I am not J.K. Rowling

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

As if we needed further confirmation, we now have undeniable proof that I am not J.K. Rowling or in any way related to her.  On more than one occasion, I have received emails that have started with Dear R.W. Rowling.

The actual literary Rowling confirmed this week that she has published a book under the pen name, Robert Gailbraith.  Sales for the book written under her nom de plume, The Cuckoo’s Calling, soared an astonishing 507,000% shortly after her announcement.

Recently, I made a similar announcement on this blog that I too published under a pseudonym.  Sales did not increase 507,000%.  They went up about 300%, but I have a feeling we are talking even more dramatically different actual sales numbers.  She can buy an island with her 507,000%.  I can maybe buy a “J.K. Rowling bought an island and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirt with my 300%.

So congratulations, J.K. Rowling!  You win! Again!  You couldn’t even let me have this one thing, could you?

BTW – I feel compelled to say that the snarkitude of this post is all in good fun.  I truly do admire Rowling and appreciate everything she’s done for publishing.  Let’s face it, she made reading cool to an entire generation.

I am dead… and alive!

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Meet Dr. Michio Kaku. He is both dead and alive at the same time!

I was just listening to Dr. Michio Kaku on the radio in the car.  That guy is awesome.  I had no idea he has his own radio show now.  He’s the physicist that developed the “String Field Theory”.  Not String theory.  I’m not smart enough to tell you the difference, but anyway one of the things that was really interesting.  There are 100 billion galaxies that the Hubble telescope can see.  Within each galaxy are 1 billion earth-like planets.  

So in the part of the universe we can see, there are 100 billion X 1 billion earth-like planets.  He actually said he thinks that given that there are that many planets were life as we know it is possible, there is no question that there are more advanced beings that have mastered space flight to the point where they can visit our planet.  It would actually be crazy to think otherwise.

I think the real message here is that my book The Tree Readers may be closer to nonfiction than I thought!

I also learned that it is possible for me to exist in two places at once, and I can be both dead and alive at the same time.  

Mind blown!

Mixing oil with water: Christian Fiction and Contemporary Literature (Guest Post – Michel Sauret)

Note from RWR: I recently had an in-depth discussion with author Michel Sauret about a common issue many indie authors face.  Let’s call it genre confusion.  Michel has written a collection of short stories, Amidst Traffic, that has been lauded for its literary merit.  At the same time, his book has drawn attention for its Christian themes.  In other words, his book appeals to two different demographics.

On the surface, that may seem like a nice position to be in.  However, such diversity does pose a problem.  Where do you spend your marketing efforts?  The two demographics are normally at odds, a position that usually forces an indie author to make a business decision that goes against his or her artistic sensibilities.  Welcome to the sometimes frustrating world of indie publishing.

I know nothing about the Christian market.  I’ve been labeled evil by readers who love and hate my books, so it’s probably a good idea I stay away from the gentile-inclined readers.  But I gave Michel my opinion based on my knowledge of marketing.  I found the discussion so interesting that I asked him to write up something for my blog.  I know other indies stop by every once in awhile, and I thought they might find his perspective edifying.  Without further ado, I give you multi-award winning author, Michel Sauret.

Michel Sauret: Can oil and water mix? Can they become the same substance? Or, at the very least, can they be packaged into a single product?

Several years ago, when I was thinking of proposing to my (now) wife, Heather, I came across a passage in scripture that halted me:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

That same passage came to mind years later when I returned to writing fiction.

If you’re like me, when I first read that passage , I had no clue what a yoke was. I actually thought the Bible was talking about an egg at first. But a yoke is a harnass that allows multiple animals to plow or till a piece of land in unison. It joins the two bests in a common purpose, and for the animals to work efficiently, they must move in the same direction and at the same pace, otherwise the land might look like a sloppy mess.

When I published my collection of short stories, titled “Amidst Traffic,” I thought I could have the best of both worlds. I thought I could market to both the Christian and Literary readers together.

What I came to realize, however, is that there is a fundamental divide between the literary market of readers and the Christian one. The two don’t mix well.

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Photo by LouMavis

Christian and literary fiction are not necessarily exclusive (the way, for example Christian and Erotica are), but a chasm has grown between the two genres over the last few decades.

Contemporary literature has a tendency to explore existential philosophies, life’s meaninglessness, sexual “freedom,” human individuality, personal lonesomeness, along with a myriad of other themes. The prose is usually rich and full of metaphor. The tone is often moody and its style can be gritty or even experimental.

Christian fiction (as of late), has a tendency to be more straight forward, filled with supernatural elements, less prosy, more spiritual and often even preachy. The tone appeals to a sense of hope and the writing style is more traditional and less risky.

Also, not to overstate the obvious, but the literary movement typically sides with the liberal camp on most political and philosophical topics, while the Christian movement is politically conservative.

For these reasons the Christian reader often guards himself against contemporary literary books and the literary reader rejects Christian fiction.

Though shallow and generalized, the expectations are simple: The literary reader thinks a Christian book will be preachy and trite (full of false hope), and the Christian reader often won’t appreciate the more experimental nature of contemporary lit. I’m not saying this is true all the time, but generally it is true. I’ve met enough readers in both realms who were willing to cross the border and judge a work based on its merit rather than its label, but typically readers remain in their “safe” zone.

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There is a small overlap of readers who consider themselves BOTH Literary and Christian (Photo by Failing Senses)

Not to be overly dismissive, but I’ve actually noticed that the literary reader is more guarded against the “Christian” genre than the Christian reader is to the “Literary” one. I once had a book reviewer ask for a copy of my book, and as soon as she found out that “Amidst Traffic” held Christian themes, she refused to even read it. On the other hand, I’ve sent the same collection to Christian readers/reviewers who weren’t nearly as threatened by its gritty style and moody tones. In fact, they found those elements refreshing.

When I tried to market my work to both camps, I thought I was appealing to a larger audience, but really I was just attracting the narrow overlap from the Venn Diagram. Thanks to a conversation I had with author R.W. Ridley, I was able to identify the weakness in my marketing strategy. He said that I shouldn’t try to “serve two masters” (such an appropriate phrase, actually), but pick one camp and stick with it. Then, in the end, I’d have a better chance to break out. I consider this to be a wise choice so long as I didn’t have to change my writing style.

For that reason, I’ve decided to brand myself to the Christian camp (even though I personally find Christian fiction pretty weak when it comes to literary substance and prose quality). By identifying with a Christian market, I won’t have to compromise on personal conviction or message. Even though the Christian market isn’t currently molded to accept experimental and gritty fiction, I have a better chance of finding readers in this market than the literary one. It is by staying true to my Christian faith that I can write fiction I love to write and inject literary prose into it.

I don’t think the opposite would be true if I tried to market myself as a literary author.

2012-10-06-Michel%20Headshots-008%20SMALLAbout Michel Sauret: Michel Sauret was born in Rome, Italy, and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s English Writing department. He published his first novel, “Breathing God,” at the age of 19, and has been serving as a public affairs specialist and journalist for the U.S. Army since 2004.

His work has won several journalism awards, including the Keith L. Ware, giving him the title of Army Journalist of the Year in 2008.  His short story, “Lost in the Night” appeared in the anthology, “Best New Writing, 2008” and his work has appeared in literary publications in the U.S., Britain and Australia.

Closing message from RWR: If you’re a reviewer, writer or reader, and you have an idea for a post that you’d like to write or see on the blog, contact me and give me your best pitch.

My snarky side

I had to go there.

I had to go there.

I was recently forced to turn to the snarky side in order to effectively register a complaint.  I say forced because I tried the nice approach.  I tried the patient approach.  I tried the slightly more annoyed approach.  When those approaches failed, I got downright testy.  It’s not something I like to do, and I was upset by something that was so unimportant that I almost let it slide. But, in the end, it became one of those “the principle of the matter” issues.  I write about it now because the organization behind my frustration did finally come through and fix the situation.

Here’s what nearly drove me out of my mind.  Twice a week, I would walk out to my car and see what looked like a newspaper on my lawn.  I don’t subscribe to the local paper so when it first happened I thought it was odd.  Upon closer examination, it wasn’t a newspaper.  It was something called the Savvy Shopper, and it consisted of mostly ads for products I not only had no interest in, I was now annoyed they existed because they were in a newspaper-like item that somehow magically showed up on my front lawn twice a week.  The paper, wrapped in protective plastic, went straight from my front lawn to the trashcan on most days.  The other days it lined the cat litter box.

Eventually, I decided this is ridiculous.  I’ll just call the company and have them stop delivery.  That’s when my real hell started.  Here’s my email to the company I sent to 50+ employees that eventually stopped the madness.

I realize that the world is crumbling into fine bits of pain and misery and this may seem small and insignificant,  but I find myself in a horrific chamber of Groundhog Day-like hell where two days a week I repeat the same unnecessary routine of walking out to my front yard, picking up a Charleston Savvy Shopper paper of torture and immediately tossing it in the trash.

Is this some evil experiment by your company to push me to the brink of madness, or is this just some poorly thought out garbage distribution program?  I’ve called the P and C, and I was assured it would stop.  When it was still coming two weeks later, I called again, and was given an email address of someone to contact.  Last week I sent the email hoping I had found the answer.  But alas it was not to be. Today I threw another Savvy Shopper into the trash.

For the love of God, someone help me!  Stop this insane policy of throwing litter on my yard!  I never authorized it, and I would really, really like it to stop!

(Address redacted.  Contact the NSA for all my personal information.)

PS – I’ve sent this to as many employees at P and C that I could find in hopes that there’s one among you that can end my nightmare.  Someone please step up and be my hero.

This is truly a silly thing to get upset about.  I totally get that, but I just wanted it to stop.  I’m sure I got someone in trouble because I received an email in response from the upper management.  I feel bad about that, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Why don’t men read more?

This might explain it.

This might explain it.

I hear from a lot of male readers, both young and old(er).  As a result, I may have a distorted view of the readership in the U-S of A – America (can you tell I get a lot of spam?).  I am told by publishing industry pundits that men don’t read as much as women.  Therefore, the female reader is highly coveted.  I look at bestseller lists these days, and I do see a lot of romance themed novels flooding the top of any given list.    Further solidifying the point that more women buy books than men, agents and editors have taken to the Twittershere with the hashtag MSWL (Manuscript Wish List).  A quick survey of the list reveals a large number of references to themes that would appeal to female readers: strong female protagonist, romance, heroine, mother/daughter, female pirate, etc.

So my question is why don’t more men read?  Is it a cultural construct or do they not read because the publishing industry doesn’t seem to produce material that appeals to them as much?  Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.  Why don’t men read books with strong female protagonists, and why are we, the male of the species, so opposed to romance novels?

As an indie author, I may be more concerned about these issues than most people, but I find the topic interesting in a perplexing kind of a way.  So I guess the real question is are men the problem or is the publishing industry the problem?

BTW – The ‘s’ only looks unnecessary in the hashtag MSWL.  MS is the accepted abbreviation for manuscript.

BTW2 – I would totally read a book about a female pirate.