Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Excerpt from one of my next works, Black Lake.

So, with all the focus on promoting my debut novel and the business of writing, it has been a little while since I touched upon anything horror on here. Even longer since I gifted my readers with a writing sample. I figured I would kill two birds with one stone with an extra blog post. So, without further ado, a sample from one of my next works: Black Lake (Title subject to change.) 

                Dylan Walker sat quietly in his small rowboat, the cutting board balanced precariously across his knees as he sliced the bass into chunks. The blood ran off the board and down his leg, staining the jeans and making his nose wrinkle with the smell, feeling, and the knowledge of the stern talking to he was going to get from Sara when he got home. One piece of fish slipped between his fingers, the edge of the old knife digging into his thumb and drawing blood from a fresh source. He paused, sticking the hurt appendage in his mouth and sucking on it. His tongue ran along the cut, testing the pain and the depth of the wound. It wasn't bad, but he had nothing to cover it with him in the boat. He sucked on it again, swallowing back the miniscule amount of blood that he got before packing the cut with saliva. It would still probably bleed out a little, but in his mind, having his own spit in there was better than anything he could pick up from the fish. He held the finger up in the moonlight and sighed a little.
                The moon was full, casting the lake in a soft, blue light. It was like a painting. Trees overhung the sides of the lake all the way around, protecting it from most of the attentions of tourists and people from nearby towns. The water was like a plate of glass except for the ripples his small boat made as it lightly bobbed. The water almost seemed to glow under the light. A more secluded lake, Dylan doubted there was in the entire United States.
                He finished cutting up the fish and slid the pieces off the cutting board and into the water. Then he laid back for a moment. His head leaning back until it touched the bottom of the boat. He imagined he could hear the movement through the water underneath him as the pieces of fish were snatched as they drifted down into the depths. There were no fish in the lake at all, the only wildlife consisting of frogs, salamanders, birds and the occasional amphibious mammal which happened to stumble upon it.
                It had only been last summer, a trio of pre-teens from one of the nearby towns had been chased off by a beaver. The kids hadn't known how lucky they were. The beaver disappeared not long after that.
                Dylan sat up, grabbing the oars and sliding them into place as he headed back home. The way was illuminated by the light of the moon, gently caressing everything it touched with a softness that was rare for the small lake. His hands gripped the wood of the oars, feeling the rough wood underneath his palms as he rowed. He had lived on the lake for almost twenty years now, and had only been chosen for this duty four times before. The duty lasted for a month per person at a time, but the ritual was over a hundred years old. At one point it was suggested that it had even started with the native americans who had lived on the lake before the europeans had arrived. There was no evidence that the native americans had ever lived in the area, though.
                He made his way towards the large dead oak tree which Dylan used as the marker for his property. The creak of the oars in their locks was the only sound on the water. He paused and looked out across the lake again, watching for the glass to be broken and the illusion of peace to melt away. There wasn't even a soft breeze, convincing the spring leaves to wave lightly to him. Dylan hadn't seen it himself, but there were certain facets of the lake which made its presence obvious to him. One of those facets was present tonight as he watched, holding his breath, the only movement from one end of the lake to the other being the slow dragging of his eyes, back and forth. The absolute silence.
                Dylan had worked as a fisherman for most of his life, taking trips up to Alaska and back twice a year. Things could get pretty hectic on the boats, but one thing he had learned over the years, was that nature abhorred a vacuum. Silence was the ultimate vacuum, and nature had always seemed to abhor it more than any other. No matter where he was or what was going on, he had never experienced a perfect silence as the one which existed on this lake.
                After a few minutes, Dylan gave up waiting for something besides him to move and returned to rowing, ducking his head under the branches of a willow and feeling the boat strike the edge of the lake with a soft finality. The chore for the night was finished. He stood up, took a few careful steps through the boat and made the short hop onto the dirt. He turned and reached out, grabbing the boat to pull it up out of the water.
                The soft earth under his foot gave way, dropping his shoe partially into the water which lapped at the edge of the lake. He inhaled sharply, the whites of his eyes expanding as they shot open and he fell back onto the ground, scrambling to get out of the water. A hundred feet away he finally stopped, surrounded by soft grass in the pale moonlight. His pulse raced and his breath came in short, quick gasps. He scanned the water and the bank frantically, watching for any sign of movement. Nothing happened. The boat continued to bob lightly at the edge of the bank. He lay there for several minutes, waiting, watching. Slowly, his pulse slowed and he allowed himself a single, deep breath of relief.
                The boat would wait until morning.
                He pushed himself to his feet and slowly backed the rest of the two-hundred feet to his back porch, not turning around until he felt the wood under his shoes. Even then, he glanced back over his shoulder as he opened first the screen door then the solid oak shield which served as the barrier to inside. A shiver ran through him as he looked at the silence. The perfectly level piece of glass which reflected the moon's soft light.
                Dylan stepped across the threshold, shutting the screen door and twisting the lock into place. Then there was the true door, which finally blocked his view of the lake through the branches of the trees which lined his properties bank. The deadbolt clicked into place, followed by the soft jingle of a chain lock. A breath escaped him as he closed his eyes, another shiver rushing through him, as if the cold of the water which had splashed against his shoe was an infection, racing through his system.
                He shook it off, looking around inside the kitchen. The light was on, but it seemed to be the only one. Sara must have gone on to bed. She had left a change of clothes sitting in his chair at the kitchen table, though. He smiled, the love for his wife of twelve years, pushing away the cold fear which had been threatening to grip him by the throat. He slipped off his bloody jeans, folding them carefully so as not to get the fish blood on anything else before setting them aside so he could pull on the pajamas that had been waiting.
                Slipping into the mudroom where the washer and dryer sat, he dumped his jeans in with a cup of soap and started it. It was wasting water to wash them by themselves, but it wasn't like they were watching every penny.  He paused in front of the mirror, inspecting his old but still muscular frame. His beard had long ago turned to grey, though he still managed to hold onto a few streaks of the cinnamon hair he had lived with most of his life. His hazel eyes reflected experience and a kind of gentle peace with the world, which was echoed by the lines and wrinkles in his face. He found it rather sad that his daughter hadn't seen fit to give him any grandchildren. He thought he would make a good grandpa. He shook his head to that thought. Kids would want to go swimming.
                He moved back into the house proper and down the hallway, a soft light greeting him as he rounded the corner to the bedroom and found Sara sitting up, reading. Her hair had been grey long before his, but she had spent years hiding that fact with professional coloring jobs. He wished she would do so again, he missed the look of the red hair, even though the spitfire personality had lost none of its bite from the passage of time. She smiled up at him over the rim of her glasses, green marbles which reflected none of Dylan's experience. Sara had spent the first half of her life as a trophy wife, until her husband had traded her in for a younger model. Dylan had picked her up and showed her what a real relationship was like and though she often reminded him how much better she'd had it in her previous marriage, she always told him she would never trade back for it. She was still a hell of a trophy to him, the best woman he had ever had.
                His smile faltered for only a second as he stepped into the doorway, but it wasn't beneath her notice.
                "What's wrong?"
                "My foot fell in the water."
                Her face turned to stone, her eyes locked on his and her mouth a line. She closed her book and took off her glasses, looking up at him from the bed.
                "Nothing. I didn't see anything. Nothing touched me. I made it up on the lawn and nothing followed."
                She looked him up and down, then nodded slowly. Her smile crept back into her face, as well as her complexion.
                "Then we don't have anything to worry about for tonight, I think," Sara said, "Yes. I think so."
                Dylan smiled, his shoulders slumping a little as he relaxed and moved up to the bed, slipping under the covers with his wife. Sara set her book and glasses  on the nightstand on her side of the bed before rolling over and cuddling up against his side, one arm draped across his chest as she leaned up and kissed him lightly. 
                Sara left her reading light on as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, embracing her husband. Dylan turned his reading lamp on as well and lay there for a while, wide awake. He listened to the night as the washer ran at the far end of the house, silence descending as it finished its cycle. The silence filled the house like a slowly creeping fog, moving up in layers from the floor.
                Dylan felt it suffocating him as he lay there, one arm around his wife as she slept soundly against him.  His ears strained until he thought they would bleed, searching for any sound at all in the small ranch house. He felt his body tensing up under the oppressive weight of the quiet, his breathing becoming shallow, as if the silence was stealing the oxygen from the air. His eyes flickered from one side of the room to the other, then back, then focusing on the open door which led to the rest of the house. He watched it intensely, waiting, listening, like a deer that knew it was being stalked. His free hand lifted and reached out slowly to the nightstand on his side of the bed, fingers blindly wandering over the base of the reading lamp until they found the form of his digital alarm clock. Fingertips counted over the buttons across the top, finally finding the one labeled "sleep" and pushing it down.
                Instantly, the room was filled with the soft noise of electric crickets chirping and singing to each other. In the blink of an eye, the silence was broken and the oppression lifted. Dylan felt a shiver of relief spread from deep in his chest and took a deep breath of the free air.
                Still, he sat awake for over an hour, the reading lamps still on by the time he drifted off to sleep.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Timing is Everything

So, last week, I went all out trying to garner promotional stuff and getting my book mentioned in as many places as possible. Today's post is going to be a somewhat boring re-hash of the efforts I made and the results of all that effort. So, here goes.

1. Crypticon Seattle. This is one of the things I wasn't supposed to talk about before it happened. Now it's over. The jist is this. I submitted a short story to the convention's writing contest and I managed to be a finalist. That meant my short story would be printed in the con's anthology and I would need to attend the convention to see whether I made it to any rank which would include prizes. I inquired of the people running the contest if people would be interested in having their books signed by the authors after the ceremony and I was told "Definitely". In no specific terms, I was told to be prepared to get mobbed. I accepted this and even ordered extra book cards to slip in for bookmarks to promote my book. None of that happened. My book was merely an honorable mention, there was no mob of people looking to get their anthology signed, and I didn't managed to hand out a single card the entire time I was there. I expected this to be a major point on my promotional list for the week and it was an absolute bomb. The anthology doesn't even mention if any of the authors in it have websites or anything. The only mention is their name underneath the title of their story. The judges are awarded more attention than that. It is another book with my name and work in it, but I don't expect to garner any real attention through it. Someone would have to REALLY like my story in order to set the book down and look me up through a search engine in order to find me. Disappointed isn't the word for my feeling about the whole ordeal.

2. I really don't have much to say here either. This one though is more of a balancing act, as opposed to a disappointment. The Wednesday before my free promotion, they send out their inquires and I received confirmation emails from over a dozen different website, many of which I didn't even know existed before. Being at the convention all of Saturday and recovering from the convention Sunday, though, meant that I didn't manage to check any of the sites to see if they decided to post my book. Reading through some of the confirmation emails. I know some of them simply dismissed my book as they have requirements of 4-star ratings or better on the books they advertise and some require much more lead-in time than they would have received. Still, I was impressed with the sheer number of sites they submitted my promotion to, and given a bit more lead-in time and a better-rating on my book, I would probably give them another chance.

3. Everything else pretty much went as expected. The podcast blurb was awesome, the interview was good (despite my name being misspelled in the title of her post.), and my advertising on Goodreads and Facebook garnered as much or more attention than I expected.

4. The free promotion itself. The main reason for all that work. To put it lightly, it bombed. Over a 48-hour period, I didn't even manage 100 free downloads of my book. Ouch, to say the least.

The question is, after all that work, getting my book mentioned on a real podcast, being thrown on a stage at a convention, getting the promotion submitted to dozens of sites whose sole purpose is advertising free books, posting several times over on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook, and even doing an author interview on another blog, where did things go wrong? What did I do, or not do?

One answer would be the rating of my book. It hasn't done well since its release and is currently sitting at an even 3-stars, with more 1-star reviews than any other kinds. There is really no question in my mind that its rating is hurting sales. To be perfectly honest, the rating being what it is, last week I considered just canceling everything and pulling the book to re-work it, as it obviously needs something. At the end of this month, I am sending it to another editor to get an opinion on it, we'll see what happens after that.

Timing. The timing was off. With all the work I was doing to promote my book, work on my next and everything else I've been doing, it completely slipped my mind that it was Memorial Day weekend. THE biggest weekend for people not to be home, on the computer, and reading. I can't believe of all things, I forgot that. Of course, if any other authors would like to weigh in with results from their free promotions over this long weekend, it would be nice to have something to compare to. I think this is the biggest reason the weekend didn't work out, though my book's current rating comes in a close second.

Lots of lessons learned over this past week, and hopefully mistakes I won't be repeating. Still, I got my name out there to a lot of people who probably wouldn't have heard it otherwise, I have another book with my name and work in it, and I did manage some downloads, so it's certainly not like the past week was wasted effort.

Still. Ugh.

~ Shaun

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Advertising Checklist

Whew, I've got so much going on with my book this week. It's a veritable checklist of ways to advertise your work, so, let us begin. (I also saw Star Trek: Into Darkness over the weekend. It was awesome.)

1. One of my friends runs the popular Air-Raid podcast  and he graced me with a shout-out this week. I encourage you all to check out his show and give it a listen. If you're a fan of music, he usually is interviewing up and coming bands. This week he talks to the band Stornoway from the UK. Great stuff. You can find him on iTunes and Stitcher or you can listen on or even on his own webpage .

2. I have two free days coming up for Kindle Select this weekend. Which means my book will be free to download on Kindle, Saturday, May 25th and Sunday, May 26th. I've had some pretty good results with Kindle Select in the past and I hope this weekend will be no exception. It'll also be the first time I've had two free days in a row.

3. I've made no secret that I blame at least some of my success as a writer so far on Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. The amount of insight to be gained from his blog on the business of being an author is just insane. In addition to that, down the right side of his blog, he lists ads for the people he uses for formatting, cover art, designers, and even book promoters. For my free days this weekend, I decided to give his promoters a try. It's not a free service, but for what they charge, they send out the information for your promotions all across the internet. Whether or not it works, we'll just have to see. In the meantime, I've received confirmation emails from over a dozen different websites to promote my free days on Kindle Select this weekend. So, fingers crossed.

4. Also going on this weekend is Crypticon Seattle. A horror convention in my local area that I plan on attending. I've ordered an extra hundred book cards to hand out as I walk around, and hopefully I'll get to partake in a few of the panels and things that are going on. I am definitely planning on getting a picture taken with Elvira. If you don't have any other plans for Memorial Day weekend, I'd suggest popping in to take a look around.

5. A little deeper into the week I'm planning on hitting the social media. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, are all going to see me post several times in several places about my free days on Kindle Select. All this is in addition to this blog post, which gets posted on each of those places plus my author page on Amazon. So if you didn't know about the promotion before you probably do now.

6. I have an interview I did for a fellow blogger, which should be going up sometime on Thursday. Hop on over and give it a read.

7. My book is also in the running for AmpersandH's Summer Reading List contest. Its already attracted some attention, but I'm a ways from making it to the finish line the way things are going. As I write this, I need about double the votes I currently have, but I'm nowhere near the bottom either and there's still two weeks before the final whistle is blown. If you want, feel free to pop in and give my book, The Unknown Neighbor a thumbs-up.

Whew. All that going on in one week. Outside of trying to get on a radio station or daytime talk show or something, I couldn't think of anything else I can do to get myself out there. The only other thing I can do is ask if you've read my book (and hopefully you liked it.) Drop onto Amazon and give your two cents. Ratings and reviews do their part to help push or restrict sales and the majority of people who have made themselves heard on Amazon seem to be on the team which found the story much too slow for their tastes.

That's it for today though. Check back next week, (or later this week, I may get bored and do another post) for something a bit more than my laundry list. And, GO SEE STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS!! Seriously. I just saw it Sunday and I want to go again.

~ Shaun

Monday, May 13, 2013

How not to be Professional

This is a topic I've touched on before, but apparently, not enough people got the memo.

If you want to be a popular, respectable author that makes a living off your work. PUT IN THE EFFORT!

I don't care if you're worried about your piece losing its voice. I don't care if your mother jumps up and down because she's happy you've managed to string five words together. I don't even care if you've been in a car accident and have brain damage. We have computers with spell and grammar checks. There are people out there who make a living as editors and proofreaders. There is NO excuse not to use either of them.

Self-publishing is still in its infancy, but it is growing up quickly. Even established, traditional authors are starting to move over to it. Still, it carries a stigma that the majority of self-published works are sub-par and poorly written. And it's all thanks to people like this.

"I don't use any programs other than spell check lets face it I still type with two fingers. I don't let anyone edit my stories because I believe it is important to not let some program create a style or input any content. when you read my stories you can be certain they came from my heart not some program or editor .so the mistakes are mine and I may not write in a predesigned format but you will be able to appreciate the story you read is my story."

I pulled that right off a guy's bio on Amazon.

In case you didn't notice, I would like to point out the above block of text has not been touched up. There are no comma's, no capitalization, and the very idea the paragraph conveys is ludicrous. I have glanced through some of his book and it is written in exactly the same way.

Here's a sample from another published book on Amazon.

"I Once dated this girl named Donna. That I met off an 800 chat line! We chatted on and off for a few days. She seemed to be idea woman for me. So I gave her a chance. We decided to meet up at a local mall. I was nervous about meeting her. I hadn’t been with nobody in over a year. On the phone she seemed to be intelligent and down to earth. But little did I know this would turn out to be the worst date or dates. ( Yes there were more than one.) And I can explain as follows."

COME ON!! It's no wonder people think self-published books are trash. 

If we want to be taken seriously as authors when we self-publish, we need to put our best foot out there. That means editing, proof-reading, and cover art to the best we can afford. As I have said before, we don't get any slack for being self-published, nor do we deserve it. It is up to us to prove we can put out work every bit as good or better than the big traditional publishing companies. 

Seriously, we can do better than this.

Really. I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams here. I'm saying we can do better. We should do better. We NEED to do better. It is not that hard to find people to give us a hand on the internet. Beta readers are generally easy to find and most are more than happy to point out a few places where a book needs work. Cover art isn't hard to find either, particularly with the number of photoshop programs out there. If you want to be a respectable, successful author, you put in the work to make your story the best it can be. If you want to be a joke and an example of how NOT to write a book, you do what the examples above have done. 

This is the perfect example of the statement "Just because you CAN do something, doesn't necessarily mean you SHOULD." Self-publishing through Amazon and other services opens the door to just about everybody. It's a good thing. It means a lot of good authors that have been ignored by traditional publishing companies, now have other options, and a lot of good books are getting printed. Most will be ignored though because of people that think just slapping their work together with glue and letters cut-out from magazines is acceptable. 

Unfortunately, there are also people like this, who effectively condone these half-assed works.

"I am a reviewer for Goodreads, Library Thing, and Netgalley. Also other people that offer me books. Usually the books that I get are not proof read and there has been only one book with a lot of errors in it, but I read it anyway because it was a wonderful romantic comedy. When I review I take it into consideration that the book I get hasn't been proof read. I never mention that in my review. I just do a straight review on content and ease of reading. The proof reading is a job for someone else."

Now, it's one thing if the work is going to be proofread before release. If not, if you're looking at a final copy which is riddled with errors and you shrug your shoulders and say "It's not my job."...well, you're right, but it is something which should be accounted for in the review. No book should get a 5-star review from a semi-professional reviewer based on "heart" and "what the author was trying to convey" when the book is effectively one big run-on sentence with every fifth word misspelled. 

Honestly, despite all the hope I have for the self-publishing movement and despite the fact that these lazy people aren't actually slowing the movement down, I am saddened by these people. I honestly doubt any of them are actually aware of just how much damage they are doing to their own reputations, to the self-publishing movement, and to the written word in general. It is only made worse by the fact that some of them are downright combative when others attempt to point out mistakes and flaws in their work.

I feel I should apologize, I meant to get the initial examples off my chest and then dive into the importance of editing. In the writing of this post though, I realized just how deep the problem actually is, from the writers who don't care enough to have an extra set of eyes go over their work, to the horrible covers, to reviewers that rate books without regard for the work's spelling or grammar.

Self-publishing may be the wave of the future, but there's a lot of garbage washing up on the beaches for it, and for those of us who endeavor to make it recognized and respectable, we have a lot of work to do waking people up to the proper way to do things.

~ Shaun 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Personal Rant #2: Organizations

Reaching back to when I was still convinced that my future in writing hinged on my attempts to find an agent and get discovered. I dreamed of being able to become an actual member of the HWA. The Horror Writer's Association. Having my name on a roster which also includes the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I used to look at all the organizations and associations with awe and respect. Like a goal to be reached.

Truth be told, I'm seeing them more and more now for the obsolete markers of an era past its prime that they are.

Decades ago, everything was getting together. Unions, Organizations, Associations. Back then they were sorely needed. There wasn't an internet like there is today and it was much harder for people to stay in touch and to talk about things that were going on across long distances. All these organizations allowed people in different areas a focal point, where news regarding a specific subject would radiate out from. It also gave them a rallying point in case public opinion needed to be mobilized for one reason or another.

These days, any idiot can start a blog to throw his opinions to the world. Facebook allows people to share family news and groups to gain members from around the globe at the click of a button. Email can be sent to a thousand people at once in just a few seconds. To put it bluntly, all these groups which have spent years building themselves up are just about useless now.

Some of them are even worse than useless, offering nothing new than they have since the 1980's and still charging membership fees. Some have even turned on the people they were built to support and sided with corporations and the groups they used to fight against.

These groups, despite the knowledge and resources at their disposal, can't (or won't) update themselves to the new technology. They spout the same rhetoric they always have about why they're needed as a group, even though all their reasons have fallen to the side. They're trying to convince people nothing has actually changed, and the main reason that is, is because the people at the top, who run these organizations, don't want to let go of the cash cow they've built up over the years. Even if these groups WERE originally for the people that joined it, a lot of them have become nothing more than a financial siphon into their leader's pocketbooks. It's not about the people, it's about the paycheck of the people running it.

The bottom line is that we don't need any of these organizations anymore. The HWA, the SFWA, none of it. Why should we pay membership dues and sign-up fees when there are thousands of free groups on the internet dedicated to doing what the associations used to do, which is help its members succeed?

My name is Shaun Horton. I'm a self-published author and I'm not a member of any writing organization.

For those of you curious as to what started this rant. I recently found the HWA's facebook page and requested an invite to join, which I received. Now that I had a forum on which to ask this question, I posted it. I asked whether the HWA had changed any of it's policies for joining with an eye to including self-published authors. Their list of joining requirements on their website currently reads thusly:

Professional writers of Horror and Dark Fantasy. There are a number of ways to qualify as an Active member. (Only works of Horror or Dark Fantasy can be used as qualifying materials.)

Sell three or more short stories, articles, or reviews totalling 7,500 words or more, for payment of at least 5¢ per word.

Sell one book-length manuscript for a minimum advance and/or royalties of $2,000.

Sell a 90-minute TV movie, or two 30-minute teleplays for at least WGA minimum rates.

Sell one theatrical film script for at least $5,000.

Sell three full-length comic book scripts at professional rates and/or with professional print-run and distribution levels.

Sell three 10,000 word Role-playing Game project or one 40,000 word project for a payment of at least 5 ¢ per word.

Sell a script for a computer game or a single work of interactive fiction intended for electronic media for at least $2,000.

Sell a computer game for a minimum payment of $2,000, regardless of length or memory usage, or create a piece of shareware or other work produced without payment in advance, with a paid circulation exceeding 1,000 copies.

Sell 10 poems at 25 ¢ per line or $5 each, or sell a poetry collection for an honorarium of at least $50.

As you can see, there's requirements to allow novelists, poets, screen-writers, RPG writers, video game writers and graphic novelists. I'll be honest, I haven't looked around, but something tells me most other writing associations have similar lists of what they deem acceptable work for active members.

Now, I was curious, because sometimes, it takes a while for websites to be updated with new information. The policy could have changed with an added line which sets a marker for a self-published author to reach and it simply not been added onto the website yet. Which is why I asked the question on HWA's facebook.

The answer I received, I actually found rather insulting. Now. You might think, there are different levels of membership, to which you are correct. You might think, "ehh, maybe they don't consider self-published authors to be at the level of Active member, but maybe they bring them in just a little under that, like an intern-level or something. Something like this:

Beginning horror writers with a demonstrated intention of establishing a professional writing career. Minimal publication is required, and only works of Horror or Dark Fantasy can be used as qualifying material.

Sell one short story of at least 500 words, for payment of at least $25.

Sell one non-fiction article, role-playing supplement, comic book script, computer gaming script, or theatrical play for payment of at least $50.

Sell one book-length manuscript (40,000 words or more) for payment of at least $200.

Sell a screenplay or an option on your existing screenplay for payment of at least $200.

Sell three poems for total payment of at least $15.

Again. No mention of self-published authors. Though there are bullet points for five different types of writers again. No. The answer I received to my question of what does the HWA think of self-published authors? Was this:

Anyone with an interest in horror may join as a Supporting member. There are no requirements for this level.

We're down there, shoved into a barrel with everyone else. We might as well be posting fan fiction on our personal blogs. Nevermind the fact we're actually working harder than these so-called "Professional Writers". Finding our own editors, doing all our own marketing, commissioning our own cover art. Doing all the things the publishing houses do for a lot of the writers they pick up. No, we're down at the bottom of the pile. I didn't do all that work to be treated the same as Joe Schmo who jacked off to an Elvira movie once and now counts himself a fan of Horror.

On top of that, I was told this has actually been their policy for the past 18 months. Which means at some point in the past, they sat down and discussed an option of bringing in self-published writers, and this is what they contented themselves the correct answer was. That just goes to show that this is the same backwards thinking currently dragging down the traditional publishing companies. That self-publishing is a fad which will quickly fade into the background until it finally dies with a soft little squeak.

I will say this once to the traditional publishers and the groups which support it. Accept self-publishing now while you still can, because the old way of doing things is already dying and if you're not careful, you're going to go down with it.

~ Shaun

Monday, May 6, 2013

Feedback and Making Changes

So. My debut novel The Unknown Neighbor has been out for over a month now, and I've gotten some feedback on it which seems fairly decent to me. As I write this on Sunday morning, I have:

Five 5-star reviews/ratings.  4 on and 1 on
Three 4-star reviews/ratings. 2 on and 1 on
No 3-star reviews/ratings.
One 2-star reviews/ratings. On
Three 1-star reviews/ratings. All on

Not a bad spread. It actually tells me something good. People either seem to love it, or they hate it. That tells me I probably got it mostly right. Granted, this could change. The next fifty reviews in a row could be 1-star or they could be 5-star. We'll have to wait and see. (I do have to admit though, I know some of those 5-star reviews I currently have are friends and family. So they are a little biased. Only some though.)

Some of these reviews have pointed out things I was well aware of and held some concerns about myself as I went through the process of releasing it. A couple pointed out things I was not aware of. A lot of what was pointed out are also things I could fix and then re-upload into the book.

Now, while not vehemently, I oppose the idea of making significant changes to a book and uploading a new version just because it's simple and easy in this age of self-publishing. I've seen writers use it as an excuse to release books which are poorly edited (if they were edited at all), in an attempt to cash in on the very idea that they've written a book.

I'm not saying a book should be perfect. We're all people and we all make mistakes. Typo's, wrong words, passive voice. I'm saying for a start, that the concept of using your readers as editors is flawed and wrong, especially when you're trying to charge people for the privilege.

I also feel like it's not fair to the people who purchased the book previously, even if there wasn't an intention of uploading a "fixed" edition to begin with. Now, I suppose, for those who have left bad reviews, it wouldn't be too difficult to get in touch with some of them and offer the new version for free and hope they like it better. The thing is, though, some of them will have a fair beef with having paid for a book which is just plain bad in their eyes, and they aren't going to be willing to accept any olive branch, seeing it as some kind of incentive to try and get them to change or remove their review. Considering some of the views I've seen some authors with, I honestly wouldn't put it past some people to try such a tactic.

At a certain point, though, when multiple people are pointing out the same things as problems, and they happen to be things you've been concerned about from the beginning, you have to accept that something needs to be done. After all, when you have a ship with a few small leaks, you don't just sit back and let it sink, you patch the holes as best you can to stop the leaks while trying to hide the fact that they were there to begin with. I've looked at my book and I've made a few changes, nothing major. I'm not adding new chapters, deleting massive paragraphs or twisting plots around. 

I've fixed some minor typographical errors, changed some vague bits to be more specific and in a few spots I've gone a little more in-depth to really convey the feeling of the situation the main character finds herself in, as well as attempting to make the pace feel a little quicker than it was and heighten the tension. 

Are these changes going to endear my book to the people who have already given it poor reviews? Probably not. Are these things which should have been in the book from the beginning? Probably, and more. As I've said earlier, though, we all make mistakes, and the first step in correcting a mistake is admitting we've made one. 

I got excited. I had a manuscript that was longer than anything I'd ever written before, that actually stretched to novel length. It had been edited by a professional. It had artwork for a cover with the title and my name across it. I skipped out on Advanced Reader Copies, to collect objective opinions though. I got excited and I may have jumped the gun a little. You know what, live and learn. We can learn okay through examples, books and second-hand experiences, but it's when we actually step out and screw something up ourselves that we really learn something. 

Is my next book going to be perfect? Hell no. At the very least though, I plan on making different mistakes, as these should be ones that I've learned.

~ Shaun

"At least he gets 24-hours notice. That's more than most of us get. All most of us get is "Mind that bus." "What bus?" Splat!"