How To Sell Your Next Book

In today’s Journal

* The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* When the Owl Calls
* How To Sell Your Next Book
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported these new stories:

  • Vanessa V. Kilmer “Love Under the Cold Moon” 14,177 Historical Romance
  • George Kordonis “The Black Bird” 2230 Urban Fantasy
  • Adam Kozak “Love on the Run” 2049 Thriller

When the Owl Calls

Probably the best mainstream, psychological suspense, non-series book I’ve ever written went live everywhere this morning. On discount at StoneThread Publishing.

How To Sell Your Next Book

Bear with me. This is a lengthy digression.

As many of you know, I ‘made my bones’ as a poet. In poetry, sales of individual poems are possible, theoretically. Back in the day, I enjoyed brisk sales of full-blown collections and even smaller, saddle-stapled chapbooks.

My work won some contests and was even nominated for the two biggies: The National Book Award and The Pulitzer Prize. It didn’t shortlist at either one, but still….

Back in 1998 my Lessons for a Barren Population held the distinction of being the first-ever book-length poetry collection to be published as an ebook (HardShell Word Factory).

HardShell also entered that collection in the Frankfurt Book Fair Awards. In the fiction category. (There wasn’t a poetry category at the time.) It still won sixth honorable mention (so 9th place).

But somewhere along the line, probably about the same time university instructors started feeling the pressure to “publish or perish (not be offered tenure),” the emphasis in poetry shifted to obscure works.

Some poets, wishing to be obscure, started using symbolism that was so personal only they understood it. They also started saying stupid, haughty things like, “My poetry must be interpreted to be understood.”

Meanwhile, in college classes, regular, everyday students were actively taught that they literally Could Not Understand (read “decipher”) poetry. Meanwhile, the professors could “interpret” a poem any way they liked, publish the resulting essay, and come that much closer to tenure.

The whole thing was and is a scam. The more obscure a poet’s work was, the more widely it was read by professors who needed to publish papers and by the pretentious “look-at-me crowd” to keep up appearances. As a result, the obscure poets became more widely known, more professors published more papers, and fewer regular people bought and read poetry.

That is what cost honest actual poets their reading audience. It’s also why very few regular people read or appreciate poetry today.

As two-time US poet laureate Howard Nemerov once wrote, “The poet, upon seeing a rock lying in the road, writes ‘A rock lay in the road.’ A false poet hokes it up in the translation.” Truth.

By the way, Nemerov’s Collected Poems won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in the same year. If you enjoy good poetry you can understand, check it out. Yes, it contains “deeper meanings,” but it’s also accessible on the surface.

Regarding pretentious snots, I’ve even heard some poets, when approached by a reader who asks whether her “interpretation” of the poem is correct, say, “No, that isn’t what I meant at all.”

Stupid is as stupid does. They’re haughty. And they’re wrong.

The fact is, the poet only begins the poem. As it goes onto the page, it is filtered through all the baggage, good and bad, in the poet’s psyche.

Likewise, when the reader reads the poem, it comes off the page and is filtered through all the baggage, good and bad, in the reader’s psyche.

So the reader’s understanding isn’t wrong, it’s only different. And correct for that reader.

Or as I told a live seminar full of students back in the late 1990s, “Try to remember not to be haughty. After all, you only start the poem; the reader finishes it.”

I am aware TNDJ is a blog about writing fiction.

The reason for the long digression above was to tell you, point blank, it is not the reader’s responsibility to “interpret” your poems.

Or your fiction.

Years ago, I gently criticized a writer for writing in a fiction, “the passing car grabbed his eyes.”

No, it didn’t. Maybe the passing car grabbed his attention. Or maybe his gaze went to or shifted to or followed the passing car. But the passing car did not “grab” his eyes. That would’ve hurt like hell and possibly transformed the work into a horror story.

The writer responded with a wag of the hand and a wan, knowing smile: “Well, the reader will know what I mean.”

Yeah, but that isn’t the reader’s job.

And it’s exactly the same if you write “His eyes shot across the room.”

No, they didn’t. Unless someone just hit him in the back of the head (or if you take the law of action/reaction into account, across the forehead) with a shovel.

Maybe he looked across the room. Or maybe he gazed across the room. But his eyes did not make the trip on their own, shot or otherwise.

As with poetry, it is not the reader’s responsibility to “know what you mean.” It is YOUR responsiblity to convey the scene clearly so the reader won’t have to stop to decipher or interpret or understand anything at all.

It’s your responsibility to slow down, take your time, and make sure what’s in the scene in your head makes it onto the page. Accurately.

When you force a reader to stop even for a second to figure out what you mean, you’re defeating your own intention to provide the reader with a seamless reading experience, one from which you do not want him to escape until he reads “the end.”

And that is how you sell your next book.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

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The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 980

Writing of Blackwell Ops 25: Rafe Andersen

Day 1…… 3243 words. To date…… 3243
Day 2…… 1354 words. To date…… 4597
Day 3…… 2899 words. To date…… 7496
Day 4…… 1545 words. To date…… 9041
Day 5…… 2085 words. To date…… 11126
Day 6…… 1302 words. To date…… 12428
Day 7…… 4069 words. To date…… 16497

Fiction for June…………………….….… 29661
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 370258
Fiction since October 1………………… 673315
Nonfiction for June……………………… 16690
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 200320
2024 consumable words……………… 570578

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 9
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 91
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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