So the cover artwork for Survived, the sequel to The Changed, has been completed. I’m very excited about how it turned out and I can’t want to get this bad boy on the cover of the forthcoming book. It was painted by none other than the great Kyna Tek, you can see more of his work on his Facebook page.
Reviews are important. People need a trusted source (not from the author’s homies or cousins) to get more information about a book beyond what they get in the sales copy and flavor text. Sure, not all reviews will be applicable to all readers as tastes vary widely, but overall it’s a helpful tool. When it comes to getting your work into the hands of readers there really is no substitute.
There are some little known nuances when it comes to getting reviews, though. Most readers aren’t aware of this because, well, why should they care, but getting a novel reviewed is actually sort of difficult. If you want a trade publication to review a book that isn’t being published by an already well known author or from a juggernaut publisher, it can take a lot of time and money to make it happen. Because of this, reader reviews become even more important to today’s authors. There are way more books than there are trade publications so we rely heavily on the opinion of readers to help others navigate a marketplace stuffed full of content and find the books they’ll love.
Point is, I truly and deeply appreciate when readers write reviews. It takes their time and attention to do so and it means a great deal to me when they do. Earlier this week I received a message from Hayley Cosgrove, showing me her review of The Changed which appeared in a recent issue of her university’s library circular (on the first page, no less!). You can check it out here: What We Read 201510
So here’s a big shout out to Hayley for sharing her review and pimping my book for all of her university’s reading community to see!
If you’ve ever shared some love for The Changed drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.
Last night I was “hanging” as the kids say, with some of my friends of the writing persuasion.
We get together about once a month and catch up. Sometimes we’re good and we trade pages, other times we spend the majority of our time having a beer and talking. Mostly about writer-ish topics. So when the topic of blogs and websites came up, one such friend — let’s call her Shmonica — wasted no time in pointing out that it’s been months since I even tweeted anything.
She’s right, of course. Generating content is a way of letting the people who care know that I’m still around, actively writing and getting a new novel together for them. It doesn’t have to be all original, either, she said. People may want to see the articles and blog posts that I find interesting, since they might enjoy that, too.
All good points. I think I’ll appoint her as my social media manager. A position that comes with a less than impressive title, no pay, and intangible benefits to be named later.
This did get me thinking, though. I tend to shy away from posting frequently not simply because I’m too lazy to write blog posts (I am too lazy to write blog posts) but because sometimes I feel like we’re just inundated with stimulus, especially on the internet. You know what I mean? Maybe you’re on Facebook and you see some link that seems mildly interesting, so you click. Within two seconds you’re treated to an auto-playing video that blares through your speakers, the screen goes dark and a window pops up asking for your email address or to click some godforsaken “Like” button. An endearing process which will repeat itself every time you click the next arrow seven times on an article so mundane you can’t even remember what brought you there in the first place.
This is the first condition of the modern internet user experience. I just don’t want to be a part of that problem. So I don’t code that crap into my site. I don’t post click-bait. There’s also a less altruistic motive in there, too. See, I want you as a reader to actually care when I do post something.
It’s like this. Ever worked in an office? I’ll assume that’s a yes. If not, just stick with me for a minute. In every office ecosystem there’s this one guy (dude, muchacho, cat, etc.) who manages to over-inflate the importance of everything they do. Every call is so important they’ll ring your desk over and over until they get you on the line. Every visit is so crucial that they’ll interrupt anyone’s conversation to explain their urgent business. And of course, every single one of their email comes through Microsoft Outlook with that goddamned red exclamation point on it, “Marked as important.”
Without fail, this person’s interruptions, intrusions, and emergencies are never important. They never in any way, shape, or form constitute a need for your immediate or undivided attention. This is the second aspect of the modern internet user experience. Every website now behaves like this idiot cohort as they vie for your attention. All headlines are tagged with cliche phrases like:
“…my jaw dropped!”
“10 Things that…”
“I lost it at…”
“You’ll never believe what she/he does next!”
“Oh, the Feels!”
“…and I’m dying!”
My motive is to not do this either. Not only because the behavior makes my ass itch, but also because I know that as soon as I do start in with that crap? Not a single person will want to click on anything I post. Eventually, I’m going to post something I want readers to see. The release date of a novel. New cover artwork. A review I’m proud of. Anything else I think you would enjoy.
But there has to be a middle ground, doesn’t there? Some place between prolific click-baiting and the dead air that normally permeates my little slice of the blogosphere. I can do that. I can do better. And with the help of my new, unpaid social media manager, I can get started right away.
So, here I am, cruising around teh interwebz and I find this lovely site called “booksweeks“, which has apparently made The Changed available for download or online review to it’s subscribers. Obviously, this is some shady business because the only place legally authorized to sell the digital version of that book is Amazon. I’ve given Amazon exclusivity so that my book can be shared by readers with the Kindle lending program. Since Amazon has the market cornered as far as eReaders go, it seemed like the best deal for people who wanted to read the story.
Needless to say, the guys running this site are assholes. I didn’t bother trying to create an account to see if one really can get the book or if it’s just phishing, and I really don’t recommend you try, either. A friend asked me if I was mad that people are getting the book for free. Funny thing is, I’m not. Not at all.
The way I look at it, if you bought a hard copy of the book and then handed it off to a friend after you were done, that’s basically the same thing as you making a digital copy and giving it to a friend. Sure, there might be a legal grey area there, but as far as I’m concerned it means that you liked the book and you want your friend to read it. To me, that’s actually a huge compliment.
What puts a bee in my bonnet is that these mugs are taking what isn’t theirs to begin with and then attempting to make money off of it. That’s just straight up theft. It’s no longer giving a book to a friend. That’s stealing a book from a stranger, making photocopies, and hawking them on a street corner.
Trust me, I have no illusions that this practice will discontinue anytime soon. And the money? I’m not losing sleep over the few dollars in royalties I’m getting cheated out of. I’ve just always viewed books and reading culture as a sort of sacred experience. Predatory people like those who run this site are taking advantage of both readers and writers, which is kind of like smearing a big turd on something I hold dear.
TL;DR If you’re an author, your work might be somewhere on that site, too. If you’re a reader, please, for the love of all that you consider holy, don’t give these guys a shred of your personal information.
Yes, I know… I’ve been a bad, bad writer. I’ve written exactly zero-point-zero posts in over a hundred days. But let’s be real here, I don’t think there have been any hurt feelings over it. I’m sure that the readers I do have are okay with a little quiet from me and I don’t need to pretend otherwise. Despite what I’m constantly being told by other writers, and social media “experts.”
See, there’s a sentiment in the author community – specifically in the indie circles – that you have to “fake it ’til you make it.” Meaning that even though you’re new and unknown as an author, you should act that part of a best-selling writer so that readers will take you seriously. Kind of like how some salespeople will wear expensive watches or drive cars they can’t really afford. It’s all done in an effort to convince people that they are successful in their profession and therefore should be trusted.
I get it. But I don’t like it and I’m not going to do it.
For me to pretend that I have a larger reach than I do, or that there are throngs of salivating readers trying to get a piece of my time seems to insult the intelligence of my actual readers; people who have been good to me. That’s not what I’m about. It’s more than enough to know that there are people who have read my stories and enjoyed them. Getting a message or a review from a reader who liked the novel I wrote is all I could ask for. Pretending that I’m the next Stephen King or J to the K. R. feels to me like I’m diminishing those folks. It’s like saying, “Hey, having you as a reader is cool and everything… But, I’m destined for much greater things, kid.”
Tacking “Kid” at the end of the sentence makes it so much more condescending.
To be fair, I can understand the intense drive to sell books and make money if writing is the heart and soul of your financial planning. Many moons ago I accepted that writing will probably never pay my bills, and that’s not a bad thing. I have a career that I’ve worked hard for and love. That’s what pays my bills. So, when I write I get to create the stories that I want to tell without worrying about publishing potential at a big six house, which makes the content in my stories and communication with readers much more honest.
Anyway, I’m working hard on my next novel, the sequel to The Changed, which I have, like, six working titles for right now. Production went a little behind schedule on this one. Life was a bit nuts these past few months, and while I’m not a big fan of excuses I did want to let those who are interested know that the novel is definitely still happening, it’s just a bit delayed. Let’s go ahead and blame life, work, and DAI. As of now it’s looking like it’ll be spring before the novel is publishable. I’m really excited to get out to you all though. The story is much larger than what happened in Center City and I can’t wait for readers to see the bigger picture unfold.
For as long as I can remember I’ve written stories. A little over a year ago I was with family at my mom’s house for Christmas. She was showing old photos to significant others — the more embarrassing the better, as per article six, subsection three of the Mother Code. But inside one of these boxes was a single-sheet newsletter from my second grade class, where an A. Michael Marsh original was featured front and center. Okay, it was in the back, but that doesn’t help the story so let me embellish a bit. What are you, the story police? Anyway, this little nugget of prose was my retelling of a family camping trip that featured such zingers as, “I’m not saying mom’s cooking was bad, but I barfed.” Or, in regard to a campfire ghost story, “Real scary. Last time I heard that one I fell off my dinosaur.” Yep. Gold, people. Pure gold.
Point is, story has always been something that I naturally gravitated to. I’ve always written. The first time I set out to write a novel I was ten. It was going to be about a cop that gets injured in the line of duty and returns to service as a half-man, half-machine servant of justice. Yeah, I know that’s the plot of Robocop, but lay off. I was ten, okay? What were you doing at that age, Captain Judgmentalpants?
That’s what I thought.
Regardless, I must have gotten about twenty five pages into the rough draft before I lost interest. That was probably the first time I realized the biggest fact about writing that people who don’t write will never truly understand: Writing is hard.
Which was a shame because I had big plans for “Night of the Cyborg” (oh, shut up already). The book was going to be a bestseller, on the shelves of every library and bookstore around. Once the ducats came rolling in we’d be able to afford name brand cereal and cable tv. Shit was going to be legit, folks.
Fast-forward a decade or so and I’d still been writing. Short stories, journals, that sort of thing. There was even the occasional foray into poetry but I’ll just file that alongside cyborg cop stories as “failed experiments.” Around that time I decided to make a serious go of it. Actually write a novel, start to finish. Ever since then, I’ve been a daily writer.
Except for about nine or ten months out of the past year. I could speculate as to why I didn’t feel the drive to produce as much as I normally do, but that’s beside the point. For a long while I didn’t get my fingers on the keyboard, and a hole formed inside of me because of it. Even though I had thought that I was long past the stage of abandoning drafts twenty-five pages in, I realized that there’s a part of me that will always need a kick in the ass every now and again in order to get going.
Chuck Wendig wrote in his book, The Kick-Ass Writer, that “…just finish the shit that you started. Stop abandoning your children. You wouldn’t call yourself a runner if you quit every race halfway through.” It’s absolutely and unequivocally true. For those writers out there, just write. It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would the first time around. Just start and don’t stop until it’s done. There’s a corollary truth to Chuck’s lesson as well:
Sucking really is the first step to being sort of good at something. Writing is no exception to that rule. You get better by practicing, learning, and honing your skills. Period. People don’t become virtuoso violinists by simply intending to play. A painter doesn’t master their technique by reading books about Van Gough and picking up their brush once every couple months. You have to actually do it. Writers are absolutely not an exception to this rule. For a while there, I forgot those fundamentals and it affected me in more ways than I realized. Never again.
For any readers who are interested, the sequel to The Changed is coming along and should be released this winter. I can’t wait to bring it to you.
I’m not sure if I like the term “blogger.” It has a social media Johnny-come-lately feel that I can’t stand. I’m being a jerk, I know, I just can’t help it. Whenever people find something fun within the overly commercial depths of teh interwebz, a timer of sorts is set in motion. Soon enough the profit glands get to salivating and every opportunist this side of the Pecos is leading the charge over to your favorite sites.
Faster than you can say “Facebook used to be fun” your beloved blogs, message boards, and stupid image sharers are now littered with advertisements, your relatives, and that thick sewage of the internet, spam.
Which is a rough segue into the point of this post: If you are a blogger, and you hate getting spam traffic on your page, there is hope. You may not know that you can do this, but you can actually block specific IPs and domains from accessing your site. If you’re tired of trackback comments in broken English and false page hit stats, then you may have just stood up with a fist in the air and proclaimed, “The hell you say!”
The hell I do say. And it’s pretty easy to do. All it requires is finding the .htaccess file in the root directory of your website and appending this code to the end:
SetEnvIfNoCase Via evil-spam-proxy spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer evil-spam-domain.com spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer evil-spam-keyword spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Via pinappleproxy spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer semalt.com spammer=yes
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer poker spammer=yes
Allow from all
Deny from env=spammer
This isn’t meant to be a tutorial on how .htaccess files and the apache web server works. There is more than enough documentation out there for those who are interested. But for the casual blogger, just know that this code essentially specifies a domain you know to be sending you spammers, and then blocks them from accessing your pages while allowing everyone else entry. For example, look at the line containing the word “semalt.com”. Semalt does nothing but send bullshit spammers to your site. That’s their business and business is good. This line basically tells the web server that there is a domain called semalt.com which is referring users to this site, and that semalt.com should be labeled as a spammer. At the last line of the file, we see that the web server is being instructed to deny access to any domain we’ve identified as a spammer. Easy peasy.
Now that you’ve reclaimed your land from the dreaded spammers, you have cause to celebrate. Treat yo’self.
We’ve got a bad news/good news situation here. I was recently fortunate enough to review an outstanding rating from Foreword Clarion, who provides catalog services to retailers, academic institutions, and libraries. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’ve got a real love for the public library system, as that’s where I was introduced to so many of my favorite books as a kid. To be completely realistic, the chances of receiving orders from these great institutions for my book are probably somewhat low. I’m not a well known author, and funding for public institutions that do anything other than defense is abysmal these days.
But, there’s still a chance. I have to take it. Even the remote possibility of getting The Changed into a library would mean the world to me. The bad news is that enabling distribution to the wholesalers that supply these institutions has raised the cover price of my novel on Amazon to $9.50. That’s about as low as I could realistically get it.
Now for the good news. A. Michael Marsh, in addition to being someone who refers to himself in the third person, is also a computer engineer. Within a few days I’ll have a simple and secure store set up on my website where readers can purchase copies of paperback at the old rate of $6.50 (plus any taxes and shipping, naturally).
While I know that many people are comfortable only purchasing from established retailers, I will offer a secure purchasing environment and my solemn pledge not to spam you or sell your data to anyone. I think it’s crappy when businesses do that to me, and I’m not going to do that to you, either.
Almost all my sales are from the Kindle store, anyway, and the price there will remain the same. So this is probably a non-issue for most readers. Still, I felt really bad about the price increase so I’m going to do my best to provide a more affordable alternative to anyone who’d like to buy a copy of my book. You are worth the effort. Always.
Yesterday I received a review on The Changed from Foreward Clarion. For those who haven’t heard of them Foreword Clarion is a book review publication, like Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly. The purpose of their publication is to provide critical feedback on available titles for the good people who purchase books for libraries and the few surviving bookstores. These publications aren’t known for pulling punches or treating authors with kid gloves. Their reviewers provide an unbiased opinion, which is exactly why purchasers care what they have to say.
I’m not one of those writers that labors under the impression that every sentence I type is pure gold. Quite the opposite, in fact. I work very hard to improve with every story I write. To me, one of the greatest gifts a storyteller can give someone is a sense of wonder, and the feeling that they’ve been taken to a new world — even if it’s just for a couple hundred pages. My writing process is a series of emotional highs and lows, writing, re-writing, re-writing, more writing, then followed by re-writing. It’s hard to leave the baggage of all that work behind when you submit something that has been such a large part of your life for review to a complete stranger. When I put my work out there like that, I can only hope that the reader will care about my story as much as I did.
So, needless to say, I was ecstatic, surprised, and maybe a little shocked when they rated The Changed five out of five stars, and wrote a glowing review about my novel.
Just wanted to share, because this really made my week.
As the first round of reviews are coming in for The Changed, I just wanted to take a moment to give a heartfelt thank you to those who are taking the time out of their lives to tell others about their experience with my novel. I do genuinely appreciate it. Reviews are the easiest way for other readers to gauge whether or not they may be interested in a book.
It can be a wonderful system. See a book that looks interesting? Hey, what do you know, this guy hated it. But, wait! This guy also hated books that you love. Hmmm. This lady seemed to really enjoy it, and what do you know, you and she have the same taste in books! Simple. Sites like Goodreads are amazing for many reasons, but this has got to be in the top of that list.
I understand that reviews aren’t perfect. Some authors have been accused of encouraging biased parties (like friends and family) to artificially inflate their review numbers. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. With The Changed, I’ve tried to make it a point to get my book out to as many readers that are completely unknown to me as possible. To date, I can tell you truly that not one of my reviews on Goodreads comes from someone who I know, or owes me money, or is otherwise obligated to lie to the rest of you. This is a good thing.
Of course, my advice on book purchasing in general is always the same, regardless of star-ratings and text reviews. Read the first few pages, just like back in the days when we had book stores. See if it catches your interest. If it does, you’re probably in for a treat.
In closing, thanks again. Thanks a million. For your time, insights, and advice to other readers — thank you. What’s more, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people seem to like the book.
Oh, and I’ll be doing more giveaways in the future! So if you have a friend you think may like a copy of the novel, make sure to let them know to enter. I’ll do one on Goodreads, and a concurrent giveaway on my Facebook page. Just like last time.
Here’s a picture of cats looking proud and happy.