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Posts tagged ‘fanfic’

Compensatory Mechanisms

There are times I hate being a writer.  One of the things it does is set me at odds with normal (or really, abnormal but not writers)  human beings, and prevents the enjoyment of simple pleasures that involve story telling.

I used to think I was alone in this, but the last few Liberty cons have quite put paid to that idea, as I hear colleague after colleague say things like “I used to enjoy reading, but now I find myself analyzing it”  or “I loved movies but now I can see the mechanics and the effects.

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I’m tired

Let me start with a quick apology for the late post. The weather has done its best to lay me low. Highs in the 80’s one day and sleet and ice the next. It all has my sinuses clogged, my head fuzzy and a fever hit last night that I can’t seem to shake. I am so ready for Spring to get here. One of the side-effects of all this is that my google-fu has failed me this morning so I can’t find a site I read yesterday and wanted to refer specifically to in this morning’s post.

On the heels of the demand for J. K. Rowling to stop writing, unless it was for children or her own entertainment, and the subsequent “apology” comes news that a major publishing house has penned a deal for an, iirc, multi-book deal for what they are announcing is nothing more than modified fanfic based on Twilight. Sound familiar? Any way, the announcement not only admitted the deal was fanfic but also that it had been posted on online as such. Now, the disclaimer is that the fanfic has been taken down and major revisions have been made to it. Yet, as I read the announcement, I couldn’t help wondering a couple of things. The first is obvious based on my lead-in: where are those like the woman who called for Rowling to stop writing so they could have their chance at shelf and review space? After all, if folks like that have problems with what Rowling has been writing, shouldn’t they really have problems with what even the publishers are admitting is fanfic taking up shelf and review space?

My second thought was to wonder at the wisdom of the publishers to take this action. I’ll admit I haven’t read any of the fanfic in question. I have no idea how well-written it might be. Heck, for all I know, with the revisions supposedly done, it might be a really good novel. However, what it looks like to me is nothing but a panic move by the publisher hoping to cash in on the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon. The problem is, by the time the new books come out, the reading public will have moved on to something else. Publishers ought to know that by simply looking at their bottom lines. Look at how profits dropped for the publishers of Twilight the year after the last book in the series came out. Why? Because they didn’t already have something in the queue and ready to go after that last book was published. Without those sales, profits tumbled. Same with Fifty Shades. Is this another example of too little, too late? Very likely.

If that’s not enough to leave you scratching your heads and the foolishness surrounding LonCon this week has been. I won’t rehash it all here. If you aren’t aware of what happened, let’s just say that the GHHers have managed to strike there as well this week. You can find more about it on my blog here and here. The basic rule now appears to be if someone might feel uncomfortable about something that might be done or might be said at some unknown point in time during some event, no matter what the setting or causation, and if that something that might be said might be said by a white male then steps must be taken to not only make sure that what might be said isn’t said and that, preferable, the whit male who might have said what might have been said isn’t invited to take part in the event. Confusing? Well, that’s how I felt.

Cons have anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies. That’s a good thing. It was too long in coming, especially if you look at the business world in general where such policies for conventions and other large gatherings have been in place for years. What we need now — and by me I mean SFWA and all related groups — is a strong policy about the proper procedures for protesting decisions made by the organization or concoms, etc. The LonCom situation is one such example of where those procedures would have kept the entire SF/F genre (writers, agents, editors, cons) from looking like a bunch of toddlers pitching a temper tantrum. Of course, there are those SFWA proponents who will say such procedures are in place. Well, they may be but right now they aren’t being applied even-handedly across the board. The “cool kids” get a pass when they don’t follow the rules and yet those who then break the same rules to condemn what the “cool kids” (AKA GHHers) did or said, those folks get disciplined or, in at least one case, tossed out of the organization.

If SFWA and concoms, etc., want to be taken seriously, they need to become the grownups. There are times when grownups have to say “no” to the bratty little kids. There also comes a time when everyone has to just grow up. It’s past time for that to happen. Unfortunately, when it comes to SFWA, I doubt that it ever will. It is too busy trying to be “relevant” and “sensitive” to the more vocal members — and non-members — instead of worrying about what it can do to expand the SF/F share of the market. So, while it continues to drive more and more authors aways, I’ll continue trying to write stories people want to read instead of trying to indoctrinate them with the current PC message of the day.

And I’ll wait for the day to come — and it will — when a new batch of entitled darlings hit SFWA membership and turn the tables on the GHHers who will, in turn, find themselves no longer “relevant” and on the outs with those who are even better at screaming and crying on social media than they are.

For an example of just how hard SFWA is trying to be “relevant” and “fair”, take a look at the new cover for the soon to be relaunched Bulletin and tell me what message it’s sending. Tell me it is doing anything more than kneeling at the feet of political correctness, bending over backwards to show that this is a different Bulletin from the last issue. Then tell me if, now that the Bulletin will no longer have chicks in chainmail images on its cover, we will see those same authors who screamed and cried about how that cover was soooooooo wrong campaigning to get rid of covers with half-naked men on them.

Oh, wait, they’re okay with that because men are the oppressors and all those covers are doing is getting back at them for generations of oppression.

Sigh. Where are the grownups and will they please come take the bratty toddlers in hand before it’s too late?

A few thoughts and, maybe, a brief snippet

I want to start by thanking everyone for their understanding about the open floor I had to put up last week. I try not to do so very often but last Tuesday was one of those days when everything converged to keep me not only away from the computer but out of the house. I’ve still been kept away from the house a great deal of late and off-line, but things are getting better. Which is probably a good thing since my work laptop has something odd happening with it where it no longer likes Yahoo and there are a number of sites — including mail sites and file sharing sites — that it seems to be blocking. So, once I finish here, I’m tearing into the firewall and other programs that are supposed to be protecting me and see if HAL has taken over.

Some of you were kind enough to leave suggestions for topics last week. Some of them, like the suggestion to discuss copyright and fanfic, will take more thought and research than I’ve had time to give to it yet. So, give me a couple of weeks — to get some deadlines dealt with — and I’ll do a post on copyright, fanfic and filing off the serial numbers.

Several of you wanted to talk about how to deal with the current dry spell so many writers seem to be experiencing right now. Not so much a dry spell on the writing front but on the sales front. That seems to be a topic a lot of folks are talking about. I wish I had a response that we could all implement, but I don’t. I’ll admit that over the last few years, I’ve seen a trend in my own sales where sales seem to slow a bit in July, drop through the floor in August and then slowly start picking up in September. Whether that means anything or not, I don’t know. It could be as simple as people are on vacation or are getting ready for their kids to return to school. But sales do seem to be cyclical and they do pick up.

I just haven’t found any quick fix for the decline. I’ve tried blog tours. It’s a lot of work for what didn’t always give a return that made it worth the time. I’ve had a trailer made and it had no impact on sales. I’ve tried putting titles up on all sales fronts and only on Amazon’s KDP program. I’ve changed the pricing — up and down — and changed the tags. Facebook and Twitter and snippets, oh my.

What I’ve learned is that different tactics work for different genres. The blog tour worked to an extent for one of the novels written under the pen name. It worked, not so much because it increased sales a great deal but because it got reviews up on Amazon. The reviews weren’t always glowing but they were always honest and the good reviews outweighed the bad ones. Those reviews do help because potential readers will look at the number of reviews and the average rating when considering whether or not to try a book by a new author.

However, for the urban fantasy stuff, the blog tour didn’t work as well. Does that mean such a tactic won’t work for others? No. It just means that, for me at least, I will have to think twice before putting in the time and effort to do an other blog tour for more of the Nocturnal Lives books. I’ll do a few guest posts — hint, if you need someone to fill in on your blog one day, give me a shout. I’ll be glad to as long as I can link to my Amazon page — but a blog tour of a week or two where I’m on different blogs every day is a no go now. I’d rather be writing my next book.

As for the rest of it — especially Facebook and Twitter — social media is a way to keep your name and the titles of your work in people’s minds. But it is a balancing act. You don’t want to do so much promotion that your Facebook page or Twitter feed is nothing but one long ad for your latest novel or short story. (Hint: I’m seeing more and more people posting on their walls that if they get a friend request on Facebook from someone and, when they go to check out that person’s FB page it is dominated by self-promotion, they will refuse the friend request.) So, before you start spamming your page and feed with info about your latest release, stop and think. Are you going overboard? Look at your last three to five entries. If they have to deal with your work and have all happened in the last couple of hours, you are going overboard. Step away from the keyboard and breathe. Post something different.

There’s another pitfall to social media sites like Facebook that a lot of authors fall into. That’s the creation of a page for your latest novel or series or whatever. Every day I’m getting invitations to “like” some author’s new page. That’s annoying enough because it does take time to figure out if it is a page I want to be involved with — and this is something you need to think about. When you “like” a page, it shows up on your wall. Your “friends” can see your likes. So do you really want to like that latest invitation? For example, how will your Christian publisher react if they check and see you’ve liked a number of pages for books that are about demonology or the like? — Even if I am interested, do I have time to follow them?

Worse are when authors or fans create group pages and add you without asking. I’ve finally reached the point where if people do that and I don’t know them well, I will not only delete the group but will unfriend the person responsible for adding me.

Social media is just that — social. For the average indie author who is struggling to make a name for himself, it isn’t a major sales tool. It is a tool to be used, carefully and sparingly. You have to walk that thin line between promotion and becoming a pest. So think about what you like, and don’t like, to see and apply that to your use of Facebook and Twitter and then see if it yields any results. Just remember, those results may be long term and may not show up right away. That’s especially true if you are distributing your books through Smashwords (where sales may not be reported for up to six months for outlets in their premium catalog) and not putting them directly up on sites like Amazon, Kobo or BN.

So, what can you do to help pump your sales? One of the best is to check your product description on Amazon or the other sales pages. Do you give the potential buyer enough information to hook them without giving them too much? Is it well-written? How about formatted? If your description has more than one paragraph, make sure there’s space between the paragraphs so it is not only visually pleasing but also an indication that your book is properly formatted. Have you checked to make sure there are no misspelled words? You’d be surprised how many descriptions I’ve seen with spelling errors, even for books released by the major publishers. That description is the first impression your writing is going to make on a reader. So make it the best you can.

Then comes the tags you use for your book. Each site has a different number of tags you can use, so you have to be careful not to just cut and paste from site to site because you may wind up losing that one tag you really want there.

So what tags should you use?

First of all, understand that your tags are different from the categories you select for your books or short stories to be listed in. The tags are basically the meta tags or descriptive words that help readers find your books when doing a general search on Amazon or another store site. They are keywords treaders might input into the search engine for the sales site. If you write a romantic suspense novel set in Dallas around a wedding that has a murder and blackmail in it, the tags I’d use are romance, suspense, Dallas, wedding, murder, blackmail. That’s six and, iirc, Amazon lets you tag up to seven words. So I’d figure out something else, maybe the profession of my main character, to use. Anything that I think someone might use as a search term.

Tags you don’t want to use are your name, title of the book or series title. Why? Because they are already associated with your work if you filled out the information page properly.

So, here’s a challenge for each of you. Take your current wip and put a sample of the product page description and your tag words in the comments below. I’ll be back later, after I clean house, to see what you’ve done.

Now, for the brief snippet from Nocturnal Interlude:

“Don’t you dare die on me now!”

fanfic – good bad or indifferent?

As I suspect all of America is wrapped up in the who-will-grasp-the-poisoned-chalice fascination, I will probably have almost no readers for this. (Yes, I am sure many of you will be able to tell who should, and why, and how they’ll detoxify it. Perhaps so. I’m a foreigner, and the subtleties of it all are beyond me. I can explain African politics, which often seems to involves one man, one vote, once, and then makes the ‘winner’ and their cronies very rich and the country into a festering disaster area. That’s the level of my grasp. I don’t think I’m ready for the complexities of long-term working politics just yet.)

Another area which I fail to grasp is Fanfic and, as it is less likely to result in partisan positions, I thought we could talk about that. It seems to divide authors just as badly. There are those who say they are tremendously flattered (but will not admit they read it, or know it exists, to protect their copyright – which may not be true, strictly speaking) and others who go completely JKR-lawyers (which is like librarian poo, only far nastier, with frothing) at the very idea that someone could dare step on their hallowed turf. How will anyone get their characters right? And THEY were planning to develop Freddy Funnyface-Smyth later. Maybe.

As usual I find myself sitting in both camps and neither. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Fanfic – both on writing it, and on having it written in your worlds. How you’d feel about it. My own take is of course, that I couldn’t give a toss– as long as you don’t try and claim it is your world and your characters, and that what you decide to do with them is canon. If I did write any more I would simply ignore it and continue with my vision of the story, the characters and setting. I’m -sorry- very unlikely to read it, because then I might get annoyed at the BDSM relationship you have put Freddy Funnyface-Smyth into, or the illogical progression of the socio-politics of my world. Or your rotten grasp of economics. I am (and I admit this quite cheerfully) unlikely to think you’ve written my ‘children’ as well as I could, even if you have. But then, I am a little biased. But maybe I’m just too boring for anyone to wish to write in my worlds. Or too complicated to be worth the effort.