What To Do When You Get a One-Star Book Review

 

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It’s really up to YOU what you do when you get a one-star review, but I can tell you what I did.

I announced it on Facebook and Twitter – “Just received my first one-star review on Amazon. I have ARRIVED!”

I really try to make it a habit to tell the truth about my experiences, both on my personal Facebook page and on my writing-related social networks. Yes, I will surely post online if I get a great review from a book blogger or if by some miracle I ever become a bestselling author, but I also make it a point to be totally upfront about my shortcomings. I think this is helpful for other writers to know that they’re not alone.

Getting a one-star review is simply a fact of life for writers. Since the day I published my first book on July 9, 2014, I knew that it was inevitable that I would get some bad reviews. I knew that, eventually, somebody was going to hate my book and have no qualms in telling me about it. My biggest fear was that the first review I received would be negative. That fear was unfounded, thank goodness. The first review I EVER got was a five-star review from someone I did not know. Believe me; I’m still excited about that.

Readers sometimes give one-star reviews for no good reason. If the book was well written, but simply not a reader’s cup of tea, he may blame you for it. She may one-star it if there’s too much violence in your book or not enough, or if she’s offended because you used a naughty word or two. Sometimes he just did not like your book, and that’s okay. Not everyone will. You might totally disagree with the reader, or you might even think the she has a point. If the reader is upset because there are typos and grammatical errors in your work, then you’ve got a problem that you really need to address if you’re hoping to succeed as a professional writer.

Some writers don’t read their reviews, and that’s fine. Personally, I do read mine because I think it helps to know what my readers like and what they don’t. Great reviews are wonderful, but critical ones can actually help you improve your writing.

The book in question here, QUEEN HENRY, has a somewhat controversial ending. Although the book does contain a male/male relationship, I never said the book was a gay romance novel. It’s not – rather it’s LGBT Fiction. (SPOILER ALERT) The book has a somewhat bittersweet ending, as the lovers do not end up together due to circumstances beyond their control. I can completely understand that a reader might be disappointed if they read this book thinking it’s a romance. A reviewer for Baltimore OUTLoud (an LGBT newspaper) gave the book a terrific, front-page review. I met the reviewer, Steve Charing, in person and he told me that he had initially been disappointed in the ending, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized that was how the book needed to end.

Madam One-Star Reviewer was ANGRY about the ending. Her review was entitled OMG I AM SO UNBELIEVABLY ANGRY RIGHT NOW! I FEEL LIKE I WAS ROBBED OF MY PRECIOUS TIME AND ENERGY! She even said “I plan to diligently avoid this writer from now on.” (I’m pretty sure she got the book as a free download, so I’m not exactly crying in my beer over that loss….)

Sure, it made me a little sad to get a one-star review, but I really wasn’t too upset about it. I understand why she feels the way she does. She called the book a gay romance novel (again, it’s not, and was never marketed as such). She was not the only one who was sad about the ending, but the vast majority of readers understood the point of it. The story is about a homophobic guy who takes a strange pill and becomes temporarily gay. He falls in love with a man and learns an important lesson in the process, but then the effects of the drug wear off. He and his boyfriend still love each other, but are no longer lovers (Reviewer said just because he’s not gay doesn’t mean they can’t stay together. While this is true, that’s not what my character chose to do. )His boyfriend ends up happy with another man and Henry later has a girlfriend, so it’s not a horribly depressing ending. Some readers were disappointed that Henry turned out to be straight after all. However, I didn’t want to tell the story of a man who was struggling with his sexuality and realizes he’s gay. I wanted to tell the story of a straight, homophobic guy and who becomes temporarily gay so he could undergo a life-changing experience.

The thing is – this one-star reviewer CARED. She cared for Henry and Thomas, and was mad that they broke up. She even claimed to like most of the book until the end when she threw a tantrum and posted her opinion online. It’s nice to know that my book emotionally resonated; that’s better than indifference.

It can actually be a good thing to get a one-star review. First of all, people know that at least some of your reviews are real and aren’t just from people you know. I can’t help but be curious about one-star reviews, and I tend to click on them to see what the reviewer hated about a book that I’m thinking of reading. If a one-star reviewer rants that there’s bad language and too much sex in the book, that’s not going to be a deterrent to me. In fact, it just might make me hit that one-click purchase button!

Whatever the reason, when you get a one-star review (and you will) know you are in good company. Look at any author, even bestselling ones. They ALL have some bad reviews.

When you get a bad review, take a few minutes to think about it. Do you agree with what was said? If not, move on. If you think the reviewer has a point, think about what you might do differently in your next book.

Whatever you do, don’t lose any sleep over it. I know I didn’t.

 

Linda Fausnet

 

 

You MUST Write Every Day! Unless You Can’t….

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Most how-to books, blogs, and writer gurus tell you that you absolutely MUST write every single day or you’ll never amount to anything as a writer. After all, practice really does make perfect.

Yeah, well, there’s no such thing as perfect, no matter how much you practice. While I agree that the most efficient way to become a great writer is to write as much as possible and to get your work critiqued so you can figure out how to improve, sometimes a little thing called life gets in the way.

I do write every single workday and I write on as many nights and weekends as I can. I rarely have a problem getting motivated and I write even when I’m not motivated. I get up between 5am and 5:30 every day to ensure that I get, at the very least, one hour of writing in every single day.  One rule of mine is that I write for one hour Monday through Friday – pretty much no matter what. My other rule is that I never HAVE to write on evenings and weekends unless I want to. Well, the truth of the matter is, I almost ALWAYS want to, but stuff like homework and kids and dishes and laundry get in the way to the point where I will get overwhelmed quickly if I write every night instead of taking care of those other things.

I almost never have a problem writing. I have a problem STOPPING. The hour between 6:30am and 7:30am seems to be the fastest of the whole day. It’s almost painful for me when I have to stop doing what I love after only one hour so I can spend the next 8 hours doing someone else’s bidding at my day job.

However…

I understand that not all writers feel this way. Many, many writers – GOOD writers – have trouble getting started or feeling motivated to write. This is normal and completely understandable. For sure, you will have to force yourself to write on a very regular basis if you want to have a chance at truly making it as a successful writer, but is not writing daily going to spell the end of your career before it begins?

Not necessarily.

There are two important factors that may determine how often you write:

How serious are you really about pursuing writing as a career?

How much time do you actually have available to write?

The answers for me are – I’m EXTREMELY serious and driven when it comes to my writing career and I don’t have a ton of time available, but I carve it out wherever and whenever I possibly can and this includes a firm daily writing schedule.

There are really a number of factors to consider when it comes to the time and energy that you choose to devote to writing. Do you want to self-publish and/or submit to agents as many books as you possibly can?  Or are you trying to finish one book just to see what happens? Are you writing a memoir for personal reasons – to tell your own story – but you don’t plan on making writing a career?  Are you independently wealthy or do you work a 40-hour work week? Are you single or are you married with three kids? Are you caring for an elderly parent or do you suffer from a disability that makes it more difficult for you to find the time and energy to write? Do you fit in three hours of television watching a day? Are you in school and studying for finals?

Each writer’s career trajectory is different and to make blanket statements that you MUST write every day or you’re a terrible writer and just don’t care about writing seems unfair to me.

Figure out what you really want to do and make a plan to do it. Life can legitimately get in the way sometimes, and it’s okay to give writing a break when you feel totally overwhelmed. If you’ve decided that you really want to write a book, all you have to do is just one thing.

WRITE THE BOOK.

In two months or two years – even in two decades. It’s all up to you.

– Linda Fausnet

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The Stages of Self-Publishing

Wannabe Pride welcomes guest blogger KENDALL BAILEY!

I was born and raised in northeastern Vermont. I now live in southwest Minnesota with his wife and son. I’d been interested in writing for a decade or so and finally took the leap (wrote my first novel) the beginning of this year. I’m enjoying my experience as an independent author and am currently working on the second draft of my second novel.

A self-published author is a small business owner, it’s true. Some of us will be non-profits, making church cookbooks or maybe a family history, but the rest of us want to sell our work to anyone who cares to read it. This post is geared toward the second group, though the non-profit folks could benefit from it too, I hope. As usual, I am going to use myself as an example throughout the piece.

I am a small business, manufacturing a product. The stages of writing a novel aren’t so different from the stages of a new product launch.

I start with R&D – plotting, researching, basically the knowledge phase, trying to figure out what I want the story to be. For example, with my first novel I knew I wanted to have a teenage boy living in a haunted hotel, and there had to be a girl. Not a lot of detail, just the plot in broad strokes.

Then comes the trial run, my first draft. I have the shell of the story with a few details sprinkled here and there. While writing a first draft I am learning what the story is. I think it’s common for these first two phases to overlap for many writers. For me they can overlap to the point of almost occurring in tandem. (My current book is happening this way. I decided one afternoon to write a YA novel from the POV of a 14 year old girl who is into nerd things. That’s not even a plot! I am a little over 10,000 words into the manuscript now and have a much better idea where I’m going.)

Phase three is product testing. Do you find yourself grinning like an idiot when you read your manuscript for the first time? I know I do! That first read is my favorite part of the writing process. It’s during the initial read-through that the story crystallizes in my mind; I can see what needs to go, change, or be added. Editing is the second part of the phase. Love it or hate it, it’s a necessity.

After editing I think very highly of my product, but what will others think? Let’s find out. I give my manuscript to four or five people to read, find mistakes, and get their opinion. Then more editing! Oh the joys of rereading my work five or six times, going blind during the predawn hours in an endless search for my shortcomings and oversights.

Phase five, mass production begins. Let’s launch this bitch! Remember all the hours you poured into your novel? They don’t mean Jack if you’re not going to make an effort to sell it.

Marketing a self-published novel can be a real pain in the ass, no two ways about it. I began by selling copies to family and friends. I have a hunch a great many authors begin their careers in the same fashion.

I’ve had the best luck selling books in person versus online. Aside from a few paperback orders when I first released it and a scattering of ebook sales, the internet hasn’t been the best marketplace for me. Part of the reason is I am asking $4.99 for my ebook and there are a ton of ebooks available from $2.99 – free. Why pay more, right? And what the hell is the matter with me asking almost double for my work?

The answer involves both strategy and not a small amount of ego. First, I refuse to devalue my work to compete with other self-published authors. The way I see it I am not in competition with only self-publishers, I am in competition with everyone. From Disney, to Random House, to Viking, to Comet Press, to Linda Fausnet herself, and whoever is reading this right now; we’re all competing for a share of the same book money. So I set my ebook price in a competitive range for the entire field of competition, not just the indie world.

Second, I am willing to work my butt off to sell my book (even at its seemingly elevated price) because that’s precisely what a traditional publisher would expect me to do. I need to be able to prove to a publisher or agent that my work can sell at an average retail price. If it won’t sell, then I need to either get better or find a new obsession. (Like that would be possible!)

My best sales day, by far, was a book signing I did in my old hometown. I’d ordered 60 copies specifically for the event and sold around 40 of them. Not to worry, there were people who couldn’t make it or completely forgot but still wanted a copy, so they are mostly gone now. The remainder will be put towards my newest venture.

The town I live in has a program for local authors that is run by the neighborhood fine arts council. For a percentage, the FAC will sell the author’s book in their gift shop. It’s a 75/25 split, with the 75% going to the author.  I’m excited for the opportunity.

I stated above that the internet hasn’t been a productive marketplace for me. While that’s true it has been the best sales tool I have at my disposal. In particular, I’ve used Facebook to sell my book. I take a personal approach, send someone I know but don’t see often a message like, “Hey! Been a long time. How’s things?” They usually respond and ask how I’m doing, and ker-boom; I mention that I just wrote a book.

That brings me to my last point. I think it’s important to have these kinds of conversations. They’re good for building a strong and loyal customer base. I talk to as many people as I can about my book with multiple hopes. One is that they’ll buy a copy, obviously. But if the book doesn’t sound like something they’d enjoy, maybe they’ll tell a friend who’s into creepy novels. My plan is to bring a pack of rabidly loyal fans to whichever agent or publisher agrees to take me on as an author.

Kendall Bailey

My Facebook page
Twitter – @KBaileyWriter
Goodreads Author Page

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Word Choice And Why It Matters

Wannabe Pride welcomes guest blogger Jocelyn Crawley! Jocelyn is a 30-year-old writer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading subversive literature and drinking coffee. In addition to winning several regional and school-sponsored writing competitions, she self-published her first novel, Erudition, in April of 2007. She is currently completing the manuscript for her second novel.  

There’s something pleasantly unsettling about stumbling upon unfamiliar words when you read a web article or literary work–for me, anyway. Each time I run into a term that’s never crossed my path before, a somewhat disconcerting curiosity dominates my psyche until the word is thoroughly defined and understood.

Although you may have found the previous paragraph interesting, you could also be asking yourself an important question: “How is any of that relevant to you as a writer?” I love these types of pragmatic interrogations, so I’ll try to provide an advantageous answer in the following sentence as well as the paragraphs to come. Learning new words is important and ideal for everyone–and perhaps writers especially. This is the case for several reasons, including the fact that writers have a tendency to utilize the same words over and over again. Once you develop a loyal fan base that is eager to read your new works and make note of your intellectual progress, they will likely be disappointed to find the same $50 words emerging over and over again. I certainly would be. In fact, I find myself irritated with my own writing when the same damn words (generally precipitate and indigenous) resurface. The repetition and redundancy engender an ineffable irritation that is perhaps best described in terms of flabbergasted shame. I know there are other words out there, and yet my feeble mind keeps wandering back to the terms with which it is most familiar.

As a self-published author, I am aware of some of the challenges that people who don’t take the traditional publishing route can experience as they attempt to build their brand. In my humble opinion, one of the greatest challenges is the attempt to prove that one’s work is credible. And while there are a plethora of things self-published writers can do in order to build and increase credibility, using learned language is oftentimes particularly effective. In addition to showing your readership and prospective publishers that you take the time to find the most apposite words to express a character’s thought or the color of the carpet, building your vocabulary can preclude you from one of the most disappointing and mentally stagnating experiences known to the writer: boredom with one’s work.

When I decided to publish my first novel (Erudition), I was unaware that the title would be a relatively obscure term that many would have to look up in order to grasp the overarching theme of the book. Yet as I began to synthesize the plot and give the characters shape and substance, I realized that this title was arrantly appropriate for many reasons. First, the two main characters of the novel were both very well-read individuals who had extensive knowledge about the literary world. In fact, one of the two is an English professor. And in addition to giving the book the type of learned structure and stature that comes from placing two exceptionally intelligent people on center stage, the acquisition of knowledge (both abstract and experiential) is a prevalent motif within the work. Clearly then, Erudition was an ideal title. It was only after I published the work that I realized the somewhat academic term I’d chosen for the title had a specific, dualistic power. Although some people found the title and scholarly words within the book stimulating and intellectually uplifting, others deemed it all a bit “too much.”  Irrespective of whether the language was deemed appropriate or over the top, the use of scholarly language generated substantive buzz.

These days, I’m thrilled to be running a blog that is dedicated to helping people (the public generally and writers specifically) increase their vocabularies in order to write more effectively. Lately, words such as “gimlet” and “anhedonic” have been subjected to a careful overview as I seek to provide my readers with a thorough explanation of their meaning and implications. Much care is given to seeking out all of the synonyms and antonyms that expand the reader’s understanding of the term’s signification so people will know how to effectively contextualize the words they opt to use. I have always felt-and still believe-that words have power. And when we use them with strategic precision, they acquire an insuperable efficacy that enables our readers to gain a better understanding of the concepts we’re attempting to convey.

Several days ago, I had a brief yet meaningful conversation with a gentleman on the train regarding how sad it is to see so many people embracing a monocultural mode of being and knowing when the 21st century has given rise to such a pleasantly postmodern multiculturalism that makes it safe and common for people of all backgrounds to interact with one another in equitable ways. In describing the modality of individuals who have chosen the former (and very limited) form of existence, I used the term myopic. But then-in recognizing that this word was not fully accurate in articulating the idea I was attempting to express-I stated that the term wasn’t quite right. Now, in reflecting on the actions and attitudes of people who prefer to surround themselves with individuals who are exactly like them rather than embracing the beauty indigenous to diversity and pluralism, I realize that the more fitting term would have been parochial. Indeed, these types of individuals have a narrow view of both external reality and their own subjective existence. And in being able to prove the aforementioned term out of my word bank, I’m much more effective in describing the paucity of their worldview.

Whether you’re simply seeking to prevent yourself from growing bored when drafting your next manuscript or want prospective publishers to know you mean business, utilizing a learned vocabulary is oftentimes the best way to accomplish your objective. If you’re ever interested in seeing old words used in new ways or simply want to add new terms to your already impressive word bank, be sure to visit my blog at www.wordhelps.com. Can’t wait to see you.

Best,

Jocelyn Crawley

www.wordhelps.com

Follow Jocelyn On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jocelyn_Crawley

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On Having Realistic Expectations for Self-Publishing


Past

The average statistic that is bandied about as far as self-published book sales is 100-150. Meaning, most self-published books will not sell more than 150 books.

So my goal for Queen Henry is to sell at least 200 books.

I would really love to sell 200 books in the first year of release, but I suppose it’s more realistic to just aim for 200 for the lifetime of the book. It surprises me that the average is only 150 books, especially since you can keep your book available for sale for as long as you like. With traditional publishing, the book will eventually be yanked from the shelves — and rather quickly if it’s not selling. I am a longtime writer but first-time self-publisher, so I’m sure I will find out the hard way how difficult it really is to sell a book as an unknown author. It just seems that, eventually, you’d be able to sell a fair amount of copies IF your book is good and IF you keep up with marketing. In theory, your book could be on the virtual shelves for the rest of your life, which should be plenty of time for any truly good book to gain traction.

The book-selling statistic above kind of makes me wonder how many people give up after a while. Their book doesn’t sell like gangbusters right away, so they sort of lose interest. I know that will never happen to me. I’ve been writing for twenty years, and my passion for writing has only increased in that time. Despite the years of ups and downs, I’m still here and I’m still enthusiastic about the craft of writing. I don’t have to be a huge success to stay interested in being an author.

I think my longevity as a writer plays a big part in my ability to have realistic expectations concerning book sales. Nobody knows better than I do that writing is no get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been doing this for twenty years for free, and I’d still be doing it for free if it weren’t for self-publishing. I’ve had close calls with success before, but so far the only people who have read my books have been my parents, close friends, and the occasional literary agent. It kind of boggles my mind to think that, finally, other people are actually reading QUEEN HENRY. Instead of having crazy fantasies about making lots of money and quitting my job (the proceeds from QUEEN HENRY will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation, but I still wouldn’t plan on quitting my day job even if all the proceeds went to me….) I am excited about each and every sale and for each and every reader. For so long I’ve been writing in silence, pouring my heart and soul into stories and characters that have been destined to gather dust on the shelf. No more. Even if, despite my best marketing efforts, I am only destined to sell a handful of books, I will still be incredibly grateful for all of those who took the time to read my story.

I really am glad that it took me twenty years to get to this point. I’ve come to understand that just because I never made it in the traditional publishing world really doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes. I’ve paid my dues, done my time. I’ve spent years studying the craft, and I’ve written and rewritten thousands of words. I’m not perfect, but I’m ready. I’m grateful for all the time that I’ve had to spend working on the craft of writing. If self-publishing had been a viable option when I first started out, I probably would have published too soon – a mistake that far, far too many new writers make. The idea of having your work published is exciting, and it’s awfully hard to wait.

But wait I have.

Not only did I spend about a year or so writing and rewriting the novel, QUEEN HENRY (which is not to mention all the time I spent reworking the screenplay version first), but I took an entire year to learn the self-publishing process. I don’t do anything half-assed when it comes to writing. I decided if I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right. That meant paying for professional editing, professional formatting, and a professional cover. There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but I wanted to make sure my book would be indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book. I believe with all my heart that the writing of my book is up to traditional publishing standards, and I want to make sure the outside looks just as professional.

My journey to publication has been long and winding. I feel like I’ve earned the right to call myself an author and I’ve been through so much over the years that I’m able to appreciate every success, no matter how small. Just selling a handful of books was a huge accomplishment for me because it’s was more than I’ve sold in twenty years of writing. I sold 65 books in my first week of publication, which surpassed my expectations!

I also appreciate each and every good review because I’ve experienced my share of rejection in two decades. I also know that I can handle bad reviews because I’ve experienced them before. Many times. That’s how you learn. And that’s something that brand-new writers have never experienced. If you’ve never submitted to an agent or a publisher, you’ve never experienced rejection. Rejection is part of the process. It’s a badge of honor, and I wear it with pride. It means that I tried, and tried hard. If you self-publish your very first novel, you don’t know what it feels like to “not” be published. I do.

As wonderful as it is to be published, I don’t really harbor any delusions about being a breakout writing success. I just want to be an author. Whatever happens, I will always know that I did my best. I never took shortcuts by publishing before I was ready and I never took the easy way out by skimping on editing or using a stock cover for my book.

What happens now is up to fate.

– Linda Fausnet

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Self-Publishing Will Never Be The Same as Traditional Publishing

 

Publish all the Books

No matter what you argue, self-publishing will just never be the same as traditional publishing.

In many instances, it’s far, far better.

For one thing, with self-publishing, it’s a lot more likely to actually happen. If you’re determined, it will definitely happen. If takes an awful lot of hard work, but that work is certain to result in the publication of your very own book. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the book will sell, but success is not guaranteed with traditional publication, either. I don’t care if your book is published by one of the Big Six with all the publicity they have to offer – nobody knows what’s going to sell. In fact, if your traditionally published book doesn’t sell well, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting a second book published. With self-publishing, it could be your third book that really takes off. With the traditional model, nobody’s gonna give you three chances to be a success. 

Traditional publishing is a lot like winning the lottery. It’s fun to fantasize about, but it probably won’t happen.  Even if you are wonderfully talented it Probably. Won’t. Happen. That’s a very hard realization to come to when you are a serious writer. You can spend a lifetime working for a dream that has very little chance of coming true. Literary agents can reject up to 99% of the works submitted to them. They have to. It’s a numbers game that is very difficult to win. Unfortunately, hard work and determination won’t get you as far as pure luck when it comes to getting published. You have to catch the right agent at the right time to get them to give you a chance. Many agents will only talk to you if you are referred by somebody else. That’s luck, not talent. If your neighbor is Stephen King, you’ve got a much better shot at being traditionally published than I do even if I work ten times harder. 

Another great thing about being a self-published author is the feeling of empowerment. You don’t ever feel like you’re degrading yourself or begging for an agent or publisher to throw you a crumb of bread. Most professionals in the traditional publishing world really don’t treat writers that way, but it still feels degrading. You send out hundreds of query letters that are mostly met with resounding silence. The recipients aren’t being rude – they simply don’t have the time or the resources to answer all those letters. I don’t blame them at all, but it’s still quite demoralizing.. I’ve always felt degraded whenever I’ve gone to literary conferences. Good luck getting near anybody who could help advance your career. You just get caught in the stampede of other hungry writers and you almost always go home empty-handed and with a lighter wallet. Very, very discouraging.

In the traditional art-by-committee model, the creative person – the one who comes up with the actual product you are going to sell and profit from – is often treated as the lowest man on the totem pole. This is especially true in the case of screenwriters. They’re pretty much treated like dirt and their work will get re-written by a team of executives so the final product is so homogenized that most screenplays start to all sound the same.  I don’t think traditional publishers are quite as bad, but the fact is that they’re only going to select tried-and-true book ideas that have already made money and that they think are going to hit again. Good luck trying to shop anything even remotely original to a traditional publisher.

Enter self-publishers. We can write whatever the hell we want. If we want to write a romance about two robots from the planet Mercury, we can do it. If it doesn’t make money, oh well. There’s more ideas where that came from. We can write the most outrageous, most creative things we can think of and send them out into the world with very little risk. We can take control of our own destiny without waiting for external validation that may never come.

 So what are you waiting for? You’re in charge now, so get to it!

– Linda Fausnet

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Developing a Thick Skin as a Writer – Have I Finally Done It?

 

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Writers are continually told that they must develop a thick skin or they’ll never make it. This is true, but it’s far easier said than done. When I first starting writing, I never used to send out my screenplays or novels for any kind of review because it was too scary.

Big mistake.

The biggest, in fact. If I had only one single piece of advice I could give any writer, it would be to always send your writing out for beta reads/ critiques. Seriously. You’ll shave ten years off of how long it will take you become a professional writer. You learn more in with one critique of your work than you will by reading ten writing books. (Read the books, too, though.)

Finally, I started sending out my writing for review and it was very difficult. It’s hard to have your work torn to pieces, but it really is for your own damn good. This is particularly true of self-publishers. If you’re going to publish your work for the world to see, you’re better off having people tear your work apart first, thus giving you a chance to fix it before it goes public!

In the past, I would really stress out over receiving a review. I’d wait, nervously, for days and sometimes weeks for the review to come in. I would freak out just thinking about it. I stopped checking my email after 7pm each night when I knew a review would be forthcoming soon, because if it was bad, I would be too stressed to sleep. I knew I needed time to deal with the review. Time to be upset, deal with the emotions, and finally feel better. The second the review popped up in my inbox, I had to read it. I had to get it over with. I have terrible, awful, no-good luck with timing on this issue. Inevitably, the worse the review, the more people would be around when I got it. I got one such rejection on Christmas Eve and had my entire family around. That was fun, having to pretend my heart hadn’t just been ripped out. Often, my kids are around me, yammering, vying for my attention when I’m just trying to quickly do the “how bad is it” review. Still, I couldn’t “not” look. I just had to know.

Right now I have several chapters of my novel, SINGLES VS. BRIDEZILLAS, out for review with two beta readers. One came back last week with her critique. Just yesterday, I got around to reading it.

Wow.

That surprised me. I knew the review was sitting in my inbox but it took me almost a week to even look at it. It’s not that I don’t care about the review. I do, and it’s still scary to a degree. I guess it’s just that I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve gotten good reviews, awful reviews, mean reviews, glowing reviews. If it’s a great review – wonderful! Bring on the Schnapps. If it’s bad – terrible even – I know I can fix the story. I’ve done it many times before.

The hardest part of getting a review is reading it for the first time. It’s hard to see your work torn apart, your flaws exposed. It gets better when you start actually doing the rewrites. You’ve dealt with whatever emotions you had and you’ve moved on. The best part is stepping back and seeing how much better the writing has become since you’ve fixed all the bad stuff. That “Wow, that IS better!” moment. You can be so much more confident releasing your work to the world since several people have already told you what sucks and how to fix it.

It just seems weird to me that it doesn’t upset me as much. It’s a good thing, just surprising.

Don’t be concerned if you still get upset about bad reviews. I still do, too, it just doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

Remember, your writing is important to you. If you get upset about bad reviews, it means you care.
– Linda Fausnet 

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On Commanding Respect as a Self-Publisher

 

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If you want to be taken seriously as a self-published author, you’re going to have to prove yourself worthy. People are going to assume you weren’t good enough to make it as a “real” writer. People are going to think you didn’t work hard enough to call yourself an author. People are going to think that your writing isn’t as good as “real” published authors.

Far too often, they’re going to be right.

Being a self-published writer does not necessarily mean that you weren’t good enough to make it in the traditional publishing world. I was recently rejected by a “small” publisher that publishes 30 manuscripts annually. They receive 20,000 submissions each year…. This does not mean that 19,970 of those manuscripts were bad. Surely, some of them were, but an awful lot of truly great books are gonna go down with that ship. It’s not the publisher’s fault. That’s just business. Still, that kind of experience coupled with literary agents who state that they reject up to 99% of submissions makes me realize that any writer, even a truly great one, could live ten lifetimes and still never make it. That’s quite a depressing thought.

Enter self-publishing. Though self-published works rarely become blockbusters, there are plenty of opportunities out there for a midlist type of author who may not sell millions of books, but may sell enough to make some decent money. The trouble is that anybody and everybody can self-publish, so there are an awful lot of people out there who fancy themselves authors and who have absolutely no intention of learning the craft. How hard can it be to write a good book, right?

If you’re a real writer, self-published or traditionally agented/published, you should be rolling your eyes right now. We all know people like that. People who “have a book in them” and reason that they can just sit down and write said book and upload it to Amazon and wait for the money to roll in. “Writers” like that make me crazy because they make all self-published authors look bad. I am passionate about promoting indie writers and helping them get the exposure that they weren’t able to get from traditional publishers, but some of these writers make it awfully hard. I follow thousands of writers on twitter and I’m always looking for good indie books to read and promote. Sometimes I have to click on four or five self-published books to find one that’s not awful. The first step is to read the description or blurb that describes the book. Far more often than not, the blurb contains choppy writing, run-on sentences, and incorrect grammar. To quote Saturday Night Live’s critic Jebediah Atkinson – next! If the blurb is bad, the book will be worse. If the blurb looks okay, I will then go ahead and download the free sample and skim that with a very critical eye. I imagine this is what literary agents and publishers do. Skim the writing sample quickly and at the first sign of trouble…NEXT!  I refuse to waste my time with bad writing and so will any of your potential readers.

If you are going to be a self-publisher, I implore you to do it right. You must do your homework before you decide to publish any of your writing. If you’re new to this whole writing gig, it is imperative that you read as many books in your chosen genre as possible, as well as nonfiction books on the craft of writing before you even begin to write your first book. Then, after you’ve done lots of reading and writing, it is vital that you find one or more critique partners to tell you the truth about your work and who will point out flaws that you simply cannot see. Following these steps is really the only way to give yourself the best shot at success. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.

You’re also wasting mine.

With the influx of truly bad writing being published every day, I am no longer simply competing with writers who are better than me. I’m also competing with lazy writers who didn’t bother to put in any time or effort into their work. I may be willing to wade through a bunch of bad writing samples in order to find a good one that I can promote, but you can bet that most readers won’t have that kind of patience. The average reader might click through two bad self-published books and then say NEXT! And head to the library and the bookstore. Can you blame them?

What happens if a reader clicks through two bad books and gives up? They’re never going to get to mine, that’s what. I can damn well guarantee you that I did my homework, paid an editor, and, while my book may not be 100% perfect, it was professionally written.

I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide I was gonna be a writer. I started out wanting to be a screenwriter, so I spent about a year reading screenplays and books on how to write a screenplay. Then guess what happened? My first screenplay was optioned by a production company in Los Angeles (Mega Films, Inc.). It was optioned again later by another company (Runaway Productions). Years later, when I decided to try writing novels, I spent several months reading books on how to write fiction and I read dozens of middle-grade novels. I did this even though I was simply adapting the aforementioned screenplay into a novel and already had the entire plot and characters worked out. I had several agents look at the book, and one even expressed serious interest in representing me.

Now, that I’ve published a novel myself, you damn well better believe I did my homework. QUEEN HENRY was also a screenplay first (and a finalist in a national screenwriting competition). I wrote and revised the novel for at least a year until I finally got it right. Then, when I decided to publish, I gave myself an entire additional year to learn the self-publishing process so I could hopefully do it right.

It’s hard to be patient, but I believe it ultimately pays off. This is why it makes me so angry when I see people who simply do not take the process seriously. Writing is my passion in life, and I have little patience for people who refuse to give the craft the respect that it deserves.

It’s a real uphill battle to be taken seriously as self-published authors, and the lazy hacks are making us all look bad.

I want to help promote indie authors, but only if they’ve done the hard work and have respect for the craft.

To be successful as a self-published author, you must command respect by writing a quality, entertaining novel that is professional written and free from errors.

Once you’ve done that, contact me. I’ll help you promote the hell out of it.

–       Linda Fausnet

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Self-Publishing Means Never Having to Say Goodbye

 

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Manuscripts that are written for only traditional publishing have a sell-by date. It doesn’t matter how long you spent writing the book. Once you’ve exhausted the lengthy yet finite list of literary agents and publishers to submit to, it’s game over if nobody bites. All that work and the book is shelved forever, never to be read again.

When it’s time to permanently shelve your unpublished novel.

It’s a hard thing, letting go of a story. Nobody but the writer will ever really know what it was like to write the book. What it was like to come up with the idea – that moment when you light up and realize you’ve suddenly been grabbed by your next big idea. The hours that it took getting to know the characters and breathing life into them. The songs that you listened to that fit with your story and will always remind you of that book whenever you hear one of those songs for the rest of your life. The moments of the story that made you laugh, made you cry, made you feel.

It’s hard when the day comes and you’re forced to accept that the characters you loved and the story you slaved over are destined to exist only in your mind and heart. The final agent has rejected the story. There are no publishers left on the list anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to that book forever.

I’m preparing to go through that with my latest middle-grade novel. It’s nearly impossible to market a book to younger children online via self-publishing, so it’s traditional publishing or nothing for this one. There is one literary agent reviewing the story now, but I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough to know how this story is going to end. And it’s going to end soon. I was working on this baseball book last summer as my son played little league for the first time. It’s a baseball novel about a female coach managing a bunch of lovable misfit players, and I had a blast watching my son play and feeling inspired about my book. There were lots of great baseball songs I loved to listen to, as well as general rock songs that fit well with my book. The main character’s theme song (in my mind) is SHE’S SO MEAN by Matchbox Twenty. It’s been wonderful listening to those songs while I went on long walks, brainstorming about my book. It was especially fun blasting those songs at full volume in celebration of finally completing the novel. Now, hearing those songs is tinged with sadness. I’ve sent out 70 queries with one acceptance and 21 rejections. Many of those other agents will simply reject the novel with their silence.

It’s almost over for this novel. My son starts baseball again soon. As I watch him play, I’ll remember my novel, the characters, the story, the experience, knowing that few other people will ever know anything about it.

Very special thanks to my parents and sister who are always quick to read my books. My mother, in particular, breaks speed records when it comes to reading my novel the moment I send it to her. She pretty much gets the final draft, since I know she will tell me it’s wonderful no matter what and won’t tell me the truth about it (that’s okay. That’s her job as my mom, and I love her for it!).

My husband and kids are a different matter.

My wonderful husband is generally supportive, but hates to read (odd couple much??) and won’t even make an exception in my case. Seriously, this last book is for nine-year-olds. He can’t even handle that? I read my last middle-grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, out loud to my son and daughter. Though they claimed they wanted me to read this one to them, when the time came, they decided they’d rather play Minecraft…

Not gonna lie. I cried over that. A lot. My husband comforted me and told me “They’re just children”. I don’t care. It hurt. When I wrote this novel, I had my kids in mind. There are jokes in there that I knew they would get when I read the book aloud to them. Now I’ll never get that chance.

Times like this make me want to shake my husband and children by the shoulders and cry out “Don’t you get it? You might be the only people who will ever read this! All that work and now it’s all over!”

They just don’t get it and they never will. I have no choice but to accept that and move on.

I get tired of saying goodbye. QUEEN HENRY was the first story with characters who really grabbed me by the heart and absolutely refused to let go. You are not shelving us, they told me. Not this time. QUEEN HENRY was the one story that I just could not let go of.

Why I decided to self-publish my novel. 

That’s why was my debut published novel.

I’m pretty sure THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX will be my last middle-grade novel (unless, by some miracle, an agent decides to represent it). From now on, I’m going to focus on writing adult fiction.

It is my hope to never write another novel that I don’t plan to publish. Stories are meant to be shared, so thank goodness for self-publishing. I’ll do my best to promote my books and get them read as far and wide as possible, but if only a handful of people purchase and read them, at least my stories have reached out to others in some small way.

I don’t want to say goodbye any more.

 

–       Linda Fausnet

 

There is a P.S. to this story : Since writing this article, my son decided to start reading THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. He is supposed to read for 20 minutes a day for homework, so now he’s reading my book. He’s read the first chapter so far. He sat at the kitchen table reading it, and then looked up at me with surprise and said “this is funny!”

So I guess there is kind of happy ending to this after all…

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Critiques – You CAN Handle the Truth – The Road to Self-Publishing

The single most important thing that separates professional writers from amateurs is the willingness to have their work critiqued. It’s the hardest part of being a writer and it’s also the most important step toward completing a well-written book. When I pick up a book from the library, I know that the book has been through dozens of revisions and has been seen by many pairs of eyes. When I pick up a self-published book, I have no idea how many times the book has been edited or even if it has been reviewed or edited at all. I can tell pretty quickly, though, and so can the rest of your readers.

It’s not just about the grammar, though. I recently read – or at least I started to read – a self-published book that was perfectly grammatically correct, but it was almost entirely telling and not showing. At least the entire first chapter was like that and that’s when I gave up on reading it. No editor or beta reader worth her salt would have let that slide. The story had a good plot to start off with – a bride-to-be was left at the altar when her fiancé ran off with her best friend.

Good drama, right?

Except the author forgot one thing.

The drama.

The author glossed over all of the action of the inciting incident. She just described it all as if it was something that happened already, robbing the reader of the chance to go through the emotions – and thus empathize – with the main character. The rest of the chapter went on the same way. The character told us how she had to cancel all the wedding vendors and then went on her honeymoon alone. That situation is so rich with potential emotion and drama. What would it feel like to have to call and cancel the church, the caterer, the flowers for your wedding when you know the groom left you for your best friend? Show us! Have us go through those agonizing phone calls with her. Make us feel something!

This author has talent and definite potential, but she really needed to flesh out the story. Grammar and spelling errors are always the most obvious mistakes, but editors and beta readers also help point out plot and character problems that you as the writer cannot possibly see, no matter how experienced a writer you might be.

Being told the harsh truth about what’s wrong with your manuscript and then putting in a lot of hard work to fix it is the only way to produce a truly great story.

Read that last sentence as many times as you need to in order to be convinced.

The bad news is that sometimes those critiques are going to hurt. They’re going to force you to see weaknesses in your writing that you were completely oblivious to before. You might find out that your characters aren’t quite as lovable as you thought they were and your exciting plot might actually be slow and predictable. Frankly, it sucks to be told that your story isn’t working.

There is good news, though:

1. First and foremost, know that you can handle the truth about your writing. Yes, it will hurt, but you will get over it.

2. Stressing over getting critiqued is often worse than getting the actual review, even if the review isn’t great.

3. You only have to implement the changes that you really believe need to be made. Reviewers are human and they are prone to subjective views.

4. You will not believe how much better your manuscript becomes after revisions. After you get over the sting of the negative comments and you start revising, you’ll get excited at how much better your book is getting.

5. In the end, you’ll likely not even remember what was initially said about your manuscript after you’ve made lots of revisions. If you show trusted editors and reviewers your manuscript before finalizing the story, it simply doesn’t matter if they hated it at first. That was then. This is now. The final, vastly improved manuscript is all that matters in the end.

6. If you subject yourself to the scary process of inviting a few people to essentially tear apart your work, thus allowing yourself the chance to rebuild it again, you’ll feel much more confident when submitting the final product to agents, publishers, or when you publish the book yourself. Tastes vary and you won’t be immune to bad reader reviews, but you will greatly reduce the chances of getting negative reviews of your work. You will also vastly improve your chances of getting glowing reviews, which will make all the hurt and pain well worth it.

If you want to be considered a professional author, you must be brave enough to submit your work for honest and potentially brutal critiques. You’ve put a lot of heart and hard work into creating your story and characters, and you owe it to yourself to make your story the best it can possibly be.

Believe me. I’ve been there. It took me a long time, but I took Queen Henry from being a terrible story to being a writing contest finalist story. I loved my story and characters, and i refused to do anything less than my absolute best.

You can handle it.

I believe in you.

You’re stronger than you think.

– Linda Fausnet

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