Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Property Value & Steath Back Biting

Last night I did a blogtalk radio interview with author and radio host, Red Snapper. There were four of us speaking about a myriad of topics, authors: K'wan, Thomas Long, D.K. Walker and myself.

I spent the majority of the time listening more than speaking and that gave me the opportunity to take in other perspectives and learn a thing or two. Now that everything is quiet, I would like to add a few more pennies to the wishing fountain, and delve a bit deeper with my own perspective regarding a couple of the topics that were broached during the discussion. One was over-saturation of the market due to self-publishing and some individuals putting out work that is not quality/their best simply to make an easy buck, this 'I'm a Superstar' mentality and the other was in regards to reviews.

Now, I want to preface this by saying that these are my views, and my views alone and like all opinions of the open-minded, they are subject to change. However, right now, at 4:51 am on July 23rd, 2013, this is how I feel.

Alright. Now, in regards to over-saturation, some say this is a myth or an excuse which is bull. It is NOT a myth. Wherever someone can get 'their hustle' on, they will. In this day of self-publishing, there are pros and cons. Talented individuals no longer have to beg, plead and gravel at the heels of publishing houses to take their large royalties and pimp them out. This is not to say that all publishing houses are madams or pimps and use their authors like toilet paper but it is to say that there was a day in age that one was so eager to get published, that they accepted unfair terms, royalty cuts, etc. simply to get their work out there. Now, that is no longer necessary. People that would have never had their amazing work see the light of day, now have built fan bases and have eager readers to get ahold of their latest releases. This is a beautiful thing but as in all doors that are open, not only do people enter, but so do uninvited vermin. You can't leave a front door of a home open and not expect flies, mosquitoes, ants and the like to enter as well, and that is what has essentially happened. People who don't give one iota about writing quality work, are throwing together some mess, slapping a 99 cent sticker on it and calling themselves 'The Greatest' and Bestsellers. 

This has a domino effect that is unfair to those of us who are serious about our craft, didn't wake up one morning and say out of the blue, "I'm going to write something and sell it." There are those of us, self published and with publishing houses, who have worked hard at this. We spend literally hours a day, researching, writing and thinking out angles regarding our work. We've been at this for years, way before anyone had ever heard of us. A true writer is ALWAYS on the clock. Even our dreams, at least for me, bring us ideas so I work in my sleep, too! Due to this over-saturation, readers are buying work that is just a ploy to take their money. I want to clarify one thing here. You can hate, detest, abhor a book/novella/novelette to pieces, but if it is well written, it is still considered quality in my mind so I'm not speaking of content all by it's lonesome, here. I am speaking of something that features no consideration of plot, no consideration of development of characters, no consideration of flow and no consideration of research/subject matter.

Not liking something, is still different than it being 'garbage.' At the end of the day, our name is our brand and not everything we write, if you are true to writing from your heart, will be a 'banger' to everyone who gets their hands on it. However for me, I don't have difficulty seeing rather a writer can actually handle their craft properly, or if they are just someone who saw an easy way to make some money and jumped in. And by the way, it's not easy...it is hard as hell but for some of those on the outside looking in, they believe they can whip something together and become the next Stephen King. 

This has brought the book property value down and some readers as well as some authors now, have caused others of us 'living in this neighborhood' to bow down to the pressure. Over here, you've got someone selling their novel for 99 cents. Now, that is their prerogative. They could be running a special, it could be marketing, which is totally understandable or trying to get their name out there, which is also a tactical move, and I totally get that. What happens however when so many people do that for everything they put out, is that readers and buyers in general, then wonder, "Well why isn't so and so 99 cents? or $1.99, or free?" You will have some people saying they won't spend more than 3 bucks on books for a kindle/nook book, but they'll spend $5-$7 for some disgusting fast food meal that has been sitting around all day, and not complain about it. They'll spend double that and more, for all sorts of nonsense. They'll wolf it down, never see it again, but want to complain about a book costing the same and it happens to be something they can re-read and enjoy over and over again and actually may be quite entertaining and educational. We as authors have to raise the bar and stop selling ourselves short. The bulk of my day has some element of writing involved and considering that for me personally, on average, it takes me between 3-6 months to write a book, and most of my work are full-length novels, I think I have earned what is charged because I don't put out inferior work. I owe myself and my readers only things I can be proud of and I grow and learn with each release. Someone may hate my book(s), and that is fine, but they won't be able to say that it was sloppy or some mess I just threw together overnight, because the time I put in, regardless of their opinion on the work, will show.

Those of us that have a trained eye, as readers and authors, more times than not, know quality when we read it, and we can tell when someone just sat down and piece-mealed something together over the course of a day or two. The work reads completely differently.  If I live in a neighborhood and my neighbors have decided to sell their homes for $500.00, they stop caring for their lawns, allow trash to accumulate and sell meth and cocaine out of their dwellings, what is that going to do to the property value of my own home? It will plummet. What one person is doing in this market, has a domino effect, as I said earlier. This is unacceptable, but this is what happens.  I've touched on pricing on Facebook as well as here, but wanted to give more perspective because I hear the complaints, but I don't think the people complaining truly understand what it entails to write a book and all the steps thereafter, to get it out into the mainstream. If they truly did, they'd understand that their assumptions are in error.

Alrighty then...moving along. Let's look at this 'Superstar' mentality. Acclaimed author K'wan (King of Urban Fiction/Street Lit) mentioned this ideology of some writers talking about they are superstars, etc. and I could not agree more. Writers, as a profession, used to be humble. We created, released, and went on our way. Now you've got people that are out here basically 'Georgiaing' readers (hustling/pimping/pulling a fast one) into this notion of they are the 'greatest'. They are on some Muhammad Ali ish, and it is embarrassing and ridiculous.  "Get on my team", "My pen is deadly", "My books are AK-47s - deadly", "I spit mad fire on pages." Okay, it is great to be confidant in your work. You need to be, actually, or you won't make it because for every one person that is uplifting you, five more are trying to pull you down but this is outrageous. 

I've seen it myself in others and it is a real turn off and more importantly, and ironically, however you wish to view it, some of the people doing this aren't worth their weight in Quill feathers. The writers who truly are 'the greatest' are often the ones you don't hear a peep out of. They are too busy honing their craft, to be online patting their own back 24-7. Now yes, occasionally you do meet someone with a big mouth and loud persona, who really can rock the laptop. That's fine, but more times than not, that is not the case. Not everyone is Ali in this! You turn off seasoned readers, potential new readers, fellow authors and networking opportunities when you do this so for anyone trying to get into this business, please, whatever you do, have faith in yourself, but don't go overboard and start smelling yourself. It's not a good look.

Now, let's quickly look at stealth back biting which was also brought up during the radio show. Stealth back biting is actually what I have coined/termed when another writer and/or writer friends, purposefully seek to harm another author online rather it is low reviews, untrue commentary or bullying. As stated a million times, I don't read my reviews and the rare time I see one or two, it is due to me having to go online for another matter and amazon will suggest my own book to me occasionally, as I shop for something else, lol. Again, this is just me, and we as writers have to find what works best for us individually, but reviews are not something I'm interested in reading. If a reader wants me to know/see their review, they know how to contact me. If  something is wrong with a kindle upload etc., please notify me, other than that. I steer clear. The reviews are for other readers and due to the silly, immature games played and the politics behind them, I stay away from it. I am no longer interested in trying to correct someone who has given false information, or interact with anyone in that arena. People are going to say what they are going to say, and that's that. Now as far as me as an author leaving reviews for other authors, you better believe that if I don't have a positive review to leave, I don't leave one at all because I personally consider that a conflict of interest. 

If a book is having major problems, readers will make sure others know and I don't need to join the boxing match. You don't see teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc. 'going in' on each other online and public often and do you know why? Because it's unprofessional. I rarely read anything in my own genre now because I don't have a lot of time and I don't want anyone elses' 'style' running through my head but I do read a lot, and if I'm taking a break and do read in my genre or another and I enjoyed the book, I mayleave a review. I seldom leave reviews however. It's just not my thing. I only leave honest reviews when I do, however, so if I didn't like something, I'm not saying anything unless the author messages me and asks me how I liked it and even then, I will be truthful but communicate with them in a respectful manner. I don't believe in slamming people nor BSing people. I know how hard it is to write a book, get it ready and out there for public consumption and since I understand this process, the last thing I want to do, is tear another human being a part who is just trying to do what they love. That's not me, I don't want the karmic repercussions, I'm not in any of these little author 'mean chic' cliques, and I don't get down like that. It's not cute. It's not classy. From my observations, it appears to happen (the attacks) more so in the romance genre than any other but in fairness, romance is the 'biggest' genre, so that makes sense. I am hoping for the day when we get back to how writers used to be, before 'internet thugging' made people brazen. When you do things like that, you are actually showing others that you aren't confident enough in your own work, because you have to bring someone else down to your level of self-defeat. Nothing positive comes from that.

In closing, please remember that when you price yourself, you are telling people how much not only your book is worth, but your brand, your talent and the industry. You set up an expectation. If you busted your behind, then don't keep your book at a dollar for an eternity if you know darn well it is worth more than that. Most of us have lost sleep, been up late writing, taking time away from things we may have really needed to do, all in an effort to bring our readers and ourselves, something we can disappear inside and possibly learn from. Besides my family and God, my writing is one of the most important things in my life. I have to write. It's not an option, it's a necessity.

Be blessed and carry on.