Oops – I took another blog hiatus

Yes, I've been gone for awhile, but I had a good excuse.

Yes, I’ve been gone for awhile, but I had a good excuse.

I’m such a bad self-promoter. The fact that I write a bi-weekly blog for CreateSpace that is, in part, about self-promotion is especially unforgivable when I disappear from the blog for a couple of weeks. The good news is that it’s because I’ve been exceedingly busy. The Closeout Kings final edit is done. Release coming soon. The first draft of my stage play, Never Living, is done. I’d love to arrange either a complete or partial read just so I can see what works and what doesn’t. It all works with me acting out every part, but I’m a fantastic actor, so it’s really not a great barometer for the piece.

Another project fell into my lap shortly after my last blog entry. It’s a new adventure for me. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. This new adventure is a non-fiction piece. You read correctly. This guy, me, writer of monsters and hillbillies, has been given an exciting opportunity to write a biography of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lee Deckelman. I’ll have more details later, but let’s just say Lee has lead an incredibly interesting and inspiring life that I’m privileged to get to tell. For you fans of the Oz Chronicles, you should be especially interested in Lee’s story. I modeled Oz’s resilience and toughness after Lee. The cool thing is that years ago I had the opportunity to let Lee’s kids know that in a signed copy of The Takers.

This will put Book Seven on the back burner for a little while, but to make up for the delay, I’ll have a surprise announcement in a week or so, maybe sooner. So, stay tuned.

Will I be frequenting the blog more often? I hope so. I can’t make any promises because I’ve got so much to do, but I shall do my very best.

It doesn’t matter what you call me

My clown selfie

My clown selfie

Every six months or so someone on the traditional side of the publishing fence feels the need to blast the internet with their opinion on the unsettling trend of self-published authors flooding the marketplace with material that hasn’t been vetted by the increasingly irrelevant gatekeepers of the industry.  The fact that anyone with a computer can publish a book sickens them, and they bark out their dismay until their throats get sore, and they annoy the holy hell out of everybody in the process. We get it.  You’re upset.  Move on.  There is nothing new you can say.  Your point has been made… repeatedly, and uttering another word about it is completely unnecessary.

The latest grumbler is Michael Kozlowski, Editor in Chief of Good E-Reader.  He is so miffed that he is even offended self-published authors are allowed to call themselves authors.  I’m guessing he wants self-published authors to wear a scarlet letter… only not an “A”.  He suggests that self-published works should be segregated from those published by what he calls “professional” authors.   His logic here is that it’s unfair to consumers to subject them to a plethora of inferior works on an e-tailer’s website. They should be given a clear path to the deserving works of traditionally published authors.

Kozlowski’s argument would be valid if not for the fact that by his own definition Snooki is a “professional” author, along with Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, John Travolta, and the list goes on. Bad writing abounds amongst the offerings of traditional publishers and self-publishers.  To suggest that a bad writer deserves to be called an author because he or she has a contract with a traditional publishing house while another one doesn’t because he or she self-published is more than a bit shortsighted.  It’s an elitist-laden load of pap.

Here’s the good news.  Good writing can be found in the indie world just as plentifully as it can be found in the traditional world, maybe even more so.  Self-published authors are more apt to take risks and bring readers something new, while “professional” authors often play it safe and follow formulaic writing not because they want to, but because they’re being paid to.  I ask you which has the potential to bring more value to the literary world.

I’m a writer first and foremost.  I’m devoted to the art of fiction.  Whether or not you call me an author matters not to me.  Call me a hack or Bobo the typing clown for all I care.

Writer out.

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.

oil_by_loumavis-d4xb2pr

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.

My_Venn_diagram_by_failing_senses

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.

To reveal or not to reveal, that is question. (Poll)

I have this friend.  He’s written a number of books under his real name, which are geared toward the young adult market.  But he’s also written another book under a pen name.  That book has some pretty salty language and suggestive situations.  Nothing too outrageous, but definitely not for the younger members of his fan base.   As one reader said, it’s “nothing you would not see on TV, granted it would be after 9 PM or on cable.”

The problem is that the book has gotten some really great reviews from readers. And, recently, the book won an award (if you count a bronze medal as winning).

So my friend now faces a dilemma. He’s really proud of this book and wants to let everyone know about it.  But, he’s been advised to keep his “brand” uncomplicated.  What do you think he should do? Should he publicly reveal the title of this questionable material or should he play it safe and keep his pen name a secret?

Correction Amazon does pay advances

Timebound by Rysa Walker

Timebound by Rysa Walker to be published by Skyscape

In my post earlier this week about the woeful woes of woe-weary authors, I made the statement that Amazon doesn’t normally pay large advances.  In fact, I said they likely don’t pay any advances at all in most cases.  Turns out I may have spoken out of turn.  Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether blog has a story about author Rysa Walker receiving a $50,000 advance for her self-published title Timebound.  That is not chump change, and congratulations to Walker on signing her first publishing contract.  With such a big investment on Amazon’s part, you can be assured she’s going to get some well-placed ad support on the mega online retailers site, as well as some push in the trades.

For those of you not familiar with advances, they are usually paid out a third at a time.  In the olden days of publishing (approximately 5 years ago), it took 12-18 months for authors to receive their advances in full and those advances were usually around $5,000. Authors would get a third upon signing, a third after the edits had been approved, and the last third when the manuscript was sent off to the printers.  I’m guessing Amazon is doing something similar although in a shorter period of time.  I think the book will be re-released under Amazon’s Skyscape imprint in October.

UPDATE – I neglected to credit Porter Anderson as the author of the piece on Writing on the Ether.

Wattpad and me

So, I’m doing this Wattpad thing, and I’m not sure what to make of it at this point.  While I’m writing Book Six of the Oz Chronicles, I am posting completed chapters of another book in progress, The Tree Readers, on Wattpad two times a day.  To date, I have about 79,000 words written, and each chapter is about 1,000 words long. It’s a book I started about two years ago, and I work on it in between other projects.  It’s actually a very special book to me because I started it while my mother was ill, and I would send her chapters that my sister would read to her.  Apparently, she enjoyed the story.  It’s a little difficult getting back into with a lot of enthusiasm knowing she won’t be able read the finished product.

That aside, Wattpad is a foreign concept to me, and I’m not sure what will come of it.  I’m not expecting much because I am a stranger in a strange land.  I’m about 30 years older than the typical Wattpadian from what I can tell, and after reading the forums, I discovered that it’s common practice for writers to “vote” for their own work.  I’ve been doing it, but it feels a little self-indulgent.

There’s no danger in me becoming a bright shining star on Wattpad because The Tree Readers is about 800,000 reads behind the top science fiction story.  If you are so inclined, and you want to see what The Tree Readers is all about, I encourage you to join Wattpad and read along.

And yes, Book Six is coming!