Not so fast.
What if the recognition that comes your way is for writing some of the most descriptively awful, tortured-metaphor, laugh-out-loud-funny sex scenes ever committed to print— then how would you feel?
Such is the position two 2019 novelists find themselves in: Didier Decoin and John Harvey. Britain’s “most dreaded literary prize”—the Bad Sex Award—was, err . . . awarded . . . to these two gentlemen for the creation of grammatical hydra-headed monsters of such overwrought metaphor, mangled syntax, and ” wait . . . what?!” disorienting narrative description that awed judges truly could not decide upon a winner between the Gallic or the Anglo-Saxon contestants. They co-share the prize.
Readers in search of saucer-eyed, hand-to-mouth diversion may peruse this link for further details: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/02/bad-sex-award-twosome-prize-goes-to-didier-decoin-and-john-harvey
Once you’re done reading the article, however, let’s regather here and discuss. Have you ever written a sex scene in your fiction? How did it turn out? What is your opinion of sex scenes in fiction, generally? Are they necessary? (Let’s exclude, for purposes of this discussion, “one-handed books”—explicit erotic fiction primarily targeted at cisgender men: “I never believed this could happen to me: I hawked my wad of chewing tobacco onto the macadam, took a swig of whiskey from my flask, slung my reflector vest away, and stripping down to my tightly bunched gray underwear waded into the writhing, moaning mass of naked women softly trilling my name: Ebenezer, Ebenezer . . .”)
David Foster Wallace once notoriously dismissed John Updike as “just a penis with a thesaurus”. Are there writers you think take things an explicit passage too far? Perhaps offend by tone, subject matter, and/or authorial voice? Obsessive “sex focus”?
On the other hand, do you think there is something to be said for writers who dare to write against the grain of “contemptible bourgeois morality” and Puritanical prudishness? Are there writers you think handle sexual passages well? Do you regard titillation and/or sexual arousal as a legitimate aim of literary or genre literature? (After all, we applaud the writers who best evoke the senses when they write, so why should sex—an essential part of the human condition and a most poignant and transfixing experiential phenomena—remain “off-stage” in literature?)
Aristotle is quoted as saying: “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
I have been fortunate, so far, in receiving largely positive and constructive feedback on my first published novel, “Unearthed.” I of course know that no creative work can appeal to all audiences, though. Somebody, somewhere, will not care for your writing, your painting, your music, your recipe, etc. I know people who don’t even like chocolate … and I mean … it’s chocolate.
Like many authors, I felt some anxiety when publishing my novel. I had three beta readers and multiple rounds of edits; I was happy with the result. But I haven’t been living in a cave. I’m on social media, and I read the comments on public posts. I felt I should steel myself for the negativity that seems to thrive on the internet.
Here are my tips:
- Make a list of popular things you don’t enjoy
The beauty of this step is that nothing is off limits. Allow me to demonstrate: Fortnite, Game of Thrones (I really tried), every song by Drake, bicycle shorts, calamari. The fact that I don’t care for these things won’t (and shouldn’t) stop them from being successful. Except for whoever designed bicycle shorts. They should be stopped.
- Read the 1 and 2 star reviews of your favorite novels
This is an eye-opener. One of my favorite authors, Karen Marie Moning, received a review titled “Seriously?!” that opened with: “I am mind-boggled that, at the time of this review, this book has over a 4-star rating.”
Another gem from a review of J.R. Ward’s work: “The characters are the most awfully cliched stereotypes I’ve seen since … actually, no, they ARE the most awfully cliched characters I’ve ever read.”
Yikes. I read other reviews that are overly critical (imho) of story line or character development, but these snippets stand out in my mind for obvious reasons. Fortunately, these authors continue to turn out successful novels and connect with audiences who enjoy their work.
- Watch Jimmy Kimmel clips of “Mean Tweets” on YouTube
This is a hilarious segment that highlights the most scathing comments on Twitter, read by the celebrity target. It’s brutally funny and frighteningly enlightening. Celebrities respond in various ways and some surprise you.
That’s it. Three easy steps that cost you nothing but a little time. For me, this was the perspective I needed before sending “Unearthed” out into the cruel, cruel world with my eyes wide open. I sincerely hope I never receive a Kimmel-worthy review of my work, but if I do, I’ll remember that I’m in good company with every other creative talent out there—and keep writing.
Escape mundane reality with “Unearthed”—a fun, fast-paced contemporary fantasy romance.
Carl E. Reed has now published four poems in Spectral Realms (issues #10 and #11), with more poems scheduled to appear in issue #12. He has just published an exhaustive and picturesque review of Spectral Realms #11 on John O’Neil’s Black Gate website.
An earlier poem of Carl’s was published in The Iconoclast a decade ago.
Thanks, Carl, for suggesting that we post this link:
Hi everyone. I’m Andrea Dawn, owner of Tell-Tale Press. We publish short stories on our website that are free to read in the genres of fantasy, horror, mystery/crime and science fiction. We also publish anthologies and novels. Right now we have our anthologies available on Kindle, but we’ll be producing print books soon. And we always, always pay our authors! If you want to learn more about Tell-Tale Press, our website is www.telltalepress.net. Submissions are currently open for short stories, so be sure to check out the submissions page! You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram: www.facebook.com/telltalepress and #TellTalePress.
I posted this list on my personal Facebook page and was asked to send it on so more folks can read it. So here you go! I’m still learning about the publishing world, but in the past few months I have learned some extremely valuable information that I think can help everyone. So, these are some tips for getting your work out into the public and how to get published. I’m not scolding you or trying to name and blame. These are simply tips I think really can help.
- OTHER AUTHORS ARE NOT YOUR AUDIENCE. If you want to make friends with authors and collaborate, maybe beta read for each other, or just whine about the writing world in general, that’s great. No problem there. But they are writing too and are also trying to get their work out there, and most likely they won’t have time to read your book as they’re too busy writing. Your audience is instead readers. Find online book clubs, groups that talk about books. Look for reviewers who do honest reviews for free or a small fee (but be sure they are legitimate sources). Start a blog and post it in those reader groups. And in the real world, you can do things like donate your book to a library and include lots of information on how to follow you. You can also contact local bookstores and ask to do a reading and book signings. Be proactive to find readers, not other authors.
- DON’T USE MESSENGER OR EMAILS AS AN ADVERTISING TOOL. I am not joking: I literally will unfriend and/or block someone when they send me a link to their book immediately after I’ve approved their friendship. Using Messenger to solicit is like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of social media: no one wants you knocking on their door to tell you things you haven’t asked about. And don’t do it with emails, either, unless someone has signed up for a newsletter from you. I don’t mind if people send me an Invite to like their page, though.
- LEAVE EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS ALONE. Don’t message a publisher or editor saying someday you’re going to write a great novel, and they’re going to publish or edit it! First, you’re assuming that the publisher or editor would even want to work with you or like your work. Second, it’s nothing but buzzing in our ears. “I’m gonna” means nothing to us. We need product, not promises. If you want to set goals for yourself, do so by creating a calendar or Vision Board. Don’t use our inboxes to do it.
- ONLY SEND IN SUBS WHEN PUBLISHERS ARE OPEN TO SUBS. And most importantly…
- FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES EXACTLY. I don’t know if I can get any clearer on those two facts.
- YOU GOTTA SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY. Ads on Facebook have really worked for me. I haven’t tried ads on other social media platforms yet, but I will. I find that free advertising–such as those giant book websites that will post your ad for free–garner no sales. And figure out where your money is going to be most effective for your genre. Do most horror lovers find their book recs online? If so, where? And a great place to advertise: local cons. Readers truly do love meeting authors. You will find that you can gain more followers and support when you are face to face with a potential reader. And to that end…
- KNOW WHAT VENUES WORK FOR YOUR GENRE. If you are selling extreme horror, then the sidewalk fair that happens each month in the church parking lot is probably not the place for you. Or if your genre is fantasy romance, the Halloween con won’t be a good idea either.
- GIVING YOUR BOOK AWAY DOES NOT SELL MORE BOOKS. I know one publishing company that constantly gives away books. So why should I ever buy a book from them when I can just watch their page and sign up for a giveaway? Especially since their page isn’t closely followed by their fans and it’s very easy to be the only person who answers their trivia questions or shares their post. And this company is also screwing over their authors; they’re not getting any money for the books they give away, and therefore the author doesn’t get his/her cut. So side tip: watch out for those kinds of publishers as well. They won’t be doing you any favors as an author.
- GIVEAWAYS FOR A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF BUYS DOES WORK. Let’s say you have a trilogy, and the final book is coming out. Tell folks if they pre-order your book, you will give them the previous two books for a single discounted price. Or perhaps you’ll give away book 1 for free on Kindle. Now THAT is incentive to buy!
- LEARN TO ORGANIZE. Learn how to budget your time and money. There are lots of online tips for how to do both of these things. Even DIY shows can help with this–of course, we all know Marie Kondo is wrong about only having thirty books, but she still has great tips that really can help organize our lives. We don’t have to be the stereotypical “starving artist”. It just means that we must train ourselves to be better at where our money and time goes.
- ENGAGE. I have learned from watching authors over the past few years that trying to be secretive and private does not work. It doesn’t get your work out there, and no one is going to advertise for you for free. Or if they do, they won’t do it for long. Then I see those people try to randomly engage here and there, and they get no response. No one wants to know who you are if you’re not engaging with your audience–there is no longer that mystery of “who is that author?” going around like there used to be in the 90s. Or I see people try to create a new persona online that is separate from their real self. But then you get tangled up in what you told who and where and on what page… it can get very frustrating for you. I’ve learned that in social media, you must make connections. And the best way to do that is to be truthful. Be friendly. Be yourself. Talk about movies you like, other books you like, ask questions of people, like what’s your favorite dinosaur! You don’t have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets, but you can share cat pics and tell funny stories about your dog or spouse. If you touch on politics, remember that not everyone’s going to like you, and it’s okay for them to not like you and not want to buy your books. The key is that you will find your own audience by being yourself, and it WILL be worth it.
- STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. Okay, after talking about how to engage and interact, I tell you to stay off social media? What I mean is don’t waste time just scrolling along and randomly liking and commenting. Maybe set a timer for yourself on how long you’re on social media. Do advertising as you need, and engage as you need, and then move on. You can also set yourself a schedule: Every day from X to Y I will engage on social media, and that’s it. We all fall into the rabbit hole that is clicking away at everything, so learn how to step away so you can get to work on writing and advertising.
- HAVE FUN. Writing should be enjoyable. If you’re not having a good time, then reevaluate why you’re doing this. Be sure to make time for yourself as well–keep your health up and go outside here and there. You will find that it will only make your time on the computer even better!
Submissions are now open: http://www.telltalepress.net/submissions
Tell-Tale Press Owner & Editor
The Writers Co-op is looking for a few good bloggers. Anyone in the writing life is welcome to submit a blog. If you have something to say about writing, editing, publishing, marketing or just want to share news of your latest effort, we’re interested. Submit a new blog, or, a link to your current blog page.
Members should post their blog in the draft section. Others should submit their their blog or link to GD <at> Deckard <dot> com. Blogs are posted every Monday or Thursday morning on a first-come basis.
Remember that readers are likely to be people in the writing life interested in learning from one another. Sharing our successes, failures, insights, knowledge and humor is a big part of the life we lead.
I look forward to hearing from you.
– GD Deckard, Founding Member
NEW RELEASE by Lisa Edward
(Beast is the first in a series of fairytale retelling novels.)
Life had always been good to me, and I made sure to keep it that way. My mom had given me the only tool I’d need to succeed—manipulation. Add to that the fact I was beautiful, confident, and rich, and I was on my way to having it all.
My name is Annabelle, and I was the stereotypical head cheerleader, dating the star quarterback. The school was mine, and I couldn’t wait to be crowned prom queen.
One night, my world changed forever. All I believed my future would hold was ripped from my grasp in a ball of flames. I lost my identity, my boyfriend, and my friends. Suddenly, I was the monster nobody wanted around.
A scarf hid my true identity, and I was left staring at the beast in the mirror. My appearance now matched the ugliness I once had inside, but I’d do everything I could to prove I still had some beauty buried deep within.
Sometimes, you have to lose who you are to become who you were meant to be.
“Beast was an amazing spin on Beauty and the Beast…I loved the originality to this story as the retelling was creative and clever.” – Amazon reviewer
“Beast was a beautiful story…It looked at the importance that inner beauty should have over our physical appearance.” – 2OCC Reviews
Lisa Edward is the author of the Songbird trilogy, the novel, Broken and the novella, Duty of Care. Lisa also has a story in the anthology, Hook & Ladder 69. The author lives in Melbourne, Australia.
above: Terry Pratchett 1948-2015 By Artist ‘Sandara’
One of the advantages of joining a community of like-minded people on the ‘Net is the likelihood of meeting someone totally unlike yourself. That is always good for a writer. I can’t draw an expressive crooked line. But Sandara can create a whole world in one image. Her visualization of Terry Pratchett shaking Death’s hand is fresh, striking and memorable. Don’t we writers wish all our stories were that good?
Amazing, the talents in the writing community: Publishers, editors & marketing people of course. Cover artists, beta readers, blurb writers, personal assistants and reviewers are some more. I’m sure I’ve left out important categories. No writer has all of the talents needed for a successful book. Hence, the usefulness of belonging to a writing community. Want to know the best print-on-demand service out there right now? Ask.
And best of all is the feedback. Excellent services at reasonable prices receive as much publicity on a writers’ forum as do services that waste your time and money. Think you have a really good idea for marketing your book? Ask and see if anyone has already tried that. Not sure of your book cover? Post it for comments.
Finally, always return favors. While I do owe her one, the real reason I recommend Sandara Tang here is her art. Take a look at some. It will surprise your imagination.
Who have you worked with that you would recommend to other writers?