Author, Editor, Publisher

Tag: Writing (Page 2 of 6)

How Do You Deal With Reviews?

A collector on the Cemetery Dance forum asked: “Do reviews impact/affect you differently between your CD gig and your author gig? Or do you just shrug these off for both?”

Typewriter

I basically have two rules when it comes to reading reviews of my own work:

1) If the review is good, don’t pat yourself on the back; the reviewer was probably just feeling generous.

2) If the review is bad, for the love of God, DO NOT RESPOND unless your response is NOT going to make things worse.

Guess what? When it comes to rule #2, if you’re a writer and you feel the need to “defend” your work, you’re probably just going to make things worse.

But when it comes to reviews and comments about my work or what we do at Cemetery Dance, I try to evaluate what has been said for validity and valuable/useful information because you can always, always get better.

When someone critiques the books we publish at Cemetery Dance, I ask myself:

Is there something we overlooked or could do differently/better on future projects?

Is this note from someone who always complains about everything we do, to the point it seems to be the person’s hobby? (We have a few of those.)

Is this note simply from someone who doesn’t know how the small press works? For example, this was a real email I woke up to the other day: “Why didn’t you have Stephen King sign 10,000 copies!?! then everyone could have one!?!”

For my writing, again, I look at the source and I try to learn anything I can that will make the next story better if there is something to be learned.

If the person says, “There should have been more vampires!” in a story that wasn’t about vampires, you just kind of ignore that.

If the person says, “the middle was a little slow” or “the ending happened too fast” or “I didn’t understand character X’s motivations” — those are notes you can mentally file away for consideration. The reader may not be right, it could just be their personal tastes at play, but if more readers say the same thing, you can keep those points in mind for future projects. (Or even a future revision of the same work, which I’ve heard is all the rage.)

For bad customer reviews on Amazon, I consider whether the review is well-written (“this suxs!” vs a thoughtful dissection of what didn’t work) and I look at what else the person has reviewed. My genre? Different genres? Are they all bad reviews? What does the reader actually like?

Maybe my book just wasn’t a good fit for their reading tastes or maybe I dropped the ball in some fundamental way. You can learn a lot from a well-written one star review. In fact, that’s where I go first when evaluating other books.

You’re never going to please every reader. Books aren’t supposed to please every reader. Everyone has different tastes. Sometimes it’s just a swing and a miss, you know?

So how about you? Do you read your reviews? How do you approach them?

Fate and The Exorcist: An In-depth Interview with William Peter Blatty

Many readers asked if my 10,000 word interview with William Peter Blatty from the Cemetery Dance Publications special edition of The Exorcist/Legion would ever be available again, so I’m pleased to report it’s been republished as an eBook for just 99 cents:

Fate and the Exorcist

Fate and The Exorcist: An In-depth Interview with William Peter Blatty
by Brian James Freeman

When Cemetery Dance Publications managing editor Brian James Freeman sat down with William Peter Blatty for a quick interview, he already knew the New York Times bestselling author of The Exorcist, Legion, The Ninth Configuration, Elsewhere, and many other acclaimed novels was a fascinating person, as well as one of our most acclaimed writers of the last fifty years.

What Freeman didn’t expect was how open Blatty would be about his entire life and every aspect of his career, including both the highs and the lows. What started as a simple interview turned into a 10,000 word career-spanning discussion that touches on just about every project Blatty has ever conceived.

Starting with Blatty’s appearance on You Bet Your Life through the writing of The Exorcist and concluding with his current projects and his thoughts on fate and life in general, there is something for every William Peter Blatty fan in this incredibly in-depth interview.

Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Kobo • iTunes/iBooks

 

Author Joe Konrath on Writing and Publishing and his 10,000 Hours

Last year I interviewed Joe Konrath, but somehow that interview never got posted. Most of this is still very relevant, but keep in mind that a lot can change in a year. Still, there’s good stuff in here for all kinds of writers and I didn’t want that to go to waste:

Brian James Freeman: I’ve heard a lot of very large numbers thrown around over the years, but how many books/stories/words did you really write before you sold your first novel?

Joe Konrath: I wrote nine novels before selling Whiskey Sour in 2002, plus over a hundred shorts. I received more than 500 rejections. I’d easily crossed the million word mark before I made a cent.

To talk numbers, Whiskey Sour was a three book deal, $33k per book. I got a second three book deal for $41k per book, and right after I signed it my publisher dropped their mystery line, me included.

That said, my books are all still in print, in multiple printings, and they’ve earned out their advances. My last 6 month royalty check for these was $25k, and naturally the majority of sales were ebooks.

BJF: Many people would have given up, but what drove you to keep writing?

JK: I love writing. I always wanted to make a living doing something I love, and now I’m lucky enough to do so.

BJF: What has been the best part about working with a New York publisher?

JK: Signing a deal was always a reason to celebrate, and I’ve worked with some smart, talented folks.

BJF: The worst?

JK: Poor royalties, no say in title or cover, lots of self-promotion, small marketing budgets, long publication times, short shelf life, returns, coop, and we’re supposed to be grateful to be published. Last I checked, the writer was an essential component in book sales, but we were never paid like we were, or treated like we were.

BJF: Now that you’re one of the best known self-publishers, new authors are always asking you how you did it, and you always say it’s a combination of luck, luck, and more luck.  Seriously, how did you do it?

JK: I was in the right place at the right time. When Amazon created the Kindle, I had an extensive backlist that NY publishers rejected. I’d also spent seven years learning how to market and self-promote. Malcolm Gladwell calls it the Rule of 10,000. You have to spend 10,000 hours at something to become an expert at it. I had 10k hours in writing and 10k hours in makerting and publishing. I was also determined to succeed. Put all this together and I was in a good position for luck to strike.

BJF: Do you think the ease with which authors can self-publish will change anything about how New York publishers operate?

JK: No. I don’t think NY will adapt. They’re doing a very good job of making themselves irrelevant.

BJF: How much of a role do you think Amazon.com will play in publishing in the next ten years?

JK: They’re the new kid on the block, with new ideas and a smart way of doing business. Watch to see how many authors they sign in 2012.

BJF: Now that you can self-publish anything you want to write, has that affected what you choose to write?

JK: I did a choose-your-own-adventure type of ebook, and have been doing a lot of novellas and collaborations that would have been impossible to sell a few years ago. That said, I still write commercial fiction, because that’s what I enjoy. If I ever become so self-indulgent that I stop entertaining the readers, please kick me.

BJF: What has been your most successful marketing effort for your own work? Why?

JK: For paper books, I once went on a summer tour and signed at over 500 bookstores. I believe my early touring and internet efforts are a large part of the reason I’m still in print, which turned out to be a big mistake on my part. If I’d let those books die rather than pushed them so hard, I’d probably have the rights back, and would be making a lot more money on them.

As for ebooks, I don’t do much marketing. I try to write good stories, with good covers, good descriptions, and low prices. They seem to sell themselves.

BJF: Your least successful marketing effort?

JK: I once mailed out 7000 letters to libraries and bookstores. That was a lot of money, and a lot of work, and I don’t think it was worth it.  I believe ads are a mistake. So are postcards, give-aways, contests, and book trailers. Think about the last book you bought. Why did you buy it? What made you aware of it? Figure that out, and use that strategy.

BJF: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

JK: Doing what I’ve been doing the last twenty. Writing, writing, writing.

BJF: What advice do you have for writers who are just getting started?

JK: This is a business. Act businesslike.

BJF: Finally, if you had to point new readers to just one of your books to get them hooked, which one would you recommend?

JK: Endurance by my pen name Jack Kilborn. It’s scary. Real scary.

The Painted Darkness Trade Paperback Discounted Right Now

The trade paperback of The Painted Darkness is currently discounted on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

If you haven’t read the novella yet, this is a great time to snag a copy. Please consider spreading the word about this sale if you know anyone who might be interested.

The eBook is still available through:
Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • iBookstore • Kobo • CemeteryDance.com

The audiobook can be downloaded on Amazon.com  Audible.com  iTunes

The Painted Darkness eBook is Only 99 Cents This Week!

To give a fresh boost to The Painted Darkness in 2013, I’m discounting the eBook edition to just 99 cents this week and doing a little advertising on some of the more popular eBook newsletters. For those of you who are interested in marketing and promoting eBooks, I’ll write up a report next week on how this worked out.

If you haven’t read the novella yet, this is a great time to snag a copy. Please consider spreading the word about this sale if you know anyone who might be interested.

The discounted eBook is available through: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • iBookstore • Kobo • CemeteryDance.com

When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his terror by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually, Henry’s mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son, and life couldn’t be better… except there’s something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There’s something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing, and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child — and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him… or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief — and what happens when we’re finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

The trade paperback is also still available through: Amazon.com • Cemetery Dance • Barnes & Noble

The audiobook can be downloaded on Amazon.com  Audible.com  iTunes

The Short Story is Dead! Long Live the Short Story!

I keep hearing from people who ask why Cemetery Dance Publications even bothers publishing anthologies and collections (or even the magazine!) these days. After all, isn’t the short story dead?

Well, if it is, I guess I didn’t get that memo.

Yes, obviously the heyday of short stories in print has passed. None of us are selling short stories to the Evening News or Saturday Evening Post or even the paperback original anthologies that crowded the bookstores in the ’80s and early ’90s — and those markets aren’t coming back.

But I don’t think the lack of markets means the short story is dead. As long as authors want to write short stories and there are readers who still want to read them, the form will live on. In my experience, there’s definitely still readers who want to read short fiction. Not as many as there once was, but I think there could be more on the way — if only we help younger readers discover the thrill of the short story again.

After all, at least when I was a kid, most of the books I read in middle school and younger were essentially long short stories. You read those little paperbacks until you graduated onto “adult” books.

These days, it seems like all of the emphasis is on writing your big series of novels for younger readers — three books is okay, seven books is great. I keep hearing from authors that their younger readers don’t even KNOW what a short story is, and these readers find it confusing when they stumble across a piece of short fiction.

This confuses me. Have they completely dropped English classes from the curriculum? I know it was fourteen years ago that I last stepped foot into a high school classroom, and in the age of the Internet that’s approximately 1 billion years ago, but I remember having an entire book full of short stories as part of my English class each year.

But even if young readers aren’t being properly introduced to the short story, maybe we can still win them over. Time is in short supply for everyone these days and short stories can be a convenient break from reality for a busy person. You can finish off a short story in less than an hour in most cases. Sometimes ten minutes is all you need. Sometimes a story will take you five minutes to read and yet you’ll still be thinking about it days or months later if the author did his or her job right.

That means you can read a short story on the bus to work. You can read a short story over your lunch break, if you’re not too busy playing Angry Birds. You could even read a short story between classes while walking across your college campus, if you were so inclined.

If the people around you don’t think books are cool, you have nothing to worry about thanks to the rise of eBooks. You can be staring at your cell phone and everyone will think you’re just stumped by the letters you have on Words With Friends. No one has to know you’re actually reading a story. (Although, seriously, if the people you hang out with aren’t into reading, maybe it’s time to expand your horizons a bit and find some additional friends. Try your local library or bookstore while they’re still around.)

I hope short stories will find a way to flourish in the world of eBooks. Some of my short stories are already on Amazon.com right now from a marketing experiment I tried a few years back and I’m pleasantly surprised to see a few of them selling several hundred copies a year with absolutely no promotion at all. That tells me there are still readers for short fiction out there.

What are your thoughts on the short story? Is it a dying form? Or will eBooks bring them back to life?

The Million Dollar Book (Don’t Buy That Big House Just Yet!)

A few years ago, I was talking to an author friend who wrote a novel in the 1990s that his agent — who was one of the biggest agents in the game — thought was a “million dollar book.”

dreamhouseShe was extremely excited and she took the book out to auction, convinced it was going to make her author rich and famous and push his career into the stratosphere.

(This would hardly be the first time she had done this for one of her clients. She really understood the market well.)

She picked the five biggest editors to start with — the type of editors who didn’t even have to get approval to buy a book because they had their own imprints and a lot of power — and she gave them each a few days to read and prepare their offers for the auction.

Six months later, every editor in New York had passed.

Here was a great author with an established career, and here was an agent who was one of the best in the business because she always found “big books,” and she couldn’t sell this truly terrific novel.

The moral of the story: whether you’re trying to sell your work to a traditional publisher or you’re going the self-publishing route, the odds of being the next “million dollar author” are extremely slim. That’s why you simply sit down and write the next book and keep plugging away.

Also, it’s why you don’t buy that McMansion until the check clears.

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