What’s a Reviewer to Do?

review-books

I started Writing to be Read to promote my own writing and to help other authors, through writing reflections and reviews. We’re all in the same situation. Marketing and promotion are a big part of writing these days, and authors are expected to self-promote to some extent, even if they are traditionally published. The way that books are being rated now, in many places, including Amazon, by the reviews they receive. I post partial reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads for this reason, and have even taken the time to post on Smashwords and Barnes and Nobles upon request from the author.

But, what is a reviewer to do when a book she’s reviewing falls short of all expect a film, like my review of Angel Falls Texas on Friday? Every review I publish has an end note at the bottom which reads like this:

“Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.”

I don’t believe in charging for a review because I don’t believe in paying for a review. And I don’t believe in that because I don’t think you can get an honest review when it is paid for. And I do believe a review should be honest. While I amin favor of promoting other authors with my reviews, I don’t believe in hyping up a work when it is not deserved.

Too many authors get their books on the best sellers list simply by having great reviews posted by those who love the author, but don’t honestly reflect the quality of their book. It’s sad but true. (To learn more about what that best seller label really means, check out this article by Brent Underwood.)

As I shared my post for my review of Angel Falls Texas last Friday, I reacted with a sad on each one, because I hated having to publish such a negative review. It’s certainly not going to help the author sell books, which is usually my goal. In this case, to post a review to encourage sales would have made me feel dishonest to my own readers.

I do both solicited and unsolicited reviews. Those that are unsolicited are from books I purchased on my own and I use them as fill in posts when I don’t have any solicited reviews to publish. With reviews that have been solicited by the author or I have requested an ARC from the author, which don’t rate at least three quills, I usually contact the author, tell them my assessment, and offer them the chance to not have the review published. Most authors, like my author friend Chris Tucker, opt to publish the review and take their licks, but there have been a few who have requested that I hold off publication. These authors, hopefully, then go and make revisions to improve their book and then have me give it another chance. I’d rather do that than post a review that may hurt sales.

I try to be fair in my reviews. If a book is one of a genre that is not one of my favorites, I will state that in the review, being upfront about anything that may have influenced the my opinion. But honestly, as authors who are putting their work out there, we all take the chance that someone out there will not like our work, for whatever reason, and will post an unfavorable review. After all, we are only human, and we are never going to please everyone.

As a reviewer, I know I’m not going to love every book that I review. There will be times when my reviews will be less than shining, but I have to be true to myself and to you, my readers, and publish how I honestly feel. All I can do is try and be specific about what I didn’t like in the hope that the author will take it like a critique and find something useful from my feedback to help to improve their writing or the value of the product they put out.

I think the number one thing we, as writers, can do is remember what one of my Creative Writing professors, Russell Davis, said when talking about receiving critiques from our cohorts,

“Remember, it’s not about you. It’s not personal. It’s all about the writing.”

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.


“Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler”: Not a Western Great

51lb5z0l1ql-_ac_us160_

I like westerns. Thanks to my creative writing instructor and adviser, I discovered that I like to write westerns, and I’m fairly good at it. So, I read Louis Lamour, Zane Grey and other western authors to absorb as much from their talents as I can, applying it to my own writing. I picked up Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origins by J.C. Hulsey in anticipation of a good western tale. What I got instead was a poorly written story, in which the characters’ actions make little sense.

Angel Falls Texas lacks the story line and plot points to hold readers’ interests. Characters are two dimensional and lack depth, making it difficult to connect and invest themselves in the story. There are many flaws in logic which make it nearly impossible to suspend disbelief, and there is a lot of telling, rather than showing.

A teenage boy, Jed, watches as his pa is killed and kills his father’s assailant, who happens to be the sheriff’s brother. So, he sets out on the run, assuming the sheriff will come after him, not even stopping by the home place to gather supplies for the journey. He makes friends along the way, who travel with him, because they apparently have no lives of their own, and end up back where he started, in Angel Falls, where he learns the sheriff is still gunning for him. When the sheriff returns, instead of the show down one would expect, and perhaps even anticipate,  the protagonist runs away, thus avoiding confrontation. The sheriff never even sees him, so it’s not even a close call.

In fact, there is no confrontation throughout the story. There is no conflict, no obstacles to overcome. Jed and his new friends go where they please and do what they want unhindered in any way, with no apparent destination in mind. The characters are not challenged in any way and they have no clear goal to accomplish or strive toward.  They do not have to overcome other people, the elements, or the landscape. Jed spends several months helping one new friend fix up his ranch, but when a neighboring rancher shows up and claims the ranch for his own, his friend packs up and takes to the trail with our hero, giving up without a fight, or even a word of protest.

If that weren’t bad enough, the book is riddled with typos and grammar errors. This is a pet peeve of mine because poor quality books which are self-published give self-publishing as a whole a bad name, adding to the stigma that has been placed on self-published authors. This is one of those books. The cover says this book won first place in Texas Western series, but I don’t see it.

As a fan and author of the western genre, I can only give Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origin one quill.

One Quill3

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 6): Interview with Independently Published YA Author, Jordan Elizabeth

jordan-elizabeth-books
Hello and welcome to Writing to be Read, where I am interviewing authors from the three models of publishing: traditional, independent and self-publishing, to explore the pros and cons of each. To date, we’ve heard from self-published authors Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Arthur Rosch, and with traditionally published authors, Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw.
This week , in part 5, we’ll hear from independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, who publishes her steampunk novels, ghost stories and historical novels as well as several short stories, with Curiosity Quills Press. Jordan’s publishing credits, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, include Escape from Witchwood Hollow, CoglingTreasure Darkly, Born of Treasure, The Goat Children, Victorian, Runners and Riders, and three short story anthologies, including Gears of Brass, Chronology, and Under a Brass Moon.
Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Jordan: My fondest childhood memories involve making up stories into a tape recorder and having my maternal grandmother write them down. Authors have always been my role models. While others fawned over movie stars, I fawned over the authors of my favorite books. One of my favorite childhood authors was Bruce Coville, and a few years ago, I actually got to meet him!
Kaye: Would you share the story of how you ended up with Curiosity Quills Press?
Jordan: My critique partners have always meant a lot to me. I decided to compile an anthology – GEARS OF BRASS – with them in hopes of getting it published. One of my critique partners, Eliza Tilton, shared it with her publisher, Curiosity Quills Press. They accepted it and asked if I had any full length novels I could show them.
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?
Jordan: The biggest con is the stigma. Many times I’ve had people tell me that going with an independent publisher is no better than self-publishing, (as if there is something wrong with that, too). At book signings, I’ve been asked who published my work. When I tell them, they’ll ask if it’s indie or traditional. These people will usually put my book down as if it is tainted.
The biggest pro is having a great, close-knit network. I know authors who have traditionally published and they’ve told me about long delays in questions being answered and feeling distant from the work force behind the book.
Kaye: You mentioned the stigma surrounding independent and self-publishing. What do you see as being the main cause of that stigma?
Jordan: I think the stigma comes from there being a lot of bad, self-published books.  I hate to say that, but I’ve seen them myself and people have told me this at signings.  There are some great self-published books out there…and then there are the books where the author published the first draft with no editing.  Here is my real world example – I met an amazing girl at a book event.  She wrote vampire erotica and I bought a copy of Book 1.  I asked her what she thought of the event and she told me her mom was making her do it.  She was mad that her books weren’t instant best sellers (I think we can all understand wanting our books to be loved by millions).  I asked her what her favorite writing websites were, and she told me doesn’t use things like that.  She doesn’t believe in editing because that just ruins the book.  After I read her story, it sorely needed some editing.  There were many typos, characters changed names and features, and there was no plot.  I could definitely see potential in it and you could tell that she loved the world she had created.  We kept in touch, and I offered to help her with Book 4.  She cut me out of her life then, but did get in touch a few years later to let me know she was quitting writing because of how many negative reviews she had received.  I still feel bad about that.  I hate to see anyone give up on a dream.
 
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?
Jordan: I haven’t worked with a traditional publisher yet, so this is hard for me to answer from a personal standpoint. I will say that I’ve heard from author friends, traditional publishers push the big authors and tend to let the smaller, new authors flounder.
As a pro, bookstores are more apt to carry a traditionally published book. Magazines and newspapers are more apt to run a feature on the book. More people know your name.
Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations, book covers, etc…) do you do yourself, for your books?
Jordan: The publisher handles the book covers and editing, however the marketing and promotion falls to me. Curiosity Quills does do a little. I am in charge of my own cover reveals and blog tours. I seek out bloggers asking for read-and-reviews (my street team is a great resource and helps me out a lot with that). I try to spend at least an hour every night on marketing.
Kaye: You mentioned your street team, which is in fact, how I ended up reviewing Escape from Witchwood Hollow back in Februaryand meeting you via internet. I’ve been reviewing your books and other authors you’ve sent me ever since. Could you talk a little about your street team to let my readers know who and what they are?
 Jordan: I have a street team of 3 women who got in touch with me after reading my first book.  They said they loved the story and were excited that it takes place in a local setting (although names are changed to protect the innocent – and of course there is no cursed hollow), so they asked what they could do to help with promotions  Currently they are helping me to find new readers.  I don’t mind giving out review copies – I just want to share the story with the world, no matter how cheesy that sounds.  They also let me know if they find any coll websites to advertise on and I love getting book recommendations from them.
Kaye: Would you recommend independent publishing as a good path to publication for emerging writers?
Jordan: I would. I feel like going with an independent publisher has helped me to understand the publishing world. I know what makes my website pop, I know what online magazines to advertise in, and I’ve made amazing connections. In the future, I hope to be traditionally published, but I’ll never forget where I got my start.
I want to thank Jordan for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. You can learn more about Jordan and her published works at www.jordanelizabethmierek.com. Be sure and catch next week’s interview with an author who has published work under all three models, middle grade author, Nancy Oswald. It should prove to be very interesting.
Did you like this post? Subscribe to email for notification each time a new post is made on Writing to be Read.

Movie Review: The Neon Demon

I’m not someone who is particularly a fan of movies that are more about being artistically beautiful than having a solid plot, but after seeing The Neon Demon claimed to be horror, and several friends recommending it to me, I knew I had to see it. A great movie to me is one you can get lost in, either because of the plot, or the characters, or the setting/world, or even because it’s so visually stunning that you just want to stare and don’t care what’s happening. I wasn’t sure about The Neon Demon from the few trailers I saw beforehand, but it looked like it had potential so I decided to check it out despite it not being my typical choice of movie.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

The Neon Demon is a movie that has so much about it that is so brilliantly, beautifully, and boldly done that it’s impressive. I could go on for a long while about some of the amazing craftsmanship that went into this movie (and I will below), but I felt like the movie also had one amazingly large fault—its plot. As I said above, a great movie for me is one I can get lost in, and while I can appreciate a lot of the talent, craftsmanship, and just pure artistic awesomeness of this movie, I couldn’t get lost in it for several reasons. I know I am not the target audience for this style of movie so I don’t fault it in the least, but I do want to discuss the things that I loved individually, as well as the things that kept me from loving the movie as a whole.

Cinematography and Sound

I am pretty sure that at least 90% of the shots in this film could be captured into a still frame picture and hung on a wall somewhere as art without question. It’s beautiful, and scene by scene. It’s captivating in that you want to look at it. The balance of colors and costumes, makeup and posing, works so well throughout that it really is enticing to look at even amidst the gore and violence. The opening shot of Elle Fanning as Jessie laying “dead” on the couch immediately has you intrigued because of the surprising prettiness of it all. You don’t know whether it’s real or a photo shoot and you can’t look away. The trend of that alluring beauty carries throughout the film, and it fits well given The Neon Demon’s themes of narcissism and vanity.

Right along with the cinematography was the sound throughout the film. The music used worked incredibly well to create these intense moments during scenes, but what I loved just as much was the use of silence. There are these intense moments where the silence is distinct, and it makes you focus even more on what you’re seeing. Many films or shows don’t use silence in a noticeable way and there’s always some kind of sound going on, but The Neon Demon embraced it at times to heighten moments such as the scene where Elle Fanning is at her first “real” photo shoot. I also appreciated the silences between characters in dialogue because, while they were long at times, I felt like they were used at appropriate moments for emphasis on specific elements or events.

Acting

The other major thing I have to say I enjoyed in this film is that I felt like every actor was captivating in their own way. The characters themselves may have had some flaws in their development (or lack of), but the actors who played them were amazing. Elle Fanning managed to walk that mysterious line of whether her character was predator or prey perfectly, and Jena Malone as Ruby was simultaneously disturbing yet sympathetic. Surprisingly, though, was the fact that Keanu Reeves almost stole the show. It’s not surprising because of who he is—he’s had plenty of great performances—but it’s surprising because of his minimal amount of screen time. Maybe it was just me, but every time he was on screen I felt like he stole the show. Some of it could be that his character was the most physically expressive of them all, and the most distinct personality-wise of all the characters, but I think a huge portion of it just has to be Keanu Reeves as an actor and his abilities.

The Flow

As shown above, so much about this movie was great and worked incredibly well. I think the first area things really faltered for me was the flow. As I said before, if I’m going to get lost in a movie I have to have something to get lost in. For The Neon Demon, the most likely element for that would have been the pure beauty of it all, but the flow kept that from happening for me. While almost every shot was stunning and perfectly crafted, the flow between shots wasn’t always coherent of consistent. Just as I was being lured in by the imagery and about to stop caring about the plot, the tone or the story thread would abruptly shift and throw me out, leaving me wondering what the heck was going on. A great example of this is when Keanu Reeves’ character breaks into Elle’s room during the dream/vision sequence. At that point, the film’s tone and pacing shifted abruptly changing everything. We are in this vain and edgy world of modeling for 2/3rds of the movie and then suddenly we have potential rapes, necrophilia, murder, and cannibalism.

The Plot

This is the real area that is the main flaw of the film. There isn’t much of a plot built up other than the idea of a young, new girl in town getting into the modeling industry and being preyed upon by others in LA who want something from her. I could handle that as a plot if that’s all it was, but there are so many elements in it that seem to lead somewhere only to be dropped away and forgotten, never explained, or not fully utilized. Because there are all these little threads and elements that are thrown in for either artistic pizzazz or random impulse, and because the main plot is so sparse, things get muddled.

An example of the random plot elements are things like the mountain lion appearing in Elle Fanning’s room. It is really used as an excuse to give Keanu Reeves’ character more screen time and to give her “boyfriend” and excuse to go pay off her debt and be her lapdog. In general, though, the whole set-up of the mountain lion randomly getting into her bedroom just seems weird, and like it’s going to be some kind of plot line later that is explained but never is. I did get the sense that it was supposed to sort of be symbolic that there are predators everywhere she looks lurking in the shadows for her, but that was obvious from the moment Jena Malone’s character laid eyes on Elle Fanning in the first scene and the film didn’t need an actual mountain lion to nail the point home. If the film just had the straight simple plot without the random side unexplained elements, like the mountain lion scene or the scene where Jena Malone’s character seemingly gives birth after eating Elle (which was also never really explained or returned to), then I think it would have been much better off.

Final Notes

Overall, while there was so much brilliance to The Neon Demon and some truly amazing craftsmanship that made me want to love it, it was hard to do so when I was kept from being immersed in it. I could go on for a long while about different aspects of this film, but instead, I’ll end with a final thought I had when thinking about what to write here. The Neon Demon is primarily about beauty, vanity, and narcissism, and the film itself manages to be narcissistic. The film is so focused on being beautiful in every moment that it forgot to add real depth. Some could argue that the metaphor and symbolism of the film could be considered depth in place of a plot, but I’m not so sure because so much of that symbolism was not subtle.

Ultimately, whatever I think about the plot or flow, the film is definitely worth watching for anyone who appreciates cinematography, unusual art, or the just plain odd. I can almost guarantee you’ll be asking yourself “What the **** is going on?” at least once during the film, but I can also almost guarantee you’ll find yourself entranced by the beauty of some of the camera shots and scenes. Just keep in mind it does get pretty dark, and as mentioned above there are scenes of murder, necrophilia, and cannibalism, so it’s definitely not for everyone.

 

Robin Conley offers great writing advice most Wednesdays and shares an occasional guest review on Writing to be Read. If you just can’t wait until next week to find out more, you can pop into her blog, Author the World, for more tips, or a weekly writing prompt.


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 5): Interview with Traditionally Published Author, Mark Shaw

 

mark-shaw-books

Those who remember traditional publishing prior to the digital age, recall an industry which was not easy to break into, but with persistence, it could pay off with large advances, and a contract from one of the “Big Five” publishing houses. Your publisher took care of the rest: editing and proofreading, cover and/or illustrations, publicity and marketing. In many ways, it is the same today, but one thing self-publishing and independent publishing have changed, is that they showed traditional publishers that authors were capable of doing their own promotion and marketing. Today’s authors, it seems, are now expected to carry the weight for these tasks no matter which model is chosen.

The rise of digital and self-publishing also brought about a rise in publishing scams, designed to take advantage of aspiring authors and empty their pocketbooks. In the 1990s, when I began writing, they called them vanity presses.An author would send in their work and receive a very favorable response, praising their work and offering to publish it for a fee. As the author moves through the publishing process, the fees keep adding up. Today they are called subsidy publishers. As with traditional publishers, subsidy publishers hold the rights to the book, although the author is paying them to publish it.

So far in the series we’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and we’ve heard from traditionally published author Stacia Deutsch. Join me today to get more of the traditionally published POV in my interview with author Mark Shaw. Among his 25 published works are books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing as The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner: The Mask of Holiness, a biography of Thomas Merton, and Stations Along the Way, a biography of former Hitler youth leader, Ursela Martens. In addition  to being a traditionally published author, Mark is a literary consultant and entertainment attorney, so he knows of what he speaks.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Mark: I’m a former criminal defense lawyer and I never considered being an author until I covered the Mike Tyson rape trial for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today. I believed Tyson was denied justice and so I wrote my first book, Down For the Count.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Mark: I was able to find a literary agent to represent the Tyson book and he found a traditional publisher. I had enjoyed the writing process and the book sold well so I looked for new subjects to write about and within a few years I had published several traditionally published books. Looking for a theme to weave through new books, I landed on “justice denied” and the last four or five I have written including my latest “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” are symbolic of the type of books I write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this book will be my 25th since I never had any formal training as a writer but I’m blessed that people have enjoyed the “stop and think” aspect of the books and continue to praise my body of work.

Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?

Mark: As noted in my book about the publishing process, “How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication,” as long as it’s what we call “traditional self-publishing (no subsidy publisher) then okay, but the career of any writer who uses a subsidy publisher where they pay to have the book published (Dorrance, iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, etc.) is doomed with many who have come to me for consulting telling horror stories of losing their life savings, their homes, etc. Subsidy Publishing is the absolute kiss of death and so many writers fall prey to subsidy publishers that promise the moon and end up with boxes of books in the basement they can never sell since libraries and most bookstores won’t touch them. This is unfortunate since aspiring authors can use a combination of Create Space and Ingram Spark to publish a book with very minimal cost and this traditional self-publishing method is a badge of honor and libraries and bookstores will be interested in purchasing and stocking the book.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Mark: There seems to be confusion as to what this term means but as long as it doesn’t include subsidy publishing, I’m all for it.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Mark: I encourage writers to try the traditional publishing route by using query letters and book proposals and a good strategy for landing a literary agent or publisher and if that doesn’t work, then use traditional self-publishing. The advantages of traditional publishing include the publisher paying for all aspects of the publishing process, editing, layout, cover, etc. without the writer putting up a cent but most importantly traditional publishing includes distribution (my new book has Simon&Schuster distribution) which traditional self-publishing lacks since the author must do the distribution. One disadvantage these days for a first time author is that unlike ten years ago, many traditional publishers will not do much toward promotion and thus the author is expected to do the major part of the work.

Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models?

Mark: You are talking about completely different subjects here. With marketing and promotion, regardless of the method of publishing, an author has to understand that he or she must be the guiding force behind book publicity. With illustrations and book covers, etc. traditional publishers will handle this task while the author of any traditional self-published book is responsible for handling these matters and there are several outstanding consultants who can help with this tasks. Again, writers should stay away from subsidy publishers many of whom produce inferior books that cause problems right away with the authors’ reputation.

Kaye: Do you recommend traditional publishing for today’s aspiring authors, and why or why not?

Mark: Absolutely but writers must proceed with a well-developed strategy such as the “10-Step Method” outlined in “How to Become a Published Author.” There are no shortcuts possible here and most writers don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to secure a literary agent so their chances of securing a publisher are optimized.

 

I want to thank Mark for sharing his thoughts with us.  Also, I’m excited to be reviewing his latest book. Be sure and catch my review of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much on November 25, right here on Writing to be Read. To learn more about Mark Shaw or his books visit his website.

Don’t miss next Monday’s post and my interview with independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, and get her thoughts on today’s publishing industry on Writing to be Read.

If you liked this post, subscribe to email and receive a notification each time a new post is made on Writing to be Read.


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 4): Interview with Traditionally Published Children’s Author, Stacia Deutsch

deutsch-books

So far, in this publishing series, we’ve heard from three self-published authors who say self-publishing is the way to go for today’s authors. In Part 1, we heard from my talented friend and cohort, Jeff Bowles. In Part 2, we heard from tale spinner, Tim Baker. And last week, in Part 3, we heard from storyteller and author, Arthur Rosch. This week, we’ll hear from the other side of the writing field, as I interview a traditionally published author.

Join me for today’s interview with Stacia Deutsch, who is the author of more than two hundred children’s books, both original and write for hire. I had the pleasure of first, being a cohort to and then, studying under this amazing children’s author, so vibrant and full of energy, and always smiling. She is the author of the eight book, award winning, chapter book series Blast to the Past. Her resume includes Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew,The Boxcar Children, and Mean Ghouls from Scholastic. Stacia has also written junior movie tie in novels for summer blockbuster films, including BATMAN, THE DARK KNIGHT and the New York Times Best Sellers: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS JR.  and THE SMURFS.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

 Stacia: I didn’t know early on. This is a second career for me. One night when my kids were small, I was reading Harry Potter outlaid to them when I had an idea for a kids book about 4 kids who time travel and meet famous people n history. That became Blast to the Past. I wrote 3 whole books in the series before I ever tried to sell them.
Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?
Stacia: Tell everyone you know you are writing a book. I was at dinner with people I didn’t know well. I said I’d finished a book and the woman said, “My nephew is an agent.” He wasn’t, but he knew a lot of them and helped get my first agent. Once I sold Blast to the Past, the editor asked if I wanted to ghost write Nancy Drew. I’ve been working steadily, mostly in licensed work, ever since.
Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?
Stacia: I decided to try it with a book called Lucky Phoo about 3 girls who share a lucky dog. If you aren’t committed to making your self published book your life, and working at it daily, then don’t start. I sell hardly any because I am doing other things. People who do well are dedicated to the process.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing? 

Stacia: I love being with traditional houses and finding my books in the big box stores, or at the airport, or at Scholastic book fairs. There is no other way into those places. The issue is that you aren’t making every cent from your own book, but you have little outlay as well. My agent gets 15% of everything I sell.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Stacia: It’s a big deal for the author to do their own promotion and really necessary. You have to be devoted to your audience, and build a following to be successful. You need a budget. Do you want to travel, do a book tour? website? blog tour? Everything costs. So, regardless of how you get published, play how much money and time you are willing to put into it.

Kaye: Would you recommend your chosen path to publication, to emerging writers? Why or why not?

Stacia: I am an advocate for traditional publishing. I think agents and editors are gate keepers for quality. But if you have a good idea, that doesn’t fit what houses are looking for, go for it. Just be aware of what you’ll need to do to make it work.

I want to thank Stacia for sharing her thoughts on the publishing industry with us today. If you’d like to learn more about Stacia, you can find her at www.staciadeutsch.com, @staciadeutsch and http://www.facebook/staciadeutsch. Be sure and catch Part 4 of the series next week, when I’ll interview traditionally published author Mark Shaw on Writing to be Read.
Like this post? Subscribe to email for notification each time a new post is published on Writing to be Read.

Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 3): Interview with Self-Published Author Arthur Rosch

art-rosch-books

Your at a dinner party, chatting with other guests when someone asks what you do. You say that you’re an author and everyone is adequately impressed. It’s not every day you meet a bonefide author. Then you mention that you are self-published, and suddenly they all have somewhere better to be.

Self-publishing carries with it a certain stigma. In part, it may be due to a certain number of poor quality self-published books that flooded the market with the rise in popularity of the self-publishing market. With the rise of digital media, almost over night, it was no longer necessary to seek out and captivate a traditional publisher, and anyone, whether they write well or not, could become an author. In the beginning, as it is with most rising trends, self-publishing was a rather expensive proposition, and many authors didn’t have a whole lot to invest, so they skimped by on costs by skipping things like professional editing. Some maybe had their mother or their aunt or their brother give it a once over, but none of them had a trained eye. Others didn’t even do that, believing that their writing was so good, it didn’t need to be edited, or perhaps they were just out to make a buck, and didn’t really care if they put out a quality book. But, for whatever reasons, a lot of less than good quality self-published books made their way out into the market, marring the reputation of the self-publishing industry.

Companies like Amazon and Smashwords put another bump in the industry when they offered authors yet another avenue for publication with the e-book. Digital publishing was cheaper and easier than publishing print copies. In fact, it is virtually free to publish digitally, freeing up funds to be used for things like editing in order to create a quality piece of literature. Of course, there will always be those who are just in it for the money and don’t really care if the book they put out there is good quality, as long as it makes them money. They’re the types that will take advantage of the savings of digital publication to line their own pockets and still won;t bother to pay an editor. They are the authors that wouldn’t survive in the digital publishing world, but hopefullly, there are less of them now.

Despite the stigma attached to self-publishing, there are many talented self-published authors out there, who care about creating and publishing a quality literary product. Today’s interview is with self-published author, Arthur Rosch, who puts whatever time and effort is required into his books, sometimes taking years to complete them. Art is a talented writer. His publishing credits include his travel memoir, The Road has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV, and a Wild Ride through Indian Country, his literary novel, Confessions of an Honest Man, and his epic science fiction novel, The Gods of the Gift. Art shares a positive outlook on self-publishing with previously interviewed self-published authors, Tim Baker and Jeff Bowles. Here, Art shares his thoughts on the publishing industry with his very generous answers, as he candidly relates his own publishing journey.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Art: I’ve been reading for pleasure since I was five.years old I remember the day I learned to read. It came like a lightning bolt. Aha! So that’s how it works! I made the connection between letters and the sounds they represented. It was my third week in kindergarten. I hated school but I loved to read books. I started by reading historical novels. The other kids were reading “Dick And Jane Go To The Farm”.

When I was fifteen I fell madly in love with a girl. She wanted certain attributes in a boyfriend. One of those requirements was that said boyfriend should be a poet. So, I began to write poetry to please my girlfriend. She turned out to be far less faithful than the process of writing. I gave up on the girl and stuck with the writing. When I was twenty five I was seized by the ambition to write a novel. The project became a science fiction novel called THE GONGS OF SPACE. It was awful. It did, however, attract the interest of literary agent Scott Meredith. I signed a two year contract, and proceeded to write more novels. None of them sold. I had plenty of imagination but lacked some fundamental skills in the craft of writing.. I also needed more life experience.

I’m old enough to remember the “old” model of publishing. I had an entree into that world of agents, editors and publishers. A short story of mine won Playboy Magazine’s Best Story Of The Year Award. I had my fifteen minutes of fame. All the doors were open.

Playboy invited me (with an expense account) to their twenty fifth anniversary party.. I came away with a pocket full of business cards from important people in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, at that time I was dabbling in drugs. That dabble turned into a roaring addiction that derailed me for twenty years. I wrote during those decades. I wrote a lot. But I was like the Hubble Telescope before it was repaired. I couldn’t focus. I had a wonderful opportunity that I wasted by making a very bad choice. This kind of blunder is the stuff of life. I admit, I screwed up. I prefer to regard that interval in my life as “experience”. It was my Dark Night Of The Soul I had lost my family, my home, my possessions and my dignity. But I learned from my suffering.

What can a writer do without insight into the human condition? What decent writer is not also an observer and a psychologist?. My addiction years were loaded with with lessons. I sank to the bottom of the social order. I was on the streets, completely mired in the human experience. I learned from the streets. I learned hard. Then I had to put myself back together.

Addiction is one of the central pillars of my life narrative. I wanted to heal myself, so I went into a long therapy and read everything I could find about family dynamics, addiction and obsession.. Some writers need to spend an apprenticeship in the realm of compulsion, irrationality, bad choices and failure. By the time I was in my mid forties I had a thorough apprenticeship under my belt.

When I surfaced from that underworld, I started looking for an agent. A whole generation of agents had come and gone. The publishing world had changed. I was now (by my own evaluation) a fine writer with a distinctive voice. Agents weren’t interested in me. I wrote hundreds of query letters. I had three novels and a memoir that were ready for editing and representation. I got rejections again and again. How many times did I read the same phrases? “Not quite right for us”, “good luck with your writing career”, “though you write well, I couldn’t quite fall in love with this project.”

It’s likely that you’ve also read these phrases.. In 2001 I wrote to the Scott Meredith Agency in an attempt to re-kindle some kind of relationship. My letter was answered by the head editor. Meredith had passed away and the agency continued under a new owner. My novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN was well under way. The editor loved the manuscript and offered to work with me. I was not a client of the agency. I was a side-project. The editor, B.N. Malzberg., charged no fee, and worked with me on his own time. The guidance he provided helped to make CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN into a mature and viable novel.

Still, no agents wanted to represent me. It was an odd situation. Malzberg didn’t have the authority to bring me on board. I don’t know why. I never will. I’m grateful to Mr. Malzberg for the help he gave me in bringing that wonderful novel to fruition.

Kaye: What are your thoughts on the self-publishing industry?

Art: I spend a lot of time writing my novels. Some of my books have been in process for thirty years. THE GODS OF THE GIFT, a sci fi epic, was begun in 1978 and wasn’t completed until 2012. Nowadays the book scene is so competitive that a writer needs to have an extensive body of work. Writers are forced to view their works as Product. The more product you have, the more you can sell. I have to learn to write more quickly. My travel memoir, THE ROAD HAS EYES, was finished in a year. Now I’m writing a crime novel. In a month I’ve racked up 20,000 words. I do all my own cover designs. I hire out the formatting. I mostly self-edit but that’s not really a good idea. It’s better to join a writing group and share your work with your peers. Better still, hire a good editor.

It’s useful to identify one’s “brand” with a genre. It’s also good to write series. The reading audience loves series. My crime novel will be a series based on the characters I’ve invented. I have a fantasy trilogy in the works. Book One is complete. Book Two, the sequel, is under way. I’m not known as a genre writer. With good reason. My portfolio consists of one memoir, one literary novel, three sci fi novels and a crime novel-in-progress. I also have nearly three hundred blog posts in the form of reviews, poems and essays. My “brand recognition” doesn’t stick. Fortunately I have relationships with magazines like Across The Margin and Exquisite Corpse. ATM has published a lot of my work. I’ve also published as a photographer with magazines like

Shutterbug and Popular Photography. I had a centerfold in CAT FANCY. Our beautiful cat, Agate, was shown without her clothes. Agate didn’t care. She never wears clothes. We don’t believe in dressing up animals to look like people.

Kaye: Why did you choose to self-publish your books?

Art: Four years ago I began to explore the self-publishing world. Getting a book published is easy. Marketing the book is another matter. I’m not a good marketer. I plunged into the crazy world of podcasts, webinars and the pitches of various book marketing gurus. I was trying to get a basic grip on marketing strategies. The problem is that the parameters for marketing change so fast that it’s impossible to know how to approach the world of self-promotion.. Also, I was broke. Marketing costs money. I spent $1500 on paid-for reviews and marketing “helpers”. These investments weren’t completely useless, but they didn’t do much to boost my sales.

I would estimate that at least $5000 is required for a marketing budget. That’s just for starters. If you’re lucky, and if you have some talent, your investment will begin to show returns fairly quickly. You’re going to need a knack for business promotion. Marketing a self published book requires patience. Patience. Patience. Just don’t give up. You’re going to encounter a lot of rejection and a lot of discouragement. It goes with the profession of writing.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Art: The first thing I do every day is drop a Tweet about one of my books. Twitter is free. Facebook is…well, not quite free. As the world’s population increases, so do the number of writers competing for a piece of the audience pie. I’ve learned, to my dismay, that you don’t have to be a good writer to be successful. You just have to be a good story teller. Many popular writers tell the same story over and over again. They hit on a formula that works, and they milk it. I don’t have it in me, to be a lazy writer. I pour my heart and soul into everything I do. My books enjoy modest sales. My platform is almost non–existent. It will take time to develop my platform until it’s something more than a few Popsicle sticks taped together.

Most of my “writing time” is actually study time. When I write, I write. But I spend three or four hours a day studying marketing. And I’ll admit I’m confused. The major advertising venues change their parameters suddenly and arbitrarily. Facebook had an advertising algorithm that was favorable to the writer. Then they changed the algorithm. The amount of pay changed downward. Same with Amazon, same with Google. It’s like writing in an earthquake. The ground shifts under our feet. But that’s life, isn’t it? The ground always shifts under our feet. The one thing you can count on is CHANGE.

Kaye: Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors?

Art: Traditional publishing now resembles self-publishing so much that it’s difficult to pry them apart. If you sign a contract with a big house you’re still going to have to do your own marketing. If you’re a major name, that’s different. Steven King doesn’t do his own marketing. But Arthur Rosch will indeed have to market, whether he’s self published or under contract to Random House. So…why not self publish? Statistics reveal that self publishing is garnering an ever-increasing market share. There’s no longer a stigma attached to self publishing.

Don’t give up. Persist. Stay with what you love, and if you love writing, then, you must write. Right?

You can visit my book website at roschbooks.com. My e-books are $2.99. I signed up for the Amazon KDP promotion but I haven’t seen any benefit. Next step will be to publish real paperback books. I recommend self-publishing for the simple reason that many of us have no choice. It’s so difficult to hook an agent these days that you might as well fish for salmon in the local park’s swimming pool.

I want to thank Art for sharing his story with us. Be sure and check in next week on Writing to be Read, when I’ll talk with traditionally published children’s author, Stacia Deutsch and get her views on the publishing industry.

Did you like this post? Subscribe to email and be notified each time a new post is made here on Writing to be Read.