Category: blogging

How to Write a Novel; Russia Bans Gay Gathering For Holocaust Victims

How to Write a Novel

I don’t usually post about non-fic books like this, but I’m doing it this time partly because there aren’t many good books out there like it and partly because it’s a self-published book authored by former literary agent, Nathan Bransford. Bransford is also a long time blogger and the author of a middle grade book series, and the unusual thing about his blog is that it has continued to be just as popular even after he decided to pursue a professional writing career and leave agenting.

Speaking as a blogger now, the reason why that’s so unusual is literary agent blogs usually receive many hits because so many unpubbed writers want to snag a literary agent. The readers want something from the blogger. This makes sense. It’s not easy to snag an agent or a book deal in trad publishing and connecting with an agent through a blog makes writers feel closer to their goals. In other words, the odds are these same literary agent blogs wouldn’t be as popular if the bloggers weren’t literary agents. And Bransford has proven that it is possible to continue to draw a large audience as a blogger without having anything to offer them other than good blog posts that range from writing tips to personal conversations about life, books, and objective criticism. As a blogger, I know how hard that is to do.

In any event, I haven’t read How to Write a Novel yet, but I’m going to buy it later tonight just so I have something to use as a point of reference when I need to prove/discuss something here on my blog. There’s one other non-fic book I loved, also written by a literary agent, Noah Lukeman, I still refer to often when I’m about to submit a novel to a publisher. And from what I’ve read through excerpts and early reviews, it looks like Bransford’s new book just might wind up becoming a staple for other writers for many years to come. But more important, Bransford’s book is priced at $4.99.

You can read excerpts at Bransford’s blog, here. And this is the Amazon page where you can purchase it. I’m sure it will be distributed at Smashwords and other places where digital books are sold as well. Although the book cover isn’t anything elaborate, if you’ve been following Bransford’s blog for any length of time you know orange is his favorite color.

Russia Bans Gay Gathering For Holocaust Victims

I still shudder when I think about the Holocaust, especially when I think about how many gays were persecuted during that time. The millions of lives lost should never have happened, and it wouldn’t have happened if the world had been paying closer attention to what the Nazis were doing, and taking aggressive action against it.

Upon the rise of Adolf Hitler, gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians, were two of the numerous groups targeted by the Nazi Party and were ultimately among Holocaust victims. Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, who were compelled to sexually conform to the “German norm.”

And now when I read about what’s happening in Russia to gays it gets even more frightening. The other day I read something about Putin welcoming gays to Russia for the Olympics. But after reading this next article I can’t help but wonder how welcome gays really are in Russia and I think the call to boycott the Olympics is more important than ever. I’ve written a series of post on this, here. As you can see from those posts I’m not the only one who feels this way…aside from Johnny Weir who thinks sports is more important than lives. He makes me shudder, too.

Russia recently banned a gay gathering that was organized to pay tribute and honor to LGBT people who were persecuted and were victims of Nazi Germany. And in banning this gathering the Russian government has sent a message to the world and it’s infuriated gay activists.

But the authorities rejected the application, saying paying tribute to gay victims of Nazi Germany could potentially ‘influence’ children on homosexuality.

Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, said: ‘The Moscow authorities are becoming increasingly absurd, and the ba of the rally to denounce the crimes of Hitler and Nazism is more proof of this.

‘The government is approving of Nazi Germany’s genocidal policies.’

In an even more homophobic hate oriented move, it’s been alleged the Russian government has banned all gay gatherings.

You can read more here.

Ryan Field Books Smashwords; Bloggers and Pen Names

Ryan Field Books Smashwords

I’ve had books published with publishers up on Smashwords for a long time. Here’s link to that page.

But we recently uploaded all my indie books, which include backlist titles I’ve been publishing alone since June on Smashwords and other web sites, and I wanted to mention that link, too, because I’ve had a few e-mails from readers about it.

I honestly don’t know how this works, but for people looking for books I think it’s a good thing to know that with authors like me you won’t find the same results with just one search. In other words, my books with publishers are not grouped with books I’ve indie pubbed with Ryan Field Press. So if you’re looking for other authors and for a specific book and you don’t find it in one search, try another and be more specific (book title and author). There are a lot of imperfections still with online booksellers, and if you don’t know these things you’re going to get confused (me).

In any event, here’s the link to my recently uploaded indies on Smashwords. All are .99 e-books. I think there are thirty-eight right now.

Side note: You can also find me here at Barnes & Noble. If you notice all my books on B&N, both indie and those released with publishers, are grouped together in one place.

Bloggers and Pen Names

First, this is only about bloggers, not about fiction writers or authors who have blogs that only deal with their fiction. I want to make that clear, because the most popular bloggers don’t write fiction. They focus on news, pop culture, opinion, and other non-fic related topics, which include book reviews. So again, this isn’t for fiction writer who have blogs or use pen names to write fiction.

If you search the web for articles about pen names and bloggers you’ll find many varying opinions on the topic, and there doesn’t seem to be a set rule. Mostly I found that those bloggers who use pen names defend pen names, naturally. Those who don’t use pen names, don’t trust bloggers who use pen names. If you search for journalists and pen names you’ll also find a few different opinions. However, none of the opinions I found that are pro pen names for bloggers and journalists make a significant argument…at least not enough to sway my opinion about those who blog about real things with fake names and identities. And I found a post that sums up the way I feel about blogging news with a pen name.

I think this article sums it up well, and makes a few valid points about honesty and integrity when blogging. I’ve always believed that if you’re a journalist or a serious blogger writing non-fiction oriented news or even reviews and opinion pieces you should be able to stand behind your own name, and be proud to do it. I realize there are some cases where the rules can be broken, but not in most cases. This excerpt below from the article is the best I’ve seen so far, and why I decided to use my real identity a long time ago. I have no regrets.

It keeps me honestThe Internets (word to George “Dubya” Bush) are a safe haven for anonymous and over the top speech — and by anonymous and over the top I mean ratchet and uncouth verbage slung by those who would never say such things in real life. The allure of going all in on somebody is decreased when you affix your real name to the end of a tweet, blog or article. I’ve gone hard on people before, but I have no problem standing behind what I say (and such was the case when I got blasted over my UFC rankings on a popular MMA website, which has left my Google search in shambles).

J.K. Rowling and Full Blog Disclosure; Fifty Gay Things

J.K. Rowling and Full Blog Disclosure

There has been a great deal written this week about J.K. Rowling’s pen name, Robert Galbraith, and I read a piece last night that made me think about all authors and bloggers when it comes to full disclosure. Of course in Rowling’s case it’s a little different because she’s so famous for the Harry Potter series, however, authors using pen names isn’t something new and it’s usually accepted when authors cross genres. But what about popular bloggers? Does the same standard of full disclosure hold true for popular bloggers as well? Especially if the blogger holds everyone else to the standard of full disclosure.

In this Huff Po piece about Rowling’s situation, it seems her pen name was revealed completely by accident, through the friend of the wife of an attorney. It wasn’t a publicity stunt and Rowling didn’t want the name revealed.

The newspaper said it had received a tip-off on Twitter, and there was speculation that Rowling or her publisher were behind the revelation – which has sent sales of the thriller skyrocketing.

But law firm Russells said Thursday that one of its partners, Chris Gossage, had let the information slip to his wife’s best friend, Judith Callegari – the woman behind the tweet. Her Twitter account has now been deleted.

So basically someone had a big mouth and couldn’t keep it shut. The piece goes into a few more details, and then mentions this comment from Rowling:

“To say that I am disappointed is an understatement,” she added. “I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm, and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced.”

I don’t know a single author out there who wouldn’t feel the same way.

But let’s face it, we’re living in a world now where there are very few secrets left, and privacy becomes harder to maintain each passing day. And I’m not talking about author pen names now. When it comes to popular bloggers and full disclosure, I think they should be held to a higher standard, especially those who blog about the real things that happen, not just for fun. Although these popular bloggers are not considered journalists, I think they have the same responsibility to their readership as anyone else out there publishing content that deals with the same ethics by which most journalists abide. I hold myself to these same standards as a blogger, and I use this small blog to disclose information about my books many times. And I believe I have an ethical responsibility to the people who read this blog to disclose honest information here on the blog.

Last night after I read the piece on Rowling, I went to a popular blog that’s gained a large readership in publishing. Some might even call it quasi journalism. I found a contest there, which looked interesting, and I read the details. And there was one line in the post that made me wonder. The blogger mentioned that the PR firm of an author had asked if the blogger would do a promotional contest in order to actually promote a new project for the author. Names don’t matter right now. I’m not Edward Snowden and I don’t want to be. The author has a very high profile and doesn’t write in any of the genres in which I write. And no, it’s not someone in m/m romance or anything even LGBT related. This is a mainstream commercial author who writes more chick lit type romance novels that I find dry, dull, lacking in emotion and sex, and highly mundane.

In any event, the popular blogger mentioned this information about the PR firm offhandedly, as if the PR firm had contacted the blogger at random; just for fun and games (haha-haha). And I know for a fact that that’s not full disclosure. I know the blogger is closely associated with the PR firm that represents the famous chick lit author, and even closer to another highly profiled blogger who actually works with the PR firm and many other famous authors. There’s a great deal of money involved here now, not just blogging for fun. It’s not illegal to do this, but how ethical is it?

In other words, if readers actually knew that the blogger was this close to the PR firm, and that the blogger and the PR firm are working behind the scenes in private to put together a promotional event for the famous author, would readers be that interested in supporting something like that? Especially if this particular blogger who is holding the event is one of the biggest supporters of FULL DISCLOSURE on the Internet today. This happens to be a blogger who has accused many people of more than a few things. And when you do that I would like to think your own background is spotlessly clean. But more important, it makes me wonder what else the blogger in question is hiding…what’s not being disclosed.

I had a contest here that was associated with a blog hop on the 4th of July, and I disclosed everything possible. I would stand in a courtroom, put my hand on a bible, and swear to this. I did not have any hidden relationship with the online publication that sponsored the blog event, and I would disclose all my former e-mails with that publication if I had to and I would have nothing to worry about. And I’m only a small blogger with an average of 5,000 hits a week.

I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about author blogs that focus on fiction, or humorous blogs that deal with parody and sarcasm. Those blogs are all fun and they aren’t hurting anyone. I love reading them myself and I don’t expect them to be perfect. But the case I’m talking about with the popular blogger who pretends journalism but failed to mention the part about being closely associated to the PR firm makes me wonder. This blogger is the first to report anyone else’s wrong-doings, this blogger has called out other bloggers over the years for lack of ethics, and this blogger has even gone to the point of terrorizing small bloggers for doing far less. And I don’t think there should be that kind of double standard in blogging when it comes to facts or anything that’s not just opinion. And if a small blogger like me is expected to practice full disclosure, so should the large blogger.

It’s that age old cliche about those who live in glass houses. And when popular bloggers don’t disclose all the facts they are doing a disservice to their readers.

Fifty Gay Things

I often use Urban Dictionary as a source for personal information I don’t know. I find it highly entertaining, and sometimes I just do searches for things I might find interesting. This next link made me smile because of the tone in which it was written. It looks as if someone posted fifty gay facts, someone got pissed at the fifty gay facts, and then wrote his/her own gay facts.

It’s not even fifty gay facts. It’s only ten, but I like them all, especially the last two:

9. Gay women were not put on earth for straight men’s amusement, that “lesbian” porno situation will never happen to you.

10. Not all gays fit the stereotype. There could be one right next to you right now and you’d never notice. You might be best friends with one or related to one and you’d never notice. Ha ha.

I actually think that both of these facts go together. The gay community is highly diverse and you really don’t know for certain whether or not the person next to you is gay. There are so many gay and bi people who are not out it’s impossible to know for sure. There could be a reason for this. Unfortunately, there seems to be this unchallenged movement going on where the most obvious gay people are providing amusement for the mainstream in ways no other minority would stand for. And those who aren’t as obvious don’t want to deal with that brand of discrimination so they remain in the closet. I get e-mails from them all the time, and they all say the same thing.

Jimmy Carter/Women’s Rights; Kinky Boots on Broadway; New Comment Rules at Dearauthor

Always way ahead of his time, and rarely hesitant to express his opinions, President Jimmy Carter wrote an excellent article about leaving the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades. In a very blunt but poignant statement, but also on target with the way many Americans feel these days about organized religion and how women are treated, President Carter wrote this a few years ago. And because I’ve seen so many issues lately with women’s rights, sometimes taking a backseat to LGBT rights, I thought I’d post about it here all over again.

 I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

You can read it in full, here. As a side note, I often compare women’s issues to the issues in the gay community. I’m not always sure they are the same because a lot of gay men pass as straight men, however, one thing has always been true about our culture and so many others: straight men rule. And I’ve personally felt that brand of discrimination from straight men more than once.

Kinky Boots on B’Way

We used to have a wonderful indie video store here in New Hope, where I was able to get new commercial releases as well as new indie releases that would include anything from LGBT films to foreign with subtitles. I used to spend hours there, and one night I found a film called Kinky Boots. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend doing so.

Recently, I found out Harvey Fierstein and Cindy Lauper have collaborated to bring Kinky Boots to Broadway, which will debut this month.

Kinky Boots features the first-ever Broadway score by Grammy winner Cyndi Lauper and a hilarious yet moving book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. The new musical packs a punch and provides everything audiences look for in a night at the theater: catchy songs, top-notch …

As I recall, the first scene in the film shows a small boy on the boardwalk somewhere in England dancing in women’s shoes, but he runs and hides the shoes so his father won’t discover what he’s been doing. I also recall that as the film progresses there’s an interesting storyline where a straight guy forms an interesting business collaboration with the grown up version of the little boy who was dancing around in women’s shoes. It’s definitely a film you’ll want to see more than once, and I’m actually thinking of seeing the show in New York in spite of how much I’m not usually fond of Broadway.

New Comment Rules at Dearauthor

When I first discovered blogging about ten years ago, I started writing as a staff member for doing reviews of LGBT blogs and interviews with LGBT bloggers. At the time, it was owned by two nice guys from New York who had started it to keep track of LGBT bloggers. I met my buddy, Ryan, there about seven years ago after I’d interviewed him for BGB. At the time Ryan was a young teenage LGBT blogger who had not only found a voice in blogging, but also a way to deal with the circumstances of his life and help other people his age at the same time. Although we’ve yet to meet in person, we’ve been good friends…like brothers…ever since.

Over the years, I’ve watched Ryan deal with all kinds of issues as a blogger, partly due to his honesty and partly due to his generosity with regard to leaving his comments open to everyone. In doing this, he’s paid a price at certain times…as we all have as bloggers…and he’s had to learn how to deal with aggressive comments left by people who often cross the line of civility. As a result, he’s stopped blogging and he’s returned to blogging, taking a break from all this aggressive behavior that’s often left him emotionally drained. I’ve seen this before with other bloggers who have garnered a readership over the years, and I’ve experienced it myself.

When I started this blog roughly five years ago, I originally did NOT want to have comment moderation on at all. I wanted an open comment thread where people could express opinions on LGBT issues or anything related to publishing and pop culture. I soon discovered that wasn’t possible for me. I blog as a hobby. I only get about 8,000 hits a week and I’m happy with that. And I don’t have the time to moderate each and every comment while I’m writing with deadlines. I actually turned on comment moderation after a death threat someone left on a comment thread about one of the Virgin Billionaire books. In that book I’d named one of the characters Gage. It wasn’t his real name in the book. He only used it in the book because he worked as a male stripper. When someone saw I’d used the name Gage in a gay romance they commented about me using the name of a “pornster” without even bothering to read the book. That wasn’t the first vicious comment I’d received, and it certainly wasn’t the last, trust me. However, I decided the only way to moderate these vicious comments for my blog readers was to turn on comment moderation for good.

I don’t want to ramble on too much about this, but I read an interesting blog post at about their new comment rules. The blogger herself had reached a point where she didn’t even want to read the comments on her own blog posts because they’d become so filled with “vituperative statements.” As I mentioned above, I’ve seen this before with other bloggers who have managed to garner a decent readership.

Although most people tend to be civil on comment threads, it’s interesting to note how some aggressive commentors felt insulted and disappointed by this new comment policy at dearauthor that seems to be designed to promote civility instead of vitriol and personal insult…and at the same time promote civil discussion. I suggest reading the comment thread to get the full impact.

I have to admit that I fail in this respect as a blogger. I don’t have time (literally and figuratively) for aggressive behavior or incivility. This blog is my world, not a democracy. I don’t care what you write about me on your blog; just don’t do it here. And while I do promote open comment threads with controversial topics like book pirating, I have no intention of ever being told what to do by anyone, or reading their vicious comments on my threads. It’s bad enough that I have to read them alone, I’m not subjecting my blog readers to that.

Truth About Amazon Sales Ranks; Great Blogging; Dumbass Bloggers

Amazon Sales Ranks

This week I found a new literary agent publishing blog by Victoria Marini I think I like. It’s too soon to tell at this point, but I’m going to follow the posts for a while before I form an opinion. I did enjoy this post: Amazon Bestseller Ranking System: The Myth and the Magnificent.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, here. My goal here is not to de-wind your proverbial sales, but rather explain why a high Amazon bestseller ranking does not necessarily equate to mammoth sales figures.

This very smart post goes on to explain how Amazon sales ranks work, and I can back the above statement up from my own personal experiences. I have had Amazon bestsellers more than once…I had one book hit number one for a few weeks in the UK in the gay romance category. This, however, did not mean the sales of that book outweighed the sales of my other books.

So I find Amazon sales ranks to be deceiving at best, and when I see another author get snarky and suggest she knows how a book or author is selling just by looking at the Amazon sales ranks, I know how little she really knows. There are a lot of factors to consider with Amazon sales ranks…and all bestseller lists you see these days everywhere. And just because you see a book or author on a bestseller list don’t always mean spectacular monetary sales for authors. Books I’ve had released that never made Amazon bestseller lists did far better in sales than those with the lowest sales ranks on Amazon bestseller lists. It took me a while to get that, too. Sounds like that doesn’t make sense. But check out the post to which I linked above and you’ll see what I mean. I’m also going to link to this agent’s blog on the blog list here so you can get there easily on a regular basis. Reading blogs like this educates us and it doesn’t cost a dime.

Great Blogging

I just read another interesting post about blogging over at, written by literary agent, Pamela van Hycklama Vlieg.

So it isn’t really a saga, but I wanted it to be dramatic, and if SMeyer can do it so can I!

Basically this post is going to take you through the very basics of starting a blog, posting on it, and networking to find bloggy friends.

If you have more technical questions I will be available in the forums to answer!

It’s interesting to me because I found her blog by doing a basic search for literary agent blogs, and while that is a form of networking it’s really the most basic and what most bloggers hope to achieve. I’m also tired of the same literary agent blogs I’ve been reading for the last five or six years and Vlieg’s blog looks different. I’m not tired of them all, I still follow Pub Rants and Lori Perkins, but that query nonsense lost me about two years ago because it never changes. I think part of being a blogger is learning how to adapt and change with the times…moving forward. Pub Rants does that; Lori Perkins does that…Dystel & Goderich does that. But a few don’t, and they tend to become obsolete…or they wind up catering to a readership that doesn’t know any better. And most writers (not all) nowadays know far more than they knew five years ago. The smart lit agent blogs that didn’t want to move forward have closed up shop and moved into social media like Facebook and Twitter and they seem to be thriving there.

Dumbass Bloggers

Now, hold on to your seat for this one. I’m not joking. When I found this next blog, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave, the title of one post caught my attention: Are Book Bloggers the “Literary Agents of our Time?” You know how I’m always talking about watch what you read online. This is a perfect example of sharing bad information. I thought I would wind up reading a post about how book bloggers are going to help authors get publishing contracts and how book bloggers are going to represent authors as business people, but what I found was something so bizarre I had to read it a few times just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. No links to THIS blog on the sidebar either.

Evidently, no one told this author/airline pilot what a literary agent actually does:

The definition of an agent is “a person who acts on behalf of another.” If bloggers writing about and reviewing new books doesn’t fall under the definition of an author’s “literary agent” then I don’t know what does. The best part? I have yet to have one ask me for fifteen percent!

You’re right! You don’t know “what does.” Agents don’t work on behalf of authors to hock their books to readers all over the Internet by writing about and reviewing books. Agents work on behalf of authors with publishers.

I have read more than my share of dumb blog posts over the years, but I have to say this one tops the list. First, the post is all about book bloggers reviewing books (in this case I’m assuming self-pubbed books). And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what book bloggers are supposed to do. I even do it sometimes. But the problem is that’s not what literary agents are supposed to do. Literary agents don’t review books for marketing and promotional reasons. If they review books on a personal level, that’s fine and it’s their business. But to assume that book bloggers reviewing books makes them “agents” because they promote and market authors is taking the entire concept of what a literary agent actually does and spinning it around to the point where it doesn’t even make sense.

Literary agents are supposed to guide authors and careers. They are there to protect authors when it comes to contracts and they work on behalf of authors when dealing with publishers. Book bloggers don’t do this. Book bloggers review books and no publisher is going to deal with them as literary agents. So watch out for posts like this. The person who wrote it clearly has no idea what a literary agent does, and she doesn’t have a clue as to how publishing works as an industry…and didn’t even take the time to learn. She should stick to flying planes. If and when book bloggers start acting as literary agents, I’ll be the first to post about it.

To take this to another level, this is highly insulting to literary agents in general. And on behalf of all authors who know better, I apologize that something this dumb was published in print.

Janet Reid’s Interesting Post about Self-Publishing

I found a link on twitter today that led me to an interesting post on literary agent Janet Reid’s blog about self-publishing. I used to follow her blog but stopped for a variety of reasons. And those who follow this blog know that I’m not a vigilante when it comes to self-publishing as opposed to legacy publishing. I think there is good and bad in both and I’ve remained on the fence about it. But I think writers, especially new writers, need to know facts from all angles.

In the post Reid talks about what authors who are thinking of self-publishing should expect if they have ambitions of ever getting published with large publishers.

If you’re thinking of doing this, here’s what to consider:

1. To get noticed, you have to sell a lot of books. By a lot I mean more than 20,000.

If this number doesn’t daunt you, ask yourself this question: have you ever sold 20,000 units of anything?

This is very true. No complaints. But the main reason why writers move into self-publishing is because large publishers aren’t taking on as many new authors anymore, they aren’t paying out the advances they used to pay, and from what I hear they aren’t selling as many books as they used to sell. I doubt most of their new books sell 20,000 print copies. So it stands to reason that large publishers want to jump at the chance to get authors who sold more than 20,000 books. But, if you could sell more than 20,000 copies you’re doing something right and why would you even need a large publisher at that point?

But there are varying opinions on this topic. Another reason authors self-publish is because larger publishers haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening with digital books and the digital market. Or paying attention to readers for that matter. In this article, the biggest readers in the US are an interesting crowd.

The most likely book readers in the United States are high-school students, college-age adults and people in their 30s, with e-book use highest among 30-somethings, a survey released on Tuesday showed.

Then the article says this:

Among Americans who read e-books, those under 30 are more likely to read them on a cell phone, at 41 percent, or on a computer (55 percent) than on an e-book reader (23 percent) or tablet (16 percent).

Forty-seven percent of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as books, magazines or newspapers. But the highest e-book use was among people 30 to 39, at one quarter.

I only read digital books now, no more print. I read most on my phone. I read “Fifty Shades of Grey” before it went mainstream in digital format. Newsweek Magazine recently announced it’s going completely digital in January. So where have the large publishers been, and how can anyone blame authors for being curious about e-publishing and self-publishing?

Reid then says this in her post:

If you self publish you are no longer just the author, you’re the salesperson for your book. Do you have any experience selling? Did you love selling Girl Scout cookies? Do you like calling people and asking for money (as in fund raising?) Do you gladly spearhead the fundraising drive at your school, synagogue, church?]

First, all publishers, large and small, now expect authors to promote, market, and sell their books. Publishers don’t do that work for you unless your name is J.K. Rowling. So I don’t see how that’s any different from self-published authors marketing and promoting their books. And some are quite good at it, far better than a lot of authors I’ve seen with large publishers. They are far better at it than I am. These self-published authors can work the web better than our politicians.

Be realistic. 20,000 units is a huge number of books. It’s a hard number to reach even if you’re published by a big publisher, with an accomplished sales force and established avenues to the retail market.

This brings me back to the article to which I linked above about the biggest group of readers. Unless Reid is talking about the digital online retail market, I don’t get that statement. I’m not giving up my e-readers, my tablet, or my iphone to go back to print books. Most of my own book sales come exclusively from digital sales, not print sales and I have over 100 published works out there. I have no control over how people read. I don’t care how people read my books. But the numbers prove one thing: people are reading more digital books now than ever before and most of the marketing and promotion authors do is now online and it doesn’t cost them a cent.

This post is not to dissuade you from self-publishing. Have at it with all your might. BUT be realistic about what self-publishing is, and what it can accomplish. And more important what it can NOT accomplish.

Well, if I had read this post not knowing what I know now it certainly would dissuade me from self-publishing. But it is important to be realistic about self-publishing and it is important to understand that you’re not only an author when you self-publish, but also a businessperson. It’s not as simple as it looks. I know that from experience. I still prefer working with publishers over self-publishing, but I found that in order to continue to write I had to start self-publishing. And I have no regrets about it. As a side note, even if you have a publisher, you’re going it alone. Because once that book is pubbed it all points back to you, not the publisher.

I’d also like to mention that even though Reid makes some interesting points in her post for authors who have the ultimate goal of getting published with large publishers (if that is their only goal), she fails to mention that many of her colleagues have started e-publishing services, in house, so their own clients can self-publish their own books. The AAR supports them. These other literary agents are helping move their clients forward and I doubt the majority of them are selling 20,000 copies. And these clients who are using literary agent e-publishing services are, indeed, considered self-published.

So while Reid’s post is not inaccurate by any means, and I do understand where she’s coming from because a lot don’t fully understand self-publishing, there are about 50 shades of “Lovely Lolly” that aren’t being mentioned and those who are thinking about self-publishing aren’t getting all the facts. I’m not giving you all the facts here in this post because that would take far too long. But I am suggesting that you read as much as you can about self-publishing, you do what you think is best for you, and you remain realistic. There are still many things changing in the publishing industry and no one knows where things are going at this point. But if all these literary agents are starting e-publishing services in order to self-publish their clients (which I think is wonderful; authors need good, smart agents like this), I don’t think self-publishing is going to disappear any time soon, nor do I think self-published authors will be required to sell 20,000 books in order to be taken seriously.

For Five Bucks She’ll Comment on your Blog Up to Twenty Times…

I’ve posted about before. It’s that web site where people will do basically anything for five bucks.I have read that you can hire them to write book reviews for you on Amazon (some actually do read the books from what I’ve heard) in order to boost your sales. While I’ve never done anything like this, and never will do anything like this, I do think it’s an interesting thing to know…that all reviews might not be reliable. Anyone could argue that the person who left the review actually read the book. The problem is how do we know the person really liked the book, and for that matter how to we know the person really did read the book. You can blame that on living all my life in either the NY area or the Philadelphia area. We aren’t the most trusting people. And the Internet is a breeding ground for all things questionable.

And now I see bloggers can actually hire people to comment on their blogs:

I will comment on your blog posts in any way that you want as long as the limit will be 200 words. You could have 10 comments in 20 words or whatsoever. The comments that you will get won’t appear spammy and they will certainly be related to the topic of your blog post. I will also cater to those who are looking to boost their forum’s posts.

So what this seems to be saying is the person offering this blog comment service will not only be leaving questionable comments, but they will also be sockpuppeting on your comment thread. It’s not the first time I’ve seen sockpuppeting, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone admit to it without a hint of shame. It’s not something I’ve ever thought of doing, not in the seven years I’ve been blogging. And now I’m starting to wonder if people actually do things like this on blogs.

Unfortunately, this all leads back to one basic rule of the Internet: never trust anything you read unless there is a reliable source willing to back it up because the chances are it’s false. I allow anonymous comments here on this blog because I do think there are times when people need to comment anonymously for various reasons. Some of my past posts on book pirating are good examples. The reasons for anonymity in some cases are valid. But I also have comment moderation on at all times, if you notice, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve had everything from nasty comments to death threats. And while I can take those things fairly well (I’m a very strong person) I would rather not subject my readers to things like that.

So if you’re interested in taking sockpuppeting to new levels you can check out fiver. I’m not linking for two reasons: one, I’m not going to help promote anyone who does this. Two, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read a comment thread again without wondering whether or not the blogger did something like this. And that’s sad.

But until there are rules for things like this on the Internet, and I’m including Amazon and all web sites with all products where people leave personal opinions that can’t be backed up, it’s hard to take anything seriously anymore. Just imagine how nice life would be if we knew, for certain, that every single review/comment we ever saw on Amazon or any web site could be backed by a name and an identity. Or if every single comment we saw on a blog comment thread was legit and could be backed up with a name and identity. But then I also wonder how many comments and reviews would magically disappear from the Internet never to be seen again. I could be wrong. But it would be interesting to find out.

Tomorrow I’ll post something about web sites where I do think reviews and comments can be trusted…at least trusted more in the sense that they look real.

The Perfect Example of Subjective…And an Idiot

In the post before this, I talked about how writing is so subjective. And this afternoon while I was lurking around the Interwebs I saw something classic.

I went to a blog I don’t usually frequent, for reasons you’ll understand by the time this post is finished. The author was ranting about other poorly written author blogs…in a general sense…and how the authors who maintain these blogs confuse people with too much information and clutter. I’m not joking either. This was a full fledged rant and my jaw was on the keyboard.

This is something I would never do, and most bloggers I know wouldn’t do it either. I got to know a lot of bloggers when I worked for and I grew to respect them all. Blogs are personal online publications that, in a sense, reflect our individual personalities. And they are free!! When I go to a blog, it’s almost like being invited into someone’s home; I’m a guest. This is how personal the experience is…for me. And no one with any amount of decency would criticize someone’s home.

I won’t go into detail about the rant. But what I found interesting while reading the author’s extremely negative post is that while this author/blogger was criticizing and ranting about everyone else’s blog, HER blog is published in beige on beige. The photo above is a good example. The background is beige, the print is beige, the post titles are beige, and I have a feeling this author’s life in general is pretty beige. The words blend into the background and all that beige is so difficult to read you can’t look at it for too long without blinking.

I’m really not dissing the author’s blog. I’m dissing the rant and calling attention to the irony. While this author is ranting about other blogs being too confusing and filled with clutter, HER blog is so beige it’s virtually impossible to read.

I’m also pointing out an example of subjectivity. I’m sure there are some people who love beige on beige blogs and they have no trouble reading them. I’m also sure there are just as many people who love loaded blogs, filled with all kinds of information that isn’t necessarly in detailed order (I do), and they become loyal followers. Blogging is a means of expression, not just a way to promote something. And I’ve always found the most successful bloggers are the people who know this and follow their hearts.

Pretending to Be a Lesbian…"A Hoax That Got Way Out of Hand"

Blogging and pretending to be lesbian? I just heard about this and figured I’d share. Below are actual articles. Here’s a link. It’s an interesting read for anyone who follows blogs…like me…and who has ever doubted the online identities of certain bloggers.

With a vast source…the Internet…that promotes anonymity so easily, I honestly don’t see how this sort of thing can be avoided. And, I’m not all that shocked. I wouldn’t be suprised if at least a third of the bloggers I’ve read aren’t the real thing.

On Sunday, a writer named Tom MacMaster confessed that he had fabricated the online persona of openly gay Syrian blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari.

Last week, his blog captured international attention (including our blog), claiming that the fictional blogger had been abducted. According to SkyNews, MacMaster lives in the UK but wrote his apology from Istanbul, Turkey.

MacMaster wrote this “Apology to Readers” yesterday: “I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about. I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience. This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.”

Here is the original story: “while her companion was still close by, Amina was seized by three men in their early 20’s. According to the witness (who does not want her identity known), the men were armed. Amina hit one of them and told the friend to go find her father. One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad … The men are assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia. Amina’s present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in a jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus.” (Link via, image via)

In case you don’t feel like clicking links, here’s the apology from the blog…

Apology to readers
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.

Tom MacMaster,
Istanbul, Turkey
June 12, 2011..

The sole author of all posts on this blog..

This Isn’t a Blog You’re Reading, It’s a Blog POST On a Blog

I’ve written before about this, and now I’m doing it again, hoping to make it easier.

I’m still slightly floored whenever I see an author (or anyone in publishing) talk about their “blog” and not get it right. At first glance, I automatically think they are talking about their blog in general…in other words, the actual web site they call a blog. Like this blog, This individual web address, and the site on which you are reading right now, in a general sense, is considered my blog.

But this particular article you’re reading is considered a post I entered on my blog.

You’re reading a blog post right now…on my blog.

You’re not reading a blog I wrote/entered on my blog.

It’s an individual post I wrote about blogging. One of many other posts I’ve written on this blog.

In the grand scheme of life is this a big thing? Not if you’re a dentist, plumber, or fortune teller. But if you’re a writer and you don’t know the difference between a blog and a blog post, there are people out there who will wonder, and some might not take you seriously.

You can also look at it this way. If you wrote a piece for a magazine, you’d ask people to read the article you wrote for the magazine. You wouldn’t ask them to read the magazine you wrote for the magazine. If you did, no one would know what you’re talking about.

And a blog post is like a magazine article…in this sense. Although there is a fundamental difference between a magazine article and a blog post, I’d think I’d rather see bloggers refer to their posts as articles instead of blogs. At least this way I’d know what they are talking about.

If you don’t believe me and you think I’m making this shit up, you can check out this web site, which I think gives two great definitions for blog and blog post:

Blog/bloggingA weblog or web page entry. Like an online diary. Written using a simple text editor and posted online usually with a simple mouse ‘click’. By tagging key words can appear in Google search words. (As at September 2007 it was estimated that there were over 108 million blogs)

Blog post An entry made by someone on their blog. As at September 2007, it was estimated near 200k posts were made a day. These can be read by the estimated 1.2 billion people connected to the internet.