Write it and They Will Come by Charley Descoteaux

Hi everyone! Charley Descoteaux here for my monthly column, thanks for joining me. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are keeping warm (or cool :)) this crazy January.

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January is when we start working on the goals we made in December. I didn’t do a lot of goal-setting this year, but do have a couple. One is to launch a new pen name: Charli Coty. Eventually everything I write will be under this name, for many reasons. But those reasons aren’t what I’m talking about today.

Part of launching a new pen name—or a first pen name—is a social media presence. Some of us love social media , some loathe it, and most of us are somewhere in between. I like it when I’m having fun, chatting with friends or making cool graphics (when they don’t end up looking like a five year-old made them ;)).

2015-rainbow-rose-facebook-iconBut promotion is hard. When I began establishing the Descoteaux name I worked hard to promote it without going overboard, usually by hosting other authors on my blog and talking about their books. I’m much more comfortable promoting other authors than myself, and didn’t completely crash and burn, so I considered it mildly successful. With Coty, I wanted to take what I’d learned and work smarter, not harder.

Setting up the accounts was easy, but it’s another thing maintaining two complete sets of social media profiles, along with a day job and trying to write. I kept forgetting my Coty presence. With a book coming out Jan. 30 that’s no longer an option, so I came up with a way to give myself the needed incentive to post to my Coty blog at least once a week.

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#QueerBlogWed is like #MondayBlogs (in theory, not in scope :)). Every Wednesday I post something new and Tweet it on the hashtag, and most weeks a handful of Tweeps join me. It’s a fledgling group to say the least but I’ve been posting every Wednesday, so it’s a win. So far we’ve had a lot of snippets from WIPs and posts about yearly goals, book recommendations, and cool places to hang out online.

If you’d like to join us please do—no sign-up necessary—just Tweet a link to a blog post on Wednesdays, use the hashtag, and RT others. The post doesn’t have to be new that day; bring back a golden oldie or a post you’re especially proud of and get it in front of new eyes. Or just read the posts and RT the ones you like! The only two rules are no promo, and the content has to be by/for/about the LGBTQIA+ community. Check out the pinned post at @QueerBlogWed or the hashtag to see offerings from past weeks, but that’s pretty much it!

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The first novel originally released under my new pseudonym will be released by NineStar Press on January 30! It’s a dark paranormal with romantic elements and I hope you enjoy it!

thevisionary-fThe Visionary by Charli Coty

Colin Page, eighteen-year-old community college student, apple polisher and all-around goody-goody, has a secret. He sees things that aren’t there. Unfortunately, the Doc Martens on the floor of the mail vestibule in his apartment building really are there and attached to a dead body. Hunkered over the body is someone Colin had barely noticed before, Private Investigator Al Green. Most people scare Colin, but for some reason, Al doesn’t, even after he reveals that he knows about the hidden reality of their world.

Alonzo Green, despite his low-power mind, is determined to help right the wrongs he unknowingly contributed to. He’s also hopelessly smitten. He knows it’s wrong—probably even dangerous—to enlist Colin’s help with the investigation. And that’s before considering all Al has to fear from Colin’s fiercely protective and powerful mother.

Colin and Al put some of the pieces together, but as soon as one thing becomes clear, the picture changes. The search for the Big Bad takes them from Portland to Tacoma and Seattle, and eventually to San Francisco, but their journey into each other’s arms is much shorter.

Pre-order The Visionary at the NineStar Press store!

Join #RainbowSnippets for sneak peeks at The Visionary and more fabulous LGBTQIA+ fiction!

Keep up with the new me!

Newsletter: https://my.sendinblue.com/users/subscribe/js_id/2m34r/id/1

Blog:  https://charlicoty.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/charli.coty

NineStar Press Author Page: http://ninestarpress.com/authors/charli-coty/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharliCoty

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charlicoty/

 

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Why We Need Our Storytellers Now More Than Ever by Sarah Madison

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This isn’t the post I intended to write.

I’d originally planned a lighthearted piece about the value of play in stimulating creativity, but that was before the results of the Presidential election. While this is not going to be a political post per se, it was written in reaction to the elections.

Suffice to say, I am horrified, shocked, and yes, terrified. And one of the side effects of this is that I’ve had to take a long hard look at whether I can afford to continue writing.

I know, that seems like such a trivial consideration when you look at the impact this election will have on our country, our citizens, and our planet for decades to come. But it is, I think, a valid one. Writing takes up a significant portion of my time. Yes, it’s a passion, but it is frequently a source of frustration as well. It’s time spent doing something I hope will also help pay the bills, but let’s be realistic: a second job would do that more reliably and efficiently.

Not to mention, I find it incredibly difficult to write when I’m stressed. This past year hasn’t been particularly productive for me, since I have been fretting about this election for at least that long. Now that my worst nightmares have come true, I am facing, at minimum, four years of high-level stress. That’s what I tell myself in order to make myself feel better, mind you. In reality, it will be worse for years to come. Possibly the rest of my life.

Then there is the feeling right now that writing is a frivolous waste of time. How can I occupy myself writing fluffy romances where there are so many battles needing to be fought? Wouldn’t it be a better use of my time putting that energy into other areas? At the very least, something serious and worthy?

So yes, for a period of about 48 hours, I felt as though all hope was gone. I literally did not know how I would continue in a country I no longer recognized as my own. And then I began reading messages of support and encouragement. They came from my friends at first—reminding me how much pleasure writing gives me, but also how much pleasure my stories give other people. For years now, I’ve said my main goal in telling stories was to make someone’s crappy day a bit better—to provide a few hours entertainment, to let someone lose themselves in another world for a little while—so they could forget the stressful job, or their chronic illness, or the burdens of their daily life. My dear friends reminded me of that, and I deeply thank them for their unwavering support and belief in what we do as creators. What I do as a creator. Now, more than ever, we are going to need relief we get from reading stories that make us happy.

But it’s more than that. A Finnish friend of mine, a wonderful writer, penned this statement as a means of encouragement to us all:

“We are the people who create. And I don’t just mean that we’re creative, I mean that in no matter how big or small a way, we bring something good into this world, make it better. We build instead of destroy, make things move forward instead of back. We create friendships and fandom families that stick together. We create positive thoughts and energy that will always spread farther than we think. We create better versions of ourselves, and help others grow that way too. We create stories, crafts, art, discussions, pictures, and so much more, and bring joy to others through what we do. We create love. So many times this place, the fandom, all you people, have saved my day when I have needed it the most. And every time I hear that something I did or created did the same for someone else, I feel a little surprised that I had such power, but also very happy that I could shine some light on a day that might have been anything between mildly grey and near dark.”

Her words came into my darkness like a shining beacon.

Chuck Wendig, an author who posts kick-ass blogs about being a writer, posted a list of constructive things we as creators can do, titled Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. I found this post heartening as well. In particular because it acknowledged my fear and despair, and then gave me practical things I could do about it.

My BF, God bless him, sent me this link, which also inspired me. It’s from the comic, Oatmeal, entitled It’s Going To Be Okay. I confess, I didn’t want to read it at first because I didn’t want someone trying to persuade me things aren’t going to be as bad as I fear, but I was very glad I did. You should read it too.

Last night, long after I should have been asleep, I came across this tweet from George Takei:

The Ministry has fallen. Death Eaters are about. But, my wizards, together we can defeat the dark tides of bigotry and intolerance. #WandsUp

It made me smile in a painful sort of way, but it also reminded me the power of the written word. The magic of stories that makes us not only see similarities between world events and books we grew up loving, but it makes us want to be better people. We want the Ring to get to Mordor. We want to see Voldemort vanquished, the Empire defeated and Palpatine destroyed. We want to believe that one day, ignorance, hatred, and intolerance will give way to the kind of society that creates Starfleet, and that people of all races, genders, nationalities, and species can serve together—as a team—on the greatest starship of all time. Because otherwise, we’ll all be living in Panem, and the Hunger Games will begin soon.

I won’t kid you. I’m terrified for the future of my planet, for society as a whole, for my personal health and safety. And I’ve been wondering what one exhausted, frightened, middle-aged woman can do. The answer is, I can continue to write. My stories might not change the world. I probably won’t create the next Harry Potter series, or write something that catches fire like the Hunger Games. I write romances, and heck, I probably won’t even write the next 50 Shades of Gray. But what I can do, in my own quiet way, is tell stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words, and where love wins in the end.

If I make someone fall in love with a character who is not like them—if I humanize that person for them and make that reader want what is best for them—then I’ve taken steps that might make them stop viewing ‘different’ as ‘other’. And if the only thing I achieve is that I make one other exhausted, frightened person feel a little bit better, a little bit calmer, even for a few hours, then I’ve done a good thing. If I can make one person say, “Whoa, that isn’t right, and we need to change that,” then I have done a great thing.

Let’s all go out there and do great things.

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I completely forgot about the Rafflecopter giveaway! All of us here at Authors Speak have donated a prize to the contest. Nine free stories to the winner!
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I left You Alone For a Week and You Did WHAT??? – Anne Barwell

Those words were what one of my beta readers said to me when I went back to work after taking a few days’ annual leave so I could get some writing done.

So what did I do?

I signed up for the 2016 Virtual Fantasy Convention in October. Or rather Lou Hoffman/Lou Sylvre and I signed up for it together. As we both write fantasy it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to get out there, meet new people, and network. We figured doing it together would be a great idea and after all, we do have a co-authored project called The Harp and the Sea which sits in the genre.

Hi, it’s Anne Barwell. It’s the 30th of the month so time to pause between chapters and write my post for Authors Speak

It wasn’t until I had my first book published that I realised just how much time goes into promo. I’d known I’d need to do some, but didn’t realise just how many opportunities were out there. Now I put aside at least a week or so with each new release to write blog posts, and update my website etc.

Given that I’m only able to write about 1-2 books a year, I also make sure I sign up for various events and blogging in between books. After all, I can’t expect readers to pick up my books if they’ve never heard of them. A few authors/review sites have regular slots put aside for backlist promo, or events such as flash fiction spots. Those are a great idea, and I try to sign up for at least a couple each year.

I’ve also just discovered that the Romance Writers Association (RWA) in New Zealand have their yearly workshop convention in Wellington next year so I’m already making plans to ensure I get there. Meeting and networking with other authors is a big part of writing. I’ve met several people I now think of as friends by either offering them a blog spot on my site Drops of Ink or signing up to visit theirs. Unfortunately there’s not much in the way of conventions etc in New Zealand, so not making the most of the RWA meet in Wellington would be crazy.

Some days when I’m busy writing and trying to meet deadlines, and then have to stop and make time to work on promo as well, it can all seem a bit much. Often I feel as though I’m working two full time jobs, but although I might stress at times, I must admit I do enjoy it.

So now this post is written, it’s back to WWII for me. I have some not very happy characters wanting me to hurry up and get past the nasty stuff and give them their happy ending.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt for Shadowboxing, book 1 in my Echoes Rising WWII series. Winter Duet—book 2—is being released from DSP Publications in December, and I’m 62K into book 3 which is called Comes a Horseman.

Blurb:
Echoes Rising: Book One
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.

Buy Link: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/shadowboxing-by-anne-barwell-261-b

Excerpt:
Michel froze when several gunshots pierced the quiet Berlin night. “Kristopher…,” he whispered. No. Please no.

Beside him, Matt’s head jerked up. He swore loudly. A few moments later, another lone shot followed the first couple.

Walker and Palmer skidded to a halt, doubling back from where they’d gone on ahead.

“Elise’s Kaffeehaus.” Walker panted, trying to speak and catch his breath simultaneously. He and Palmer appeared to be much younger than their companions; Michel wouldn’t be surprised if this was their first assignment in the field. “Gestapo….”

“Matt….” Ken’s previous harsh timbre was replaced by something much gentler, but Matt ignored him and shook his head.

“No.” His voice shook, his words partly echoing Michel’s thoughts. “Not Elise. Please, not her, not now.” Matt leaned heavily against a nearby lamppost, his eyes glazed over.

“We don’t know who fired the shots, sir.” Palmer took over the explanation. At least he could pass for German if he stayed quiet and kept his head down. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but there were no guarantees as to which way a particular mission might go. Michel had had that fact reinforced on more occasions than he cared to remember, but too many lives depended on them with this one. It had to succeed. “The Kaffeehaus is swarming with Gestapo, but there is no sign of anyone else.”

“We need to ascertain precisely what has happened before we move in. In order to do that, we will have to get closer.” Ken took charge—although Matt was the ranking officer, he appeared to be in no state to give orders. Whatever his relationship to Elise, this was not the time for him to be dwelling on what might be happening in the Kaffeehaus. Getting Kristopher and the plans to safety was still their priority.

“It’s damn obvious that someone’s been shot.” Matt visibly pulled himself together, although his voice hitched slightly before the word “shot.” “We need to get in there quickly in order to minimize damage. Gabriel, take Walker and Palmer and secure the back entrance. Lowe, Zhou, you’re with me. We’ll secure the front.”

“What if there’s another exit?” asked Liang, disengaging the safety on his handgun.

Matt shook his head, his matter-of-fact tone verifying prior knowledge of both the Kaffeehaus and its owner. “There isn’t. Not unless Elise has done some major renovations, which I doubt.”

“We’re probably more than outnumbered by Holm and his men.” Michel pointed out the inadequacies of the plan. “It would be more sensible to size up the situation first, as Lowe suggested, before we move in. The shot might be merely a warning. We don’t know for certain that someone is injured. If Dr. Lehrer and Elise have been captured, it would pay to wait until….” His voice trailed off, a grotesque image entering his mind—Kristopher lying on the floor of the Kaffeehaus, his fair hair stained red with the blood dripping from a single bullet hole to the temple. Michel quickly pushed it away. Holm needed Kristopher. He wouldn’t risk killing him. Elise could be used to ensure Kristopher’s cooperation. It made more sense that they were both still alive.

“I don’t care.” Matt’s previous calm was replaced by an edge of desperation that made him both unpredictable and dangerous. “I’m not just sitting here and waiting. To hell with procedure.”

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/anne-barwell
DSP Publications Author Page:
https://www.dsppublications.com/authors/anne-barwell-49

The value of giving your opinion

So, right now, the United States is in a huge uproar. Our political system—which I will admit needs to be fixed—is getting worse by the day. This election cycle has been the most poisonous pile of vitriol I think I have ever witnessed in all the years I’ve been old enough to vote (and that’s not a few years!).

It’s very tempting to wade into the conversation and start throwing the
unfollow same verbal punches everyone else is. There is so much misogyny, racism, classism, and more going around that it at times makes me physically ill. I have unfriended and unfollowed more people during this election cycle than I can begin to comprehend.

And believe me, there are plenty of times I want to start yelling from the rooftops about my views. They are important. They are a part of me. However, that way just leads to disaster.

J. Scott Coatsworth wrote about this a little while back. He made good points that I can’t argue. We don’t like to see some of our favorite authors/artists/actors/whatever turn out to be douches because they’ve let their political views out and they’re exactly the opposite of ours (or worse, they call for violence against a group).
unfriendWe are as human as they rest of the world. We have views, ideals, needs and worries just like the rest of the population. In the M/M genre, we can feel safe about speaking about some things—gay rights, marriage equality—because if someone is patently against them, they probably don’t want to read my books, anyway. And that’s cool. We all remember that no book is universally liked (a fact I like to remind myself of when things get bad).

However, for the same reasons my readers don’t want to know the gory details of a surgery I need or how my body reacted to the lunch I had the postoptions

other day, they also don’t need to know every detail of my political stances. Even if they’re on the same general end of the political line as me, there are so many little things we can disagree on that it’s likely that one tiny detail I wouldn’t think is important might be the biggest thing ever to someone else.

The problem is, as an author, it’s not just that one reader I have to worry about. For the same reason we want readers to review, to tell their friends about our books, we have to be careful how we approach controversial topics. That one reader can just as easily talk to their friends about this too.

And let’s face it. The vast majority of us don’t make so much money that we don’t have to worry about that. Sure, Mel Gibson can be an anti-Semitic asshole. But he can afford to be. Me? A two-digit change in the number of books I sell can mean the difference between buying a medication or not.

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“Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that… oops?” **

Now, not everyone is as politic (see what I did there?) as Scott was. Sometimes you get a fairly new author that (I might be generous here) might not realize just how much a ranty post can cost them—whether it’s about US (the current election) or UK (Brexit) politics or a more localized community concern—like pseudonyms and profile pictures. And rather than approaching it with the preface that, yes, it could cost me readers but it’s necessary, they just go off.

My advice? At the very least, until you have a pretty decent following –or don’t care how many books you sell—don’t bring politics onto your Facebook page, Twitter feed, blog, etc. If you have a private Facebook profile, that’s where you should put your opinions and views. Keep it to family, offline friends, etc. It’s not easy, I get that. Because of it, I’ve hovered over unfollow so much it isn’t funny. I’ve wanted to punch lights out, scream until I’m blue in the face, shake people. But the current political clime is going to do one of two things: fall apart completely (in which case, what my political opinions are won’t matter worth a damn) or the heat will cool off and we’ll all go back to discussing hot man-on-man sex.

So, before you share that post or write your rant, ask yourself this question:

Is it worth it?

Probably not.

**Photo credit: Paul Miller, EPA

Sarah Madison: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me as a Newbie Author

Hello there! I’m Sarah Madison, and this is my first guest blog here on Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate. Thank, Lou, for inviting me to come and share some of my thinky-thoughts. Naturally, I left things until rather late, so I am revising an older post to share with you. It’s not only still relevant but I have new bits of wisdom to add.

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Last summer, I stumbled across a great Facebook thread in which a new author asked for advice: she wanted to know what kinds of newbie mistakes to avoid as a first-time author.

True to form, the writing community, including myself, chimed in with a number of excellent points. Afterward, it dawned on me this would make an awesome blog post, and here we are.

I’m going to give you my bits of ‘I wish someone had told me’ advice, mixed in with some of the best snippets I gleaned from my Facebook friends when asked the same.

In no particular order:

  1. Google your pen name before you start using it. Yeah, I wish I’d done this. Because there’s Sarah Madison the actress, Sarah Madison the cardiovascular surgeon, Sarah Madison the published historian, and if you are looking for any of them and you get me instead, yikes! On the other hand, I like to think of someone enjoying one of my stories while recovering from cardiovascular surgery… Seriously, though. Google your pen name. You really don’t want the same pen name as a serial killer. Also, be careful of having a ‘unique’ spelling. If people can’t remember how to spell your name, they aren’t likely to find you on a web search. It’s easy. It takes less than thirty seconds, for Pete’s sake. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

Anna Butler reminded me after I wrote this post the first time that she’d received some very valuable advice from me when she was starting out. I’d completely forgotten about it until she mentioned it, but I think it’s very smart to have separate browsers for your author persona and the rest of your life. It is possible to link all your gmail accounts to one primary account–but not only will Gmail frequently add the words, ‘sent on behalf of’, attaching your real name to the email, but it is incredibly easy to click on the wrong address and send something to the wrong party. If keeping your pen name and real name separate is important to you, use separate browsers.

Whether or not you need a pen name is another discussion altogether. I personally think if you write in wildly divergent genres, such as ‘sweet’ Christian romances and dinosaur porn, you’d better have two pen names. But that’s just me.

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  1. Platform and promotion. Yes, you have to have it. No, no one likes promoting themselves, but it is a necessary evil. As author K-lee Klein points out, “Writing is the good part, but be prepared to WORK for the book when it’s done.”

If you want to get the most out of your promotion, you already have to have a platform and internet presence in place. A website (more on that later), Facebook page, and Twitter account are probably considered the bare minimums, but most writers have pages on Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, G+… well, you name it. Many writers have pages on sites geared toward their genre, too. It’s a lot to keep up with. My rules for platform and social media: pick the two or three sites where you are the most comfortable and spend time there. If a site makes you unhappy, you won’t be your best there. Learn how to cross post from your main sites to other sites. I rarely spend time on Goodreads or Tumblr–they just aren’t my kind of places, but other people hang out there, so when I post a blog entry like this, I make sure it automatically cross posts to those other media platforms.

Worry less about your ‘brand’ when starting out. Be friendly. Share other people’s announcements. Interact with people in a manner that does not always center around your books or writing. For heaven’s sake DO NOT auto-post tweets or private message people with BUY MY BOOK spiels within seconds of them friending or following you.

There are some great books on social media out there. I happen to like Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I might not agree with everything Ms. Lamb says (she is very much against pen names, for example) but she has some good points to make. One of which is that your name should be easy to find–it should be part of your website, your Twitter name, etc. Having a cute Twitter handle might be fun, but what if no one remembers that @AwesomeWombat is really Sarah Madison? Don’t make it hard for your readers to find you.

  1. Websites: Your website is your home base. It is going to be the main way readers find you. Make it easy for them! You have roughly two seconds to make a good first impression when people land on your page. If your site is too hard to navigate, too difficult to read, has too many moving gifs or images that roll by too rapidly to read, you’ve lost a perspective reader right there. They will move on to the next site, to look for some other author whose home page doesn’t make their eyes bleed. Whether you have a static home page or not is up to you. But the most important thing is that your site is crisp, clear, and easy to navigate. Your social media links should all be in one place. Your backlist and buy links should be easy to find. You should update your blog on a regular basis. If you have a newsletter or a way for readers to follow your blog, it should be easy to find and sign up. Two seconds. Otherwise, your viewer will click away.
  1. Reviews: if I had put these in any kind of order, reviews probably should have gone at the top. EVERYONE had a lot to say about reviews. For the most part, I tend not to read my reviews unless I’ve been sent the link from a trusted review site or a friend has discovered a glowing review and they want to share it with me. Everyone gets bad reviews. Don’t believe me? Look up your all-time favorite book. I guarantee that you will find someone who utterly loathed it and flamed it royally in their review. Any time I stumble upon a review I wish I hadn’t seen, I perform this very task and it is amazing how therapeutic it is. Because if someone can hate the book you adore, then it puts things in perspective for you. Over and over again, people gave DON’T ENGAGE A NEGATIVE REVIEW as their number one advice. Just. Don’t. The author *always* comes out looking like the bad guy here, and nothing will alienate fans faster. Jay Northcote puts it this way, “Never respond to bad reviews. EVER. And don’t bitch about them in a public forum or it’s likely to bite you on the arse. If you need to vent (and if you look at your negative reviews, you will), do it in a safe/private place to someone you trust.” Sue Holston says don’t even read your reviews, and I can understand that viewpoint as well.

There are some people who’d suggest not responding to any review on Goodreads, as it is a site primarily for readers, not authors. I know many authors who interact with their fans quite happily on Goodreads, but I confess, it feels like an abandoned mine field to me. One false step and BOOM. But that’s just me.

The point is, don’t let one bad review negate the twenty good ones you’ve received. Don’t let a ‘meh’ review derail you from your planned story arc, or shut down your writing mojo. Cooper West quotes Churchill, saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going”, which is a pretty good life lesson in general. Margarita Gakis advises the same, but urges even more to simply write. She says, “My advice is keep writing. Keep writing when it sucks and when you get a bad review and when you’re not sure if this is for you. Because as long as you’re writing you’re getting better. It’s like learning any skill and the more you do it the better you’ll be.”

The bottom line is not everyone is going to like your stories. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let someone’s raw opinion affect your ability to write more stories. Yes, bad reviews can hurt your sales, but sometimes what someone hates about a story is what others love—so not all reviews are damaging to sales. Once I decided that I was going to keep writing no matter what, reviews lost the power to hurt me as much.

  1. Beta readers versus Editors (and what they bring to the table): first of all, these people are invaluable to you as a writer. As Kaje Harper said, “Beta readers and editors are in partnership with you to make the story the best it can be. Every error they catch, every change they suggest, is not an insult to your talents or story, or a sign of failure, but one more thing that will be better when actual readers buy your book. Welcome the red ink, don’t fear it or be insulted by it. At the same time, remember it is YOUR story. You can tell an editor they are wrong, if you truly believe that. They are human and fallible and sometimes your vision has to be the one that carries the day.”

I think this is very important on many levels. As authors, particularly new authors, we have to be willing to accept the input of others, especially if we keep getting similar feedback from multiple sources: that’s your biggest indication something is wrong with your story or your writing style and it needs fixing. At the same time, it can be difficult not to let a strong-minded person take on more credit for the shaping of your story than they really deserve–or should have. Beta readers are not editors, either. Yes, they will catch typos, but their primary function is to tell you if the story is working or not. Different people catch different things, so I think it is very important to have more than one beta reader. But my main reason for having multiple readers is two-fold: not only do you not want to overwhelm a single person if you are a prolific writer, but it is much harder for someone to claim a larger share of the credit when there is more than one person involved. A beta reader who claims to ‘make or break’ you is like someone who helped you set the table expecting credit for cooking the banquet as well. A good beta reader is worth their weight in gold. They will help you produce the cleanest copy possible for submission to a publisher. They are cheerleaders and problem-spotters. But once the story moves on to editing, their role is usually done. Beta-readers are often friends, which can make it very painful to sever the relationship if it is no longer working for you. But if your beta-reader is acting like a gatekeeper between you and publishing, it is definitely time to end the relationship.

Editors will clean up and tighten your prose, point out that you have used the same phrase thirty-seven times, correct your somewhat loose interpretation of the Chicago Manual of Style, and identify where things need to be explained in greater detail or a weak plot point that needs fixing. But they should not be altering your style to match their own. It is your story. They are polishing the finish on the sports car, not re-building the engine. That is, not unless some major plot hole got past your beta readers. Then you want to listen to your editor and make the necessary changes. Believe me, you don’t want your audience catching bloopers and then pointing them out to everyone else. Get them fixed before you publish.

Which brings me to another point: you need editors. Oh, I know, when you start shopping around for a freelance editor to polish your indie story until it shines, that feels like the one place where you can cut corners. You know when publishers pay you a percentage of your selling price? Part of that goes to distribution, but part of it goes to pay cover artists, editors, formatters, and the like. If you’re going indie, YOU have to pay these people. Don’t skimp on editing. You’ll regret it. I self-published a book that I thought was my best work to date. It won all kinds of awards and got a lot of notice, but the editing was frequently mentioned, even apologetically by the reviewers that loved the book. I regret not spending the money to have it professionally edited the first time. By the time I fixed the problems, it was too late to make a good first impression again.

Kaje Harper and Becky Black also wanted me to point out the difference between rejection and ‘revise and re-submit’. Getting a revise and re-submit request is a good thing. It means the publisher sees promise in your story, but that it is still a bit rough around the edges. Don’t let an R&R crush you! It’s actually quite hopeful.

  1. Don’t game the system: I mean, seriously. There’s a big difference between recognizing and taking advantage of market trends (something I’m not very good at, but I know people who are) and writing simply to make a buck. Face it, if you want to make money, there are far easier ways of doing so. By gaming the system, I mean deciding you’re going to write serials, or short cliffhangers, or dinosaur porn, filling Kindle Unlimited with them because hey, you can churn those babies out to match the current best deal Amazon offers, and the instant the algorithm changes, so does your storytelling. Look, I have nothing against dino porn, but if you want to write it, do so because you enjoy it, okay? And no sockpuppets singing your praises or slinging mud at the competition. No buying reviews. I really shouldn’t have to say this, right? Pricing your story so that it sells well, or making the first book in a series free? That’s not gaming the system. Buying your way onto the bestseller lists is.

Buddy Best

The best way to make writing pay for you? Write. Write a lot. Be working on your next story while you are launching your previous one and be thinking about the next one, too. Readers are like stray cats. If you feed them, they will come.

Most of us go through a post-story blues, where it is hard to move on to the next project. Get over yourself. I once sat down and figured out that it took me nearly a year from the time I conceived of a story idea, to writing it, to submitting it, to having it published before I saw royalties trickle in. Which means that for writing to pay the bills, I have to have a new story coming out at minimum every quarter. Which brings me to the next point…

  1. Don’t quit your day job. Seriously. Writing a runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey is like winning the lottery. It rarely happens, and certainly not to you and me. The rest of us have to slog out a minimum of something on the order of 60-80K words every 2-3 months in order to even hope of quitting the day job. I don’t know about you, but putting that kind of pressure on myself really puts a damper on my writing mojo. Writing is something I do that makes me happy in order to make other people happy. But I don’t ever want to look back on my life twenty years from now and wish I’d spent more time walking the dog or hanging out with my boyfriend. And I don’t want to take something I love and turn it into something I hate because I can’t turn out a completed product I can take pride in.

But hey, maybe you can be incredibly prolific while still working a full-time job. Or maybe you’re currently jobless, and now is the sink or swim moment. It is possible to make a living as a writer. Just expect to work hard, write a lot, make a lot of personal sacrifices regarding how you spend your time, and don’t expect Hollywood to come knocking at your door with a movie deal in hand. It means writing when you don’t feel like it. It means there is no such thing as ‘your muse’, only the need to put words to paper because that’s your job.

Though this doesn’t quite fit in here, Felice Stevens had a nice bit to share about the “Rules” of writing: “Don’t listen when someone tells you the “Rules” on how to write. Don’t listen when people tell you if you write fast, it’s junk, if you write slow you’ll lose your base. Find your voice and don’t try to be someone else.”

Which is just plain, good common sense. You’re going to hear a lot about how to be successful as an author. But by trying to please everyone, you’ll wind up pleasing no one. You don’t really need a ton of fans, anyway. You need a thousand die-hard fans that will buy everything you write and tell all their friends about you too.

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8.Piracy: it happens. There are people who will steal your manuscript, slap another cover on it, and offer it for sale. There are plagiarists who will take a story from another genre, change the names or the genders of the characters, and publish it in the hopes no crossover readers will spot the similarities. There are outright pirate sites who sell your book at a lower price or are phishing schemes to get personal information. That doesn’t begin to cover torrents, where people upload your stories for twenty thousand of their BFFs to snag an illegal download. If you try counting up the money in lost revenue, it will only make you cry. Recently someone on Facebook posted a request for pirate sites on her wall, triggering a wave of reaction as some people took her to task and others defended her. I suspect screenshots of her post might not have been shared so many times expect the reaction of the illegal downloaders showed such a misplaced sense of entitlement that a good deal of outrage occurred. I posted about this on my website, and to my surprise, the post went viral. Apparently it struck a chord with a LOT of people.

Some people don’t fight piracy and copyright violations. Personally, I do. Piracy means the difference between my paying the mortgage some months, or whether I have to wait another year to replace the glasses with the $400 lenses. Piracy is the difference between having to choose between dental work or going to a writer’s convention. Every couple of weeks, do a search of your name and book titles (I find that Google Alerts tends not to pick up many illegal downloads–it’s better for notifying you of reviews). If you have a publisher, report it to them–they are losing money as well. Draft DMCA and takedown notices to send to pirate sites. Make sure that people know that many of these sites are just phishing to steal credit card information. In my case, my stories frequently show up on torrents (someone seems to keep uploading a bundle of four of my stories–it’s infuriating to see the same bundle appear again and again…). Appealing to the torrent is usually futile, but you can report the link to Google, which will block it in a title search on their browser. Given that almost everyone uses Google, having them block the illegal site in a search is a good thing. Searching the internet and preparing takedown notices is time-consuming and frustrating, but I do it. I keep hearing people say the vast majority of people downloading illegal copies would never buy from me in the first place. Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t mean I have to make it easy for them to pick my pocket. I still maintain if those downloads weren’t available and someone wanted to read my story in particular, a percentage of torrent users might consider forking out the equivalent of a breakfast at Hardees to buy it.

  1. Don’t ever diss another author. That’s just plain stupid. Unless you are among unimpeachable friends that you trust with your whole heart, giving a frank opinion of someone’s work or personality is fraught with the potential to have your words come back and bite you in the ass. Keep it to yourself, even if you feel completely justified, or if someone approaches you, encouraging you to vent. Be a professional and keep your mouth shut and your fingers off the keyboard. That applies in general to most internet kerfuffles and dramas. Remember the great proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys. This is a corollary to not responding to negative reviews. People talk. And if you malign someone’s writing or themselves as a person, the chances are it will get back to them.

On the other hand, sometimes it is impossible not to have someone get angry with you through no fault of your own. Apologize for inadvertently upsetting them, try to correct or prevent the circumstances that led to the misunderstanding, but if they won’t grow up and get over it, let it go. Don’t talk about it, however. Be the bigger person here. Apologize, move on, and never refer to it again. If they keep bringing it up in the face of your silence, they wind up looking petty and small for holding grudges.

  1. And last but not least: write what makes you happy. Don’t write to market pressures. If you have no interest in the latest fad, your lack of enthusiasm will show. If you want to write about chefs, or the horse-racing industry, or US Marines, or WW2 flying aces, or dragons, you can. Just make sure you’ve done your homework, or in the case of fantasy, you’ve created a world with believable rules that make sense. Don’t worry about finding an audience. Chances are if you love what you’re writing, others will too. And they are the readers that count the most.

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. You can find her around the internet:

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