Interview With The AWESOME GANG: Where Awesome Readers Meet Awesome Writers

Author interview
There’s a fellow named Vinny O’Hare who’s a very active member of the Goodreads and other writer/reader communities, and who has various site promoting his books, his photography, and his work as a web consultant. One of those sites is called AwesomeGang: Where Awesome Readers Meet Awesome Writers. A very on-the-nose moniker for a cool site that does just that.

Vinny’s mission statement is pretty simple:

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? I like the way the community helps each other out. Being in the Indy publishing world I get to visit a lot of websites by people that don’t know how to make a website. I can offer them SEO advice and help them rank better for their books. I love helping authors get sales for their books. I believe it comes full circle.

And given how many opportunities he gives authors through awesomely priced book postings, awesome interviews, etc. (he admits he likes the word “awesome”!), his full circle should be… well, pretty full!

awesome gang banner

I recently participated in an AwesomeGang interview, talking about my books, my work, and what I’d take with me to a desert island, and since I know you want to partake of all that essential information, let’s start with an excerpt and go from there!

Do you have any advice for new authors?

To start with, and this is a big one, be very clear about your voice, what it is, what it wants to say, what it tells you, what your gut tells you, and then LISTEN TO THAT. Learn to trust it, humbly and with a willingness to take and implement good critique and wise input, but trust what you know is your voice. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from expressing yourself, tell you all the reasons why you should do something else, why you should say something else; knock you down with their “honesty.” There’s a lot of arbitrary “advice” people will offer and it’s essential to be clear what’s useful and what’s just… arbitrary advice.

Which leads to the second part (and this may sound contradictory, but it’s true): while and as you get clear on your own voice, be very aware of the value of what others have to share with you. Some of it will be good, essential even, and the trick is to sort out what critique, insights, suggestions to take and which to discard. It can be very challenging at times. But ultimately your work has to be YOU, and if you believe in it, have the courage of those convictions to stand by it. Even if you don’t sell a million (or whatever your goal), you’ll know your work is out there in the world exactly as you intended it. A creative legacy can be a very soulful thing!

 Click to read on….

Thank you, Vinny O’Hare, for your incredible awesomeness!

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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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From INDIES UNLIMITED: The Persistence of Self-Publishing Stigmas and How To Transcend Them

Indies Unlimited

In the world of independent writing there exists an enormous pool of resources designed to guide, educate, inform, cheerlead and help independent writers. Indies Unlimited is one of the most popular of those sites, one that works hard to provide what authors, writers, and those working with them need to move constructively forward in a constantly changing industry. I was delighted to be invited to write a “guest post” for them.

In thinking about what salient issue to cover, I decided to throw some focus on the conundrum around “the quality of self-published books,” an ongoing discussion, even debate, that rages (OK, maybe rages is too harsh; how about persists?) amongst publishers, marketers, promoters, reviewers; magazines and newspapers, certainly readers and even writers, as the self-publishing trend continues to expand.

Those of us in the category are inevitably faced with a set of preconceived ideas and opinions about what a self-published author is and what that author provides by way of their independently published book, and while many of those notions are folly — or certainly non-applicable to the better writers — they DO, unfortunately, apply to far too many. This piece offers some rethinking about how to change that reality:

The Persistence of Self-Publishing Stigmas and How To Transcend Them:

We self-published writers are like the big kids Mom and Dad left at home with the baby; there’s a list of instructions on the refrigerator but we’re basically on our own. Which means we have no choice but to step up. To meet the challenge. To make sure the “baby” that is our book flourishes as well as the one down the street with the high-priced nanny…

… yet one [writer] remarked that most self-published writers can’t afford editors and cover designers and so they “do the best they can,” their books going out “as is.” Another told me, “Readers are less picky because ebooks are so cheap”….

 Click HERE to read full article at Indies Unlimited.

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Alley Reading_ATSP

After just a little over a month in publication, less than a month in print, After the Sucker Punch was chosen by readers at Indie Author News as one of the Top 50 Indie Books for June.

That is no small thing. I’ll take a moment to celebrate:


OK. That’s done.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge Indie Author News, one of the many wonderful sites working in support of independent authors and their books. Alan Kealey does the heavy lifting for the site and he is an enthusiastic and indefatigable promoter. I am grateful for his persistent tweeting and noise-making… thank you, Alan!

And THANK YOU, indie readers, for showing my book a little love. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. And for those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to pick up a copy, here’s the link: AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH. And thank you! Let me know how it hits you…

 Alley Reading Break photo image by LDW 

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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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