Wednesday, January 30

Cover Update!

Hmmm, it seems I used the word "exceptional" at least three times in that last post. Oh well, goes to show you what can happen in a book if you don't proofread a zillion times.

At any rate, it's confirmed -- The Goldenwealth Light will indeed be receiving a totally new cover design, by noted designer Paul Beeley. Paul has created art for such covers as Radiance: Love After Death, by Debra Jayne East, which as of this post has been voted #1 best illustrated book cover on Goodreads!

I'm very excited to be working with Paul on this project. The new cover is still in its initial stages at this point, but plans are to include actual images of Theo and Marie to give readers an image of what they look like past just the descriptions in the text, as well as a beautiful view of the Gossamer City in all its prismastone glory. When the new cover is complete, the design will be updated to the paperback and kindle versions of the book (which also presents me with a handy opportunity to correct a few minor typographical errors in the text that several diligent readers were kind enough to point out).

Stay tuned for possible teaser images!


Sunday, January 27

From Moleskine to Microsoft

I think I've discovered the trickiest part of writing. It's not the character development. It's not smoothing out the plot inconsistencies. It's not even editing and proofreading (though I am a firm believer in the fact that you can only achieve 99% on this -- even professionally edited books from the big six will always have a few small problems).

What is it?

Microsoft.

Your opinion may differ from mine and that's just fine, but I find that the only part of the writing process that leaves me arguing with my computer screen and wanting to just walk away is making programs like Word, Libreoffice, and all the other assorted clones out there (I've tried a few) that have become the namesake of modern word processing do what I ask of them. And I'm not computer illiterate, either. I've been opening up CPUs and rooting around in them since I received my first 100mhz Pentium back in 1995 for $1400. I can build a working system from a pile of parts, and though I am not exceptionally proficient with software, I can follow directions with enough competence to create my own basic programs.

Yet despite that, I find battling with modern word processing to be exceptionally tedious. Even with the exceptional help of Gregory Mahan, it took me three solid days to get the paperback version of The Goldenwealth Light up to the point of proper polish for something you might find on a shelf at your local bookstore. And don't even get me started on translating that back into a workable Kindle version!

Well, things are a bit easier now that I've figured it all out, but at some point I think I'm going to have to write notes just so I can remember what I did. Once upon a time when I was young, I wrote down story ideas in a notebook. I doubt Hemingway would have had much use for filling papers with Word formatting reminders, and though modern convenience is a wonderful thing...I can't help but have a bit of envy for the way he probably did it.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 24

A New Pitch!

I've decided that I like the pitch I've come up with for the ABNA competition enough to make it the new "official" description for the Goldenwealth Light. Updates will show up on the amazon sales site soon, but for now, I welcome comments!

--------------------

"Rather than being a hero with the fate of an entire world on his shoulders, Theodore Ellsworth spends his miserable days suffering merciless humiliation at the hands of prep-school bullies. It just so happens that an ancient prophecy, a shimmering city, and a herd of six-legged horses are about to change all that.

When a mysterious book transports Theo and his overachieving little sister Marie to a world full of wonders that defy anything he’s ever read about before, Theo finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit that carries the ultimate penalty. A reluctant princess, a winged gnome, and a hot-tempered young sorceress are there to help, but will they be enough to prove to an arrogant knight and thousands of fanatical citizens that the Ellsworth children aren’t an evil that must be destroyed?

Told in the tradition of classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Neverending Story, The Goldenwealth Light is the first book in a fun-filled romp through the unique realm of the Traveler of Ord, weaving high adventure and deadly intrigue in a fanciful tapestry that will keep readers from ages ten to adult turning pages for hours."


--------------------

One of the biggest troubles an author runs into while writing a pitch is to not include too much information. You want your potential readers to know "everything they need to know about the book", when in actuality a pitch is just designed to give people the "gist" of it, so to speak. I've chopped about a hundred words off of mine, which I'm hoping will draw more attention to it. My personal rule of thumb is this -- if you have to click "read more" when looking at your pitch/description on Amazon, you've written too much.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 19

Don't be afraid of reviews

So, I've decided to enter The Goldenwealth Light into the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I thought the 10,000 entry spots would fill up fast so I stayed up until midnight on opening day to ensure a spot, but it appears five days later they are still taking entries. Don't procrastinate much longer if you plan to enter, though!

What should I expect? Can't say. I think it's best not to "expect" anything from a contest, but ABNA at least has the kind of noteriety to walk away with a feather in one's cap, just for making it as far as the quarter finals. Can't hurt to try, right? I have always been a believer in the addage that the worth of a book cannot be judged by its author, but...well, so far so good. People seem to like The Goldenwealth Light. That's enough of a push to give it a go. I've heard some horror stories about excessively harsh reviewers trashing people to tears, but I've heard just as many reports from people who were still eventually eliminated that it was a worthwhile experience. Maybe the reviewers are harsh. Then again, maybe the writers making those claims were poor writers. Who can say?

I can't. And so, I throw my hat in the ring.

You can't look away from an opportunity just out of fear of a poor review. You know what? Some random person you never met could buy your book at any moment, read it, hate it, and then write a bad review. There's nothing you can do about that, unless you plan to only sell you book to friends and family. Sometimes, the odd critical review (if thoughtfully written) can actually add credibility to your work, because it helps people make an informed decision, and it keeps the impression of (Atlaria forbid) "sockpuppeting" away when people see nothing but a bevy of glowing five-star awesomenes. Still, like dark chocolate, bad reviews are only healthy if taken in small doses.

How do you keep them away? Just write the best book you can write, and let the people speak. They'll tell you if you knocked it out of the park.

The only negative reviews I won't take seriously are ones that include swearing (if you need to use foul language your point is probably weak to begin with), defamatory remarks that have no bering on reviewing a book, remarks that state something was disliked but don't say why (useless), or remarks that show the reviewer missed the point of the story - for example, disliking Harry Potter because it's too juvenile, when the book was intended for younger readers to begin with.

Bu then...who says it will go badly? Gotta put your heart into it and hope for the best!

Those are my two cents on the issue. What do you think?

Friday, January 18

Author Interview

During a recent promotion of The Goldenwealth Light, I was interviewed by K A Perkins. Read all about it on the Lionheart Galleries website!


Tuesday, January 15

The Time is Approaching...

Greetings, citizens!

So, the other day I was reviewing where The Goldenwealth is since its publication slightly less than two months ago. Ten good reviews and a total of nearly 800 KDP select free copies given away...seems not too shabby to me. Still, I noticed something. Sales just aren't there. Naturally I'm not expecting to be a bestselling author overnight (if it happens at all), but I thought the buzz would drum up at least a bit more interest.

I took a good, hard look at the book's Amazon sales page and thought to myself -- it's getting great reviews...people are saying how well written they think it is...they're waiting for a sequel, so...what's the deal? Why no pop?

Then, I believe the answer came to me. I checked out a few blogs where the book had been reviewed to see what sort of comments those bloggers were getting. Most people who commented on the reviews said the story sounds interesting and now that they read a review, they might pick it up. But, had they not read a review, they might have passed it by -- because of the cover.

People aren't saying the cover is "bad". They're saying that compared to all of the other books you would find on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble or your local library, it looks "amateurish". Since people do judge a book by its cover when deciding what novel to read next, a cover with that kind of press often leads people to click their browser's "back" button before they have even read a description, or scrolled down enough to glance over those precious reviews.

But, I'm not upset. You know...I think they may have a point. So, I'm taking action. I am currently in discussion with a prominent professional book cover designer, and we're going to start the book's cover over again from the ground up. So far, I am reeeeeally liking where this is going too. I'll give everybody some more info as I have it to share, but suffice to say, in a few weeks time, The Goldenwealth Light is going to be a MUCH snazzier-looking little number to have on one's bookshelf!

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, January 11

Thank you, readers!

I wanted to take a moment to thank everybody who participated in the post-holiday season giveaway promotion of The Goldenwealth Light. The numbers distributed outstripped the last promotion by over one hundred copies!

No matter their topic, books are nothing without readers to enjoy them. Thank you for enjoying this one.


Wednesday, January 9

At 4.8★, Amazon reviewers are saying: "Move over Harry Potter"

Got a brand new Kindle this holiday season? Looking for a good book to curl up with on a cold winter's night with a hot cup of cocoa? The Goldenwealth Light is available through the Amazon Kindle store absolutely FREE today and tomorrow (January 9th and 10th)!

Children, teens, and adults alike are invited to spend the post-holiday season journeying along with Theodore Ellsworth, the Traveler of Ord, as he and his sister Marie face wonders untold and dangers most foul in the magical realm of Quaylund. Saddle up your six-hoofed escarot and race along astride chipper humming-gnomes, enigmatic traversimorphs, elusive ripplewaifs, and huge, lumbering yurt. Enjoy your ordic everystew along the way, but remember to never stare at a reflectia tree!

See what readers on Amazon are saying about The Goldenwealth Light, and don't forget to pick up your free copy today!



Tuesday, January 8

Review Etiquette

(This article will be copied to the author support section.)

As any indie author knows, reviews are the life's blood of your work. You can sing your own glories all you want, but reviews, whether they are good or bad, at last show that people are reading your book. Of course you want those reviews to be good ones, but even if they aren't, at least you will know just what gripes people have.

So how do you get those glorious gems called reviews?

Well, you can pay for them. There are a few review services out there (Kirkus Indie is one) that will produce an polished, professional review for a fee. These reviews carry weight which is of course a good thing, but bear in mind that most of these services have a reputation to think of, so before you plunk down the somewhat scary prices these reviews can cost (hundreds of dollars -- owch!) keep in mind that they will be impartial (as they should be). If you're not confident in your work, you might be purchasing a big old bucket of well thought out, influential...negative pain for your book, and potentially your reputation as an author.

I have nothing against going the above route, but this blog has always been focused around the idea that anybody with talent and a dream can become a writer, regardless of their bankroll. So that's as far as we're going to touch on shelling out money in this article.

How else can you get reviews?

There are several methods, but this article is going to focus on one that a lot of authors start out afraid of initially. Plain and simple? You can get reviews by asking for them.

It seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Maybe you already do this and can't imagine why people wouldn't, but you'd be surprised. Writing can be a solitary trade, and the result can sometimes be a skilled author who's shy and modest to a fault, and wouldn't dream of troubling people by contacting them directly to ask for favors. After all, won't you just annoy the people you are hoping to impress by nagging them over basically doing your promoting for you? Well, you could annoy people, but the fact of the matter is that in the literary world, asking people for reviews is a perfectly kosher thing to do, so long as you do it with a certain level of tact.

First you'll need to identify potential reviewers. I'll be going into that in more detail in a future article, but for now the best thing to keep in mind is that it's best to stick with people who are already interested in the type of book you've written. Did you write a horror story that's inspired by Needful Things? Why not pop over to the Amazon page and check out who gave your inspiration novel good reviews? Look up their profiles and see what sort of books they're interested in. Did they post an email address on their profile? (here's a hint -- people don't usually post things like email addresses in public places unless they are expecting to be contacted). Don't stop there -- is your book listed on goodreads, shelfari, or similar sites? People who use these sites typically make a note on them once they have read the book. Is anybody out in the world talking about your book, even just in passing? Google your title along with your own name, and find out! Don't forget to search on Twitter, too!

There are plenty of ways to find potential reviewers. When you're ready to write a message to ask for a review, make sure to include the following:

  • How did you find this person? Start out by telling them what profile/review/et cetera of theirs you read, and be sure to say what about the content you read makes you feel as though they would be interested in your book.
  • Explain your purpose. Be direct. You are looking for unbiased reviews of your book. We'll talk about the word "unbiased" a bit more in a minute.
  • Include a very brief bit about your book. Remember to keep this sort and sweet - "Harry Potter is a story of a boy's adventures in a magical realm, where he enrolls in a school that teaches magic and encounters a myriad of unique people and places." Can you keep this to one sentence? Great, do that.
  • Include an even briefer bit about something they've already read (and liked) that is similar to your book. This shouldn't be anything more than "this story is told in a vein similar to [blank] book". If you can't find anything to fill in the blank with, you might want to consider contacting somebody else.
  • Provide a link to a sales page for your book, where the person you are contacting can read a description of the book and see what other people (if any) had to say about it.
  • Offer a complimentary copy of your book. Yes, this is pretty common etiquette for this type of review hunting. To save on costs you can certainly restrict your offerings to digital copies which cost pretty much nothing to produce, but what would you say if somebody wrote you a letter asking you to read their book, and then requested that you buy it? Right, whatever you're thinking is the same thing they are thinking. Some people think that providing free copies of a book in return for reviews is compensating the reviewer, but I disagree. If they didn't want to read your book to begin with, a free copy is hardly of any value to them. You're simply providing them with the tools they need to complete the task you've asked of them.
  • Thank them for their time and consideration.

Did you read all that above? Great. Now, do you think you can do all of that in less than six sentences? It's more challenging than you think, because you're going to be tempted to say too much about your book, flatter them too much, or add in too much irrelevant jargon. Pinch yourself every time you start writing anything like that and make yourself stop. It's not helpful. Writing a review request is a lot like writing a query letter -- you need to get to the point quickly and efficiently, or you will lose your reader and that will be the end of it.

At any rate, that's a crash course in review etiquette. A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Don't ask twice. Some people who aren't interested might be so kind as to let you know this, but most won't. Let it go.
  • If people do show an interest, tell them that you appreciate their interest in the book or words to that effect. Don't gush or overdo it with gratitude, as it makes you look desperate (not to mention "overthanking" is often a good way to make people feel uncomfortable). Tell them you look forward to reading their opinion (stay neutral on this, so it does not appear as though you are expecting them to write a positive review just because they are interested in writing one at all).
  • NEVER NEVER NEVER ask people for a positive review! You're worried about being annoying? That's annoying. Don't ask people to compromise their professionalism and do a disservice to the community by talking about how wonderful your book is, if they didn't think it was wonderful. Keep in mind that if your book is available for sale to the general public, anybody and everybody can potentially purchase your book at any time, read it, and then write whatever they want about it. If you lack that much confidence in your work, you might want to consider going back to the drawing board for a bit.

Have you ever tried directly asking for reviews before? Share your experiences here!


Wednesday, January 2

BOOK REVIEW: Ablaze

(This review has been copied to the Gossamer Court's book reviews section.)

From Amazon:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"A story loosely based on the story of Rumplestiltskin. This short book tells a story of a young woman Mia as she encounters a will-o-wisp who wishes to take her child."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(I received a free copy of this story in return for providing an unbiased review.)

Ablaze, by Harsh Thakar, is a very short (approximately 3,000 words) retelling of Rumplestiltskin, a well-known fairy tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I will say no more about the plot, save that it is told with a more horrific twist than its namesake.

I felt the idea driving the plot for this story was a sound one. I have heard of a great many timeless fables and fairy tales retold with any number of different spins on them, but I (at least) do not recall the tale of Rumplestiltskin being singled out for the task. Though I was able to quickly determine the base story Ablaze sought to emulate without prior knowledge, I did find the subject matter refreshing in that respect. I did not read the book's description before reading the story itself, and I'm actually quite pleased that the cover art didn't make it obvious that I'm about to be taken on a modified ride down fairy tale lane. As I am often skeptical of "retold" stories, I might have passed on this one if I had known too much at the outset. As a reader, the ambiguity of this story did the job of getting the book in front of me -- which I think would be the goal of any fiction author. The story does was it sets out to do with an appropriately chilling twist, and for that I appreciate it.

While Ablaze does have potential, I feel that the story is in strong need of professional editing. While the spelling was decent, I will be honest in saying that I eventually lost count of the errors in grammar, sentence structure, and improper word usage (some passages were difficult to read and understand due to the aforementioned issues). Judging from the patterns I saw (the same errors occurring multiple times), I am left with the assumption that the majority of errors were more a product of grasping the English language than any sort of deliberate failing on the part of the author. Naturally I'm willing to be more lenient of such problems if they are indeed due to difficulties with the language, but I have to say that whatever the reason may be, when any story (in any language) reaches the stage of final publication, readers should be able to assume that it has been "put through its paces" with regards to editing and proofreading. I didn't get that impression from Ablaze.

Other concerns have to do with the use of space in such a short tale -- I would have preferred a bit more life to some of the characters (Theodore in particular) to give me something of a better idea as to who I was dealing with. Even something as simple as a more detailed description or a few more words about the character's mannerisms/personality would have been quite helpful. I am assuming that the Rumplestiltskin-like creature in the story was short like some sort of gnome, but I was left to fill in that blank on my own. I can't hold that against the story however, as it's more a product of the nature of the beast when retelling an existing story. (I have a particular image in mind of what I think Rumplestiltskin looks like, and it's hard to shake what's already established in my head.)

All in all, I feel that with a bit more elbow grease thrown in, the true potential of this story could well be brought out. It's definitely worth sticking with.


Tuesday, January 1

Read the Goldenwealth Light for FREE in January!

Got a brand new Kindle this holiday season? Looking for a good book to curl up with on a cold winter's night with a hot cup of cocoa? The Goldenwealth Light will be available through the Amazon Kindle store absolutely FREE on January 9th and 10th! Children and adults alike are invited to spend the post-holiday season journeying along with Theodore Ellsworth, the Traveler of Ord, as he and his sister Marie face wonders untold and dangers most foul in the magical realm of Quaylund. Saddle up your six-hoofed escarot and race along astride chipper humming-gnomes, enigmatic traversimorphs, elusive ripplewaifs, and huge, lumbering yurt. Enjoy your ordic everystew along the way, but remember to never stare at a reflectia tree!

See what readers are saying about The Goldenwealth Light here, and don't forget to pick up your free copy this January 9th and 10th!