How Blogging helped me find Readers and sell Books

It seems that many authors think that if they are not writing a book, it’s a waste of their time. For instance, producing a blog. If you are an author who thinks that way, I suggest you think again, and learn how to blog properly.

To make a point, I’m not going to start out talking about blogging. I’m going to mention poetry. Back in the early 1980s, I fell in love with writing poetry when I took a summer workshop from a Pulitzer Prize winning poet while I was working toward an MFA in writing.

I have never earned any money from my poetry, but I write it anyway and post my poems on Authors Den. The 124 poems I’ve posted there have had almost 80-thousand views. My latest poem, Smartphone, has had more than 50 views so far, and I posted it this week.

My fifty-five articles on Authors Den have had almost 50-thousand views, and the fifty-two news pieces I posted there have had more than 23-thousand views.

In fact, the excerpts of my three books on Authors Den total almost 72-thousand views.

There’s also one short story, and it’s had 1,917 views. I also published A Night at the Well of Puritya finalist in the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards—on one of my blogs where it’s had another 125 views.

The idea behind all of this free stuff that I write is to attract readers who might decide to buy and read one or more of my books, and I also enjoy doing it.

But the Authors Den stats are nothing compared to the views on the Blog I launched to support my first book, My Splendid Concubine, a novel that’s sold more than 20-thousand copies. iLookChina.net has 7,481 followers and more than 500-thousand views. In fact, I can track the before and after sales of the novel this blog supports as part of my branded internet author platform.

As I’m writing this post, iLookChina currently has 1,897 posts, and I wrote most of them. So far, for 2014, the site averages 239 views a day. I launched iLookChina in late January 2010, but Concubine only sold 221 copies its first year in 2008, and to promote the book that year, I was on 31-radio talk shows as a China expert, held several author events in local brick-and-mortar bookstores, and conducted two book-blog tours—but I wasn’t blogging.

How has blogging translated into sales of My Splendid Concubine? Well, by the end of 2010—after I had written and published more than 1,000 posts on iLookChina, Concubine sold 2,375 copies that year—more than four times the combined sales of the first-two years. In 2011, Concubine sold another 4,641 copies, and in 2012, four thousand one-hundred-fifty-eight sold, and more than five thousand in 2013.

In addition, in 2009, before I launched iLookChina.net, Concubine sold only 341 books for an average of 28 a month—that’s less than one a day. Over the years, I’ve launched several other blogs and published two more books, a thriller called Running with the Enemy, and a memoir called Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé.

There’s another benefit to writing more than just books. The more an author writes—even Blog posts or poetry that readers may view free—the better the author’s writing becomes, and when I took an all-day blogging workshop from Bill Belew through the South Bay branch of the California Writers Club in late 2007, Belew said we can write a Blog and eventually turn what we write into a book.

What I don’t do on my blogs is write that much about me, my writing habits, or my books. This post is one of the exceptions. Instead, I focus on China, its history, its politics, its culture and its people. For the blog, The Soulful Veteran, that supports my thriller, I write mostly about war, combat, military issues, PTSD, etc. For my third book, a memoir, I write about teaching, public education, children and parenting at Crazy Normal.  Then there’s this blog, Lloyd Lofthouse.org, where I write on any topic that strikes my fancy. I’ve even written about Growing up with Oranges.

After every post I publish, there’s a line that separates the post from a short bio of me and a blurb about my books with links—scroll down to see what I’m talking about. To learn more about how to Blog properly, I suggest you start out by watching the two videos from Bill Belew that are embedded in this post. Because Belew taught me how to blog, why not let him teach you too?


This presentation explains how to overcome the obstacle to getting started with your blog and web site. Bill Belew is an SEO and web traffic guru – a real one. No fancy tricks. Just long hard and long lasting effort.

In conclusion, if you read this far, thank you for visiting. You may never buy or read one of my books, but you might tell someone about this post who will. Think about it.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The Realty of Honest Reviews and Book Blog Tours

Last Saturday, March 1, 2014, I received an e-mail from the publicist who arranged the March Book Blog Tour for my novel, Running with the Enemy. She was writing to let me know that one of the tour hosts who’d agreed to read my book and review it on her blog wasn’t going to read it and there wasn’t going to be a review posted on that Blog (I’ve removed the blog’s name and it’s host’s name from this post).

Here’s the reason for the change: “I wanted to let you know that (the book Blog host) handed the book off to one of her other readers who requested it. She never told me that it was for one of her reviewers and not herself.  That reader found it too violent and couldn’t finish it. (The blog host) won’t be posting a review but will be posting a spotlight of the book instead.  I really have to wonder if there are people who think you soldiers were out in the field eating bonbons, rather than shedding blood for your country!  I thought I made it crystal clear in the invitation that this was not a feel good, romanticized fluff novel.”

Here’s my response to the publicist who arranged the tour:

It’s understandable that many readers in North America and Europe might be repulsed by the violence in the novel, because more than 93% of Americans, for instance, have never served in the military and even fewer have fought in a war.

There are more than 316 million Americans today, but only 1.8 million served in the Korean War; 2.7 million in the Vietnam War, and 2.3 million in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

That means that in the United States, less than 2% (this number is probably much smaller due to the deaths of veterans over time) of the population has been exposed to the violence of war. Only a combat veteran understands what it’s like and we’re an often misunderstood minority most Americans would rather sweep under the carpet.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

e-book cover                                     paperback cover

In fact, the only exposure to war most North Americans experience is the romanticized, sanitized, Hollywoodized versions of war that is one of the reasons I joined the US Marines in 1965 thinking of glory and not gore. Over the years, I’ve only seen a couple of films that came close to real combat. Most films are fantasies that glorify boozing, violence and sex, and the few scenes of violence are usually edited (sanitized). This may explain why the big money makers from Hollywood are usually fantasies or cartoons like the recent Lego film that a neighbor said was silly.

It was in the summer of 1965 in MCRD (Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego) that I started to wake up to a reality often not found in films. That summer of training was harsh and demanding where fear coursed through our blood daily as the drill instructors pushed us to the physical and mental brink of collapse and sometimes beyond to strip us of our ignorant innocence and convert us into killing machines willing to die on command.

Then right out of boot camp, we were shipped to Vietnam, where my childhood dreams of glory and heroism from watching John Wayne movies (and other films) evaporated and never returned.  Instead, I came home in 1966 a heavy drinker with a heavy dose of PTSD and night flashbacks so vivid that I often awoke in a cold sweat in a semi nightmare state where I was back in the battlefield being hunted by the Vietcong.

Even to this day, I feel helpless if I don’t have a weapon within easy reach—a knife or a firearm. I still sleep with a .38 caliber pistol. If I lock that weapon up in the gun safe, I can’t sleep. I lay awake all night listening to every sound wondering how long it would take me to open the safe if someone broke in the house.

My medical provider is the Veterans Administration (VA), and on the door to the VA clinic I go to is a sign that says we have to leave any weapons in our cars—don’t bring them inside.

When I stopped swilling the booze back in the early 80s—after my first marriage ended—I started to manage the anger that comes with the PTSD so it wouldn’t consume me and destroy my life totally. The anger is always there like a simmering volcano that occasionally flares up. This may explain why I prefer the life of an introvert. Crowds make me nervous.

Running with the Enemy, although fiction, represents what I experienced in combat, and why I used that 1880 General William Tecumseh Sherman quote to open the book.

War, like rape, is hell. War does things to most of the troops who actually fight in combat. It’s also why I can’t condemn combat troops who end up committing atrocities like the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam or what happened in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq where there was torture and abuse. Those troops didn’t need to go to prison for what they did. They needed help to recover from the combat trauma that ruined their lives. Maybe a mental hospital/prison would have been a better place to end up with help to heal if healing was possible.

Many if not all of us who joined the military mostly do so out of patriotism—naive and innocent we went off to war singing patriotic songs, and then, like a Dr. Jekyll, many of us combat veterans came back as a Mr. Hyde changed for the worse. For us who manage our demons and stay mostly in control, we must always be on guard to control the dark stain on our souls that was birthed in combat.

Running with the Enemy, not for the faint of heart, is on sale for .99 cents through March (2014) and in April the price returns to $3.99. A few pull quotes from reviews might paint a more complete picture of the story.

A judge for the 21st Writers Digest Self-Published Awards said, “Quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of conflict.” Another reviewer said, “Well written with very graphic language and violent scenes, but a very good suspense book.” A third reviewer said, “I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book; then repelled by the sexual violence.”

The reality is that as authors—if we are honest—we have no control over how any reader will respond to our work.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

A New World of Publishing

I rode BART into SF and hiked up Powell Street to The Sir Francis Drake Hotel to attend the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival that started at 11:00 am on May 18, and discovered by 9:45 pm—almost eleven hours later when I hiked back to BART to ride home—that giving up a day of writing was worth what I learned and the connections I made.

I think the event was more for writers than readers and considering the number of writers and want-to-be writers in the Bay area there should have been more people in attendance to learn about today’s fast changing publishing environment.

But many of today’s authors have no idea how important it is to learn all you can to understand how challenging it is to attract an audience in addition to the dangers that can destroy an author’s career.

The six-scheduled free discussions—open to the public—were packed with information from journalists, writers, poets, publicists, and traditionally published or indie published authors with a wide range of experience.

The first panel of four met at 11:00 am and focused on the art of marketing and promotion—an examination of what it takes to get your work noticed in a crowded marketplace.

To understand how crowded, Bowker says, “The number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, and now tallies more than 235,000 print and “e” titles.”

For comparison, traditional publishers put out between 300,000 and 350,000 new titles annually but the average avid reader only reads 9 or 10 books a year. Do the math and you will understand why it is important to get out there and compete for readers—that is if you are interested in anyone reading your work.

In addition, reading books isn’t dying as some fear—but the way people read books is changing drastically.

R. R. Bowker reports, “that Gen Y’s 2011 book expenditures rose to 30 percent—up from 24 percent in 2010—passing Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) 25 percent share. And with 43 percent of Gen Y’s (born 1978 – 1990) purchases going to online channels, they are adding momentum to the industry shift to digital.

And the Los Angeles Times says, “Total trade book sales in the U.S. reached $7.1 billion in 2012, up from $6.7 billion the prior year.”

“The book industry is operating in a new and dynamic landscape that puts much more power in the hands of consumers,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice-president of Bowker Market Research. “Consumers can now very easily purchase virtually any book they want, whenever they want it and get it at a competitive price. It’s more essential than ever before to understand who is buying and what their expectations and habits are.” Source: Bowker.com

During the first break of the SF Book Festival, I met Jean Davidson, Ph.D., the author of two nonfiction books: Mother of Fire and The Ostrich Wakes—two books I now want to read after talking to her.

Then I had a brief conversation with Porter Gale, the author of Your Network is Your Net Worth. Gale was the former VP of Marketing at Virgin America with more than twenty years of experience working in marketing and filmmaking. I wanted to talk longer but the next lecture started at 1:00 pm, and I did not get a chance to reconnect.

The 1:00 – 2:10 pm panel topic was Writing About your Life.  Because my next book is a memoir, I wanted to hear what the four experienced authors had to say. For example, one member of the panel was Dean Dimitrieski—the winner of the Biography/Autobiography category of the festival—who wrote Tears For My City.

I wanted to attend the 2:30 – 3:30 pm panel on Children’s Books in a Modern Age, but during the break I got into a conversation with Lone Morch, the author of Seeing Red, and then talked with Patty Kogutek, the author of A Change of Habit—and met her husband, a Vietnam vet who has led a fascinating life—and felt it was worth staying.

At 3:40 pm, there was a powerful and dramatic poetry reading by Dr. Neal Hall, a multi-award winning poet quickly followed at 4:10 with an active panel of five discussing The Future of Books. Three of the five panelists combined had at least eighty years of experience in publishing/journalism. This was followed by an inspiring presentation by Richie Norton, who wrote the grand-prize winner The Power of Starting Something Stupid.

At 5:00, the free admission portion of the book festival ended, and off I went through the streets of San Francisco to have dinner at the Millennium Restaurant.

At 7:00, the award winners returned to attend the award ceremony of the festival—with open bar and a buffet—where I learned that less than five-percent of the authors and poets who submitted entries to this festival’s literary contest were honored with recognition from the judging staff of authors, publishers, journalists, agents, directors and others committed to supporting the literary community. After months of hard work where these judges read, discussed, analyzed and even argued, the list of award winners was announced leading to May 18.

I’m already planning to attend the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival.

Discover The Need To Edit and Authors Finding Readers

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Great editors may be worth their weight in antimatter

Editing a book length manuscript is a vital part of the writing process, and a great editor—to some authors—may be worth the editor’s weight in antimatter (according to Wise Geek.org, antimatter is worth $1,750 Trillion US Dollars per ounce).

Wouldn’t you love to have an ounce of antimatter to sell? And don’t expect to make any money as an editor if you charge similar rates.

Anyway, this morning I read a post, My Advice to Aspiring Authors, by New York Times best-selling self-published author Hugh Howey, who said, “Invest in your book with editing and great cover art.”

That wasn’t all Howey said, but it reminded me of one of the greatest editors in publishing history, Max Perkins (1884 – 1947).  Back in the early 1980s when I was working toward an MFA in 20th century American lit and creative writing, I read and studied many of the great 20th century authors and discovered Max Perkins, who edited many of them.

Out of curiosity, I bought and read Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, and before I started writing this post, I visited Amazon.com and discovered—to my, gasp, shock—this book has gone out of print.  Berg’s book isn’t even an e-book.

Hugh Howey touches on the topic of traditionally published books going out of print and says, “Working at a bookstore was a dream job but also a sad job. I saw how books sat spine-out on a shelf for six months, were returned, went out of print. That’s a narrow window in which to be discovered.”

By coincidence, I discovered another great editor in the Max Perkins tradition. Our daughter is a student at Stanford and that is why we get a print copy of the Stanford Magazine, a publication of the Stanford Alumni Association, mailed to us every two months. This issue was for March/April 2013.

The Einhorn Touch by Constance Casey introduced me to Amy Einhorn, who has her own imprint at G.P. Putnam’s Sons. After reading Casey’s piece in the magazine, I learned that Casey was a great editor, and many of her books are by first-time authors.

The debut author for her imprint was Kathryn Stockett, the author of “The Help”, a book that was rejected by 60 agents over three years. One rejection letter said, “There is not a market for this kind of tiring writing.”

“The Help” went on to sell more than 10 million copies and maybe you saw the movie that was nominated for four Academy Awards.

In fact, for one book that Einhorn rejected and a month later changed her mind about, she wrote the author a 17-page letter detailing the necessary changes and together the author and editor worked through four-major revisions. That book was “The Postmistress” by Sarah Blake.

Discover more about The Need to Edit

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

East Bay Area Author Event, March 2nd, 2013

MEET & HEAR LOCAL AUTHORS AT THE FIRST ANNUAL EAST BAY AUTHORS BOOK FAIRE – FREE

Searching for a way to give themselves and the general reading public a venue to get together, a group of published authors in the East Bay have set up a free-to-the-public Book Faire for March 2nd, 2013, in Walnut Creek, from 10:30 AM to 5 PM .

Fifteen published authors will be talking throughout the day about the subject of their books, about their work, and about the process of writing and getting published.  When they’re not speaking, attendees will have plenty of time to chat with them. They will also have a number of their books for sale (and autograph) at their own tables at the event. Some will have other wares they produce for sale (including chocolate!).

Doors will open at 10:30 AM with the authors’ tables, and presentations will begin at 11 and end at 5.

HERE’S WHO WILL BE THERE AND AN IDEA OF THEIR WORKS (AND TOPICS)

Loyd Auerbach: one of the world’s leading experts on the paranormal and author of many books including The Ghost Detectives’ Guide to Haunted San Francisco – plus he’s a chocolatier, and will have samples to taste!

Richard L. Wren: reinvented himself in his mid 80s as a mystery/thriller writer. Author of Casey’s Slip, Joshua’s Revenge and a great little booklet called A Practical Guide to Writing & Publishing a Novel.

Richard L. Wren

Susan Pace-Koch: children’s book author and publisher, including her award-winning illustrated book Get Out of My Head, I Should Go to Bed and other picture books.

Denise Kalm: personal coaching for those in transition, with much of her work around career management. Author of the novel, Lifestorm and the career management guide Career Savvy.

Denise P. Kalm

Bee Hylinski: former attorney and past Mayor of Moraga before becoming a writer and professional editor. Her novel Contract Year: A Baseball Novel is a labor of love for the game of baseball.

Bee Hylinski

Lloyd Lofthouse: author of Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller set during the Vietnam War and The Concubine Saga, historical fiction centered on Robert Hart and his place in modernizing China in the late 19th Century.

Elaine Starkman: poet and writer, teacher of literature, writing, poetry and memoir, and author of Learning to Sit in the Silence: A Journal of Caretaking and a book of poems, Hearing Beyond Sound.

Elaine Starkman

Dave Case: lifetime professional pilot and sailor, he’s the one to ask about flying and sailing. Author of Sailin’ South and Maverick Pilot, and the novel Keeper of the Secrets.

Dave Case

Jeffrey Hickey: composer, performing artist, teacher, coach, and author of Morehead, a novel about a young man living in San Francisco during the height of the sexual revolution, the late 70s to mid-80s.

Lise Pearlman: retired judge, legal scholar and author of The Sky’s The Limit: People v. Newton, The Real Trial of the 20th Century? She will be teaching “Landmark Trials of the 20th Century” in Lafayette this Spring.

Jay Hartlove: professional writer for over 30 years, blogger, and teacher (seminars on the craft of writing), he’s the author of The Chosen, a supernatural thriller.

Harlan Hague: historian, novelist and screenwriter, author of biographies, travel articles, and historical novels, including Road to California: The Search for a Southern Overland Route, 1540-1848, and Santa Fe mi casa.

Harlan Hague

Lani Longshore: blogger, fiber artist and science fiction writer, and author of Death By Chenille and editor of Voices of the Valley: First Press,  the first anthology of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley branch. She’ll also be talking about and selling her fabric art.

Lani Longshore

Joe Cohen: author of six published works of fiction, including Wandering Cain and The Rabbi and Princess Harmonica: A Tale of Human Trafficking.

Joe Cohen

Sandy Blaine: yoga teacher and author of Yoga For Computer Users and Yoga for Healthy Knees, she’s also a wellness consultant and resident yoga instructor for Pixar Animation Studios.

Come talk to authors/writers of all sorts of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Each author will be speaking from the stage for approximately 15-20 minutes throughout the day, beginning at 11 AM and running until 5 PM. They’ll all be there throughout the day at their own tables, to talk with individuals, answer questions, and of course, sell their books (and other wares in some cases).

The free event will be held in the Oak Room on the grounds of the Grace Presbyterian Church complex, 2100 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94595. Plenty of free parking.

DIRECTIONS to 2100 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA.

2100 Tice Valley Blvd

NOTE ON PARKING: There is a small lot adjacent to the Oak Room building. Not big enough for all of our cars, but you can pull in and unload easily here. The driveway is right before the building (first drive/first building on the left past the light at the intersection with Rossmoor Parkway).

Directions from points West of Walnut Creek: Take Highway 24 East to Pleasant Hill Road South. Turn Left on Olympic Blvd. Turn Right on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

2100 Tice Valley Blvd - Two

Directions from points North of Walnut Creek: Take 680 South to Olympic Blvd. Right on Olympic. Turn Left on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

Directions from points South of Walnut Creek: Take 680 North to Olympic Blvd. Left on Olympic. Turn Left on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

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In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly – Part 3/3

In conclusion, an author should not argue with a negative reviewer by using the author’s opinions. Instead, the author should use positive reviews from reputable sources to counter the negative review. It is a fact, that some people will write reviews as if his or her opinion is the only one in the world that counts, but that is not true.

It also takes time to gather reputable, credible reviews. It took me four years to gather the credible and positive reviews that I have used to counter some of the negative reviews of my work.

Then after countering a negative review, I suggest that if a reader feels he or she might agree with the negative review, they take advantage of a free sample of the author’s work. For example, Amazon offers a free preview, and I offer free samples on my Websites/Blogs.

In addition, I reply to negative reviewers by saying that he or she has a right to his or her opinion and that a few may agree with that opinion, but there are other reputable opinions that do not agree and then quote from those reputable sources, because these opinions may be used as facts.

After all, they are not the author’s opinions, are they?

Now, how do you earn reviews from reputable and credible sources?

The answer is to write compelling fiction or non-fiction books and to do that, the writer must learn everything there is to know about the craft of writing. There will always be writers that are more talented who write more compelling work that sells more copies, and there will always be writers who write books that cannot compete.

For most of us, the craft of writing must be learned. For example, few, if any, are born with the knowledge and talent to be great wood workers, architects, engineers, inventors or scientists so why should this not be different for the craft of writing?

That’s why it is important to be a literate, life-long learner willing to read how-to books—in addition to reading for pleasure from those writers that have demonstrated what they are doing like Grisham, Hemingway and Paulo Coelho.

Every author, no matter how successful and talented, will have critics and reviewers that will not like his or her work, so get used to it, and disarm the damage they might do by using the opinions of credible sources that may be used as facts to prove that there are readers that enjoy what you write. Don’t use your friends, relatives, a neighbor, anonymous reviewers or paid reviewers or your own opinions to fight this war against negative reviews

As authors, we are not alone when it comes to attracting negative reviews, and I’m going to use a few examples to prove this point:

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)

  • Of 6,558 reviews on Amazon, ninety-five were one-star and 5,505 were five-star.
  • “I bought this book because everyone finished the entire series and all liked it. seriously I don’t like this book. no originality at all” – Wan
  • “This was the worst book I have ever read in my entire life. I have never read a worst book.” – mom

Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Of 2,377 reviews on Amazon, eighty-eight were one-star and 1,773 were five-star.
  • “I waited 52 years to read this book. I should have waited 52 more. A real snoozefest. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.” – Nick T. Francone
  • “Pretty darn boring, if it wasn’t required to read in English i would’ve burned it. This type of book isnt for everyone.” – Elizabeth A. Fager

J. R. Tolkien: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

  • Of 2,343 reviews for The Lord of the Rings, ninety were one-star and 1,867 were five-star.
  • “It was a piece of crap. This book was one of the worst books i have ever read.
    I read it once and could barely fumble through it. The charaters, as in some books, don’t lack depth, they DROWN in it. there are WAY to many PASSIVE sentinces. I mean, come on, each page is usually about 3/5 discribing the landscape and telling us useless information about what I care about and about 1/5 of the pages are used for ‘character devlopment’. This is good, and what i personally look for in the FIRST chapter, but this is used THROUGHT THE ENTIRE BOOK. I even fell asleep reading it. I mean WOW. …”  – phd_computer
  • “I’ll start by saying that I am a huge fan of Fantasy novels, but this ‘crux’ of Fantasy literature really disappointed me.”This book has a lot of faults. To begin with, it goes against the first basic rule of writing a book: show don’t tell. As you start the novel, it tells everything and nothing has been shown. Tolkein has just narrated almost everything, starting from the history to the setting, and this gives the novel a feeling as if a child has written it.”Secondly, the book is just too slow. I mean you just start the 1st chapter and you doze off after a couple of pages. The pace might have been fine for the 50’s but it’s just too slow for the double Os!”I don’t know why other people liked the plot so much, but I think the plot was really really weak. The causality in the story is almost non-existant and that is what makes the difference between a jumble of short stories joined loosely together and a good novel.

    “Lastly, the characters could have been much developed with more life in them than mere puppets bound to do the author’s bidding. The chracters are much more Archetyped than they should have been.

    “Overall, I think that it has gotten more attention than it deserved, perhaps because of the movies, and that people are liking it because of some trend or the like” – Minhaj Ali Shahid “Ibtehaj”

Did you notice that these three authors had 9,145 five-star reviews to counter the 273 (less than 3% of the total) one-star reviews? Why should the one-star reviews receive more weight than the five-stars?

Return to Part 2 of In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly – Part 2/3

The Guardian published a piece on How not to handle bad reviews, and quoted science fiction author Isaac Asimov who said authors fall into two groups: “Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”

Then Dog Star Media says, of fighting negative reviews online, that, “There are harsh rules in opinion-making. One bad review can really hurt you. There is no way to fight opinion with opinion.  The only safe answer for control is to be positive all the time, frequently and in great volume. … If the conversation is going on and you are not part of it, it is more than likely that you will be painted inaccurately.  By being part of the conversation, you can keep it accurate and begin to control the conversation by putting a greater emphasis on your opinion. … There is a saying about the basics of Public Relations. It goes like this: You can fight fact with fact but you cannot fight opinion with opinion.”

But before an author can fight opinions with facts that support the quality of his or her work, he or she must go out and find facts from reputable sources—not from anonymous reviewers, friends or family.

With review space in the traditional media shrinking, where does an author find reputable sources that do not charge to review?

The Midwest Book Review is one but Midwest reviews less than a third of the books submitted to them.  The other option is to find Blogs that review books and do not charge a dollar price to do it. I suggest finding Blogs with an Alexa ranking in the top 1%—or near it, but Blogs that review books must also earn a credible reputation, which is why I suggest only submitting to Blogs that are ranked in the top 1% by Alexa.

But how do you come up with that one percent?

Royal Pingdom.com reported December 2011 that there were 555 million Websites; 800+ million users on Facebook; 39 million Tumbler Blogs; 70 million WordPress Blogs and that there were 2.4 billion social networking accounts worldwide.

To come up with a 1% number, I use the total number of Websites, which means a Book Review Blog should have an Alexa ranking of at least 5.5 million or lower. I also look for the number of people that subscribe to that Blog as members and/or followers.

For two examples:

Peeking Between the Pages had a 1.7 million Alexa traffic rank when I checked with 384 sites linked in and 1,363 members in addition to 253 followers. The Review Policy says, “Due to the overwhelming number of requests I do get I am selective about what I pick to read and review. I will only choose to review those books which I feel I will have an interest in.”

Another Blog that reviews books is So Many Precious Books, So Little Time and it had a 4.9 million Alexa ranking with 305 sites linked in. This Book Blog has 708 members and 127 followers. The review policy says, “… I am not able to accept all review requests as I get so many. I am not able to reply to all requests …”

In addition, I also submit my work to the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Yes, it costs money to enter this contest but all entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges that is similar to a review—that is as long as Writer’s Digest keeps this policy.

I have posted two judges’ commentaries on my Websites and you may see them by clicking on the following links.

My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart

Everyone has an opinion and that opinion should be treated with respect, but that does not mean an author has to lie down and take a beating when there is evidence from reputable sources such as The Midwest Book Review, a Writer’s Digest Judge, or Book Blogs like Peeking Between the Pages and So Many Precious Books, So Little Time that may offer a positive review building an author’s credibility to counter negative reviews.

Continued on January 22, 2013 in Part 3 of In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly – Part 1/3

Self-published authors are often crucified for defending his or her work against negative Internet book reviewers on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, but I think, under certain circumstances, that there is nothing wrong with an author—no matter how published—to stand up to negative reviewers and critics.

I have done it. In fact, it may be the duty of an author to defend his or her work against negative reviews that may only represent a few opinions but not all.

I’ll explain how I think this should be done in part 2 and 3 from this series of posts.

For example, Bill Styron “defended (his work as an author) vigorously and ridiculed the attacks (of his critics)—they utterly failed to understand the purpose of literature. He gave not an inch.” Source: Bill Styron, The Ups and Downs by James Salter, The New York Book Review of Books, January 10, 2013, Volume LX, Number 1.

However, Bill Styron was not a self-published author. In 1968, he won the Pulitzer Prize for the Confessions of Nat Turner, in addition to other awards. Then in 1980, he won the National Book Award for Sophie’s Choice (turned into a film by Spielberg that won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award).

Yet, Styron had critics that did not like his work, and he felt “they utterly failed to understand the purpose of literature.”

Styron was not alone in how he felt about some critics/reviewers.

“I have learned not to read reviews. Period. And I hate reviewers. All of them, or at least all but two or three. Life is much simpler ignoring reviews and the nasty people who write them. Critics should find meaningful work. ” – John Grisham (as of 2008, his books had sold over 250 million copies worldwide)

“Decadence is a difficult word to use since it has become little more than a term of abuse applied by critics to anything they do not yet understand or which seem to differ from their moral concepts.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Writers are lampposts and critics are dogs. Ask lampposts what they think about dogs. Does the dog hurt the lamppost?” – Paulo Coelho (Coelho has published thirty books that have sold more than 150 million copies in over 150 countries worldwide and his work has been translated into 71 languages.)

Continued on January 21, 2013 in Part 2 of In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

If your books aren’t selling, what then?

When I read the latest e-mail News from best-selling author Maria Murnane, I realized that I was not doing enough to market my own work. In fact, I think most authors do not do enough to market his or her work.

Murnane—the author of three chick-lit novels with number four on the way: Perfect on Paper; It’s a Wavery Life; Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two coming in April—made it official that she had met her sales goal for 2012 and sold more than 100,000 books.

I first heard Murnane at a Saturday morning monthly meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club. She was a dynamic guest speaker. After hearing her, it was obvious that she is probably an extrovert, and that helps when it comes to an author promoting his or her work, and the evidence says Murnane is a one person industry.

On her Website/Blog—Maria Murnane.com—she offers book marketing tips for free and for a price.

Because I’m not a dedicated extrovert but more into writing alone in my man-cave, I don’t expect I will be following  in Murnane’s marketing footsteps in the fast lane. Instead, I’ll stick to Blogging and Social Networking. Besides, I’m okay with being a mid-list author with sales of about 12,000 copies, so far.

However, a recent piece—Failure to Launch by Donald Maass—published in the February 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine supports what Murnane is doing, and if what she is doing doesn’t work for you, Maass offers advice for that too.

Maass says, “You’ll never meet an author who admits to publishing a ‘failed’ novel. You will, though, encounter authors in bars and on blogs who will loudly tell you what’s wrong with the book industry. … If you encounter disappointments in your publishing career, don’t despair. That happens to pretty much every author. This trick is not to simmer but to learn.”

Writer’s Digest also lists the Seven Secrets of Successful Self-Published Authors.

In fact, you may want to learn from authors like Maria Murnane. Other authors you may want to learn from are: Hugh Howey; John Locke; Amanda Hocking; J.A. Konrath; Boyd Morrison; Michael J. Sullivan; Michael Prescott; Barbara Freethy; Charles Orlando; James Altucher; Dean Wesley Smith;  Michele Scott/A.K. Alexander; Barry Eisler; Louise Voss and Mark Edwards; Kerry Wilkinson; J. Carson Black; Tanya Wright; Denise Hamilton; Vivian Yang; Laurel Saville, and Elle Lothlorien

If learning from these successful authors doesn’t work, then return to Maass’s advice and learn how to become a more powerful storyteller. Maass says, “While the industry isn’t without blame, the fact is that you can’t change the business. You can only change your writing.”

It seems that Murnane discovered that secret long ago, because her writing has found more than 100,000 readers. The strongest path for promotion is readers spreading the word, and writing that needs improvement does not earn word-of-mouth.

Discover Authors Finding Readers

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”