Book Burning: Now Available Digitally

So by now, if you’ve got your focus enough on the book industry that you’ve got a decent feel for the pulse, you’ve probably heard a little about Amélie Wen Zhao. If not, well, here’s the basics of it.

Zhao was one of those individuals who wanted to be an author. So she worked hard, polished her craft, wrote a trilogy, and with a little (okay, a lot, it’s publishing) luck, got a publisher to bite for her first trilogy.

Note that I used the word “was” rather than “is” in that paragraph. That’s because Zhao no longer is. Why? Well, because the “eternally socially conscious” crowd descended upon her before her books had even been released, slamming her with one-star reviews and accusations of racism to the extent that she contacted her publisher and asked to please cancel the publication.

Why? What grave crime did this woman commit that could see her so hounded that she asked her publisher to cancel everything? Everything, mind, on the first of three books, which had already made it as an ARC to early reviewers where the feedback was averaging four out of five stars, no mean feat for a first release? What sort of horrible, socially unjust thing was she doing?

Actually it was two things. One was that she dared write a book where oppression was not based on skin color, but on something else. And, as one one-star Goodreads review put it, that ‘is just bad.’ Because clearly all oppression should be based on skin color, apparently. How dare Zhao write about people finding other ways to oppress people?

But second? She wrote about slavery, and she is not Black. Yes, you read that right. She was attacked for writing a book that had slavery in it because she’s Asian, and as such should not be allowed to write about slavery. Because clearly China  never had slavery or anything like that.

So yeah. In the face of mass harassment from these “socially minded” individuals (and sadly, even other authors), Zhao pulled her book, issued an apology, and backed out.

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The Most-Read BaBW Post to Date

So, I got curious the other day and started digging through site history on here. Why? Well, I can look at stats here on a yearly basis (but not lifetime, for some odd reason) and started wondering about each year’s most popular Being a Better Writer posts. What, I wondered, was the most popular (read: one with the most views) to date?

Now, granted, this is a little unfair. Posts that have been around longer have much more time to rack up views, so older posts automatically have an advantage. Case in point, the most highly-viewed BaBW post comes from 2015, so it’s had four years to gather its viewcount. The post right behind it has had two. The post that I believe to be in third place has only boomed recently, since it became a wikipedia reference.

Anyway, not much point in beating around the bush. The (current) most read BaBW article of all time?

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The Mountains

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. A long, arduous trek, with ups and downs, flat easy bits, and hard nearly vertical portions that require all of your skills and tools. And there are moments when it feels like you’re never going to reach the top, like the book will never be done and you’re just endlessly ascending a slope for some purpose you’re not even sure of.

Now, once you get to the top? You bask in the view, take it in … and look at the next mountain in your path, because if there’s another book, there’s another mountain. A career in writing? Well, it’s kind of like making a commitment to hike each individual mountain in the Rockies.

And some of them will be great hikes, and some of them … are going to try their best to break you.

One of the hardest bits then, I think I’d add to this, is that these hikes are done, for the most part, completely solo and without much in the way of external input until the very end. Only in that final sprint to the top, when the editors and Alpha Readers begin looking over your work, do you interact with others. And then after the book comes out, when there’s a flurry of recognition that flashes by for a week or two … and then it’s gone. Just like the news stories of the first conquest of a mountain, it’s announced, but very quickly the world moves on, and it’s on to the next mountain for that author.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, a number of reasons. I’m in the last third of another mountain right now, and so far it’s been a far more arduous experience than was planned. Longer, too. I’m working to get it done, but the snow is deep and thick (this is actually a more accurate analogy than you might think) and it’s made things a bit of a slog most days.

I’m not stopping, mind. I’m going to finish this mountain and start the next. That’s how the job goes. But it can be (and right now, is) a slog.

Which makes the number of people who’ve gathered around just to tell me to give up, call it quits, or lambaste me about how it really isn’t all that hard all the more grating.

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Review Blurbs

So, random thought for today, but have you ever considered how differently review-blurbs are treated for books than they are for any other medium?

You might never have thought of this one, but let me give you an example. I just finished yesterday Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan, which is a great book. I enjoyed it quite a bit and lost some sleep to finishing it. But there was something I couldn’t help but notice. Displayed on the cover is a blurb from Brandon Sanderson that says “Just plain awesome.” in large, bold letters. Brandon’s name is also large and bold. But under that, in much, much smaller print?

“On Promise of Blood.” Which is the first book this author wrote, which came out in 2013.

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Your Year in Books

Okay guys, this is cool. Yesterday I was alerted via Reddit to a feature of Goodreads I was not aware of: The “Your Year in Books” feature.

What is it? Well, the name is pretty self explanatory, but basically it’s a shareable page that summarizes all your reported reading so far that year. The number of pages you’ve read across however many books, the most popular book you read, the least popular book you read, your average review rating, the highest-rated book you read, and so on and so forth. Basically, it summarizes whatever you’ve put into their site into a really neat little infographic you can look over and see. It’s your year of books at a glance.

So, that’s pretty cool. If you’re a Goodreads user, at least. And while I’m not a heavy user by any means, I have been using it to simply leave a rating for each book I read, and even that’s enough for it to make a neat little page on it.

But they also made these pages shareable. That’s right, each one’s got a link you can share so you can swap pages on books read with people you know. And well … yeah, why not? After all, it’s kind of fun to see what people read.

Anyway, here’s mine. Everything’s there save the book I’m reading right now, which in all honesty isn’t getting a great rating anyway. Take a look, and while you’re at it, if you feel like it, share yours in the comments. I’ll keep a close eye on the filter so that they don’t get filed under spam.

Is there something deep behind this? Not really. It’s just fun. I like looking at stats for things, and this is a neat one. Plus, it’s cool to see all my readings in one place and kind of laid out with some additional info. I definitely can see a few series I binged on here, as well as some random pickups from my library, some of which were good, and others which were … not so good.

Just fun, end of the year, holiday stuff. So, what’d you read?

In Sickness and in Health

Sands and Storms, guys, I almost can’t believe how much I’ve been sick lately. Except I have to because I’m living through it. The little bout I had in October? Nothing compared to the last … two weeks. I swear I’ve caught every cold out there this season, one after the other, and cycled through them all. I think I’m on the last one: A chest cough that has knocked me down for a week and been the cause of much lack of sleep problems (though now that I can sleep, I’m catching up by, as I did today, sleeping until 2 PM).

The ultimate problem in all of this? I don’t write well when I’m sick. With the back-and-forth nature of the last few weeks I’ve had some good days and some bad days, but I’m likely to still come in a good 1/3 short of my monthly quota. For those of you wondering why that goes down … let’s just say all my Alpha and Beta readers can attest to what happens when I write with only a fraction of my normal brainpower. Things get bad. Fast.

Granted, my part-time job doesn’t help. They’re classic current US-job, which means you work if you’re sick or not. Oh, they might say at some point during the day “Why not see a doctor?” or something. But they’re paying low enough that seeing a doctor isn’t an option, and if you take a shift off? Well, that’s money you need, since their wages are low. To which you might say “Get another job!” but … it’s the modern world. Local businesses all know what their competitors are paying, so they all pay the same lowball number. Why compete when they can make everything just as appealing?

Unless you’re a manager. According to local data in my area, Managers make anywhere from 2 to 6 times as much as other employees. Curious that.

Anyway, not really sure what the point of this post is other that to say that I’m finally feeling better. Illness-wise, not job-wise. Job-wise I’m pretty sure that my company is an open-and-shut case for the current growing income inequality issues in America. But aside from that, I’m finally feeling a bit more alive and aware, so I’m going to try and finish up a chunk of Hunter/Hunted today and hopefully get things back on track. I really, really have not enjoyed all the crap getting in the way of my writing this year.

Anyway, with that in mind, I really need to get to it. Oh, but before I go, today is the last day in that week-long sale on my books. If you’ve been looking at one and sitting on the fence, now is the time to make your decision!

And with that, I’ve got writing to do!

A Few of My Least-Favorite Things …

Advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, advertising is a great way to get eyeballs on my work, and by association, cash into my bank account . Advertising is a must-have in the modern world, since well, everyone else has it. With so many shouting voices out there, simply standing with your product hoping to be noticed is akin to being buried.

But while I enjoy the fruits of my advertising, actually coming up with ad-copy tags and little blurbs to attract the eye? Worst part of the job so far.

I’m not alone in this. No joke, I’ve heard one prominent author state that one of the best parts about being a huge success was that they no longer had to come up with ad-copy blurbs or even have anything to do with the advertising process. They just sent the book over and that was that. Maybe occasionally they’d get a question they had to answer to help their advertising agent market something a bit more specifically, but that was it. They could just pass it off in exchange for money.

I long for that day, and find myself very much in agreement on coming up with ads and the like. Unfortunately … I’m not where that author is yet. Given their particular position, I’ve got a long ways to go, really. Which means that right now …

I write my own advertising. And I hate it. Compressing a 355K book down into a 150 character teaser that’s got to appeal to as many eyes as possible in order to get them to click on it? And come up with all the search keywords that can appeal to a possible audience?

Yup. Just did the former one, again. Changing things up to keep things fresh. Only took me an hour-and-a-half this time to do it so … improvement? Regardless, we’ll see what the sales numbers look like at the end of this month, tweak things again …

Yeah, it’s a constant system of change. At least until I make enough money to hire someone else for the job.

Anyway, that unpleasant part of my day done, I’ve got a lot of writing ahead of me. It’s a new month, and I plan to make up for the shortcomings of the last one by surging ahead with a renewed vigor!

Oh, speaking of vigor, the Monthly Patreon reward will go up on Saturday. It won’t be a Jacob Rocke short, sadly. Between getting sick for a week and the rest of my schedule, I wasn’t able to come up with something that satisfied me. But … well, we’ll see. I’ve got a few things I can give advance looks at.

Anyway, advertising is figured out for the next month, thankfully. Hopefully the new changes make it even more capable at getting copies in front of eyes. In the meantime, the next project as far as sales go is getting a “Black Friday weekend” sale going on everything, so if you were thinking of grabbing copies of Shadow of an Empire or Colony as Christmas gifts, look ahead for that!

With that, I’ve got a palace infiltration scene and hunt for a shade to write, so I’ll catch you all later.