Swiggers by Joey Pinkney

In the brevity of a short story, Swiggers by Joey Pinkney manages to give us some great insight into a subtle aspect of the African-American community. Also, Joey’s Author Notes at the end give us more to ponder as he discusses the inspiration and life experiences that he called upon to create this little gem.

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Within these pages, we’re given a glimpse into the “theater of reality.” Except, within this particular theater, it is the Greek Chorus which serves as the main character. The theater is a shady park bench near a corner liquor store and the play is the daily habits of the townsfolk. A group of older men meet at the park bench, drink, tell stories, relate jokes, and offer commentary on the people who frequent the store.

Remember, in the play “As You Like It,” Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances…” However, what can a humble Greek Chorus commenting on the theater of the real do when their little piece of the world stage begins to change? I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so you’ll have to read it to find out.


The jokes are rather funny too. I think my favorite was the one about the Pussy Willow.


About the Writing

PinkneyI did not come across any oddly constructed sentences or glaring errors. With Swiggers, Joey Pinkney has produced a clean product. There are some word repetitions here and there, but not enough to destroy the reading experience. The dialog is quite natural and flows well despite that it is written with something of a U.S. Southern accent.

FaceBook Page  https://www.facebook.com/joeypinkney

Twitter @JoeyPinkney

Blog  https://joeyspen.com/

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy-to-read little story that kept me engrossed all the way to the end.  Highly recommend!

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2017: How to Find the Time

Pink Floyd, Jim Croce, and The Chambers Brothers have all composed wonderful classic rock songs about our friend and enemy: time. You can’t look at it, hold it, or examine it; time exists without form. Yet, time is incredibly valuable. For every day, and for the whole month of November, time will be prevalent in the minds of any would-be indie author racing for the finish line during NaNoWriMo 2017. So how to make the best use of the time you have for writing? I’ve summarized some of Chris Baty’s great ideas.

*In the last post I wrote about Setting a Proper Goal.*

A Study in Thirds

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It all starts with planning. In the final week of October, try logging everything you do over the course of a day. Identify everything according one of three criteria: Need, Delay, and Avoid.

Some Things Must Be Done

You shouldn’t avoid certain daily necessities during NaNoWriMo. Our days are filled with a laundry list of mandatory tasks, including laundry. And personal hygiene, feeding the cats, feeding the baby, cooking, cleaning, shopping at the supermarket…you get the idea.

These tasks should not be avoided or delayed, or things get ugly. Let’s say that author Bill stops showering and uses that time to write. Other local authors may use his lack of hygiene to their benefit. Imagine the following phone call.

Local Author John: “Hey, Bill. I hope you’re coming to the write-in tonight.”

Bill: “Wouldn’t miss it.”

John: “Good. Because I’m writing a scene that takes place in a foul-smelling bog. And Susan is up to a scene where some survivors find some rotting food.”

Bill: “I’ll bring my thesaurus.”

John: “We don’t need a thesaurus. We just need a quick whiff of you. Then you can leave.”

Sorry for the tasteless jesting, but I couldn’t resist.

Some Things Can Be Delayed

Yes, there are some tasks that should be done, but let’s face facts, putting them off for a month isn’t going to bring ruin to your life. Does the trim in the living room need a fresh coat of paint? So what? The house is not going to collapse for want of paint. Got some wood that needs to be stacked? It’s outside and drying out anyway. Does the back of the TV need to be dusted? No, it can wait. The TV will not explode from dust (although unattended Penguins on the Tele have been known to go up in smoke).

The Things to Avoid

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Study your list of daily activities. Look at the amount of time spent watching TV, commenting on humorous Facebook memes, Twitter, watching YouTube videos, or online shopping and gaming. If you’re going to implode because you’ve missed an episode of The Big Bang Theory or Once Upon A Time, use your DVR and watch it after you’ve done some honest-to-goodness writing for the day. Regard it as a reward for a job well done.

Consider Yourself Armed With New Knowledge

Come November, I hope you sit your butt down and get some serious NaNoWriMo writing done. If you don’t, you’ll never achieve your goal. Let me know if this strategy helped.

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

Sauce or Gravy?: A Plea for Italian Peace

An undercurrent of animosity, name-calling, swearing, and insult-laden discourse (Italians are very good at that skill) has been brewing on social media lately. Of course, Facebook and Twitter did not cause the dilemma, but rather, social media is the delivery system which has allowed Italian enclaves from coast to coast to have a verbose brawl over a simple question. Do you call it sauce or gravy? That succulent culinary companion for many different pasta dishes revered throughout the world. And sometimes, a family recipe guarded by Italian grandmothers (with wooden spoon weaponry) like a high level classified state secret. Hopefully, within this humble post, I will settle the sauce / gravy question, once and for all.

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In Medieval times, Italy was a peninsula of warring city states and principalities. I would hate to see this happen within the U.S. Therefore, in the words of San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francis), “Make me an instrument of your peace…”

The Difference Between a Sauce and a Gravy

To make my claim plain and simple, Gravies contain meat drippings and sauces do not. The fat or oil for a sauce is usually butter, and the thickener in common is of course flour. Yes, I am completely aware of other sauce / gravy techniques from the table of world cuisine. A German chef may add crushed ginger snaps or farina to thicken, while an Asian chef will rely on cornstarch. And who can forget Greek Taztziki sauce, based upon yogurt.

Now let’s take a look at a sauce and gravy which are based upon the same main ingredient.

Béchamel sauce and Sawmill gravy are milk oriented. Béchamel is a mother sauce used in Lasanga, or making Bernaise and Mornay sauces. For a Béchamel sauce, milk is thickened by a butter and flour roux. Sawmill gravy is that wonderful concoction from the American South used on Country Fried Steak or for Biscuits and gravy. In Sawmill gravy, flour is sprinkled into crumbled breakfast sausage and its rendered drippings, then milk and seasonings are added.

Both are milk based, but one uses meat drippings and the other uses butter.

The words sauce and gravy are differentiated in the same way in Italian, sugo for gravy and salsa for sauce. For instance, beef gravy in Italian is sugo di manzo and the aforementioned Béchamel sauce is salsa besciamella. Therefore, if you didn’t use meat, it is a tomato sauce. If you add meat, it is a gravy.

On a Personal Note

Like my grandmother, mom, aunts, and sisters, I’ve always used both terms depending upon whether it was a tomato sauce (meatless), or gravy for big Sunday family meal with meatballs, sausage, and bracciole. It is simply a matter of applying the proper culinary terms.

Are you ready to make peace with your paesani? Let’s end this terrible bloody battle and usher in a modern Pax Romana.

Every Time You Reply – “Little Frankie” Doesn’t CryDSC00166

Why Do We Write?

What motivates someone to sit down at a keyboard and write 75K words? Then attend writer’s meetings for critiques, spend months editing, find beta readers, design a cover, and lastly, format and upload the aforementioned 75K words?

If your motivation for all of the above is to be famous, have book signings, or an interview with Oprah, then I heartily suggest you find something else to do.

We write because we have stories to tell. We also go through the whole grueling process because we want to see our name on something worthy. The final product brings a certain element of satisfaction and a sense rebellion. An unnamed fire burns within indie authors. Some may call it a muse, while others refer to it as inspiration. We write because of our collective love of literature.

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The satisfaction comes from completing your project, like painting a room or crocheting a sweater. The rebellion comes from being independent. After all, as an Indie Author, your story welled up from your soul, not from a marketing computer within a publishing house in Manhattan.

However, we market and advertise to sell. There’s no shame or “sellout” factor if you want to reach readers. I am not familiar with any artist working within any medium who does not seek an audience. Even if you don’t have an advertising budget, social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Snap Chat, et al are free. But that is the subject for a different post.

For a few years, I’ve been noticing a certain similarity between Indie ‘gurus’; those wise sages who dispense free self-help via social media. Just as people in real estate chant the mantra “location, location, location,” these folks cheer, “titles, titles, titles,” with equal enthusiasm. To be brief, they’re right. However, their advice should also include a caveat or at least an amendment to their cheer. The mantra should be… “quality titles, quality titles, quality titles.”

In a previous post concerning my random scan of samples on Amazon, I stated that the three most prevalent errors were echoing headwords, weak opening sentences, and overusing forms of ‘to be’. Perhaps rushing the writing process to amass titles is the cause.

I wonder why most Indie authors lack the extra layer of polish. After all, reading craft books, attending critique groups, and finding beta readers, are an essential part of churning out a quality product. Even if you can’t afford an editor, craft books and blogs are replete with editorial instructions and tips from plotting, character creation, dialog, show vs. tell, etc.

As I turn this problem over in my mind, I keep going back to the “titles, titles, titles” mantra as the influence. Well intentioned and true advice, but only loosely defined.

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Short Stories by Ernesto San Giacomo

 

 

 

Every Time You Reply – “Little Frankie” Doesn’t Cryfrancesco25

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

7 Easy Tips for Indie-Authors

I’ve noticed many memes or progress posts by indie-authors on Facebook and Twitter like “Wrote 2.5k today.” Of course, when such messages pop-up at around 10:30am, one has to wonder if the author’s blazing fingers melted the keyboard. Writing has to be done because we all understand the classic tidbit of wisdom that you can’t edit a blank page. However, some indie-authors should learn how to live life. Therefore, I’ve put together a small list to combat the typical bad habits that plague indie-authors. Hopefully, these tips will help the writing / editing process.

First: Open a window and breathe. That stuff you smell is called fresh air. Your body and brain needs oxygen, don’t deprive yourself.

Second: I’m sure there’s a place where you can order a couple of poached eggs and toast. Hotpockets, snickers bars, pizza rolls, and Twinkies* do not constitute a diet.

*I’ve discovered a widely held belief among indie-authors. Chocolate or fudge covered Twinkies are considered a healthier alternative to the standard Twinkie. Many authors believe the coating prevents bacteria or other micro-organisms from penetrating the cake and cream filling. 🙂 

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Third: Once a day, or for once in your life. Please put down the coffee mug or shot glass and try a glass of water or juice. Man does not live by bread alone, nor should indie-authors live by caffeine alone.

Fourth: Take a break. Even prisoners on death row are given some time to roam outdoors. Time spent on social media like Facebook or Twitter is NOT considered break time. You’re still typing and reading!

Fifth: Socializing can be fun. Maybe we indie-authors should try it. Going to the coffee shop to have a critique session with other authors doesn’t count. Perhaps combine this one with a trip to the diner.

Sixth: Please give your cat(s) some play time. There is an indie-author / cat owner corollary. After all, you are their human and they need attention too. Remember, cat lives matter!

Seventh: Just look at the disarray on your writing desk. When do you plan on cleaning it? There is probably a better place for the piles of notes and craft books. If you’re a voracious reader, then you should have shelves or a bookcase somewhere?

I’m sure this list can be expanded. If you’ve got an idea drop a comment below. Also, are you guilty of any of the above habits? I know I am, just look at the photographic evidence of the Twinkie.  🙂

Every Time You Reply – “Little Frankie” Doesn’t Cryfrancesco25

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The “Unfriend” Trend

Liberals are loud and proud. They write insulting memes and posts all over their Twitter and Facebook accounts. They do this with an air of haughty self-righteousness. And of course, they’re the self-proclaimed guardians of tolerance and justice. Perhaps they should give tolerance a try some time.

Whenever I chance a view at Facebook or Twitter, I (and all other conservatarians) have to suffer the slings and arrows of Liberally misguided thoughts, insults, and memes, based upon their collective cognitive dissonance and a general lack of information.

Do I suddenly “unfriend” or “unfollow” them? No.

Do I scream back at them in all caps? No.

Do I use foul language? No.

Yet, on the only two occurrences when I did respond, I was “unfriended” faster than Hillary can make up another lie about her emails.

The First Incident: A dyed-in-the–wool Liberal made an FaceBook post where he equated The Priesthood with pedophilia. There was no name-calling, no caps, no foul language. I merely pointed out my research with links. Boom! Unfriended.

The Second Incident: A guy who plasters Facebook with pro-Hillary and Anti-Trump posts all the time decided to get personal. He corrected Hillary’s #BasketofDeplorables comment by stating that she should have said ALL (his caps not mine) and not half. Of course his fellow Libs chimed in with disgusting broad-stroke statements as well. My reply was as follows…”Is this what you truly think of me?” Boom! Unfriended faster than a Kool-Aid slurping Hillary minion can make up a false tweet about Trump.

Tell me about your “unfriending” or “unfollow” experiences.

 

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***

Twitter Litter

I’ll freely admit to all that I am no expert on social media platforms for indie authors. What I document within this blog category are the things that I am learning as I plod along. Perhaps after reading this, you may even have a few tips for me.

Easy Clean-Up

I tried to use a free unfollow service that would list all those Twitter accounts that I was following, but not getting followed back. However, when I checked some of them, I discovered that about 25% of those accounts were indeed following me. It was time to try a different method.

If you don’t have 10.5K followers on Twitter, you don’t need any fancy subscription to an unfollow service. Just click on “Follows” on your Twitter homepage. It will list everyone you’re following. Under their name and right next to their Twitter handle you’ll see the gray text “Follows You.” If you don’t see those words, it means that you’re following them but they are not reciprocating. Now just click the big blue button and you’ve unfollowed them back. I have about 1,350 followers and I was able to “clean house” in about 30 minutes.

The “Twitter Litter” has left the building!

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Photo by Luc Legay used under CC License

The Disturbing Part

I’ve always regarded other indie authors as Fellow Travelers or Kindred Spirits. Although our genres and styles may be completely different, we’re still cut from the same cloth. Therefore, I’ve always made it my business to seek out other indies, follow and post on their blogs, Facebook pages, offer reviews and beta reads, and yes offer them a #folloback on #Twitter.

My biggest surprise was the amount of Indie Authors who followed me, waited for me to follow them back, and then they would unfollow. I would say that about 60% of the accounts that I had to unfollow were other Indie Authors. Sad but true. 😦

Disappointing Results

A while ago, I wrote a post called The Blog, The Tweet, and The Facebook Page. That post was inspired by my WordPress stats. I discovered that other blogs created the most traffic into mine, followed by Facebook*, search engines, Google +, and way last was…Twitter.

*Facebook has now taken over the top slot

Most social media gurus say that Twitter is a necessary component of an indie author’s social media platform. But I have to face a dose of reality, Twitter has not been a major generator of sales and blog traffic. I believe it serves as a double exposure.

Most people have Facebook and Twitter accounts, therefore, they may see you there and then see your name pop up elsewhere. That second exposure is what may prompt a click, and that’s the only purpose that Twitter can serve. I track my links through Bitly, therefore I can see exactly how many clicks a link receives. To be honest, it’s not that great. I don’t spam or make an annoyance out of myself. I basically tweet about new blog posts, the occasional ad for Ragged Souls, or contribute to a discussion.

Keep It Anyway

I don’t plan on cancelling my Twitter account, nor would I suggest that course of action to anyone. I recently read a great post by Kristin Lamb about the nature of books in the digital age. There are quite a few gems of wisdom within her words. My favorite eye-opener to indie authors within that particular blog post was, “Our greatest enemy is obscurity.”

Never were truer words spoken. Therefore, I’ll keep trying to tweak my tweets as best as I can, and hope for the best.

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***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle***

How About you?

If you’ve been successful with Twitter, please enlighten me (and some others). Do you see activity and clicks based upon your Tweets?

***I want to know when the new short story Night Flights is released***

Indie Authoring: Art or Business?

I’ve heard a few indie authors over the years claim they are artists. Be careful, because when an author makes a statement like that, the word “artist” may denote a few veiled meanings. For example:

I am an artist and therefore

 …I may break conventional rules.

Sometimes indie authors think poor editing and grammar make them an artist working outside of the box, thumbing their noses at the bleakness of conformity. Wrong! A lack of editing and grammar means that as a communicator, you’re only contributing to the dreaded “Indie Author Stigma” and nothing else.

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Photo by Megan used under CC License

The craftsmanship of the product that bears your name must be as good (if not better) than what the traditional publishing industry can produce. It’s a fine standard and it should be adhered to and strived for at all times.

I love it when authors excuse their lack of standards by comparing themselves to Picasso. Well, I hate to break the news, but Picasso paid attention to many standards. He used paint and applied it to a canvas. If he wanted green paint, he had to mix yellow and blue. He followed formulas concerning composition and color schemes. If I’m not mistaken, Da Vinci did all of that as well.

…I am unsullied by the pursuit of profit.

Now that’s a big fat lie! Like any other artist, we all seek an audience. And the only way to reach an audience is to sell your material. Many blogs discuss Author Branding and similar marketing concepts. Let’s face it, we’re all business competitors in this new vibrant field.

This leads to another potential problem: free downloads. An absolutely foolish thing to do that gets right under my skin. The only thing achieved by a free download is that the author has just told the whole world that the value of his creation is zero. Now there are legitimate reasons for putting free material out there – fan fiction for one, since you can’t legally profit from it. Or perhaps you want to do a promotion for a period, or put out a short story to get your name known.  But for the most part, making your work free is not the best idea.

…my work is an honest reflection of my world view and wasn’t generated by a marketing computer.

Ding! Ding! Ding! This is where the world of indie publishing and traditional publishing (thankfully) split apart. An indie author can explore themes and characterizations that traditional publishers shy away from.

The world of traditional publishing is a business. They will only invest the cogs of their machine into something based on a proven formula. They’re only hedging their bets for a payoff, and why shouldn’t they operate from that standpoint? They’re a business, making business decisions for the sole purpose of generating sales and profit.

This is the reason why most mass produced entertainment is nothing but a huge steaming pile of banal nonsense churned out for maximum appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Therefore, if you’ve got a great story about a teenage prostitute who gets addicted to drugs, and is then saved by a store front group of revivalist Christians, and from that group of Christians she finds a boyfriend, and they don’t have sex until after they’re married, you won’t be published traditionally.

However, if you make your Main Character a vampire, give her a zombie boyfriend love interest, who she met at an illegal vampire / zombie orgy, and of course set the story in a future post-apocalyptic dystopian society, you’ll have a better shot at a publishing contract.

So yes, indie writing can offer a freedom of expression and creativity that is unmatched anywhere.  However, to be successful, one must also follow the established rules of the trade.  So in my view, it’s really a mix of art and science.  What are your thoughts?