Monday, April 28, 2014

Signings of the Times

Why I don't miss book signings

When your first few books come out, it's very exciting. Of course, the first one will never be topped. That first call from a New York editor or literary agent who tells you that the publishing house will publish your book and here's the advance they're offering . . . well, that particular numbing thrill can't be beat!

The first few autographings or book signing parties are burned into your memory. Relatives and good friends made up most of the crowd, sure, but there were also people you'd never met before. Very exciting and heady stuff.

If you're fortunate enough and energetic enough to continue selling your work, then the signings keep being set up, and after the fourth or fifth or sixth one, your relatives and friends begin making excuses for why they won't be able to attend or they simply stop coming to them without any excuse. The thrill is gone. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. Fewer and fewer well-wishers show up for your events and you start having "combined" signings with other authors to scare up a bigger crowd of readers and book buyers.

Naturally, I recall some wonderful moments during book signings. It was fun just to see my friends and fellow writers. However, just as I recall my bad book reviews more readily than I recall the glowing ones, I can vividly remember the insults and the agony of selling maybe three or four books in a three hour period. Talk about a humbling experience!

I recall people stopping by, picking up my books, reading the back cover blurbs, checking me out, and asking, "So, you wrote this?"

"I did!" I responded, proudly.

"Oh." Then setting it back down on the table and ambling away, totally unimpressed.

I can also remember having numerous people stop by the table sitting just outside the book store in a mall and asking me where the restrooms were located. That was the most action I got all day -- giving directions to people who needed "the facilities."

One lady asked a fellow author sitting beside me at one of these functions, "Is this better than your last book?"

"Better? Well, that's hard for me to say," the author responded, graciously. "I wouldn't say it was better."

"Oh." The lady dropped it back onto the table. "I'll pass then. I didn't like your last one all that much."

Gee, thanks, lady! Just what we all want to hear from our adoring public!

So, when people ask me if I'm signing my books anywhere, I'm so very glad to tell them that my new book is an e-book and there will be no autograph party. And no free bookmarks. Remember when we did that? Made up hundreds of bookmarks and sent them to anyone who asked? One time I placed an ad in Romantic Times magazine, instructing people to write me for a free bookmark. I was swamped with requests! I was thrilled. Then I realized from reading some of the accompanying letters that these people had no intention of buying or reading my book. They simply collected bookmarks! Who does that? Evidently, the readers of Romantic Times back then.

Book signings can be exciting. Especially when you're Nora Roberts, Stephen King, John Grisham, or Sylvia Day. For most of us, though, it becomes an exercise in humility. More often than not, instead of selling books, we end up listening to other people tell us about the books they want to write some day if they ever get around to it.

I've signed off on book signings for now. Doesn't mean I won't show up at someone else's. However, when I do attend a book signing, I actually purchase a book that I fully intend to read and enjoy! What's more, I will post a book review of it. It's a novel idea, I know.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don't Know -- Don't Tell

POV Ping-pong

I'm reading a good romance by a bestselling author right now. It's an older one that was on sale, so I jumped on it and I'm glad. As I expected from this author, it's a great story with interesting characters and wonderful phrasing and dialogue.

It's been a while since I've read this mega famous writer's books and she does something that most writers get slammed for -- she pops in and out of character viewpoints and often leaps into "God's viewpoint" or omniscient. I find this extremely vexing, especially when I read a sentence like this:

"Neither one of them heard the front door open and close."

Okay. So, why write that? What good can come from jerking your readers out of the book and telling them something that no one in the story knows? It's just plain asinine. Yet, this famous author does it in almost every book she writes.

She also leaps from viewpoint to viewpoint -- and not just between her main characters. Nope. She hops into secondary character viewpoints, too, for a paragraph or two. Totally pointless.

For instance, the main couple will kiss and gaze longingly and tenderly at each other and Bang! We're in a secondary character's head (and sometimes it's not even a secondary character but a "walk on" character or "sword carrier" as they say in the acting profession) and we are told that this character is touched by the scene and hopes the two people make a go of it. Really? You jumped viewpoints to tell us that? Like we can't, as readers, experience this on our own? If the scene is powerful enough, then readers will be thinking or feeling this. Jumping into a character's viewpoint for two or three sentences to "tell" us something that was just experienced by us through the main characters is utterly pointless -- and jarring.

Luckily, the author is skilled enough to not confuse us too much about who is thinking and feeling, etc. as she leapfrogs from one point of view to another. Lesser skilled writers can give you whiplash with such maneuvers and make you read passages again to try to figure out what's going on.

I admit that I'm a point-of-view purist because it was hammered into me by every writing teacher I ever had and was also demonstrated to me why point-of-view should be handled skillfully and sparingly. So, it's surprising to me when I read a hugely bestselling author and find POV ping-pong games. It's especially annoying when I read that characters didn't feel, didn't know, didn't see, didn't taste, didn't hear something. That's just wrong. It's simply bad writing -- lazy writing -- pointless writing. And it doesn't matter if a multi-millionaire author writes it or a never published writer pens it. When I read it, I roll my eyes, gnash my teeth, and find myself thrust out of the fictive world. If that was the writer's intention -- mission accomplished.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Bloggers Are So Cool

Love Those Bloggers!

I confess....

I am a late-comer when it comes to blogs. Yes, I have one and have been plugging away here for a few years (believe it or not!), but I only recently dipped my toe into the pool of blog tour promotions. It's a fascinating environment and I have developed a keen appreciation for all the active bloggers who also happen to be ardent readers. Thank God for them -- one and all!

I confess....

My agent tried to horsewhip me into doing more blogging interaction when my last historical romance ("To Seduce and Defend") was published a year or so ago. I sighed and whined and rolled my eyes. I was still stuck back in the day when Harlequin and Avon did all of that promotion and publicity stuff (not that they ever did that much for me -- especially Harlequin). I just wanted to write and be left alone and I sure as shootin' didn't want to spend a bunch of money on ads and such. If my book was good -- which I felt it was -- then people would read it.

I confess....

I am an idiot and a dinosaur. My poor, old historical romance suffered because I did minimal work in getting the word out about it. It received a few good reviews, but it never took off. This made no sense to me since my previous books were selling more than my new one! Crazy. And that continues to be the case to this very day! What the heck was that all about? Well, I think it's because Amazon plugged my backlist and helped people discover it. They didn't promote my new one as much. In fact, recently, Amazon selected "Too Tough To Tame" as a daily deal and that book (an older one of mine) hit #1 on the romance bestseller list! So, given all of this, I decided I must jump on the promotion bandwagon and that's where I ran into active bloggers and blog tour guides.

I confess....

No matter how my new book sells,  I won't regret my interaction with bloggers and tour guides. It's thrilling to communicate with so many readers -- readers like me who love, love, love to discover new authors and to read new books by authors we already love. Although I'm a writer, I was first a reader and still am, so I never get tired of discussing books. My best friends get tired, however, of hearing me, so it was so nice to meet others who weren't tired of me! That's one of the great things about the Goodreads website -- lots of people talking about lots of books. I find it invigorating.

I confess....

I owe a great debt to bloggers. They set up their blogs and websites and toil away for the love of books. And they also do something that is beyond measure -- they post book reviews, not only on their blogs, but on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. BLESS THEM FOR THAT! I've done everything but sell my virtue (and I might even consider that) to get people to read and post a review of my books! I have sent out ARCs with the stipulation that they had better post a review -- even if they didn't enjoy the book all that much! And what happens? No reviews. Or maybe one out of 10 ARCs sent. But bloggers? They are champs! They read them and keep their word and review them. What's more, if they don't have time to read them or they don't like the kind of book you've written, they tell you up front and don't shine you on. Most of them won't post a review if they can't be encouraging about the book, but they let you know that's why you won't see a review from them. I love that!

I confess....

I'm hooked on bloggers and owe my literary agent a giant apology. I am no longer a happy and clueless dinosaur. I live in the land of Blogs and I am among my people once more!