Wow where do we start? This has to be one of the most multi-faceted extraordinary and compound subjects currently surrounding the indie book world. This is an everyday author/readers dream and nightmare rolled into one. Let's do something different if you will allow me, let's break this down into categories of the 'players'. CG has been nice enough to lend me his blog for the day while he continues to throw away drafts and chapters of Heliotrope into the refuse container. Cad Gelb is tied up in the corner of the room facing the northeast window while a cat sleeps at his feet. His head is drooping and that hood covering his face and ears is blocking out the words of wisdom I am about to unleash upon you.
3) ARC (Advance Reader Copy) or Beta Readers
Author- As an author first and foremost I will tell you that there are several reasons we animals write. These may as well be the same reasons that a musician writes a song, an actor acts, a politician lies, a drunkard has another drink of wine. The chase. Without sounding too philosophical and going too deep everyone has a dream. Everyone has a purpose. You my friend are one of the lucky ones if you have found your purpose worth chasing. You're even luckier if you have fulfilled a dream. It is not easy by any means. Working hard and sacrificing is the only way to get there. So, with that being said, why are you doing this, writing that is? Why all of the gut-wrenching hard tedious monotonous work? Money, fame, acknowledgement, a second income, why? Sometimes you just write because you are driven to do so. Something snapped, came undone. If you think you can just write something down and people will read it you are wrong. If you think you have the best damn book cover art in the world and everyone will want to read your story you are wrong. If you think what is in your head is what everyone wants to read you are wrong. But, if you think that everyone wants to know what is in your heart, your soul, and your gut, then you my friend are right!
Writing from these places is what readers want. Combine those three and you have a formula for a successful story. No writer ever got it 100% correct the first time around. Give up and you will never know if you had the heart, soul, and guts to get it right. I can't tell you how many wannabe authors and writers don't think that anyone wants to read their work. I hear it everyday, I see it in their robotic doll eyes. That glazed-over beaten down look. My first response is this, "NO ONE EVER STARTED OUT AT THE TOP. NO ONE!" With that being said, or shouted at them, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and keep going. Hone it. I write so I can keep writing. That's it! That is the only reason. There are so many great stories in our heads that need to make it to your hearts, souls, and guts. From there it's luck, destiny, a greater plan, whatever you want to call it. Shoot for something you cannot reach and when you arrive there tell me how you feel putting all of that work into something you can now call your own. It felt great did it not? This is why we write. We have something to say in the coolest damn way we know how and when you read it you will know every ounce of energy we put into our stories were the best we could do at the time. Hang with us as indie authors and you will be pleasantly surprised at some of our work. We believe in ourselves and you should too. Once a week troll around the internet, a bookstore, anywhere books are sold and grab any book that looks interesting. Read it. Review it. Good or bad it helps, it helps quite a few people when you read and review a book.
EDITOR- Oh boy am I gonna get an earful for this. Here is goes: AN AUTHOR IS NOTHING AND I MEAN NOTHING WITHOUT A GREAT EDITOR OR BETA READERS. There I said it and I don't care who heard me. You can be the greatest author in the world and have a world class story worthy of the Gods, but if your book is full of errors, inconsistent characters, and blah descriptions then you are just churning water trying to stay afloat. You're beating yourself up and what could have been a great story is now an official garage sale item for $.25. Authors please do not underestimate a good or even great editor. Your story demands it. You demand it. Your readers demand it. Is there some mistakes in books, good books? Sure there are. I reread Philip K. Dick's original Minority Report last week and it was awful. Don't get me wrong the story was fantastic but the editing left something to be desired. I can look past that. Why? Do you have to ask? I didn't think so. Here comes the quandary. The biggest one of all. "I don't have the money or a publisher for a great editor, what do I do, argggg!" I will now point you to 'Players 3 and 4 above'. These can be some of your greatest allies BUT and this is a big BUT, you need to dial down the ego. Please for the love of all things that are holy dial back that ego. You're not the greatest yet. Let others see your work. Family, friends, and social media buddies. Use people that you trust. (Yes pirating is real so be careful with whom you trust, just ask CG. He is now a part of the "I got burned" club by someone 'scraping' his information).
Going back to the ego subject, if this is your first draft, book, or novel, don't build a wall or a shell. When others point out mistakes and errors 99% of the time it is because they care and want you to succeed, not because they are just mean pricks with a vengeance for other authors. If you want to continue writing let your guard down. I know it's hard to do but you need all of the constructive criticism you can get. I will reread this Blog and get inputs before I let it fly. "But it's MY work and it's MY creative juices that made this novel what it is! I don't want anyone to get it for free!" Oh God please stop whining. You are going to give your first book out for free anyways trust me. Just let it happen. Shhh, shh, that's it, just let it go... After you start selling your second book come and see me, I know a great editor who just loves what she does. When she points something out to you in passing don't cave in on yourself and run and hide. She only means well and truly wants you to succeed. You must maintain a thick skin at all times!
ARC/BETA READERS- Who are these weird creatures? I could very well be very lazy here and point you to the above chapter, EDITORS, but most of the time these great people don't get paid and only ask for a free copy of your book and some swag. (Bookmarks, mugs, signed copies of your book, T-shirts, a brand new car, trips to Tahiti, (just kidding!)) Authors there are actually people who have the time to read and review your work. Just like editors, a good or great one is hard to find. When you do find one in your genre that you trust demand one thing. HONESTY! That is it. Complete unabashed unregulated unbiased HONESTY! As I mentioned above, check your ego at the door. Your going to get hammered, expect it. If you hand someone a book and they say "well, I -um -I gosh- well- start over", take your manuscript and start over. Maybe your first editor or readers missed something. Rule of thumb: If you only completely ever edit 20% or less of your book it is ready to go. Beta and ARC readers you should always be completely honest no matter what the cost! Let go of your friendships and egos and be honest. If the author doesn't 'like' you after your review, let them stew a bit. Maybe, just maybe it will sink in and they will see the light. They'll be back, they always come back. (Insert scary music here) Beta readers don't get paid! Why torture them? If you really never see eye-to-eye find another one. There is a world of readers out there who love new and exciting authors and would love to get in on the ground floor and get to know you. One more time for all of you authors, "Check your ego at the door."
READERS- Ah, now we are into the crux of the matter. The heart of the lion. The, what, too many cliches? Yep you betcha! My reader didn't like this, my reader didn't like that, oh woe is me. Authors, be original. Be yourself. (See above heart, soul, guts) Take chances with your readers. They want to be taken somewhere else. This is why we WRITE! Calgon didn't sell millions of bottles for nothing! Jeez it doesn't matter what the genre is. Please remember even if ONE solitary person loved your story you did it! You're a success! If they loved it chances are they will pass it on.
Readers, this is your one and only 'homework assignment' so don't screw it up. If you took the time to read an authors work please for the love of all things holy rate it or write a review or both. You just spent six hours reading a 100k novel. You read it to the end. If you read it to the end, please set some time aside in your busy day to review it. If you put it down halfway through tell the author why you did this. Not interesting, story line lacking, didn't care for characters, ANYTHING! A one-star review and "IT SUCKED" is just an insult to Players 1, 2, and 3 above and shows your lack of interest and is just being lazy. Two-stars are a minimum for the worst authors. In order for authors to get better they need your input. You are the most important part of the machine and it is why we write. There is no other reason to write other than to amuse you, take you away, and screw with your brain for a while. IF, and this is another big IF, an author gives you a copy of a book at a discount or for free, RATE and WRITE a REVIEW. If you aren't going to read it and just want something for free please tell us. We worked very hard and probably spent a lot of time and our own money on that book as did our editors and beta readers. We can give it to someone who would love to have it.
Authors write for you, the reader. As an author I want you the reader to be happy and like a dog drooling at that juicy steak-bone we cannot wait to hear what you have to say. It drives us. Good or bad it drives us to want to be better. If you loved it we will give you more. If you hate it we can change things up a bit. We are flexible. But, if you keep all of your great thoughts and feelings all to yourself it's hard to know what you do like. Players 1, 2, 3, and 4 you are all in this together. Be honest and love the work itself. Some people never get to experience the work from the ground up unbiased, unabridged, unregulated, and open. This is one of the greatest things about indie authors and readers. Its yours and no one elses. It may be the last frontier of honesty.
My personal thoughts and words of wisdom. Take them for what they are worth:
"Never ever never ever take a family members review of your book as Godsend. They love you and therefore will tell you that the worst story is the greatest thing they have ever read. Filter out the love and try to interrogate them if necessary. Use alcohol."
"Always give your first book out for free. Suck it up and expect losses. Pass your book on to anything with thumbs that can clutch things."
"Fiction and Science fiction is the only format where anyone can be anything you can dream. You are only limited by the boundaries of your own imagination"
"Experienced authors, make it a goal to buy first time authors work. Read and review them in between your writing. Make it a habit. You cannot be a great writer without being a great reader. They should return the favor, without you asking them. Get in touch with them and tell them your review is posted. We are all in the same boat and it needs crew members to stay afloat. Don't write a review from others reviews or a paragraph inside the book. We can tell the difference, after all we did write the damn thing."
"Authors before the internet sat around together in the same room critiquing each others work and helped each other out. Don't be so quick to be jealous of another authors work. Some of their style may rub off on you and you might like what happens. Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery and it still applies today."
Robotic Love, DC Belga, storyteller