Friday, March 29, 2013

Reviews? Who Needs 'Em?

Well, writers do. If you regularly read e-books, consider reviewing them online at places like and Goodreads.

You see, independently published writers don't have access to national venues - and seldom to local ones - that feature book reviews. Word of mouth, or word of computer, is vital to them.

I'm not saying you have to love every book you review. Far from it. Be honest. But consider taking five minutes to write a brief "Loved it/Liked it/Tolerated it/Hated it" kind of notice.

Nothing elaborate is necessary; the goal is to let readers know what you found good, indifferent, or bad without giving away major plot points (spoilers) or missing the point of the book entirely.

What? Do such things happen?

Certainly. If Oedipus the King was a novel, you'd probably find someone who on had written, "The big surprize at the end of this book is that the murdrer is really oedpipus him self." (If you think I'm exaggerating the subliterate quality, go read a few reviews there). Don't give away the ending, please!

Or you might find a review of, say, Lady Chatterley's Lover that misses the point: "Some interesting observations on gardening and game-keeping in England are lost when the author wanders off into a love story."

You can do better than either of those. I encourage you to do it. Other readers will appreciate it, you'll have a sense of accomplishment, and writers will be pleased that someone is reading and reacting to their work.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Got You Covered

If you're interested in e-publishing, you'll come up against the problem of providing a cover for your book. You don't actually have to - Amazon and other publishers usually provide a generic cover.

But they're so . . . generic. So what do you do?

If you have skill and a program like Photoshop, you've got a beginning. You do have to tread carefully, though. You can't just pick up a photo from the net and slap that on as a book cover. That's copyright infringement, and you could wind up having to pay a big fine.

So you need either photos you already own (because you took them yourself or the person who did has given you permission) or photos you buy. This can get pricey, but there are a host of online suppliers of royalty-free photos: one-time payment, and you're good to go.

How much to spend? Balance the cost against the likely income to get an answer for that. Remember, most first novels sell 200 copies or fewer.

Hmm...How about an art piece instead?

Again, if you can draw or paint it yourself and make it look good, go for it. If you have an artist friend who will give you a sketch for use, hey, if it looks good, use it. If you want to pay someone...well, that's up to you again.

Use your art program (Photoshop or the like) to create a cover that has balance and punch. don't just stick the photo there, but find a composition that's striking.

Place your title and your by-line on the cover in LARGE, easily-readable type in a color that stands out. Remember, your browsing reader is probably first going to see the cover as a thumbnail, a 1.25x2 inch image (ore thereabout). It's important to give the potential customer a readable title, even that small.

Try to be sure that your cover is appropriate to the content. In the Jim Dallas series, I don't go for portrait covers, but for atmospheric ones that show or suggest some element of story, but there are all types of art and approaches. You can go abstract, postmodern, funky, impressionist, classic...your call again.

But remember, despite what everyone says, most people do judge a book by its cover, at least on first impression. Make a good first impression, and you're more likely to make a sale.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Always finish what your start.

My old pappy told me that a long time ago. It's important in pretty nearly everything, but really important in writing. Take the blog - I got lazy, sloughed off, and look at how long it's been.

Much better to try to say a little something on a regular schedule, maybe not every day, but once a week or so. I'll try to remember that.

When you're working on a book, it's equally important. For me the critical moment comes about forty to fifty percent of the way through a manuscript. If I keep things moving up to that point, no matter how difficult it is, then momentum becomes my friend and helps me the rest of the way through.

I'm working on the fourth Jim Dallas/Sam Lyons book now. Took a brief vacation this past week. Carried the laptop along and even on vacation wrote my minimum of a thousand words a day on the book.

Angling for that momentum, you see. Some of my friends made fun of me for not taking full advantage of the vacation, but so what? I came back with about five thousand words more than I would have had otherwise, and I feel just as rested.

Once I wrote an entire novelette, fifty thousand words, in seven days. I was on vacation, you see, on one of Florida's premiere beaches on St. George Island. We did all the vacation stuff we wanted and still had hours left over. So I lugged the laptop up onto the second-floor veranda of the beach house, propped my heels up on the rail, and worked away, three hours or so a day, sometimes longer.

I get up early, so when I was awake before the rest of the bunch I did the same thing. Day after day. By the end of the vacation, I had a complete draft.

Didn't feel like work. Mark Twain said, "Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

To me those fifty thousand words were play.