Tag Archives: ebooks

Prices rise and fall….

Next month I’m experimenting with price points by raising the cost of all my e-books. Except one.

It’ll be the fifth anniversary of our emigration on March 9th, so I thought I would drop the price of “The Great Canadian Adventure” for the whole month. It’s the true-life account of our first year, from the week before we flew out to the purchase of our house. I’ve tried to include helpful links and also added in material from my wife’s viewpoint to balance my own writing.

It’s currently available for $4.99 at Amazon, but will be down to just $1.99 from the 1st March.

Find it in the US HERE

in the UK HERE

and in Canada HERE

And if you’ve already got it, don’t forget to leave a review to warn… I mean, encourage other readers.

Celebrating failure

Don't get overwhelmed by the goals you set yourself....

Don’t get overwhelmed by the goals you set yourself….

My favourite Douglas Adams quote of all time refers to deadlines:

“I love deadlines, particularly the whooshing noise they make as they go by…”

For the #RomanceChallenge that I picked to kick off this year, I gave myself a tough deadline – I was going to write a 35,000 word novella between the end of January and Feb 14th (Since publishing a romance e-book on Valentine’s Day seemed like a good marketing move…)

I’d like to say my unexpected bout of Lassa Fever (or Bubonic Plague, Black Death or whatever…Clearly it wasn’t just FLU, that would be pathetic…) was the reason that the work is stalled at 10,000 words. Certainly it didn’t help to lose a fortnight, but since then, I’ve really had plenty of time to bang out the required wordage. I mean, I read Rachel Aaron’s excellent book on increasing your word count per day, and by that token I should be done and edited and published already.

I didn’t make enough progress to be done by the deadline, especially since there are many other domestic tasks to get done by the weekend, not least being Tiny Weasel’s birthday preparations. Now I have a choice. I can flip tables in frustration and announce that the project was a failure. Or, I can just keep plugging away, and put out the book when it’s ready.

Some years ago, I complained to Mrs Dim that I have a completion neurosis. I start many, many odd projects in the course of any given year, but most of them will languish half-complete for a long, long time. It’s not that they don’t get finished, it’s that they don’t get finished in order, or within the original timeframe.

My Mandalorian armour, made for Fan Expo 2012. Yet to appear at Fan Expo...

My Mandalorian armour, made for Fan Expo 2012. Yet to appear at Fan Expo…

As I’ve got older (not necessarily grown up, you understand) I have become more organised. I have seen the value in pursuing a task until it is complete. I have less guilt over leaving sillier projects to languish while I finish the worthwhile things.

So I’ll be annoyed with myself for not hitting the target I painted for myself, but I’ll be glad that Tiny Weasel doesn’t have to take a backseat to my writing progress. I’ll be glad the house gets hoovered and there’s food to eat, because there’s ALSO the odd e-book now and then, published when I’ve finished, and that’s fine.

As I sat down to compose this, WordPress told me Kristen Lamb had just written a blog post in a very similar vein (Though she doesn’t have Mandalorian armour. As far as I know…)

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/setbacks-success-excuses-oh-my-the-truth-about-publishing-myths-about-muses/

The point is that your goals are things to aspire to, not things to bring you more misery. Strive to be better, to achieve more, and be content with what you do achieve.

Correlation does not imply causation

That’s my caveat for today, the last day of my free giveaway of “Troubled Souls”. I’m keeping it in mind because I’ve had FOUR sales this month (and this month is less than 10 days old) when I usually get around two or three at most. Four sales, with three being the follow-up book to “Troubled Souls”.

Available at the Kindle Store

Available at the Kindle Store

This is the first time I’ve seen any connection between a giveaway and sales, but this is also the first time I’ve given away a book with a direct link to a connected book. Previously, “Troubled Souls” mentioned that “Eddie and the Kingdom” was coming, but there was no link. Now “Eddie” is finished, published and the link is in “Troubled Souls”. And at least one person has chosen to buy another of my books.

At just over forty downloads in total (worldwide), this has been my most successful giveaway, and the one I worked hardest on. The usefulness of the giveaway gets debated a lot, but I think we can assume causation here. With a direct link between the book being given away free and the book that follows it, I have generated some sales from the free offer.

This should be good news for people writing series books – trail the next book at the end of your previous book, and include a link, and free giveaways of book one should lead to some sales of book two. Make it easy for your customer to spend their money – they get to the end of the first story, read a teaser for the second and the link to purchase is right there….Click!

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a magic bullet – something that everyone can do that will guarantee sales or success. Anyone who tells you that is likely trying to sell you their book “How to sell your e-book”. But in this case, I think there is a connection between the giveaway and the sales, and if I were a better marketer, both the number of downloads and the number of sales might be higher.

That doesn’t mean the number of sales of unconnected books of mine would be higher, though. At least one person has said they liked my short stories but weren’t interested in zombies. My butterfly attention span when it comes to genre is certainly working against me there. But if you find your niche and love living in it, you could use this tactic to add sales from giving away your older books.

Is it time to stop e-publishing?

Today looked a lot like Tuesday. There are school trips to volunteer for, evening meals to be planned before Karate, the washing has to go on…Tuesday stuff.

Just because it looks professionally printed, doesn't mean it makes sense...

Just because it looks professionally printed, doesn’t mean it makes sense…

But then I got to the computer and a friend had posted a link to Chuck Wendig’s latest post. Here it is:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/03/slushy-glut-slog-why-the-self-publishing-shit-volcano-is-a-problem/

Apologies for the profanity – it’s his, not mine, and it’s just the way he is, bless him.

I like Chuck’s posts, and I like his books. He writes in a way that sounds like a snarl, like the words come pouring out at speed, but I’ll bet he revises and works really hard on every sentence. In fact, since my e-copy of one of his books was published with some editing notes left in, I KNOW he does that.

Anyway, I like to read his books and his blog, and I usually find myself in agreement with what he says. In the case of e-publishing, what he tends to say is “There’s no problem with it, but since there are no Publishing House Editors, or agents involved, YOU have to be the guardian of the quality of your work.” There’s literally nothing stopping you typing a stream of consciousness novel and uploading it with a crayon drawing for a book cover.

In his latest article, Chuck argues that the very freedom that e-publishing has brought has clogged the virtual bookshelves. Finding decent books amongst the dross has become harder and harder, and many people are taking price points, or even the self-publishing aspect itself, a indicators of quality. You can see the logic – “I downloaded five $0.99 books, and all of them were terrible. I won’t bother with books that are sold so cheaply.” Or “Every self-pubbed book I’ve read has been riddled with mistakes. I’ll stick with traditional publishers from now on.”

The very first e-book I bought was “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister”, by Gregory Maguire. It was for my Hewlett Packard iPaq, and it had some beautiful illustrations, as well as the text. That was a book that had recently come out through a traditional publisher. I later bought “The Hunger Games” and “Save the Cat!”. These books looked, on my e-reader/phone, just like they did in the stores.

Then I bought a book that was self published. The author had set up a small press, but was writing their own books as well as advising and publishing others. (No gender indication or clues here.) The book wasn’t good. The cover was pretty enough, looking more professional than amateur, but the story was unlikely. Within the first two chapters I was openly scornful of what I was being asked to accept, and I had already found upwards of ten spelling or grammatical mistakes. Although I had downloaded the book on a free offer, it was going on to charge around $7 per copy, and this was only the latest in  a series of books by this author. This book had been written by someone with experience, edited and proofread, and yet it was still a very bad book.

Perhaps the problem is identifying the difference between a bad book and books we don’t like. “On the Road” is held up as a classic novel. My Father-in-Law has two copies. I read it years ago and despised it. I found the characters unlikeable, their journey pointless and the whole book depressing. Does that make it a bad book? I don’t think so. I won’t read it again, but I know that other people reading it have found it to be marvelous and inspiring and so on. No one reads it and says “I hated all the spelling mistakes, and the main character’s name changes spelling three times through the book.” As a novel, it’s done properly, despite the author writing the whole thing on one continuous roll of paper. It’s been properly edited and proofread and packaged. It’s a good book, and I just don’t like it.

Compare that with other books I’ve read, where the story might have appealed, if it weren’t for the constant errors and formatting disasters that drag me out of the story and make me grind my teeth. It’s a bad book.

All these are things I thought of while reading Chuck’s blog today, and it made me think about the eight or nine e-books I have on Amazon. I’m giving one away currently, and it’s not setting the world aflame. The last few days I’ve been wondering if there was any way to get more people to download it, to review it, to tell their friends about it. And now, I’m considering removing it, along with all the others.

I like the books I’ve written. The collections of short stories were fun to produce, and writing longer things was a novel experience (heh heh heh!) But as I mentioned before, it’s been two years since I began putting my work up on Amazon, and in that two years, though some books have sold, I’ve not earned anything from them. And in addition to not earning, I’m adding to the heap of books people have to wade through to find what IS worth reading.

I wonder if it’s time to admit to myself that writing prose is only ever going to be a hobby, and if that’s the case, is it something I need to share with the world? My plays have a publisher and moderate success – they have a purpose, in that they are sold and performed all around the world, every month. I get an income from those sales, and people out there get plays to act in. But these e-books go out into the world and I worry that they don’t sell, even though I’ve told myself there’s nothing riding on those sales, that I’m just publishing for the fun of it. Well, that doesn’t feel like a worthwhile reason any more.

All this has more weight right now because I have few commitments this week – no library shifts until Saturday, just the one school trip to volunteer for today, and the laundry already more than half-done. I have the Romance Challenge novel standing at 7,500 words, and four days of writing might see most of a first draft completed. That would leave a week of half-days to finish and revise and publish before my self-imposed deadline of Feb 14th.

And then? Do I watch the stats for another e-book, telling myself it doesn’t matter if it sells, but wishing it would? Wouldn’t my time this week and next be better spent working on sketches and pays for TLC and planning Tiniest Weasel’s birthday, and something for Mrs Dim for Valentine’s Day?

It’s not that I’m thinking about stopping being a writer. That’s something I’ve thought about before and rejected, because I couldn’t stop being a writer. But maybe I can do without the extra worry of publishing e-books. If I’m finding my head full of short stories, I can write them down, but there’s no need to take them further, and if I do, there are always competitions out there, if you look hard enough.

Answers in the comments please – vote “Give it up!” or “Stick it out!” . Remember, the e-books were never meant to turn me into the next JK Rowling or Hugh Howey, so it shouldn’t be about financial success.

Got it Covered?

Book by its coverIt’s an unfair saying : “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It comes from an age when books didn’t have the beautiful and carefully considered jacket illustrations they have today. A book might have a plain red board cover, and if it were a particularly loved book, that cover might be creased, and stained and look more than a little unattractive. But it was that way because it was a GOOD book, because it had been read so much that the cover was in disrepair. It wasn’t right to judge that book by the state of the cover.

We’ve taken the aphorism and applied it to people – just because someone is handsome, it doesn’t mean they’re nice. Like all aphorisms, it has a counter: we’ll cheerfully tell friends going for interviews that “first impressions are important”, as if the interview panel will never have heard of judging a book by its cover.

But when it comes to publishing, the cover is much more important than it used to be. Now the proliferation of books means that more than ever an author needs a great cover to catch the eye of the reader. If you’re an e-publisher, you have only a thumbnail photo to draw the purchaser in to read the blurb and commit to a sale.

One of my better home-made cover illustrations

One of my better home-made cover illustrations

The chief temptation with e-publishing is to do EVERYTHING yourself. The writing, of course, you HAVE to do. The editing and proofreading…Well, to be honest, you SHOULD send that out. You can easily miss the same error in multiple readings because you know what it should say, and you can miss the plot holes because you’re the one who thought up the story so you already know who did it and why…. By the time you’re done with all that, the temptation to just pull up a photo and slap the title and your name onto it so you can publish is almost overwhelming.

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

Here’s the terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

Visit Eduardo’s website at www.eduardosartspace.com/

But it’s a lot harder than it looks. If you trawl the “free” section of Amazon’s Kindle store, you’ll be able to spot a large percentage of the books where the authors have produced their own covers. The funny thing is, it’s hard to say how you can tell, what it is that makes them look amateurish compared to the professionally-produced covers.

For my next book “Eddie and the Kingdom”, I had a definite idea of the cover. There’s a scene where one character is running up a street. Behind her, the whole street is filled, side to side, with a horde of zombies. I wanted the street and the horde to be in black and white, and the running woman in colour. Except I didn’t have a handy cast of extras in zombie make up, nor the ability to shut the streets of Vancouver. None of the women I knew wanted to run barefoot towards a camera either (because it’s December, that’s why….)

I tried stitching together the picture I wanted from numerous sources, but couldn’t do it well enough with photos I was allowed to use – It’s important that you hold the copyright to the pictures, or buy a license for them. Then I got in touch with Eric Hubbel through Google+ and engaged his services as a cover designer. He talked through what I wanted and agreed the cover as I imagined it would be tricky to pull off. He asked me if I had any other ideas. That’s when I remembered that what I had originally wanted was a view through a wire fence of a sign saying “Welcome to the Kingdom”…Perhaps with a zombie’s hand reaching towards the fence! This idea had been the first cover option, but I had abandoned it because I couldn’t do it. Eric returned the first version that evening and it was perfect:

Available at the Kindle Store from Monday!

Available at the Kindle Store from Monday!

Using a professional’s services is hard for the average e-publisher, because most are doing things on a tight budget. It’s not, despite what you read in the media, a great way to make money, so spending a couple of hundred dollars on proofreading, editing and getting a cover could be all your returns for the first year or more. But the higher-quality your book is in ALL aspects – content, format, grammar, spelling, plot and cover – the better your chances of making a sale and then repeat sales.

“Eddie and the Kingdom” is available through   

Amazon.com , Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk

If you’d like a chance to read a sample of the story, the first two chapters can be found at the end of  “Troubled Souls”, my short story collection, also available at Amazon.com , Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk

A friend and fellow publisher on Google+ also recommended the services of Harvey Bunda , who does some truly extraordinary and beautiful artwork.

On behalf of a friend : Buy a book and make a difference.

I spend a lot of time on Google +, the social network. Through it I have met many other writers, artists, performers, parents, students, poets… Many have become genuine friends, and from time to time I see appeals for help. Someone has unexpected medical bills, or a family member in need of help. But Brad Poynter’s story was a little different, because he wasn’t asking people to send money. He wanted to give something in exchange, so he’s cut the price on his e-book and asked people just to buy that.
Please, read his story below. I know there will be some people out there who say “I had some hard times, where were all the people to help me?” Well, right here and now, those people are YOU. You have the choice to buy a book, or not. I’ll be reviewing Brad’s book on this site shortly, and I’m sure he won’t mind if you want to wait and hear what it’s all about before you click the button on Amazon.
Here’s what Brad posted:
“Brad Poynter originally shared:

My family needs your help.

One of my daughters is struggling with life and was planning to kill herself. Thankfully she talked to her mentor at school first and now that we are aware of her hidden struggles, we are doing everything we can to help her through this.

She is in the best facility in Arkansas for troubled teens and they are getting her on some meds along with the counseling of their great therapists. We will do whatever it takes to get her the help she needs.

First, I would ask that you send prayers, good vibrations, mojo, or whatever other positive energy you prefer her way. Science be damned today; she needs whatever advantage she can get to get through this. It would be greatly appreciated.

Secondly, this is going to be expensive even if we get approved for the state assistance for children. We are at that income level on the borderline and I’ve been told not to get my hopes up. A 20% copay is still going to be a lot in relation to our incomes even if we do get their help.

That being said, I’m not asking for donations. I would prefer to give you something in return for your help and not be one of the freeloading poor people that politicians get so worked up about. Our family has worked hard and gotten off of all government assistance two years ago, but like I said I’ll do whatever it takes to get her help. That includes selling my dream car or taking advantage of the programs my taxes help pay for.

If you would like to help, I ask that you buy my book so you get something in return for your generosity. You can see what it’s about at the links below and if it sounds good, purchase it there as well. So far, the people that have read it seem to really enjoy the story.

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ANORCHW
Print: https://www.createspace.com/4030391

If you don’t read or want to buy it as a gift for someone who does, tag me in a private message and I can give you my paypal details. I would really prefer to earn it, but once again; I will do whatever it takes to get her the help she needs.

If you’re not in a position to help financially, you can share this plea with your internet friends or if you’ve already read the book and haven’t reviewed it you could do so to let these other kind folks know what they’re getting into.

As you can imagine, this is all very hard for me to come to terms with but it’s not about me. It’s about a tender soul who is struggling to come to terms with the sometimes harsh and ugly world around her. I would do anything to make it better. Even standing on the virtual street corners of the internet busking my book like it’s snake oil is fair game.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for any support you can offer.”

Self-pubbing : Is it a Catch 22?

Though there’s no guaranteed way to self-published success, a lot of writers will agree on some “best practice” ideas that will improve your chances. The Holy Trilogy are these:

  • Pay for a professional Editor to make sure your story and copy are spot on.
  • Pay for someone to get the formatting right for whatever method of publication you’re using
  • Pay for a professional to design your cover artwork.

They may not be in order – the cover art is what is likely to snare your passing trade, after all. A decent front cover makes your book look professional and worth buying. Once you’re over the threshold, it’ll really help the reader get into your book if the inside is as well laid-out as the outside, with no irritating typos, bizarre paragraph breaks or plot holes you could lose a badger in.

We can all see the worth of these three choices. But what if they’re beyond your reach?

Certainly, a lot of people are finally able to tell the story they’ve been thinking about for years, and publish it through the magic of the internet. No more submission letters to agents and publishers, hoping to catch a break. Just write it, upload it and wait for the money. Except, without the money to start with, you don’t get your Editor, Formatter and Cover Artist, so the odds of your book selling in decent numbers are small. Maybe you could hire them once your book has sold a few hundred copies, but…Oh. It won’t sell without the hiring and I can’t hire without the….Right.

I posted this question on some writer communities on G+ and received some great responses. Many of the writers there had used contacts they had made through social media – getting friends to Beta Read, rather than using editorial services, or they had traded their own artistic or graphic design skills to get editing in exchange for cover art. Some simply shopped around, getting good deals on editing work from new editors looking to make their names.

My favourite response was from Buzz Malone of the writing group “Literary Agents Hate Kittens”. He said:

“The good news about self publishing is that you can learn from your mistakes and fix them. I would encourage every writer to dive in and start making the mistakes as soon as possible. It really is the best way to learn.

HOWEVER, I would also encourage every writer to think and long and hard before ever spending a penny on almost anything. Why not try it yourself first? You may discover that you needn’t ever hire a cover artist because you like the pictures your fiance takes. Or, it may be a good venue toward showing an artist friend’s work.

As far as making the whole chicken and egg thing of hiring people to do stuff using the money you’re going to make from your writing, etc., forget about it. We all have golden dreams of becoming overnight sensations and making it rich somewhere deep inside. But the fact is that 99.99999% of us will never get rich writing. 99.99% of us will never make a living at it. 90% of us will never sell enough to recover our time. If you’re writing books or novels as a way of getting rich… let me save you a lot of time and money and heartache. Stop….now. Buy a lottery ticket. Your odds of winning are way better.

If not, you write and starve and go in debt, and then, you make the mistakes. And then, finally, you get a job and hire an editor to fix the mistakes that you cannot fix for yourself. But even then you do it with the realization that the investment is into making your art the best it can be, and not with the idea that somehow, someday, your “investment” is going to pay off in cash. That’s not why we write. “

This is the real truth, I think. Always strive to make your work the best it can be. If that means you re-read it a dozen times yourself, and hand-draw the cover art, then so be it. As long as you are committed to producing the best work you are capable of, then be proud of it. If that means you hire people to work on it because you have the available cash, that’s fine. If you do it all yourself, then that’s fine too.

The work and words of Buzz Malone can be found here: http://buzzmalone.blogspot.ca/

 

The August Sale!

 

sale picture

It’s August. The month that includes my birthday. If things were otherwise, this might be a significant year, like turning 40 or 42. Sadly, it’s just boring old 41 so I’ve decided to spice things up by reducing prices on my most popular e-books for THE WHOLE MONTH OF AUGUST! I was going to reduce them by 41% which would have been both clever and significant, but it was too much math. Instead I took the short story collections down to 99 Cents and the non-fiction smash success “The Great Canadian Adventure” from $6.99 down to $2.99. (All other prices are calculated from those base prices.)

But don’t just take my word for it – check out the links below to go straight to your nearest Amazon Website and see for yourself!

The Great Canadian Adventure: Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.ca

The true-life story of how my family and I emigrated to Canada, and how we got on in the first year of our new life. With Pictures!

Troubled Souls:                                  Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.ca

Three stories from the male perspective, with three men in different, but desperate circumstances. Also the opening of my upcoming Zombie novel.

Science Fiction Shorts:                  Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.ca

Four stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Coffee Time Tales:                            Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.ca

Five short stories, originally written for women’s coffee-break fiction magazines. These are not grim and gritty stories of the real world, nor are they faerie, werewolf or sparkly vampire-filled stories of a underworld, netherworld, netherparts or underwear. They are gentle, uplifting and feature female protagonists and romantic storylines.

Like all writers, a sale of a book is the best birthday present I could get. And if you’ve already bought one of my books, why not consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads? Honesty is encouraged, because when you review it’s YOUR reputation on the line as much as mine – you want your friends to trust your judgement, don’t you?

To all other August birthday folks (like fellow author but sadly dead person Mary Shelley) have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

 

Publishing House – growing new authors

The standard cover - minus author details...

The standard cover – minus author details…

Kids have always written stories in school. Whether it’s part of your English class, or to help you learn a language, or even just as a way to get to grips with forming words, kids write stories.

In the school my weasels attend, they’ve taken the story-writing a step further. As part of the Publishing House program, parent volunteers help the kids develop new stories, getting them to think about character, location, description and plot. The kids write up the stories, fill out a basic “Meet the Author” page and choose an outline for the illustration frames.

Then the stories, along with the author information and frame choice, are passed along to other volunteers (one of whom is me) and they put the whole thing through a desktop publishing program, printing out the story under the picture frames booklet style, with a front cover bearing the title and author name, and the “Meet The Author” details at the back. Every book shares the same simple cover – title, author name. The writers then receive their published booklet and put in their own hand-drawn illustrations. Then the cover of the book is laminated and the whole thing assembled permanently.

The next part is the best – all the published books go into the school library. When the kids go to choose books from the library, they can choose to read books written by their friends or they can choose their own books. They can see the books they wrote on the shelves, just like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Nancy Drew, The Hungry Caterpillar…

I think it’s a brilliant program, especially now that publishing ebooks has become so easy. Children are learning that it doesn’t take much to put your words into print, and seeing those printed words gives you a very good idea of what it means to write a book. You see your story and say “Yes, it’s fun, but it’s not very long… Maybe I need more description here? Did I start telling the story in the right place? I know what this bit means, because I wrote it, but someone else might find it confusing…”

I hope the kids who try Publishing House find a useful mix of pride and disappointment – pride that these are their words on the bookshelves, and a little disappointment because it doesn’t quite look like they wanted it to. That little disappointment is what will push them on to write more, to work at their craft until they are writing the kinds of stories that reach out from the page and steal hours from your day.

Amazon’s e-publishing program is doing much the same for adult writers, but I think too few of them get to see their work from the outside – they don’t go into the library and pick their own book off the shelf. I make it a practice to download a copy of each book I publish, and I see what they look like from the outside. Often I see little things that I should do differently next time. Formatting issues, typos, cover design… These little touches matter as much as good story. And while I work on my own tales for the next publication, I’ll continue publishing the words of the next generation of authors.

Did you ever publish your own book as a child? My brother once wrote a great story called “Mark and Markos” about a boy and his robot, which he wrote and illustrated. Dad liked it so much he made copies on the old Roneo duplicator (a thing that did what photocopiers do now, but it took longer and was much, much messier. Plus you got to turn a handle round and round until it had printed enough copies….)

Question an author – Joy Daniels

Meet Joy Daniels

Meet Joy Daniels

I met a great group of writers on Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone” blog-boosting course. As a group we come and go, but have an email connection that we all use from time to time. When Joy Daniels had her latest two projects coming to fruition, she lets us know about them, and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind answering a couple of questions for me. She was kind enough to agree, and I asked about her contribution to “Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey” and her own new book “Revving her up“.

What’s the idea behind “Fifty Writers on Fifty shades of Grey”? And how did you get to be involved?

“Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades” explores the novels and pop culture phenomenon of E. L. James’ trilogy from, not surprisingly, fifty difference angles. It includes authors, a psychologist, a publisher, a matrimonial lawyer, BDSM practitioners, and a sex educator, as well as two fictional parodies. As Publisher’s Weekly said in their (stared) review: “Love Fifty Shades or hate it, this engaging eclectic read has something for everyone.”

Lori Perkins, the editor of “Fifty Writers” and the head of the literary agency that represents me (L. Perkins Agency), invited me to write an essay on the sexual arc of the first novel after I subjected her my theory of the role of sex scenes in erotic romance. (No, they’re not just there for titillation, although that is one of their functions).

Why do you think the original trilogy made such an impact, despite the legions of bad reviews and negative opinions online?

Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction. Since Meyer’s books are among the most popular in history (amazingly enough) James’ take-off started out with a built-in audience. After the first million or so readers, are the rest really so hard to get? Seriously, once it became the “must-read” book, women bought it just to find out what the hell everyone else was going on about.

I enjoyed “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No, it’s not brilliantly written and the heroine is whiny and annoying, but the sex scenes are incredibly hot! Just as no one buys Playboy for the articles (yes, there are articles), no one cares whether E. L. James used proper grammar when describing the Red Room of Pain.

Some folks have criticized the books because of the relationship between Ana and Christian, saying that it’s sexist and demeaning to women. Feminism means honoring women’s sexual desires and choices, whether we’re comfortable with them or not. Besides, is it all that surprising that in our patriarchal world, so many women have patriarchal fantasies? As for how it will “affect” women, that’s just a lot of paternalistic BS. I don’t recall legions of op-eds predicting that kids would start leaping off buildings with brooms between their legs after reading Harry Potter – perhaps we can credit adult women with a comparable ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy?

As for the bad reviews: from what I’ve heard, Meyers’ books aren’t that great (haven’t read them myself) but that didn’t stop her from becoming insanely popular either. Clearly, the average reader couldn’t care less about what literary critics think – she’s going to read what she likes.

Is the success of Fifty Shades something that can be emulated by other writers?

Not quite at the same level – we haven’t seen another mid-grade success like Harry Potter – but many erotica authors are benefitting from James’ success, so bless her!

By eliminating Point of Sale shame, e-publishing has caused an explosion of erotica, or so it seems. Do you think other genres are catching up, or is my assumption the result of biased reporting?

Romance has always been the #1 bestselling genre, and it was the only one with sales that grew during the recession. Happy endings and all that. Romance readers are voracious, buying fifty or more books a year. And that was when they had to endure disparaging looks at the bookstore and on the metro. Now that e-readers have eliminated that “shame”, as you put it, and it’s become so incredibly easy to buy books from your Kindle or Nook, those numbers are only going to climb. Can I get a “Hallelujah”?

Many people think that, by removing the Gatekeepers of traditional publishing, e-publishing has allowed everyone and their dog to become authors. Peer review ought to separate the wheat from the chaff, but responses to books of questionable quality don’t seem enough to keep sales down. Will things ever shake down, or are we always going to struggle to find the good, new writers by wading through oceans of dross?

True peer review only exists where objective truth is a possible, i.e. in the hard sciences. Everything else is subjective. A book review is one man/woman’s personal opinion no matter how erudite, lettered, or snobbish the source.

The idea that publishers and agents were the only legitimate gatekeepers is ridiculous. I’ve read plenty of published books that sucked, as I’m sure you have, as well as stories that were rejected dozens of times by the so-called “gatekeepers” before they went on to sell millions. Publishing folks have their own biases and personal tastes, and are no more objective than you or I.

There are no gatekeepers for restaurants – so how do you find somewhere worth eating? Google reviews, Yelp and the like, right? Same thing for books – you can check out reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, book review blogs. Why trust a single editor or the group-think of the New York publishing scene when I can get multiple viewpoints and reviews? I tend to follow reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and recommendations from friends. Finally, I rely on trial and error, i.e. taking chances on books that just sound good.  Amazon lets you return e-books for a refund up to seven days after purchase, so I can read a few chapters and send the book back if I don’t like it.

Tell us more about your new novel “Revving Her Up.”

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“Revving Her Up” is an erotic novella about a New York lawyer who finds a surprising solution for her troubles when her car breaks down in a small Virginia town. It’s my debut novella and my first attempt at writing erotic romance.

I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area on and off for almost ten years.  While I won’t claim that it’s truly “The South”, it’s a lot closer to it than my native New York City.

Many thanks to Joy for answering my questions, and I wish her all the best with both books (which are available NOW! Follow the embedded links to Amazon and make your purchase! Then don’t forget to write your review and help your fellow readers make THEIR decision.) Joining a group like WANA can help with more than just your writing. As a group we send each other regular messages of support and pleas for help and encouragement. Writing can be a lonesome and frustrating business, and it can really help to have friends who understand the stresses and strains.