Do we give readers what marketers say they want, or what we want to write?

Over the past year or so I have paid for a number of marketing courses to help me sell my books. Unfortunately, when I signed up I didn’t realise that when they promised that I would sell tons of books if I followed their plan, that the books they were talking about wouldn’t be mine.

What do you mean? I hear you say.

Well, I mean, that these courses are designed to help you sell books that sell, which may not necessarily be your books. They cater for genre pulp fiction or non-fiction self-help type books. If you don’t write stuff like that, then from my experience, you won’t sell that many books. If you  follow the training in all of these authorpreneurral type courses where a few writers make millions out of selling novella style crime/mystery/whodunnit stories, then you will succeed. Especially if you are prepared to give most of your books away. Literature in general is suffering because of this influx of junk food style prose, in my opinion.

Readers don’t always want safe, they want different. Give it to them – please!

I don’t want to write like everyone else.

My motivation for writing does not come from the desire to make money, it comes from the desire to write for the thrill, the fun, the wonder of the written word. I am passionate about my writing. I laugh, cry, hurt when I write. I feel exhausted sometimes after I have spent a few hours struggling with sentences that won’t work, or characters that say things like, ‘Paul, we’ve done it!’ Ah! Done what? Now I have to figure out what they’ve done. It’s called imagination and you won’t find that in any course.

So, writers, not authors, writers – write from the heart, the gut, the soul – not from the bank account.

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Here is a wonderful poem by Charles Bukowski which sums up my rant beautifully.

So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

 

If you would like to know more about my work, please visit my website  Oddly Books:

http://www.oddlybooks.com

 

Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

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My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

Self-publishing – Help!

I have decided to self-publish some of my short stories. I’ve never self-published before, so am somewhat apprehensive about doing it. I made the decision after being published by a small independent company. I realised that I am doing the bulk of all the marketing and publicity, so I thought I’d try to publish on my own.  My book is selling very slowly, but I’m a debut author so it’s to be expected.

Any advice from self-published authors out there, would be very welcome. I plan to release an ebook first, and see how it goes before stepping into the paperback minefield!!

Any way, I have posted an excerpt from a new short story that I might include in the anthology. If anyone would be kind enough to give feedback, I would be very grateful. If you would like to read the entire story, go to Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/29186761-the-grooves-that-her-feet-made

The Grooves That Her Feet made

They were her mother’s shoes. Black stilettos with a tapering toe that ended in a sharp point. To Maggie, they looked more like a weapon than footwear. She recalled the day her father brought them home. He smelled of lager and cigarettes and she’d moved her head away from his damp kiss. Mr Harris laughed, ruffled his daughter’s hair, turned to his wife and grabbed her by the arm. ‘Put on your best dress Suzie. You’re going to go out to dinner with the new, “Overseas Manager of Distribution”. And don’t worry about what shoes to wear, I got you these,’ he said and handed over the shoes. ‘I’ve asked Carol Pickton from next door to look after Maggie.’

Maggie was nine years old and couldn’t understand why she had to stay at home. She clenched her fists and howled. Her mother wiped away her daughter’s tantrum tears and promised a family trip to the zoo.

It didn’t happen.

Mr Harris went to work in America for a six-month trial period, and never came back. The shoes were wrapped in tissue paper, put in a box and pushed to the back of the storage closet under the stairs. ‘Don’t touch them, do you hear me? They stay in there forever.’ Maggie gulped at her mother’s words, nodded her head and thought of nothing else. Every time she walked past the cupboard, she felt the urge to put them on.

When she was thirteen, Maggie crept downstairs, opened the closet, took out the shoes and pushed her feet into them. A hand gripped her shoulder and a voice full of hate raged into her ear. ‘Take them off. Right now. As long as I’m alive, those things are out of bounds.’

And so they were. Maggie grew up, got married, left home, got divorced, moved back, tended her dying mother, and never once touched ‘Those things.’ She didn’t even wear them to the funeral, out of respect to her dead mother’s wishes. But as soon as the service was over, and the stragglers gone, Maggie went to the cupboard and took out the forbidden footwear.

She opened the box, peeled away the tissue paper and dusted off the stilettos. She held them up against the hallway window and watched as the light caught the polished leather. The shoes gleamed like a black panther basking in the African sun and Maggie let out a sigh. She placed the stilettos before her twitching feet and raised her right foot, ready to slip them on. But she couldn’t. Her mother’s words repeated inside her head and Maggie jumped back as though the things were about to strike.

Maggie stared at the shoes for a moment, waiting for them to move. When they didn’t, she wrapped them up again, put them in the box and shoved them to the back of the hall cupboard.

Time went slowly for Maggie and each day alone left her tired and irritable. A hole inside her chest grew and she yearned for male companionship.

Months were dedicated to on-line dating agencies all promising to find the right man and all failing to do so. At one of her lowest moments she even went out with Mathew Pickton. It lasted a couple of months before fizzling out. They’d grown up together and she considered him, ‘More of a brother than a potential mate. You understand, don’t you Mathew?’

Mathew didn’t answer. He glugged back the glass of wine, threw forty pounds onto the table and walked out of the restaurant. The next day, Maggie posted a note through his door that said, ‘No hard feelings? Still friends?’ She received a bunch of white roses in way of a response.

Maggie came across Daniel, quite by chance, on a chat room for fans of all things leather. They exchanged emails for three months before she plucked up the courage to suggest they meet. The day arrived and Maggie knew that it was time for the stilettos to be brought out of hibernation.

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