Tag Archives: Hugh Howey

More Wisdom of the Ages: Write the Damned Book

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Yes. Even Loki loves my work and want’s me to just get on with it. But here I am, stalled and unable to concentrate. because of things…strange, annoying things…. And what about this word? Is it even real?

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Never mind. I’ll just sit here and. sulk for a while. What is my purpose? Why do I do this?

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But I have a gift–a gift, I tell you!  Someday people will say “I knew that loser back when she had a job!”

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But no…I must hold fast to my dreams of someday selling vast quantities of kindle downloads! Someday I will sell more books than Hugh Howey. And he sold a bunch…so many that he scared the big publishers into acting like dumbasses…they showed up  at his house with pitchforks and Hachettes….

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Someday I will be more than just the crazy old lady locked in the office for everyone’s safety. Someday I will be famous for having written a fantasy series that rivals Tolkien…someday.

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Special thanks to Tumblr for providing me with all the diversions!

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To blurb or not to blurb

Blurb definitionOne of the things that sucks about being an indie is that you have to sell your books. I know that seems pretty obvious, but but it’s harder than it looks! In the old days, every book had a blurb on the back of it, or inside the flap on the dust jacket, and that blurb gave us just enough intriguing insight into the book that we bought it.

Here in the US, the word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess’s short 1906 book Are You a Bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual publishers’ trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work–they did things right in those days! His definition of “blurb” was “a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial.”

Blurbs can and do sell books.

wool by hugh howeyBut what will sell books? Let’s take a look at Wool, by Hugh Howey:

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

f scott fitzgerald The Great GatsbyOr F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic novel, The Great Gatsby:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

There are huge differences in these blurbs:

Hugh Howey (an indie) tells us about the plot of his book-and it is intriguing. I bought it based on that blurb.

(Charles Scribner’s Sons) (Fitzgerald’s original publisher) used the opening lines of the book–and that was intriguing as well.

Choosing to use the opening lines for marketing is dangerous–it could be an epic failure, for those who want to know what the book is about.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Even more dangerous than that is the increasing trend toward eliminating the blurb and going with nothing but recommendations mentioning other works by that author.  Let me just say now, I HATE THAT! For the love of Tolstoy–talk about the book I am going to buy, please! Any blurb, even a bad one, is better than glowing reviews by paid reviewers. 

But this trend just proves to me that the BIG PUBLISHERS are just as much as sea in the this regard as we poor indies are, small comfort though it is.

I will be writing blurbs for my own work again soon, and so I am looking at blurbs on the covers in my library, and trying to see what it was that attracted me to that particular book. I admit that many times it was the cover art, and not the blurb, but when I picked up a book by an author that was unknown to me, I read the blurb, and considered carefully whether or not to spend my dearly earned wages on that book. I was taking a risk–because what if I hated it?

It’s a conundrum.  Perhaps I can go with “One ring to rule them all…”

No… I suppose that’s been done…but it’s an awesome blurb, short and to the point….

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The other side of the coin

Water_for_elephantsWriting is about so much more than merely laying words down on a page.   Most people can do that, and can even whack out a creditable paragraph or two. But sustaining the momentum and carrying that vision through an entire novel is quite another thing.

I’ve read several disparaging blogposts where the authors have expressed their scorn and disdain of Nation Novel Writing Month, and that is fine, if it makes them feel noble and slightly more pure than the rest of us mundane hacks. But they are overlooking one important notion, and that is that to write a novel one must start a novel. If it takes a special month of writing and a group frenzy to get some people fired up about an idea they’ve had rolling around in their heads, who am I to complain?  I am a reader as much as I am an author, and I say the more the merrier!

Take a look at some of the most well-known NaNo Novels of all time:

the night circus by erin morgensternWater for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. On the best-seller lists for over a year, turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, started as a NaNo novel.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. What eventually became The Night Circus began life in 2004, seven years before it was finally published, started as a NaNo novel.

Wool, by Hugh Howey. Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel is one of those credited with putting self-publishing on the map, started as a NaNo novel.

So don’t give me any of your “poo-poo on the contest” crap. Whatever gets a writer fired up and writing is fine by me!

I think the notion that anyone with an idea can sit down and write a book in 30 days bothers some authors, as they feel rather threatened by the number of books being published post NaNoWriMo.  Fear and Loathing, we call that in the industry. It’s irrational, but then no one ever accused authors of being rational!

WoolMost people who begin a novel in November do not reach their goal of 50,000 words. They do not have the discipline to sit down every day and dedicate a portion of their time to this project. And some people just are not good writers. But so what? The cream always rises to the top, my grandma used to say.

Because of NaNoWriMo, thousands of people are now embarking on learning a craft, committing their time and resources to educating themselves about how to write a novel that others will want to read. Several years  down the road, who knows what wonderful works of fiction will have emerged from this year’s madness?

I only know that I am always looking for a good book, and so I will be first in line, hoping to be blown away by a fresh, new work of art.

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Analog, I revile thee, or how The Martian redeemed my faith in science fiction

The MArtian Andy WeirI’m a book addict. Each time I crack open a book, whether in hard copy or on my Kindle, I’m hoping to be blown away by the imagery the author presents, hoping for that amazing high that comes from living a true classic. Lately I have been reading wide of my usual slot, not abandoning fantasy, but going back and seeing what I loved the most about the genre that was my first introduction to reading for pleasure. I recently had the experience of being completely and utterly blown away by a science fiction novel, The Martian, by Andy Weir.

It’s one of the best science fiction stories to come out of the last 20 years.  A real adventure story from the get-go, this story of an astronaut inadvertently left behind is gripping from page one. As a main character, Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative.

A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission.  During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief-stricken at his sudden death. THIS is an awesome, gripping, and hilarious story.

300px-Astound5006I’ve been a subscriber to a well-known science fiction magazine, Analog,  for many years. I am actually considering letting my subscription lapse, because for the last five years or so I have struggled to find something enjoyable in their magazine.  I no longer enjoy the work they are publishing and they no longer seem to care. While there are occasional nuggets, the majority of work they publish is frequently harsh, lifeless, depressing, and incomprehensible. The fact is, perhaps they have forgotten what real science fiction is about, what the average reader wants. Perhaps I am no longer smart enough for their publication–and I hate paying to be sneered at.

Despite the efforts of the publishing community, the genre of science fiction is not dead. Andy Weir ‘s brilliant work on The Martian proves that there are writers out there with exactly the sort of stories I am looking for.  And guess what–he published it in 2012 AS AN INDIE.  This is a really telling thing, that the watershed books are no longer being put out there by the Big Six, until they have proven their worth in the Indie market. Hugh Howey, A.G.Riddle, Rachel Thompson–INDIES, all of them.

In my sci-fi, I want human frailties, drama, adventure, intense life and survival against great odds, set against a backdrop of understandable and realistic science.

I want a Space Opera.  Andy Weir gave that to me.

It is that high drama that made the Star Trek empire what it is. High drama set in exotic places made George Lucas’s Star Wars series of movies the poster child for space operas. Those two series translated the intensity of feeling that the great authors of science fiction all brought to their work.

Over the years, I have written many short space operas for my own consumption. However, this fall I am embarking on the real test–putting my writing skill where my mouth is.  It just so happens that off and on for the last  3 years, I’ve been outlining a science fiction story.  Originally, I began this project  in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2013, but this will be the year to implement it, so in November this will be my work.

As a devoted fangirl of many well-known physicists, I’ve been doing  research for the last three years, and feel sure my science will hold up, which, in sci-fi, is key to the longevity of a tale. I have great characters, and a really plausible plot. I just have to spend 30 days stream-of-conscious writing to the prompts I have set forth and…well, that is the trick, isn’t it? But even if I fail to write anything worth publishing, I will have had a good time, and that is what this gig is all about: enjoying the ride.

 

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The Bitter Pill

Advanced Notice from Amazon re Merceds Lackey's new bookOne of the most confusing things about being an indie author is pricing your book. Quite honestly, if you price it too high–I probably won’t buy it unless you are my dear friend (don’t worry Tad Williams, I will sell my car to get your next book.)

For me, anything over $4.99 is too high, and $2.99 is the perfect spot. I love those $0.99 books too!

I am sorry, Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory–your publisher has priced you out of the ballpark for me–I read four to six books each week and will not be able to pre-order The House of Four Winds for my Kindle. In fact, at that price, I will have to wait until the paperback turns up at my local second-hand book store.

Don ValienteIn a recent post discussing Hugh Howey‘s report, Author Earnings: the Report, on her excellent blog, The Militant Writer, Mary Walters  boiled it down to manageable chunks and made a great many good points. One in particular is of great interest to those of us trying to choose a publishing path, and who may be wavering between going indie, or remaining on a traditional path. She writes:

  • Readers are not buying traditionally published e-books as frequently as they are indie published e-books, because indie-published books cost less. Therefore, traditionally published authors are getting read less often, and are making less money per book sold than indie authors are.

This is important news for traditionally published authors.

It is also important news for major publishers, who are going to lose their authors if they don’t smarten up.

We won’t go into the impact all this is having on good literature, but Howey believes that the data suggests that “even stellar manuscripts are better off self-published.”

Speaking as an author this is sad, because I am like everyone who writes a book, secretly hoping to get picked up by a big publisher. On so many levels that would be a great honor, to have my work recognized by an industry I have always respected. But when I look at this conundrum as a reasonable human being, no one wants to be tied the wheel and sold into eternal serfdom for the rest of their writing career. No one wants to be forced to write stale sequel after sequel, just because the first book rocked and now the series brand is a guaranteed sale for the publisher. Where is the joy of creativity in that?

wool by hugh howeyThis is where each author must make a key decision regarding what we will commit our energy to: Will we court the favor of an industry that has much to offer us, but expects to be paid in more than their pound of flesh? Or will we soldier on, trying to find that sweet-spot that Hugh Howey has found, and perhaps hit the big time through our own efforts?

I choose to follow in Mr. Howey’s footsteps. I haven’t been that successful yet, but what I earn is mine. I am the captain of my ship, and if I fail to navigate the shark-infested waters of publishing, at least I have given it my best effort. I will continue to price my books as reasonably as I can, and hope that with persistent efforts on my part, their sales will gain ground.

The harsh truth is that the big publishers are rushing to publish manuscripts by big name authors that are just as poorly edited and just as abysmally plotted as those in the $0.99 bin at Amazon.com. How many paperbacks have you bought, gotten halfway through them, and said, “This is s**t!”… ?

I would rather pay less than $12.99 for that privilege, thank you.

George R.R.Martin formatting issue 3 via book blog page views, margaret ebyI find that traditionally published books are fraught with problems just as frequently as not, and it pisses me off, because the big publishers LOUDLY proclaim their quality is superior, when time has proven it is not necessarily so. This is why I go to the secondhand bookstore for the traditionally published books, and haunt the Kindle store, looking  for the indies.

There is gold out there in those inexpensive Kindle books, and I am vindicated every time I read a true gem.  This is why I blog about the books I love on my Best in Fantasy blog–an attempt to bring attention to the many amazing books that entertain me.

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