aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Us Versus Them

I’m about to go on a rant here.  Hopefully, I won’t come across as an unholy bitch.  That’s not my intention at all.  But seriously, I’m sick and tired of a couple of bad apples ruining things for the entire bunch.

Most of us author types are professionals.  And by professionals, I don’t mean we rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars while practicing our craft.  I mean that we act like adults and are courteous.  We treat others like we want to be treated.  Of course we are also human, so our feelings get hurt.  But by and large, we think before we act, because we all know that in this day and age everything we do is public.  The majority of us do not have online hissy fits on social media or stalk people that give our books 1 star reviews.

But every time an author (self or traditionally published – because it happens in both camps) oversteps their boundaries, the rest of us are made to feel like we should hang our heads in shame, too.

It reminds me of high school, and an online version of us versus them.

So now we have bloggers mad at authors and vice versa.  Lines are drawn in the sand and generalities have been made.  And what everyone seems to forget is that we are all supposed to be on the same side, right?

A recurring theme that I’ve heard from both sides is “they don’t appreciate what we do for them”.  Granted, these are the people whose opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum and who in turn are the most vocal.

Let’s recap:

Bloggers – read authors’ books on their own time, generally don’t get paid, post honest reviews on many outlets, provide a means of promotion for authors, do their best to pimp out the stuff they like.

Authors – generally provide free copies of books for blogger review, do interviews, write bonus scenes, character interviews, etc. that become content for other people’s blogs, provide prizes for giveaways.

Just like in any relationship, there’s a mutual give and take if this is to work correctly.  And when both sides do their part, it’s beneficial to all involved.  But when hard feelings enter the picture, it’s difficult to have shiny happy people on either side of the fence.

How about we get back to basics and realize that no one owes anyone else anything?

If a blogger doesn’t want to read books and write about them, then they shouldn’t.  If the time that they are devoting to blogging should be spent instead at work or with family or whatever, then that is what should be done.  For most bloggers, this is a hobby and it should be at least halfway enjoyable.  If this starts feeling like work (the dreaded kind) or a chore, then it’s going to come across that way to readers.

If an author doesn’t want to give away books to bloggers for free, then they shouldn’t.  At the same time, they shouldn’t expect a bunch of review coverage for that upcoming release.  And certainly if a review or ten pop up, don’t have a meltdown if they aren’t favorable enough.  Even bad reviews spark interest.  Don’t want to do a giveaway?  Hate writing bonus content for other people?  Fine.  No one is holding a gun to your head and making you do those things.

And while we’re on the subject of criticism (constructive, not the threatening or attacking kind) , here’s my take.  If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t publish anything in the first place.  Sure, pass your Word doc around to your mom or your friends, who will tell you how awesome it is, then stick it in your closet and forget about it.  If you can’t put on your big girl panties, you have no business selling your writing to the general public.

I’ve had some great interactions with bloggers myself.  I certainly can’t be the only author who has had a blogger (on more than one occasion) actually purchase the next book in my series because they enjoyed the one that I gave them for free.  And goodness, if I would have known that they were that into my writing, I would have handed over coupon codes for all of my releases.

I’m lucky enough to have one blogger who doesn’t even ask for book descriptions anymore – I simply let him know that I’ve got a new novel ready and within five minutes I get an email back saying “send it”.  Those are the relationships we should all strive to have.  And if I, a literary nobody, have already fostered this, then I’m sure there are plenty more instances out there.

But we never hear about the good, which happens a lot more than the bad.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Why are we wasting our efforts on people who are drawing attention to themselves in the wrong way?  Shouldn’t we be ignoring them instead?

 

 

 

In Person

I made it through the Author Fair virtually unscathed.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for my new earrings.  Don’t ask me how one loses a six inch long piece of sterling silver that threads completely through your ear, because I have no clue.  All I know is that it didn’t make it back home and it renders the matching one useless.  There was one royalty check well spent.  Back to the practice of investing all of my sales back into my writing.

(An update after this was initially written:  the earring has been found.  It was wedged in my inventory and fell out from between a couple copies when I flipped through them.  But I haven’t changed my mind about the investment strategy.)

But anyway, as promised, here is a recap of my very first public appearance.  As you might recall, I had a checklist of what I wanted to accomplish in my last post on the subject.  Since you’re all dying to know if I was successful at any of it, we’ll just take care of that in list format.

1.  Talk with potential readers – yes.

2.  To be as good of a representation of my brand in person as I am online – leaning towards yes.

3.  To let my personality shine through snarkiness and all – yes, and bonus points for using “anal retentive” in a sentence while doing so.

4.  To get some new local interest in my work – debatable.  I had people take my business cards – which are super cool, by the way – but we’ll see if anything comes from that.

5.  To meet a couple of the authors whose books I’ve actually read – half accomplished, as in I met one.

6.  To come home with a few less books than I started with – yes.

To read it all spelled out like that, it sounded like it went off without a hitch – right?

Well, not exactly.  There were some, ahem, issues with things.  But nothing insurmountable.

My children are taking an art class at the college on Saturday mornings, which meant that my husband drove me to the library, helped me get set up, and then had to leave again to retrieve them.  My in-laws met them at our house to watch the kids overnight and my husband was supposed to come back and be my companion for the rest of the event.  He did come back, but by the time he did, there was absolutely no parking whatsoever and he never got to exit the car and come in to see me in action.  This meant he just drove around the block repeatedly waiting for me to get the hell out of there.  This also meant that he was not the happiest camper when we met back up.

The turnout for the event on the author front was crazy good.  There were 70 authors slated to be there, and there was even a waiting list on top of that.  Seems that there are more local authors than I thought.  Unfortunately, the table placement was less than stellar because they tried to accommodate as many authors as they could.  Which left me relegated to a table off the main drag, just inside one of the entrances, wedged in a corner by the Dunkin Donuts.  But I was sitting by another romance novelist and an urban fiction author who were both very nice, and we were having quite the discussion about things.

Eventually, the powers that be took pity on all of us in said corner and we got moved into the main drag to fill up seats from those who had not shown up, or left early or whatever.  Unfortunately, this meant that I was split up from my fellow fiction writers and seated in the midst of a lot of really nice non-fiction, historian types.  For someone who writes “smut” as my loved one (and my boss) affectionately call it, it kind of made me want to hide under my new table and rock back and forth, claiming my unworthiness.

As I implied above, I did sell some paperback copies.  My plan was to offer them at a reduced price for the event.  However, the indie bookstore charged list price for them, which is more expensive than they currently run on either Amazon or B&N.  Fortunately, my husband knows the lady that bought them and we returned the difference to her after the fact.  And yes, since the agreement at the Author Fair was to donate 10% of your sales to the library, I did write them a check for 10% of the list price, not the reduced price.

I didn’t go into the event with unrealistic expectations, so I’m not in any way disappointed.  And it was interesting to see how other authors handle public appearances.  Some went all out, bringing posters, artwork and table decorations, while others didn’t have anything but themselves.  I was somewhere in between.  And I certainly wasn’t the least seasoned author in the bunch, which was also comforting.  To think that I was able to both speak intelligently with those who have been more successful than I have and to offer advice to others that are just starting out is a good feeling.

Yes, it was a learning experience.  Will I do it next year?  I’m leaning towards yes, but I’ve got a bit of time to decide for sure.

 

 

Stage Fright

In roughly one week’s time (I’m writing this on Halloween), I’ll be attending my first public appearance as an author.  By the time this post is published on my site, the event will be in a few short days.  And when this post is finally tweeted during Monday Blogs, the Author Fair will be a recent – hopefully positive – memory.  Don’t worry Twitter blogging friends, I’ll do a follow up to let you know what happened.

My local library holds an annual Author Fair, something that I happened to stumble upon last year strictly by accident.  As in I was returning library books the day it was held and hey, there it was.  My husband asked me why I hadn’t signed up to do it.  First off, I would have had to have known about it and secondly, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being there anyway.

Truth be told, I did know about it, at least in passing.  I’d contacted the library previously to see if they would possibly be interested in purchasing ebook copies of my debut novel.  At the time, I wasn’t distributing on the platform that they use for their digital downloads (I am now) so that part of the conversation was a moot point.  But the nice lady that corresponded with me did let me know about the Author Fair that’s held each fall.  I filed that information away in my head and did absolutely nothing with it.

Why?  Because last year, I didn’t feel as though I belonged in a published authors club.  Even though I did publish two books in 2013, I still felt like an impostor, like I was trying to pretend my way into being an author.  Plus, I felt like the big draw of doing a public appearance was to sell and/or sign physical copies of actual books.  I told myself I would feel like an idiot if I sat at a table all by myself with no product.  What would I do there?  Bring my laptop and show people my Amazon links?

My husband looked at me like I had two heads when I explained this all to him.  His solution was simple:  make print copies.  Carry some inventory so that I could go to events like this and feel like a genuine author.  His take on things is if I can’t make some fans in Fort Wayne (who don’t already know me personally) when my books freaking take place in Fort Wayne, then no one anywhere will give a crap about them either.

I beg to differ slightly with his logic; I mean, I’ve sold copies in Canada, England and Australia, and I’m positive I don’t know anyone personally in any of those places.  In a global marketplace, you can make a name for yourself far away from home.  Just ask David Hasselhoff.

But I did what my loved one suggested and I made paperback copies of my three current novels.  I also paid attention to the library’s website so that I didn’t miss the registration for the event.  This year, I signed up and claimed my place in the published authors club.

So now, I’m sitting typing this while paperback copies of my novels stare at me from their place in the corner of my living room, where they’ve been waiting for their unveiling since the day they arrived at my house.  Tomorrow I’ll cart them over to the indie bookstore that will be selling my books at the event.  I’ve gotten business cards printed to pass out while I’m networking.  I’ve got my autographing pen at the ready.  I even have my outfit planned, right down to the awesome new earrings that I ordered for myself.

But even with all that preparation, I still feel the nervousness creeping in.  That in a sea of seventy total authors, I’ll be invisible and absolutely no one will stop by my table.  That I’ll be outclassed by every single person that’s there.  I recognize this phenomenon from my days in high school, the feeling that I got right before I went out on stage.  And I never made a fool out of myself back then, so that’s at least slightly comforting.

So what are my goals for the Author Fair?  To talk with potential readers.  To be as good of a representation of my brand in person as I am online.  To let my personality shine through snarkiness and all, because that’s a direct reflection of what I write.  To get some new local interest in my work.  To meet a couple of the authors who will be there whose books I’ve actually read.  And maybe to come home with a few less of my own books than I started with.

So stay tuned to see if I actually accomplish any of that.

The one thing that I know for sure is that this will be a learning experience.

 

 

By Any Other Name

I’ve already posted here that I use my legal name as my author name.  There’s no need for me to pretend that I don’t; it’s already out there in black and white and there’s no taking it back.  I haven’t had any issues with doing so, but I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops that I’m a romance author when I go about my daily business, either.  Most people that I cross paths with don’t put two and two together, nor should they.  Mine is not exactly a household name.

That being said, there’s a contingent of people that are up in arms concerning those in the writing and blogging communities who choose to use a pen name when they do their thing.  To me, it’s a personal choice and not really a big deal.  After all, people in the public eye (celebrities, journalists, radio personalities, etc.) have long taken stage names and this is considered an acceptable practice for them.  Why should it be any different for an author or blogger big or small to do the same?

There are certainly many valid reasons for opting to use an alias.  Privacy, for starters.  Maybe your given name is difficult for others to spell or pronounce.   Perhaps you don’t want others in your community – think employers or church members – to know that you write something like erotica on the side.  Maybe you’ve come up with a witty pseudonym to market yourself with.  Whatever.

However, those individuals that criticize the practice seem to assume that people that don’t use their real name ultimately have something to hide.  In some cases, I’m sure that’s true.  I’m thinking those that have left abusive relationships, etc.   And that as a consumer, they have the right to know what this something is.  Um, no.

In my eyes, you have the right to create the public persona that you want to.  As long as you’re writing or blogging in a professional and respectful manner, which the vast majority of us do already, there’s no reason for the public to dig any deeper.  Even when the public doesn’t like the book we wrote or the opinion we’ve taken on a topic, for most people it stops there.  Sure, they might never buy another novel from us again, or stop reading anything with our byline on it, but that’s their choice and their right.

But keep in mind that the internet is the internet and that there’s a scary amount of information out there that can fall into the wrong hands.  And no matter what you choose to call yourself publicly, there are people out there who know the real you.  Think about it.  We all have bank accounts, go to doctors and dentists, get our taxes done, have insurance policies.  There are no ways around using our legal names for these purposes.  Plus, there are well meaning family and friends who may let things slip accidentally.  Despite all the various precautions taken, an alias is not a fail safe plan to protect your true identity.

Given all that, shouldn’t we all just hole ourselves up in our homes and stop creating or ranting?  Should we change our opinions on things just because someone could search us out and torment us?  I don’t think so.

This was something that I came to terms with a few years ago when I first obtained my insurance licenses.  You give up quite a bit of privacy in becoming licensed, which I didn’t realize until I learned that there was an online data base that includes at least a smattering of every licensed agent’s personal information.  Name and address (whether business or home) was enough to concern me.  But nothing bad has ever come out of that in my case.  No disgruntled customers waiting for me in the parking lot or showing up in my driveway.  Granted, I don’t actively sell any more, but still.  I suppose there was the guy that continued to call me after the fact we established he wasn’t a potential client, but I never felt threatened by him.  Let’s just say he got a little more pleasure out of my phone voice than he should have.

Everything worth doing in life has a risk.  Just like I put myself out there when I became life, health, property and casualty licensed, I did it again on a larger scale when I made myself a brand.  To me, it was a big step in proving that I’m ultimately responsible for my successes and my failures as an author.  It might also have a little something to do with the fact that I have a hard enough time coming up with names for characters, let alone myself.

But would I be any less genuine or snarky if I called myself something else?  Not on your life.  My books would read exactly the same no matter what name I put on the cover.  Every single word.

So pick your name and own it.  And don’t let anyone silence your voice.

 

 

 

Change of Venue

When I was writing my debut novel, I didn’t have a dedicated workspace.  Since my whole foray into the world of self-publishing started off as a hobby, or at the very least, a dare to myself, I wasn’t thinking of being in it for the long haul.  At least initially.  So I wrote in bits and pieces, when I was watching television with my husband.  I’d perch the laptop on my legs and fire off a few hundred words or so at a time.

Formatting that way proved to be a bitch.  Or maybe that was because I was learning the process.  Just imagine lots of screaming and frustration at my technology.  That’s a pretty accurate description of preparing my first book for publication.

Eventually, I decided that I would only write when I wasn’t spending time with my husband.  Since he has a work schedule that has always been a bit opposite mine, this still allows plenty of opportunity for me to work on my books.  It also eliminated him being around to shoot me weird glances when something didn’t go right.  And stopped the whole reading over my shoulder thing that I’ve never been fond of anyway.

For books Two and Three, I moved my work area out of the family room and into our repurposed dining room.  Here, I had a computer desk and an office chair.  This also coincided with my new attitude of making self-publishing my second career.  I would hunker down at my desk and spend hours at work, just like this was a job.  I’d like to think that aided in my productivity, but I’m not entirely sure.  I think a large part of my confidence also stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t new to the game anymore.

Formatting went the same way as the creative process.  A little easier, because I wasn’t as flustered by things.  And since the preorder option was available at that point via Smashwords, I was able to take my almost finished manuscript, sideload it to my Kindle, and proofread the thing from my couch like I was reading any other book.  Since proofreading isn’t technically writing, I do fudge a bit on this step and I will read my own stuff while my husband’s home.  Seriously, what’s the difference between having my Kindle out for fun or doing work?

So now we are on to Book Four and some things have changed.  I’m almost, nearly, halfway done with my first draft.  I’ve also given up my computer desk and chair to my ten year old.  This time, I’ve moved out into the living room to write while sitting atop our brand new sectional.

I’ve also discovered television again.  See, I can’t work in total silence so I’m always writing either to the sound of whatever program is on or whatever music I choose to play on my iPod.  In my dining room, it was always music because I didn’t have the option of anything else.  But now I’ve got choices.

And a new guilty pleasure.  Namely, The Voice.

I shied away from watching much of anything on television when my husband was home during the week, simply because our tastes are so different.  So we’d watch what we could agree on together, mainly sporting events or cooking shows.  But now, with him back working weekday nights, I have a whole world of reality TV calling out to me.

Too bad for me that the program I picked to watch captivated my attention so much it cut into my writing time.  And it’s on two nights a week to boot.  But I’ll adjust, because it’s drawn me in that much.

A long time ago, in that hazy place called my teenage years, I used to sing, too.  Depending upon who you asked (my choir director and some friends and parents of friends), I could have been good at it.  I had solos and I sang in contests and musicals and such, but I always let that evil stage fright get the best of me and never really met my full potential.  Of course, there wasn’t this kind of programming on back then to make you push yourself and truly believe that someone from Indiana could be discovered and make it big.

So what’s a few hours sitting back and getting caught up in the dreams of other hopefuls?  Seeing people working hard and getting recognized for it is sort of inspiring.  We’ve already established that I’m a bit sympathetically emotional, and some of their performances give me chills and/or bring tears to my eyes.  Plus, it also reminds me that I always wanted to – but never did – learn how to play the guitar.

The world today is so different from what it was when I was growing up.  Internet and all that goes with it has helped to eliminate the geographic boundaries that used to exist for those of us passionate about the arts.  Now you don’t have to move to LA or Nashville to get noticed; just post a video on YouTube or audition for one of these competitions and you might very well become a household name.

It kind of reminds me of how self-publishing has eliminated boundaries for those of us who choose to explore our creative sides offstage.

Besides, writing is much better for introverts, anyway.

Dancing with the Darkness

“I won’t give up on you,” I said softly, “not until you tell me that it’s time.”

Designed, Chapter 17

A fairly benign statement, taken out of context.

To me, however, it’s one of the passages in my own release that I can’t bear to read.  They’re the same words that I whispered to myself that day twelve years ago when I stood powerless and afraid of a future that I had no control over.  The same words that take me back to that moment like it happened hours ago.  The same words that make me tear up even now, knowing what I know.

That’s some pretty powerful stuff.

With my new release, I went darker than in my previous two books.  Considering that I’ve already tackled drunk driving, felonies, death of a parent and familial estrangement, that’s saying something.  Sure, there’s plenty of humor, steak and a happy ending.  There’s also a whole lot of raw emotion, borrowed from my own experiences but with a few changed circumstances.

I, for instance, was older and married when it happened to me.  I was gainfully employed and had a far better support system than my heroine did.  I also told a handful of people what was going on when it happened, then relied upon those few to tell everyone else.  I was not alone, even when I felt like I was.

But it still hurt like hell, and it continues to, right to this very day.  There’s a numbness that comes with the passage of time, but it’s never really gone.

I’m not trying to be coy here.  And I’m definitely not ashamed, but I’ll not mention the specifics here.  Why?  Because the thing that I share in common with my heroine is also her big secret – the bombshell that I’ve led up to for two entire full length novels.  And though I know that I have a vastly different readership of my blog than I do of my books, I don’t want someone to stumble across it and see a spoiler.  For those that have already read, they’ll understand.   So far, the lovely bloggers and reviewers who have written about this book have quite eloquently skirted around this theme and I’m not going to be the one who ruins it.

Writing about it, passing that fear and grief and thought process on to someone that I’ve created has been a cathartic exercise.  Truth be told, I toyed with the idea of chickening out and changing the big reveal to something else, because I was scared to deal with it myself.  Maybe have her abducted by a UFO or something – something that wouldn’t hurt so damn much.  But once I sat down and bled at my laptop, crying at the keyboard along with her, I knew I was doing the right thing.

I also knew that I would make some people uncomfortable.  I knew that I might offend readers by being honest and open and genuine.  Whether it’s because the subject matter hits too close to home or simply because it caught them off guard matters not.  I knew I was running the risk of alienating those who were looking for a quick, breezy read and I more or less said “screw it”.  I knew that readers would potentially label this novel as the “fill in the blank” book, and that’s okay.  There’s still a stigma attached to talking about this, and it’s undeserved.

There’s also a lot of people who have the same history as I do  – who might very well be ashamed or not distanced enough from the pain not to be lowered once more into those layers of despair that I know all too well.  Who might slam the book shut or turn the Kindle off and stop right there.  Now that I’m done with publication, even I skip strategic portions of that chapter because it’s too much.  I totally get it.

I’m fairly new to the whole blogging universe, but I came across an article about trigger warnings.  Which led me to Google the term “trigger warning” because I had no idea what in the world it meant.  For the uninitiated (like I was two months ago), it’s more or less a disclaimer at the beginning of an article or blog alerting people that the content contains sensitive material.  A lot of times, it’s related to depictions of violence or abuse, often of a physical nature.  But it can be used for anything that a specific group of people could find especially disturbing because of their collective history.  As far as I’m concerned, this topic also qualifies.  I’m not being a softie, even though Pixar movies make me cry and that damn Apple commercial that ran over Christmas with the boy who you thought was always just playing on his phone, but was really recording his family in order to put together a video for them, well, that got me too.  But seriously, there are bona fide support groups for this trauma.  It’s a big deal.

It was then that I wondered if my novel should have contained a disclaimer.  Granted, that would have been hard to incorporate without giving the entire crux of the story away.  After doing a bit more research, I learned that most professionally published novels that contain sensitive material don’t allude to it on the book jacket, so I breathed a sigh of relief.  Confirmation that you haven’t just made a major misstep is always a good thing.

Even so, there have been mixed reactions to my book and I’m good with that.  Some have said it’s their favorite of mine to date.  For others, it’s been their only introduction to my writing and it’s been viewed positively (meaning five star reviews).  Some people picked up the series here and had nothing more to say than “meh”, but they really liked the side characters – who, of course, aren’t as depressing.  Still others who have raved about Books One and Two have been completely silent after reading Three.

But I wrote the book that I wanted to.  And that’s what matters in the end.  I wrote it not to profit off of my pain, but to show that happy endings are still possible.  I lived through this and came out intact.  I’ve walked through the darkness and gotten through to the other side, knowing that I quite literally wouldn’t have what I have today if things had happened differently.

But always, always, there’s the hint of what could have been.  And the fact that I will never forget.

“Never forget how much I love you,” I whispered.  “I’ll never forget you.”

Designed, Chapter 17

 

Marketing Tips from a 10 Year Old

Both my 10 year old and my 9 year old have a new hobby.  They are happily creating their own masterpieces, which will most likely sell better and garner more publicity than mine.  I’m kidding.  Really.

I’ve gladly downloaded Open Office to the old hand me down desktop and my former laptop (where  Intoxicated  was written) already has the starter version of Word installed.  A few tips from mom – but not too many – and off they went.

I’m saving the lecture about proper formatting for ebook editions later.   I’m also ignoring the fact that I’ve already found several grammatical errors and misspellings because, hey, they’re kids.  We’ll discuss that later.  No sense in raining on their parades yet.

What’s cool is that I didn’t push them to do this.  At all.  I guess they think it’s normal, that maybe all people sit and create something and try to sell it on Amazon.  The verdict’s still out on that; I’m sure some that are harsh on the indie publishing world would tend to agree.

Like me, they started from humble beginnings.  I’m certainly not alone in the fact that I created my first works in spiral notebooks.  Then I graduated to my inaugural bottom of the line laptop with the free version of Office.  Yes, the annoying one with ads.  They’re just starting earlier with the technology.

The 10 year old is also a pretty talented artist.  Some of the stuff that she creates on the computer baffles my mind.  I have absolutely no idea where she learned how to do what she does.  And her doodles on paper have an anime styling.  Naturally, the first “book” she put together on a wide-ruled tablet included illustrations.

It  also included this cover blurb:

 

IMG_0371

For those of you that don’t read elementary school girl writing, I’ll translate.

Welcome to the magical world of Maleot!  5 teens on a big mission and 1 big problem.  Read on to find out what happens or leave yourself clueless…

First off, I think she might have been listening to those marketing gurus who talk about elevator pitches.  Secondly, her first attempt at a cover blurb may just be better than any of mine.  And lastly, maybe she’s come up with a new technique that the #amwriting world could learn from:  insult your reader.

After all, no one wants to feel clueless.  Right?  But would it convince someone to buy your book?  Hmmmmm.

For the life of me, the poor child could not understand why I took a picture of this.  Or why it made me both laugh hysterically and beam with pride.  And she would absolutely kill me if she knew I blogged about it.  But I doubt she’ll sue me for copyright infringement so I think I’m safe.  Plus, I pay for everything that she has, so she knows not to piss me off.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is an abandoned project and that she’s moved on to bigger and better things.

As for the 9 year old, she’s working on a collaboration with a classmate.  As in the classmate came up with the title of the story and my daughter is writing the entire thing.  Being the nice person she is, she’s given her friend equal credit on the title page.  Yes, I know there’s plenty of lessons to be taught from that, but her eyes sort of glaze over when I explain why hers is not the best arrangement.  She’ll figure it out.

Realistically, this is probably just a passing phase and all hopes and dreams for them of being authors will fly out the window shortly.  They’re already distracted by the PS4.

But then again, maybe not.

10 Reasons I’m Glad I’m Not a Bestselling Author

Okay, so like most authors, my dream is to actually make money on my books.  As it stands now, my novels cost me money.  Yes, I sell a few, but so far I have put every penny earned plus some back into various aspects of this venture.  I’ll be happy if one day I consistently earn enough each month to fund a nice car payment.  I’m thinking a Lexus or perhaps one of those new Mercedes that can read your handwriting – though I’m not sure why it needs to.  Shouldn’t you be – I don’t know – driving?

People that semi-know me in real life and are privy to the fact that I moonlight as a romance author tend to fawn over me a little bit.  I’ve heard several times from different people things along the lines of “we can say we knew you when” or “one day, when you’re famous”.  Inwardly I roll my eyes because I know I might never make it out of the slush pile.

Yes, I’m sarcastic and self-deprecating as hell.  So the idea for this post sprung to mind.  Consider it tongue in cheek, consider it thought provoking.  Just don’t think that I’m crying myself to sleep at night.  Because I’m not.

1.  If I were to hit the bestseller list anywhere for ten seconds, I might be obligated to call myself a bestselling author for the rest of my life.  These words are like nails on a chalkboard to me when I see them on people’s social media profiles.  It’s actually gotten a couple of people unfollowed  on Twitter because they felt the need to auto DM me and let me know.  I had never heard of them before.  I’m betting that most of the general public hadn’t, either.  My opinion is that the majority of people who are qualified to label themselves as such don’t need to, because you already know what they do.

2.  Right now, every single sale inspires a celebration.  And when I sell what I call the trifecta (all three books currently in my series in the same day at the same retailer) it’s all the more wonderful.  If I was selling hundreds of books per week, I’d be walking around in a state of constant euphoria and I’d be damn tired.  Really, I never want to lose that sense of wonder that people are actually paying to read the stories I come up with in my head.

3.  On Goodreads, I can tell simply by looking at the number of people that have my books on their to read shelves if someone new has added it.  When that number ticks upward by one, it inspires a whole new happiness of its own.

4.  I can also tell just by looking at my overall star rating on Amazon or Goodreads that someone new has reviewed my book.  I play a bit of a game with myself where I guess what star rating I got on said new review simply by analyzing how it affected the average.  I haven’t been wrong yet.

5.  Five star reviews still make me cry.  Happy tears, because I’m not the only one who doesn’t think my writing sucks.  Hell, any review makes me cry, no matter the star rating because someone has publicly admitted to reading my stuff.

6.  I have no pressure to create the next book, because very few people are going to notice when it comes out anyway.  The only pressure I feel is self-inflicted, and I can tell myself to shut up.

7.  I can write like nobody will read it because it’s not that far from the truth.  I considered censoring myself during one of the flashback scenes in my newest release because I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be.  Eventually, I decided to leave the specific details in the finished product, and no one who’s read it has accused me of being inappropriate or icky.  I wonder if any reader could guess what scene I’m talking about – it might not be the obvious one.  Perhaps I created a problem that I never really had.

8.  I’m so accustomed to spelling my entire name immediately after giving it to someone that it would really freak me out if people actually recognized it and knew how to pronounce it.  “Alicia” I can kind of understand, although there are some famous ones out there (Keys and Silverstone spring to mind).  “Kline” boggles my mind because I really thought I was hitting the last name lottery when I got married.  But no, I always have to differentiate between Cline and Klein.  And don’t get me started on the people that call up asking for Mr. or Mrs. Clean.  For the record, my husband is not a bald cartoon character who sells household products.

9.  I can still shop at Walmart in sweats and no makeup and no one cares.  I can also go shopping at Walmart in full hair and makeup and no one cares.

10.  Even though I am doing this as professionally as possible, it still doesn’t feel like work.  If this ever felt like a job, if I ever had to depend on this to be my sole income, I think my writing would suffer because it wouldn’t be fun anymore.  Everyone is shocked that I work 40 plus hours a week in insurance, then I come home and spend maybe another 20 hours per week writing, blogging, or marketing.   (I take weekends off to spend with my family).  What they don’t understand is that the whole author thing is pure enjoyment for me and it’s how I relax.  Most of the time.  I do yell at my computer on occasion.

So there you have it.  I like where I’m at right now because the only place to go is up.  And the view from where I’m currently standing is pretty beautiful already.

 

Assigning Value

Over the course of the past six months or so, I’ve made a conscious decision to review every fiction book that I read.  This change of heart came from me realizing what a struggle it is for most indie authors to have their works read, let alone have someone write a review for it.  During this time, I’ve not only read self-pubbed works, but also the traditionally pubbed stuff too.  So I’m an equal opportunity reviewer.

I’m kind of quirky about where I post.  Since the bulk of my reading material has been coming from my Scribd account lately, I have only been posting those reviews to Goodreads.  I have purchased the occasional read from Amazon, and those reviews get published on both sites, since my Kindle posts to both concurrently.  I know that common practice is to ask people to post to both places, but I’ve been reading some pretty popular fare lately.  It absolves me of some guilt about not copying and pasting to add my two cents to the hundreds of Amazon reviews already available.  Besides, even my lowly self has more total reviews on Goodreads than anywhere else.  I completely understand why.  If you didn’t buy it on Amazon and you didn’t personally promise to post the review everywhere you can think of, then it’s okay in my book to leave one review in one place and move on.

Recently, I gave my first two star review.  This was to a traditionally published book by a big time, well known author.  Not out of spite, but because I really didn’t care for the storyline of the book.   And I knew I wouldn’t be hurting this particular author’s sales or ego because I chimed in about not feeling connected to her antiquated characters.  It didn’t feel right to bump up my star rating to a three because the technical aspects of the thing were spot on.  So I figured that in this circumstance, it was okay to be honest and leave the lowest star review ever in my short reviewing career.

When I come to the end of a book, I often know exactly what I’m going to say in the body of my review, but I struggle with the star rating.  Why?  Because it’s difficult for me to assign a numeric value to my opinions.  I know if I liked something or not, but I take it a step further and try to compare it with other books that I’ve already read and reviewed.  For example, did I like it as much as this other book that I gave a four star?  More?  Less?  And then I go from there.

As I’ve progressed in the number of posted reviews, I’ve found myself more than once wanting to go back and assign a different star rating to something I’ve already done.  This happens most often in that space between the three and four star review.  So many times, I’m stuck between the two and have to decide whether or not I should round up or down.  Sometimes, I don’t get it right.  I usually figure this out when I am a bit removed from the book and realize I’m about to give the next novel the same exact star rating, but I either liked the current one more or less than the previous one.

That’s really maddening to someone as anal retentive as me.  Maybe I’d be better off with a scale of one to ten, since there would be many more options from which I could select,  But probably not.

My whole point of this rant is that I think that too many people get too hung up on numbers.  A star rating is a very subjective thing that varies widely between reviewers, and even widely with the same reviewer depending on timing.  But we see time and again where some advertisers only want books with so many reviews and an average star rating of whatever that it’s hard not to focus on that quick and dirty number.

What’s more important is what is said in the reviews.  I’ve had five star reviews of my work that were more critical than three star reviews.  If people only looked at the star ranking, they’d miss that.  Our trained response is to assume that the lower a star rating assigned, the lower that reviewer’s enjoyment of the book.  In fact, one of my readers gave me a three star review that said my book was “a great story”.  I suppose this bodes well for me if a potential reader who qualifies all five star reviews as bogus (mine are not) and only reads the four stars and lower is considering a contemporary romance book and stumbles upon my page.

Many people are calling for a change in the way that book reviews written by the general public are handled.  Many people insist that the bulk of Amazon reviews are fake and that the system is way too easily manipulated.  Still others complain that the star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads should mean the same thing – they are owned by the same people now – which does make sense to me.  And even more think that star ratings should be given the boot altogether.

I’m trying to imagine a world in which we don’t have a handy metric to rate a book’s overall impression with people.  We like numbers and percentages and these make sense to us.  If all we had to go by was the written word, would reviews of something even make a difference?  Would people actually take the time to read them?  Or post them in the first place?

In essence, my takeaway from this is that we shouldn’t let another person’s viewpoint sway ours entirely.  We shouldn’t be ashamed to like something that the majority of people don’t, just as we shouldn’t feel obligated to read the “it” book that everyone is raving about.  Reviews and ratings should be just one tool in our arsenal.  While they may help to drive sales and buzz, they are by definition someone’s opinion.

And everyone has one of those.

 

Taking it Personally

I’ve spoken here a couple of different times about my hate/hate relationship with Facebook.  The only reason I have a personal profile there is because I need to have one in order to have an author page.  I don’t post personal pictures or status updates.  If something really exciting is going on with my page, I will share it with my friends.  I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but at least they can tell I’m alive.  I do admit to scrolling through my news feed to see what’s going on with other people, but I don’t like or comment as just plain old me.  My author self does all liking and commenting, which isn’t a whole lot anyway.

Up until June of this year, I didn’t even have an author page, because my disgust with Facebook was so strong.  Then I took part in a really awesome Facebook party with other authors and I changed my tune a bit.  Since I had so much fun hosting that event for my allotted hour and I met so many cool reader types during it (who asked me if I had an author page they could like), I decided to bite the bullet and create a page.

Since then, I’ve been fairly good about posting updates and content that I don’t share on Twitter – my social media drug of choice – or Google Plus, which I dabble in from time to time.  After all, there are at least a few people who follow/like/whatever me all three places and I don’t want to bore them to death.  I’ve also been rather lucky at growing my audience.  When I first started out, I doubted I would ever reach that 100 likes milestone that Facebook dangles before you.   But I bested that number two times over plus some, mainly because of a new release/giveaway promotion in July and just a plain old giveaway that I took part in with about 100 different indie authors.

Most of those people who liked my page have stayed around.  Judging from my stats related to reach, most of those people don’t ever see a single word I post.  Considering that I’ve found documentation that a common visibility percentage is between 2-6, I’m still kicking ass in that department.  But then we get into the bane of my existence:  the unlike.  Over the past week, that nasty occurrence has reared its ugly head more than once.

My gut instinct is to immediately ask “What did I do wrong?”

I’ve been around on Twitter long enough to not be bothered by an unfollow or ten after I tweet something.  And I certainly understand a drop off of followers after a giveaway ends and a winner is announced.  If you look at the majority of Twitter accounts of people who seem to do nothing on the site but enter contests, you notice that they have only a handful of followers themselves, but are following just under that magic number of 2,000.  It makes sense that they’d pack up and run because they are on to the next contest entry.

I had to do a little digging, but I did come up with evidence that there is a Facebook liking limit as well.  The exact terms of it appear to be very vague and confusing, or maybe that was just me because I was nursing a headache when I read them.  But it appears that some contest enterers frequently hit this Facebook liking threshold and have to clean up shop.

I’ve told myself that this is likely what has happened in my case, but there’s something about Facebook’s terminology that makes it seem more personal.  It hurts way more to be “unliked” then it does “unfollowed”.  After all, do I  really  want someone tracking all my movements like that action on Twitter implies?  Not particularly.  But let’s face it:  everyone wants to be liked.

So for you that use Facebook:  are you very selective with your likes?  Or do you like any old thing that tickles your fancy at the moment – from a toothpaste company to a band – and then deal with the consequences later?  And what makes your list as grounds for an unlike?