Learning to write in a world without self-publishing

This summer when I was back in California my mother put a gun to my head and made me clear the boxes of my crap she hauled from our big family house I last lived in with her to the more senior friendly condominium she now inhabits. I’ve been avoiding this for a very long time hence the need for the gun and the threats of bodily harm. She finally got me to do this by threatening to withhold Cheesecake Factory. I know – my mother is a monster!

So there I was in the garage surrounded by plastic bins of my crap.

Honestly a bonfire would have been the best solution.

Truthfully it was all very bittersweet.

There were letters that spoke of girlish love. Pictures of ex-boyfriends who will always be young and handsome and full of potential in my mind and not the lawyers/doctors/judges/fathers/husbands they would become. Dried flowers of forgotten origin. Ribbons. Theater tickets. Concert tickets. A picture of River Phoenix. Junk for anyone but me.

I binned it all.

I’m not one to dwell in the past.

With the sort of sweeping speed a grocery store checkout clerk scans groceries, item after item passed before my eyes then arced into the trash.

My mother held on to all of this stuff out of fear that if she threw one scrap of it away I’d be gutted.

I’m sort of glad she did hold on to my things so I could have the cathartic release of pitching it all into her mammoth black bin myself.

What she did have that I didn’t expect to find were my old writings.

Only my mother would keep my homework.

In a purple plastic box with a green lid was the cumulative writings of a young Livia.

I spent hours reading through it.

And boy was it all really bad!

I mean just horrendous!

I have people describing their appearances as they stare at their reflection in a mirror. Bad. Really bad. Amateurish and laughable. The sort of stuff produced by a novice writer that truly hasn’t taken the time to learn her craft.

But still there was promise in those lines. Enough promise that one (not both) of my high-school English teachers told me to keep working at it and someday I would be a writer.

The key word being someday. Not that day, but someday.

I remember being offended by that criticism. Young Livia thought she was ready for the big time. I thought it was phenomenal. I thought I was the child Mozart of writing. Had I been able to self-publish back in those days I would have been the first in line. Every word written would have become the Gospel of Me.

But self-publishing wasn’t a thing back during those very important formative years when I was learning the craft of writing. My only option back then was to keep writing and keep writing some more and keep writing just an hour more after that. I couldn’t take the first thing I ever put down and send it out to the world as if it were worthy of being published.

For this I am more grateful than I can accurately express. Someday perhaps I shall hone my craft to the point that I can perform the sort of verbal gymnastics that could put into words the gratitude I feel that those first attempts never made it out of that purple box with the green lid.

If I’d gone out and self-published then I might actually think my best work was the work that was out there for the world to digest and then appropriately regurgitate like a cat hacks up a fur-ball.

There are so many fur-balls out in the world now. There are so many writers that are putting their first efforts out there before they have had time to mellow and mature into their craft. They’re babies toddling along thinking they’re ready to run a marathon.

Back when I wrote my first manuscripts I had critique groups and English professors to give me the sort of feedback new writers today seem to turn to the abused reading public for. No wonder readers cling to name recognition. There is risk in trying someone new. At least with Dan Brown you know what you’re going to get.

The published world is not the place to stretch your wings and learn to fly. It’s not the place to go as you make those first few attempts and fall on your beak.

It’s where you go when you’re ready to soar.

Going Hybrid: Rethinking the road to publishing

I’m proud of my indie roots. It took guts for me to go out on my own and self-publish and by god I made a go of it. I found readers by beating my own drum. I’ve sold books and yes – I’ve made a little scratch to line my pockets (actually buy a couple of Coach handbags, one very beautiful pair of boots, and fund my Roth IRA – I’m not totally irresponsible!)

There was a long period of time in my writing career during which I couldn’t get arrested if I’d shown up at an agents door with a gun and a copy of manuscript. I think I’ve been rejected by every agent in the Writer’s Market. Some more than once. Some more than twice.

I accepted a long time ago that this constant rejection was part of the business. I didn’t have to like it, but I accepted it. So I kept on writing and writing and writing some more. I joined critique groups and listened. I attended workshops and conferences and listened some more. I worked to improve my writing.

Then I wrote Poor Man’s Pantheon.

It’s good. Really good. I’m very proud of this book.

If you’re a reader of mine and wondering why you can’t find it online it’s because it’s never been published.

I sent query letters to every agent in the book.

I received rejections from each of them or was just ignored.

In most of the rejection letters there was a line about personal preferences and market demands and blah blah blah. Fine – Poor Man’s Pantheon wasn’t what they were looking for. It doesn’t mean it was bad or unreadable. It just meant it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So I wrote another book.

Claire Takes a Lover.

Again – not available anywhere other than in a file on my computer.

I wrote Grand Duchess, Mail Order Bride, The Phoenix (this is a trilogy), All At Once, Three Wishes, Fifty Ways to Meet a Man, The O’Hara Sisters, The Highway Man, A Marriage of Convenience… There are actually more but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed writing out this list. I can’t believe that I have this many manuscripts gathering digital dust. In my defense this proves that I’m not someone that just sat down one day, pounded out a story, self-published, and voila decided to call myself a writer. I actually work at this.

I hit all of the agents again and again and again and again… Round after round of rejections. I couldn’t understand why I was still routinely getting rejected. I knew my work was good. But yet I was still getting rejected.

I’m not the best at writing a query letter, but I figured there had to be something more. So I started to think around corners. I asked myself questions. Then I got mad. Then I just made the decision to get off my ass and be proactive.

I self-published.

I’d been playing around with the idea for Memoirs for sometime. I didn’t want to put out any of the novel sized manuscripts I’d written. That just seemed a bridge too far.

But Memoirs on the other hand was a different animal. Something I could put out into the world so I could at last have the satisfaction of being published under my own name. I work I could play around with as I saw fit.

It was also my way to test the waters.

I’d received so many rejections I was starting to think I might really not have talent or ability. I needed readers that weren’t part of my critique circles or friends to tell me what they thought.

Out of the gate Memoirs took off like a shot.

l think a few factors contributed to the early success of Memoirs.

The serialized format has appeal. There was a reason why it was so popular for as long as it was. The rise of the paperback brought about the downfall of the serialized novel. Maybe serialization needs to make a comeback.

It’s written from the heart. I wrote what I wanted to write for me. My own toy to play with written for me without the needs or demands of the marketplace in mind. I haven’t written a word of Memoirs for anyone other than me. In this I am blatantly selfish. I’ve written everything else with the reader in mind. This one was for me.

I found the right way to bang my drum. I see a lot of writers trying to bang their drum on the internet. I see the mistakes they make and how their methods are not sustainable over the long run. I’m gathering readers with content not book marks and ball point pens. This is another blog post.

What happened next after those first few weeks of self-publishing success was unexpected. I learned backwards what Kevin Costner tried to teach us all in Field of Dreams:

If you build it they will come.

I built it (it being a base readership) with Memoirs and they came to me. The agents that had rejected me, suddenly wanted to make sweet love to me. Funny how these things work. Not all of the agents that rejected me – certainly none of the top shelf agents I secretly longed for in my heart – but enough of them to massage my slightly bruised ego.

It was my turn to do some rejecting. I followed standard procedure and just ignored the emails. After all – if they don’t hear back from me in six weeks they should just assume I’m not interested.

I liked the power self-publishing gave me over my work. For certain I wasn’t going to give up Memoirs.

Then came the offer I really couldn’t refuse. Publishing with a new company headed by industry leaders that have been in the business for years. Riverdale Avenue Books. These people know books. For certain they know a whole lot more about publishing than I do.

It would be a lie to say I don’t have big dreams for my career as a writer. This is how I want to make a living and the truth is it’s been a long time coming.  If I want to sell a lot of copies of Memoirs then I need to team up with the right people. These are those people.

So I’ve traveled the long way around to get to where I wanted to be in the first place: I’m a published writer on the road to making a living off of my books. I want to publish those manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing a book out into the world.

Will I sign with an agent or am I done beating myself about the neck and shoulders with that exercise in futility? I’m actually looking for an agent for my middle grade work. That’s a totally different market than contemporary romance and literotica. To get into middle grade I actually do need an agent. But will I sign with an agent for my adult focused writing? I don’t know. I’m sort of like the woman that’s been burned too many times going on blind dates. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a nice person that I sort of hit it off with then we can talk about getting into bed together. Otherwise, I’m sort of enjoying being single.

Going Hybrid: Rethinking the road to publishing

I’m proud of my indie roots. It took guts for me to go out on my own and self-publish and by god I made a go of it. I found readers by beating my own drum. I’ve sold books and yes – I’ve made a little scratch to line my pockets (actually buy a couple of Coach handbags, one very beautiful pair of boots, and fund my Roth IRA – I’m not totally irresponsible!)

There was a long period of time in my writing career during which I couldn’t get arrested if I’d shown up at an agents door with a gun and a copy of manuscript. I think I’ve been rejected by every agent in the Writer’s Market. Some more than once. Some more than twice.

I accepted a long time ago that this constant rejection was part of the business. I didn’t have to like it, but I accepted it. So I kept on writing and writing and writing some more. I joined critique groups and listened. I attended workshops and conferences and listened some more. I worked to improve my writing.

Then I wrote Poor Man’s Pantheon.

It’s good. Really good. I’m very proud of this book.

If you’re a reader of mine and wondering why you can’t find it online it’s because it’s never been published.

I sent query letters to every agent in the book.

I received rejections from each of them or was just ignored.

In most of the rejection letters there was a line about personal preferences and market demands and blah blah blah. Fine – Poor Man’s Pantheon wasn’t what they were looking for. It doesn’t mean it was bad or unreadable. It just meant it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So I wrote another book.

Claire Takes a Lover.

Again – not available anywhere other than in a file on my computer.

I wrote Grand Duchess, Mail Order Bride, The Phoenix (this is a trilogy), All At Once, Three Wishes, Fifty Ways to Meet a Man, The O’Hara Sisters, The Highway Man, A Marriage of Convenience… There are actually more but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed writing out this list. I can’t believe that I have this many manuscripts gathering digital dust. In my defense this proves that I’m not someone that just sat down one day, pounded out a story, self-published, and voila decided to call myself a writer. I actually work at this.

I hit all of the agents again and again and again and again… Round after round of rejections. I couldn’t understand why I was still routinely getting rejected. I knew my work was good. But yet I was still getting rejected.

I’m not the best at writing a query letter, but I figured there had to be something more. So I started to think around corners. I asked myself questions. Then I got mad. Then I just made the decision to get off my ass and be proactive.

I self-published.

I’d been playing around with the idea for Memoirs for sometime. I didn’t want to put out any of the novel sized manuscripts I’d written. That just seemed a bridge too far.

But Memoirs on the other hand was a different animal. Something I could put out into the world so I could at last have the satisfaction of being published under my own name. I work I could play around with as I saw fit.

It was also my way to test the waters.

I’d received so many rejections I was starting to think I might really not have talent or ability. I needed readers that weren’t part of my critique circles or friends to tell me what they thought.

Out of the gate Memoirs took off like a shot.

l think a few factors contributed to the early success of Memoirs.

The serialized format has appeal. There was a reason why it was so popular for as long as it was. The rise of the paperback brought about the downfall of the serialized novel. Maybe serialization needs to make a comeback.

It’s written from the heart. I wrote what I wanted to write for me. My own toy to play with written for me without the needs or demands of the marketplace in mind. I haven’t written a word of Memoirs for anyone other than me. In this I am blatantly selfish. I’ve written everything else with the reader in mind. This one was for me.

I found the right way to bang my drum. I see a lot of writers trying to bang their drum on the internet. I see the mistakes they make and how their methods are not sustainable over the long run. I’m gathering readers with content not book marks and ball point pens. This is another blog post.

What happened next after those first few weeks of self-publishing success was unexpected. I learned backwards what Kevin Costner tried to teach us all in Field of Dreams:

If you build it they will come.

I built it (it being a base readership) with Memoirs and they came to me. The agents that had rejected me, suddenly wanted to make sweet love to me. Funny how these things work. Not all of the agents that rejected me – certainly none of the top shelf agents I secretly longed for in my heart – but enough of them to massage my slightly bruised ego.

It was my turn to do some rejecting. I followed standard procedure and just ignored the emails. After all – if they don’t hear back from me in six weeks they should just assume I’m not interested.

I liked the power self-publishing gave me over my work. For certain I wasn’t going to give up Memoirs.

Then came the offer I really couldn’t refuse. Publishing with a new company headed by industry leaders that have been in the business for years. Riverdale Avenue Books. These people know books. For certain they know a whole lot more about publishing than I do.

It would be a lie to say I don’t have big dreams for my career as a writer. This is how I want to make a living and the truth is it’s been a long time coming.  If I want to sell a lot of copies of Memoirs then I need to team up with the right people. These are those people.

So I’ve traveled the long way around to get to where I wanted to be in the first place: I’m a published writer on the road to making a living off of my books. I want to publish those manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing a book out into the world.

Will I sign with an agent or am I done beating myself about the neck and shoulders with that exercise in futility? I’m actually looking for an agent for my middle grade work. That’s a totally different market than contemporary romance and literotica. To get into middle grade I actually do need an agent. But will I sign with an agent for my adult focused writing? I don’t know. I’m sort of like the woman that’s been burned too many times going on blind dates. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a nice person that I sort of hit it off with then we can talk about getting into bed together. Otherwise, I’m sort of enjoying being single.

Pole Dancer Name Wanted – Suggestions Welcome!

I had dinner with a good friend this week. As he does, he asked me how the writing was going. I told him about my sales, the promo I’m doing this weekend, the series I’m working on, my YA dystopian, my decision to published the Juniper Grace series I’ve been working on since college… Oh… and about all the crazy stalkers I’ve attracted on Facebook. So many guys that just want to make a girl suit out of me. So many of them!!!

He’s friends with me on Facebook. He’s noticed that I have some… devoted… fans. Do I find it as disturbing as he does when I have men wanting to know what color panties I wear? Yes – possibly more. He’s not sure about that. Then there was something about me writing erotica being the equivalent to blood in the water for the sharks. The question then is, what am I doing about this? I unfriend these people immediately after taking a picture of their wall and jotting down whatever information I can about them.

He suggested we should come up with a safe word (I’m to ask him about our friend Johnny if he ever calls and I have a lunatic in my home) and perhaps invest in some pepper spray and a large dog. He made a good point last night. I probably shouldn’t be publishing erotica under my name. I need a stage name. Something I can use if the writing doesn’t work out and I really do need to turn to exotic dancing to make a living. I do not mention that I did try pole dancing (thank you Dr. Lulu for talking me into that hour I’ll never get back) and I failed. I nearly concussed myself. As it turns out, pole dancing is not nearly as easy as it looks and the spinning upside down part is only for the initiated and very limber.

It’s not that he’s uptight or has a problem with what I’ve been spending the bulk of my time writing lately, it’s that it might be bad for me professionally and for the living and breathing part of me. I like being alive. I also spend my time in a very conservative place. I don’t think the people associate with directly would have an issue with what I write, but the institution as a whole might. The chances that anyone would put together that I’m that Livia Ellis and this Livia Ellis are probably so far from probable that it will happen.

But that’s not my only reason for wanting a pen name for my erotica. When else in my life am I going to have an opportunity to invent a name for myself out of whole cloth? I have no plans to take up pole dancing or become a drag queen so I will never require a crazy stage name. This is my chance. This is the moment I can unabashedly call myself Crystall de la Faal.

Some of my personal favorites which have already been suggested to me today:
Miss Spelling
Miss Understood
Anita Cocktail
Helen Heels
Anita Mann
Luce Change
Amanda Taunt

PLEASE send me any suggestions you might have. At the moment I’m loving Anita Mann.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1

I have a friend that owns a bunch of small bookshops in Dublin. When there is a scheduling pinch and I’m free, I go in, sit behind the counter, read, and take peoples money. I could make a career out of this. Possibly the best job I’ve ever had. And get to sit around and read AND I get paid in books!!! Sweet!!!

So what have I noticed as I sit perched on my stool reading and drinking a latte? There’s always a BOOK. That one book that just about everyone walks in the door and asks for. Last year it was Game of Thrones. Every other person that walked in the door, regardless of age, sex, race, or fashion sense, wanted Game of Thrones. Couldn’t keep it on the shelves.

No shock, the BOOK that everyone has to have right now is 50 Shades of Grey. Disturbingly, I had a bunch of old ladies in when I worked a morning last week looking to buy 50 Shades of Grey. Even worse, they asked me about it. They were sort of cute about it actually. Very giggly and girlish. I had to tell them the truth. I hadn’t read it. Bondage isn’t really my thing. Besides, I’d heard that it’s not really that good. This comes from a few unrelated sources that I usually trust when it comes to books. The big critiques; poorly written, the characters are wholly two-dimensional, the sex isn’t all that great. One of the nice old women in her petal pink windbreaker with the Princess Cruises emblem on a sticker stuck to her boob, very rightly pointed out that I had said myself that I hadn’t read it. So, who am I to judge?

Absolute right! I haven’t read it. I am in no position to judge. Number one thing that bugs me about people smack talking a book or an author is when they haven’t even read the book themselves. Hand up – guilty as charged. They left with their books wrapped in discrete little paper bags and I picked up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I sat there on my perch with my latte in one hand and the current BOOK in the other hand. My mind couldn’t get into the story. I kept on coming up with alternative names. 50 Shades of Tie Me Up and Tie Me Down. 50 Shades of Smack Me on the Ass Because I’ve Been a Bad Bad Girl. 50 Shades of Please Don’t Make Me Read Anymore of This Crap.

Oh my… sigh… If we lived in a meritocracy where only the truly stellar books made it to the top of the sales charts, then 50 Shades of Grey would be lingering on EL James’ laptop never to see the light of day. I have writer friends that are working like dogs to get noticed that produce books of much higher quality than 50 Shades of Grey. Yikes it’s bad!

It’s not that I think it isn’t sufficiently erudite or contains the sort of verbal gymnastics most people with advanced degrees in English think books should have before they become worthy of our notice, it’s just really poorly written. I mean ehhhh…. I’m a firm believer that books should be thought provoking, entertaining, accessible, and have a plot that can be found by the average reader without the need of a compass and a flashlight. I would have cheered 50 Shades of Grey for being at the forefront of the push to make erotica mainstream accessible and acceptable. But it stinks.

So how the heck did it get so popular? How did such a badly written book become the next big thing? I don’t know. I have no idea. If I knew I’d be out doing it. I’m pushing my new release Memoirs of a Gigolo like it was one of a million other books available for download on Amazon… which it is. I know two marketing people. I’m going to try to wrangle them into talking with me about what drives this sort of mass hysteria when it comes to a book.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 2 will be available a week from today

The Two Scariest Words in Publishing – Synopsis and Outline

Emily Dickinson. She lived quietly. Wrote a few things between the beginning and the end.  Died. Had her brother and his lover publish her poems. Then became famous.  Personally I’d like to get published while I’m still alive. Fortune and glory isn’t really my goal. Telling a good story that people enjoy reading is. So, unlike Emily Dickinson, I’m putting what I have to offer out there.

I’m playing it safe and leaving no stone unturned. To that end I’ve self-published the first of a twelve part series –  Memoirs of a Gigolo, I’m signed with two small publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver Books, and I’m going to take a stab at once again trying to court an agent. This isn’t my first voyage of the damned – I’ve tried traveling this road before – I usually get hit by a couple of cars (big American made cars, not tiny little Japanese hybrids) then give up.

After a bit of email repartee with a friend that has not only an agent and a publisher, but also a couple of best sellers racked up on his score card and very little tolerance for my “incessant pissing and moaning” about the injustice of the publishing world when I refuse to “suck it up and play the game”, I’m going to try to tackle a synopsis and outline that might get me some airtime with an agent.

I’ve finished a manuscript that ticks every box for me. It’s topical. It’s well written. I’m passionate about the characters. It has commercial appeal. I love it. It’s YA dystopian with a Hunger Games meets 1984 vibe. I’m too paranoid to give up any details. I get like that when I really like something I’ve produced. I clutch my manuscript to my chest and start looking over my shoulder. I will say I’ve drawn extensively from my knowledge of ancient Persia and modern day Islamic nations, found a character that turns from a lump of coal into a diamond under pressure, and then added a healthy dose of the more things change the more they stay the same.  I think it’s worthy of publication. More than that. I think I have a break-out novel on my laptop. I’ve read what a lot of the publishers that deal strictly in YA have to offer and it stands up compared to other works.

So what next? I must confront the blank page and write a synopsis & outline. Then it’s time to open the proverbial kimono to the world to be told either yes, I have nice boobies or no, my bottom is flabby. Because that’s what it’s like.  As marvelous as I know my manuscript is, unfortunately I can’t walk into Simon & Schuster or Scholastic and hold a gun to the receptionists head until she calls an editor to disarm me. Even if she did call an editor and got them to come down to the lobby, I’d have to turn the gun on the editor and then I’d have to wait while they read my brilliant manuscript, my arm going numb from holding up the gun for so long… let’s just say it’s not done.

So I need to write a synopsis & outline. I really really really don’t want to. I never know what to write. How to condense 100k words into a couple of pages? It’s not like I haven’t tried. I even have a file filled with rejection letters from agents on my laptop. My famous writer friend that has no tolerance for my “whinging and f***ing moaning” doesn’t mind letting me know that he “sucked it up and f***ing did it”, so I have to too. He hated it. Everyone hates it. I have yet to find the writer, published or not, that finds either of these tasks less than daunting. But it has to be done. There is no way around it unless you’ve already proven yourself and the dynamic has shifted.

I’m no quitter, and I don’t really take rejection on the nose, but I’m not great at selling myself. If there was another way, I’d grab it. But I don’t think there is. So I’m off to write a synopsis and outline.

How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

Dear Readers (can I write dear readers without sounding twee? I don’t think so, but anyhow…) –
Earlier this week I had a bit of a professional crisis wondering how the heck a little ant like me could make it to the top of the publishing heap when those who had made it were making a concerted effort to be jerks. My post about the skulduggery of R.J. Ellory reached more than a few people who were outraged, but also had been around enough to know that he is just one bad example in a world filled with people that truly to go out of their way to help others.
Anne R. Allen, author, blogger, speaker, and all around decent human being that would never write a spiteful review of anyone’s work, commented on my post, and added a link. The topic, one which I had been discussing at length with another writer that is struggling as much as I am, how to query a book review blogger. The very thing I’d been biting my lip and scrunching my nose trying to figure out. And voila – in the way that only these things can happen serendipitously, the answer was presented to me.
I have cut and paste Anne’s recommendations below. I do encourage you to have a look at the full post. We may have Anne around later, so please feel free to leave your thoughts, impressions, and questions.

How do you find interested book bloggers?

The best way is to check similar books in your genre—especially those that have been recently released. Do a search for those titles with the word “review” and read as many reviews as you can. Make a list of the reviewers you like and read the review policy.

Almost no blogger will take all types of books. Some only read traditionally-published paper books; others want only indie ebooks for Kindle. Some specialize in Nook. They almost always have specific genre requests, so read carefully, and always follow them. Even if the blogger agrees to do a review outside their genre, you won’t reach the right readers. People don’t go to a chick lit review site to discover the latest zombie gore-fest.

How do you approach them?

You should make initial contact with a query—the same way you approach other gatekeepers like literary agents and editors. This means you send a professional letter—not a Tweet or wall post on Facebook.

Here are some general rules for scoring a review:

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
  • Then, um, follow the guidelines carefully.
  • Never send an unsolicited book: query first.
  • Don’t query with books outside the prescribed genre. Personalize the query.
  • Keep queries short and intriguing.
  • Don’t take it personally if they turn you down. Reading takes a lot of time and most of them are swamped.
  • Understand the review is for the READER, not the writer, so negative reviews happen.
  • If you get a less than stellar review, mourn in private and move on. NEVER respond to a negative review.

Last November I interviewed popular childrens’ book blogger Danielle Smith of There’s a Book, and she gave some great advice on how to get your book reviewed by a blogger. She says the best way to approach a book blogger is to keep your query professional, but show some personality.

Reviewer Danielle Smith’s guidelines for authors:
  1.  Make sure you address the blogger by name
  2. Include a two to four sentence synopsis—no longer
  3. Keep personal information to a minimum. And don’t guilt-trip.
  4. Attach an image of the book cover
  5. Give the age range of the intended audience
  6. Include the page count (for print books)
  7. Provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.
  8. Don’t ask for a review outside the blogger’s genre
  9. Don’t query if you don’t have a website or a blog. (That screams “unprofessional” to a blogger.)

In other words, treat the book blogger like a professional and she will reciprocate.

If you want to know more about book bloggers and how to approach them, Danielle Smith is leading a panel at the Central Coast Writers’ Conference with several Book Bloggers, including Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, and Pam Van Hylckama Vleig aka Bookalicious Pam who is also an agent with San Francisco agency Larsen-Pomada.

And if you want to read some genuine, not-paid-for Amazon reviews, here are some hilarious ones for a set of Bic pens.

How about you, scriveners? Would you ever consider paying for reviews? Does this change your opinion of John Locke? Do you read book review blogs?

All About Me! ME! Fabulous ME! – Or, Tackling the Author Bio

I don’t do well writing about myself. How am I supposed to condense all that is me into a paragraph without coming across as a monstrously self-absorbed jackass? My new publisher sent me a fill in the blank page that includes a brief biography. It’s not that I believe myself to be either uninteresting or even boring, I just don’t know what to say. I don’t suffer from an excess of modesty. I have no problem talking about me. I’ve bored more than one man rigid across a restaurant table detailing the in’s and out’s of what makes Livia so gosh darn great! But writing about myself… what am I supposed to put in a paragraph that will sum up the wonder that is me? What could anyone learn about me in a paragraph that would be of any use? Do I mention that I like older men, dislike attention-seekers (probably why I loathe writing about myself), and prefer pistachio ice-cream over peach? Do I confess that I like to knit, Jude Deveraux was my first hero, and that I’m terrified of actually finding success? What am I supposed to include? What shouldn’t I include? I tried a few things. Every time I put something down, it read like a personal add. So I went with that. This is what I came up with…

Were I to write a personal add about myself it would read as follows:

Blond. Blue. 5’6”. A lady never discloses her weight, but I’ve never had any complaints. I only run if I’m being chased by a gun wielding maniac, but I do love yoga. Bit of a shoe hound. Have had issues passing up handbags. Trying to learn to play the Irish harp. Enjoy both theater and concerts. Love to read fantasy and science fiction. Am not ashamed to admit I adore Star Trek. Have a picture of myself (dressed as a nun) and the late Patrick Swayze (dressed as a medieval warrior) in a frame (Yes – I did cry when he died). Perpetual student with advanced degrees that are mostly useless when seeking job opportunities outside academia. Vivid imagination. Sexually adventurous only on paper. I never know what to say when people end a conversation with ‘god bless’. Occasionally play the lottery – but generally only when I’m feeling really poor. Love to travel. Fluent French speaker. Seeks readers whom enjoy what I write.

Honestly… does this snippet of info about me make you want to rush out and buy my next book? Does it make you want to stalk me? Do I sound like a snot? Do I sound boring? If I really had to I could probably put down ten pages about me. But do I want to reveal that much about myself?

All About Me! ME! Fabulous ME! – Or, Tackling the Author Bio

I don’t do well writing about myself. How am I supposed to condense all that is me into a paragraph without coming across as a monstrously self-absorbed jackass? My new publisher sent me a fill in the blank page that includes a brief biography. It’s not that I believe myself to be either uninteresting or even boring, I just don’t know what to say. I don’t suffer from an excess of modesty. I have no problem talking about me. I’ve bored more than one man rigid across a restaurant table detailing the in’s and out’s of what makes Livia so gosh darn great! But writing about myself… what am I supposed to put in a paragraph that will sum up the wonder that is me? What could anyone learn about me in a paragraph that would be of any use? Do I mention that I like older men, dislike attention-seekers (probably why I loathe writing about myself), and prefer pistachio ice-cream over peach? Do I confess that I like to knit, Jude Deveraux was my first hero, and that I’m terrified of actually finding success? What am I supposed to include? What shouldn’t I include? I tried a few things. Every time I put something down, it read like a personal add. So I went with that. This is what I came up with…

Were I to write a personal add about myself it would read as follows:

Blond. Blue. 5’6”. A lady never discloses her weight, but I’ve never had any complaints. I only run if I’m being chased by a gun wielding maniac, but I do love yoga. Bit of a shoe hound. Have had issues passing up handbags. Trying to learn to play the Irish harp. Enjoy both theater and concerts. Love to read fantasy and science fiction. Am not ashamed to admit I adore Star Trek. Have a picture of myself (dressed as a nun) and the late Patrick Swayze (dressed as a medieval warrior) in a frame (Yes – I did cry when he died). Perpetual student with advanced degrees that are mostly useless when seeking job opportunities outside academia. Vivid imagination. Sexually adventurous only on paper. I never know what to say when people end a conversation with ‘god bless’. Occasionally play the lottery – but generally only when I’m feeling really poor. Love to travel. Fluent French speaker. Seeks readers whom enjoy what I write.

Honestly… does this snippet of info about me make you want to rush out and buy my next book? Does it make you want to stalk me? Do I sound like a snot? Do I sound boring? If I really had to I could probably put down ten pages about me. But do I want to reveal that much about myself?