Hard Lessons Learned-My Experiences as an Author

Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons.  One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book.  Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work.  There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.

Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing.  The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive.  However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all.  So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom.  To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show.  This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.

I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results.  My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines.  It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss.  After this I felt depressed.  I am still learning how to find my audience.  I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term.  I also got desperate.  Desperation never results in good judgement.

I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me.  I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate.  I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others.  In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations.  She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book.  It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says.  Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger.  I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same.  Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.

I tell of this experience because I learned a few things.  NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work.  No matter how reputable he/she may be.  The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family.  I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational.  It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world.  I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google.  This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book.  Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars.  Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger.  Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful.  As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work.  Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem.  I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.

Benefits of Fiction

I have written before on fiction and why I write it.  You can read about my thoughts on why I write fantasy specifically here.   I also think it is important to note the benefits of fiction, especially speculative fiction.

Some may say that fairy-tales, fantasy, and other fiction is a waste of time.  These people assert that reading what is real is the only thing worth reading at all.  I disagree.  Fantasy explores difficult areas of life from the comfort of a fictional setting.  More importantly I feel that fantasy opens a door in the mind to realize there are things beyond our current understanding.

We only know so much about the world, and are only capable of studying it so far.  Science is a wonderful and useful method, but there are limits to the scientific method.  The beauty of fantasy is that it can fill in those areas with imagination and tell a deep and fulfilling tale.  Fantasy has the chance to delve into the areas we don’t understand and search metaphorically for questions such as what is the meaning of life, what is reality, and is there ever a time for war?

I feel that fantasy can be just as important and compelling as nonfiction.  I do not deny the importance of reality, but many times perception and worldview puts a spin on it.  So even if something is “nonfiction” it can still have untrue or warped information. Fiction isn’t true, it doesn’t even pretend to be true, and that is the beauty of it.  Fantasy delivers truth in the package of make-believe and doesn’t need to be bothered as much by worldview and tainted glasses.

Writing: The Ugly and Cringe-Worthy

Writers evolve, just like anyone in a profession. I strive to get a little better every day and apply what I learned from my failings. As much as I love to write, I am very well aware of my shortcomings. I struggle with grammar, and I often write in passive voice. I have to consciously will myself not to write passively, and those darn commas throw me off way too often.
However, I would like to think I have really learned something over the years and I’m not just pretending. With looking through my old Goandria manuscripts (then called Golah) and my poetry, it is painful and awkward. It is so embarrassing for me to read the stuff that it is even difficult for me to read when I am alone.

Writing is a beautiful thing. It enables people to express themselves in a limitless way, but some ways are obviously better than others (such as showing and not telling). Yet for someone who takes pride in his or her writings, looking back on the past and even some current products can be painful. There was a collection of poems I wrote in 9th grade, and even just looking at the cover causes me to internally grimace. Sure, there were a few that had potential, but there were others that are so bad they make my skin crawl. Still, I keep them. Why because it reminds me of where I once was and inspires me to do better. Seeing where I came from is a powerful way for me to learn, to better understand my weak points and to move forward from there. Writing, like anything worthwhile is challenging and filled with failure, but it is that failure that creates opportunity to grow and I am still very much growing.