The Great Indie Author Twitter Challenge

I’ve seen some blogs and articles posted over the last few months that have referred to eBooks by Indie Authors as complete crap. Indie Author stigma is alive and well in the blogosphere and within the pages of The Huffington Compost. One blogger classified 98% of the eBooks written by Indie Authors as crap (her word, not mine). Can any of these opinions be true? Or are these negative purveyors just out for a “late-night-troll”?

In response to these naysayers, I’ve decided to offer myself a small challenge. Perhaps you may care to indulge in this experiment yourself.

Step1: Go into Twitter and start scrolling. Stop at the first eBook promo Tweet that has an Amazon link. Usually the Tweet is from the Indie-Author him/herself.

Step2: Follow the link and use the “Look Inside” feature.

Step 3: Jot down what you thought of preview.

Step 4: Go back to Twitter and keep scrolling until you find another eBook promo.

** I took a glance at 25 eBooks using the “Look Inside” feature. **

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The Results of the Twitter Challenge

In the final analysis, I did not find 98% crap, nor would I say that Indie Authored eBooks are an insult to the written word. Yes, I saw some stylistic problems. I have learned much about editing in the past few years, and can zero things down to three basic errors or should I say non-refinements. They are 1) Echoing Headwords 2) Weak opening line and/or paragraph 3) Overusing forms of “to be.” However, some readers probably wouldn’t spot those problems. They purchased a bargain book and were entertained.

For those of us who have published a few items and have spent hundreds of hours in critique circles; we know crap when we see it. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and wonder if I should give some people the benefit of the doubt. May be their definition of “crap” differs from mine.

Here are a few examples of my criteria for assessing the quality of an eBook with an excrement expression.

The writing is unreadable and unintelligible. If I see an endless stream of poor grammar, spelling errors, punctuation errors, p.o.v. shifting, or incomplete sentences, then I’ll agree it is crap. I can name a few more sins, but I think you get the picture.

Different “Yardsticks”?

There is no difference between 1 inch and 2.54 centimeters. The difference is the markings on the ruler. It is my belief that the insulters and naysayers are driven by one of two possibilities. Either they are paid trolls acting upon the behest of publishers*, or they are “setting the bar too high.”

*I am by no means a conspiracy theorist. However, I am all too aware of the dirty campaigns waged by different factions of certain industries. For example, the war between Edison’s DC vs. Tesla’s AC in the court of public opinion comes to mind.

The Relay Race Analogy

When I say “setting the bar too high,” I am not talking about giving everyone an award or a trophy for participating or a drastic lowering of standards. Rather, imagine a relay race between two teams of runners. Except, one team got food poisoning just 5 minutes before the race, and only one member of the sick team didn’t fall ill. Instead of quitting, the lone runner ran the whole race that was meant for five different athletes. And, he didn’t make it easy for the other team. He gave them a proverbial “run for their money.”

Even though he lost the race, is there any among you who wouldn’t give that runner a standing ovation?

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Well, that’s the difference between an eBook from an Indie Author and Traditionally published book. Too often, an Indie Author is simply one person doing the work of many hands. Therefore, when I say “setting the bar too high,” I mean passing judgment while not appreciating the lopsided nature of the comparison.

Indie Authors should not attempt to produce an end product as good as a traditionally published book. We should strive to be better.

DSC00166Every Time You Reply – “Little Frankie” Doesn’t Cry

Music: The Other Writing Muse

 

I once read that you should never listen to music with lyrics while writing. Naturally, I ignored that suggestion and later learned that it is truly a sound piece of advice.

Luckily, besides my towers of classic rock CDs, I have a cabinet full of classical music. There’s Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Prokofiev, Chopin, Wagner, and many others. Classical CD’s are quite the bargain as well. You can get a stack for the price of two or three of the stuff charting on Billboard. Not sure if they’re a bargain on iTunes, but I’m sure someone will post in the comments about it (psst…that’s a hint).

trebleBeside a broad paintbrush approach, think about music that compliments your subject. Listen to Chopin while writing something romantic, Wagner for a major battle scene, Grieg for a morning scene or writing about Dwarves. However, if you need to listen to something between writing spurts, then go ahead and break out that classic rock catalogue.

At those times, when I take a break, out comes The Beatles, Yes, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Dylan, or ELP. Yes, I’m a classic rock child of the ‘60s and ‘70s and I hope you are one too. If you’re wondering about my classic rock choices, then check some of those artists out on YouTube. There’s a plethora of uploaded music and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Another Inspirational Source

Last November during #NaNoWriMo, I wanted to complete the first draft of my second #fantasy novel. The second book in the Tales of Tyrennia Series is set in the Dwarven Kingdom of Eismark. At one point I became stuck. I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block episode, but rather a malaise. During NaNoWriMo 2016, I caught a bad flu and didn’t write for weeks.

So, I thought about what could serve as a healthy push about Dwarves. In a flash, I had an idea. I created a Dwarf toon on Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). After running around Thorin’s Hall and a few quests in the mines, I found myself itching to write again. Suddenly the last three chapters flooded onto my screen. They poured out of me and practically wrote themselves.

The #LOTRO gaming experience turned a fledgling NaNoWrimo into something of a success.

What music or other media inspire you to write?

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2017: A Prolific Writing Year

Hopefully, 2017 will be my most active year as an indie author.

The first novel in my fantasy series, “The Tales of Tyrennia Book One: An Easterly Sojourn” will be (not should be) released this year. The editing is cruising along. The problem was continuous editing. We would get about seven chapters done, and then either the Queen or I would learn something new and start over again.

2017

 

The reason we would jump into repetitive editing was simple. We were not satisfied with the end product. Therefore, after learning something new about editing, it seemed obvious to go back to square one.

I’m happy to report that I am satisfied with the quality. As we complete each chapter, I create a manuscript file. I can’t wait to print out copies and send them off to beta readers.

Draft version 0.5 of “The Tales of Tyrennia Book Two: The Frozen War” is done and waiting in the wings. I call it version 0.5 because of my scant writing style. A strange habit, but rather than cutting the first draft down, mine tend to swell.

What About Short Stories?

I’m so glad you asked. Two short singles will be released as well in 2017, “Little Red Revolution,” and “Psychic Confidence.”

“Little Red Revolution” is a best described as a satirical-vampyrical-romp. I had some compañeros from my former critique group who enjoyed #writing vampire fiction. So, I put this piece together mostly as gag and to poke some fun at the genre. In the end, they loved it.

“Psychic Confidence” should finish up at around five-thousand words. It’s a thriller with a complicated plot, coupled with characters that have aliases. I had worries that I could lose a reader too easily, but my first reader breezed through it without any problems.

There will also be a new collection of #shortstories called “Wondrous Stories: Seven Vile Uplifting Tales.” The stories are quite an assortment. However, there are some binding themes running throughout. Like, what happens when the iron fist of government points a finger at you? Or what happens when individualism clashes with a mob mentality?

Although I’m talking about a lot of work, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a very good year.

What are your goals, writing or otherwise for 2017? Are you #PoweredByIndie?

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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A Week in the life of #NaNoWriMo 2016

Hello Peeps!

I know I should have posted earlier about a very busy 1st week of #NaNoWriMo2016. However, I picked up a particularly nasty bug that takes seven to ten days to run its course. This is the first time that I have been feeling well enough to tickle my keyboard.

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Week one started on Oct. 30th for the Treasure Valley group. We had a kick off dinner at the Black Bear diner in #Boise. Quite a few wordsmiths turned out for some fun and writer’s talk…too bad there wasn’t any whiskey around.

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I made it to a write-in at Barnes & Noble in Boise on Tuesday, Nov. 1. A fairly decent crowd once again. Big thankies to B&N and our coordinator Kelley Thibodeau for arranging those write-ins and the kick-off dinner.

The Mountain Home Writer’s Guild hosted a write-in at Common Ground Coffee on Sunday, Nov. 6th. I prepared a German luncheon. We offered assorted links with flavored sauerkraut, German tater salad (What’s taters precious?  J), a cool refreshing beet salad, and some homemade pretzels. We had six writers. I really expected more, but we all had an enjoyable afternoon.

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I still managed over 2K for the week. Too bad I caught this flu and my word count sank to nothing.

Anyway, how was your first NaNo week? Do anything interesting? Meet any new authors? Did you host an event? Attend a write-in? How’s your writing and word count?

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Hooked by Les Edgerton

I’m somewhat selective when it comes to craft books. Sometimes I feel like most Indie-Authors spend more time reading craft books on writing than they do writing. And let’s not forget about the money spent. As for self-help books for authors, I have a scant but awesome collection. I usually spend a lot of time reading blogs, taking notice of titles mentioned, and then taking aim for that special book.

My first chapter was bugging me. After we (The Queen and I) would edit about eight chapters, we’d discover something new and start all over again. Well, I can comfortably say that now I feel as if we’ve finally “got it.” Yes, the “Queen” and I were doing an awesome job, but we were still treating the first chapter like any other…big mistake, and thank God we had the intuition not to publish.

I took one of Kristen Lamb’s on-line seminars concerning “Your First Five Pages.” As I look back upon the seminar, it was very informative and helpful. Later, she made a blog post about first chapters and recommended “Hooked” by Les Edgerton.

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Like a vigilant and eager student, I clicked over to Amazon and purchased Edgerton’s “Hooked,” and a copy Kristen Lamb’s “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a digital world” (still reading this one).

After reading “Hooked,” everything that Kristen explained during the seminar became crystal clear. I guess I needed time to absorb at my own pace. After all, I haven’t been a student for a millennium or two…well maybe three. O.k. you can stop laughing at me now. 🙂

Within Hooked by Les Edgerton, the “crafty” author-coach will explain to you the importance of an opening line, the first page, the first plot points, and yes, how they all coagulate into a rockin’ first chapter. Also, how to introduce a character, and the incredibly sticky subject concerning backstory, i.e., when to use it and when to avoid it.

On another note, Edgerton delivers with a style that keeps you reading and entertained. It would seem that he took his own advice.:-) Let’s face it; this subject in the wrong hands could turn drier than dust faster than a teenager can answer a text-message. But with Edgerton, the read is smooth sailing.

I can give “Hooked” by Les Edgerton a hearty and well-deserved recommendation. Also, you should check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and take one of her classes too.

What are some of your favorite writing-craft books?

When Authors Break the “Rules”

I think I’ve actually got a handle on most of the rules of writing. I’m not talking about punctuation, grammar, plot, character building, or anything in that venue.  What I am talking about are the finer polishing points that turn my pages from talking to singing.

My latest editing discovery concerned “echoing headwords” for lack of a better term coined by the writing website Immerse or Die. In other words, repeating consecutive sentences with the same first word or more than one paragraph per page doing the same.

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Spring has been a busy time for me and I have not done as much reading, writing, and editing as I should have. Therefore, now that I feel like I’ve got this whole “rule” thing clear in my head, I’ve decided to sit down re-read one of my favorite books. After all, isn’t that a piece of advice you see all over author blogs? Good writers read a lot. This re-reading would of course be a different experience, because I have new eyes.

Good Writers Read

I am not going to name the book or the author, and I am not offering this as a form of criticism. It is simply a moment when you throw your hands up and roll your eyes and say, “Just when I thought it was safe to read again.”

I lounged back in my favorite recliner and opened the book. Alas, everything that I have learned about “echoing headwords,” overuse of “to be,” and naming too many people and places in the first chapter, was completely ignored by the author.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Probably something like, “Well you know, once an author is an established thoroughbred, s/he can break all the rules they want to break.” Cough…gag

Did I happen to mention that this great book (and a major seller) was the author’s first book?

I put the book down and went for another one from my trusted overcrowded shelves. Another first book from another famous author that flaunted all of the rules again!

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What’s a little-ole-self-pubbing-indie to do?

Well…perhaps I should offer those rule breakers some admiration.

Thus far, applying some of these tried and true methods has improved the quality of my writing, and I am quite happy and contented with the results. If someone else wants to throw some rules out the window…let them. I have no problems with another author nestled in their “comfy zone,” as long as their formula is working well for them and their readers.

Despite my confusion, I’ll maintain a “live and let live” attitude.

How do you feel about those who not only break a few rules, but do it well?

***Visit Ernesto San Giacomo’s Amazon Author Page and check out a short story for your e-reader today! Choose one or all – Night Flights – Stasis – Ragged Souls – Gematria²***

 

Indie-Author Stigma Part III: Are 5-Star Reviews Meaningless?

Like many indie authors, I only sport small sales and a scant number of reviews. And like many indie authors, I’m fairly sure that’s not a reflection on the quality of my writing, but rather the state of the current market. Here’s the harsh reality: it’s difficult to sell a 12-20 page short story for 99 cents when others are selling full novels for that price, or even offering them up for free.

I used to chalk my low sales up to just that fact. Flooding the market with so many inexpensive books has muddied the waters, if you will.  But after a recent experience on Twitter, I’m seeing that there’s much more to it than numbers.  The water’s not just muddy, it’s outright toxic.

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Scanning Twitter one evening, I noticed quite a few author Tweets plugging their latest works and their 5-star reviews. Naturally, I clicked on their provided link, took a look at their glowing reviews and then used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature (I think most quality indie-authors already know where I’m heading).

My first horror went something like this…

The prologue heading read “Many Millennium’s Ago.”

How can you call yourself an author when you don’t know the difference between a plural and a possessive? Of course, removing the apostrophe doesn’t correct the matter either, because the plural of “Millennium” is “Millennia.”

Then I read the first paragraph. The author used the tags, “I readily agreed,” and “I say,” within the first three lines. They’re not the standard “I said,” which is fine, but they’re also in two different tenses.

But this book had three 5-star reviews. Cough…gag!

And for my next horror…

I saw another author’s promo Tweet for a short story collection. I jumped at the chance to see this one and clicked over. This collection had about 110 pages and six mixed reviews.

There were five P.O.V. shifts in the first ten lines, including internal thoughts from different characters. I know that such a technique is possible, but it should only be done by the hand of a master. Like Dune, by Frank Herbert. If you’re not Frank Herbert and you don’t have a manuscript to match Dune, then don’t even try it.  This particular author was clearly not practiced in the art of P.O.V. shifts, as it was clunky and impossible to follow whose head I was in.

Yet the collection had one 5-star and nothing below 3-stars. Cough…gag!

If I’d purchased either of these, I would’ve shut off my Kindle and sent out a 1-star review. Does it make anyone else ill that shoddy works are being advertised with 5 stars? I have a very hard time believing that those reviews weren’t paid for, or solicited from friends and family.

I do not cajole, pester, arm-twist, guilt-trip, beg, plead, finagle, nag, or purchase reviews from anyone; what you see on my books is honest feedback from real readers. Between the poor workmanship and the misleading reviews running rampant on Amazon, is it any wonder that indie authors are stigmatized? Doesn’t that get under your skin?

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The Reality

While writing this post, I surfed the internet in an attempt to find others who feel the same way. After all, sometimes I second-guess myself and think I’m being a meanie. Sure enough, I did find a myriad of posts that confirm my sentiments.

This one from Catherine Hoover sums things up:

“When a self-published author doesn’t take pride in their work and just slaps a book up for sale that isn’t even close to being ready for publication…it reinforces the notion that self-published books are of a lower standard.”

I completely agree; poor quality is what has muddied the waters of indie publishing. Now that the “shoddy-ne’er-do-well-wannabee-hacks” are recruiting people to leave misleading glowing reviews, they have turned the water toxic.

In today’s market, being good just isn’t good enough, and if that is not a sad enough reality then consider the following:

Being meticulous, talented, artistic, and making a painstaking effort in order to turn out the finest quality product simply isn’t good enough either. Because through no fault of your own, you had a tainted reputation before you began.

For Readers and Authors

How do you deal with the stigma? Can anything be done? How do you think the community of quality indie authors can fight back?

***See all the titles from Ernesto San Giacomo on Amazon***

A Narrative Balancing Act

Some stories advance by plot or character or both. Certainly, the character of James Bond doesn’t grow because spy thrillers are plot driven.

Sometimes a character gets swept up by outside events, goes through a traumatic adventure, and then tries to regain the solace and peacefulness of their former life. The film The Outlaw Josey Wales (which is a loose re-telling of Candide by Voltaire) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood would be an example of such a narrative device.

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There’s More Than One Way To Balance

Reversals create a balancing as well. In The Natural, Roy Hobbs is a star pitching prospect. His agent bets that he can strike out “The Whammer” (a Babe Ruth figure). He does it and later in the story he becomes a famous Home Run hitter. In a play-off game, the Pirates bring in a Nebraska farm boy with a blazing fastball to strike out Roy Hobbs.  It’s a role-reversal of the bet that happened years earlier.

Last night my wife and I curled up on the couch and watched The China Syndrome. This particular movie used a balancing device that I sometimes like to use in my short stories. The opening and ending shots of this film are the same. Yet, the end shot conveys much more meaning and emotion than the opening image.

And In My Writing

In some short stories, my opening and ending paragraphs are almost identical. Of course, just like in film, the ending carries a weightier meaning and evokes a heightened emotional response. I can think of two examples, “Night Flights,” and “A Purveyor of Odd Things,” from the Ragged Souls collection.

In “Night Flights,” when Peter hangs a new painting at the end, the reader has a deeper understanding of the odd visions the character has been experiencing.

In “A Purveyor of Odd Things,” the transformation of character is complete, yet he is standing in the same place as the beginning and performing the same task.

I wish I could do this in all of my stories, but not every plot lends itself to this particular device. My forthcoming fantasy novel An Easterly Sojourn uses one of the above Balancing acts. However, I’m not ready to give anything away just yet.

Do you use a form of balancing in your writing? Have you tried to use it? Have you noticed it elsewhere?

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 (Final)

The thirty days of furious quill scratching is now over. I know that we all use keyboards now, but didn’t that sound quaint?

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We had some good write-in sessions and got to meet and exchange a few ideas with new authors in the area.

 

Of course I didn’t reach the 50K word milestone, but I did get to the point where I wanted to be. The second novel in the “Tales of Tyrennia Series,” is now taking on definite form. I made it to 10,249 words or 50 pages.

Now I can relax (I hear you laughing) and get back to editing the first novel and another short story collection.

The shorts collection “Pressure Points,” is very close to completion. However, I’m going to get more of the novel “An Easterly Sojourn” edited before going back to the shorts collection. Breaking up the work at hand helps me to deal with it.

How did Camp #NaNoWrimo 2016 turn out for you?

 

Camp NaNo 2016 (Update)

I always find the #CampNaNoWriMo  events to be more difficult because of the time of the year. In November it’s easy despite the minor distraction of Thanksgiving and the coming Holiday Season.

Springtime makes the April NaNo more difficult. There are many home projects that demand attention. Besides the age old “Spring Cleaning” tradition, landscaping and gardening tend to dominate April and May.

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I promise to do a post next month with pictures concerning my landscaping and gardening projects.

Despite all the chores, I have managed to attend two “write-ins” and have a word count of about 10K completed for my second #fantasy novel in The Tales of Tyrennia series. However, I am not done with NaNo. The novel has taken off in a new direction, therefore I #amwriting more. Also, I released a new short during the NaNo season, which means mucho social media time.

Did you get much writing done this month? Did spring get in the way?