Duck Dynasty/Free Speech; Bookshops Hang In; PA Gov Supports Gay Rights

Duck Dynasty/Free Speech

This all started yesterday and I waited to post about it to see if anything would happen. Action: reaction. Someone named Phil Robertson, from a reality TV show I’ve never seen called Duck Dynasty, made hate comments about gay people in GQ Magazine that weren’t exactly positive and don’t send out the right moral or ethical signals, and as a result a firestorm erupted into what resembles the recent gay slurs by Alec Baldwin. Like Baldwin, Robertson was suspended, his network apologized to viewers and disassociated themselves from him, and even HRH of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, weighed in on the topic.

In an interview with GQ’s Drew Magary, the head of the family in the wildly popular A&E series expressed his view that homosexuality was immoral, likening it to bestiality. Some of the remarks were made using off-color language.

Robertson is a good Christian who has repented from his sinful ways from the cliched 1960’s counter-culture where he did drugs and claims he “hit bottom.” He replied to what’s been happening this way, in part.

My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

Aside from the sad fact that this is clear proof of what doing too many drugs can do to a person, Robertson made no excuses, no apologies, and he stands by his vituperative statements against gays.

HRH Sarah Palin said this on Twitter:

Free speech is endangered species; those “intolerants” hatin’ & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all

Aside from the fact that I personally think the Republican Party should distance itself from Palin if they know what’s good for them, I don’t “hate” Palin and I actually find her interesting. She’s an extremely clever, bright person who knows how to twist and turn anything to her advantage. And she twisted the concept of free speech to suit her needs this time. Free speech is not an endangered species. In fact, never in the history of the world have people all over the globe had this much free speech thanks to the Internet. Phil Robertson made his highly offensive statements proudly and without going to jail for them. There’s nothing illegal about what he said, and he can continue to make all the gay slurs he wants and no one’s going to stop him from doing that. Palin is free to do the same and no one is going to stop her.

However, what Ms. Palin fails to add to her little tweet is that with free speech comes responsibility. And when you can say anything you want you should also be prepared to deal with the results. In Robertson’s case he lost his job and the respect of millions of people. I don’t even know who he is and I’ve already mentally dismissed him. He exercised his right to free speech and no one wants to take that away from him. They simply choose not to pay attention to him anymore. And in its most basic form, that’s what free speech is all about, Ms. Palin.

You can read more about free speech here.  And the rest of the article about Robertson is here.

Bookshops Hang In

I’m in the middle of writing the next novella in the Second Chance series and I found this next article interesting because the main character in my novella owns a small brick and mortar bookshop in Hudson River Valley, NY, and he’s constantly up against the constant changes in publishing which mostly trickle down to e-books. But my character is a good businessperson and he’s not ready to give up without a fight. And this article I’m linking to now reminded me of how sometimes people in small business have to learn how to be creative in order to survive.

Marlene has not ventured outside to offer the doomsayers a retort, but if she did, it would be this: Independent bookstores are not dead. In fact, in some of the country’s most urbane and educated communities, they are making a comeback.

In an e-tailing world, their resurgence is driven by e-book growth that has leveled off, dyed-in-the-wool print lovers who won’t (or can’t) abandon page flipping, a new category of hybrid reader (the latest mystery, digital; the latest John Irving, print) and savvy retailers such as the Englands, positioning their stores squarely in the buy-local movement and as a respite from screens.

I actually don’t disagree with this. Even though I wouldn’t invest my money in a small bookshop, I do think there is still a market for small bookshops that are owned and operated by good businesspeople who are not only willing to accept change but embrace it in creative ways. In the same respect, e-books were not the beginning of the challenges small bookshops started to see in recent years. It was the big chain bookstores that started popping up all over in the 1990’s that hurt them the most. In fact, I personally saw more than a few people lose their nest eggs by opening small bookshops when I owned my art gallery in New Hope during the 90’s. It was often painful to watch them in the beginning, knowing how it would end for them a year later. And now most of those big bookstores have shuttered their doors thanks to changes in technology and in publishing. Younger generations embrace technology without thinking twice about it. The world changes and we stop riding in buggies and start riding in cars. And yet I still think the creative businessperson can make a small bookshop work in the right location and with the right mind set. At least my character in the next novella believes he can do this with his little bookshop.

PA Gov Supports Gay Rights

This is interesting for me because Tony and I live in Pennsylvania, on the border of New Jersey, and gay marriage is not legal here and is legal in New Jersey. It places us in an interesting situation, one where good friends who live about three miles away are considered equal and we’re not because of the state in which we live. I posted about PA Gov. Tom Corbett making comments about gays, and how he compared gay marriage to incest. And now he’s flipped in the opposite direction and he’s supporting a bill that makes it illegal to discriminate against those incestuous gays. He’s also running for reelection and his numbers are dismal in the polls.

He is now saying he would be in support of proposed legislation in his state that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Interesting. You can read more here.

All LGBT issues aside, compared to previous governors like Ed Rendell, I can’t think of one significant thing Corbett has done for Pennsylvania offhand.

Side note: Corbett has a daughter in an interracial marriage, a marriage that would have been considered illegal in many states not more than fifty years ago.

Erotic Authors Strike Back; NYT Sex Issue Sans Romance Authors

Erotic Authors Strike Back

The title of the article to which I’m linking now is “Self-published Erotica Writers Strike Back,” but once again, that’s not completely true and the article is misleading on several levels. When large retail web sites where e-books are sold started targeting/censoring books for questionable content, they did begin with self-published books. But I know for a fact that e-publishers are now dealing with the fallout, too.

I hesitate to post anything more about that until I have more facts. However, I did receive an interesting e-mail from one of my publishers last week. And as usual, the books in question with the publishers are not books that would violate the concept of what’s considered questionable content…I hate to even go there, but questionable content includes things like underage characters, barely legal, incest, etc… The books I’m talking about have been targeted based on one word. In my case it’s the word virgin, and yet all the characters are legal age. These retail web sites are doing broad sweeps with search engines, and books with normally innocent words like virgin, boy, girl, or anything else that suggests something taboo are being censored and taken down.

This issue has now made the mainstream media, and even though the article isn’t completely accurate, I thought it was interesting that the issue has gone this far.

Daudelin called for Amazon to establish clear guidelines. She also posted Kobo’s new rules, which includes the following guideline: “Users may not publish written, image, audio or video content that promotes pedophilia, incest, bestiality, or sexual violence or force.”

You can read more here.

Frankly, I have no comment on the books with questionable content, for lack of a better phrase. That’s not my fight and I’m not personally willing to go up on a hill and die for books that do contain pedophilia or incest, or whatever. I don’t read them, write them, or want anything to do with them. They disgust me. My issue is this: don’t penalize other erotica authors who aren’t writing books with incest or pedophilia like I’ve been penalized just for one word or a title that gets caught and flagged in a search engine by some clueless idiot who doesn’t know any better.

NYT Sex Issue Sans Romance Authors

The New York Times Book Review did a piece called “Let’s Read About Sex,” and allegedly overlooked romance authors. As a result, author Sarah Maclean, who writes historical romance, replied with a letter to the editor:

Romance holds a huge share of the consumer market, with more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2012, so the omission is surprising. The lack of romance authors is especially glaring when one considers that each week, the mass-market, e-book and combined best-seller lists compiled by The New York Times include dozens of books from this far-reaching genre: historical, contemporary, paranormal, erotic and new adult.

You can read the letter in full here.

I’m not completely surprised they didn’t include romance authors…or gay romance authors. The most elite in the literary world typically don’t include romance authors in anything that even remotely resembles an academic piece. And this is in spite of the fact that if it weren’t for romance authors and romance novels the so-called literistic works the elitists do discuss wouldn’t have a fat chance in hell getting published because in many cases it’s romance that’s keeping many of them afloat these days. Think Fifty Shades of Grey and all the money it made for the publisher.

I’d like to see them try to survive waiting for Jonathan Franzen to write his next bestselling novel, because if all of publishing depended on the speed of the literistic like bird-watching Franzen who puts out a novel every decade or so we’d all be in trouble.

30 Most Anticipated Books 2013; Valerie Harper’s Book; Jeff Probst Show; Venfield Plug

First, let me get a shameless plug out of the way and talk about Venfield NYC, a high end designer boutique in New York. My brother is one of the owners (he’s the “field” in Venfield). He and his business partner have been selling to, and designing for, some well known celebs around the globe for over twenty years now. They cater to everyone and the showroom is open all the time, but some of their most notable clients have included the likes of Lucy Liu and Danielle Steel. The first location they had in NY was on Bleecker Street in The Village, which is where I found a good deal of the information for my book, “Pretty Man.” 

From the info page at the Venfield NYC web site:

The Venfield Collection offers mid-century pieces combined with 18th and 19th century antiques and custom home furnishings. There is a unique balance of old world sophistication combined with a sexy modern point of view. Venfield was derived from the names of its two founders, Greg Ventra and Mark Field.

Greg and Mark began their careers early on in the fashion industry. Both had a passion for antiques and interior design and so partnered to begin Venfield. Today, Venfield is one of Manhattan’s must-see shops for the discerning shopper or interior designer seeking the avant-guard and the unique. Venfield is located at 227 E 60th St in Manhattan.

So if you are in NY and you decide to stop by, I’m sure you’ll be fascinated by their merchandise. It’s a bit pricey…way too pricey for me…but a good deal of what they have is unique and can’t be found in other venues. There’s also a strong focus on post modern and murano glass. I have a set of faux zebra pillows I found there once I’d never part with. Here’s a piece from NY Mag with a nice article that goes into more detail. And, those into m/m romance will find the photos fascinating.

List of 30 Most Anticipated Books of 2013:

When I found this link yesterday, I figured I’d post about it. Who knows if any of this will actually come true? I’ve been reading these lists all my life and they rarely do. But I still love them and I love to go back and re-read things like this five years from now. I’m thinking of doing a series of blog posts on things I read online five years ago on publishing blogs to show you what I mean. This is why I never actually come out and predict anything about the future, especially with publishing. You just never know.

This book is number 3 on the list, and if you follow this link you can see all 30.

Kincaid’s first novel in a decade is a deeply felt story of the breakdown of a marriage and the complex interior life of a woman and a mother living in Bennington, VT. The fact that Kincaid lives in Bennington herself, and the parallels between the protagonist’s ex-husband and her own have not escaped us.

Valerie Harper’s New Book:

I was flipping through channels last night and stopped at The Jeff Probst Show when I saw Valerie Harper was one of his guests. For those who don’t know, Harper is an icon in some circles and grew in popularity in the 1970’s by playing “Rhoda” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And then in her own TV show, Rhoda. In gay culture as well as pop culture there is a generation of people who have been fans of hers since they were little kids. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is still in syndication and it’s still garnering new fans as well. She actually looks almost as she did in 1970, which is amazing.

She has a new book out titled, “I, Rhoda.” You can purchase it here on Amazon. I’ll probably read it myself and post a review in the coming months.

The Jeff Probst Show

I figured that as long as I’m posting about Harper because I found out about her book through The Jeff Probst Show, I might as well mention that show as well. I have to be honest about this. I have been so off on all talk shows in the past few years I would rather read a romance with a woman in a long flowing gown on the cover. I find talk shows like Dr. Oz patronizing and dumb. I lost patience with Dr. Phil’s annoying voice the first time I saw him and I never watched him again. Katie Couric should have stuck to the news where she belongs, because her talk show is the best source for a nap I’ve found since chilled vodka. The View makes me cringe and I wish someone would shove a sock in Joy Behar’s big mouth just once.

However, Jeff Probst, of Survivor fame, has one of the most well-orchestrated talk shows that’s ever been on TV. And he hasn’t received half the publicity or recognition those of the newsy old boy Katie Couric crowd have received, which isn’t fair to him or to potential viewers. I’m really not exaggerating this. If you’d asked me if I would have watched a talk show with Probst two years ago I would have rolled my eyes and quoted Survivor: “I’ll go tally the votes.” But I would have been wrong. Just the energy alone, and Probst’s own personality, makes watching talk shows again on TV worthwhile. He owns every guest that sits next to him for the hour he interviews them and I don’t even think they realize it. You should have seen how he worked Valerie Harper.

I think what I enjoy most about it is that Jeff takes control of his show and doesn’t seem to care about the formula…or anything Oprah-esque….no fake tears. He does everything from a male POV, in a natural unplanned way, which makes it even more interesting when the topics include dating and relationships. It helps that he’s also easy on the eyes and when he smiles women and gay men swoon a little. But it’s more than that, and it shows that talent does win out sometimes. So if you have been put off by most talk shows in the past few years, check Jeff Probst out. I even enjoy his show when the guests are not people I care all that much about. Sometimes I don’t even know who the guests are. And yet the shows are always interesting and I can’t turn away.  It airs at different time in different parts of the country, so check out the link to the web site I provided above. It’s great DVR viewing, too.

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.

Authors Behaving Like Professionals…Show Don’t Tell

I really am going to keep this post short and sweet. I don’t want to lose anyone with a long post.

When I first thought about writing a post that deals with authors behaving like professionals, I did a search and came up with links to articles that talked about “authors behaving badly,” for the most part. This surprised me more than I thought it would.

Are there really that many authors behaving badly?

I thought that was a shame to see this blasted all over the Internet. Most of the authors I know behave like professionals. If and when they see an author behaving badly…and behaving badly covers a lot of ground…they are just as upset as everyone else.

There are many reasons why authors should behave like professionals at all times. If I listed them all here this wouldn’t be short post. So I won’t do that…even though I reserve the right to do that in the future.

But I did find two posts that are good examples of authors behaving like professionals. I think they’re both so good I’m not going to do anything but link to them to show you what I’m talking about instead of telling you.

Here’s one from the Lily – Neon Vagabond – Fantasy Thriller blog. The title of the post, “How to be a Professional,” says it all. With all the things I saw happen last week regarding a new web site I refuse to link to, it was refreshing to read it.

And here’s one from author Jeremy C. Shipp’s blog that shows he’s a professional, without even saying a word about it.

Why is this so important? There are many reasons, one of which I believe has to do with publishers and the future. Right now we’re going through a lot of changes in publishing. But I don’t see large publishers disappearing any time soon. And that’s where the big book deals are right now, and in the near future. Agents aren’t disappearing either. They are the ones who are still making the big book deals right now. And they are looking for professionals, not ranters.

Some Advice from Marie Lambda Author/Agent

I’ve mentioned before that I often become frustrated with several lit agent blogs because they don’t seem to be discussing…or embracing…a lot of the changes happening in publishing. I rarely see anything mentioned at all about the many authors and small presses who have been working in digital publishing.

I see doom and gloom. I see sarcastic blog posts about books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Or I see absolutely nothing at all.

But I recently found one blog that’s written by an author who is also an agent that does talk about all the changes happening right now. For the record I know nothing about her and I’m only going by what I’ve read on her blog. This post in particular was especially encouraging.

One of the reasons I am always interested in this kind of advice is because I don’t know for certain which way my career will go. I know I’ll always be writing something lgbt related, but I am not certain gay romance or mm romance will be as popular two or three years from now. I do think the romance genre in a mainstream sense will always thrive. But I’m not so sure about mm romance. And that’s because I’ve seen too many trends come and go in the last twenty years. Of course there will always be a gay/lesbian genre. But the market is already saturated with mm romance, and anything that saturated usually winds down sooner or later. Just look at what happened to all the self-help books that trended in the 1980’s if you don’t believe me.

In any event, check out Marie Lambda’s post. It’s very positive and it offers insight about what is happening right now.

Another Amazon Critic…Joe Wikert

I’m linking to this article because it discusses advertising, e-books, Amazon, and book prices.

But that isn’t all it does.

It also insults self-published authors and small presses.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, I believe we’ll see ebooks on Amazon at fire-sale prices. I’m not just talking about self-published titles or books nobody wants. I’ll bet this happens with some bestsellers and midlist titles.

I don’t want to sound like Joe Konrath in this post, but I can see why he gets so pissed off. Seriously, this is major condescension. And it’s getting tired now.

And, I’d like to know what’s so bad about e-books being sold at lower prices, in volume, and creating more competition to get better books out for readers who have budgets and love to read e-books.

Evidently, the all so knowledgeable Joe Wikert never read a paperback novel back in the day. Publishers advertised in these paperbacks all the time and no one ever said anything about it. This isn’t something new. They may still do this, but I haven’t read a print book of any kind in so long I’m not sure.

A publisher that I work with advertises other authors and books on their list on my Amazon pages right below the product information for many of my books. I don’t mind. Have a blast. Most of the time no one pays attention to those ads anyway. And frankly, I never read or purchased a book I’d seen advertised in the back of a paperback for that matter. I don’t really think that kind of advertising works at all, in e-books or print books. But that’s another post.

Joe even bashes the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, without explaining anything about it. He offhandedly makes it sound as if people are getting free e-books.

What Joe doesn’t mention is that people like me have coupons for e-books on Kobo, and yet all the e-books I’d like to buy with those coupons don’t count with big publishers. You know, the big publishers who are charging the outrageous prices of 12.99 and more for e-books. Yet they refuse to let readers take advantage of deals. But Joe never mentions this anywhere in the article. At one point, I almost started to cry for the big publishers.

I can’t help thinking that Joe isn’t getting the full concept of what’s been happening in publishing, and how e-books have changed the entire landscape of reading in a general sense. In any event, it’s an interesting piece for the sake of argument, especially the part about the DOJ. And Joe could be right for all I know. But so far, like them or not, Amazon has been on top of their game and they have been geared toward the reader and the author, not the publisher. And there are people out there who don’t like that.

Amazon News

I think this is interesting. Amazon bought a list of high quality children’s books and it’s making news everywhere on the Interwebs.

Amazon also decided to run a new promotion for the holidays, where they want readers to go to bookshops, choose books they might be inclinced to purchase, and scan the bar code with an Amazon app in order to receive five bucks off an amazon purchase. The title of this post reads: “Amazon Will Pay Shoppers $5 to Walk Out of Stores Empty-Handed.”

I’m not sure exactly how this promo works. But you can read all about it here. And you can check out the actual Amazon promotion here.

So far, in all the publishing blog posts I’ve read about this promotion, I’m only one of a select few who is actually linking to Amazon and letting readers know about the promotion. The rest have all been tongue in cheek posts, with sardonic remarks that sound a lot like sour grapes from people who haven’t been paying attention to what readers want.

Like them or not, aside from all the issues, Amazon has been, and remains to be, on top of their market and they seem to know what they are doing. And when people in publishing were laughing at the possibility of a digital market not longer than five years ago, Amazon was gearing up with technology and ready to go.

And you can’t fault someone for being right. You also can’t fault them for having a little fun when they are right.

Self Publishing: M Squared, by Leigh Ellwood

This is a guest post written by, Leigh Ellwood. Please take the time to read it. I’ve written on this topic many times. And I’m thrilled to publish this post here on my blog because I think it hits so many notes across the board. Especially the part about reviews and, nowadays, Interweb talk.

Hello. My name is Leigh Ellwood and I write erotic romance, erotic, and GLBT erotica. I’m pleased for the opportunity to blog here today with regards to self-publishing and writing in particular, and I hope you’ll check me out on the Web at Erotic Romance by Leigh Ellwood. One of my latest releases, M-Squared, is an anthology of gay erotic fiction published through my private imprint, DLP Books. It is available through Kindle, All Romance, Nook, and Smashwords.

Today, I’d like to share some quotes with you. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the relevance soon.

“A grand and glorious film that may well be the smash hit of 1977, and certainly is the best movie of the year so far. ” – TIME Magazine on Star Wars

“…there’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism…” – Pauline Kael on Star Wars

“It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted, and spellbinding…Movies like this are not merely difficult to make at all, but almost impossible to make well. The technical difficulties are so daunting that it’s a wonder when the filmmakers are also able to bring the drama and history into proportion. I found myself convinced by both the story and the sad saga.” – Roger Ebert onTitanic

“…the most dreadful piece of work I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” – Robert Altman on Titanic

Words are powerful. They can draw so much emotion is so little time. When arranged in certain patterns, they evoke laughter or tears, inspire thought, and change minds. They can also cut deeper than the sharpest blade and leave behind magnificent scars.

If there is anything a writer should know about words, it’s how to master them, and not allow them to consume you. This holds true especially for reviews and snark. You look at the above quotes on Titanic, and if I were to ask you what you’d see, perhaps you’d say two differing opinions by two experts. The renowned film critic loved the film, the respected director hated it. We know in which direction popular opinion swayed (It took two months of waiting before I could get a seat during the film’s first run).

We see two experts telling us what they think, but at the end of the day they are just two men – two out of billions on the planet. You, as a writer, may feel the entire planet gangs up on you in the wake of a bad review or snarky comment, but it’s no reason to let those words bother you to the point that you’re unable to function.

So Robert Altman hated Titanic. Big deal. The film had the last laugh on him. You might think, well, certainly lots of people hated that movie – but look at the bigger picture (no pun intended). James Cameron still works, Kate Winslet still makes movies, life moves on.

You may also think, the book isn’t Titanic. Perhaps not in the greater scheme of things, but isn’t it Titanic to you? You put your heart and soul into your work, you should be proud to have accomplished something not many people get to do. Unlike the actual ship, you’ll survive the journey if you take control and steel yourself against words designed to harm.

What does all of this have to do with self-publishing? Well, despite the news we’re hearing about certain authors selling thousands of books and eventually signing traditional book deals, there is still a stigma attached to being an “indie.” Look up the title of any successful self-pub author and you may see glowing reviews, but there also exist a number of complaints with regards to spelling, grammar, and style. If you plan to see your project to fruition, be prepared for the fact that not everybody is going to like your book, and that some people will not hesitate to point out the flaws. Even if you’re selling the book at 99 cents, a popular price point right now, readers won’t be pleased to spend that much on a faulty book.

I can speak from experience here. I have been published through small digital houses, and I have self-published…many years ago before Kindle was a glint in Jeff Bezos’s eye. I’ve received the wide spectrum of commentary for my books, and I’ve learned from every experience. I’ve learned the importance of good cover art, critical beta readers to help you make sense of your story, and strong editing. Even if a book is blessed with all three, inevitably one reader will decide the book is just not his cup of tea. That’s okay. What is important is that you continue to write for the love of writing, and eventually for your following.

If you do not write but love to read, give an “indie” a chance. You never know, you may find a new favorite.

Thank you!

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