A “Friendly” Undeserved Rating

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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

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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

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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.