Thursday, September 27, 2007

The True Grit

In the past few months I have come to some conclusions about the weird state of being an author.



1) There is a big difference between writing a book and selling a book. Big difference. If all I had to do was write the book--and here I'm including the followup stuff--editing, blurb, dedication, etc., then I've got that licked. Selling a book on the other hand, is... not nearly as easy as that old "build it and they will come". Nope. People don't spend money on new-fangled things, especially books.



2) You can't please all the people all the time, or some of the time, or for that matter, ever. I had a strange discussion with an acquaintance one day. "I would like to buy your book but it has sex in it." Okay. "What kind of books would you like to read?" "A romance. You know the sexy kind." Picture me clueless. "Uh, that's what I write--sexy romances." "Yeah, but yours have sex in them." Ooookay.



Another acquaintance won't buy the books because they're e-books. So I pointed out that they would eventually be in print. At which point she announced that she didn't buy print books because they take up too much space. Go figure that one out. In other words, she doesn't read.



Just for the record, I write sexy romances that are e-books that eventually will be print books. Glad we got that all straight.



3) There is no way to predict whether or not a book will sell. I'm not alone in this boat. Those NYC editors don't know either. Unfortunately, that doesn't make me feel better. It seems like someone ought to have the magic crystal ball that tells which books will be smash hits and which ones are non-starters right from the get-go. It would save a lot of time and aggravation, not to mention downright embarrassment when your book doesn't sell. Think how much simpler it would be if you could just shrug you shoulders and say "Eh, I didn't expect much because they told me it was a non-starter. But hey! They needed a book to fill out the line and I drew the lucky number." See? No harm, no foul.



4) There should be a union for reviewers with a charter and rules and all that other stuff. Then it might be possible to understand the average book review. Note that I said it might be possible. I don't hold out much hope for that if you want to know the truth. The entire review thing is pretty strange.



There are some authors whose books are reviewed almost before they hit the presses. I suspect that these are the "A" list authors--whether they are print or e-book, straight romance or some kinky genre. Or they're the reviewers best friends, favorite authors, or the review site's sponsors. Take your pick. When you look at the list of new reviews each week, month, or whatever the review site's schedule is and you see the same names reviewed over and over, then it would be hard to draw any other conclusion.



If you are lucky enough to have your book reviewed, then you have to decide how much weight to give to the review. What does it mean? What's the difference between a one and a five? How did the reviewer decide that? What did the reviewer not like? Often a review for a three will read nearly identical to a review for a five. So what's up with that?



Maybe I should quit writing and only review the first book by new authors. That way they would have at least one review. Hmmm. I'll have to think about that one.



5) Popularity contests did not cease to exist in high school. They're still with us. Only now they're called "Best Book" contests. Heh. There's no judging. There's no standards to meet to get on the various lists. All you have to have is a good friend who is willing to nominate you. Then, you gather your five hundred nearest and dearest and ask them to vote for you.



What's that? You say that you don't know five hundred nearest and dearest? Ahhhh, too bad. You lose. The contests are pretty harmless I suppose, unless you take them seriously and truly believe that your book is actually the best book if you win. I think I would rather have people vote with their credit cards. At least there you're on fairly even footing.



6) Writing does not get easier with each new book. It gets harder because you learn more about writing with every book. It doesn't take less time. It takes more time because of all those things you learned writing that last book. You spend more time trying to make sure that you don't repeat past mistakes. You strive to be a better writer with each new book. Think of it as an apprenticeship. In a vague sort of way, it even takes a tiny bit of spontaneity from you because you're conscious of all those old writing habits. Ce la vie.



7) Just because a person is a fellow author, that doesn't mean that they have any horse sense or sensibility, or manners. I have met some with less sense that the average hitching post, many that were rude, pushy, or oblivious, and quite a few that might have "book learning" yet remained abysmally ignorant and bigoted. Blessedly, they are the minority.



Unfortunately, they don't seem to understand that their actions reflect on all of us in the same profession. I could wish that every writer represented our profession proudly with distinction and respect. Writing is an endangered art. If you don't believe me, ask ten friends to write you a letter. Seven out of ten will refuse, but will offer to call you on the telephone. Two will be so illiterate that you can't read it. One will ask for assistance.



So where's the beef? I have none. I chose this profession and I'm proud of what I do. Not many get the opportunity to have a total stranger tell you how much they appreciate something you wrote. That's what makes it worth it in the end.



Anny

So would you like to read a snippet of Traveller's Refuge? Of course you would... In this snippet, Wrenna learns that there are drawbacks to bossing her brother Wolfe around.

She hummed as she spent some time sorting through the extra pots, vases, jugs and dishes she had prepared for sale at the market day. Most years, she made enough barter credits to make up over half her yearly credits. There were three market days per year—spring, summer and fall. Summer market day was the largest and had the most participants. With most of the villages in the valley isolated and far apart, the market days were opportunities to acquire or sell items that were unavailable the rest of the year. Tyger offered fine lengths of cloth. Llyon usually had extra small pots of commonly used salves. Arano and Arturo spent the late winter and spring tanning skins from their trapping. At least they always had until Arturo was attacked earlier this spring.

When she was satisfied that her proposed offerings were the best of her inventory, she set up supplies and prepared to make the deep baking pans Micah the baker had ordered—fifteen round bread pans for the chewy sunflower bread he made, twenty narrow oval pans for the dark pungent wachaz loaves and eight flat baking plates for the flat barbahla bread. The baking dishes were the last of her current orders to be completed and if her schalzina was any indication, it was none too soon. Once Traveller arrived in the valley, they would bond and enter their three moons of seclusion.

She bent over her wheel, absorbed in the intricacies of forming the oval wachaz pans and lost track of time. She jerked back in surprise and squeaked when Wolfe nudged her shoulder. “You startled me! What’s wrong?”

“You will no doubt be thrilled when I inform you that I’ve been assigned as your healer,” he replied sourly.

“What? When did that happen?” She sat back and stared at him in perplexed amazement.

He folded his arms across his bare chest and sighed. “This morning, at my meeting with Dai. At first, I was angry with you, thinking that you told him about my talents,” he admitted softly. “But Dai was very clear that Papa was the one that asked him to talk to me, just as Papa apparently told him about you. Papa wanted him to assess my talent before he spent any more time urging me to apprentice for healing.”

“So, clearly Dai’s verdict is that you are talented. I could have saved him the trouble,” she replied with a shrug. “Who are you apprenticing with?”

“Dai.” His dry, wry tone was eloquent.

“Well. That’s certainly interesting.” She leaned back and stared at him in astonishment. “Dai hasn’t had an apprentice since Llyon. Does that mean you’ll also be a Master Healer?”

“Apparently. When he’s satisfied that I’ve mastered the basics, he’s sending me down to Rebaccah’s Promise to apprentice under Henry.” He shifted uncomfortably under her interested gaze. “Well? Isn’t this what you kept pushing for? Aren’t you happy?”

Getting to her feet, she approached him and wrapped her arms around his waist. At first he held his body stiff and withdrawn but she persisted until he relaxed and returned the hug. “What am I going to do?” he muttered in despair.

“You’re going to be the best you can be. If you’re apprenticing under Henry, then Dai is truly certain that you are a gifted healer. Dai’s never been wrong as long as we’ve known him.” She rested her head against his chest and shivered. “Wolfe, you’re not selfish enough to deprive the valley of your gifts and talents.”

“Yeah, well, you may be sorry. Because the first thing I’m going to recommend is that you begin communication with Trav. You have two days to reach him and open a mind-touch link.” When she would have pulled away, his arms tightened around her shoulders. “Uhn-uh. If you haven’t completed your task by then, Dai said that he will forge a three way link between you, me and himself and then open that triple link with Trav. Consider that before you get all huffy about having your hand forced.”

“Son of a—”

“Don’t go there,” he warned her.

“Sea-biscuit!” She shoved away from him and stalked around the dome, muttering beneath her breath.

“I did tell you several days ago that you needed to reach him.”

“Don’t say ‘I told you so’!”

“Well?”

“Just go away!”

“For now,” he agreed. “But day after tomorrow, we will meet first thing in the morning after breakfast in the treatment room. Don’t be late.”

Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's blog at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ for her take on the Blogga Saga. And then stop by Kelly's blog at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ for her guest author interview.

11 comments:

  1. AMEN!!!!

    As usual you said so well what many of the rest of us are thinking...

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  2. LOL - and it looked so great over the author side of the fence when I wasn't published...

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  3. Damn straight Anny. Thanks for telling it as it is.

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  4. I nominate Anny for best author spokesperson.

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  5. I second the motion! Well said, Anny:)

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  6. Motion passed.

    How do you do it? How do you put issues out there without coming across bitchy? I know you SAY your scary, and you SIL says your scary, but I don't believe it. I think you are fabulous.

    And to add? Diplomatically handling the overzealous opportunists who mega promote their work to the point where they've forgotten how to be humans. Where they don't remember how to have a conversation not revolving around the sale or immanent release of a book, or haven't stopped to "out do" another author in months. If this is you (whoever is reading) take it as a red flag. Chances are people are avoiding you if you've reached this point.

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  7. I love the one about reading a sexy novel, but no sex. This person must love the old movies where the camera pans up to the stars just as the couple locks lips...

    I absolutely love ELCK, esp the scene where they're 'experimenting'. Hahaha...are you sure you're a grandmother,? Keep up the good work! Now I'll have to buy the others as well!

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  8. Bravo Anny. You've turned diplomacy into an art form - you never cease to impress me.

    Okay...so I keep rereading the sexy book one, and I have to say Fwuh????

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  9. jswriter@earthlink.netSeptember 28, 2007 at 1:48 PM

    Wonderful comments on writing..you hit the mark right on. Now how do you feel about the ocassional remarks denigrting e-books. I don't get many, but when I do I could scream--loudly. Jeano

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  10. Jeano - I know what I'd say but I'm sure it wouldn't be nearly as diplomatic as Anny!!

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  11. I want to thank all of you for your wonderful comments. Yeah, that e-pub thing is sincerely annoying, isn't it? I do scream. Very quietly.

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