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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To Review, or NOT to Review...

Ever wonder how books get sold? Better yet, ever wonder how books get bought?

Probably for quite a few readers, the answer to this question word of mouth. And that is what most authors would want. They sell, or in a lot of cases, give a book to a friend or family member. And if they are like me, one of the lasts things that they say to this person is, and I quote, "Make sure you tell all your friends about my book!" And this is good!.

But for a large majority of avid readers, especially in this high tech era, they peruse the online bookstores in search of that next great read. Now for some, the real hard core readers, they may have a few authors that they especially like and they will read anything and everything written by these trusted authors, good or bad. Others, well, they just kinda play the field.

There is, however, one factor that they all use in their search for that next cozy-up-on-the-couch book. They all look to the stars. No, I don't mean that they run outside and peer into the night sky at the constellations where they might see the title of their next purchase outlined by the stars.

Photo: Stars.

I'm referring to that system of stars, one to five, that all booksellers use to promote their wares. The more colored the stars are, filled in usually by red or black, the better, or more popular the book is.


Know how these stars get their bright red or black coloring? REVIEWS! REVIEWS! REVIEWS!

Readers, like my wife, for instance, will look throught the endless rows of books on a website. And as they cruise by all the titles, they look for the ones that have the most stars. (Filled in, that is) If they see a book with all five stars colored in, then they automatically think, "This has to be a good book." And that may be some degree.

What they are forgetting to look at is how many people reviewed that particular book. If only one person read and reviewed a certain book, and gave the review a 5-star rating, then that's what you see. A book with all five stars filled in. Let's say a book has four and a half colored stars. That could be one reader's review rating or twenty readers' review ratings that average out to four and a half stars.

My point here is that nobody will give a second look at a book that has no stars colored. (Unless they happen to be looking for a particular title) This doesn't neccessarily mean that the book hasn't sold, say, 20,000 copies. It means that nobody has come back to write a review of the book and give it a star rating. One of the worst feelings for an author, such as myself, (and I can attest to this) is to check online at any of the booksellers' sites and see their book with five naked stars after it and the words..."Be the first to write a review".

So, I hope now you can see how important it is, both for the author and the bookseller, to have readers come back to the site of their purchase and write a review for the book that they bought. Even if you didn't think the book was THAT great, leave a review and rating anyways. (I guess a bad review might be better than no review) If everyone wrote a review and rated a certain number of stars, it is all averaged out. Your one star review could still end up with the book getting an overall rating of four or four and a half stars.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

How long is too long...

The question is...How long is too long to write a book?

Recently, at one of my book signings, I had the priviledge to chat with the wife of another author attending the signing. During the conversation, she mentioned a friend of hers, another author, had just finished writing a novel and remarked how glad she was that she was finally finished. Thought it took forever!

A couple of days later, I got to thinking about our onversation and thought to myself that it didn't seem like it took me that long to write my book. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this had the making of a great comparision.

First, let me pose this senario. A week from today is Valentine's Day. We'll call that the setting. Next, we need a couple of young, handsome gent and his endlessly loving gal. (BFFs we'll say) Lastly, the task.  The gent has to write his gal a 100 word...aahhhh...LOVE POEM!

There! The stage is has been set.

In this day and age of modern technology, inpregnated with a plethra of iPads, iPhones, tablets of all sizes and colors, terra byte hard drives and...well, you name it, our gent (being a literary type) can probably tap out this assignment in, let's say, thirty minutes. (Assuming he put some thought into it)

Not bad. She's impressed!

Now...let's step back in time...say, twenty five, maybe thirty years ago. How it used to be done.
The manual typewriter. Ribbons. Levers. Keys that you needed fingertips of steel to tap. Sheets of paper piled next you.

Enter our young gent. After picking up a sheet of paper, he does his best to line it up between the paper guide and the platen. Having accomplished that, he next turns one of the knobs (there is one at either end of the platen, his choice) that feeds the paper down and around so that the top is sticking up just high enough so that the typing hammers will hit the paper, and not the platen. One swipe of his left hand and the return lever positions the carriage, and paper, of course, in the correct position to start his assigned task. He puts his hands together, interlocking all his fingers, does a inside reverse flip with his hands which in turn cracks all of his knuckles, and there...he's ready to begin. He starts tapping out his rythmic poem, mostly using the infamous 'hunt and peck' method. (Using just his thumbs is out of the question) He's almost done, when...damn! A typo! Where's that darned back space key. Crap on a cracker! It's called correction tape. Back space, tape, hit key hard, repeat, repeat, repeat. There done. Time....1 hour, 28 minutes! WHEW!

Whirr, whirr, clang, clang! Our time machine stops somewhere in the early to mid 15th century. Our medieval gent has his own miniature Gutenberg press. Boxes of individual letter blocks, buckets of ink (or should I say globs), rollers, rags, and, of course, stacks of some kind of paper. Lay out the block letter holders, line up the correct letter blocks, (which was a task in itself since the letters were all backwards), put the blocks forming words together to form sentences, roll out the ink, step on the pedal, keep your fingers out of the way, and on, and on, and on. And don't forget to hang up the paper til the ink is dry!  Time...accounting for smudged copies, spelling reprints, and the occassional blood drops from the splittered thunbs, the whole friggin day!

On to...maybe...40,000 years ago. The caveman. But wait...the caveman didn't write. He painted pictures, or maybe better defined as images. Well, none the less...a task is a task. So our mammoth skinned gent sits with a somewhat flat, square stone on his lap, his knees buckling slightly, a small clump of long something hair, twisted to a point, held in one hand and a piece of a shattered gord filled with something of color that resembles a spill at the local Slurpee's held in the other. In his mind, he knows what he wants to say, err, paint. But tranferring that to the stone is a task in of itself. Days go by and he stands in front of the stone to admire his work. He's pleased. Lets out a grunt of satisfaction. "I like it!" Now for the delivery to that special girl. He muscles the stone to his shoulders, turns, stumbles, and...ugghhh! His endeavor is now a small pile of rumble. (Maybe this is why the cavemans' way of courtship was walking up to his gal-to-be, grabbing a handful of her long, scraggly hair, and dragging her off!)

Well, by now, I hope you get the point of my rant. How long is too long, you ask? Guess it's just how dedicated you are to your work. And speaking of vote is for Charlotte the spider. Spent all night to weave TWO words!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Being a Beginner Blogger

As you might guess by the number of posts on this blog, I am a beginner, an infant in the world of blogging. But I'm sure that I am not alone. Most of the blogs that I have read that are written by the professionals, have something to say in the way of ideas, instruction, critisism or the latest thing in the book world. I am not a veteran writer, having written and gotten published one book. But I do have things to say. My thoughts, my ideas, and hopefully, at some point, my experience.

But being a beginner blogger sure wasn't as easy as I thought it might be. At first, I was intimidated by all the blogs from experienced people. But stop and think about it...they had to start somewhere at some point in their career. So I figured, maybe I could start out by reassuring all those "new guys", like me, that it's alright to be affraid. It's alright to make mistakes. I, at the very least, could express how I felt starting out and maybe, just maybe, my inexperience will make them feel better about themselves. Nobody took me under their wings and sat down and told me, step by step, how to setup a blog. Sure, I asked a few questions from some of the people whose blogs I read, and I considered them to be knowlegdable enough to know what they were talking about. At least, from my persective, they appeared to know what they were talking about.

So here it is, newbies.

Do like I did. Just dive right in! What's the worst that can happen? Mrs.What's-Her-Face from your freshman English class is going to call you and tell you all the mistakes you made in grammer, spelling and sentence structure! I don't think so! If nothing else, someone who does write blogs everyday might leave a comment about your post and give you some constructive critisism. Or, they may tell you that you're out in left field somewhere. But who cares! It's your post, on your blog! Naturally, you don't want to say anything about something or, even worst, someone, that is a blatant lie. Then you are sure to get more than just some constructive critisism.

My belief is that people aren't born writers. It's something that has to be learned and nurtured. Writing my first book, I went through countless re-writes and edits until I found my style, my carisma, if you will. Learning to write a blog is no different. Start out small and work your way up. You might start out with some personal stuff until you get the feel of things. But don't harp on your personal life. Remember, you're writing a blog to have others come see what you have to say. Nobody will come if all you talk about is the bad hair day you had or the fight you had with your lover. There is other social media for that crap!

If you're like me, once you start writing, things will just start to flow. Once you feel comfortable, pick a subject, preferably something to do with, in my case, writing, books, literature, so on and so on. And hopefully, it won't be long before you'll be making sweet music on the keys of your keyboard and splashing words and colorful pictures all over the screen. And sooner or later, someone is going to notice. REMEMBER...

Field of Dreams Movie Site

Another thing that I have learned, and now practice on a daily basis, is carry a notepad around with you. Use it to write down random thoughts and at the end of the day, collect all of these thoughts together and post to your blog. Now, by random thoughts, I means thoughts about one subject. Think about something you would like to write about and think about it all day. Write down all the ideas you may think of related to that subject. I did just that for this post. You'll find, at least I did, that it's easier to write about something if you have thought about it for a while, not just sit in front of the computer and stare at the screen trying to think of anything witty to write.

So, my dear newbies, while I am not professing to be the all and powerful Oz, (and I'm really not) I am saying that you won't know until you try. Just like I did. C'mon guys! It's America! Truth, justice and the American Way!

One last thing before I end. Visit other blogs to see how others write. Leave comments. But remember one important thing, even if you don't give a damn about anything you have just read above...say what you want to say, whether it be a comment on someone's blog or your own blog, but be nice. Judge as you would want to be judged! You won't always get compliments for the good things you say. But you can bet your sweet pituty, if you say anything wrong, YOU WILL BE NOTICED! And always look before you leap. You never know who will be watching.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

First book signing

Today I had the opportunity to have my very first book signing. It was a great time and it gave me an occasion to meet some local fellow authors from Richmond, Va.

Our host, Kelly Justice, provided us with a warm and friendly atmosphere. The Fountain Bookstore is a quaint bookshop located in downtown Richmond in the Historic Shockoe Slip area. The bookstore has a wide variety of books for young and old. I would recommend it highly.

My experience was one of getting my feet wet. Being my first book signing, I wasn't sure what to expect. I got there early before my allotted time slot, mainly to see the other groups before me and "how they did it". It was like going to the old country store from my youth back in New England. Of course, there were no checker boards set up on pickle barrels, but there was a lot of friendly chatter and the exchange of writing ideas and other future events. And it was particularly interesting for me to find other fellow authors from the Richmond area.

All-in-all, it was a great time had by everyone, in spite of the fact that today was the day those two football teams, their names slip my mind (only because the Patriots weren't one of them), play in some big whooptydo game in News Orleans.

Again, I thank Kelly for her hospitality and look forward to being a part of this event in the future.

Look for my book, Tip of the Iceberg. Check out