#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

When I wrote about my frustrations last week, nothing was further from my mind than reviews, yet it’s all people talk about

When the first comments began rolling in last week, I thought people were joking. I was talking about my frustration last week, the fact that I spend months as author to craft the words of a book, only to see it reduced to a couple of hours of entertainment for my readers. My need to talk about the book, or to at least gain an understanding of how readers receive it was almost unanimously (you can read the comments that were left here, on the blog) interpreted as requests for reviews. My words failed me.

I was surprised, because when I wrote the post, I didn’t think about reviews, honestly. I think my position on reviews is pretty clear: I don’t like them much. I’m frustrated by reviews who give away the book in what many reviewers feel is a great summary, I am hurt by reviews that try to find “me” in the book, attack me personally or completely miss the point of a story. Yes, like any author, I understand the need for, the value of reviews. No argument, and when we send out ARCs, we are very much aware that there will be reviews, good ones, bad ones. It’s a fact of life, that not every book is for everyone. That is reflected in the reviews. Duh! I still don’t read them, unless someone sends it to me specifically, and those are never bad ones (unless said reviewer is particularly vicious. LOL) My words failed me.

Sometimes a reader will contact me (okay, it’s happened quite a few times) to talk about their experience reading the book, how the story affected them. That is how I feel, too. Just because I put down the pen doesn’t mean I’m done. I feel the need to talk about how painful certain aspects of a book can me, how a character’s suffering or growth has affected me. It’s no different than reading a book myself, how the characters affect me. I remember reading Erin Finnegan’s Luchador several months ago. I still have that book lurking in the back of my mind, how she takes the concepts of “manliness”, “gay” and throws them into a dryer and tumbles them until they come out all warped and twisted. Her discussion of masculinity and the concepts of gay vs straight is some of the best writing ever, and I still think about that, almost daily, our preconceptions as gay men, as much as the preconceptions in the straight world.

I had a short takeover of a Facebook group last night, by invitation of SA Collins. And he and I discussed LGBT (he prefers the term ‘queer’) fiction and how our stories often deal with things from our own existence. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to understand who we are as human beings to understand the book (quite the contrary), but just as some people deal with their demons by running around the forest, or punch a bag in a gym, authors deal with their demons through writing. And just because I write “the end” doesn’t mean that I’m done. I may need more time to reflect upon it, understand what happened, because just because the book is over doesn’t mean I’m done. There is, after all, a difference between the author and the human. Yet last Friday, my words failed me.

This isn’t easy to put in writing, as my failure to express my emotion last week clearly shows. And the frustration comes from that fact, in part. But it’s also funny when you talk to someone about a story for months and months, and when they’ve read it, knowing just how important it is to you, all you get back is a “it’s great. Loved it.” Inside me, I’m screaming “what else? what did you take away from it? What do you think was his/her driving force? Why did they act the way they did? etc.” But no, no review… Although, I’ll grant you that a good review might answer at least some of those questions. But still, it wasn’t reviews I long for, but human conversations, debate. But I guess my words failed me.

So, here’s another post that probably makes no sense to anyone but me… Have a wonderful week!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

The most frustrating aspect of being an author, imho #amwriting #amreading #asmsg

A great many things are frustrating when you’re an author, but this one frustration rules them all…

Call it an epiphany, a revelation, finally seeing straight (which is really, really hard if you know me!) Doesn’t matter, but this post isn’t about how frustrating it is to work so hard and not to earn any money. It’s not about how frustrating it is to see stupid people read your books, thinking they know it all, and it’s not about how frustrating it is having to battle an increasing monopoly in book sales. No. There is this one frustration to rule them all, and I finally understood, yesterday.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6. We’re in the final stages of proofing the text.

My most recent fiction publication happened in mid-September, with the release of the final book in the Jonathan Trilogy. That’s six months ago. But it’s been almost eleven months since I began writing Last Winter’s Snow, the next book up for release in April. So much work! I’ve been talking to readers, my editors, proof readers, and publisher about it, we’ve been discussing the book’s title, theme, content, research, and I’m still at it, having just completed a final read-through before the galley is off to print, in time for the release.

You build up this anticipation for a new release, you tease, release morsels of information, create a trailer, reveal (not release, Hans) the cover, panic over the edits, and slave hard to get the ARCs (Advance Review Copies, in case you’re unfamiliar with this particular publishing acronym) out in time to give reviewers time to read the book and review it in good time for the release. If you’re an author, you’ve undoubtedly been there, done that, and you have countless t-shirts hanging in your closet to commemorate every release.

Then comes the big day, you send out the ARCs, and the waiting begins… 24 hours later, I had the first verdicts, and so far, they’re all very good. Do NOT misunderstand this. It’s not frustrating to get feedback, particularly not the positive kind I’ve seen. But it’s bloody frustrating when the feedback is encapsulated in a couple of sentences, a paragraph. Eleven months of hard labor, pouring your life’s blood into a story, investing a significant amount of money into research, covers, lots of people involved in getting things right, and all you get in return is a paragraph.

Frustrating!

Now, I am fully aware that I have no right to expect more. And yes, it could be so much worse. The paragraph could be a single short sentence: “I hated it!” This isn’t what this post is about. I do not, would not, ever expect more. And I have no clue how this feels for other authors out there. But I have little inhibitions to talk about this, and what I want more than anything else is to sit down with readers, to hear how they interact with the text, the characters, if they walk away with anything from the plot, if they like the characters, if they found any moral morsels to enrich their life. I want to talk about the book, the story. Eleven months of work. I love my characters, they are a part of me. And like a parent, I’m never really ready to let them go. They’re family, they all include a bit of my DNA, a bit of me (and no, don’t go looking for it).

I love my characters, I am the father of each and every one of my characters. Letting go is the hardest thing, and I wish I’d get to spend more time with my literary “kids”.

And all I get back is a sentence, a paragraph. I know I do not get to expect more, but it’s just bloody frustrating that eleven months are turned into five hours of reading and then it’s done, “I loved it!” and they move on to the next book, the next story, the next author’s life blood. Such are the rules of publishing, the plight of being an author. I have no right to complain. Doesn’t make it any easier, does it. There have been a few instances when a reader took a story to heart, made it their own, literally. They never shut up about it. Those are the few instances where I bask in the warmth of finally being able to share my feelings, my emotions around a book with someone else.
Those instances are few though, and they’re far in between. I have no right to complain, but I can’t help the way I feel. Authors, tell me, do you feel this frustration? Is there a bigger frustration in your penmanship? Feel free to comment. I hate being the “only gay” in the village… 🙂

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

#MondayBlogs: First time proofing an audiobook and other things I’m learning #amwriting #amreading

Proofing an audiobook is very different from proofing a book

Last Friday, I had a pleasant surprise when I woke up. Michael Bakkensen had sent me the narrated version, aka audiobook, of my first novel, Family Ties. This is my first venture into audio books, and I had never before listened to an audio book either. I feel like a mammal in a new pool. Very much out of his comfort zone. Michael has been great answering my questions in the process, but now that the book is fully narrated, it’s up to me to make sure I like the result.

Michael Bakkensen, the voice of author Hans M Hirschi

I am using my own publishing house for my audio books, so you could say I’m back in the self-publishing industry. Exciting and scary at the same time. However, when you’ve never proofed an audio book, you’re in for a few surprises. First of all, you have to get used to your voice actor’s narrative style. While I had listened to his audition tape and the reading of the first chapter, that doesn’t quite prepare you for how he would interpret various other characters in the book, from children to women, and how he would read funny scenes, or sad scenes or dramatic scenes.

At times, I found myself choking, sometimes I was laughing, and at times I was even dumbfounded (for lack of a better word). I’m almost through, thanks to a six hour drive this weekend, I only have a few chapters left to listen to. But at 70+ chapters, it’s a long list. I’ve only found a couple of tiny things I’m considering changing. I’ll need to talk to Michael about those once I’m done.

Here’s how I’ve tackled the proofing:

  • I don’t compare his reading to the book, i.e. I’m not line editing. I’d never get through the book otherwise. I just trust Michael.
  • I will not edit his narration, how he enunciates things. I accept that the audiobook is NOT the same as the novel. Michael is an artist, and just as a film script will by necessity deviate from a novel it is based on, so will – to a smaller degree – an audiobook. Not that the vocal artist changes the words of the novel, but the way they read the book, is how they interpret the novel, which is as they see it, through their eyes, not mine. This is the main reason why I put Michael’s name on the cover of the audio book. This is HIS story now, his artistic vision for it, based on my story. I would also suggest that you consider this aspect when you have people audition for your books…
  • Listening to the book is different than reading. When you read, you automatically become absorbed, because our eyes to the work. We are so dependent of our eyes… But when we listen, our eyes are free to focus on other things, from the computer to say driving a car. I just listened (as I’m typing this) to a very cathartic chapter (aptly named Catharsis) and I had to stop writing, because I had to focus on the emotional impact of the reading. Keep that in mind.

Listening to an audio book is not necessarily my thing. I’m not sure I can focus enough. When I’m on public transport, it’s easy enough for me to read, get absorbed into the story, but to listen to anything but music is difficult, because my eyes easily get distracted by other things, thoughts and all of a sudden I’m not listening any more.

The cover for the coming audiobook of Family Ties, my first. I look forward to the release. It will be available on Audible, Amazon, iTunes etc.

Having studied psychology, and things like perception, I am fully aware of just how limited our consciousness is, what we can focus on. How does this work for you? Are you able to focus on an audio book or are they just a replacement for music?

My first audio book has no specific release date but hopefully, depending on how Michael and I are able to deal with the changes I’m considering, we might be able to get it out before the end of the week. We’ll see. I honestly don’t know how quickly ACX works. Maybe you know? Feels free to comment.

Needless to say, it’s an interesting experience, and one I hope to repeat soon, with novel #2, Jonathan’s Hope. That one is, after all, my most popular one, closely followed by novel #3… Meanwhile, there’s little time for writing, as I’m also heading into a final round of proofreading Last Winter’s Snow. ARCs were sent out to reviewers last week, and we’re three and a half weeks out from the publication date. I really look forward to this story.

Have a great week.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

The business of writing in a globalized world that is mostly local… #asmsg #amwriting #finance

The Internet may be global, but so many financial services aren’t: a look at the business of writing

I’ve spent an unusual amount of time online this week. Not writing, although my laptop is the tool to accomplish that, too. No. I was trying to do right by governments of countries I visit this year. And just a second ago, I stumbled across another hurdle I need to cross. I’ll get back to that. Online, you can access virtually any website on the web, maybe with the exception of the North Korean web, not that there’s much of interest for me there. But I can easily access anything else. In the past three years, I’ve been to several conventions in the U.S., in several states. And while the U.S. seems to be a “bloc”, a country with similar rules, it actually isn’t.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6. We’re in the final stages of proofing the text.

Traveling to the U.S. to sell books can be tricky. Here are some examples:

  • Illinois: no one form out of state is allowed to sell. We had to organize for an official book store to handle all the sales for us. It was a logistical nightmare, but on the upside: no hassle with government web sites.
  • California: easy peasy. Simple and straight forward to fill in the necessary information online and pay your dues online by credit card.
  • Colorado: not only do you need a state license, you also need one from the local city/county. A logistical nightmare. I’m currently engaged in getting things lined up for GRL this fall. And yeah, I managed to get help form a nice gentleman from the state of Colorado, and I’m still struggling with the city & county of Denver. I don’t yet know how this all will end
  • New York: I’m still not sure how this will end. Like Colorado, they seemed to dislike the EIN (a federal company identifier number issued years ago when I started publishing) my company has. I managed to get through a multi-page form with a gazillion questions for a six hour (!) book sale. Crazy. But alas.
  • Florida: Easiest of all. You don’t need a sales license if you’re only going to a con once every blue moon and don’t sell regularly.

Here in Europe, all sales are done from your home country, at least when you’re in the EU. Easy. Sadly, there is no equivalent in the U.S. where every state does things differently. In this aspect, it’s a lot easier to do business in the EU.

When I first started publishing books, I had to get some things ready in the U.S., like the aforementioned EIN number. That was easy enough. And since my country (Sweden) and the U.S. have a double-taxation agreement, I don’t have to pay taxes in the U.S. Amazon makes me fill in a form every couple of years to avoid them withholding taxes on my sales. But getting money from Amazon? That is a different story. And Amazon isn’t just “Amazon”, it’s ACX (audible), it’s Createspace and it’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Not to mention Apple, Barnes & Noble (Nook) etc. Each and every one of those companies have their own process.

Originally, only Amazon would send money to my Swedish bank account. The other Amazon companies I worked with, Apple as well as Barnes & Noble required a US bank account. I tried to open an account back in 2013 and failed. Why? Hold on to your horses: I happened to have studied with a member of the European Commission twenty something years ago, and that makes me – by default – a national security risk… You can read the post I wrote back then, if you’re interested. In the end, my sister opened an account on my behalf and for several years, my U.S. royalties ended up there. We closed the account this year, as things have improved and particularly since my books are nowadays published by another publisher.

The cover for the coming audio book of Family Ties, my first. I just got the files from Michael and will review them next week. I look forward to the release of my first audiobook!

Until this morning, when I realized that the Amazon company ACX, where my audio books will be published, doesn’t send money to banks outside the U.S. and the U.K. Another problem to solve… *sigh*  I know that many of my friends don’t take the whole sales licensing as seriously as I do. I do that for two reasons: a) I want to do right by the societies I visit and b) given current political tensions, I just cannot risk to make a mistake and be banned from entering the U.S. Doing the right thing is more important than ever before, but it’s not easy. I just want to get the audio book out to my readers / listeners…

The tools may be global, but much of the legal framework underneath or behind the scenes are highly local, and as an author it’s not always easy to understand all the implications, so I’m spending a ton of time reading up. What’s the alternative? Well, I could stay home and not travel, or I could hire a lawyer, but we all know how unaffordable that is. Last year, at GRL, I sold for a couple hundred dollars, now tell me how many lawyer hours that would pay… It just makes no sense. I still need the licenses, so I do the best I can.

Oddly, when people think about the job of being an author, the often picture us, smoking a pipe and writing in front of an open fire, deep in thought, whereas in reality, we spend as much time as every other person with a day job on bookkeeping, finances, etc. Those are the days I don’t like my job very much. And unlike a baker who sells his bread locally, and only has to deal with his local laws, I sell my wares globally, and have to deal with the fallout of that. It’s complex, to say the least.

What are your experiences, dear fellow authors? Similar? Different? Any great tips? Solutions?

Have a wonderful day and a great weekend.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

Editing, proofing, appealing cover art, is it really necessary? #MondayBlogs #AmWriting #AmReading

Proofing, editing and cover art turn great storytelling into a great product

It’s March 2017, and we are still having this discussion. Yes, I’ve written about editing before. I’ve mentioned proofing before. I’ve talked about covers before. Now I’m not in a position to impose my views, but I am able to appreciate the work of proof readers, editors, cover artists etc. I know that if I were to ever publish a book that had not been edited, hadn’t been proofed, I’d be shredded by critics and readers alike.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6. We’re in the final stages of proofing the text.

Yet I hear these stories time and time again. I hear them from friends, I hear them from readers, I hear them from editors:

  • Can you help me for free? I cannot afford your services!
  • I’m a professor/expert/etc. I don’t need help!

If you can’t afford a vacation, do you still buy one? People seem to take the first amendment to ever new heights. Yes, you are allowed to express your views, and the government may not censor you. But it doesn’t entitle you to get published. However, since Amazon and others offer free publishing tools, I guess you can go ahead and press the “publish” button. But with that also come responsibilities, consequences.

However, what about the rights of the reader? Don’t they deserve a story that has been polished? Editing isn’t just about grammar. I sometimes encounter the argument that “I’m an English major. I don’t need editing or proof readers.” Let me tell you this: this isn’t about your expertise. This is about perspective. An editor or proof reader approaches a text with a fresh set of eyes. They see things you no longer see, because you are so familiar with a text that you just don’t see the trees in the forest. Trust me, after fourteen books, I have missed almost everything!

No major in English will keep you from making mistakes, from getting things wrong. Not necessarily language-wise, but in the story. Allow me to exemplify. My publisher and I are currently working on my latest book Last Winter’s Snow. We worked on the edits all of last week and well into the weekend. I had worked on this book for almost a year. There were no plot holes to be found. However, things my editor commented on were, e.g.:

  • Some aspects of the story were long-winded and needed tightening. Since I wrote it, even my own major in literature didn’t save me from seeing this differently. Editing isn’t always about finding errors. It’s also about getting perspective, a different opinion. In the end, the author decides, but if you never get that perspective?
  • There was a question about catheter bags in Swedish hospitals. Are they emptied or replaced? Yeah. To just see this and highlight it. It took me another two hours of research into clinical equipment and finally, a phone call to a retired nurse to get the answer. In this instance, my text didn’t need changing.

I recall other stories when my editors would ask me to change the names of a character, because it was too similar to another, or they would point out expressions that might lead to misunderstandings or even accusations of being insensitive to someone, or a group. Not intentionally of course, but still. Great editing finds all those things you, as author, wouldn’t be able to see. They provide much needed perspective.

In the end, I’ve never had an editor tell me to change the plot of a story, or finding major plot holes. I think my biggest errors revolved about people’s aging, of how old children should be at a given point in a story. Not always easy to keep ages straight.

Point is, my books are so much better because of the editing, because of proof readers who spot those letters or words that disappear in the editing process. Those awkward “there”, “their” or “they’re” that autocorrect often change automatically these days, without us really noticing them.

A good cover not only stands out among others, it also gives you an indication of the genre the story is in. This is still one of my all time favorites, from my novel Willem of the Tafel. A Sci-Fi novel, my only one.

A word on covers. yes, covers are important. And if you’re not a pro, don’t expect your book to sell if you use a home made cover. I know there are gazillions of ways to create cover art. Rule 1: Don’t steal from Google or Bing. Pay for the art you use or create your own from scratch. If you’re as bad at drawing or sketching as I am, invest in a good picture. But even better: let a pro help you. Because no matter what: you’ll see that a professional cover stands out, attracts readers and gets them interested in learning more about your story. If you have a crap cover, they’ll never even press that first click, to read your blurb.

But I still can’t afford those services! Well, tough luck! I can’t afford a new car, or that sweater I saw the other day. Suck it up. But you can still publish that book. If you think the story is good enough, find a publisher, find a niche publisher specializing in your kind of story. And if you absolutely insist on self-publishing (why I don’t really understand), find help that might be willing to do a profit share.

I’ve heard of authors who asked friends for help and then were disappointed (and angry) at said friends when negative reviews start coming in. Did you pay them? If you had a professional editor, they’d re-edit the book for you. They’d proof it again for you, as part of their professional service. Just as you would expect a restaurant to replace a bad meal. Or a mechanic to fix a faulty repair job. But I am getting tired of hearing of all those people who complain about the cost of things, the sense of entitlement to get something published, because they’ve written it. No, there is no such entitlement. The first amendment (or your democratic country’s equivalent) allows you to publish it, but it doesn’t save you from being trashed if the product is crap. That is part of your readers’ first amendment rights.

It’s 2017, and I thought we’d moved past uploading word documents straight from the author to Amazon. Alas, I was wrong, and I’m ashamed for my industry. Because every crap product hurts the rest of us, from the largest publisher to the professional self-publishers.

What’s your take? Am I missing something here?

Have a great week!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans