The Stigma of Self Publishing

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Are you a self published author? Or maybe an aspiring writer considering self publishing once you polish that manuscript of yours? There are a few things that you should know before taking the step to self publish your book.

Lesser

This is probably the most difficult assumption about self publishing to overcome. No matter if the person you’re talking to says it or not, a great number of people still believe that self published authors write worse than traditionally published authors. To the unknowing person, this is inherent in self publishing. You’ll likely then receive countless questions about the editing and cover art and physical makeup of the book that traditionally published authors will not. Have you ever been to a book signing or event for a popular author and had someone ask about the editing of the book? I haven’t and I’ve been to several.

The look

You’re probably wondering what the heck ‘the look’ is. It’s simple. It’s the look you get upon first revealing to someone that you’re self published. It essentially tells me the thoughts of the other person. It says, “Oh. So then you’re not good enough to go the regular route.” By no means are people trying to discourage or put you down, ‘the look’ is almost involuntary. I know plenty of great people who displayed it when I first told them that my book was self published. When you start telling someone about your newly released book, what it is the first question they ask? Who published it? I’ve probably been asked that question more than any other. It’s even asked by non-readers.

Selling

This isn’t necessarily a part of the stigma associated with self publishing, but it’s still worth mentioning. When you self publish, assuming that you didn’t make your own imprint doing so, it is quite difficult to find sales channels. If you use CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing then your book becomes one of millions available from Amazon. Which is great, but let me repeat that it becomes one of millions of books available from the online giant. Just being on Amazon is not enough. But also Barnes and Noble will not carry the book in its stores if the book is self published. Their shelves are reserved for the major publishing companies that have done business with the company for decades.

Readers

There are plenty of readers out there who don’t care whether a book is self published or not because it’s all about the quality to them. BUT, there are plenty of readers out there who will never ever ever ever ever purchase a self published book. This kind of goes with my first point about people believing that self published authors’ writing is lesser than that of traditionally published authors. This means that your free book on Amazon may be overlooked by a hardcore reader simply because it’s free. This means that your $0.99 book will be overlooked just the same. The point is that it may be difficult to find readers for your book, no matter how well written it is.

Don’t let these discourage you! If self publishing feels like a good fit for you, then I say go for it.

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: 29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

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Another week, another book read from the Amazon list. When I first set out to read the books on the list I figured that I’d read one every five or six books I read overall…WRONG. I’ve found myself browsing through the list trying to decide on which book I want to read next. I have no scientific way of picking books, I really just go with whatever catches my eye. The first two were fairly easy beginner choices, though.

The Sorcerer’s Stone

The book begins with an introduction to Harry Potter. We learn about his ill-fated family. We learn about his horrible Muggle family. We get a small taste into how rough he’s had it since the murder of his parents. Then we’re introduced to all kinds of magical characters. The Weasleys. The Malfoys. Hagrid. Dumbledore. Snape. Quirrel. Hermione Granger. There are too many to name. Then we’re taken on a journey with Harry, Hermione, and Ron through their first year at Hogwarts. There are tears, triumphs, trolls, dark magic, and…Voldemort! He’s back, after all. The gang of three is ultimately up against the Dark Lord himself, though they don’t even realize it until it’s nearly too late.

My Thoughts

This was a splendid read. I found several things that were either changed in the movie or left out completely. This being my first JK Rowling novel, I quickly learned that she has a great gift for children’s fiction. I found the reading to be more than accessible for a grade school student and still rather intriguing. I haven’t read a book with chapter titles in years, and I loved that the chapters have titles in this book. I liked being able to expect when Hermione needed Ron and Harry’s help with the troll. I liked knowing when Harry would be making his first trip to Diagon Alley. I liked knowing when Harry would play his first quidditch match. The chapter titles told me a little about what to expect in the coming pages, and for a young reader who may not read leisurely very much, I think that can make reading more enjoyable.

I also loved Hermione more than I did in the movies and hated Draco more than I did in the movies. Just happened.

This book is currently ranked #21 on my list of best books.

The next book from the list that I’ll be reading is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

You’re Currently Reading Something…Tell me About it!

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I read so many blog posts about what other bloggers are currently reading, but now I want to know what YOU are reading. My reader. It can be absolutely anything as long as it’s what you read before bed each night. Even if this is your first time reading one of my posts, I’d still like to hear about that book that you can’t seem to put down at the moment. Or if you’ve read twenty of my posts. And don’t be shy. I want more than just the book’s title, tell me your thoughts or give me a brief synopsis. Who knows, you may tell me about something that I would have never otherwise come across on my own. So get to commenting!

I’ll go first. I just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and will have a post with my thoughts about it tomorrow since it is on Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. My next book will be A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which is also on the Amazon list. There, now you know what I’m currently reading, it’s your turn!

Why do You Write?

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There are so many reasons a person can decide to start writing. Do you do it because your favorite author happens to be one of the few who makes millions from their writing? Have you known since you were young that you wanted to be a writer and now you’re pursuing your dream? Did one of your college professors pull you aside and tell you that you had a real future in writing? Did you read a bad book and decide that you could do better? Or maybe you don’t see yourself as a writer at all and are simply trying something new, because how hard could it be, right? I’d say that any reason one can come up with to start writing is valid, even those oblivious individuals who think it’s so easy that anyone can do it. These are the people who make it about two paragraphs in and stop and declare, “Writing is easy, I just haven’t got the time right now.”

My response to this question is fairly simple. I write because it’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing for quite some time now. I believe I’m able to write fairly well. And I have many stories I wish to share with my readers. That’s really about it.

So I ask you, why do you write?

An Author’s Worst Enemy: Writer’s block

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I have written several posts during my time on WordPress detailing my avid attitude against the existence of writer’s block. I’ve always said that it’s not a lack of creativity but rather a mind game that the author is losing to himself. I’ve said that it’s an excuse not to write. That it’s ridiculous to sit there and think that a writer can be writing along and then have no idea where to take the story. I’ve said all of these things about the phenomena known as writer’s block, and I’m ready to admit that I was wrong.

You see, I have a very straightforward writing philosophy. I write a chapter. I read through it. Make changes. Take a day or two or five away from writing. Then repeat the process. It was slightly different for my first book, but this is what it is today. I’ve worked my way through ten chapters of my second book, and the process itself has never failed. It was me.

In my tenth chapter I took my story to a place that I probably shouldn’t have. I knew that it would be difficult writing from there because I was starting to write what I didn’t know. I was taking the story to a place I didn’t anticipate and, as a result, I’m stuck. I don’t know what I want to happen in the next few chapters. I don’t know what the heck my private detective is doing by handling his case the way he is. I don’t know how these next few chapters will allow me to finish the story how I want to. BUT I do know that I’m not going back and rewriting my previous chapter in order to make these next few a bit easier to write. The story is great how it is now, I just need to get moving forward again. And I will, I just need some time to think.

If you’re suffering from this horrible illness that seems to inflict all writers at some point, rest assured, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. I salute your determination to keep pressing forward. Now if only I could do so myself.

Spring Break for the Book Lover

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Down here in the lone star state Spring Break has officially begun. This is the first time since 1997 that I’m not in school during the holiday week. I’m not complaining. But I know others in my age group (18-22) who are still in college and will be celebrating the week off from school. There will be countless parties to attend, too much alcohol consumed, trips to other parts of the country, and who knows what else. I’m not discussing the traditional Spring Break for the typical twenty-something, I’m talking about Spring Break for the book lover!

Browse

Do you typically get your books from Amazon? Or Barnes and Noble? Or Books-A-Million? Or maybe on your iPad or Kobo device? I don’t care where you get your books from. I don’t. But tell me what better for you to do than browse for some new books starting right now and getting through them before you have to return to school? There is not a thing better. So if you’re a book lover, and I’m betting that you are, then get your mouse clicking or get to your local bookstore and find you some books to read this week!

Read

By now you’ve done your browsing and buying, right? Better have! Now find your regular reading spot and get started! There’s no point in getting your hands on some fresh books to have them sitting there in your ‘to-be-read’ pile. Honestly, that makes me angry when I see blog posts about having stacks and stacks of books ‘to-be-read.’ I mean, come on. So don’t be one of those guys. Get your new books out of the bag or the trusty Amazon box and get started reading. Now.

Write

Do you happen to be a writer too? Perfect. You’ve left your manuscript sitting there on your computer screen far too long. That ends right here, right now. I’ll acknowledge that most writers are probably done with school with regular jobs and don’t get off of work this week, BUT I’ll also tell you that you’ve done made all the excuses to not get back to writing that you can possibly come up with. Open the file. Take a deep breath. Write. It’s that easy. You may not have the week off from school like all the kids, but you need a kickstart to get back to your writing, and this is it. After all, no agent ever agreed to represent a manuscript that never made its way out of the ‘first draft’ stage, right? Right. Now write.

If you reach Thursday and you’ve read four books, written ten chapters in that great manuscript of yours, and you find yourself wondering what to do…then start from the top and REPEAT!

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: 63. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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Since I’ve decided to do my best to read every book on Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read in a Lifetime, I’ve now decided to also dedicate a full post to each book I finish. The first on the list is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I’ll first have you know that it isn’t my intention to review the books I read from the list, per se, but rather to offer up my thoughts in a manner that may not always be critical. Now let me tell you what I thought of one of the most well-known works of any author of the 20th century.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne begins the book at the fairly young age of just thirteen years, but you wouldn’t know it from her writing. She easily describes each of the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex, she describes the relationships that develop between all of them, she describes her longing for companionship during her first year in hiding, the feeling of coming to love Peter, experiencing puberty, and the great optimism that came with the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944. She puts you there in that annex and keeps you there for the 25 months she remained. She tells you what she thinks of herself and everyone around her. She writes of wanting to publish her diary after the war has ended. She gives the reader an account of what it meant to be persecuted as a Jew in German occupied Europe during World War II.

My Thoughts

I’m somewhat upset with myself for having waited this long to read this. I think I watched and/ or read one of the plays during high school, but it’s just not the same as reading her words. I was in tears once I was nearing the end because of the joy that had made its way into her final entries. I wanted the ending to be different this time. I wanted those eight people to make it through the war without being discovered. I wanted Anne to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. I wanted all of these things as I read about each of their deaths in the Afterword. If you have not read this wonderful work, then please read it. Though I’d never read it, I think I’ve read quotes and reviews that label this as one of the prime examples of the human condition, and yes, this is it. It is far and away the best book I’ve ever read. I’ll leave you with a quote from Anne.

“I want to go on living even after my death.”

If only you knew, Anne, if only you knew.

Stop Choosing Between Writing and Reading

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I read more blog posts in a day than I’d like to disclose, and about 97% of those posts all pertain to writing, reading, or some other aspect of books like reviews. There are plenty of topics that are repeated by bloggers because they’re so prevalent. For instance, it would be fairly easy for me to find posts everyday about writer’s block. I’ll probably join in on that discussion at some point, but that’s not today. Today I’d like to discuss another topic that I’ve read about several times and have personal experience with.

If I write, then I can’t read. But if I read, then I can’t write.

This is the age-old question an author faces when there is only a limited amount of time for writing and/or reading. The author is forced to ask himself which is the more pressing of the two. Do I want to finish that great book I’m almost done with or do i want to sit at my computer with my head in my hands searching for the right words to put to paper? Or, I have a few great chapters I REALLY want to write before I forget them, that book on the nightstand can wait a day or two or seven.

I’m constantly reading about writers who don’t feel that both activities can be done within the same day or stretch of a few hours. STOP TELLING YOURSELF THAT! Sorry to raise my voice but I really feel that this point needs to be made. If you are VERY limited in the amount of time that you have for reading/ writing, then okay, doing one of the two is better than doing neither. But if you find yourself constantly forcing yourself to pick one over the other for no apparent reason other than to do so, then stop it. Right now. When have you heard of an author who doesn’t read? I’ve read about bestselling authors who read several books a week! All while writing. Now, I understand that it’s different when they don’t have a regular job, but the number of hours they spend writing is not something any person can accomplish.

The point I’d like for you to take from reading this is that you don’t always have to choose one over the other. If you have a great book that you’re finishing up, then go ahead and finish it and your manuscript will be there waiting for you once you’ve finished. I promise. Or if you have a string of chapters that are just itching to get out of your head and onto paper, then go right ahead and type them up. But there’s no reason to stop your reading altogether because you’re working on your first novel or for your writing to take a backseat because you’ve got your hands on the newest Stephen King book.

If you love writing then I know you love reading, don’t end your relationship with one because of the other. Three IS NOT a crowd this time.

Never Ask a Reader About Their Favorite Book

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It seems like a simple enough question when you ask, but can turn into a whirlwind of things for the person who is trying to come up with an answer. Because any person who has read as few as fifty books will likely struggle for an answer. Here’s what would happen to me if asked about my favorite book.

The first thought to enter my head would be the list I keep of my top/ favorite books read. It’s a list in the ballpark of 150 books. I would think of the top five. The top five includes Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, T. Jefferson Parker, Marcus Sakey, and Eric Nylund. Three of these authors are crime novelists and two are not. I would think back to each of the books and decide that it’s near impossible to pick any one over another, no matter how I have them ranked.

Then I’d think of my first book. Could that be my favorite? I’ve read it more times than I’ve read any other book. I wrote it. The protagonist is me. Surely it’s at least in the conversation. But does the book stand up against the others I’m thinking of? And how could I forget The Great Gatsby?

Then my Excel spreadsheet of all of the book authors I own would come to mind. I would think about the fact that a handful of authors make up a huge chunk of my reading. My favorite must be written by one of them. Maybe Robert B. Parker or Steve Hamilton? Maybe Robert Crais or James Patterson?

Then all of the series I read would jump into the equation. Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite literary characters ever. And Alex Cross. And Spenser. And Elvis Cole. And Karen Vail.

And finally, with my head spinning in circles, I would accept the fact that it’s impossible to pick a single favorite. All while the person asking the question was simply trying to make small talk by asking in the first place.

BUT if you had to pick one favorite book that you’ve read, what would it be?

Officially Entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

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I knew quite some time ago that I wanted to enter my book, Divided Within, into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. As I’ve stated in at least one previous post, this is easily the most lucrative writing contest there is. And a great opportunity for new writers. Most of the other major writing contests strictly prohibit previously self published books, but this one has no such limitation. Now, a little about the contest.

The Contest

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is a free to enter annual writing contest that allows for unpublished and self published entries. Entries must fall within one of the five genre categories which are: General Fiction, Mystery/ Thriller, Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror, Romance, and Young Adult. Entries must also fall within the word count limits of 50,000-125,000. And the contest is judged from now until the winners are announced in July. The contest is limited to 10,000 entries, which no other contest would even come close to reaching. For instance, I’ve been told by an author who won the Best Private Eye Novel competition that is sponsored by Minotaur Books and Private Eye Writers of America several years ago that in a recent contest there were only a couple hundred entries. And this contest regularly goes years without awarding a winner.

Expectations

In anticipation of submitting my entry I read my book all the way through for a fourth time. I had many things I went back in and corrected. There were no major rewrites or chapters eliminated but there were plenty of individual words changed or taken out, and some small details altered as a result of what I’ve been told by some of my readers. With that being said, I don’t think I’m actually going to beat out 9,999 other writers to win the top prize, or even to be crowned the winner of my category. I’ve said over and over how much I love my book and the characters I created, but 9,999 other writers is a lot. I’d be happy making it to the second round of judging, in which the excerpts of 2,000 entries will be evaluated. Then it’s down to 500. Then it’s down to just 25. Then it’s down to the top five, who will all receive a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing, one of which will be awarded the $50,000 grand prize.

In about two weeks the top 400 from each category will be announced.

If you’d like to wish me luck, then feel free. If not, that’s okay too.