Tag: Writing

Censorship at its most insidious

 

Let me tell you a story. I mean, that’s what writers do, right? They tell stories.

Back in 2014, when I started out my journey as a published writer, Amazon only published ebooks via its KDP service. KDP is short for Kindle Direct Publishing. If you wanted to also offer a physical version of your book, you had to use Amazon’s subsidiary company, Create Space. So I published my book, the Theater of Dusk, using both companies. KDP published the ebook. Create Space got the physical book. Good so far? 

I’ve paid for everything out of my pocket. By ‘everything’ I mean the cover, editing costs, the costs of organising giveaways and sending copies to the winners and so on and so forth. It was a large sum, and I don’t regret spending it. Other people spend the same money on shoes and the latest iPhone. I wanted to publish my book. Each to their own. Don’t judge me for my vices and I won’t judge you for yours. 

My book doesn’t sell, and it comes as no surprise. Since Amazon will publish even the manuscript of a monkey with basic IT skills, the floodgates were opened. Everyone hoping to make a quick buck or having delusions of grandeur jumped on the bandwagon. The market was and still is buried under tens of thousands of cheap, similar, awful books. Standing out became impossible, unless there was a team of professionals behind your book who used their knowledge and some serious money to promote and advertise you. Since I don’t have a big publishing house behind me, I had very little hope of getting noticed. In fact, I never stood a chance. This, by the way, does not mean I regret publishing my book. I will never regret that.  

About a month ago I made updates to both versions of my book and re-uploaded the manuscripts. Create Space contacted me shortly afterwards and told me they will stop publishing my physical book because it violated their standards. I sent several emails asking them to point out the exact problem, because they wouldn’t even tell me if it was a title, cover, description or content issue. My book just violated their standards, end of conversation. They refused to answer my emails and explain what the problem was. And of course the book remained out of print.

Create Space is currently in the process of becoming one with KDP. The physical book was recently transferred to the new company. As soon as that happened, it was blocked there too. Wowsers! So I contacted KDP asking for help to solve this issue, hoping they’d be more professional and give me information. I mean, unless you tell me what the problem is, how in the blue blazes am I supposed to solve it? I waited and waited and got the same vague reply. That my book violated their standards, and consequently it would not be published.

At the time of writing this entry, only my ebook was available. I am surprised they haven’t taken that down too. Now, I would love to think I’m too shocking for the minds of common men, and my literary genius has scared them senseless and they cowered before my immense depravity. But believe me if I tell you I’ve both read and written some very extreme things, and my first book is nowhere near close. All things considered, it’s rather mild, it has a ton of trigger warnings in the description, and even the erotic scenes are few and in between.

How hypocritical is it to sell books like 50 Shades as Amazon and refuse to sell what doesn’t even qualify as porn?

How hypocritical is to sell mysteries and thrillers with excruciating details of gruesome murder and torture and refuse to print what can barely be labeled as violent?

I am disheartened, because it has been a non-stop uphill struggle for four years and it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon. I also know why they won’t tell me what the problem is. If they did, and I had money, I could have taken legal action. By keeping the details vague, I can’t accuse them of something specific. So they get to do what they want, and I have no say in the matter. A meek, obedient, perfect little cog, keeping the Great Machine running.

A meek little cog with visions of cities burning, of angels mating with monsters and giving birth to abominations, of deepest darkness, the Night Without End. Of beauty inseparable from suffering, for all beauty leads to suffering. Of compassion, cruelty and despair, and everything forbidden and forgotten, desolate and alone, crying out under starless, empty skies.

Still want me to be your cog? Because I don’t think the shoe fits.

I don’t even know why I bother writing this entry, except for the fact I am too bitter to keep it inside. It’s not going to change anything and I know it. But I’m sick to my heart by constant adversity. And my only outlet is, unsurprisingly, writing. I mean, who would have thought.

Brutally honest

Ladies and gentlemen and non-binary sweethearts, good evening to you. I trust you are all good?

I haven’t been here in a while. Truth is, I have nothing noteworthy to write. I got news from the Binge Watching Cure, and though they enjoyed my short story, they won’t be publishing it. I was really disappointed, because it brought me back to square one. The problem is simple. I can’t promote my published book, the Theater of Dusk. Or rather, no matter how much I try, I see no results whatsoever. There are some logical reasons I know and can refer to. 

  • The  book is a collection of short stories. Readers prefer novels.
  • The short stories don’t belong to one genre but many. This makes it even more difficult to pitch it to an audience.
  • There are tens of thousands of new books published in Amazon every month, so mine is buried under the sheer bulk.
  • I don’t have money for advertisement.
  • I am self-published, so I don’t have a publishing house to take care of promotion and advertisement.

As a result of the above factors, I was hoping to publish my second book in order to help the first one too. But I don’t have the necessary money for editing, so that isn’t going to happen. The Binge Watching Cure collection would have helped me reach a wider audience, but they don’t want my story after all. And every other method I’ve tried so far has failed. Here are some examples:

  • I’ve contacted dozens of reviewing blogs. I haven’t heard back from any of them. Two blog owners who contacted me and said they were interested, were probably abducted by aliens because after that they vanished.
  • I have organised three giveaways in Goodreads, in which I gave away a total of ten books. Three were lost in the post and I had to post them to winners a second time. In the end, all I got was one review and two ratings. Oh wow.
  • I’ve paid for Facebook advertisements. As I said in my previous blog entry, when I do that I get sales before the advertisement, which renders the whole endeavour surreal and pretty much useless.

As you can guess from the above, I got sick of struggling. I’ve been trying and pushing and racking my brains for three years now and haven’t achieved anything, so I will no longer bother. I’ll go back to writing and try to save money in order to publish my novel. If anyone needs to contact me, please use my Facebook page. I will update this blog when I have something book-related to say, which I hope will be sooner rather than later. Other than that, I really should devote my free time to writing rather than rambling.

I hope to have good news for you soon and thanks for reading this blog. I do appreciate every pageview I got. 

Magician

Art is a cruel mistress

Art is a cruel mistress… Source: http://brilandsurrounding.tumblr.com/image/153124857372

I don’t have the necessary money for editing my novel. So for the time being, it will be shelved, or rather, stored in my hard drive until further notice. I was hoping I’d be able to publish it in 2016. The editing costs are waaaay above my paycheck. This saddens me but there is nothing I can do. I need to accept it and move on with my life.

I have discovered a unique time/ space disturbance in relation to my published book. Every time I attempt to advertise it, I get sales before the advertisement runs. Not during, not after. Before. If the same thing happened to me with the lottery numbers before the draw, I would have solved my editing issues, together with most of my problems. It wouldn’t have made my heroes real so that I can have hot experimental sex with them (did I write that? Oh dear) meet them, but pretty much everything else would be covered.

Other than that, I submitted a story from my published book the Theater of Dusk to the Binge Watching Cure. If you read their very interesting disclaimer, they want to cure your Netflix (or Amazon, Google movie, or Hulu) addiction and help you return to your first love, reading books. The editor told me he liked my story and he is considering it for publication. I will know for certain around the beginning of next year. If someone keeps in mind they receive 20-30 stories per day, I am immensely proud for the fact they are even considering it. It means I am doing something right (hopefully).

I am no longer sure what I’m doing right. At least I haven’t given up. I want to write books and publish them, though it seems harder than ever. It reminds me of something I read in the book Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. The book is the correspondence Rilke kept with a young poet. In one letter, Rilke asks the poet to try and imagine his life without writing. Let me quote:

“Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

Well, I’ll go insane if I don’t write, so it is not a matter of choice. We do what we must, regardless of how difficult it may be.

Keep Calm and Drink Tequila

Murder doesn’t sound so bad

Spoke with two different editors concerning my finished SF Romance novel. Gave them the word count and details. Asked for an estimation for a full editing service. Both quoted the same amount: 1100 to 1200 British pounds. Which translates to eh, about 1500 euro? Which translates to a number of possible scenarios.

1) I murder someone and harvest their organs. Pay the editor and got money left for advertising the book too. I celebrate the publishing of my first novel behind bars.

2) I sell one of my kidneys. Humans can survive with one, right?

3) I start eating my cats to save money on food. Nah, I don’t think I can do that. I mean the hairs will be the end of me. Death by indigestion.

4) I feed my cats less to save money for editing. They eat me alive.

5) I summon a demon and offer my soul in exchange for money. The demon takes a look at it and leaves disgusted. He won’t even tell me why.

6) I summon Cthulhu. He eats me. Mission definitely not accomplished.

7) I ask for a raise. The population of the entire continent laughs so much that the tectonic plate wobbles violently, collides with its neighbouring one and is hurled into space. Finally it smashes on the moon that breaks in two. No more full moons, ever, and millions dead. The orbit of the Earth changes randomly. Days last for seconds or years. Future generations curse my name forever. I am named Lizbeth the Accursed One, Earth Destroyer, Bringer of Celestial Doom. I did dream of posterity, but not like that.

8) I hire a dock bruiser to make the editor take my manuscript for free. The editor obliges, but I am found beaten within an inch of my life when I attempt to pay the bruiser with cats due to lack of funds.

9) I study occult until my final days trying to discover a way to become disgustingly rich. I die as confused as ever, with ten different nonsensical honorific titles, an army of useless disciples and with the book still unedited.

10) I let scientists study me in exchange for $$$. They commit mass suicide. One of them is found having swallowed his own tongue, with both feet somehow firmly wedged inside his ears. He was the one I was reading my stories to. They lock me in a dungeon, throw away the key, and I gnaw my way towards freedom. Eventually I become a feral, if toothless, underground troll. Perhaps an improvement, but still unedited.

11) I persuade readers to buy my published book, the Theater of Dusk. I’ll only need to sway, let’s see, more than three thousand people in order to acquire the necessary money. I’ll probably have better luck farming cicadas. I think in some country they eat them. Not sure.

12) I shoot porn. With my cats. It consists of me in sexy lingerie rubbing my face on their tummies and blowing  raspberry. And getting my eyes clawed out. Probably wrong effect for porn. Damn.

13) I pray feverishly to dark deities and sacrifice ice-creams. I develop carpet burns from kneeling and nothing changes, except for the aforesaid deities becoming sick of my nagging and making sure I die in a freak accident. They turn my head into a vase for frogathons. (Frogathons are similar to frogs, but they use them in, um, er, marathons and black metal bands. They are really nasty when they bloom. And when they gestribulate.)

Enough. I can go on all night. It’s in the description, really. Bloody writers. Fumbling with a keyboard a lot, accomplishing nothing. I need 1200 British pounds. Any ideas how to find that money while remaining alive and intact? (You do notice I didn’t say sane.)

Gimme five!

This photo depicts my mood. I recently got two reviews for my short story collection. They made me smile, because both readers seem to understand what the stories are talking about. Here is the first:

The Theater of Dusk (Paperback)

“In its entirety this book is a book filled with darkness. Each individual story contributes a little more to the depth created within the darkness and each story brings the reader further from the light and deeper into the whole that the book becomes. We become each character, however horrific that thought is, and we remain there throughout the book only to realise through each tale that the element of love does not exist. We reach the final curtain of the book to be shown that darkness doesn’t have to be all there is.

This little read takes the reader by surprise. Each short story takes you along a road of self-discovery in some ways and the reader can almost recognise some elements of the darkness within the self. At the end of the last story we are shown that not all is as it seems – light and darkness co-exist but each individual has to open up and allow the other in.

These stories certainly can make a person think deep thoughts. If you aren’t a lover of depth and darkness then this probably isn’t the read for you but I would recommend it to anyone prepared to brave the deep.”

Amazon review link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R1O7BT233OT85V?ref_=glimp_1rv_cl

And here is the second review, translated from French. If there are mistakes in the translation please blame my very basic French aided by Google Translate.

“An author to discover!

In these 13 short stories Lizbeth Gabriel depicts with skill and talent human beings in all their complexity and plurality. These stories are often imbued with a dark and strange ambience. Sometimes on the border between reality and dreams, they will certainly not leave you indifferent and open your minds like doors to worlds, feelings, new desires. Thank you to the author for this book and for sharing her imagination.”

Amazon review link: 

https://www.amazon.fr/review/R3BBKBH52NPOZL/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1505867517&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=52042011&store=english-books 

Thank you both so much for your kind words on my work, and for taking the time and trouble to write reviews. I appreciate it more than I can express.

If you too would like to see for yourself what the fuss is about, you can find my work here: 

Both ebook and paperback are very reasonably priced, and every book you buy means I can keep on writing. Every review I receive is that extra push that keeps me going. Thank you in advance.

(Photo source: 

Show me love!

From my published book, the Theater of Dusk. Wonderful picture/ word combination by Katherine. 🙂

Do you remember the SF romance I told you about? Well, I’m almost done with editing! Soon I’ll send the manuscript to my editor, and I really, desperately, urgently need all the help I can get. What do I need? I need all the sales and reviews you can give me. If you planned on buying my book, now is a good time. If you felt like writing a review, this is an excellent time to do it. I don’t mind negative reviews if they are honest opinions on my book and not personal attacks on me. The latter is not reviewing; it’s slander. It doesn’t help other readers decide and doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the reviewer either. 

If I want to be honest, it is not a coincidence I haven’t got a single negative review so far. It’s not because my friends are reviewing me because this isn’t the case. I owe it to two facts. The first is pretty straightforward: I haven’t had enough exposure to get negative reviews. I do have in mind a list of possible negative reviewers if I hit a bigger audience. Homophobes will bash me, the overly religious will throw fits, the women-hating crowd will get their panties in a bunch… Well, I’ll live. I mean the world is a big place and there’s space for everyone. Live and let live.

The second reason is even stranger. For some reason, people like my writing. Believe me, I am surprised. When your friends like your writing, there is always a nagging suspition at the back of your head: they say they enjoy it because they are your friends. They don’t want to hurt you. It’s vastly different when random strangers enjoy your book. I casually browse my Goodreads Author page and a complete stranger has left a four or five star review for my published book, the Theater of Dusk. It wows me completely and utterly. It mystifies me. It doesn’t surprise me because I consider myself a bad writer, but because my subject matter isn’t easy. I write about loss, deceit, self-doubt, betrayal, suicide, killers… My writing is intimate, unusual, sad and weird, and what do you know, someone else out there, a person I’ve never met, read it and liked it. They identified with my stories and my heroes and got something out of it. I don’t know what and it doesn’t matter. I hid a message in a bottle and threw it in the sea. The bottle reached a shore and someone found it and read it. The bottle could have been lost, broken, and yet… it wasn’t. It’s a small miracle.

I need more small miracles to happen. Miracles like a review, or telling a friend you enjoyed my book, or sharing one of my blog entries. Here are some suggestions:

 

Please give me a chance to continue writing. Help me get my second book out. I need a very handsome amount for the editor, and every single penny counts. I need reviewers and reviews for my work, and every review makes a difference. It’s been an uphill struggle with nothing to show for my efforts except for the books themselves. For me, that is a reward in itself. Please help me. I honestly, truly need it. And for those of you who already bought my book, reviewed it or promoted me, thank you so so much. I am deeply grateful. It means more than I can explain. You are my small miracles, and you give me the strength to continue. Thank you.

Here is my book:
http://www.amazon.com/Lizbeth-Gabriel/e/B00HVCOFMY/

Create Space: (an Amazon company)
https://www.createspace.com/5204932

Attention: This is for buying physical copies of my book, not the ebook version. For the ebook version please go to Amazon.

Waiting for reviews

I haven’t been very active lately. Life gets in the way. It’s a matter of tiredness and to be honest, also frustration.

For those who think that once you publish a book, you don’t have to do anything more, I have bad news. Once the book is out, your troubles have just begun. In the case of traditional publishing, the publisher will also promote you to some degree. If you are self-published like I am, getting noticed is tricky business. 

When I published my first book, I made some mistakes due to inexperience. For example, I didn’t know I had to find possible reviewers before I published the book, or establish my presence in social media. Here is a link to a blog with useful information:

 

As I said in a previous post, reviews are vital. Not only do they encourage possible buyers to invest in your work, but also serve as promotion and free advertisement when the reviewer posts them on their reviewing blog and any other social media they may be using. So I busted my behind looking for reviewers and reviews. I went through a list of reviewing blogs, located genre-related bloggers and sent more than thirty five emails asking for reviews on my book. I also organised two giveaways on Goodreads. (For those of you who don’t know, giveaways on Goodreads are a way to create buzz. Randomly selected winners get free copies they are expected to review. Strictly speaking, it’s not compulsory for winners to write a review, but this is why giveaways are organised in the first place; to offer the writer exposure and reviews).

So, let’s see what I’ve achieved so far. In the case of emails, I received five replies: three ‘no’ and two ‘yes’. The rest never replied. The two who said yes, they are interested, haven’t contacted me since September. I am still waiting to hear from them. 

In the case of Goodreads giveaways, out of eight books, three got lost in the post and I had to buy new copies and resend them. So far I’ve got two ratings and just one review. Five more members have copies of my book in their possession, some for ten months now, some for eight, and they haven’t rated it or reviewed it. I know better than pressure them; I only contacted them once, to make sure they got their copies safely. They will rate or review the book when they have time, which may well be in two years from now or never.There is nothing I can really do except perhaps organise another giveaway, and hope winners will respond more promptly this time and books won’t be lost in the post.

The thing about being a writer is that you need to have patience, lots and lots of it. Your book may be your number one priority, but other people have different priorities and problems. They have jobs, families, friends, pets, and everything else life entails, like sickness, heartache, accidents, divorces and plain, mind-numbing tiredness. That’s why you have to wait, and wait, and wait some more while trying to think of ways to promote your work. The real problem is that you don’t know what makes a difference in sales. Is it reviews? Is it advertisement? Giveaways? Word of mouth? Connections? Plain dumb luck? All these combined? So you have to try any stratagems you can think of, (in my case, with a very limited budget at your disposal…) and keep your fingers crossed. There are several internet articles on promotion, but they more or less say the same: I wish we knew what makes a difference to do it too. 😉 So patience, insistence and hard work. It’s discouraging, frustrating, even downright maddening in some cases, but no-one built a fan base overnight. As I said in the previous post, that’s how real life works, contrary to descriptions found in YA genre.

Here are four lists of reviewing blogs. Good luck! I hope it all works out.

 
 
 
 

Here is also some advice on review requesting:

Maniacal laughter and book formatting issues on Amazon

Okay, here is some advice to all writers who publish or want to publish through Amazon.com, and can’t afford to pay a graphic designer for the book interior.

So, let’s say you are about to publish your book through Amazon’s kindle program. First of all, congratulations! It wasn’t an easy ride and believe me, I know it. Here is some advice I discovered through bitter experience, in the hope that you won’t have to go through the same. 

When you upload the book file to the Kindle Converter, download the converted file to your kindle and check it page by page BEFORE publishing it. Why? Because the online reviewer does not spot all issues. I did a very thorough checking of my book interior using the online converter and it seemed decent, so I published it. Yesterday that was the free promotion day I downloaded a copy out of curiosity. As soon as I started flipping through the pages I was horrified. All those pages the online reviewer had shown to be fine, weren’t so fine-looking on my kindle. The name was on one page, the title on another. The word ‘Dedication’ was changing place between the bottom of one page and the beginning of another one. The tabs in some of the stories had moved further inside the text. Those problems had been there all along and yet the online converter showed the text to be okay. Only after reviewing the text on my kindle page by page and re-uploading the corrected draft several times did I manage to get it right. There is nothing I can do about those copies with the wonky interior that have been downloaded already, and to be 100% honest, I am content with the fact there are no grammar mistakes or typos there (or at least I pray there aren’t). I hope readers can live with the fact there are some minor formatting issues, especially since we’re talking about something they downloaded for free. For those who are too picky with such matters, please cut me some slack and buy the paperback. They are no such problems there. 😉 (Nope, this isn’t shameless self-promotion, it’s an attempt to say something funny because I know some people WILL complain about it, so there.)

If you are a writer, here is what to do in order to download the converted interior of your book. After you have uploaded the book interior and it has been converted to kindle format, go to ‘Preview your Book’ section. Go to ‘Downloadable Previewer’ and choose ‘Download Book Preview File’. Then transfer it via USB to your device and read the file there just like you would do with any other ebook. If you spot any formatting mistakes, you need to make corrections to your original book interior file and re-upload it. Then download it and check it again. I’ve lost count of how many times I have done this. Good luck and patience. You’re going to need both.

If you are interested in self-publishing, here are some articles that can help you. They had helped me a lot when I started out. If you want my opinion, don’t feel sorry for money spent on an editor and a decent book cover. It makes a huge difference.

 


  
Mrs. KJ Charles also offers some VERY good and funny advice on writing:


I hope this helps! My (corrected) book is here: 

http://www.amazon.com/Lizbeth-Gabriel/e/B00HVCOFMY

Now that WAS shameless self-promotion. 😀 See the difference?

And I thought it was done!

I am referring to the SF book I’ve almost finished. I thought it was ready, and, you know, just needed an editor to correct those mistakes I had not seen. Right?

Yeah, right. 

I used an online software that spots repeated words etc. And much to my horror, discovered that the entire manuscript needs to be analysed and corrected again. There are so many adverbs in there. I thought I had avoided them and the entire manuscript is adverb-infested. And all those sentences that make no sense now that I reread them. And so many needless dialogue verbs. And so on, and so on. Come, let’s make a toast to the god Arghhhh. AAAARGGHHHH!

The best part? Oh, the fact that the free online software can’t take more than 1000 words of text every time, and I have to copy-paste-correct 107.000 words bit by bit. I can’t really describe my excitement.

Send me nutella, chocolate and protein. Do not cry for me. I will see this through and finish the third season of The Walking Dead after I am done as a reward.

With that said, there goes March.

Oh, and here is the software link, in case you need it and want to join me in depression:

http://prowritingaid.com/art/13/find-repeated-words-and-phrases.aspx#.VQM2A477NBH

The software, together with some hilarious and excellent writing advice, was found here:

https://kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com/ 

Mrs. Charles kick ass. Go there and you will see why.