Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Image borrowed from www.irenesdreams.com wallpaper designs.
Well, it's that season. The nights are cold, the wind howls through the eaves and snow blankets the land... unless you live in northern California, where the air turns crisp, fog obscures the landscape, and rain falls for weeks at a time. I don't mind, I love the fog and rain. I'd like a little snow now and then and I miss the four seasons I grew up with, but I can't complain. In fact, I have so many blessings. I try to remember to be thankful for them each and every day. I also try to remember that so many others have so little, especially in times of economic turmoil like these. When I can afford to, I try to give to charity. When I can't, I still offer my prayers and best wishes. I would encourage you to do the same.

Reflections:

It's been a strange, wonderful year for me. Financial hardships seemed trifling as I reached for my dreams and took my destiny in hand. With a whole new landscape of possibilities, I turned my back on years of meaningless come-ons, long-waited rejections and apathetic disregard. I took the leap into the great unknown one year ago. I followed the footsteps of the very few, walking a path that at the time seemed fraught with peril. Until this last year, self-publishing was the last resort of talentless losers who were doomed to be forever rejected by the all-powerful gatekeepers of our sacred treasury of commercial literature. Those who dared, inevitably failed. Their humiliation was public, and they were forever kept in disregard by those powerful figures who frowned down upon us from above. Then something changed. A few new opportunities opened up. A few brave people took those first steps, and a lot more of us followed.

I live in a world that has changed so much I can barely quantify it all. Self-publishers are now Indie Authors or Indie Publishers, not the hapless rejects we've always been told they were. In fact, some of them are making millions of dollars. Many of them are outselling traditionally published authors. E-books outsell paper books to the tune of millions of dollars now, and sales are increasing more than 100% year over year (paper sales are dropping nearly as fast as e-book sales are rising). Big publishing houses are struggling to keep their doors open and to keep e-books down, but it's not working. Big bookstores are vanishing at astonishing speed, along with their small independent counterparts.

In my little corner of the landscape, sales are climbing as they have been all year. When I first began publishing this spring, I was seeing an average of two or maybe four sales per day. Over the summer, Amazon juggled things around and a lot of e-publishers lost market share. Not me. My sales crept up to eight per day, then ten, then twelve. I now average almost twenty book sales per day and that number keeps rising.

Compared to the big boys, I suppose that's not a lot, but it means a lot to me. First of all, it's validation. It tells me that I can write sell-able books. It tells me that some people out there do like my writing. In fact, some of them like my writing enough to buy all my books, give me five-star reviews, and tell all of their friends about me. And the fact that my sales have built steadily throughout the year confirms to me that what is happening is word-of-mouth. It has to be, because unlike the big boys, I have no ad money. I have no marketing campaign, no commercials, no standup at the front of Barnes & Noble. And when it comes to visibility, I'm at the back of the line. My books don't show up on the front page anywhere, and they won't until I've sold tens of thousands. But maybe, someday...

In the meanwhile I'm going to savor the rest of the season. I'll watch my trivial book sales add up with a growing sense of satisfaction, but I'll keep writing. And I'll enjoy the company of family and friends. I'll enjoy good food and health, and I'll relish the many blessings that I enjoy, and I'll wish the same for all of you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tinkerer's Daughter featured on Daily Cheap Reads, and a great (and touching) review!

First an announcement: The Tinkerer's Daughter will be featured on Daily Cheap Reads on Thursday. This is a great site that goes out of their way to provide exposure for Indie authors and books. They require a minimum of reviews, so they don't just put every $0.99 novel up there. They're trying to promote books not just based on price, but on value. Please check it out, and bookmark the site for future reference. If you own a Kindle this is definitely a place to visit frequently.

Now, onto other matters. I don't like to pay too much attention to reviews because a writer can easily obsess over these things. If we take them too seriously, a bad review can seem devastating and a great review can be unduly ego-inflating. When it comes to matters of the ego and depression, writers are notorious, so it's best to take everything we read with a grain of salt and focus on putting our creative energies into our work. I try to do that, and for the most part I think I do it fairly well.

Some readers may remember the last time I mentioned a review here. It was a turning point... my first ever one-star review. You can read that post here. I won't revisit it now, but... I've never pointed out a review that made me feel especially good. I have had a decent number of four and five star reviews since I began publishing earlier this year, but as I said, I've done my best to take it all with a grain of salt. This weekend I got a review that I couldn't just ignore, because it was so touching. The review was done by Dale at Chilli Tween Reads. This is a sample of what he had to say about The Tinkerer's Daughter:

"I cracked this open on my kindle reader this morning and found myself unable to put it down. The story unfolds beautifully with just enough action and drama to quickly draw you into Breeze's world... The story is well set in a pre-industrial revolution time period. A time that conjures up the amazing worlds of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. To spice things up and add a new twist to the nascent steampunk world he adds a touch of elfish type high fantasy.

"Sedgwick has a narrative style that is reminiscent of the old masters like Edgar Rice Burroughs, (he wrote Tarzan). His narration powers ahead like a locomotive on full steam. Smashing through chapter after chapter of suspense and excitement... The last story of Sedgwick's I reviewed was so fundamentally different to the story here, the only commonality is the excellent writing."

Wow. Did Dale really mention my name in the same sentence with Edgar Rice Burroughs? Now mind you, I'm not going to blow this out of proportion. It was a compliment, and I'm sure Dale in no way meant to compare me to the literary greats he mentioned. I know better than anyone that I walk in the shadow of these giants and I'll never come close to their talent except when I read (re-read) their books. But to have a reviewer tell me that I cast their reflection is the greatest compliment I could possibly receive. I grew up on books by Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and J.R.R. Tolkien. They were my literary bread and butter, and I still consider them to be some of the best writers who ever put pen to paper.I know I don't have the literary skill nor the imagination of these writers, but to hear that my words recall something of them, is the greatest possible compliment. I hope someday I can live up to it.

Thanks Dale, and all the other bloggers and reviewers out there who take the time to spread the word about my books. I don't have the deep pockets it takes to promote a novel. I can't buy commercials or ad space, and I can't afford much more than the few dollars that I spend on stock photos for my covers. It's word of mouth and reviews that get my books to new readers, and I couldn't do it without you guys. I know you're overwhelmed by the number of authors looking for a review these days, but take heart in the fact that we really do appreciate you. We need you. And here's something else for you to think about:

The publishing business used to have 'gatekeepers,' people whose sole job it was to determine who got in and who didn't. Originally, it was editors. Then it was assistants. Then the publishers passed the job on to agents. Then the paradigm shifted, and you know all about that. This is the fallout. Writers publish themselves. Retailer/ distributors get our books to readers. Up until that point, there are no more gatekeepers. No more literary agents,  junior editors, or editors in chief. It's all up to the people now. Those who seek out our work, who enjoy it enough to review it and share it with others; these are the gatekeepers who make or break our careers. Bloggers can pass the word on to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers all at once. We need you guys in ways you don't even know.