3 and half days without a cigarette and I’m still alive. It’s hard work but I’m determined to be disciplined.
Making a living is hard these days, no matter what business you’re in. Books are a luxury item and as an author, making sales has become difficult, and many are resorting to all sorts of techniques in order to gain some visibility. Those with money to splash around or working spouses to sting for money, can pay for online advertising. The best known (which I won’t name as I don’t owe them any free advertising) is a site where you pay for them to add your name to their mailing list. For those willing to spend a lot of money, this can create a spike in sales for a day or two.
This particular site charges a lot of money for the honour of being included in its list, and it requires that your book already has a lot of glowing reviews, or you get turned down flat. Seems funny to demand that so many reviews be already in place, as I would think that if you had that many reviews already, you’d be less likely to need help getting visibility. Ho hum, I guess I’m missing the point.
I can’t afford this site’s services, and don’t have the required truck-load of reviews anyway, so it’s off my radar. I have to rely on ways to advertise for free, which tend not to have the same punch as paid for services. It’s a vicious circle, if I could make more sales, I’d have more money to spend on better advertising, but in order to make more sales, I need better advertising.
I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve set my books as free at Smashwords, but as people never buy at Smashwords, no one downloaded them. I can’t have them free at Amazon, because I’m in the UK, so they can’t be less than 99 cents there, where everyone buys their books. American authors can list their books free there, and because so many are doing so, people get them and ignore mine.
People want everything given to them free these days. Once, when I had advertised one of my books that I had just published, one gal posted “Let me know when you’re giving it away free, and I’ll download it.” But when I did put them all as free, no fucker downloaded. Make your damn minds up!
I find people are always encouraging, but won’t actually say they hate my books. I’ve had people tell me they can’t afford to buy books, then they post in groups about how much they’re enjoying this or that book, and when I look for it on Amazon, it’s not free. I’ve had people say “oh I don’t like sci fi,” then they post a status about some book or author they like, and it’s hard core sci fi. Then there’s the “I have so many books to read, I can’t add any more yet,” and then their next post is about another book they’ve bought.
I don’t know what the answer is. Well actually I know exactly what the answer is. It’s money, and lots of it. Get a truck load of money and pay a marketing firm a fortune to promote for you, then sit back with your coffee and wait for the tidal wave of adulation to hit. Until I have the means to go down that route, I’m stuck with books I can’t even give away for free, to people who won’t admit they hate me/my work/everything I stand for/the colour of my hair/my choice in footwear/whatever else.
People don’t hate sci fi, people love sci fi. All of the most successful movies are sci fi and many of the most successful books are sci fi/fantasy. There are huge fandoms dedicated to Star Trek, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Harry Potter etc, all sci fi/fantasy.
No one likes to be told that their work is shit, it’s a blow to the ego. In a way though, I’d prefer it if people were honest. At least if I knew why they hate it, I’d have a chance of changing something. I admit, I haven’t the first clue how to beat this or proceed.
Well done to those who have the money and friends to create a huge spike in sales for a day or a week. Remember though, that this kind of quick sudden spike in sales isn’t the kind of presence or visibility that lasts for years. Making 20k downloads in one day due to paying hundreds of dollars for a slot in an advertising site’s email list, will bring you a bonus that month, but five years later, no one will remember, or give a shit, who you are or what you did. People might still know who I am in five years, even if it’s of the “oh she’s that woman who writes shit sci fi,” variety.
I’m glad I decided a little while ago, to slow down my attempts at marketing/promotion. The constant work and ensuing disappointment creates emotions I don’t like feeling all the time. Without the stress of wondering whether this book will be the one that becomes popular at last, I can just write what comes and be creative in the way that feels most natural, instead of changing things to try (and fail) to make them saleable. My local library lets me give them paperbacks, so I can continue to do that. I also have the knowledge that well known and well respected places like The British Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford University Library and Cambridge University Library, all have copies of my books. Not because I asked them to take them, but because they asked me for them. How many of the “look at me aren’t I successful” party on facebook can say that?
I stop, halt my tread upon the path.
Take a breath and look around.
I watch your back as you disappear ahead,
flying over the rock strewn path that tears at my ankles as I try to follow.
I know I can’t keep up,
I shouldn’t even be here trying to find you.
I was never meant to be here
but I saw you, wanted you, tried to follow.
A mistake that must be rectified
by painful choices and halted steps.
By stopping on the path, sitting down and breathing
while you fly ahead and out of sight.
I sit on the path and look around
at grey skies and rain that soak my skin.
The sun shines not upon the trespasser.
No blossom to sweeten the air, nor multi coloured butterflies alight upon my finger.
So where does this now rain soaked climber go?
Not onwards, for you are far away by now
with those whose rightful place is here upon your path.
There is no fabled crossroads, offering choices to the weary traveller.
Just this rocky path on which I trespass but can’t continue.
I could descend, retrace my steps and hope to find a turn.
A rutted lane, overgrown and mouldy, but nonetheless my own.
For now I will just sit and feel the rain and watch the grey.
I wanted this path, just this one, and am not yet ready to find another.
I must sit and ponder what was lost, no, never even caught, just chased.
I watch your back, you that was never meant for me, as you fly on out of sight.
Watching you leave without a backward glance, yet I cannot tear my eyes away.
I’m once again enrolling my books for Smashwords’ Read an Ebook Week. Between 2nd to 8th March, you can get all my books at 50% off using the following links and discount codes.
Please note, The Lilean Chronicles: Book One ~ Redemption, is permanently free at Smashwords.
To purchase any of The Lilean Chronicles at 50% off, use this link. These are the discount codes you will need.
Book Two ~ The Sleeping – TK67R
Book Three ~ Changing Faces – NC58L
Book Four ~ Avalanche Effect – MF72G
To purchase either of The Sinclair V-Logs at 50% off, use this link. These are the discount codes you will need.
Floxham Island – GR34C
Bygora Vandos - NY85N
To purchase Acts of Life at 50% off, use this link and discount code RB24K
To purchase Delectus Morbidium at 50% off, use this link and discount code HS66M
I hope you enjoy Read an Ebook Week. Once you have enjoyed your new ebooks, please take a few moments to leave a review at Amazon.
I just found a fun thing on the internet. If you go here, you can name a crater on Mars. I named one in honour of Vincent Domenico, star of The Lilean Chronicles, and another in honour of Sam Sinclair, star of The Sinclair V-Logs. This is most likely not official, but it’s fun.
For a while now, there has been a new topic of discussion amongst some female authors – sexism in science fiction. If you’re a woman, and you write science fiction, you are far less likely to be reviewed or taken seriously, and the whole science fiction arena continues to be dominated by men, men who don’t seem to welcome their female counterparts into the genre. Why should this be?
The first time this subject came to my attention was when I read this post by Ann Aguirre. In it, she tells of her treatment at the hands of male sci fi authors at the SFF Fandom in 2008. It’s shocking reading, and not just because I’m a woman, and not because I’m also a sci fi author, but because I’m a human being doing something I love to do, and which I’m pretty good at. What has my genitalia got to do with it?
Take a few minutes to google, and you can find countless articles about this problem of sexism in sci fi. Here is one by the Guardian, here’s another by The Wire, and here’s another by Slate.com, and there are many more. It seems that men in sci fi think us gals will sully ‘their’ genre by bringing romance into it, and that we should stick to the romance genre. Tsk tsk gentlemen, don’t you realise that without romance, you and your dinosaur chums wouldn’t exist?
It’s not that male sci fi writers keep their books full of action and derring-do, far from it. Take a look at a few sci fi novels written by men and you will often see scantily clad women on the covers, scantily clad women characters and quite a bit of sex in the stratosphere going on. These narrow minded male writers are happy for these almost-naked-but-not-quite characters to appear in their books, but they tend to be of lower ranks in the pecking order, and often spend their off time bedding (or trying to bed) the hero. The male characters spend quite a bit of time having sex or trying to have sex with female characters, but seldom do these books contain strong female lead characters who don’t wear skimpy bikinis while fighting creatures, and seldom do they not hop into bed with anything with a Y chromosome at the drop of a hat. For these male writers, sex is fine, but romance is out of order. They seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that woman can’t write anything without romance being an integral part. I have a sci fi series called The Sinclair V-Logs, which stars a freelance law enforcer and I can assure all those male dinosaurs out there, that there is no romance whatsoever, nor will there be. Sam Sinclair’s adventures concentrate on his experiences as a law enforcer, not any romance he might have encountered. I refuse to believe I’m the only woman who can write without including romance into a story.
The old boy’s network is trying its best to exclude women from the genre, by disrespecting us and our work, by behaving in the most shocking ways to us in front of sci fi fans, and by generally behaving like rather badly educated neanderthals. Women are beginning to hit back, some by adopting genderless pen names and others by being nominated for prestigious awards. This year’s Nebula Award nominee list shows a refreshing number of women. This is wonderful news, and a real step forwards for us women science fiction authors.
As a female science fiction writer myself, I find it hard enough to garner interest for my work, as sci fi doesn’t seem to attract the same interest as other genres, without sexism coming into it. I must admit, I have toyed with the idea of adopting a genderless pen name, but I’ve resisted so far. Let’s hope that the Nebula award winners turn out to be all women. That will deal a mighty blow for the old boy’s sci fi network, won’t it girls?
All authors know how frustratingly difficult it is to get genuine reviews that you don’t have to pay for, and which don’t involve family or friends doing you a favour. I’m talking about genuine reviews from genuine readers here. Ever since I published my first novel, I’ve wondered why readers don’t leave reviews, so yesterday I decided to ask them.
In my totally unofficial poll on facebook, the answers I received were as follows:
I only review if I like the book. I only review indie/self published books. I only review if no other reviews say what I want to say. I didn’t realise you could. I can’t be bothered. I do.
The first two of these are fine, I’ve no problems with these at all. My problem is that if these are true of all readers, then 99% of the people who have read my books, hated them and/or did not realise I self published them.
The third is very odd to me. Why decide not to review just because someone else thought the same as you? Surely a product (whatever it is) with multiple reviews saying similar things, would help you to decide whether to buy? If ten reviews all say they love the book, then other potential readers would be more likely to buy? Or am I missing something relevant here?
I’m totally surprised to find someone did not realise you could leave a review. There can’t be many people who don’t buy things on Amazon and other internet sites, and everyone (but everyone) knows Amazon is full of reviews. If this answer was genuine, then I’m shocked.
The “I can’t be bothered” answer is, well, um, sigh…! Sometimes, just occasionally, say for instance, when I read that people just can’t be bothered to leave reviews, I fail to find a reason to have much respect for people. I do however, think this is the actual reason why 99% of people don’t review.
The last answer, the “I do” answer made me laugh, and I’ll tell you why. The person who said this, told me some time ago that they bought at least a couple of my books. They never reviewed them. So, they either haven’t read them yet, or they didn’t buy them at all. Someone just sharted in public I think..!
So what does this teach us as writers? It teaches us that people just can’t be bothered to review, unless they are book reviewers or other authors. Despite most people saying they do read the reviews when deciding whether to purchase an item, they can’t be bothered to leave one themselves. This doesn’t help us as authors, and there is obviously nothing we can do to encourage people to leave a review, when they just can’t be bothered.
At least we know that there is no need for us to blame our lack of reviews on the quality (or lack thereof) of our work.
People often ask me, “where do you get your ideas?” My answer is always the same, “they just seem to drop in on their own.” I know that’s not a very helpful answer, but it’s the truth, and I always tend to think of the ideas as coming from somewhere outside of me. Whether it’s just creative energy floating around in the ether that just happens to land on my brain cells, or whether it’s being fed to me by the spirits of dead writers, or even if it escaping from another dimension that just happens to have strayed too close to this one, I don’t really care.
Many creative people talk about their muse as if it’s a person, and I’m the same. Mine feels like a male, but maybe that’s because I’m a female and subconsciously, I know I need the male energy to complete me. He doesn’t have a name and I haven’t given him one, but I do believe in him as male. He’s fairly easy going most of the time, but he can crack the whip when he feels the need. When he does, he’s persistent and won’t accept being ignored.
His method is subtle though. If I’m ignoring him, he will bombard my brain with ideas, or a single idea, and no matter what I try to do, it won’t go away. If I have a certain direction in which I want to take my story, and that doesn’t match his plan, it’s his way or the highway. I can be typing away quite happily, then suddenly find myself typing stuff I had no intention of typing, with no idea where the idea for those words came from, and it’s usually the polar opposite of what I wanted to do. I’ve come to realise that he knows best, so I always give in and let him have his way. If I’ve been resisting his push for a while, when I do finally give in and write, the story usually pours out like a tidal wave.
I decided a little while ago, to write some more short stories for another anthology, this time paranormal based rather than straight up horror. I had a couple done, and had an idea for a third that kept banging away inside my head for ages. When I finally sat down to write what I thought was going to be a short story of no more than 4k words, it quickly became obvious that His Lordship had other ideas. He wants this to be a book, maybe a novella, but certainly NOT a short story, perish the thought.
This sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love that the creative force is so strong and active and tangible for me, and I feel sorry for those who don’t feel that way. I don’t know how I could advise those folks.
So who is really in charge? The answer for me is two fold; either the writer takes charge and ignores the muse, or the writer listens to the muse and let’s them direct the story. My personality is one that needs strong leadership and an active ‘hands on’ approach. I need firm but constantly encouraging guidance. I’m one of those types who would thrive in the gym if I had a personal trainer yelling at me all the time. Sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself, so a strong push from outside of myself is what works for me.
I’m happy to let my muse be in control. I trust him completely and never argue, it’s pointless to try anyway. I always say that I don’t actually write my stories, my characters write them, and I just take dictation. I find the whole subject of the muse, fascinating, and would love to know what your experience of it is.
I’m delighted to see a few folks finding their way here and following the blog, welcome all of you. My dashboard isn’t giving me an option to follow back on many of the latest followers, so don’t think I’m being stand offish. I don’t do the ‘email for updates’ thing because I already get a ton of emails daily, most of which are spam, and try to avoid adding to the load.