Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

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Tag Archives: book review

Self Publishing a Masterpiece?

Mark Twain self published Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain self published Huckleberry Finn

So you haven’t gotten offered a publishing contract after the umpteenth try.  Maybe you haven’t even been able to score a good literary agent.  All that effort wasted and still you just know that you have something valuable to say.  You know in your heart that the world needs to know you, the world simply must know your work, and now you are nearly convinced that the only way that you can see this getting your masterpiece out is by you self publishing your work.

I got ya…  But you are at a severe disadvantage, you know?

First of all you won’t have the resources of a major publishing house to properly design your book cover and edit your material. You won’t have major distributors out there selling your books in book stores around the globe. You won’t have public relations companies, book marketing firms and ad agencies at your beck and call.  But I didn’t have to tell you that, did I?

So without all of these resources and help from where will this masterpiece spring on to the waiting public? The same places all masterpieces spring from. From your own brilliance and perseverance.

If you are looking for some special key I just want to let you know now that this post is not going to offer you any magic formula.  I want it to be a bit more of a pep talk.  I have been reviewing books for BookPleasures for some time now and have read a good many books by first time authors and otherwise unknown authors.  Personally some of the best books that I have read in the past few years have been self published or authors who have published with small publishing houses for whatever reason. So you can believe me when I tell you that when I have read a good book I do my best to make sure that the world knows this is a good book. That is why I have committed myself to reviewing these books.  I promote the authors in every way that I can.

Ernest Hemingway originally self published under the pen name "Peter Jackson"

Ernest Hemingway originally self published under the pen name "Peter Jackson"

You see 99.9999% of all famous authors, whether fiction or non-fiction started very, very small.  They were unknowns who got their fame through their persistent work. Their bodies of work had meaning and they endured. And nowadays we have advantages that the authors who published before didn’t have.  For instance we more tools and resources at our fingertips than ever before.  These resources allow anyone working alone can promote themselves to a broader audience.   We have social media, videos, websites, blogs.  It isn’t just the press releases, reviews and book signings anymore.  We have much more control over our own destinies than any other time in history.  The fact that you are reading this blog written by me is proof of that.

I am certain that some of the people who I have reviewed already will be discovered by more and more people because they use their creativity to find their audience.   A good example of one I expect to reach this summit is my friend (who I have posted about before) who goes by the nom de plume “Maclean J Storer“.   Word gets out.  In the old days we called this “word of mouth” but nowadays we bottle it and relable it as “viral marketing”.  A great example of the word getting out is that I have a German friend who read Maclean J Storer’s Forward O Peasant and he sent an e-mail to 300 of his friends and family telling them to find this book and read it.   And twice within the past month I have been asked by people where they can buy this same novel.  My friend is gaining a following slowly but surely.   And so will you if your work is good and you stick to it.  Almost every writer who gained a large following started small with immediate friends and family – but success in writing is almost never bagging the big one.  It is more like farming.

Just remember what Vince Lombardi used to say: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” It is not only true for sport but for everything in life. Write.  Publish.  Then get out there and promote yourself but most of all, stay at it!

Writing is Exploration

One thing I have learned as a writer, whether it is a book, article, web posting, blog or whatever it may be, is that writing in and of itself is an exploration of my mind.  This is not to say that I am actively looking into my mind as I write, although that might be fun to do some time, but what I find is that almost always in retrospect I have learned something new.

Many people would think that I am a very methodical writer.  I plan out what I want to write beforehand in most cases.  I do this for several reasons:

1)      I can easily keep the point that I start out with if I have already predetermined a structure;

2)      The planning helps me to write faster because I already know what I am going to write about; and

3)      Having the planned out or mapped out structure is one of the best defenses against writer’s block.

All that having been said, during the planning process I discover so much more about my subject when I am considering all the angles of the material.  Then I also notice that during the writing process itself, while I am banging away at the keyboard, my mind wonders throughout the subject matter and sometimes even crosses the borders into other subjects.  I normally finish my writing not only with a sense of accomplishment (for getting the words to paper) but also a small sense of enlightenment.

If you feel the same way whenever you do anything, whether it is writing a novel or pruning roses, then I say you are a lucky person.

Why it is good for authors to meet up…

I have been involved with an authors’ meet up for some time now.  It is a very off and on thing and as all groups go it has some falling outs with the members, mainly over structure of the group and what we are to do.  Personally, it is very hard for writers to put much structure into any such group unless they are all of the same genre, mindset and caliber.  Our group, the Bangkok Writers Guild, is a very informal group made up of mainly expatriates.  Some of us are very satisfied where we are in our status whereas others want to hit it big – have a blockbuster to make their name, so to speak.  Personally, I don’t feel the need to do this because the books that I have written are unique in their own right.  You won’t find many books debunking the Vatican Islam Conspiracy, nor will you find many books on bawdy Southern humor either.

That being said, if you plan to join such a group as ours I think you will find a great camaraderie with your fellow authors.  There is much to be learned from them and there is much to teach them as well.  For instance, unless you are in a major city full of authors and author wannabes, like New York City, per se, then your group will most likely be a rag tag group like ours.  But this is great!  We have writers in our group who are non-published, self-published, vanity published and traditionally published.  The whole gamut is run in our own membership.  So if one of us wants help with marketing, typesetting, illustrations, cover design, getting an agent, editing, finding a POD publisher, getting blurbs and book reviews – you name it – it is all right here in our group.  For an author there is no better master mind group than a group of other authors.  I have personally found a wealth of experience in our own people.

If you are not in a group already and you are serious about learning the business of being an author, whether you plan to self publish or land a contract with a publishing house, I recommend finding a group to build a nest in.  Participate in the discussions.  Learn what you can and impart your own knowledge as well.  And if there isn’t a group around you then try to put your best foot forward and start one yourself.  Use the leverage of others’ knowledge and experience to make you better at the business of writing.  Open your mind to it and you will see there’s lots of help out there for you.

I would love to hear from other writers’ experiences in writers’ groups. Do you have any experiences you would like to share?

Why I as an Author do Book Reviews

As many authors and readers already well know I have been a book reviewer for BookPleasures.com for a few years now and I also write reviews for many international publications.  Though my reviews have had thousands of readers around the world I still have had one or two people, including fellow authors, refer to my book reviewing as a “hobby” of mine.  But in fact I don’t and have never before considered my reviewing books as a pastime.  The reviews I produce are as much for my growth as a writer and author as they are to help the potential reader made an informed decision about a book.

Why do I say that?

Simply put I use the review process as my own exercise for improvement in the craft of authoring books.  And I recommend to any author who could commit the time and effort to get into reviewing as well.  Here’s a list of the four main reasons I am so into reviewing other authors’ books:

1) I grow technically as a writer – When I review another author’s work I am constantly learning from their style, the structure of their product as well as their editing and content.  I compare this to works that I have produced in the past and also see which ideas that might work on projects that I will undertake or are currently working on.

2) I grow as an author in the broader sense – There is so much to learn about the themes presented and how authors get their message across.  This is very important because you not only have to find a voice when you write but you must also have something to say in the first place, otherwise you are you are simply rehash and not interesting.  Then what’s the point of writing at all?  This is all about learning how other authors find their own message and deliver it in a way that is unique to their style and personality.

3)  I grow intellectually and personally – I learn the lessons of the books I am reviewing and internalize these lessons.  I look for the parallels in my life and seek the wisdom in the writing.  I want to know exactly the point, the raison d’être, the author had in writing the book and how the book can make its own change in the world.  I always try to pinpoint the connections I have found with my own life or the lessons I have learned and make these examples available to the book’s potential reader as well.  And these lessons aren’t only found in non-fiction books either.  Even fictional books that many would consider that are just for entertainment purposes have these lessons.

4) I promote the art of writing – There are so many books published out there annually, I have heard between 200,000 to 250,000 new titles every year, that it is incredibly difficult for the worthy books to be sorted and found in this huge pile.  This means that it is very hard for authors, especially new authors, to find their audience and be heard.  I consider it my duty as a reviewer to try to help the curious reader to know what they should expect from the books that I review and I try to make sure that deserving authors will find more of a readership through my efforts.

Though books are readily available in today’s world, many readers everywhere take that availability for granted.  But to someone who has written a book, we “know it don’t come easy,” to paraphrase Ringo Starr.  Authors spend a good part of their lives in researching their books, making business plans, outlining the scripts, doing the actual writing, editing, publishing, etc., and quite honestly much of the time it is a thankless job.  A well written, solid review is my way of saying thank you to all the other authors out there who have written the books that have made me what I am today.  This is why I would like other authors to consider writing reviews every now and then.

Where can authors post their reviews?  Of course, many places, but just a few:  Their local newspaper, a literary magazine, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Gather.com, their own blog, an online book club (Shelfari, GoodReads, WeRead, LibraryThing, etc.) or on some other form of social media such as Facebook, Gather.com, etc.

Honestly, if you are a writer doing a few reviews here and there is an excellent way to pay it forward.  Get the conversation started… Remember, what goes around comes around!