Please check out the brand new review of my horror/historical novel DEVIL TREE over at Amazon.com.
Yours in storytelling,
Please check out the brand new review of my horror/historical novel DEVIL TREE over at Amazon.com.
Yours in storytelling,
There is a story that Johnny Cash used to tell about how Kris Kristofferson landed on his front lawn one Sunday morning with a song that Johnny “Just had to sing”.
The song was Sunday Morning Coming Down.
Sometimes, that’s just how ideas hit you. They’ll land on your front lawn or beat on your door whistle down your chimney pipe.
Other times you have to root for them. You have to turn over stones and hunt through a gravel-floored basement or ramble through a dusty attic dream.
Times like today I am surrounded by ideas. I feel a little like Custer at the Little Big Horn – where the heck did all those ideas come from and which one do I shoot first?
I’ve just finished a third retightening of a manuscript for an upcoming collection – the third in about three weeks. The head editor passed it to me all marked up. I corrected it. Then it was handed to another editor who handed it back all marked up. I corrected that too. Then, two days, I got it back for a third time with a few more marks in it. I corrected those yesterday and this morning and fired it right back.
A lot of you folks out there are already beginning to tap out comments that will read something – “That rotten-eyed horse-wallow of an editor. How dare they criticize your work so much. Don’t they realize what a nice guy you are? Don’t they realize just how hard you work at this gig?”
And then there is some of you folks who want to tell me – “See, that is why you should self-publish everything as an e-book. Get the hell out of traditional publishing, Vernon. Why are you wasting your time and energy writing for somebody other than just yourself?”
And then there’s a few of you who are reading this and thinking to yourself – “I wonder what Lady Gaga is up to right about now?”
The point is, though, I still enjoy writing for the traditional publishing market. My regional books reach out to people who wouldn’t necessarily pick up an e-book – asuming that one can actually pick up something that exists strictly on a digital level.
And I don’t mind all of this extra edit-work. The fact is, this book really needs all of that extra painstaking effort. The book I’m working on isn’t my usual collection of ghost stories. This new book – as some of you already know – is a collection of historical maritime murder mysteries. There is a lot of fact and detail and circumstance that can easily get all futzed up by a careless writer – and I can sometimes be just that.
The fact is, we all can be careless writers. Nobody gets all of the details perfect. Nobody’s grammar is impeccable – it ain’t I tell you. Nobody spels everythin perfectly and typos do happen at the most inconvenient and unexpected occasions!
So I welcome the editor’s inquistion. Tie me to the rack and flail me with a cat o’ nine tails drenched in vinegar and lemon juice. Hold them heated irons to my heels and flay me inch by inch – all the while whispering with garlic, raw onions, sardines and Stilton cheese-riddled breath – “Who’s your daddy, writer-boy?”
I want to give that to you. I want to cut that into the heart of your muse and let her tattoo it in your nostrils so that you breathe that idea into somewhere deep within your essence.
“Do not fear the editor”.
Soak that up, would you? Don’t get all dog-locked on the notion that your words are precious as diamond-encrusted snowflakes.
Fact is, I just revised that last image – changing the initial “diamond-crusted snowflakes” to “diamond-encrusted snowflakes”.
Fact is, we all could use a little revision in our words.
Fact is, your editor and your publisher are your very first clients – and you damn well better know how to keep them happy.
This is business and you got to please the paying customers.
Amen, and gesundheit!
Now, a few words on the great e-book experiment.
Last week’s “free-lease” of my novelette SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME has met with mixed results.
We moved about 500 or so free copies – which sounds like a lot, but in the world of the “free-book” you want to hit numbers in the thousands before you can get yourself up into that fleetingly visible top 100 bestselling zone.
As most of you know, that’s what the whole idea of a giveaway is. You want to give away enough free e-books to bump your Kindle rank up into the top 100. You don’t stay there for very long, but the idea is that you stay long enough so that people notice that your book exists. That’s what it all comes down to. You see, there is a great abundance of e-books out there, with more being released every day.
To sell books you need to make certain that readers know you are there.
Let me take you back to the days of the Depression. The days when workers would line-up at the worksites looking for day labor in the fields or the fruit trucks. The foreman would come down to the edge of the mob of hungry people and choose out a dozen or so workers – however many he needed that day. Those few got work, which meant they got paid, which meant that eventually they would eat.
A lot of times that work went to the big fellows. The tall boys who just plain stood out from the crowd or else could push their way close enough to foreman to be noticed just long enough to be hired.
For that day.
That’s where your average e-book author finds himself. Standing in a crowd behind a line of big tall fellows, trying hard to be noticed.
Fellow needs himself a trampoline or else a pair of stilts.
So, to get back to my original subject – has the “free-lease” of my two e-books – BAD VALENTINES and SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME been a success?
I don’t know yet.
One thing it has done is produced a brief but solid review at the Amazon listing of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME.
A lady from Tennessee who picked up a copy of Sudden Death Overtime had this to say –
“Steve Vernon’s ability to weave a story with a flow that is virtually flawless is a testament to how good a storyteller he is. I loved the characters and their personable dialogue and was able to plant myself easily in Labrador.”
She said more but you’d have to click that cover photo to read the rest over at Amazon. For myself, I feel that if I can transplant a Tennessee resident to the Labrador shore than I have done my storytelling duty.
Reviews – good reviews – can work as a pair of stilts. Or, perhaps more aptly, a good review is the equivalent of having somebody wave a sign with a picture of your novel over the heads of all of them big tall fellows.
Either way – you get enough of those good solid reviews and a few more of those readers can see you over the crowd.
Even less-than-flattering reviews can work for a writer. Take a look at what Amanda McNeil has to say about my horror/historical DEVIL TREE in her WordPress review blog OPINIONS OF A WOLF!
Not everything she says is glowing and wonderful, but she does have a lot of good things to say about the book. She’s painted a fine sign and by posting it on her blog she is doing a reviewer’s duty of waving that sign above the crowd. In turn, I will post notices of that review – which works in a similar fashion. Now I will wave a sign pointing to her blog – which will in turn increase her visibility.
Maybe that is all that the internet is slowly becoming. A bunch of people waving signs saying “Look at me!” or “Look at me looking at him/her!”
All of this talk of sign waving brings me to the Halifax bus strike. We are about a month into this strike and people are beginning to adapt. I had some trouble on Friday morning, walking two and half miles in heavy old winter boots, rather than the walking shoes I have been getting by with – but other than that I am adapting nicely. So is everyone else.
People are being hurt by this situation, however. There is a whole lot less casual shopping these days. People who might normally ride a bus to a mall or a boutique are staying home. People who have cars find themselves spending more on parking and such. The city has stepped up it’s traffic patrol and is handing out more tickets than ever – which makes for a whole lot less expendable income for walkers and drivers alike.
There have been some pretty stupid moves on both sides of the fence. I won’t bother going into all of the bad decisions that Peter Kelly has made for himself – and, even though he isn’t the only one on the management side of things he is the figurehead for the opposition.
On the other hand, the union has made a few bonehead plays as well. Starting with that Valentines Day march with everybody waving and dancing and happy at the thought of third party arbitration. A big display like that is bound to set off alarm bells in anyone you are trying to strike a deal with.
Let’s break it down, shall we? You and I are trying to reach an agreement. I suggest the possibility of arbitration to settle our dispute. Then, while you are standing there and still considering whether or not you are going to agree to my proposal, I start a one-man Snoopy dance of joy and happiness upon your front lawn. Before too long you will start to wonder just why I am so happy and what do I think I am going to get out of this agreement – and if I dance too hard and too happily you are definitely going to reconsider agreeing with arbitration.
That’s what happened, in my opinion. Council looked out and saw all of those happy dancing bus drivers and decided they didn’t want to run the risk of giving them even more reason to celebrate. Basically, the union forgot the principal rule in negotiation – always maintain your poker face. So now they are stuck with those silly heart covered t-shirts and signs – and we are heading towards St. Patrick’s Day and the transit union is still waving Valentines.
Not to mention the decision to announce that they were going to STOP the access-a-bus. Which, in effect, is saying that we are going to picket seniors and the disabled – which is who the access-a-bus serves. Even though the union hastily back-tracked and said that all they meant was they were going to delay the access-a-bus, not stop it – the announcement still, in my opinion, made them look both silly and hard-hearted.
These are all my theories. Doesn’t change a thing about the reality that both of these sides are dog-locked in a perpetual state of disagreement and it doesn’t look like they are going to solve their disagreements any time too soon.
Maybe somebody ought to send for an editor…
yours in storytelling,
Here’s a link to the review.
You can order Devil Tree at Amazon.com
Or at Amazon.uk
And there is also a brand new review at the Amazon listing for BAD VALENTINES.
This definitely made my evening!
yours in storytelling,
Okay, so I’ve got a new book out – BAD VALENTINES.
And I’ve got another book out – DEVIL TREE.
And I’ve got a whole mittful of other e-books but I’m not going to belabor the point. The problem is – nobody has heard of them. Nobody, aside from my cat, even knows they exist.
Let alone if they’re good or not.
So how do we writers get the word out?
Well, one way is to solicit reviews.
I love that word, solicit. It brings this writing gig right down to where it truly ought to be. In the gutter. I am soliciting clients. Hey baby – how’d you like to get lucky? Show you a good time. Hook you up with a novel – jiggedy-jig.
So how does a writer go about propositioning a reviewer?
Reviewers get pummeled with review requests and/or review copies. Waiting for a reviewer to “stumble” across your work and ask you for a review copy might make for an AWFULLY long wait.
Your best bet is to start checking out the review market. Depending on your chosen genre you might find yourself with an awfully large group of reviewers to choose from. That’s good. That will work in your favour. Somebody like myself, working in horror, has a lot fewer reviewers to find. Folks in romance, YA or paranormal romance have an abundance of reviewers to choose from.
Once you begin finding reviewers you need to start researching them. Have they written a lot of reviews. Does their blog site look professional. Do their reviews read like good professional reviews or do you see a lot of “Ya, I thought this book was kuul.”?
If the review site mentions anything about a cash payment up front – run away. Don’t even stop to think about it. Writers should not pay for reviews. We give a free book, that’s what a reviewer is owed and nothing more. I wrote reviews professionally for Cemetery Dance, Fearzone, Hellnotes and several other markets – and I usually recieved a small payment – maybe ten or fifteen dollars – from the publisher of the magazine/market that I was writing for – but nothing from the writer but a free book.
What else could I ask for?
Certain sites maybe worth making an exception for. Sites like Kindle Daily Nation http://kindlenationdaily.com/ has a sponsorship plan for $139 and up that will advertise your book. I haven’t tried any of that sort of thing – nor do I intend to – but it is out there. What I would mostly warn about is sites that offer you reviews at five or ten dollars a pop. You have to ask yourself what kind of a review are you going to get when you shell out ten dollars. That is a lot different than how I operated, getting ten dollars from the owner of the review column/site that I wrote for. He was just paying me the same way you would pay anybody who provided your column/site/magazine with a certain amount of words for your readers to read.
Prepare a proper review request. Take a half an hour or so and put one together. You’ll want a short letter-sized document that tells the potential reviewer what the book is about, who you are, how many books you’ve written, whether you are new to this business.
Here’s a review request that I wrote for my novel DEVIL TREE.
Hello REVIEWER’S NAME
I have taken a look at your review column I LIKE COOL COOL BOOKS and enjoyed the heck out of it. You have a keen eye and I believe I might have a book that you’d be interested in reading/reviewing.
The book is called DEVIL TREE – and it is the story of Lucas Sawyer and his wife Tamsen who find themselves marooned in the heart of a mid-nineteenth century wilderness. They’re rescued by Jonah Duvall, a mysterious woodsman who abides in this wilderness with his wife Jezebel and son Cord. Brooding over all stands the Devil Tree – a huge and evil jack pine that has summoned them to this valley to feed upon their collective emotions and guilt and to breed unnatural offspring. Part earth spirit, part elder demon – the tree is farming them. The characters are bound into a tightening noose of blind undeniable fate. As winter sets in they must face the tree’s unholy fury in an utterly horrific finale.
Devil Tree is a 60,000 word novel that will take you into the heart of pure unimaginable horror. We are not talking gore or graphic blood-spree. This is NOT one of those OH-MY-GOD-GRAB-THE-CHAINSAW-AND-CLEAVER blood soaked yarns, but rather this is a work that I guarantee will horrify and haunt you for a long time after you turn the last page.
“A mesmerizing journey into unimaginable darkness, DEVIL TREE showcases Steve Vernon at the height of his power and results in a provocative, profoundly unsettling novel you will never forget.” – Greg F. Gifune
Have I overkilled this? I hope not. I surely would appreciate you reading my book. I can provide you with a Kindle copy or a pdf or an epub – whatever your pleasure is.
yours in storytelling,
That’s one way of doing it.
Notice how I started by introducing myself. I made sure that I knew the reviewer’s name and the name of their column. You don’t want to come off sounding like you’ve just cut-and-pasted a hundred review requests to a hundred random review sites – even if you have. I told a little bit about the novel, without spoiling too much of the reading experience. I gave them an idea of how long the novel was – so they could judge for themselves how much eyestrain they might actually have to invest in the process. I included a picture of the cover, which is also a key selling point to any book in the world – including e-books.
I probably should have talked a bit about myself and my history as a writer – but in this case I was submitting to a reviewer who already knew my stuff. Usually you won’t have that benefit. I’ve been writing genre since the mid-80’s, so a few people have heard my name. Some of them even don’t run away when they hear it.
Think of it as being the same as pitching a publisher a new book idea. Remember, these reviewers are READERS first. They want to read something that will get them excited enough to write a good review. They don’t do this sort of work to bore themselves to sleep at night. They review books because they have a passion for it.
Do your homework, and send out a few review requests. In the long run they are worth it. You may get a good review, you may get a bad one – but it will improve your visibility and (hopefully) improve your sales for the next ten books that you write. Each step forward in your writing career will take you further down the road – so by god, make it a good step.
How do you find reviewers? Well, for starters, watch your message boards and Facebook pages for like-minded writers who are advertising their own books. If Jack writes the same sort of genre as you do and has just recieved a glowing review from Fester over at the WE REVIEW COOL COOL BOOKS site, well you want to do swing on over to that site and check out their review policy.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS spend the time necessary to check out that review policy. Odds are, if the reviewer is so booked up with books to review they’ll mention that in their review policy – something along the lines of “Oh my good gosh golly, I am so swamped with books that I won’t be taking any more books until next year.”
You read that in a review policy, honor it. Don’t figure that your book is so gosh golly good that the reviewer will make an exception for it. All that you will accomplish by sending an unwanted book to a reviewer is pissing him off.
Finally, a few words on response time. Nine out of ten reviewers aren’t even going to respond. Get used to it. Send more review requests out to more reviewers. Pick a day each week and spend an hour that day researching new review sites and sending out review requests. Sooner or later somebody will take the bait and ask you to look at your book – unless your book sucks so badly that even your mother is shaking her head no when you ask her to read it.
Lastly, when you do get that review don’t get all upset if it isn’t a good one. You can’t control that. All you can do is do your research ahead of time and try to send it out to somebody who likes the sort of thing you write. DON’T send an angry e-mail back to the reviewer arguing with them about thier opinion on your book. You will just piss them off.
Last off all – here’s a good site to get started on your hunt.
But don’t stop there. If you write Rock and Roll Romances, then Google Rock and Roll Romance Book Reviews and commence hunting.
Good luck and have fun.
Yours in storytelling,