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Becky Black tells some home truths

Today's second guest is fellow author Becky Black with some home truths about *after* you're published!

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What they don't tell you about before you're published.

Reviewing becomes a great big can of worms.

Whether you're a reviewer on an influential review site, or you just like to share your ratings and thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads or your own site or blog, things suddenly get tricky. And not only for those of us in a relatively small genre like m/m. The big players worry about it too.

If you give a negative review and a low rating you're accused of trying to do down your rivals. If you give a glowing review and five stars you're accused of sucking up to your friends. And when it comes to friends there's another issue that gives rise to conflict of interest. What if you really don't like your friend's new book? Do you say so in a review and risk offence? Or do you soften what you want to say, rate higher and lose credibility among the people who follow your reviews? What about other books from the same publisher as yours? There's a very juicy conflict of interest that could affect your relationship with your publisher.

So you might think, ah ha! I'll review, but not under my author name, then nobody will care. Until that is someone connects you with the other name and suddenly you're trying to do down your rivals while hiding behind a secret identity! (If that secret identity happens to be your real name it all starts getting very surreal.)

You have to be on your best behaviour 24/7

In fact you really have to start this before you're published. You don't know who might be watching your blog, or Twitter, or your interactions anywhere on the Internet. If you act stroppy, entitled or bitchy anywhere it could come back and bite you in the arse one day. You might not even know it has done, but a certain post might make someone think "never buying her books" even before your books come out!

So on the internet you have to be always "on", presenting the best version of yourself, whatever the temptation or provocation. And not only in writer hangouts. What if that knock-down-drag-out fight (where you admit you probably shouldn't have called the mod a Nazi) you had on your golf forum about playing under floodlights were to get from that world into your writer's world? They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing. Everything is connected.

It's not only in public, but you have to think about this even in private. Private exchanges can go public accidentally with one single wrong mouse click. Friends can fall out. Do you want a bitchfest you and your now former friend had about another writer to suddenly end up being used as a weapon against you? You have to be professional at all times.

People will want you to read their manuscript.

People will approach you entirely unsolicited asking you to read and critique their unpublished manuscript. I thought that didn't really happen, until it happened to me. You can't do it. Especially not for strangers. For one thing, who has time? For another, how do you know they aren't a nutter who will later accuse you of stealing their ideas? What if you read their book and find it does actually have some similarities to something you're working on right now? Your book becomes instant nutter bait. How can you prove you didn't copy the ideas?

Even with friends, it's tricky. What if their book is truly awful? How do you tell them that without falling out? You have no idea how they are going to take criticism of their story. They might be reasonable, or they might act like you killed their puppy while simultaneously insulting their mother and never speak to you again.

You have to find a graceful way to talk yourself out of these situations without leaving the hopeful writer thinking you're a jerk. I tend to recommend online writer's forums where they might not only find a place to get more objective help with their book, but might learn that there are some things that are not "done". Even if you can't give them what they're asking for, be nice, because you never know - they might be a big bestseller five years from now! And might recall you were at least polite and encouraging.

You become the source of all knowledge.

People ask you to critique their book because some people will assume you're now some kind of writing guru. You got published! Therefore you must know everything about writing! You must know how to fix any plot problem and answer every grammar question.

Of course you know you're no guru. You're really only a few steps ahead of your unpublished friends. Maybe not even that, you might just have had better timing or a lucky break! You know you've still got loads to learn. The first time going through publisher's edits certainly teaches you that.

Be willing to answer questions as best you can. Give advice, but let people know they shouldn't really treat you as an authority and take your word as gospel. Tell them to get out there on the internet and find other opinions and advice.


People think you have the key to the magic door

And the big thing some people will think you know is the secret knowledge about how to get published. Because many people believe there is a trick to it. A magic word or secret handshake that you found out. They think you have the key to the secret door and can open it for them. If you tell them there is no trick or secret clearly you're holding out on them. Clearly you've become an elitist or part of the secret society of published authors who swear terrible oaths never to let any of the unpublished know how to pass the gatekeeper into the arcane realm of publishing.

They never believe you when you say it's all down to work, persistence and sometimes good timing! Who wants to hear that? Hand over that magic key or I'll tell everyone you're a member of the Illuminati!


So there are few odd things you may well have to deal with when you join the ranks of the published. But never complain. The benefits more than make up for it.

************

Becky Black lives in the North East of England and writes m/m sci-fi erotic romance, published with Loose Id. She has two novels available now and the next coming on the 28th of Febuary 2012.
Check out her website for full details: Becky Black Blog
And find her elsewhere around the web at the following places:
Twitter
Live Journal
Facebook
Goodreads

Becky is running a FREE DRAW for a print copy of Liar's Waltz, on her BLOG until Friday 20th, don't miss it!.

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From Clare: Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Fancy writing something for the visitors this month? It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.
I'm holding a FREE FICTION DAY on the 28th, so send me new fiction - links to your existing work also welcome! - to clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll post it all then :).

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FOLLOW the Birthday Blog so far:.
Jan 16: Sasha L. Miller making magic happen.
Jan 17: H. B. Pattskyn shares a free short story.
Jan 09: Lee Rowan shares her healthy resolution.
Jan 10: Rowena Sudbury and the beauty of a blue moon.
Jan 10: Sandra Lindsay and her WIP characters.
Jan 11: Shelley Munro and a tour of bedrooms through the ages.
Jan 11: Dany Sirene and her love of Goth characters.
Jan 12: Sarah Madison and her decision to stop competing.
Jan 13: Alix Bekins shares her love of kink.
Jan 14: Janis Susan May on writing one word at a time.
Jan 14: Charlie Cochrane watches movies with hankies at hand.
Jan 15: Megan Derr and the inspiration in fairytales.


Jan 01: luscious_words shares some fabulous icons.
Jan 02: Jordan Castillo Price shares her experience of re-releasing books.
Jan 03: Mara Ismine wonders how important is continuity in fiction?
Jan 04: Jen shares her favourite Rom Com movies.
Jan 05: Karenna Colcroft introduces her unusual werewolf.
Jan 06: Stevie Carroll takes us on a pictorial tour of her favourite locations.
Jan 07: Tinnean quotes Jack Benny on age.
Jan 07: Josie makes a brave leap into a scary sport.
Jan 08: Elin Gregory finds inspiration at every turn.

Check up on:
Prior years fun HERE and
The 2012 Guest schedule HERE.


Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

NOTE: most pictures chosen by me and credited where known, others may be used without direct permission, please contact me with any queries/concerns.

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Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
charliecochrane
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:24 pm (UTC)
Oh piddle. Now I have to go and delete all those rude posts about you and Clare.

You speak sense as always, my lamb.
becky_black
Jan. 17th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
Ta! And mmm, nudey Jamie. Now there's a torso I'd be happy to see on any cover. He's got too many clothes on in mine, but has a pretty smile. :D
lee_rowan
Jan. 17th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
Lots of good points here.

I absolutely hate the Catch-22 of reviews. Sometimes I do put up a review of something written by a friend, because I enjoyed the damned book and don't care who knows it. But there are some books that are really so awful that I think readers should be warned about them, and so many review sites are really promo sites and shy away from critique. Nice for the writer, not so good for the customer.

As a reader myself, with limited spending money for new books, I resent the people who are better at gaming Amazon's system than at writing. I don't post bad reviews under my pen name because I don't want to get into the whole retaliatory hairtangle; life's too short. If I put up a low rating under my 'civilian' guise ... well, too bad, but I don't usually bother.

Reviews are always a thorny issue. Nobody likes to be told that their work was less than wonderful.

As for the advice? If I know something useful, or have seen a call for submissions and someone asks me, I'll pass on the info with the usual caveats. If I have heard that a publisher does draconian edits and demands high 'kill fees' from authors who balk, I'll pass that on if someone should ask. And if a friend is writing good stuff, I'll nudge her to send the blasted things out and give it a try, because helping a good writer get launched is every bit as satisfying as selling a story myself. That means I'll have more good stuff to read...

And yeah, the people who appear from out of the blue expecting you to do things with or for their stories? Weird.

How's Liar's Waltz doing?
becky_black
Jan. 17th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Lee. I'll know if the print version is selling any copies once I see the royalty statements. :D And I've got my next release at the end of February, so that should hopefully help give a boost to the backlist (if two books can be called a list. :D)
cdn_tam
Jan. 17th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
You have to be on your best behaviour 24/7

If only everyone on the internet was an aspiring author, it would be a kinder gentler place. LOL

I do get worried someone will say I stole some idea. Maybe your subconscious does store things up. I read. A lot. I read over 30,000 pages of m/m last year. I'm telling you there were not 30,000 original pages, there are only so many ways to have sex. LOL But I just read a book this week where the opening paragraph was VERY similar to something I wrote that has never seen the light of day. But my first thought was "omg, if I publish this someone will say I copied her", but I wrote it over a year ago. Paranoia, I hate you.

I also find people just go "Oh you should write more about X, I want to read that." Umm, one or two short stories published does not mean anyone else will publish anything I ever write again. I'm no Clare London. ;-) There's kind of this assumption that once you've got your foot in the door you can just elbow your way all the way in. Not quite.

It's fun though and I guess I'm lucky I don't have to pay my rent with writerly dividends. I can be rather capricious in my writing habits, but I try never to be nasty. I don't need the stress, I have real life for that.
becky_black
Jan. 17th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Ah, on the ideas thing, I just read a m/m science fiction book from Carina press where one of the characters has the exact same nickname as one of the characters in the m/m science fiction story I drafted at the end of last year. So now I have to change mine. It's pure coincidence, but it might not look that way by the time I've got that one edited and hopefully sold! Especially when they are both in the same sub-genre. If the other was a historical or fantasy or something I might not fret about it, but it's too close for comfort.

Ah yes, the assumption that once you've sold one book or story that you're made and you'll never get rejected again. From personal experience I know that's not true!

Edited at 2012-01-17 08:10 pm (UTC)
marasmine
Jan. 17th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
It's a shame that we all find it so difficult to let our stories grow up and leave home properly. I don't choose what to read from review sites and find it difficult to understand why it all becomes so important once you're published. (I know it is about getting known and getting more sales - but only in my head, I don't feel it.)

That isn't to say that bad reviews don't upset me or that good reviews don't thrill me. I do try and take that step back and remember that the criticism or praise is for the story not me, but that is very difficult.

Grumble. I'm not good at behaving myself 24/7. I do try not to upset people...

Are we allowed to blame editors for letting some things go through that should have been sent back for serious rewrites? *g*
becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
I'm bad at letting characters go, I admit. I get more defensive if I read a review that is mean about the characters than I do as other criticism. Not that they need my help, they're big boys. ;-)
elin_gregory
Jan. 17th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
This is food for quite scary thought. @_@

becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 06:46 am (UTC)
Not scary enough to put anyone off, I hope! Just some odd dilemma and considerations you can run into.
elin_gregory
Jan. 18th, 2012 08:25 am (UTC)
No, not quite that scary. :D

But best behaviour 24/7! I guess that comes down to being very very careful who you grumble to.
becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 10:52 am (UTC)
You can be as badly behaved as you like in private. :D
egret17
Jan. 18th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
But... but... if all authors adhered to these rules, we wouldn't have any Authors Behaving Badly (ABB) to rubberneck! O.O
becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 06:47 am (UTC)
Hey, not rules, just things I've noticed. They definitely don't bother some authors! :D
(Deleted comment)
becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 10:55 am (UTC)
LOL, yeah I can just see me reccing that to my publisher. I'd have to recommend some changes first of course. Like "after the cowboys are done branding (with their shirts off) could get nekkid and shag? That would definitely help." :D
stevie_carroll
Jan. 18th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
All very true. Not that I have any intention of giving up reviewing. I just refuse to finish books that I really don't like.

So even if I give something two stars, it had enough redeeming features for me to have read the whole thing.
becky_black
Jan. 18th, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I won't finish books I don't like. There are too many good books out there that I don't have enough time to read!
Helen Pattskyn
Jan. 19th, 2012 02:12 am (UTC)
Great thoughts!
Great comments... and oh so true!

~Helen
billy_shriner
Jan. 19th, 2012 09:30 am (UTC)
Oh, wise words - as always. Where do you get those from? ;-P

I hope, that luckily we have a good working beta relationship. You're usually honest with me. At least I hope you're honest with me ;-)

It is difficult with the reviewing. And yeah, unless I really really really loved the book, then I will only give it five stars. But I am the sort not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, so if I do 'know' the author (and this includes some bigger names now that I met at the RNA conference etc) I do find myself wanting to not review harshly. Luckily, I've not really hated reading anything I've read since Twilight :-P

Edited at 2012-01-19 09:30 am (UTC)
becky_black
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:38 am (UTC)
Oh, wise words - as always. Where do you get those from? ;-P

Always thinking. :D

I'm honest with you when doing crits. Anything else is pointless, in my opinion.
josephine_myles
Jan. 21st, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
All excellent points, Becky! I'm pleased to say I haven't had any unsolicited manuscript reading requests - I'm not counting friends sending something asking for a beta, though. That happens all the time!

Oh, the reviewing thing. I stopped leaving star ratings yet I still find myself reluctant to write reviews now. I'll only bother now with stuff that I really loved or that made a strong impression. Must go play catch up, really...
becky_black
Jan. 21st, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
Reviews just seems to be a no-win situation. You need balls of steel to be a reviewer and a writer these days!
chrissymunder
Jan. 26th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, another post that made me laugh until I wet my shorts. Wait, should I confess to that online? Some screenbot is going to capture that and wave it about in two or three years.

The common sense of it all is astounding.

How about that weird synchronicity where you spend two years writing on a theme that hasn't seen the light of day in years, and then two months before completion there is a slew of books with the same theme published?
becky_black
Jan. 26th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Even better, how about when you write a draft in which the nickname of one of the characters is a Big Deal, then a few weeks later read a book in not just my genre, but my sub-genre, where the same nickname is used in pretty much the exact same way? Gah!

Search and replace will have to be deployed when I come to edit that one.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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