The Kindness of Strangers… Meet Brenda Perlin

Brenda Perlin

I don’t know Brenda Perlin. We’ve never met, we’ve never spoken; we’ve never even emailed each other (except for a Kindle gift book). I’ve connected with her through sites like Goodreads or Facebook, particularly a Facebook writers group called Master Koda, and though she’s a fellow writer, so far I’ve only read one of her books (a short story for kids called “Ty the Bull,” written with K.D. Emerson and Rex Baughman). Yet, despite this seemingly peripheral relationship, no one has done more to promote and raise a ruckus about my novel, After The Sucker Punch, than this woman. Which I find both astonishing and profound.

There are some artists so focused on their own work that they rarely look outside that narrow sphere to see what others around them might be doing. I have people in my Facebook circle who show up only to post their gig notices, theater schedules, release dates of their CDs/books/films/blogs, or calls-to-action for petitions, votes, and Kickstarter campaigns, but they rarely comment on or share similar posts of others and it seems clear they’re not paying one damn bit of attention to me! 🙂 Which is fine. They don’t have to. But still… I always wonder why they’re there in the first place.

This “disinterest syndrome,” in fact, at least per countless conversations I’ve had with other artists on the topic, often extends outside social media to impact even our closer circles of family and friends. We’re all busy, certainly, but one can’t help but notice the repeatedly unopened or unanswered emails about the new site, the art opening, or the release of a new book; the forgotten promises to leave a review or share the book/CD/film/art piece with known contacts in the industry; the lack of response to queries, promotions, and candid requests to “check out my (fill in the blank).” We all have those people around us (and they tend to be the ones sending “sincere pleas” to donate to their Kickstarter campaigns!).

Then there’s Brenda Perlin.

When my book first came out, I was lucky enough to have some wonderful friends and colleagues who’d read advance copies and left reviews on the Amazon page… which helped greatly with marketing and promotion. But the very first “stranger review” came from Brenda. I didn’t know who she was; it just said “Brenda” on the Amazon page, but it was a thoughtful, impassioned, and very specific review… the kind you revel in as a writer (she even quoted lines from the book!). I later figured out she was the “Brenda Perlin” in the Master Koda writers group to which I belonged and sent her a private Facebook message in thanks. She responded with such sincere appreciation for the book that I was additionally touched.

But she wasn’t done there. She wrote another review on Goodreads, shared information about the book on Pinterest, Twitter and other sites, and within days, I stumbled upon a post from her blog titled, “After the Sucker Punch…a Novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke rocks… and then some!” in which she not only included her Amazon review, but extrapolated further on the book, using a few very clever photos with the cover embedded in random places like bus stop banners, door hangers and urban billboards… like this one:

ATSP subway_photo art by Brenda Perlin

And, to top it off, before I could barely blink an eye after I’d posted my new short story, “She Tumbled Down,” at Amazon, Brenda had already downloaded it, read it, and left a review both there and at Goodreads.

To be honest, I was just blown away. No one before or since (at least not yet!) has made that kind of unsolicited effort to push my work out into the marketplace and I have no idea why Brenda was compelled to do so for me. But beyond her expressed appreciation of my work, I’ve come to realize it’s simply who she is, her very generous and thoughtful nature. She gets it.  She knows what artists need and want in terms of response to their work and she’s gracious enough to offer it. She has the consideration to step outside of herself to provide something of value to her fellow artists. And that’s a gift.

I’ve seen her reach out to many other authors to review their work, encourage them to keep going, and promote their promotions. She must read more than anyone on earth and always takes time to leave a meaningful review that focuses on the positive aspect of whatever she reads. She seems to know when a newbie need a boost, a journeyman could use a hand, or just how and when to tweet, click, share, or comment so that prime attention gets paid in all the right places. She’s like the Johnny Appleseed of indie writers!

I have not yet had the chance to read her other books beyond the short story mentioned above, but I wanted to do something to thank her for being who she is, to acknowledge just how grateful I am for her efforts on my specific behalf. That I can do by throwing a little light her way.

So please visit, “like,” click, download, or just say hello. She’s a rare breed in this crazy world of distraction and disinterest; one of those “strangers” whose kindness changes that status much more quickly than most!

Her blog: Brooklyn and Bo Chronicles
Facebook writer’s page
Twitter: Brenda Perlin
LinkedIn: Brenda Perlin
Amazon Author’s Page: Brenda Perlin

Photo of Brenda from her Facebook page.
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Free Book Promotions: How Good ARE They For Writers?

Buy my book it's free_r

Heard at a recent garage sale: “I always take free stuff even when I’m not sure I want it. I mean, it’s FREE; I can always throw it out!

Contemporary culture seems to have a conflicted relationship with free. People will hip-check each other to get to a neighborhood “free box” first, then get suspicious when eager salesmen dangle promotional freebies to close a sale. We all love a free meal but will still wonder what’s wrong with business that the restaurant is offering it. We can rationalize downloading music without payment, yet barely blink when art is auctioned for millions on the basis of “perceived artistic value.”

Then there are books, given away by the boatload in “free book promotions” in hopes of snagging that ever-more desirable demographic: the e-book reader. As the format surpasses all others in global book sales, the seduction of this burgeoning audience has become the mission statement of all book sellers, including indie authors, making Amazon’s brainchild promotion the Holy Grail.

To the uninitiated, the “free book promotion” is a strategy whereby writers offer their e-books free-of-charge for a number of days during their Kindle Select enrollment period. The objective is to entice readers in hopes they’ll download your book, leave a review, stir up positive word-of-mouth, then come back to buy your other books that aren’t free. This presumes, of course, that you have other books; it also presumes those planned objectives are met.

Are they?

Depends who you talk to. Some authors report getting thousands of free downloads, winning higher Amazon rankings and heightened name awareness as a result. Others tout similar stats but lament the cost of sites like BookBub and others that charge $200+ to promote those free promotions. Still others contend that the strategy’s value has peaked, as the sheer glut of free product has lowered incentive for readers to ever pay for books (despite e-books already being cheaper than other formats). Writers themselves are conflicted.

I asked indie author, Martin Crosbie, who’s had tremendous success with his books, particularly his novel, My Temporary Life, his view of the strategy:

“If I had not had the ability to offer my book for free I would not have found the readers I have. Reduced and free pricing has been the difference for me between connecting with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of readers each month as opposed to just a handful. Hopefully some of these tried and true methods will remain effective for a little while as we all scramble to increase our readership, because really, we’re not just selling books. We’re building our reader base; that’s where our real focus is.”

Most would agree, yet some believe the proliferation of freebies has permanently altered the landscape, both in the perceived value of writers and their work and the mindset of readers who’ve become habituated to not paying for books. Literary agent, Jill Corcoran, makes that point in her piece, The Devaluation of Writers, By Writers:

“I get it, we all want our books to be read… getting your foot in the door/getting your e-book on anyone and everyone’s e-reader is the first step to [hopefully] selling these buyers your second book. BUT, if your self-pubbed book is free, and, according to bookgorilla, John Green’s THE FAULT OF OUR STARS e-book is worth $3.99, then all of us in publishing will need to downsize our houses, our food bill, our lifestyles because unless you are selling a heck of a lot of books, at $3.99 or 1/8th of $0.99 or at the golden ‘price’ of FREE, we have all just devalued ourselves to a point of below the already pitiful American minimum wage.” [Emphasis added.]


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The Amazon vs. Hachette Debate: What Do Independent Authors Think?

Reading what they want… from whom they want.

Lines have been drawn, sides taken; articles, blogs and editorials prognosticate about what – and whom – will be left standing when the dust settles. Big 5 authors are stamping their feet in step with their publishers and it’s getting noisy out there. Uber-successful author James Patterson is fuming about the “national tragedy” that is Amazon (as quoted in the Los Angeles Times piece, “Amazon and Hachette: The dispute in 13 easy steps“), while another high-profile writer, Malcolm Gladwell, opines in the same piece (in oddly vulnerable tones), how heartbreaking it is “when your partner turns on you.” It’s high drama in the literary corral.

USA Today’s Michael Wolff frames the melee in his piece, “How book biz dug its own Amazon grave,” as a transparent “power grab” by Amazon that should have set off alarms much earlier… but didn’t:

“…Amazon, evident to anyone paying the slightest attention, is a creeping totalitarian state. Its effort is to build a marketplace that will give it the most power to shape the behavior of its customers and suppliers. That is pretty much the definition of ‘platform,’ that new word that denotes ultimate commercial and personal control. […]

“So, broadly, the fight is between, on the one hand, the incompetents, craven panderers and mid-level corporate bureaucrats in the book business and, on the other, the authoritarian creepos at Amazon. More specifically, the fight is about better and lesser businesses’ acumen and strategies. […]

“The negotiation, not to mention brinkmanship, between Amazon and Hachette seems vastly too unequal. Publishers need Amazon more than Amazon needs them. So publishers are screwed. The walking dead. They gave it away.”

Evan Hughes over at Slate appears to largely agree with Wolff. In “Bringing Down the Hachette,” he makes the point that this battle was essentially allowed to get out-of-control by those not paying attention and is now, belatedly, inspiring an almost hysterical level of response from those who will be most affected – Big 5 publishers and their authors. He even concludes mournfully, “How do you notice a great book that never gets written?”

Yes… this is a very grim crowd.

It’s a fascinating debate, a fascinating time, one that mirrors much of what’s already happened in the music industry, in journalism, art and photography; even online news aggregation. And, as in all revolutionary movements, the paradigm is shifting, to use a weary phrase. The status quo has been shaken up, with elites at the top of the food chain being toppled by the democratization of the publishing process, whether by scruffy rebels who’ve finally had enough of never having enough (or any, for that matter), or, in this case, by another corporate “elite,” one that’s had the audacity to design a business model that actually includes those previously kept outside the gates: the independent writers of the world. And, believe me, those writers, unlike the rich, famous ones long held in the warm embrace of the Big 5, view this debate through a very different filter. We are celebrating Amazon’s open doors.

Unless you’re someone who writes books and attempts to get them published, it’s unlikely you’re aware of, or pay much attention to, the arcane process by which books come to market. As a reader who goes to bookstores or shops online – at Amazon or any of the other sites where books are sold – you likely make little note of the publisher’s name, more interested in the author, the name and genre of the book, the cover, the book description, and the reviews. But for the writers of those books, the journey to that book shelf – virtual or otherwise – has been, until Amazon, a gauntlet of restrictions, exclusions, and endless hoop-jumping, followed, most frequently, by rejection, dismissal, and, in too many cases, lack of even an acknowledgement of your introductory email or letter. There cannot be a less considerate, more brutal, process than the one required to simply gain the attention – much less the interest – of a literary agent, a step necessary if you want to approach Big 5 publishers. And while I have sincere empathy for those agents who are, no doubt, overwhelmed by submissions from the millions of writers looking for that representation, the entire process is set up to drive pretty much everyone involved f**king crazy. Agents try to preempt the seeming cruelty of their perceived coldness and disinterest by noting on their sites that they’re too busy to respond to anyone but those in whom they’re interested, but still…

A few lucky writers do get through – you might have one of their books on your nightstand – but even those are being rudely awakened to the new reality of far less marketing and promotional help from big publishers who, regardless, still control what their books will be and still take a big chunk of their profits. Other authors decide to go with smaller publishers who have little money to spend on anything but at least have a masthead. But for most writers this “auditioning” process can go on for years, during which time they edit, rewrite, and polish their manuscripts but, in most cases, see little progress in the quest to get them traditionally published.

I wrote a bit about this spinning journey in my piece, “Is Self-Publishing Killing Books? My Journey With After the Sucker Punch Answers the Question,” so I won’t reiterate beyond the obvious: when an industry becomes too exclusive, too restrictive; with contradictory standards, inexplicable or confused reasoning, and the inability – or wherewithal – to be open to much beyond the most obvious, the most predictably commercial, or the most connected, a revolution is going to happen. As it has.

While Big 5 and their gatekeepers were holding tight to their velvet ropes, Amazon opened their doors wide, giving independent authors of every ilk a place to publish, market (often with Amazon’s help), and sell their work, and, consequently, giving millions of readers the opportunity to buy it. As much as the naysayers bemoan this “muddying of the waters,” the fact is, books are not declining or becoming more generic because of Amazon; they are, more likely, expanding, with many new, talented writers finally getting an audience, one delighted to discover new work in, perhaps, a wider range of genres and styles than traditional publishers were willing to service. Some may sniff that self-published writers are a scruffy lot cranking out bad romance novels with sloppy manuscripts, amateur covers, and marginal skill – and some are. But there are also many who are remarkably talented, know their craft, and implement their impeccable standards with professional editors, formatters, and cover designers. Some of those writers are bestsellers. Some are famous. And some, like me, invite you to read our books now being independently published at Amazon to see just how they stack up against the “traditionals” (my book link is below… please, avail yourself and let me know; I’d be delighted to get your feedback, seriously!).

When Slate’s Evan Hughes posits, “How do you notice a great book that never gets written?,” his concern might be more applicable to the writers big publishers have been ignoring for years. Their books are, now, not only getting written, but finally getting noticed, thanks to that “national tragedy” that is Amazon. Whatever this behemoth is or isn’t; whatever it’s doing right or wrong, all I know, after years of jumping through endless hoops in hopes of getting my work acknowledged, I’m done jumping. I’m putting my creative ass on the line, standing by my work, and selling my book on Amazon. As are millions of others.

For those of you raging, I hope this gets worked out to the benefit of the most worthy; in the meantime, we independents are marching with the revolution.

Reading What They Want image: LDW @ Fine Art America

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Blog Hop: The Writing Process…What’s Mine?

How many of you have heard of “Blog Hops”? If you haven’t, here’s a good definition from Boomer Lit Friday:

Blog hops are events where a group of authors band together (usually around a theme) to offer readers some sort of incentive to go to their blogs and read their work. There is one central site where the participating authors are listed and readers (hoppers) can click through to the various blogs to…read samples of the authors’ work.

I love this idea and was delighted to be invited by a Sandra Harvey, a writer to whom I’m connected on Twitter, to participate in “The Writing Process Blog Hop,” which she joined after being “tagged” by Renee Gian, who was invited by Tracy Barrett, and so on and so on…you get the point!



A special thanks to author Sandra Harvey for inviting me to the Hop… be sure to check out her blog, Drowning in the Idea of Love.


The Writing Process Hop came with four questions which every writer is answering on their own blog; be sure hop to and from each writer’s site (links above and below) to see the specific ways in which they answered the questions. My answers follow:

1. What am I working on?

Beyond my usual Huffington Post articles, my various columns, and this blog here at Rock+Paper+Music, I have just finished the process of publishing my novel, After the Sucker Punch. Now, there’s an adventure! My book falls into the literary fiction category, my favorite category to both read and write, and after the several years of writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting, more editing – well, you know the drill! – I finally began the process of “what’s next?” in earnest. My initial plan was to go the “traditional” route, which meant querying more literary agents over more time than I’d like to admit, with the ultimate result being a sort of “you can’t get there from here” message from the gatekeepers. So, believing in my book and not to be deterred, my plan then evolved into the decision to pursue independent publishing. I was guided by many who’ve gone before, particularly author Martin Crosbie, whose book, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks On Amazon’s Kindle proved profoundly useful and, once the decision was made, I actually found it exhilarating: gathering the necessary professionals (cover artist, editors, formatters, etc.) to help me create exactly the book I wanted to deliver. It has just launched at Amazon, in both ebook and print versions (print version to be posted this week), and I’m excited to see just how far I can take this new adventure. I hope you’ll pick up your own copy, because I’m convinced you will enjoy it! Click here: After the Sucker Punch. Really… I’ll be so pleased! 🙂

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Beyond style and genre, I think the way in which every writer’s work differs from another’s is simply… their voice. The way they see things, the way they’ve experienced life, and how that experience and perspective informs what they find important to put on the page. With literary fiction, as opposed to genre fiction, there are no parameters, no expected elements, formulas, or “types” of storylines. The landscape is wide open and the goal is to tell a story with richness, depth, and a love for how words can convey feelings, images, thoughts, and ideas; how they can move the plot along and bring characters alive to the reader. My work differs from anyone else’s simply because I employ my specific voice, one uniquely formed by the life I’ve lived, the way I see things, and what stands out to me as important to tell in creative storytelling. And since my life has been a particularly eclectic and interesting one (as least from my own perspective!), just imagine how interesting and eclectic my work is? 🙂

3. Why do I write what I do?

Firstly, because I love STORY. And though I enjoy science fiction or fantasy from time to time, my particular wheelhouse, both a reader and writer, is real life, real people; real circumstances. It’s always been that way. When I was young I listened to folk singers because their songs had lyrics that told stories and conveyed feelings I could relate to. I read books that followed the adventures of life on the prairie (Little House…) or growing up in the south (To Kill a Mockingbird) because losing myself in narrative and character that felt real and grounded in life as it exists (or existed) was transporting. I love street photography as a visual statement because it captures moments of human interaction and the stories they tell. I relish good real-life drama in films and television and can binge-watch a well-written series without a speck of guilt! And as an adult reader and writer, I’m drawn to literary fiction for those same reasons: the exploration of life, real life, with its millions of nuances, characters, and narratives. Even in my journalistic and essay work, I’m compelled to infuse whatever story or news event I’m covering with as much of the life involved as possible. And so it follows that I’d write along those same lines: I write what I love to read, end of story. Or… beginning!

4. How does my writing process work?

This an interesting question so, forgive me; I’m going to take a little time with the answer. I’ve been wanting to say some of this out loud for a while now because I think it’s important:

As a younger writer, I would hear teachers and mentors say things like, “a writer MUST write every day” or “if you’re not working on something, anything, then you’re not being a writer,” and I’d feel such pressure to be whatever kind of writer they described as opposed to the writer I was. As an older, more experienced, writer, I know why: THERE ARE NO RULES. No blood has to be shed (forgive my gif!:). There is no one process that works for everyone, that defines what a writer is or isn’t, or even produces the desired result for every single person. It doesn’t matter if you write one book or twenty; if you write a thousand articles or five; if you write every day or once a week, even once a month. If you are a writer, you are a writer. And anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. I’ve seen young writers (even older writers) stopped in their tracks by this kind of nonsense and so it has to be said!

I don’t write every day; never have. Then other days I write all day and sometimes all night. Sometimes I’ve got something I’m “working on,” other times I have no particular ideas percolating. And yet… I’m still a writer! I didn’t lose my credentials; no one can point their finger and say, “YOU’RE NOT A REAL WRITER!!” Because if they did I’d tell them to shut the f**k up.

My process is this: I write when I’m moved to write; I don’t subscribe to the “blank page theory” (i.e., sitting in front of a blank page in hopes inspiration will come). Never worked for me. I’m lucky; I can honestly say I’ve never had writer’s block, even when deadlines loomed. Because if I don’t have an idea tickling my brain and I want one, it’s simple: I strap on my iPod and go for a power walk with some kind of mesmerizing, beat-oriented music playing to both create a good walking vibe and give my brain room to swirl. And when I get to that physical/meditative state that my walking+music formula incites, ideas come. And when I have those ideas – whether for an article, a blog, a song, a book – I get home, kick off my shoes, and sit down at my computer (I cannot handwrite a damn thing, not even a greeting card!); I place my hands on the keys, open the Muse Portal (every artist knows what that is) and let it flow. I get out of the way. I don’t think while I’m writing; I let it flow from whatever that inspirational channel is, through my fingers, through the keys, and onto the page. If I’m writing dialogue, I let the characters tell me what they want to say; I never tell them. I follow a plot thread as if I’m scurrying to keep up and see where it takes me. When I’m done with a chapter or a paragraph, I open myself up to what’s next; there’s a sense of it, a natural next step that always makes itself known. It’s almost magical, it’s certainly mystical, and that process is one I find truly exhilarating.

And when I’m done writing, I edit. I read everything I write out loud to make sure the rhythm and flow of the words works (it’s also easier to find mistakes that way). Frankly, there’s not a word in a piece I’ve written that’s accidental. I’ll change a “the” to “a” if it flows better or makes more sense. Once I’m done with my edits, my rewrites, I read it all out loud again and when it feels done, it’s done. I don’t do much second-guessing and I’m one of those artists who happens to like my own work so I’m not distracted or detoured by artistic self-loathing. This is useful, because when you write for yourself, follow your own Muse, write on spec; independently publish, you might ultimately be one of only few who reads your work, so you better like it! (Though, really, nowadays with blogs and so many online writing sites, it’s rare that a good writer will end up being only one of few who reads their work. But still!)

And when I’m done/done on my end, I share my longer work (books) with readers and writing colleagues whom I trust and know share my instincts and sensibilities about writing and storytelling. It’s a selective group of experienced, talented people who, I’ve learned over the years, have quite a grasp of what works specifically for my style and sensibilities. I do get the reasoning behind beta readers; they can certainly offer perspective that’s helpful, but I’ve learned throughout my long career that listening to too many voices – all of whom have opinions and their own sense of things – can sometimes muddy up the works, confuse the issue, and shake your own knowingness about your work in a way that’s distracting or overwhelming. Or they can help a lot; it can go either way. But while it’s important to get feedback, opinions and perspective, it’s equally – if not more – important to listen loudest to the voice that’s your own. A good writer trusts their own work, their own instincts, and knows when to implement the notes and edits of another person and when to say, without arrogance and only after honestly reviewing and assessing those opinions, “this is the story I wrote. You might write it another way, but this is what I want to say and how I want to say it.” That resolve may mean you don’t get an agent, sell as many books, or win any awards… or it may mean that you’re absolutely spot-on and doing the exact right thing by sticking to your guns. That’s something every writer has to sort out. It’s your work, the legacy you leave as an artist. Ultimately, it has to be what you want it to be.

And that’s it. My process. I hope you will pick up a copy of After the Sucker Punch and, if so moved, get back to me with your thoughts ( I’m always delighted to hear from people for whom the work resonates!

Next up on the Writing Process Blog Hop… authors Saralee Rosenberg and Andrea Frazer. Click over to their blogs (linked below) on May 12th to see how these two talented writers answered the same questions!

Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four high-spirited novels including A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT, FATE AND MS. FORTUNE and DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD (Avon/HarperCollins). She has just written her first novel for younger readers, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM. Saralee is also a nationally-known public speaker and writing instructor. Check her website for details and information, and click over to her blog on May 12th for her own answers to these questions!

Andrea Frazer is a published TV, magazine, newspaper and national blog writer (Good Housekeeping/BabyCenter). She’s currently working onsite for Spark Network as their in-house blog and article writer for their faith website While she loves writing about theology, movies and books, her biggest leap of faith involved writing her memoir, Happily Ticked Off. Based on her blog of the same name, Happily Ticked Off follows her journey from despair to hope as she comes to terms with her son’s Tourette Syndrome diagnosis. It’s in the hand of a producer, currently, as she shops agents. (Wish her luck!) Frazer wrote this book as a love letter to other mamas. She’s adamant that the fearful woman learn to focus on her child’s gifts, not an unexpected diagnosis. It’s not what we’re handed, but how we deal with it, that makes all the difference. (And coffee. Who doesn’t need that? Frazer does, and she makes no apologies about it.) Stop by on May 12th and see what she has to offer in response to the Blog Hop Writers Process questions! 

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About Those Book Reviews…

Woman praying for… excellent book sales? Lotsa “likes”? Good reviews?

Self-promotion. Ugh.

To the creative soul awash in inspiration, artfulness, and flights of fancy, there is nothing more antithetical to the Muse than blowing one’s own damn horn. “Shameless self-promotion,” as a friend of mine puts it, which comes replete with discomfort and the awkwardness of braggadocio. But still… it seems we must.

Back in the day – or if you have the sort of career in which these characters appear – publicists, marketing and promotion specialists, managers, agents, handlers, etc., did the heavy lifting when it came to the strutting of stuff. The artist was protected from this crass commercial cacophony by virtue of having a team, a cadre, a crowd of enthusiasts who knew just what to say, when and to whom, to get that artist a front cover, a high-profile radio interview, the best book tour, all the right appearances at all the right places. Now? That cadre? That team? It’s you.

Well, it’s you if you are one of the growing number of independent artists who revel in the passion of creativity but wearied of shuffling behind velvet ropes held tight by the gatekeepers. Or, in simpler terms: damn, it’s hard these days to get an agent, publisher, manager, publicist, any of those folks!!

So what’s an artist to do; an artist who trusts their own voice and is willing to walk their own road even if those gate won’t open? Well, those artists are doing it for themselves. Just like the sisters.

Musicians made the leap first. When big labels tumbled into the swirling eddy of the digital revolution and no one understood how to proceed when all previously held paradigms blew into bits, musicians, bands, and singer/songwriters figured out how to transcend; how to get into those Pro-Tools studios and get the job done with a level of excellence that used to drain bank accounts but could now be covered by Mom, Dad and your freelance fees. And when they had their records recorded, mixed and mastered exactly as they wanted, without interference from bean-counters and suits with no idea of artistry, they got busy promoting the living hell out of those records, creating viable, accessible, impossible-to-pigeonhole careers as independent musicians. Which meant lots of teeth-gritting but ultimately necessary – and often quite effective – self-promotion. Entire careers have been built on that.

Now it’s the writers’ turn. The writing/publishing industry is/has been going through a similar upheaval and the pain is starting to show. While the Big Six publishing houses (some say it’s now the Big Five) have struggled against the turbulence of changing tastes, trends, and delivery systems for the written word, companies like Amazon have rewritten the book, so to speak, on how books are sold, writers are advanced, and readers are supplied. Money in traditional publishing has become unpredictable and unsustainable, which has led to gatekeepers selecting only a few who are predicted to fit the mold, meet the formulas, and overcome the changing tides. Which left out the other talented folk who, heretofore, would have been amongst the chosen. Have you seen the new Noah movie yet? Picture the bulk of writers as those left behind on terra firma as Russell Crowe battened down the hatches and floated off with his handpicked horde.

So those of us left outside have taken a cue from the indie musicians. Courtesy of Amazon and other sites, independent writers have been given the power to move forward despite closed door. The demand remains for excellent,  extraordinary, really good work; for brilliant stories, goose-bumping prose, and unforgettable characters. But, lo and behold, it appears a great many writers who were not let in the gates can and do provide that standard of literature. How lovely that the industry has evolved to the point that these outliers now have a portal, a support system, a facility with which to publish their own work! It’s quite brilliant. But…

Back to self-promotion. Because even though Amazon and affiliates do quite a good job at the various and creative ways in which they promote their authors – clearly a win/win situation – there’s no getting around the fact that independent writers MUST blow their own horns. Which means a great many things, not least of which is asking readers who’ve read their books to leave their – hopefully – positive reviews on their Amazon page… or wherever else such things matter, like Goodreads or Shelfari or other book sites. Reviews are not requested for the sake of ego; they’re requested for the sake of algorithms that rank a book by many things, including the number of reviews those books elicit.

So when a writer asks you to leave a review, understand that they are being a good, independent artist, taking very seriously their commitment to do right by their work, their art; their business. And if you can, if you are so inclined, if you are interested in supporting that artist, and, in a bigger sense, the independent publishing industry, you will be happy to leave one.

And that artist will be very, very grateful.

Woman Kneeling in Prayer by Émile Plassan @ Wikimedia Commons

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