A “Friendly” Undeserved Rating

Standard

Shining StarLately sales have been close to nonexistent. Eh, I wish I could say otherwise but that’s the way it is. I’m still in the process of extricating myself from Xlibris but once that’s done and settled I will reevaluate whether or not I want to sign back up for Amazon’s KDP program.

Of late, my attention has been on my WIP, hence publicizing AUW has taken a far back seat in the clutter and lack of time that is my life. Despite this, and lagging sales, from time to time I check out how my title is ranking on Amazon and also to see if I have any new reviews. I also occasionally check to see if AUW has any new reviews on Goodreads.

Today I noticed something very curious. At some point in the recent past I was awarded a five star rating, sans review, from one of my Goodreads “friends”. Said “friend” will remain nameless. I found this curious because although I don’t really know this person, I am fairly certain this person has NEVER read AUW. In fact, if I was the gambling type, I’d bet everything I own that this is the case.

So, why would this person, my “friend”, give me a five star rating?

I think I know why. A couple of months ago this “friend” published a book and dove full steam into a publicity blitz that included mass friending on Goodreads, form emails offering a favor if and when the need arose (we’re talking Goodreads friends, not lifelong since we were wee pups in the cradle friends, so it seemed kind of icky weird), a free eBook download of the newly published novel, and the opportunity to win a free autographed copy, among other things. The email was, well, kind of weird, mostly because I don’t know this person, and also because who offers strangers online an anytime favor? But I saw it for what it was, an attempt to gain exposure and to sell books. I didn’t respond and I sort of forgot about it until today.

I’m of the opinion that my five star rating was one of those selfless favors meant to, at the very least, endear me to the author and at most, oblige me to reciprocate.

I can not.

I tried to read this person’s book a while back but couldn’t complete it. I just couldn’t. The writing was, well, suffice it to say, 4% was all I could take. If I can’t turn off my internal editor when I am reading a book then that’s a sure sign its chock full of writing flubs, grammar errors, inconsistencies, editing nightmares, and plain old WTHs. Despite the major issues with the writing, this book has a number of very impressive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so perhaps I’m wrong or being too harsh a critic.

In light of my undeserved five star rating from this author/”friend”, I wonder how many of this author’s five star reviews were because the author is a good writer with a compelling story as opposed to a selfless “friend” willing to do favors. Of note, the author has also rated their own book. Want to take a guess?

My personal opinion of self rating is that it should not be done. Besides tacky it is wholly unbiased.

My opinion on “friendly” ratings based on anything other than the opinion of one person who has actually read my book, is that I don’t need them nor do I want them. It lacks integrity. It makes me feel like a cheat.

I don’t need friends or ratings like that.

There Are No Mistakes

Standard

The four capital mistakes of open source

Almost five years ago, I self-published my novel An Unproductive Woman with Xlibris.

If I knew then what I know now… well, let’s just say I would have hung up the phone when they called me and offered me a publishing package.

Once the book was in the world and published the first three years with them were fine. They really were. Xlibris did exactly what they said they would. They helped me design a cover (which I later changed), they helped to edit a manuscript that was already amazingly pretty clean, and they made it available at multiple different outlets.

Following publishing I was busy with school and family so I admittedly did very little in the way of self promoting, but once I made up my mind to actually pay attention to the An Unproductive Woman I realized a number of unfortunate truths.

  1. I never needed Xlibris.
  2. I could have done all of this myself for far less money.
  3. Xlibris is a business, which explains why they kept trying to sell me one new service after another.

I wasn’t angry with Xlibris because of truth #3. They are a business and as such they were doing what businesses do. Trying to make money. They did. While very little, I did benefit from their service. Using them made things very easy for me at a time when I had none to spare. Because of them, I didn’t have to worry about the details.

A year and a half ago I decided that the time had come when I needed to take a more active role in my writing, that I would network and promote and try to make more sales. About this time last year I also made the decision to join Amazon’s KDP program. While not extraordinary, I did notice an increase in sales. An increase in sales is great. I mean, I never thought that An Unproductive Woman would make me wealthy, (One can hope, right?), but no sales turned into some sales and some sales are definitely better than none. Then I started to have problems.

KDP kicked me out of the program at least three times because my ebook kept popping up at other outlets, thanks to Xlibris, even after I’d asked that they remove my ebook from all markets. Needless to say, they didn’t. Each time I thought things were a go again, Amazon would find it somewhere else. I’d get kicked out of the program again. I noticed a drop in sales as a result. That’s when I got annoyed with Xlibris.

$3.99

$4.95

Two weeks ago I noticed that Xlibris snuck their ebook version of An Unproductive Woman up on Amazon and actually set it for a lower price than I have it listed for. They were competing with me for sales of my book. I have asked and asked them not to make an ebook available anywhere because I’d formatted and published the ebook version on Amazon myself and because it is a requisite of the KDP program. And still, there it was.

At that point I was more than annoyed. I was incensed.

Last week I drafted a brief letter and faxed it to Xlibris telling them that I wanted to withdraw my book from them 100% in all forms on all outlets post haste. It hasn’t happened yet because apparently it can take up to six weeks. I’ve turned into the customer from hell because I have emailed them on a daily basis asking the equivalent of “Are we there yet?” It’s just that I am cooked and want to be done with them.

I rarely admit to mistakes. This isn’t because I’m so arrogant that I don’t think that I ever make them. I don’t often admit to mistakes because I think that doing so misses the point, which is that there is always something to learn from almost each mishap, tragedy and flub. To call these things mistakes negates the good that can come from them. I also believe that sometimes our personal tragedies aren’t always for us. Sometimes they are for others to learn from as well. With that, allow me to share some lessons I’ve learned from this.

  1. If I’m bright enough to write a book, chances are I’m also bright enough to self publish said book without the help of services like Xlibris.
  2. I have more time than I think I have. Its better to reallocate my time in order to do the things that are really important to me.
  3. The indie community of writers are generous, smart, and savvy. Network, ask questions, and ask for help.
  4. Never publish with a vanity press. You give up your money, your control, and the opportunity to learn how to do some of this stuff yourself.
  5. Don’t get angry.

Just remember. There are no mistakes.

What choices with your writing have you made that you wish you’d done differently?

After 1 Year and 100 Posts

Standard

A year has passed since I’ve started this website in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and connected with an awesome community of indie authors and I’ve managed to gain a little bit of exposure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I procured a few interviews with interesting and prolific indie authors and artists, landed multiple guests post for this site, and have written a few for others as well, learned a bit about self-promotion, and wrote multiple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Starla Huchton did and incredible job redesigning my book cover, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select program.

I joined two anthologies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthology is a spectacular idea conceived by Lyn Midnight wherein 36  writers collaborate to create twelves stories written in three parts about the apocalypse. The collaboration eventually went on to include artists and musicians and even a children’s project. Unfortunately, the project became too large and unwieldy for our lovely editor and it eventually fizzled out.  As of late however, it appears that Worlds Undone may be making a comeback.  I’m hoping it will.

The other anthology that I am involved with is more personal and dear to me. It started from a comment that I left on a fellow indie author Matt Williams’ site. We discussed the idea of going to space and that discussion turned into an anthology entitled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Me: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will consist of twelve stories of which mine will be first.  We’ve managed to fill about eight of the spots, so if anyone out there would like to contribute to a space and colonization anthology, shoot me a message.

Over the course of the last few months I realized that I had a bit of an unintentional theme going, that of time management. I wrote quite a bit about the subject and several fellow indie authors contributed some really amazing posts about how they manage their writing time.  As time is such a difficult thing for me to wrangle I think I was subconsciously looking for a way to reconcile my lack of time with my desire to be more prolific.  I’m still struggling with that one but one thing’s for certain, if you want to produce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time management, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about creating a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that successfully as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclectic mishmosh of “stuff”, for lack of a better word.  For many reasons I’ve purposely stayed away from more challenging controversial topics.  I either feel under informed, unqualified, or quite honestly afraid to engage in these challenging discussions out of fear of alienating readers but as I have so few, (hahahaha) it’s pretty much a moot point.

Keeping with the idea of a theme I’ve decided to choose another topic to give special focus this coming year.  I’ve been giving this considerable thought this past month and have decided on critical analysis/reviews of SFF books written by women.  This will certainly not be to the exclusion of other post ideas and I hope will be interesting for readers as well as a learning experience for me.  I never feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and listen to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite interesting.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addition to Leguin, Butler, Zimmer Bradley, and McCaffrey among others.  If anyone has suggestions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Honor

I’d hoped to have completed the outline of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t happen.  Then I got caught up working on my anthology stories, hit a writing slump that seems to happen to me every year around September, got distracted with children, life, work (which has been a beast!), the internet and attempts to promote An Unproductive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a serial novel blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I finally stopped more than thirty chapters in.  I didn’t want to but felt compelled as I’d never so much as outlined a single chapter and my story, written by the skin of my teeth and posted every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with another story that kept spinning in my head, and begin a serious rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  Fortunately, I love the story and the characters enough to keep pressing.  And even better and heartening, the characters Bilqis, Honor, Araminta (Old Mother), Siti and many of the others talk to me everyday.  Loudly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the current outline, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the story of Honor exists as the second tale in the Hinterland Chronicles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the outlining phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nominated for a few blog awards, the last and most important of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This honor was conveyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grateful.  A complete post about is soon to come.

My greatest work for this coming year will be continued simplification.  In other words, weaning out the unnecessary to replace with what I value.  I value my relationship with God, my family, my writing, and my health.  So this coming year will include renewed efforts to create peace and productivity with regard to those things I deem as most important to me.  Why is life such hard work?  Forget I asked that.

What have you accomplished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your successes and failures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.