the first request was cute. The second request was flattering. The third request was getting a little bit weird.

By request 17, I felt obligated to do the math for you;

1 wholesale paperback copy of my book $5 * 17= $85.

Shipping and handling for 17 copies of my book. $85.

All together, in order to satisfy people who haven’t given a shit about me since high school = $170.

That is far too much money for me to spend in the hope that some loser in a podunk town thinks I’m cool. I stopped giving a shit about being cool in my 20s.

My book isn’t my boring assed diary. My book isn’t a book of angst filled poetry that I’m desperate to have some asshole read. I sent query letters. I developed a fucking concept. I worked my ass off.

You want a free copy of my writing? Check out my website. I publish every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and I have a regular following of about 30k people. Get the fuck in line.

You want a free copy of my writing? Go to iTunes and download my free novella. It’s 28k of words that my publicist told me to give away for free because my novel was actually good enough to let that kind of money slide.

It’s not my fault you haven’t gotten an iPad and I don’t give a shit that you ‘love the smell of new books.’ In fact, I hope that fucking smell gives you cancer. Get with the 21st god damn century and get an eReader. You sound like some old douchebag who won’t use a BIC because you like using a quill and parchment instead.

Nobody gives a fuck about the good old days. Get over the desire of being able to enjoy the death of thousands of trees for your own fucking temporary amusement, planet killer. ebooks are the wave of the future, get one and stop sniffing your own ass.

If you barely know me, but demanded my book over some half hearted attempt to support me so you could feel better about yourself; let it go. When you’re actually demanding a free copy of my book so you can feel like a good person, know that you are actually costing me about $14 per person.

You would probably be better off sending that money to some little brown kid in a foreign country. I’m a midlist author, not some Sally Struthers brown kid eating gruel. I don’t need your pity, especially when that ‘pity’ costs me money.

Next, if you consider yourself a ‘real’ friend, but again, expect me to send you a copy of my book for free, I think you need to reacquaint yourself with what a real friend really is. A real friend would have bought my book without prompting. A real friend would have sent it to me to autograph.

A real friend wouldn’t have expected to pay for the book out of my own fucking pocket and then pay for shipping and handing, then autograph it, and then mail it to them.

Do Jennifer Lawrence’s friends do that shit to her? Do they email her and demand a new autographed copy of “The Hunger Games” ?

No, because Jennifer Lawrence’s bodyguards handle that shit for her.

In short, I think what I’m trying to say is “fuck all y’all”

You’re not doing me some kind of favor when you read my work for free. My work is actually incredibly popular. It doesn’t require pity reads because it has actual reads.

And the next time you request a free damn novel from me, you know what you’re getting when you open that UPS box?

tampon

You’re getting a used fucking tampon. Because you and a used tampon have one thing in common. You’re both massive blood suckers.