My characters are not my mouthpiece

Some people get awfully offended by the beliefs a character they read in a book has. And some of them jump from “this is what this made up person believes” to “this is what the author believes and is saying you should too.” This is patently not true as a writer can present many different characters, holding a variety of views, all sincerely held. And those different characters with different views might all be portrayed sympathetically and as people to root for in the story.
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Who gets to call themselves a writer?

It’s an endless argument on the internet. People doing NaNoWriMo for the first time will start a new version of it every year.

Just who gets to say “I’m a writer”?

Lots of people write. For some people writing is their job and their main income. For many writing is something they do alongside a day job, even if they are publishing and making some money from writing. Even more people are writing around the day job and hoping to publish. And then there are many people who write a lot, but purely as a hobby.

So what’s the distinction? Writing full time? Not necessarily. As well as people who are full time pro writers someone retired or unable to work or who is supported by someone else might spend also most of their day writing. But they might not be published, or even want to be published. Are they a writer? If someone is – like me – published and still writing more books to hopefully continue being published, but whose main income is still a non writing day job, can they say to people “I’m a writer.”? What about someone who writes one book, maybe a great book, but never writes anything again?
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10 Things not to Ask on a Writing Forum

Writing forums can be lots of fun and full of useful advice from your fellow writers. From my many years of reading them I’ve come up with a list of 10 things not to ask on them.

1) “Would you read this?”

Well maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t, but so what? What does that tell you about the merits of your idea? There are lots of great books that I wouldn’t read because they aren’t my cup of tea. But someone else might gobble it up. On the other hand maybe the book is the kind of thing I’d usually read and your idea sounds great to me. But that still doesn’t mean I’d read it, because your execution of the idea might fall short, or your writing may have serious craft issues I can’t get past. So there’s no useful answer to this.

If I say no I wouldn’t read it, because it’s not my kind of thing are you not going to write it because someone who isn’t in your target audience anyway isn’t going to read it? Let’s face it, most people in the world are not going to read your book. Write the book for the ones are are going to read it.

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Goodreads and sock puppets

A sock puppetAuthors! Not getting enough ratings and reviews on Goodreads? Already tried rating (5 stars obviously) and reviewing your own book, only to find the rating from the author doesn’t count? Fear not, there is an answer! Sock puppets!

What is a sock puppet you ask? It’s a fake identity set up by the author on Goodreads, or elsewhere, pretending to be someone else, totally not the author, for the purpose of “reviewing” and rating the author’s own book – with high ratings to bring the average rating up, and gushing reviews about how amazing this book is.

Goodreads No PhotoI’ve been sadly disappointed with the quality of sock puppets I’ve seen on Goodreads lately. A bad sock puppet is an obvious one. A profile with no details, no picture, with only one author’s books shelved and only friends with the author and with other suspected socks. Sorry, that’s fooling nobody. You can do better than that! You’re an author. Making people up out of your imagination is your bread and butter. In a book you call them characters. So take the same approach to your socks.

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Me and Freebies

Freebies! We all love something for free. Nothing galvanises us like the word FREE! So here’s a few thoughts about when I go for freebies and when I don’t. And where I give them and where I don’t.

Obviously I’m talking here are legal free stuff. Downloading books (or music, movies, TV shows etc) that you should pay for is just wrong. You can argue about how much harm it actually does till you’re blue in the face. Or that companies encourage it with stupid release policies. But it’s still wrong. Anyway, that’s a different argument for a different day.

Legal freebies come in various forms. A book going free, possibly for a limited time, on a retail site. Or in a giveaway contest say on a blog post, or a Goodreads giveaway.

The free book on a retail or publishers site as a way to get people to check out an author is best done by those with plenty of other books that are not free. It can be a useful tool to get people started on a book series. Usually it’s the publisher who’ll decide when and if to do those. Self-published authors on the other hand can decide it for themselves.

among-200I’ll definitely happily download a freebie from a retail site. The more downloads the better for the author’s ranking and a free books is a good way to try a new to me author risk free. The first Jordan Castillo Price book I read was a freebie offer of Psycop 1: Among the Living. It worked. I became a fan both of the series and of the writer in general. I only go for stuff I’m reasonably interested in. Some goes straight in the To Read folder, others go into the Maybe Later folder – which may come in handy some day if I’m skint for a while.

But I don’t any longer enter the giveaways contests on blogs etc. These are mostly done by a writer with a new release. Or maybe they’re giving away a copy of something from their backlist. Some sites, like Stumbling Over Chaos aggregate and link to the giveaways. Why don’t I enter them? Because I think there’s already quite enough of writers ending up marketing mostly at other writers. Ideally the writer wants a reader to win the giveaway – preferably a new reader.

Also, I don’t enter because I’m lucky enough that I can afford to buy as many books as I have time to read (not everyone entering these giveaway contests can.) If it’s a writer I love and I would definitely have bought the book anyway, then I prefer to leave the chances of winning to someone who might be a new reader and potentially new fan.

When I do giveaways I do them first on my own blog and later on a site like Stumbling Over Chaos and on guest posts on other people’s blogs, or donated as contest prizes. This applies for both ebooks and print. I don’t do Goodreads giveaways any more. I did one, and lots of people entered for it. Goodreads selected a winner – who turned out to have no idea of the kind of book it was. Clearly many people just enter every giveaway contest going on Goodreads. I’m sure that some of the entrants would be from people who checked out the book and thought it was something they might like. But most of them were not. And of the several hundred who marked that book as “to read” (which happens automatically when you enter a giveaway) very few seem to have ever read it.

I felt that giveaway was a waste of time and effort. So since then I’ve always preferred to make them targeted to actual fans of my genre. I’d rather have 10 people enter than 500, if I thought all of those 10 people had a genuine interest in reading the book. Seems like there’s much more of a chance of the book being read by the winner on that case, rather than languishing on someone’s To Read pile forever.

So my conclusions:

  • Targeted giveaways are better for a niche genre like m/m, rather than on a more general site like Goodreads.
  • If you’re a writer, help out by leaving other people’s giveaways to readers, as long as you can access and afford that book yourself.