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.

Character Traits

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How to Care for Introverts:  Wise WordsWhat is your favorite characters personality type?

If you are a writer, how do you decide what your protagonist’s personality will be?

I recently started giving this deeper thought after watching Pitch Black for the millionth time.  I love that movie because of the titular character, Riddick. My favorite characters tend to be similar; taciturn, introverted, cunning, decided, and functioning by a moral compass of their own making. Riddick definitely possess all of those traits.

I considered Riddick’s personality traits and I tried to determine what his personality would be based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  The best I could come up with was ISTP (introversion, sensing, thinking, perception) because he is not a people person, he uses his senses to gather information and understand the world around him, hence the silver eyes that help him see in the dark, he acts based on what he thinks is right as opposed to his feelings, and he keeps his options open, usually for the swift get away.  Based on the old D&D alignment trait system, I believe that Riddick is chaotic neutral.

Chaotic neutral characters are wild, unpredictable and often follow their own personal code without a care for others – they are often selfish and the only thing predictable about them is their unpredictable natures. This is the alignment of rogues, anti-heroes, the mad (when not chaotic evil) as well as characters who do not follow normal ethical codes but do not actively seek to destroy the natural order either (as a chaotic evil character would).

Yup. Sounds like Riddick to me.

This got me thinking about the main character of my WIP, The Hinterland Chronicles. Dr. Bilqis Haq is a law abiding citizen. She wants to keep the peace, and although spiritually conflicted she is willing to do anything, including stuffing her feelings and beliefs, to bring such peace to fruition. She is what I like to term a sheeple. In other words, she is a follower and is never a willing leader. By the end of my WIP, life will change drastically for my poor little protagonist. The calm she wishes to maintain will be challenged. She will be forced to choose sides, neither of which is optimal. There will be no good choices and she will not have the option of hanging back and letting someone else do the choosing.

In the process, her personality will eventually change. She will cease to be lawful good. She will become chaotic good or perhaps, if pushed chaotic neutral. Watching Bilqis make the change will be exciting.

I decided to take the Alignment Test myself, just to see where I fall on the spectrum. I was not surprised to learn that, like Riddick I am chaotic neutral. I knew I’d be chaotic neutral because of ,my willingness to challenge tradition, my unwillingness to follow societal normative behaviors without first questioning their usefulness, and my willingness to break the rules if they do not make sense to me.

My Myers Briggs personality isINTP along with Marie Curie, Jung, Einstein, Data and Seven of Nine (Star Trek), Sherlock Holmes, and Albus Dumbledore.

What alignment trait is your favorite character? What alignment trait are you? What are your Myers-Briggs characteristics?

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?