An Author’s Lament on a Hot Summer Day

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No doubt you’ve seen those unfortunate individuals on the side of the road with a sign that says “Will Work for Food.” Somehow I can relate, though I admit I’m not quite as destitute as those poor souls. Nonetheless, if you’re an author, unless you have a patient spouse who pays the bills or an alternate source of income such as a day job, retirement, or you have the good fortune to be a trust fund baby, chances are your income could be in a similar range, or possibly even less. Way less, like in negative numbers.

It seems no one these days wants to pay for anything, especially if it’s creative. The starving artist has been a familiar entity for eons. People want their music for free, their reading material for free, their games for free, and their artwork for free. This is what the electronic age has brought us. Now that books, music, pictures, and even movies are no longer on tangible media, they’re expected to be free. And of course, now that they’re teaching AI to create, in no time artists of all varieties could be out of business entirely. Muses today get no respect.

So tell me–who out there in any other profession, whether it’s accounting, engineering, administrating, or heaven forbid, even politics, is willing to work for free? To coin an apropos phrase from “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,” Anyone? Anyone? When’s the last time you went into the grocery store and got your food for free?

Now that I’m retired, I can indulge in pursuing my work as an author. Unfortunately, lately that’s been directed more at marketing and promoting than creating. And the frustration some days is downright scream-inducing. The cash going out for services far outweighs what little comes in. If I were a logical person, I’d quit. If it were only about money, I’d quit. But do I? No. Because writing is in my blood (at least my astrological imprint, which features Kalliope, the muse of epic poetry on my ascendant). While I can make ends meet (barely) through other means, I’d love nothing more than to make a generous (or even adequate…okay, even meager) income from my writing. Tax write-offs are nice, but after a while it gets old. Just once I’d like to finish in the black.

The one thing authors appreciate (most the time, anyway) is a review, especially when we give away our books. And trust me, selling it for 99c is virtually the same as giving it away. Thinking about how long it took to write, edit, and publish it is verboten, because that’s downright depressing. I couldn’t even begin to calculate what I make per hour when selling a book for 99c, most likely less than a Mexican peso per hour, maybe even per day, if that. Yet people who are qualified to do no more than repeat the mantra, “Do you want fries with that?” want $15/hour. Right. And people in hell want ice water.

Reviews are important. Once you get a certain amount, vendors such as Amazon give your book a little more attention and help. If you want to look for an agent, be accepted by certain promoters (for a generous fee, mind you), or even expand into the audio book world, reviews are one measure of your popularity.

Thus, to me, it’s no more than common courtesy to leave a review, especially when you get a few hours entertainment and enjoyment out of a book that took someone a considerable amount of time and effort to produce. If you don’t like it or don’t finish it, fine. No review is better in most cases than a really bad one. Yet, some don’t take your book seriously until you have a few bad ones to show it wasn’t just your family and friends posting them (which isn’t as easy to achieve as you may think, unless you have some serious blackmail material). Granted, reviews are subjective and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I get that.

More than likely, unless you’re a fellow author you haven’t even made it this far in my rant du jour. But even fellow authors aren’t always diligent in leaving a review. It doesn’t have to be an essay worthy of a Pulitzer Prize; a few sentences will do.

We authors ask so little. Is it really that difficult to log into Amazon? You know it’s not. If you bought it there, they’ll even remind you and send a link. And the next time you get a book for free or less than you pay for a good cup of coffee, feel it’s your obligation.

I, for one, would rather work for royalties, but reviews, especially a good one, can make it seem at least marginally worthwhile.

So get off your lazy ass and leave one today for a starving author who, in return, will not only love you forever, but might even keep writing. Capisce?

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. I’m always amazed when I find a multitude of goofs in a book that has supposedly been edited. Just because a person can read, doesn’t mean s/he can edit! Furthermore, if they’re a specific type of editor, they may do a great job in that category, yet leave others flapping in the breeze, waiting for some discriminating reader of jump on them like a duck on a June bug.

Rather than reiterate what has already been said very well by another blogger regarding the different types of editors and what their duties are, check out this outstanding blog.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Consider your story’s point of view carefully. If you really want the reader to relate to your protagonist, the story should be told through his or her eyes only, even if you’re using third person narrative. Avoid slipping into an omniscient viewpoint by including something your character couldn’t possibly know, such as what the other person is thinking, unless, of course, he’s telepathic. Instead, describe what your protagonist is seeing in the other’s expression and body language. Another way around this you can use occasionally is to preface it with, “He didn’t know it at the time, but….” Break point of view carefully, deliberately, and sparingly.

Today’s Writing Tip

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As part of the admonition to “show, don’t tell”, learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides” or “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” Concentrate on the physical sensations of the emotion you’re trying to express to capture what it actually feels like. One of the marks of good writing is conveying emotions to your reader in an effective manner. If your reader feels something, then your story is upgraded to an experience and becomes much more memorable.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to determine if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there! For example, saying “He put his hat on his head” could easily be shortened to “He put on his hat.” Where else would he put it? Economy of words for maximum impact should be your goal.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Always check your manuscript for over-used words and phrases, such as: so, just, in order to, therefore, or any of your personal favorites. It’s easy to fall in love with a newly discovered word, then use it so much it annoys your readers. Some of the words I’ve seen over-used are ubiquitous, baleful, and humongous. You’re probably not even aware of this on the first draft, so put it on your list as something to look for when you start to edit. Once you discover your favorite, learn all its synonyms so you can replace it with ease.

Today’s Writing Tip

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One of the most important things you must do as an author to make your work stand out is to create vivid characters readers will remember. One way to add color to your characters is by giving them a regional accent. Capture it in writing by deliberately misspelling their dialog to reflect how it sounds phonetically. Just make sure you’re familiar with what that particular accent really sounds like or anyone from that region will recognize it’s not authentic, which could do you more harm than good. Accuracy is always important.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Always strive to be the best writer you can be. Reading books by established authors published by well-known publishing houses provides examples of outstanding writing and editing that you should emulate. Most indie writers are still progressing to their best work. Some will be less skilled than you are, others more advanced, but to grasp the industry standard, read those accepted by reputable publishers. It’s good for your ego to read books from beginners, but to improve you writing, study techniques employed by seasoned, experienced authors.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Understand there are several types of editors. Just because you hire one, doesn’t mean they’ll do the job you expect, especially if you don’t understand there are different types.  They may do a great job within their realm, yet miss other problems. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve found in books where the author supposedly hired an “editor.”

Here’s the basic run-down: Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. If this is news to you, then I suggest you read this great article that gives more detail.

Calling All Bibliophiles!

2017 WC&BE Badges

Whether you’re an avid reader, an aspiring writer, or published author, there’s something for you at RRBC’s Writers’ Conference and Book Expo. It’s open now and will be online until October 30.

Come meet dozens of outstanding authors, many of which are award winners, learn about their often amazing backgrounds, and explore their many books. Most of us are sponsoring a giveaway and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on our author page! Be sure to stop by my Author Page for a chance to win an 8 gigabyte USB card preloaded with the Star Trails Tetralogy, including my latest release, “The Terra Debacle.”

Don’t miss the raffle, which has some spectacular prizes. For only $5, you get a chance at a virtual gift basket worth approximately $100 in gift cards! You can sign up here.

While you’re there, be sure to check out my Astrological Services page to discover how astrology can be a writer’s best friend, whether it’s timing a book release or rounding out a character.

Hope to see you there!