Alienating Readers

“Are you trying to alienate potential readers?”

Ok, so I published my novel, Dear Tiz, almost six months ago.  At that time, I committed the newbie “mistakes” of telling people that this was my first book, and that I wasn’t sure the potential reader would like it, that it was maybe too Christian, etc.   One professional editor type person told me that I needed to make myself look more professional –  that I should start a blog, that I should re-vamp the author bio on Amazon, re-write the book description, and “For heaven’s sake, delete that ridiculous conversation between you and your son about your book; no one is interested in that, but yourself.”

So, I did all of that.  Guess what?  I have not had one sale of my book since I re-vamped everything.  Now, that is not to say that I was selling a bunch before that, but I was selling a copy once in a while.  Now nothing.  I suppose there are a number of things that could account for it, which I will not belabor over at the moment.

The thing that I would like to concentrate on at the moment is the answer to the question at the beginning of this post.  It is possible that I am alienating potential readers with the posts on my blog or with numerous other little things that might annoy people.  The real question is whether I should portray myself as something I am not in order to achieve sales.  The answer to that is a resounding NO!   Besides it would be utterly ridiculous.   My whole premise for writing my first book, was to be different from the professionally educated authors of fiction.  I guess I am just not a very professional type of person.  In fact, I am really quite the opposite.  I am a very much homemade type of person…and yet, my mother will tell you that I am an anomaly.

So, do I want to alienate potential readers?  I think so.  What I mean by that is that I want potential readers of my book(s) to be prepared beforehand that they might encounter a story that is quite different from what they are used to.   I don’t mean in originality.  There is truly nothing new under the sun and that is especially true when writing fiction.  The best I can hope for is to re-tell some age-old story and give it my own special flavoring, in my own voice; which you as the reader will either love or hate, as the case may be.

So, yes. I do want to alienate the reader that would definitely not like my book for whatever reason.

There is a very important thing to consider, and that is that it is not my purpose to waste people’s time or money making them think that my story will be one thing and then it turns out to be something completely different.  For example, even though I warn people that my book, is a Christian book it is not overtly so, and the Christian portions are easily avoidable by simply skipping the chapter titled “Church”.   One person wrote and asked me why I had labeled my book as Christian, since she didn’t think it was.    I do label my book as Christian, because I am a Christian and that is reflected to some degree in the book.  I feel it would be dishonest to not label it as a Christian book.

ETA:  It is true that my book does not endorse any organized religion; however I do feel that it contains some truths of true Christianity; therefore making it a Christian book.  I might have to explain that in another post.

 

If that, or anything I write in my blog, offends people and prevents them from buying my book, then I have to accept that as an acceptable loss and move forward, regardless.  Obviously, those people who would not like to read a Christian book, or are easily offended by something I might say in my blog are not my target readers.   I know that there are people out there who already like my book and others who will like it, once they find out about it.  Sure it might not be a readership of millions, thousands or even hundreds, but they are out there.

For now, I will continue to write as long as I feel I have a story to tell or something to say.

Cover Design by 99

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I absolutely love this cover, but I haven’t read the book.

I have to admit that I do judge a book by its cover.  In fact, I am very intrigued by some covers, even if I have no interest in the subject of the book.  A few of the best covers I have ever seen are on books that I will probably never read.    I am also extremely turned off by other covers, even when I probably would be interested in the story.

One thing I have found enlightening is that men and women view covers differently.   My mother commissioned the cover of her book to be designed professionally, and we both almost fainted when we saw that he had made the background all black with white lettering and not a single picture.  A very definitely masculine and might I say “boring” cover.  My son who was 7 at the time could have done better.  Needless to say, she was not happy.  She had to work with him for months and had to veto several designs before she finally got one that she could be comfortable with; it was not cheap.

When I was designing the cover for my book Dear Tiz, my sons hated it.  However, when I showed it to all of my female friends they liked it.  I spent a lot of time trying to decide on a title for my book and one of the titles I was considering was “The Manor House”.  That is why I really wanted a picture of the Manor House to be on the cover.  I had to commission it to be drawn for me, but it was worth it.  Later when I decided to go with “Dear Tiz” as the title, I still wanted the house on the cover.  I think the cover represents my book very well.  Sure it is a romance, but it has other themes as well.  Anyway, I like it.  It also says “different” which is something I am wanting to convey at the onset.

Recently, I found this website where authors ask for a book cover and get several designers competing to give you the design that you like best.  It is a little out of my price range, but I find it intriguing to go through and look at the different designs and then see which one they ended up choosing.  I find that I don’t always agree with the final choice.  First let me show you the ones that I do agree with, and then the ones I don’t.

I am sure that Mark Myers chose the cover that best fit his book.  #26 is nice, but it screams non-fiction autobiography.  My personal favorite is #22, even though I am sure it doesn’t fit the story as well.  In #39 (the winning design), the street lamp gives it a Narnia feel as well as historical.

In this one, Natalie P. Kennerly chooses the best one.  I have to say that I really like the drawing of the people on the winning design best.

Here, Jay W Curry also chooses the best one.  I think I might even be interested in reading this book, if I can find out where they are selling it.

Although, I agree with this final choice, I wish they could have kept the greenery of the island in the other option.  However, that was from a different designer, so that wasn’t possible.

Now lets look at some covers where I don’t agree on the final choice.  Of course, the author knows better what will best suit their book.  This is just my personal opinion.

Here there are quite a lot of completely different designs for the same title.  I would have preferred #81

I really don’t like this final choice.  The only one of these designs that I like is #56.  I like it so much in fact, that I would like to write a book just so that I could use that design.  Different title, of course.

As you can tell, I really like paging through this website and getting ideas.

Here is one where the author submitted a picture that was to be used in the design.  It is interesting to see what all can be done to make it look different, yet using the same picture.  I agree with the author’s final choice on this one, but I don’t think I would like to read the book.  I don’t have enough time to spend reading books that aren’t in my genre.  I could get it and give it as a present to my brother, though.  If my brother wrote a book, which he might do some day, it would be like this one.

Cute or Ugly?

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Here is one for my soap-box rantings folder.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There was never anything more true than that statement.

I was recently reading a book review and the reviewer said that the thing that turned her off to the book was when the main male character said that a girl was unattractive.   However, later the guy was raised in her esteem again because he grew to respect her.

To me, that is utter hogwash; not what happened in the book, but the reviewer’s take on it.  It makes me want to read the book, as I think the author must be a very balanced and level-headed individual.  I actually haven’t read anything written by her, yet.

First of all, it is much different for a guy to respect you, than for him to find you attractive.  He probably won’t want to marry you, just because he happens to respect you.  Those are very different responses in a man.  Basically, a guy can respect a girl, even like her as a person, and still think she is unattractive.

Honesty in a guy is always more attractive than baseless flattery.   What I object to is the idea that a boy can’t think a girl is unattractive, and that if he should voice such an opinion then he is to be looked down upon by the female population.  As a woman, I am offended by this response in those of my own gender.  Boys should be taught that their opinions are valid.  Their opinions should not be looked down upon, it is how they express those opinions that matters.  Boys (or girls) should never insult or say hurtful things to a person that they view as unattractive.  This is one of the oldest teachings on the planet.

We all know that boys fall in love by sight and girls fall in love by hearing, or at least we should know it.  However, I have seen some guys fall in love with some really ugly girls and vice-versa.  Why is that?    I am sure they would be admired by some; however that would not take into consideration that these people do have an opinion, and they are expressing it.   It is not as if they are sacrificing themselves to be with someone they find unattractive.  Obviously, it is because they actually find the person attractive.  So, it is a moot point.

One of the kindest things a man ever said to me was that I was too unattractive for him.  He went on to become one of my best friends.  He is the one person that I can count on for help in numerous situations; but not until after I got over the notion that our relationship might become a romance.  Just because I thought he was very attractive didn’t make it mutual.  Honesty from him, barely two weeks after we met, is what made the relationship into a great friendship.   It was a kindness, because it saved me a lot of heartache later on had I been allowed to harbor secret hopes (its the not having a definitive answer that really kills); or from jealous feelings when I saw him with someone else.  Because I actually believed him when he told me, “Not if you were the last woman on earth.”   Instead of being offended with him, I showed him the respect of recognizing his right to have his own opinions; therefore it opened up the possibility for us to have a wonderful friendship.

Let’s face it, not everyone is attractive.   Even more to the point – what you consider to be attractive, I might view as ugly.  For example, I think Jack Nicholson is one of the ugliest people on earth; however some women find him attractive.   Should I lie and say that he is attractive when I don’t really think so?  What is the purpose of such dishonesty?  It serves no purpose and can cause great heartache further down the road.

To think that girls suffer from lack of self-esteem and that is why guys should always say they are pretty, even when they aren’t, is a sexist idea.  Guys suffer from vanity as well as girls.  Let me tell you about two male friends of mine.  To me they were both attractive the way they were.  One had a jaw that was slightly to one side of his face, but not really noticeable.  The other had a long nose.  Both of them had surgery to “correct” their imperfections.  At least in the case of the friend with the long nose, all the girls seemed to think the surgery was a vast improvement.  To me however, they both looked uglier after the surgery, especially the one who corrected his jaw.  Previously, he had a strong jaw; one that spoke of a strong man.  Afterwards, he had a flabby weak jaw, that made him appear to be weak.   I really wish they had not spent all of that money to look worse than before.  Of course, it was their decisions and all; I am just giving my honest opinion.

Sure unattractive girls can suffer from lack of self-esteem; however they will probably not suffer from the false attentions of horny guys, or at least not as much.  Pretty girls can be hurt by their beauty; so can handsome guys.  They can never be sure if a person likes them for who they are, or for their looks.  I think this can end up being a worse problem, with far more dangerous consequences than just some hurt feelings.

In regards to potential romance, give me honesty over false flattery every day of the week.   Now, when it comes to your opinion of my cat; it is always a good idea to tell me she is cute, even if you don’t think so.  🙂

Oh yeah!  About the above picture – wonder why the guy married her if he hated her.  Maybe she was pretty, but not attractive.

My Goal as a Writer

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Recently, in the course of writing to a friend about my writing, I began to think seriously about why I am writing stories.  I could have written my autobiography instead, but I have “been there and done that”.   I don’t even like to read stories that take me back to…oh wait, that is not the topic of this post.

  • I think more than anything, I want to be different from other writers.  That doesn’t mean I think I will be better, just different.  I don’t know if I can accomplish that, but that is one of my goals.
  • One of the main reason I want to write stories is because I want to live in a fantasy world.  Let’s go for honesty, here.  There is really no better way to do that, then to write my own stories.  Sure, I can read other people’s stories, but sooner or later I get upset with the direction the story takes me, and many times it turns out to not be such a fantasy world after all.  So, that doesn’t accomplish what I had picked up the book for in the first place.

Now, however, I need to qualify my fantasy world.  If it is to be a fantasy world that I would wish to live in, then it has to have certain things.

      1. The most important being God.  I don’t wish to live in a world, fantasy or otherwise, where there is no God.  The God of the Bible suits me fine.
      2. Of course it has to have some old-fashioned romance, hopefully with characters that don’t make me want to strangle them for their stupid choices.
      3. One of the things I most want in my fairy tale world, and usually it is totally lacking, is an old-fashioned mindset.  I am not talking about just putting in some time period dialogue.  I want the characters to have the same kind of thoughts and feelings that people used to have.  At least as old-fashioned a mindset as the story would require.  And definitely enough so that my grandparents (who were born before the turn of the century) could have sat down to drink coffee or tea with the characters in the story and they would have been like, “Yeah, I know where you are coming from.”

Now that I have written one complete novel, I realize that it is very hard to separate my faith as a Christian from my writing; I don’t think it can be done.

I have read books by non-Christians and their mindset very much influences their characters views on issues and their character’s relationships.  It would be impossible for me to create realistic characters that were divorced from my personal views and feelings.  However, I might insert a character who expresses a view contrary to my own.  If I do so, it is more because I want to pose a question that might need to be answered outside of the realm of the story, for the reader.

I have decided that I don’t need to use my books to teach doctrines.  I can present a situation in my book; it might even be a true-life situation that personally happened to me, like in one of the chapters in my book Dear Tiz.  I can present a scene and let the readers draw their own conclusions.  I don’t always have to provide an answer for every question.  Sometimes it is better for a book to pose a question in such a way that the reader is moved to find out his/her own answers by doing some extra research.  This is the same thing I would wish for my sons.  That they seek out for themselves as to what they believe.

I have always had an inquisitive mind, and I am glad that my father, who is a preacher, told me what the different views regarding certain doctrines were; how they varied, and then told me to study things out for myself.  Sure, he told me what he believed, but he didn’t leave it there.  He specifically told me that I had to search the scriptures for myself in order to make it real for me.  I am so glad that he did this, because it is precisely those points of doctrine that I have personally studied, that has made me a stronger Christian.  I know what I believe, do you?

Now, what do I do?

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One day, not too long ago, I was pleasantly scouring the internet for some information about my ancestors.   I found some birth records in a church that was local to them at that time (in the middle of the 1800s).  Some of the records mentioned the location of the actual birth, and Google translations claimed that one of my ancestors was born “violently in the brambles”.   I decided to try google maps as to the exact location, and then I entered into a whole world that previously had been unknown to me.  As I had access to pictures that other people had pinned to the map, and I could see a lot of it at street level; basically “seeing” the same streams, rivers, mountains and plains that my ancestors had also seen so many centuries before.   Satellite maps were especially useful for this, as it showed the terrain without all the modern day stuff.

Anyway, my mind was all wrapped up in a virtual time-warp, when I decided to check Facebook.  Someone had posted this link.  It is a contest for writers to enter their stories based on the age-old tale of Cinderella.  I went and looked at it and read the rules, and read all of the comments.  However, I have never been one to enter contests.  I guess I am just not very competitive.  Especially, since I am not convinced of my writing skills.  Then to have to think of an all new version of a tale that has been told countless number of times would be pretty hard.    Another thing is that even if I could come up with a great story, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to keep it under the required 20,000 words.   I was thinking it was a nice idea, but not really for me.

So, I went back to my ancestry googling.  I think it was less than an hour later, I stumbled across an old legend that was vaguely connected to my ancestors, and all of a sudden I had it.  My Cinderella story idea!  I would merge the two stories.  Brilliant!

I got to work at once and began writing it up.  I was on a roll. I could see it all in my head as if I was there, living it myself right along with my characters.  It was all coming together, just like magic.    As much as I would like to say that it was “all meant to be”.  Let me just stop right here to insert that I can’t say that I am one of those people who believe that every coincidence is “The Voice of God”.

Then someone mentioned the fact that if I entered it into the contest I would lose the copyright to my story.  This stunned me for all of three minutes, before I pushed that to the back of my mind.  I would deal with all of that legal stuff later.  Right now, I couldn’t be bothered; I had a story to write.  I don’t much care for eating or sleeping when this happens. It produces a feeling which I think might be compared to a drug induced high. Of course, I really wouldn’t know since I have never taken drugs.  So, I worked feverishly until it was done.  I looked at the word count and it was exactly 20,000.  I decided I had better send that initial email to find out about the copyright rules of the contest.

While I waited for the answer, I began the editing.  I gave it a once over polish and looked at the word count, it was 20,298.  I went through it again and now the word count was 19,964. When I finished the third time of going through it, I looked at the word count and it was exactly 20,000 again.  Really!

I printed it out and gave it to my mother to see what she thought of it.  While she was reading it, I received the response about the contest rules.   Dash it all!  I would lose the copyright, worldwide no less.  I suppose deep down I always knew this, but like the ostrich that I am, I was pretending it would not be so.

So, here I am in a quandary as to what to do.  Of course, I can self-publish it just like I did my novel, Dear Tiz.  That is what my mother thinks I should do, and then I can add another chapter or two and flesh it out a bit.  But there goes my chance at some very much needed exposure.  Or I could go ahead and submit it.  Chances are the only ones interested in how it relates to my own ancestors will be my family.  It might not even be selected, and then the whole issue of copyright won’t matter.

Someone suggested that I write another Cinderella story for submission, one that I am not so emotionally attached to.  The truth is that I don’t think I am capable of writing a story that I am not passionate about.  If writing becomes a chore, and doesn’t produce that euphoria, then what’s the point?

So, I don’t know what I will do.  At least, I don’t have to decide today.  The funny thing is that I know exactly what the Cinderella in my story would do; she would not submit it.

Just for fun, here is a poll.

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ETA:  Ok, here is a thought.  If someone who speaks Norwegian fluently, could help to translate this story into Norwegian, I would definitely like to self-publish it and offer both translations in one volume.  I might even include a third translation in Spanish as well.