What Makes a Bestseller?

What makes a bestseller?

I am as clueless as you are. I don’t know that anyone knows for sure. These days, it is a hit or miss. If you write whatever happens to be selling well, you might have a slight chance of being discovered; however, there is no guarantee, as these times seem to be characterized by fast and furious writing, of aiming a target market and pleasing the publishers. Indies might not try to please the publishers but the readers who crave the craze at the time. Pleasing readers is good; however, not if you are writing something hoping that it sells but your heart is on another place. In that case, you lost your writer.

The other day, I picked up a small paperback, a fantasy/paranormal romance that promised a bit of adventure, just for fun reading; I was in the mood for it. It was from a bestselling author on that genre, who had written many novels, and had won awards. I was truly surprised when (just my opinion) I discovered poor content, weak, poor dialog, and honestly, it needed a decent amount of editing. I continue reading (stunned) but had to skip pages, and eventually, had to put it down. I was puzzled – a best seller, but how? Your guess is my guess.

What makes a bestseller these days? Lots of luck, maybe? Good writing doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. I am an eclectic reader; I enjoy many genres. I have read very good books that are not best sellers. I understand the fever and craze that a genre might cause at a particular moment, but I don’t understand how a poor written story becomes a bestseller. Maybe it is all about sales and hoopla. Your guess is my guess. I would love to hear your experiences (as a reader) on this topic.

Why Self-published Authors Succumb to Contracts

Français : FICHE GÉNÉRIQUE Modus operandi, ins...

Français : FICHE GÉNÉRIQUE Modus operandi, installation vidéo-interactive, 2003 Conception et réalisation : Jean-Louis Boissier. Production : laboratoire Esthétique de l’interactivité, Université Paris 8, Association Transports. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a new world and a new game at the publishing industry. It has opened doors to independent and self-published authors who are enjoying the best time to make their works known without the demands and constraints of the traditional publishing industry model. However, what makes a successful independent or self-published author succumb to a traditional contract? It would be a good idea to differentiate between the terms indie and self-published (this assessment is my view, in general).

I view independent authors (indie) as entrepreneurs who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of maintaining their status as indies, and who have established for themselves  a “modus operandi” that they love and prefer. I view self-published authors as writers who love the craft and have embraced the opportunity with the changes in the industry but whose goal is to one day, become published the traditional way. They might have received rejection notes or not, but their main goal is to obtain publication via the traditional model of publishing, and at the same time, making a name for themselves.

Despite the rules of the traditional publishing model, publishers are turning to Amazon to discover future contracts by following who sells the most/ranking. This works well for self-publishers, who have not been able to reach the system via an agent. For a successful self-publishing author this might eliminate one layer of the traditional method – finding an agent, but agents might be looking for these self-published successes as well, knowing that the sales have been proven, and most likely, will turn into profitable contracts.

Successful Indie authors are smart about all this, and although they love their freedom and flexibility, they would consider the right contract, as long as it proves to be more profitable than what they are already experiencing by their own efforts. For other indie authors, the issue is more about flexibility and the need to control the creative process, and their working style. Indies might or might not want to obtain a contract, depending on their goals.

Successful indie authors who value an entrepreneur model of publishing seem to retain more control over what they want than self-publishers whose goal is to get a contract to validate their status as authors or to make a name in the industry. It seems that it comes down to “what’s in it for me,” and how it falls under “my goals as an author.” Both sides have genuine interests, and there is no right or wrong way to do things, as long as it follows the author’s true values/goals.

Watercolors Friday – The Story Within

Not long ago I was rummaging through some antique books, and a few caught my eye. Among these was an old copy of Dale Carnegie – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I have read other books from this author, but not this one. I took it home, and as many of his books, what a treat it was.  It has a copyright date of 1948, and that old pages scent that goes so well with the right amount of yellowing. No pages are missing and overall, it is in great shape. Besides these features, what else do I love about these old tomes?

Well, one thing that I love about an old book is that it usually contains a story within its main story. It is the story of the previous owner(s), and one that is written throughout the entire book. I love to have a glimpse of who was this person, and to imagine a bit about his/her life. Sometimes, I find their name handwritten, a year, a dedication signed by the person who gifted it, and other times, even the occasion for such gift. Other times, I may find a marker, a cut out from an old newspaper, or even a dry little flower. What made them buy this book? Many times, you can see the reason by the passages underlined, or the notations carefully made throughout the pages.  Other times, you will find a business card or a written piece of paper that may be revealing. It is always a treat.

On this particular tome, I found an old piece of scrap paper taken from a budget sheet from 1954. It had some numbers in it, written not in the proper space, but added, what seemed as in a rush.  The column Amount in 1954 budget was encased in a square made with pencil markings, and a name was written atop the other two columns. In addition, there was a bookmark from a masonic lodge celebrating 100 year anniversary. The inside had no underlining. What was the story here? Well, the owner was probably a Mason, a business person, maybe an accountant? and he must have scribbled numbers while talking on the phone with the person who’s name was carefully written, and while he was on the phone, he must have doodled the square in pencil, as it seemed to have more than one line, as if this person, went over the square with his pencil several times. Inside the book, there is a large yellow mark made by a paper that must have been placed there for some time. It marked the shape of a large piece of paper and a small one, probably on top of it or attached to it – maybe a receipt (hence why I chose the profession of accountant). This is the story that these clues inspired, but it could be far from the truth; however, I had fun imagining all this. As usual, here are a few pictures.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

007

 

That day, I found a small collection of small prayer books/bible from the USA army. Back then, the Army, Navy … gave these books to soldiers, and many were presented at service by their chaplain . One of them had the soldier’s name, the chaplain’s name, date, time, and where it was presented. What caught my eye was the heavy underlining on this one, especially passages that talk about war, peace, and righteousness, as well as other passages that made reference to water, which led me to think that the soldier might have been in the navy. There was one underlined passage that referred to a man being healed, one who couldn’t walk. The story I imagine here made me sad.

Next time you happen to come across an old book, examine it, and hear the story it whispers within. Today, we celebrate old authors, as well as book lovers of the past – HAPPY WATERCOLORS FRIDAY!

Watercolors Friday – Inspirational Blog

Today, I want to share an awesome blog that many of you might know, but the more the merrier, and it is the blog of Jack Canfield, and you can find it here . It is a blog full of inspirational and motivational energy, and tons of good tips to live a more positive and happy life. Through videos, articles and goodies, Jack Canfield manages to awaken readers.

If you are not familiar with this blog, take a look; you won’t be disappointed, and you will gain so much by reading or watching some of his videos. It is truly a treasure, and one to be shared, so if you love it, keep sharing! And since today is Watercolors Friday, let’s celebrate Mr. Canfield, and Happy Solstice and Watercolors Friday to YOU! Don’t forget to watch the Super Moon tomorrow, the brightest and biggest moon of this year.   I will try to get some pics to share with you 🙂

 

Smashing my Words and Other Vicissitudes

I decided to offer Moonlit Valley via Smashwords because it offers a wide distribution option for electronic books.  In a way, it was like killing many birds with one stone (ouch).  It offers the ePub format (nook, apple,kobo…) and others like the Sony reader, Palm, pdf, rtf, and of course plain text, as well as library lending.  This seems the perfect all-in-one, one-stop-shopping deal.  For someone like me, who gets easily overwhelmed by too many sites to keep track of, and too many profiles, joining Smashwords was a plus.  There is only one thing I did not like – the look of the end product of an electronic book.  Unlike Amazon Kindle, it is a bit messy and limited on what you can do with font type and font size.  Your chapters might end anywhere in the page, and the worst is that when you are trying to fix it, your book is out there available to the public – there is no in-between or prelude to the publishing button.  I was so worried that I could not get Moonlit Valley as spiffy as in the Amazon Kindle, that I became frustrated.  However, I hadn’t finish fixing my file when I already had three downloads for a sample of the novel – I guess a good thing.  How I dealt with this feeling?  It was easy.  I searched for the books of famous and best-selling authors, then looked at their file – they were having the same issues and troubles with how the novel looked.  Then,  I guessed that there was no way getting around that – Smashwords electronic books will never look as perfect as Amazon Kindle, but at least will offer readers who use the e-formats mentioned above the opportunity to find my books, and sample them.

I find that offering Moonlit Valley through Amazon in paperback and kindle format, as well as offering it through Smashwords in various e-formats covers pretty much everything (check the Novels tab in this blog).  So I am sticking with this way of doing things.  I advice that you  create profiles in Amazon USA, UK, France, EU, and that you do it in the main language (use goggle translator) as well as follow-up with an English description underneath (just in case).  Making use of the forums on Amazon/CS from time to time is a good idea as well. One thing I wish I could do is to manage all the Amazon stuff from one Hub, meaning the CS, Kindle, and Author Central – it would save much back and forth.

As far as social networking goes, I love Facebook because it offers so much, and although I don’t love twitter’s format that much, I am trying to get used to it.  To me, FB is more geared to follow-up in conversation, while Twitter feels like a bunch of birds chirping at the same time, with little or no interaction between them.  I will give it some time. One word of advice to new authors trying to get into social media, “it is not that easy to transfer all your people from your personal FB account into your Author Page – most of them will not click to join the new page, but they are more than happy to interact with you through your personal FB account.  So my advice is that if you are like me, who cannot bother with too many profiles and accounts (hence why I condensed two blogs into this one and this one will serve as my author blog as well), the best thing is to start your FB or Twitter accounts with your author name – it will be much easier in the long run.  I made that mistake, so now I share on both. I guess if you are using a pen name, then you have to keep multiples of everything, and to me that translates into nightmare.

For me, keeping it simple works best, despite all the advice out there saying that you  have to be in every format/platform available.  For me, doing that would be contra productive because I would end up tired, overwhelmed, and dreading the whole thing, and with no desire to write, which is the main purpose – writing novels.  For me this is what works:  Amazon +Kindle + Author Central + Smashwords + Facebook + Twitter + WordPress = A happy writer.

In the end, we want to be happy writers and enjoy the process.  Too much of anything gets in the way, that is how I feel.

MOONLIT VALLEY

MOONLIT VALLEY

I am adding this link as I think it is important news about the battle between Amazon and bookstores – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/drm-lawsuit-independent-bookstores-amazon_n_2727519.html

Book Pricing – A True Mystery

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de eBook Беларуская: Фотаздымак электроннай кнігі Русский: Фотография электронной книги (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book pricing has always baffled me, and with the introduction of eBooks, now more than ever.  To illustrate this, let me compare a novel, which undergoes a creative process that can last months or years, to a painting, or to a magnificent cake, both creations by artists, but creations that take less time to complete.  For example, many paintings start over $100 and reach the thousands in price – famous paintings, millions.  An elaborate cake can reach hundreds and thousands in price, and it is consumed in no time at all, and it ceases to exist.  The painting, an original will last many lifetimes, and most likely will appraise in value.  Considering these examples, and all the labor that goes into making a novel – whether the story is published as a hard copy or an eBook – why is it that we allow it to sell for 99 cents, offer it for free, or price it so low?

What makes a painting or a cake more valuable than your novel, your story?  I don’t know the answer to that question, but it may have something to do with supply and demand in some way, or the fact that people will collect original art, eat cake, and only pay big bucks for first editions of a famous author.  It is one of those things that do not make sense when you think about it from the creative process aspect.  This is why college textbooks sell for more money, hundreds.  It has to do with buyer’s purpose/need (and who knows, maybe buyer’s remorse as well).  Some novels have change the world, have touched lives, but once the cake has been eaten, and the painting hanged, the writer is left with royalties, and the satisfaction of touching (at least) the life of one reader (or more).

Still, it boils my blood to see a novel selling for 99 cents, when it may have taken many years in the creation process.  Here, the conventional rules of pricing do not apply.

What do you think about this issue?

2013 Reading Agenda

"Study drawing shows the allegorical figu...

“Study drawing shows the allegorical figure of Romance nude. She bends her head to read a book on her lap. Romance was one figure in a painting, The arts, in the north end lunette of the Southwest Gallery in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.” Graphite drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the weekend, I started thinking about some of the books that I wish to include in my 2013 reading agenda.  There are tons of books that I wish to read, however, I included the ones that I have waited to read for some time or that at one point, have awakened my curiosity.  If time allows it, I will be adding a few more to the list, as I go.  Here are the ones that made it to the list.

JanuaryGenerosity by Richard Powers (This one was suggested to me)

February The Lace Reader by Brumania Barry

MarchA Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

April The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

MayGreat Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

JuneSecrets of the Freemasons by Michael Bradley

JulyAleph by Paolo Coelho

AugustDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

SeptemberConfessions by St. Augustine

OctoberThe Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

NovemberThe Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

DecemberLetters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

As an extra on the list I added Twilight of the Gods by Adam Pffefer.

As you can see, this list has some old, some classics, some new, and as far as genres, it is all over the place.  I like to mix things up a bit.  There are tons of classics that I would love to read, and some that I want to read again, and there are many new authors whose works pick at my curiosity and make it to the beginning of the list. Titles capture my attention, reviews not so much, since everyone has their own guidelines for reviewing as well as taste in what speaks to them or not.  Usually, I don’t go by reviews when selecting a book.  One thing that does influence what I select is format.  For some reason, I do not enjoy reading an e-book format; I prefer to have the real tome in my hands.  It is just not the same experience, for me.  Anything else, I can read on the PC, as long as it is not too long, but books, I like to experience as a whole.

Do you enjoy one format more than the other?

Spotlight? No, thanks.

English: American author Stephenie Meyer at th...

English: American author Stephenie Meyer at the Twilight premiere. November 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What prompted this post was an old vampire movie that I was watching last night.  These days, when I think of vampires, Stephenie Meyer comes to mind, and Dracula of course.  Then, I thought of how her quiet life became a frenzy of writing one book after another, short deadlines, one movie after another, many interviews, galas, tons of huge book signings, all marketable Twilight paraphernalia … and so on.  The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with my inner self that I wouldn’t want to be in those shoes.  Why?  It seems so exhilarating and who doesn’t love the spotlight?

The answer is me, and I am sure that there are some writers who love their quiet lives and privacy, and would not like the type of success that brings all that frenzy with it.  I am not anti-social, I like it quiet, and I love my privacy.  I love to give when no one is looking – that is my overall style.  Where is Stephenie Meyer today?  Probably very busy with new projects and the current ones, as well as dealing with the comet’s tail left behind.  God bless her, as it takes a lot of energy and patience to handle that kind of spotlight.

When I visualize a writing career, I see writing, readers, a strong sincere commitment to the readers, and more writing, and more writing, and more writing.  Somehow, I wouldn’t want to include galas, craziness, and tons of attention into my writing dreams.  Given that what happened to Stephenie Meyer is not the usual way things develop, and at such speed, however, she is a good example of what I wouldn’t want to experience in my future as a writer (and of course, I also want to make a living at doing what I love – the bills have to be paid).

Have you visualized your writing career?  Are you published and experiencing it?  How do you visualize your spotlight?  At the flip of a switch or as a growing light with a dimmer?  Which style suits you better – smashing Boom success a la Meyer or rhythmic success a la Coelho?  Would you write for the love of it and for that one reader who has to read your book, or for fame?  Do you write because you love the craft or with a future dollar sign/spotlight on the back of your mind (meaning becoming famous).

The answer to these questions will help you figure out what you want from your writing career and your internal level of comfort.  Feel free to share your point of view.

Celebrate the Good Fortune and Success of thy Brother

Rainbow and Flowers

Rainbow and Flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t understand it when I happen to come across negative and plain disrespectful comments (not real reviews) about a new published book (or art work), whether from an old or new author.  What puzzles me is that many times, these comments don’t seem to help in any way the writer or artist who made the comment.  On the contrary, I think that this negativity hurts the writer/artist and paints an aura of insecurity or jealousy around the writer/artist.  This could end up hurting the artist who might end up loosing many readers/fans for these reasons,

  • They may already enjoy the works of the author/artist who’s being criticized.
  • They may not like to entertain any kind of negativity or bashing and are ready to cut off the source of it.
  • They believe that in this world, there is plenty for everybody and that celebrating the success of another does not take away from your own.
  • They may enjoy variety in the books they read or the artwork they love.
  • They believe that this world is made of all kinds and everyone has something to offer and contribute to it, even when they don’t necessarily like the piece.
  • They believe that if everyone acted in the same way and liked the same things and were mere copies of each other, this would be a very boring world.
  • They believe that a step towards belittling someone or someone’s work is a step backwards and does not help personal and professional development/growth.
  • They believe that there is a better way to say what they think without hurting the feelings of a fellow artist/writer.
  • They believe that acting in a negative and bashful way towards a fellow artist/writer might be interpreted as desperation, frustration, or jealousy.
  • They believe that by celebrating the success of others, they attract good karma and bounty to themselves.
  • They believe in these mantras – What comes around goes around.  You reap what you sow.   It is a small world.  Be kind to the people on your way up, because they are the same people you will meet on your way down.  The wheels are turning.  Keep the faith.  You never know who will open the next door for you, or who is ready to close it on your face.  When words are not better than silence, it is best to not pronounce them.  Live and let live.
  • They believe that they are a tiny spec on this world, but an important part of it.
  • They believe that times change and that “times” are subject to the people who live on “those times.”
  • They believe that their art/craft is not about them, but about the ones who will find it and benefit – even if only one person.
  • They believe in themselves, and that is enough to celebrate another.

Keep it clean, keep it positive, keep it happy!

The Elusiveness of Success

A carpenters' ruler with centimetre divisions

A carpenters’ ruler with centimetre divisions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At one point or another, we think about success, about how “successful” we are in our lives or endeavors.  The problem with measuring success is that we usually measure it against an ideal set up by society or against the success of others in our circle or people whom we admire and consider successful.  It is no surprise that most people would consider themselves unsuccessful and may feel a bit discouraged or sad about their stagnant lives or careers.  Little do we know that we are looking in the wrong direction and we are using the wrong measuring stick.

The question is, if we want to be successful (success is defined here as feeling realized and whole) why are we looking outwards when we should be looking inwards?  Why use the success of others as a measuring stick when we are our own “self” with unique dreams and goals, feelings about those dreams and goals, and a sense of where we want to be, whether clear or not at the moment.

Maybe it is that we are taught (since early age) to look at role models not so much in admiration but as imitation.  When we are asked the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” we are being asked, “who do you want to be like?”  If we happen to give the wrong answer, our parents or caretakers will offer a better suggestion – “why not becoming a – fill the blank – instead?”  And the quest for success starts.

I think that society needs role models, but not at the expense of creativity and individuality.  Role models fuel dreams, mentors inspire.  All that is good; however, it is sad that today we look to Hollywood to find role models, when we might have one in our backyards (and that is not to say that there aren’t any role models in Hollywood, because there are).  Without sounding preachy, let’s go back to the topic of success and why it may seem so elusive.

“Why don’t I feel successful?”  This is a good question to ask ourselves.  It focuses on the individual and his/her feelings, which is an inward point of view.  The minute we focus our answer outwards, there lies the problem (the culprit).  A possible answer could be – “Because I have not found an agent or a publisher yet” or “Because I don’t have much money” or “Because my art is not selling well enough” or “Because I am no Stephenie Meyer or Bill Gates” and it could go on and on …  These are examples of answers that point outwards and offer the wrong measuring stick.  The feelings of inadequacy that you might be experiencing may not be yours at all but rooted into the illusion of becoming like someone else, and that in itself is denying your own individuality (in a sense).  And this is why success is so elusive for most of us – because looking inwards is not that easy, and it is not what we were taught as we grew up.

So today, look inwards, take account of all your efforts, and see how far you have come, and celebrate that.  It is the first step to feeling successful and capturing the elusive butterfly.  Greatness comes from within and it becomes when it is directed to the service of others.