Tag Archives: fiction

Going Where No Reader Cares to Go . . . in Cyberspace

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Reading, The Environment, though you don’t necessarily have to read it to understand this one.

A lot of what I wrote in that post is verified in a way by the following four articles I’ve found on this whole issue of ebooks, book publishing, reading and independent authorship.

Forbes Magazine – Excellent Article on Indie Books

The Verge – Ebook Self-Publishing

Publishers Weekly – Best Selling Ebooks of 2012

Huff Post (Canada Books) – Smashwords Owner’s Predictions for 2013

The pros and cons of self-publishing are really well described in these articles above. That need for filtering comes up time and again – essentially my list of Top 10 is my own attempt to do just that – here’s what I did.

Methodology

First, I picked a popular category, such as “Literature & Fiction> Romance”. From there, I went where no man dares to go – below the Top 100 – into the depths – as deep as 1,500 titles under the See! I’d have searched further down, would have liked to see what #28,043 looked like, but I couldn’t. The system wouldn’t let me get past 1,500 which means that if there is a book I want to look at down there, I need to use the search function, so I’d need to know the name of it, or author or ISBN.

Selection Process

To begin, the main sort I use in any given category is “New & Popular”. Basically, when I go deeper I’m looking for less popular, yet good reads – kind of like panning for gold.

My selections are close to random. I ignore popular authors that are down the list, dead or alive, and there are a ton down there – people like Charles Dickens, Herman Hesse, Hemingway and many, many more. There also plenty of living writers down there, but with their older titles. This is kind of odd though, given that the sort is “New & Popular” – huh?

I also found one sub-genre kind of amusing. Did you know that on one site, if you look under “Literature & Fiction” you can find a sub-category called “Literary Fiction” – too funny!

For any given category I pick out around fifty books to look at. I don’t look at price, try to ignore covers and titles, but what I do look at is page counts. On the lower end, I don’t include any under 200 pages – to me that’s close to a novella. Almost all the titles are around 250 – 300 pages, and a few are closer to 400. I’ve also kept away from books that are part of a series, unless it’s the first book.

Looking Inside and Then Some

Once I’ve gotten this list together, I start previewing more than reviewing. This is really a two-step process, and one that typically results in about 80% being discarded. With the remaining 20% I go back and take a closer look, and from there the list gets whittled down to titles that I’d definitely consider buying based on what I’d read.

This is not the same as doing a book review, nor was it ever intended to be. There are a few real benefits as an indie author in doing this kind of exercise, at least for me. I’m fairly well read, really eclectic interests, and I don’t need to read a ton of classics to know whether my book is worth reading, or is “marketable”. After all, if the classics are the benchmark, there are tons of successful, well-written books that fail that test.

Final Selection Criteria

First is the “flow” test. Call it style if you will. If something is written this century or the last, I really don’t want to have to work at reading every second or third sentence. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this understands what I mean. By the way, if you are thinking grammar should be first, that stuff’s gone with the 80% – I’m past that stage.

The next thing is the boredom factor – Have I read this before in one form or another? I realize there may be all kinds of plot turns and twists down the road, but one does get a feel for this. Often it’s uninteresting characters or overly long, drawn out setting descriptions, or perhaps a tinge of melodrama, that makes something boring. It’s almost like many writers are simply trying too hard to grab your attention, and it has the opposite effect.

Third, there is the novelty aspect – it’s pretty easy to tell when a story is just going to get better – kind of like it’s worth buying just to see what actually does happen. I really avoid copycats. As an aside, I’m guessing that in some genres, a solid 10% or more are basically fifty shade knock-offs, and I haven’t even looked in any “erotica” categories . . . yet!

Results

After all of that I had a list of 10 books that I’d say are worth reading as they are published. While I didn’t keep track of the ones that were “close”, I’d say there was about another ten – these are the ones who simply need a little editorial polishing – as stated in those articles at the top, there is a big demand and need for those editorial services.

As it turns out, I have a bit of egg on my face with my Top 10 list, but at the same time I also had one of those “ah ha” moments. The embarrassment came when I did one more final check for independence. I discovered that 7 of the 10 books I chose were actually published by a major publisher, in print first, so the authors are not indies. That means that in the end, after going through over 150 titles, I found 3 that I’d say are really good indie books, on par with the standard set by traditional publishers.

The “ah ha” aspect is that this kind of validated my process, and my skills, at picking out talent. By accidentally mixing indie authors with traditionally published ones, I inadvertently validated the results!

Conclusions

Realizing this is still a very crude process, based on the 3 of 150 titles I found, that means that perhaps 2% of indie titles really have market potential. What does 2% mean though? Well, first, how many indie titles are actually out there? Smashwords is definitely a major player in launching new indie works. They’re putting out almost 100,000 a year now, and cumulatively they are at about 250,000. Then there are other similar services, as well as number of indies who simply publish directly, with no intermediary.

It’s not easy to get a handle on that number. I’m sure there is a strange exaggeration out there about the total books available – the highest number I’ve come across is something 4,000,000 – I don’t think so!

My best estimate, and I think this may be on the high side, is perhaps there are 500,000 ebooks available, fiction only and by indies, and novels (say 70,000 + words). On the low side, using that criteria, it may be as low as 300,000. If my 2% estimate is in the ball park, that means that there are about 6,000 to 10,000 indie works out there with serious market potential – that’s where issues like discovery come into play.

To put that into perspective, as I found in one of those 4 articles mentioned at the top, the traditional publishers claimed that they had 1,000 titles that sold 25,000 or more copies in ebook format in 2012.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that . . . this post is getting very long as it is. However, aside from the numbers, I’d also say that it seems like the overall quality of writing that many readers’ find acceptable has certainly gone down. I’m saying that because I looked at a couple of current bestsellers by indie authors and I know that neither of them would have made the first cut in my selection process – that makes the market somewhat unpredictable, certainly from the traditional point of view.

Finally, through all of this, one huge intangible benefit is the confidence I’ve gained about SUNNI KNOWS. I’ll put my book up against any indie standard, or one for published works, so for me it really is an issue of discovery.

If you’re a non-Kindle user, you can order my book on Kobo . . . then you can read it on your favorite e-reading device . . . have a great weekend!

Catalog Writing, and then a Book

If you’re familiar with my blog at all, you’ve probably figured out that I enjoy the now-old TV show, Seinfeld.

One of my favorite characters is Mr. Peterman, mostly because when the show was in its heyday, one of main job duties was writing catalog copy for the gardening catalogs I was running – yeah, there were a few “Elaines” around!

Contrary to what the video might suggest, when you write for a catalog, or for advertising, you really are forced to write concisely, yet effectively. The legends (gurus?) of advertising used to claim that all writers should have a stint in advertising. If you think that’s pompous or silly, here’s three writers who spent some time in advertising as copywriters:

Salman Rushdie

Helen Gurley Brown

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I could say more, but then I might be accused of being a windbag . . . should we just keep it at pompous? Honestly though, since I’ve never been to Africa, I’d really like to tell you some of my hockey stories . . . they’re funny. Ha, there’s even a little of that in Dawn at Last!

Salman Rushdie on Seinfeld

Other People’s Stuff

A picture of a twig

This is another unfinished piece…it’s based on a variation of a leaf.

Normally I don’t comment on other people’s blogs, nor do I publish a list of favorites, who I follow and so on. That’s totally because I’m worried about leaving someone out by omission. Some days its tempting to single out those who can really strike a nerve, but I’d rather focus on the positives . . . so hopefully I won’t “make the wrong mistake” as Yogi Berra said.

I’m really just getting the hang of Pinterest. I spend most of my time related to that site looking for original pins, as opposed to simply repinning. However, there are a small number of pinners that I’m following, and some or all of them also have blogs. I’m not going to comment on the blogs here, just the Pinterest boards.

If you haven’t spent much time there – or if you think it’s somehow less than blogging – I think you might re-think that if you visit Julie Green’s page. It is fascinating to explore, an intellectual and visual treat . . . the kind where you stop watching the time, so be careful!

Here’s the link, and I hope you check it out for yourself: Julie Green on Pinterest

I’m learning how busy the world of Twitter is, though it has been all pleasant surprises, kind of “rapid-fire” so it’s hard to keep up. I still have much to learn over there, but aside from that, there are some people over there. One guy, @PhilTorcivia , is amazing because of his constant and pretty consistent stream of humorous one-liners. For example, “I told my girlfriend she’d drawn her eyebrows too high. She looked surprised.” I’m not surprised that he has over 64,000 followers.

For all the authors out there, I also came across some named Jane Friedman, but I can’t remember how I came upon her first – Twitter, blog, Pinterest or somewhere else. What I do know is that wherever I come across her, I learn something new and important when it comes to writing and publishing. If you’re looking for book reviews, that’s not what she does, but for tons of great information, resources, and opportunities, I suggest starting with her home page: Jane Friedman’s Home Page

There are many other kudos I’d like to send out, and will over time. There are some bloggers that have made an extra impression lately, including Jackie Jones, especially for her wonderfully honest and great photographs of the Caribbean on her blog. She keeps apologizing for this and that photography, but I’d never have noticed without her mentioning them – they’re imperfections make them all the more intriguing and endearing: Jackie Jones’ Caribbean Photos – the little stories add to the charm.

Finally, thank to Jill Paterson for your tips on writing that all-important blurb, as well for being a friend on Goodreads: Jill Paterson’s Blog

A little music, a little picture, and the “Blurb” . . .

If I could put the some of the tone of it to music, it would be as in the above video.

I feel like I’ve accomplished something with this book – lots of mystery and intrigue, yet funny and heartwarming, characters you come to love even though they can sometimes be insufferable, and something about love – with honey, not syrup, and believable.

Book – Dawn at Last – Why it’s not Free . . . Yet

Before I can give my book away on Amazon – and I can only do that for a few days – I’d really like to get a “critical mass” of people who like to read on Kindle – get my book out there for free for awhile – it really is a nice read.

Also, I’ve rewritten the “blurb” – this is such a hard thing to write! I’m still waiting for Amazon to update the new one, so here’s what it says:

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New Blurb – Don’t be fooled by the Title!

Titles can be deceiving and no one knows this better than Donna Belauche. She is the envy of every woman she knows and adored by her eight male clients and two partners . . . or is it seven and three?

With her natural beauty, education and “special” training – and with her ability to charm on a dime – she has it all, but only according to others. She prides herself in playing the game of love, winning by acting and remaining unattainable . . . but in control.

Then her plans become unravelled in sleepy Victoria, a deception of its own . . . her secrets are only a pale part of the bigger picture. As events unfold beyond her control, what was once all so predictable becomes a battle with the past, a duel with deception, including the intrusion of a few simple tulips . . . will she learn to dance or will they cripple her forever?

“Then the strangest thing happened . . . Karen covered her naked body with Andrea’s robe, put her hair up and then put on that chauffeur’s hat . . . she told me to sit down again and just wait there for a minute. Then she went over to this platter. It had three tulips on it, but she only left one on the platter and put the lid back on. Then she disappeared with this platter – after all this – such a fuss over a single tulip?”

After 300 pages you will have the answers.

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From my "Playful & Cheery" collection - which goes nicely with my novel, "Dancing With Tulips"

From one of my art collections – which goes nicely with my novel, “Dawn at Last”

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So there you have it. Now to get that free copy – when its available – the best way is to follow me on twitter @ljgrodecki.

I’m hoping/ planning to do this launch two weeks from now – May 17th – depending on how much interest there is . . . and if you’re wondering why there is an error message up in the top right, under “Tweeter in Person”, that’s probably because as of this typing, I’m still a tweet virgin . . . I haven’t tweeted anyone yet . . . I’m so nervous as to who will be the first! 🙂

20,000 Words and a Bunch of Characters!

I wish this cursor would stop blinking at me, but I guess that’s why they call it a ‘cursor’.

It seems almost every blogger that I follow also does other writing. With a minor case of bloggers’ block, I’m finding this to be quite different than writer’s block. Funny thing is though, I’ve never had writers’ block. I’m 20,000 words and five chapters into my second novel and it’s coming along better than expected, and I expect a lot!

So far I’ve found four main characters that sneaked into my book.

Each character seems to have their own rule book, though none of them see themselves as rebels, just quietly rebellious.

They’re a curious bunch, all very decent on the surface, except for one dude who’s gotten what he deserves. Pardon me…that’s dudes not one of the four, and yet so far he’s been the sneakiest by far! The two main female characters are smart, one very funny and one very troubled, tough and at the same with a huge but confused heart…a survivor of both her looks and charm, as well as the curiosity that led her down an adventurous path that she very much wants to leave behind.

Then there’s two main male characters. One’s your average guy, until you get to know him. A tradesman, a loner, a playful dreamer who thinks he wants to find the right woman and ‘settle down’ but at 37 he is actually very much settled, comfortable, busy in his passions. In other words, like most men in his position he really doesn’t know what he wants, and the question remains as to whether he ever figure this out, or perhaps someone will do it for him?

The other man is more of a gentleman, a quirky eccentric who doesn’t mind helping others as long as he has a say in direction, and ‘helping others’ seems to have no end in terms of the strangely pleasant adventures he brings his followers into; most of them don’t even realize what they’re involved in, and none seem to mind…at least so far!

Now after dragging you into this funnel of intrigue, I suppose it’s only fair to punish you with an excerpt:

As always, Melanie begins with her window shopping, a full 90 minutes of it, followed by a quick 30 minute grocery tour, which is basically a routine more than an adventure. She likes the uniqueness of the bazaar or at least the attempt of it. Local and regional crafts people are everywhere, this being the start of the tourist season. Small artist and artisan-run co-ops occupy what seems like two out of five shops. Most of the others are franchise operations but at least the offerings are more exotic, different than the mega-malls. And then there are the service businesses: hair salons, acupuncture and massage, all kinds of mini restaurants, and then her favorite: the music shop.

 It’s more than a place to buy musical instruments of all sorts classical. It’s also more than a place to buy sheet music that must be exhaustive in availability.  It’s even more than a registry for antique instruments or a place to sign up for lessons of the French Horn. It’s also a place where every Sunday for 30 minutes of every hour, a local musician or small group performs in a small sitting area within the shop, with room for maybe 20 or so patrons. The charge is voluntary and all proceeds go to the musicians, and the ones that really don’t need the money leave theirs for the ones that really do.

 She knew of this kind of sharing through her acquaintance with one such musician, Joe Spence, a violinist who only recently came into some unexpected financial success with an online video that quickly became popular. She met this young man totally by accident about three months ago, literally bumping into him as she came out of the grocery store, in a hurry to meet up with Donna. Though it was her fault, he apologized and offered to repay her in some way for the trouble he had caused. His kindness caught her by surprise, or perhaps it was his gentle nature, which seemed odd when she looked at him and saw the face of a proud, defiant Sioux warrior.

 She would have no part of any kind gesture, so after helping her getting her bags repacked he offered to play for her someday. This is how she learned of the music shop, as he handed her a card and told her he plays there every Sunday morning. When he told that he’s a violinist, his eyes shone brightly and he grinned at her obvious surprise to the announcement. Perhaps it was all of this, and maybe his passion as well, that lured her every week to hear him play, and then to visit for awhile. Other than that, shopping was just groceries.

 Walking down the aisle, a poster on a community billboard catches her attention. It’s a beautiful picture of horses and an advertisement for some sort of jumping competition. It reminds her of Joe’s explanation, his reaction to her surprise, as he had told her, “I can you’re surprised…an Indian playing the violin! I was surprised too…never thought of it until I learned something special about violins.” Without giving her a chance to ask, he continued, “It’s all about the horses for me, and for my people. They were our friends, not our possessions. This is still the way. We don’t own them any more than we own the wind. So it’s the bow. Do you know the string of the bow is actually the hair of the horse? This fascinated me and soon I fell in love with the wind of the violin…the music.” He then looked her in the eyes, and seeing the warmth he knew she understood and with a lightning grin he concluded, “It’s all horseplay!” and they laughed.

And just so you know, I’m just teasing here…neither Joe nor Melanie are one of the four main characters mentioned above…gotcha!

Blog_20M_Words

1,000 Shades of Beige

Image

Bound and impatient. With these three words I could launch 1,000 stories. I’m sure to do many, and with just nap three or four or five plots begin their journey. In fact, as far as fiction goes, I’m already thinking that I’ll give it a whirl, start everything I write with these three words and see where my story takes me. This way it will be just like doing art!

So once more I have to thank someone I know in a way but have never met, a kindred spirit I suppose. She has this knack for showing me and picture and zoom, with the exchange of a few words I’m off and writing.

She let me see one of her works of art, though not the picture above, which is one my unpublished works. The picture she let me see depicts what most would consider mild bondage , which can be so hot when the element of patience comes into play, even hotter when the element includes impatience. There was no surprise as the conversation inevitably lead to the mention of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that I’ve never read nor do I intend to read it, and yet I’ve conversed with 4 or 5 people about my writing and each time this book comes up.

Pardon the pun, but I’ve only heard about that book in snippets. I won’t read it only because I don’t want it to influence my own writing.

While I have no intention of engrossing myself in erotica, I certainly don’t mind my hot chocolate getting a little steamy, in a playful way. And there is the rub of it, the invisible window between play and something else…danger? With luck and the wind, perhaps I’ll mix a little of the gypsy magic with the adventure of an adult Harry Potter character, of sorts? One way or another, let there be some humor, dammit!

In the spirit of the gypsy Harry Potter then, “bound and impatient” becomes a story of an old leather book and the impatience of curiosity…the search for the knowledge of, “Well, you know…”

So these stories will twist and turn and I will tease and taunt you as best I can. Certainly some laughter, perhaps a few tears, and some secret “oh my”s along the way. Eventually they will take the form of an ebook or a dozen. All this on top of my art, which if you’ve seen my site, you should be warned…I’ve only just begun. And I have no intention of ever being done; who would ever want that?

After all, being done is certain to lead to impatience. Then there is this issue of writer’s block, the kind where one has too much going on in one’s mind and is bound by the constraint of a single keyboard, when about five going at once would be preferred! So the block isn’t a block at all but more of a timeless ocean, which is a nice way of putting it given my new acronym of the day…SWIM…see what I mean? 🙂

Hanging In There Until The End