Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Books, Publishing and Hamburgers

Image result for hamburger

Re-posting this following a social media thread:


Warning: this is a long-suppressed rant. Speshul sensitive snowflakes are welcome to leave now, to avoid any harsh feelings. 

In the trad publishing vs. indie publishing debate, I keep hearing the following argument: "But trad pub produces plenty of crap too!"

Does it? 

Let's say, for the sake of the argument, that you want to open a restaurant.

You might decide to open a classy gourmet place where elegant waiters in tuxedos saunter around the candlelit hall,  carrying silver trays, and live piano music can be enjoyed every weekend. 

Or you may say, "You know what? Not many people are willing to spend a month's rent's worth on one dinner. I'd better open a hamburger bar."

And that's OK.  

Hamburgers are legit. There’s a market for hamburgers. By choosing this option, you can feed people and make an honest buck a lot easier than by charging a gazillion dollars for half a dozen fresh oysters on crushed ice (or whatever.  I'm Orthodox Jewish. What do I know about oysters?).

You know what you can't do, though? 

You can't poison your clients. 

You can't say, "this meat fell on the floor and got trodden on, but I'll use it anyway."

You can't use the same black rancid oil for French fries, over and over, for a month. 

You can't stick unwashed vegetables in salads and hope that salmonella will miss the target.  

You can't serve food on half-washed dishes and unwiped tables.

You must, in short, adhere to certain Ministry of Health hygiene standards, or your business will be closed pretty fast, with a nasty biting fine thrown in.  

Trad publishing is that Ministry of Health.  

I am yet to encounter a single traditionally published book with consistently missing commas, or a chapter title at the bottom of a page, or periods in the middle of a sentence.  

I have never seen a trad published book in which Mindy suddenly turns into Cindy on page 278, or which makes the reader want to puke and run away by phrases such as, "her eager and responsive body eagerly responded to his amorous advances". 

Indie books, though?  I've seen all this and more, just this week. There is nobody to put their foot down and say, "this is illegal. We are closing this restaurant".

You don't have to be the next Dostoyevsky. You can aim to be the next SciFi McHorror, or Nicholas Sparking Sparks, or whatever. 

You can serve hamburgers. 

But you can't serve shawarma made of a donkey with tuberculosis. 

Because if people come out of your fast food joint barfing and writhing with stomach pain, you'll soon go broke. 

So... I've said this. I'm quite prepared for an influx of voodoo dolls and Anthrax envelopes coming my way, but at least I got this off my chest.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Double release: Wild Children sequel strategy

These are exciting days for me: almost a year and a half since Wild Children was first released, my readers get to find out what happens in the world of illegally born outcasts living on the fringes of society.

This project has been a long time in the making, because my publisher and I made the decision to release not one, but two sequels simultaneously. The reasoning behind this was a marketing strategy: since we were planning to give a really big push to promoting Wild Children, the first book in the series, once the sequel were released, we wanted to give the book's potential new readers a larger foray into the world of the series. Once they had read the first book, we wanted them to have the opportunity to purchase two additional books, instead of just one. I plan to write another post about this a few weeks later and tell you guys how this has turned out.

 The Hourglass is told from the perspective of Priscilla Dahl, a 16-year-old girl who forfeits her privileged position in society to seek justice. Freeborn is the story of the backlash that occurs when the government decides to rein in the outlaws it has shunned for many years. The beloved characters from the first book - the children from the orphanage, Benjamin Grey, his parents Rebecca and Daniel, and the new friends he makes in the world of freedom and precarious life on the edge - are all there in the sequels, too.

In celebration of this double new release, Wild Children will be free on September 15th and 16th, so be sure to download your copy. Your support in the form of shares, reviews and social media mentions is always appreciated.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Writing: art or craft? (Pssst: it's both)

Image result for writing plume

I avoid subscribing to many newsletters because I don't want to clog my mailbox, but I really love Derek Murphy's. He always gives solid, useful, practical advice and isn't afraid to cut it out like it is. I highly recommend you subscribe. Here's an excerpt from his latest newsletter:

"People assume writing for others or considering the market, or even OUTLINING will suck the joy out of the process; the truth is, writing good books is hard, and most people never finish anything - those who finish something probably have a total mess. Writing doesn't always have to be puppies and rainbows. Sometimes it's just work. Sometimes it's frustrating and difficult. That's OK! If you don't do the hard stuff, you won't improve! (Most writers never improve, because they keep circling back to the fun easy stuff but avoiding all the hard stuff)."

I used to despise the grind of outlining, revising and editing, and only appreciated those starry-eyed moments of conceiving a story and flying through the first draft on the wings of inspiration. But some years down the road, I realized that if I make it all about inspiration and my creative enjoyment, I will never end up with anything I can show others without making a fool of myself. Now I celebrate the process of revising and fine-tuning a manuscript as a part of my professionalism as an author and my dedication to giving readers the best value I can possibly provide. I might still enjoy the first draft stage most of all, because it's then that I can let my imagination really run loose, but I realize this first step is worthless without all the rest. 

I also used to scoff about keeping the reader in mind as one writes, writing to market and, without thinking about it, put more value into so-called "pure art" - high-quality books that supposedly only a handful of refined readers can enjoy, while most of the market consumes primarily "trash" in the form of romance novels and thrillers. I totally ignored the fact that I, myself, may enjoy the mental labor of reading Tolstoy and Fielding, but to relax and escape, I go to Nicholas Sparks and Dan Brown. 

Good books don't necessarily need to be heavy, intellectually burdening, or only enjoyed by a select few. Consider Jane Austen, one of my all-time favorite writers - I love her books because they are both lighthearted and engaging, beautifully written, and intelligent and psychologically accurate at the same time. No wonder they have withstood the test of centuries, and are as much enjoyed today as they were 200 years ago!

Quoting Derek again:

The truth is, nobody has time to read it all: people buy what's useful, relevant or entertaining for THEM. Years ago I discovered I can create work I love, that other people enjoy. I can make art AND money. I can enjoy the process AND make sure others do as well. If I do this, I will get paid for the value I put into the world, which will let me create more great art.

Let's face it - writing isn't just an art, it's also a craft. It's like jewelry making; inspiration will enable you to produce a great design, but only lots and lots of polishing will give an actual product.