In last week's review I made the mistake of mentioning an upcoming rant. I should have known that would send all y'all into a tizzy of epic proportion. I'm not sure what you were worried about but it was clear that you collectively thought you were all in for The Big Scold. Since one of my professional goals is to DECREASE writer anxiety, and increase knowledge, I'll never be announcing rants in advance again! Lesson learned!
In the discussion of Twitter bots, BJ Muntain said:
However, if they botted at me (no, that's not a word, even Twitter slang, but it should be), I'd block them.
I agree! Botted is a great word to describe auto-tweets like that! "I got botted by an author promoing a book, so I blocked them**"
**Them is apparently now an acceptable alternative to s/he construction.
NotJana had a very nice observation:
(And, considering 'wir' means 'us' in German, I think even the abbreviation is rather appropriate for the feel of this blog!)
Thank you! I agree!
Where does one get asbestos underpants?
For years I used the term asbestos underpants because I thought it was hilarious. Then Fabulous Steve Ulfelder, author of the Conway Sax series, mentioned that he wore flame retardant underwear when he raced cars. Of course, I thought that was even funnier and demanded photos. To my lasting regret, Steve is a gentleman, and did not send selfies. Instead, he linked me to a racing gear site.
Continuing the previous week's discussion of diversity in reading (an offshoot of Thursday's post on ethnic names) Brittany Constable said:
I didn't get a chance to comment on the diversity post before it closed (curse my eternal Feedly backlog), but I wanted to say that I actually took a close look at my reading habits over the last year. I read 100 books by 55 authors (and 11 primary artists, because I had some graphic novels in the mix). 5 writers and 6 artists were people of color. I read more than one book each from 15 authors, and every single one of them was white.
I like to think of myself as being aware of and sensitive to this issue, but looking at what I actually do was quite eye-opening. I've made a commitment this year that at least half the books I read will be from underrepresented authors. If you're curious, I have more numbers and commentary at my blog.
After reading this, I went to my list of books I finished in 2015 on Library Thing and realized I have no clue if some of these writers are not white. I know two are Asian-American. I know one is Mormon.
It's clear that I've never sought out writers outside the mainstream, despite the fact I think it's important to publish writers of diverse backgrounds. Definitely something to work on for 2016.
E. Maree asked
I don't know what crackerjack intern means (does it mean random?),It means terrific.
On Monday, the results of the writing contest were announced:
E.M. Goldsmith said
I was asked by three different agents to cut my word count on my WUS, and this contest has been so pivotal in helping me with that. My manuscript is 1000 fold better than it was three months ago. And there are less italics and adverbs :) So it is worth doing even as just an exercise to improve your own craft.Twitter has helped me realize how to pare down as well.
Sherry Howard said:
And to QOTKU a case of good Kentucky bourbon for reading and commenting on this amount of flash pieces in one day. That's a lot of concentrated reading that only a shark could accomplish.
I'll take the bourbon, of course, but don't forget, this is incredibly useful for me as well. I have to read, intuit, and then WRITE about what works and what doesn't for me. In my line of work, that's what doing scales is for musicians. The basics sure, but don't ever lose sight of how important it is to stay sharp on the basics. Plus, hell, it's FUN to read your stuff. Scary most of the time (you guys are terrifying in so many ways) but great.
On Tuesday I ranted about book reviewers offering up reviews for sale
Lucie Witt said:
Do these reviews have to indicate they're paid the way bloggers and tweets have to acknowledge sponsored posts and ads? They certainly should. This practice pisses me off as a reader and writer.I agree. I don't know if the FCC guidelines apply here (bloggers are now required to mention how they got the book/product they're reviewing) but I agree that a disclaimer is certainly in order here.
Donnaeve was the first to mention the confusion about Kirkus:
Amanda - I've thought all along that Kirkus reviews were what authors wanted...am I wrong? Maybe I'm confusing Kirkus with another review site...?
Kirkus is a trade review magazine. In recent years, as subscriptions fell, Kirkus figured out how to add to the revenue stream: getting authors to pay for consideration. This appealed to a lot of self-published authors who couldn't get trade reviews the old fashioned way (publishers sending books to Kirkus for review).
Kirkus is pretty straightforward about separating out the books they review for money, and the books they review for free. They're in separate sections of the print magazine.
Authors who buy Kirkus reviews don't mention which section of the magazine they're printed in of course, but it's pretty easy to distinguish the pay for play reviews from everyone else.
And if I can do it, so can anyone who uses Kirkus to shape their acquisition list. In other words, I'm not sure if it's worth the money to buy a review there. Maybe an author who's actually done so could provide that information.
Almitra Clay asked:
On the topic of paying for things that ought to be free, I have seen a few people looking for work as paid beta readers. Personally I would prefer the tit-for-tat route of swapping a beta-read for a beta-read with another writer. But this rules out, say, having a non-writer teen as a beta for a YA novel. I know beta-reading is a big job and everyone’s time is precious, and I do like the idea of somehow returning the favor . . .but with money? Is that ethical? Should I stick to beta-readers who will work for gratitude and baked goods?
I hope it's ethical because I do have paid readers. When I've had my eyeballs on a novel for too long, and my objectivity is in shreds at my feet, I have paid someone to read a manuscript just to make sure it's ready to go on submission. And sometimes I've paid to have a second read on something cause I know it's missing something, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is. The difference is that I generally pay people who used to be acquiring editors with major publishers. I need that standard of reader. And those folks have a level of expertise that's worth paying for.
I don't pay my interns. They don't yet have a level of expertise that I'm willing to pay for.
If you're going to pay someone as a beta reader, I think you want to be really clear what you're paying for if you're being asked to pay.
Another way authors are getting reviews that makes me uncomfortable is the quid pro quo system. I recently had my activity book for kids published. I was sending out review copies to various outdoor parenting blogs when an author friend suggested I send it to her review list. I sent out a few books to her list. What I didn't realize at the time was all the reviewers were also authors.
The first one received her book and posted a five-star review on Amazon within only a few hours. She emailed me that she'd posted the review and asked me to review her romance on my blog. I have an outdoor blog so that really wasn't a fit for me and it made me uncomfortable as I felt like I'd just bought a review.
I shied away from sending anymore books to this list as I realized they all just gave each other five-star reviews.
YIKES. I know this happens, and I understand why: more reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads translates into better placement, more visibility.
I agree though that quid pro quo is something to be avoided. The most valuable reviews are the ones with real passion for your book; the people who will go on Twitter and retweet your reviews, comment when someone else loves your book, and generally boost the book beyond just a five star review.
Like JennyC's promo of Nick Petrie's The Drifter here:
By the way, Nicholas Petrie's thriller THE DRIFTER goes on sale today and it received a starred review from Kirkus. Check it out! (Unpaid promotion of local author)
(I concur with Jenny. I loved this book. But you knew that already!)
Tez Miller asked:
What do you think of Romantic Times Book Reviews' "Review Source" (I think Kirkus and Publishers Weekly have their own similar programs), in which if authors pay a set free, they'll get a guaranteed review in the magazine? (Not a guaranteed "positive" review - just an unbiased review.)I don't know enough about this to have an informed opinion. I generally read RT Book Reviews only to see if any of the Fabulosity or Fabulous Friends are mentioned. Maybe the blog readers have some experience here?
Mona Zarka asked:
Aren't book reviews the way a reviewer makes a living? How does a well-established reviewer choose which books to review?Book reviewers are paid not by authors, but by the publication where they appear. Ron Charles is paid by The Washington Post. Michiko Kakutani is paid by The New York Times. A reviewer who reviews on his/her blog isn't paid. A blogger can certainly solicit payment for reviewing books, but that's the kind of reviewer you want to avoid.
And well-established reviewers have their own criteria for which books to review. There's no industry standard although "review every novel by Jonathan Franzen at least three times" does seem to be industry standard at The NYT.
On Wednesday we talked about micro-newsletters. (If you're interested, this is the post that got the most comments this week)
Colin Smith said:
Though I wonder... for as long as we've had email, has no-one come up with an electronic equivalent to mail merging? You know, that thing we used to do back in the day where you could hook Word up to a database and it would automatically personalize your letters and print mailing labels? I believe Word still has that function. But something like that for email, where you could hook, say, Outlook to a database and have it personalize your email text, and send to all the addresses in your database--I'm sure businesses have something like this. I receive plenty of "personalized" emails from companies, so this must be a thing.
I used to be able to mail merge a data base to a word doc (back before the internet!) but I have yet to figure out how to do it with email. If anyone has a way to do this, I'm all ears. You'd still need to massage your data base regularly of course, but it would sure cut down on the cut and paste addressing.
And then sure enough, Brigid said:
I looked up the info, and my Entourage db is too old to use with this but when I'm forced to update as one day I'm sure I will be, this will be very useful.
And then came the
perfect illustration of why I love the comment column on this blog.
Lennon Faris asked:
Can I sheepishly say that twenty sounds like a lot to me? I am curious where most unpublished authors' initial mailing lists come from. I have a couple die-hard fans in my immediate family, including a husband who is whether he wants to be or not, haha :P Otherwise, my daytime job doesn't have anything to do with writing and there are only a few people I know who are avid readers... Maybe writing groups? Blogs fans?
I suppose Janet's post about who should/ shouldn't be on the list has some ideas (events, groups, friends of friends), although a list from those things seems as though it would take years to build. Guess that's why everyone says to start early.
Well, one of the best places to start is here. And by start here I don't mean a comment like "sign up for my mailing list." But, if you're here, and you comment, and you enter the flash fiction contests, you get known. And the blog readers pay attention when you THEN say "I've got a book coming out." We help you celebrate.
I hope Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale got a spike in preorders from her reply to my question about her new book in last week's review:
6. "Marry Me - A Candy Hearts Romance" by Heidi Wessman Kneale is out from The Wild Rose Press 1 Feb 2016. If you like the thought of a Suffragette being won over by enchanted talking candy hearts in 1905 New York City, you might want to have a look at this wee book. Available for pre-order now from your favourite ebook vendor: TWRP | B&N | Amazon | Kobo ...or wherever all good ebooks are sold.
I know I put in my pre-order. I like to support my blog readers!
Panda In Chief commented on personalizing emails:
When I ran my various Kickstarter campaigns, I found I got a much higher response rate when I personalized the emails (using canned response) and sent them individually, rather than sending out a huge mass email. And every time I advised someone who was contemplating a crowd funding campaign to do this, they always argued with me about how much more time it would take.
How much time are you willing to invest to be effective? That's one of my favorite teaching questions when I'm doing this topic in a workshop. Yes, you can bcc the world if all you want to do is mark "done" next to "announce your book." If you actually want results from "announce your book" it's going to take a little longer.
Persuading people to invest time in something is an art form. I learned this first hand at church some years back when the volunteer organizer stood in front of the congregation and asked "do you have an hour a week for Jesus?"
I think she might have had a record number of volunteers from that moment, including me.
On Thursday we talked about great concepts and great queries that get no traction.
Steve Forti (and BJ Muntain) suggest short stories/flash fiction as a way to build skill with pacing:
I'd like to echo BJ Muntain's comments about writing some short stories. Flash would be my recommendation (thinking 1,000 word range). But make sure you have a hard word count cap to force you to revise to fit it. I've found it has helped me tremendously.
It's the same help that these 100 word contests provide. You learn how to be concise, how to make every word matter. That sentence you thought was great and descriptive? Well, now you need to pare it down by five words, so you trim the excess description, use more powerful verbs. Suddenly your writing is more crisp, there's less filler. You can better see which pieces are essential to move the plot and pace forward, and which are just thoughts you wanted to include but aren't helpful.
I wish I'd said what Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale did:
>Are my ideas bigger than my talent?
No. Your ideas are bigger than your current skill. Skills can change and improve. Keep at it with your ideas until your skills matches them. It happens eventually with persistence.
I've never read a book that didn't have a least one place that lagged somewhat or even bordered on boring. So when you read that book, decide if that part is relevant to the story, and if so, how you'd rewrite it.Harrumph!
kdjames said something really interesting here:
I find it difficult sometimes to see what works in a really good book. I get too caught up in the story. I've learned far more while reading a truly craptastic book where it's easy to see the mistakes. And then I ask myself: am I making these mistakes? Sometimes it's just as helpful (to my ego, if nothing else) to realize that, no, I'm not. But once I see someone else doing something that doesn't work, it's easier to see when I do it.I love the idea of the value of craptastic books. Or even books that don't hold your attention. Or books you simply could not read. I had an epiphany when I started the very well-reviewed Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
I simply could not read it. I realized it was too interior for me. Too much inside the mind of the protagonist. It's clear this is a good book but it's not a book for me.
Other books like that tend to be books in which the plot revolves around a family dynamic. Not something I generally read (although I've certainly read and loved Three Junes by Julia Glass, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.)
And Donnaeve mentioned something I'd never heard of:
I guess I shouldn't sneer given
let alone the first thing I collected very very seriously!
And this update from Julie M. Weathers made me laugh:
There are a dozen books out there about lady bronc riders. Most of them are so bad the covers tear themselves off.
On Friday the next flash fiction contest was posted.
I chose the words cause I love the phrase "diddy bop." I first saw it in Richard Ben Cramer's wonderful book WHAT IT TAKES but of course failed to note the where in my reader's notebook,
Update: Thanks to blog reader Sarah Meral, I realized diddybop is one word, not two, and was able to find it on page 213 of WHAT IT TAKES. Here it is
Anyway, I love the phrase, and then with diddy and bop, you gotta have snap, and then of course you think of Mel Torme, so there's scat, and Mel Torme is nothing but cool, and there are your five words.
I'll be interested to see how many of you use these as musical terms, cause two of the (many) fun things about these contests is finding words that can mean many things and then seeing the new and unusual ways you all come up with to make the word your own.
Contest results on Monday!
There's a new post at QueryShark.
Bloom County is back, in case you hadn't heard.
I have a Loaner Cat this week.
This piece on editing resonated with me.
Have a great week.
this community is made up of such fine people, whom I respect immensely and enjoy just as much. Thank you all, especially Janet, for letting me join in. --DLM
You can't look at editing as something you just have to get over with -- you have to look at editing as another form of creating--Matt Adams
When you wake up in the middle of the night and spend half the night tossing because you're suddenly sure you have to rewrite the first 100 pages of your WIP, you know you're a writer.--Timothy Lowe