interview · Pay It Forward · Writing

The Awkward Truth of Being A Writer #3

* I read way more books in a year than I actually sell.
* I review more books in a month than I receive new reviews for all my books combined, for a whole year.
 
Why is that okay? Because I care. Not about sales or reviews, but about the rare moment a reader contacts me privately to say they loved my story. I care more about the rare review that comes from the heart, rather than the automated book blog review that relives the blurb in their own words, then says two sentences about my actual story.
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* I stopped running giveaways, sales and events every chance I got.
* I stopped sending my books to book blogs.
 
Why is that okay? Because I care more about honest, real reviews by readers, than the 100+ reviews that book blogs have never followed through on, since I began publishing in Dec 2013. I would rather gift books directly to readers who are genuinely interested in my work – even if they never review it – than offer up another copy to a book blog that won’t do what they say they will.
 
Book blogs that take books, but don’t do anything with them will never gain exposure for that book. But a single reader, who enjoyed the book and tells their friends about it, even if they never review it, can do more for that book than a thousand book blogs. Even when book blogs do follow through, sales don’t go up. Your book gets added to a long TBR list or Wish List on some site somewhere and never gets read. Or they buy it, but it takes then 3 years to get round to reading it, because they’ve forgotten why they were interested in the first place. To me, book blogs are impersonal. What matters is that personal touch, where author and reader connect. That PM on Facebook, where we talk about sending the book and somehow end up talking about something else entirely, or the comment on a post that becomes a long, drawn out conversation where the reader sees me as a real person behind the screen.
 
Giveaways, sales and events became impersonal. I was running myself crazy stupid for 2-3 hour slots of a day, just to keep up with comments, only to find that the same 5-6 people played every game and won every prize. It wasn’t fair on the shy people who attended, but weren’t sure about participating, because there weren’t a lot of people around. It wasn’t fair on me, who often spent more than the prizes were worth three times over, just to send a package to a reader halfway around the world who never let me know it arrived. It wasn’t fair to those who were genuinely there to learn about me and my books, only for someone to win that entered every single book event and every single giveaway, hoping to get a gallon of prizes from all of them, but still complained about never winning what they *really* wanted. I also got a little sick of the self-depreciating comments, the begging and the “woe-is-me”, “I never win anything” comments that spoke of desperation and emotional blackmail.
So I stopped.
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* It takes me longer to edit a book than to write it.
* I still get reviews that focus entirely on the grammar and not on the story.
Why is that okay? Because I’m still learning. When someone points out a flaw in my story, I’m happy to do what I can to fix it. If someone gets personal about something in my story, I try not to take it to heart and move on. There’s nothing I can do about it. But when my grammar is criticised, it hurts more. Because I edit all my books at least 10 times, before they go to the editor. I know I have issues with spelling and grammar – I have difficulties articulating myself, which is why I edit so much, but I also have issues with commas and with my grammar. Most of it stems from the fact that I can’t remember most of what I learned before 2003. Most of it will never come back, so I’m slowly trying to re-educate myself about grammar, even though it takes 3 times as long as it should. But that’s okay, because I know I’m trying my hardest. And, in the end, I can only get better.
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* I believe in trigger warnings.
* I’m happy to ruin a plot surprise, if it helps a reader.
Why is that okay? Because I believe in arming my readers before they go into battle. I believe that advanced warning is critical for certain story arc’s, though I don’t often tackle the super serious issues. I’m hyper emotional, so I tend not to do well with that kind of writing. But when the story demands it, I believe in handing each reader the tools they need to navigate from Once Upon A Time to The End, without losing the battle halfway.
I want to know when I open a book that I’m going to be safe. That I’m not going to read something that will make me shiver, shake and feel sick. So I think my readers deserve the same. I’ve read far too many books that didn’t have appropriate warnings about content. So many that, had I known what they contained, I wouldn’t have offered to read. And, without offering to read them, I wouldn’t have downgraded my review because they hadn’t appropriately prepared me for what I was about to read. And I will do this. If there is some serious stuff in there, and I’m not warned – it just hits me, like WHAM! – then I’m docking stars and I’m going to be an angry reader.
Angry readers are bad. I don’t want angry readers.
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* Writing is a journey.
* We all choose our own path.
Why is this okay? Because no two writers are the same. No two of us think alike, which is how we have so many awesome books, genres and stories to tell. Because of that, no two of us will always agree on the same subject. Some of you are probably reading this, shaking your heads, thinking I’m crazy or wondering what the heck I was thinking writing this. I was thinking this – we’re all different. We’re all wonderful. We’re all important.
No matter what story we tell, how we tell it or what path we choose for ourselves, as long as we respect ourselves, our readers and the precious words that keep us bound to each other, we’ll be just fine. We are all special and we all have a place in this crazy publishing world.
You might not agree with everything I’ve said here, but I bet you agree with that last part, right?
~
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