Category Archives: E-books

Recovering From a Bad Review – When One Person’s Opinion Hurts Your Sales

TL;DR: One bad review is hurting my book sales. I need to make a comeback, so I’m offering free copies of my novel to anyone who will post an honest review on Amazon. To get your free e-book of my LGBT fantasy novel, click here and submit your request!


“Bad reviews happen to everyone.”

I’ve seen this all the time from writing sites and author blogs that try to offer some comfort to authors who have received negative comments on their work on such sites as Amazon. “Don’t take it personal and just move on.” I’ve even seen a few articles that claim bad reviews can be a good thing–that they might have the curious effect of “boosting sales”, or they could contain good advice about what not to do with your next book. For the obviously trollish reviews, the best advice I’ve seen is “just ignore it.” (Removing an inappropriate review from a site like Amazon is notoriously hard, apparently, even if that review violates guidelines.) Obviously, I’ve received negative and mixed reviews before for my unpublished writing. I took what I could from those and moved on, as all the articles have recommended.

But one thing I don’t see these writing sites discussing is what to do when you get a bad review, and have little to no reviews to balance it out. What do you do when one negative review impacts your sales so severely as to cause a virtual flat line? We’re talking about a kiss of financial death here, not just hurt feelings.

I’m in one such position right now. Currently, Amazon is where I’m selling the most units of my first and latest release, Tributaries, which came out just a short month ago. My planning was a bit rushed. It was one of those live-and-learn experiences. I set aside just one short month for promotion before releasing the book. I sent free copies to dozens of blogs, made announcements on all my personal sites, advertised tirelessly on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, launched a Project Wonderful campaign, entered a Halloween book contest, and gave away ten free copies in a promotional raffle. I did manage to get some pre-orders, but naturally, one month is too short a time to generate any real buzz, so when my book came out, it was basically a blank slate. Anyone buying it was taking a risk on me as an unknown author.

What all that meant was that any reviews I received from the incredible diverse (and often unprofessional) reading masses was going to determine my sales. Scary, right? Especially considering the trolls that haunt the internet. But for the most part, I got a handful of mostly good reviews, with one or two mixed reviews tossed in. The problem? Most of my positive feedback was on Goodreads, where people are known to add books to their lists and virtually forget about them. I’m guilty of this myself, having I think over a hundred books on my “to-read” list. And on Amazon, my primary seller? I managed to snag one glowing 5-star review one month after the book’s release. “That’s great!” I thought. Then three days ago, I got a scathing one-star review from a guy who said my book was “pointless” and who apparently didn’t think too much of my books “rare vocabulary.” He even took a shot at the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree, like I was trying to lord that over everyone. Ouch!

And I could’ve ignored this review for what it was–the spiteful opinion of one guy who wasn’t even part of my targeted demographic. This was written by an older white man who has only bothered to review seven other books aside from mine, and only one out of those seven got four stars from him. A picky reader. Certainly not a crime, and it’s not like his review violated guidelines.

But his scathing comments had a huge impact on my sales. The effect was almost immediate. He posted his review on December 17th. You wanna know what my sale chart looks like on Kindle Direct Publishing now?

salesscreenshotdecember2014

Ouch, ouch, ouch! What happened? Can one man’s negative comments really have such a devastating effect on an author?

In my particular case…yes. You see, when you have such a small pool of reviews and a small publishing history to go with it, the fact of the matter is that unless I’m wowing people with tons of stellar reviews, no one is interested. It’s the insane hurdle that new indie writers have to overcome. This man’s one-star rating dropped my book’s average from five-stars to three. Even if I got another five-star rating, I’d only get half-a-star back of what I’d lost. Hardly the kind of thing that boosts confidence in potential customers, right? It’s particularly frustrating as I have a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads (at the time of this post) based on multiple reviews, but most of those who might actually purchase my book only ever see the feedback on Amazon. Talk about skewed perception!

So the question is: how do I come back from this?

The short answer? I honestly have no idea. Right now, all I can think to do is wait and have faith that someone who has already received the book will be kind enough to post a more positive review. What’s excruciating is that, until I get some better ratings to off-set this one bad rating, my sales will continue to look like the one above. I’ve already sent out free copies to tons of people prior to this latest set-back, specifically requesting a review on Amazon. I’d do a free sale if I was enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, but I’m not. If this keeps up, I might have to resort to editing the base price to see if I can encourage more people to try the book. Over a hundred people have purchased it since its release, and I have no idea if any of them will bother to say anything about it–good or bad.

And in the meantime? I guess I can just put my head between my knees and try to breathe. Publishing a book is rough, but it can be even rougher when one person sets out to destroy what little chances you already had. I don’t know that reviewers realize the kind of impact their comments have on writers like me. For me, this isn’t a hobby. I’m trying to make this my livelihood. The thing that hurts the most? It’s most likely that this person doesn’t give a damn about any of that.

…All that said, for the next few weeks only, I’m offering my novel for free to anyone who is willing to post a review on Amazon. This is for an HONEST review, and you don’t have to feel pressured to write something positive just because of my woeful tale. I know my book isn’t perfect, I wrote the original manuscript when I was just 19 for heaven’s sake, and it’s my first attempt at writing a major novel. BUT I’ve also made significant improvements since then, and I’m confident my work isn’t a one-star affair. All you need to do to get your free copy of my book is go to the contact page of my book’s site by clicking here, and submit your request for a copy. After that, I’ll personally send you three formats of it: PDF, MOBI, and EPUB. I realize that any reviews posted on Amazon will have to state that you received the book for free, and that it won’t be a “verified purchase”, but anything is better than what I have right now.

So I implore you. If you like independent books and/or LGBT fiction, then please consider reading my work and posting your feedback on Amazon! Don’t let this one person have the final say on what has taken over six years for me to accomplish!

I’ll be doing this until the end of the first full week of January. (That’s the 10th.) Spread the word about this, even if you feel you can’t read the work yourself! Every little bit helps.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cyber Monday Weekend – Tributaries E-book sale!

image

This weekend only, get my LGBTQ fantasy romance novel, TRIBUTARIES, for just $1 when you use the coupon code GS67N at Smashwords! Offer ends December 2nd!

Click here to buy the book for yourself and a loved one!

What readers had to say about the book:
“This is a wonderful tale, and I really struggled to put it down. the characters are well-crafted and very likeable. Elmyrin is a strong warrior, and Nyx a shy shapeshifter. They interact in such a unique and easy way that you almost feel they’ve known each other all their lives. The relationship develops organically. I really felt in their world with them. I understood the motivations behind everything they did, and how they felt.” Phoenix Grey

“Tributaries: Eikasia Book One is an epic, intelligent, and original work that leads its reader into an emotional, mental and physical adventure. Montoya creates a lush mythical landscape that surrounds the reader in striking visuals and provides a delicious feast for the mind that satisfies one’s literary appetite from beginning to end. Tributaries will captivate hard core fantasy enthusiasts and action & adventure fiction lovers alike. The storytelling is smart and witty with a razor-edged humor that remains tongue-in–cheek all the while conveying deep thought. There is also a certain level of sexual and intellectual tension between the two main characters that will surely intrigue and excite. Best suited for the more avid reader, multiple plot levels, narratives and inner dialogue take you on a cerebral roller coaster ride filled with great passages and catchy quotes. Unlike many clichéd works which get lost in the shuffle, and gather dust in an occasionally tired genre, Tributaries offers a fresh and exciting boost that will not only capture its reader’s attention, but also their emotions.” – Victoria Janik

The plot summary:

Nyx is a feline shape shifter, lost and alone, host to a fierce and ferocious being that lies deep inside her. She harbors a deadly secret and is running for her life when she is saved by Elmiryn, a cursed warrior on a quest for revenge. The pair quickly become unlikely allies and embark upon a perilous physical and mental journey that will put both their skills and sanity to the test. Ultimately, they form a unique and powerful bond through their shared trials and tribulations. Together they continue onward and follow a path that leads to new and remarkable discoveries of both the worlds around, and within them.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TRIBUTARIES NOW ON SALE!

My LGBTQ fantasy novel, Tributaries, is now on sale! Regular price is $3.99, but  Amazon seems to want to keep it at 2.99–perhaps due to price matching as I wait for the other retailers to update the price. So get it while that lasts! And please leave a review if you do get it. Reviews are the life blood of a writer’s career.

image

Tagged , , , , ,

Queer Lit, New Zines, and More LGBT Market Musing

So I received my first official review for the new Tributaries e-book, and it was four stars! But interestingly, it was one of those positive reviews that seem to lack…positivity? The reviewer wasn’t mean or discouraging, but her review had a tone of bemusement to it. Like she didn’t inherently “get” the book, and I don’t mean “get” as in a surface understanding, but “get” as in…she just didn’t get it! Apparently the reviewer (who was very kind to read my work when it was clearly something she wouldn’t have read had I not asked her to) was confused by the “lesbian romance” aspect of my story. She said the main characters, Nyx and Elmiryn, made her think of Frodo and Samwise from the Lord of the Rings, two close but otherwise “platonic” friends. I sent her an email thanking her for her honesty, but also included a tongue in cheek YouTube link of the (in)famous TBS LotR spot that poked fun at Frodo and Sam’s relationship.

I can’t really say that it’s because she was “straight” that she didn’t get my work. I’ve received emails from straight readers, some of them women, who remarked on how much they enjoy Eikasia (the name of my fantasy series) and how they’re surprised at how much they relate to Elmiryn and Nyx as people. Not lesbians. PEOPLE!

Fancy that!

So then I wondered, “Was the reviewer somehow expecting more…gayness? Was my story not alternative enough? Did she expect the characters to hem and haw about their homosexuality? For them to go through a ‘coming out’ process? Or did she think lesbian women would have been more romantically aggressive?” Because (with all due respect to the reviewer) I was equally confused by her perception that the story lacked a real sense of lesbian romance. Numerous times, Elmiryn propositions Nyx. Numerous times, Nyx displays a fascination and attraction toward Elmiryn’s body. They are close and physically intimate in a way that two women who only met each other wouldn’t typically allow so soon (if at all).

But the reviewer didn’t see how the characters could be gay! She even felt like the kiss at the end of the book was a surprise. I could only laugh, I was so bewildered.

Which then got me thinking (and worrying) that perhaps I’m at a further disadvantage than I had previously believed. Tributaries is a romance story, and the growing relationship does play an important role in the plot, but the romance is secondary to the fantasy adventure. I actually feel apprehensive telling potential lesbian readers about my book, because I don’t want to lie and say there’s RAGIN’ SEX in it (that doesn’t come for at least two more books, ha!) but I wonder if I don’t say that will they be interested at all?

Recently on this blog, I discussed a very small market for LGBT books and a severe lack of support for lesbian fiction. But maybe the problem is more than that for me? Maybe, it is isn’t just a lack of lesbian fiction, but a lack of queer lit. I don’t want to get too attached to terms, as people seem to have different ideas of what to call these small niche markets, but in this case, I’m talking about stories that just so happen to have central LGBTQIA characters in ordinary stories. Stories where the main focus isn’t how gay or alternative the protagonist is, how they struggle with their identity, or how they struggle with society’s perception of their identity.

To reiterate: We’re talking stories where the characters just so happen to be LGBTQIA. Queer Lit. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Say it with me: QUEER LIT!

And I realize now that I’ve been writing in an even smaller niche than I could have imagined. Nearly ALL of my writing to this day (Eikasia, Kliff’s Edge, and Akumu Love Panic!) fits into this curious little sub-genre. And why is it a sub-genre? Why, when the queer characters in these stories are having the same kind of adventures as such famous characters as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Buffy Summers? How can we make queer lit not a sub-genre of a sub-genre? By publishing more queer lit stories! The problem? Many publishers aren’t interested, and that includes many LGBT publishers.

Then I heard on Twitter of this really cool, amazing project. Vitality!

Vitality Magazine is meant to be a Queer Lit zine that focuses on stories with gay characters. Not erotic vignettes. Not coming-out-stories. Not dramas focusing on the struggle of the gay identity. Just…stories. Such a publication is VITAL in proving to publishers (and even readers) that Queer Lit is worthwhile. That it can be enjoyed by a universal audience if people just gave it a chance.

The goals of Vitality Magazine, as listed on their website–

The heart of Vitality can be broken up into five parts:

  • Positive portrayal of queerness
  • Casual integration of queerness into the lives of our characters
  • Interesting works of art and writing
  • Quality works of art and writing
  • Diversity is wonderful

So pardon the long introduction, but I wanted to share why I think this thing is (personally) so important. Why I pledged $100 to help get this magazine out to the world. And I hope that you support it too, for all that I’ve said. They are currently accepting submissions for their first issue early 2015, and entries must be sent by December 15th. They are accepting fiction, art, poetry, and comics!

If you still aren’t sold, you can give Vitality’s minizine a shot. It’s essentially a sample of what they intend to do!

Visit Vitality Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign!

Visit their official website!

And while you’re at it…

Please check out my new lesbian fantasy romance novel, Tributaries, on Smashwords!

Tagged , , ,

Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

Since opening up my fantasy novel, Tributaries, to pre-orders, I’ve noticed something that both surprises me and disheartens me at the same time. When I made the decision to write for the LGBT community and its allies, I realized that I would have to face the challenge of connecting with a very niche and (at times) remote audience. In the super-abundant world we live in now, where getting your voice heard is hard enough in a cishet market, I’ve learned that LGBT fiction just plain has it rough. Marketers still have no idea what to do with these kinds of stories. Do you lump them all together under romance? But then what about those stories that are more fantasy/adventure/thriller/sci-fi/etc? Do you list those under the specific genres without mentioning the LGBT aspects? Ah, but the reviewers! What if they complain on their blogs and customer reviews that they felt tricked when the protagonist fell in love with someone of the same sex? Well what about just attaching ‘romance’ to the primary genre, and hoping for the best?

It’s all just one hot mess.

It isn’t unusual for brick-and-mortar stores to lack any self-identifying LGBT work, either. A sad fact, as I’ve read a number of LGBT books that are every bit as good as some of the nonsense that gets on the best seller lists.

But this isn’t the disheartening surprise I alluded to earlier. I’ve known the reality of scarce LGBT outlets for years. No, what surprised me was specifically the lack of support and structure for lesbian fiction. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried hunting down LGBT blogs who I hope could connect me with my target audience, only to find myself disappointed when the site clarifies that they are actually only interested in m/m fiction. Uh, say what? Why the heck would you use the full acronym if you’re only interested in a single aspect of it?? You see, the fact is that m/m fiction has a much bigger community of support than f/f. (Don’t even get me started on bi and trans…)

It’s not that I haven’t found lesbian sites dedicated to writing or reviewing lesbian fiction. I have. But half of the sites I found were defunct. Then the remaining active sites were sadly narrow in scope (i.e. erotica only, print books only, fan fiction only, paranormal romance only, books with positive reviews of 2 or more only, etc…) And on social networks? I primarily use Twitter for my social marketing (it’s about all I have energy for–though I dabble in Tumblr) and I can’t seem to find any of the les fic authors anywhere. A quick google search also proved that there doesn’t seem to be an LGBT group of writers out there interested in supporting and signal boosting each other. You’d think the LGBT community of readers would have come up with a hashtag or a retweet group to help promote what is already a neglected corner of the market. Something like #LGBTrds or #LGBTbks. Something! Anything! Erotica, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, and horror fiction are doing it, why the hell can’t we? I even tried searching blog hops (which are basically author events on blogs featuring interviews, free books, cover reveals, etc.) and the last LGBT blog hops were last summer! That was over a year ago now! The one LGBT fiction blog hop that I could find that was held this year was actually ended prematurely and shut down for good. Yeah. It apparently went down for lack of participation. Not encouraging.

Now I know what you might be thinking: But Illise, if you hate it so much, why don’t you do something to change it? MarkTheShaw did it with #IndieBooksBeSeen on Twitter and Tumblr, didn’t he?

Simply put, no one gives a fuck about me. I don’t have the status or the connections to set something like this in motion. I suppose I could try to contact someone who DOES have these things to help me, but let’s just all refer back to my first point regarding the lack of fucks people give me, then infer what the result would be.

Okay. I had my little tantrum. I can’t have been the first LGBT writer to have thought along these lines, and I bet those who came before just learned to deal with it. You find a way to make it work, or you don’t. I’ve been promoting my work on a number of Indie Author hashtag communities, and it’s not like I’m not getting some help. The people on #IAN1, #IARTG, #IndieBooksBeSeen, #IndieAuthor, and #ASMSG are wonderful folks! But the point isn’t just to blast your work out to a random audience. It’s to target your efforts so that the people most likely to want to read your work hear about it at all. That’s really the major issue. LGBT fiction feels like a grain of sand lost in an indifferent ocean when marketing to a general audience. You can’t use #LGBT on Twitter either, because dear god, that stream moves waaaay too fast and is inundated with LGBT political and entertainment news.

As LGBT authors, our little slice of the literary world is tough and challenging in a market that already has plenty of obstacles to overcome. But it could be so much better if we could pool our readers together and support one another, especially since most LGBT authors are signed with small press or are self-publishers. It isn’t as if anyone is looking out for us little guys.

If, after reading this post, you feel that I am in error, then please enlighten me! I want to be proven wrong, even a tiny bit. But if you’re in agreement, why not share your thoughts on why the LGBT author community is so disconnected. Do you agree that lesbian fiction is not as well off as gay fiction? Just to be clear, a lack of readers is not the issue. That’s more a marketing challenge, anyway. But why do LGBT authors seem so disinterested in connecting with each other?

Oh, and if you ARE a LGBT author, please please please connect with me. I love RTing LGBT fiction on Twitter! I’m @cajeck. Send me a DM and I’ll add you to the LGBT author list I’m trying to form. 🙂

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Writers and the Long Tail: Hope for the little guy

The following was written in 2013 and was an examination of the book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson, for my Creative Writing degree program at Full Sail University. It explores ways of reaching niche audiences and the benefits of reputation economy. If you don’t know what “the long tail” is, click here to see my Youtube post for an explanation! The questions in bold were questions provided by my instructor at the time. The assignment was to provide answers from the book and industry examples supporting the excerpts I chose. I’m posting this here now, hoping that my work might help others. Chris Anderson’s book really changed the way I look at my own work and the industry and I think everyone should read his work!

If you like this essay, please consider checking out my e-book, Tributaries, and help me realize my dream!


  1. The Internet and digital storage has created a nearly infinite shelf space for all media types, but it has also given the tools of production to anyone with a laptop computer. In this new world of super-abundance how will writers distinguish themselves and their work?

Writers can distinguish themselves by targeting their writing, publishing, and distribution efforts to niche audiences. Understanding how to effectively sell and/or advertise one’s work is understanding the vast diversity that is the Internet. Many people surf the Internet, but not everyone goes to the same places online. Those primarily interested in science and history for instance, are very likely to frequent accurate scientific and historical wikis, forums, and blogs. Conversely, they are less likely to visit sites about video games, childcare, or car customization. That isn’t to say that these Internet users won’t web surf based on their other interests, but the point is to target your audience, and if you were writing a science or historical based work, you would seek to distribute and promote your writing at the places these Internet users frequent for such things.

The pitfall of many writers is failing to capitalize on new and effective Internet tools to distinguish themselves. It is true that there are many easy methods to publish and distribute, but there are other frontiers that can help increase your visibility with potential readers. Video can be a quick and dirty way to get readers to visualize the basic premise, setting, and genre of your story. Music is prolific on the internet, and offering a free download of a song you commissioned from a musician with information about your book or author website can spread very quickly. Social networks have also provided a way to connect with people outside of your personal circle with the use of hash tags, categories, and other special filters. Writers need never restrict themselves in how they wish to promote and distribute their work. For new authors especially, Chris Anderson (2008) writes:

From filmmakers to bloggers, producers of all sorts that start in the Tail with few expectations of commercial success can afford to take chances. They’re willing to take more risks, because they have less to lose. There’s no need for permission, a business plan, or even capital. The tools of creativity are now cheap, and talent is more widely distributed than we know. Seen this way, the Long Tail promises to become the crucible of creativity, a place where ideas form and grow before evolving into commercial form. (p. 78)

Given this awareness, writers looking to be seen and heard in the super-abundance should not be afraid to try out new and experimental methods.

  1. Discuss the importance of Exposure Culture, the Wisdom of Crowds and how they relate to the use Filters in creating successful media ventures.

The Wisdom of Crowds was actually a book written some two hundred years ago by James Surowiecki about how the many can be smarter than the few. Anderson discusses this idea, using examples such as Wikipedia, and how the online encyclopedia’s constant growth and adaptation has both its upside—and its downside. On the macroscale, the results of instant updates to a staggering number of articles in real time shows how Wikipedia leaves such works as the Encyclopedia Britannica in the dust. But on the microscale, the accuracy of such articles and the risk of vandalism is the tradeoff for such emergent information.

The wisdom of crowds thrives on probabilistic systems as they “can scale nicely both in breadth and depth.” (Anderson, 2008, p. 69) The important thing to remember is that anything taken from these systems (be this a Google search or a book review) should be taken with a grain of salt. Such results, like Wikipedia, should be the first source of information, not the last. But there is a need for such trailheads in the infinite shelf abundance of the Internet, and this is why filters use such emergent information to help guide users and/or customers to products further down the tail.

Here is where exposure culture relates to the wisdom of crowds and search filters. Tim Wu of Columbia University is quoted by Anderson (2008) in The Longer Long Tail:

The exposure culture reflects a philosophy on the web, in which getting noticed is everything […] and at the center of this exposure culture is the almighty search engine. If your site is easy to find on Google, you don’t sue—you celebrate. (p. 74)

Exposure culture relies on the wisdom of crowds to influence the emergent information used by filters to get noticed. Without the wisdom of crowds, filters would be consulting old data and attempting to apply it to an unreceptive audience. Search engines, recommendation systems, and customer data must have constant feedback on Internet trends in order to best serve their users.

With proper attention and research, a person can observe these trends and take advantage of them to better promote their work, therefor ensuring that they take a more active role in exposure culture rather than a reactive role. A person can achieve maximum effectiveness for their media venture if they research top searches, hash tags, categories, and popular purchases within a certain frame of time. Sometimes, capitalizing on such information must be done within a certain period, especially for volatile trends, lest the window of opportunity closes.

  1. Cite an example from the text or other reading that exemplifies what you feel is the most important trend identified or illuminated in The Longer Long Tail.

In The Longer Long Tail Chris Anderson (2008) writes:

Why do they do it? Why does anyone create something of value (from an encyclopedia entry to an astronomical observation) without a business plan or even the prospect of a paycheck? The question is a key one to understanding the Long Tail, partly because so much of what populates the curve does not start with commercial aim […] One economic model doesn’t fit all. You can think of the Long Tail starting as a traditional monetary economy at the head and ending in a non-monetary economy in the tail. In between the two, it’s a mixture of both. (p. 73)

Anderson (2008) also writes:

[…] there is a coin of the realm that can be every bit as motivating as money: reputation. Measured by the amount of attention a product attracts, reputation can be converted into other things of value: jobs, tenure, audiences, and lucrative efforts of all sorts. (p. 74)

Given my personal experiences, these passages highlight the most important trends illuminated in The Longer Long Tail for me. Before joining Full Sail University, I had already begun my own journey as an amateur author publishing my original work for free online. I was attempting to build a reputation for myself, to gain recognition among the audiences I was targeting, because I knew there were others like me who wanted the sort of stories I wrote. When I explained to family, friends, or fellow writers what it was I was doing, the question always came—“Why are you giving your work away for free? Why are you throwing out all that hard work?” To them, my efforts seemed wasteful and shortsighted. Since I wasn’t making any money off of it, I had to struggle for a long time to convince those close to me that what I was doing was worthwhile.

Reading those words from Chris Anderson felt like having everything I worked for validated by someone who knew about economics, and not just knew it about it, but made it their life. I’d never been able to put in a satisfactory way why it was I was doing free online writing, because every explanation I tried seemed to make others doubtful or uncertain as to what it really meant. Anderson sums it up very nicely, and even comes up with a phrase to adequately describe the trend: reputation economy. The idea that a person could build their reputation to the point that it creates opportunities was something I’d always hoped for. Now I don’t hope for it, I work toward it.

But Anderson acknowledges that this isn’t a perfect fit for every product, a fact I agree with wholeheartedly. Not all of my works are a good fit for free publication and distribution, and I mean to submit these stories through more conventional channels. Yet I have no regrets for the decisions I have made regarding my writing so far. I now have an established audience and I have fellow writers that I have networked with. I have learned many of the tools and methods necessary to build a proper Internet presence given the paths I have taken. Many writers lack these skills, and I have the reputation economy to thank for teaching them to me. Now if anyone asks, I can tell them so, in no uncertain terms!

  1. How do you see immersion and interactivity changing the role of writers in the entertainment marketplace and how will you adapt to this phenomenon?

In the past, a writer’s work was very much like a brick-and-mortar store. The product, in this case the writing, was put out to market. Customers, in this case the readers, would acquire the work and read it. After reading it, their opinions were published in newspapers, and in the early days of the Internet, personal websites like Geocites (before the arrival of blogs). Any feedback a writer would get about a work would be after the act of publishing it. Even if new editions were released, the work largely remained the same—meaning major plot points and characters did not deviate too far from the original publication. Writers also chose their writing projects alone, based on their observations of the market (which before Web 2.0 was slow to adapt to immediate reader demand.)

However with the Internet now allowing for individuals to not just passively consume content, but instantly interact with it, this is no longer the case. Even reader reviews are subject to feedback. Blogs allow for readers to directly comment on content and have others view their comments and respond to those. Google Drive has the capability of allowing anyone with access to view a document being typed live, comment on it, highlight passages, and in some cases (if authorized) to edit the document directly. Silvia Hartmann wrote the first complete draft of her novel, The Dragon Lords, live on Google Drive. (“Author Writes A,” 2012) The manuscript is no longer available, but for a limited time, Hartmann’s fans could watch the story unfold live before them, and interact directly with the author as she worked. (Hartmann, 2012)

Another example of interactivity and immersion comes from an indie author and television writer, known online as MCM, who in 2009 wrote a novel in three days with a document fans could see updated live. (MCM, 2009) He barely slept, and even made it a highlight of his event to take pictures of himself at regular intervals to show how he was being physically affected. There was an ongoing chat as well as polls where people could participate in such things as choosing character names. 2009 was the first year I joined the weblit community, and so I was able to witness this event happen live. MCM described this form of writing as a sort of “performance writing” and given what I saw, I agree with him. (MCM, “3D1D Wrap” 2009) The focus of the project was still the writing, but MCM found a way to layer a new form of entertainment over it that got audiences involved. His novel, Typhoon, was completed, and is now edited and available on the market. Since I’ve seen this done, I’ve always wanted to try it myself.

Another author, known as T Campbell online, has worked on at least twelve web comics in his career as a comic writer. Penny & Aggie, a high school epic that spanned seven years until its completion in August 2011 (Campbell), was very popular with web comic fans. Campbell, who had dabbled in writing prose shorts featuring the comic’s characters, decided to explore storytelling on Twitter using one of the comic’s more popular characters, Sara. To do this, Campbell created a dummy account where he tweeted as Sara, creating a first person short story. Other characters, whom he also made Twitter accounts for, responded to these tweets, and readers could view the story unfold in real time and respond. The original tweets have been lost as the accounts Campbell created for the purpose of the story were deleted, but other writers, like those for the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, have also used the power of social media in this way for storytelling. (“The Lizzie Bennet Character”; Green & Su, 2012) This method is usually in combination with other media and websites, such as YouTube or Pinterest, and has come to be known as transmedia.

Silvia Hartmann, MCM, T Campbell, Hank Green, and Bernie Su (the latter two being the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) provide great examples of how creators can use different tools on the Internet to create, publish, and distribute their work. I’ve long since wished to launch an interactive project in which readers could directly engage with me and the story. I may do a live writing event, such as MCM, or perhaps a transmedia project, like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or perhaps a new tool will be made available and allow me to do something completely new. Until then, I like writing and sharing my work online. I even make my incomplete drafts available for viewing and feedback on Google Drive. I believe I will have the time for something larger and more intensive after I graduate from Full Sail University, and I look forward to the experience.

Citations

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Tributaries – Fantasy E-Book Trailer

 

Purchase the book now at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479795

Full Synopsis: Nyx is a feline shape shifter, lost and alone, host to a fierce and ferocious being that lies deep inside her. She harbors a deadly secret and is running for her life when she is saved by Elmiryn, a cursed warrior on a quest for revenge. The pair quickly become unlikely allies and embark upon a perilous physical and mental journey that will put both their skills and sanity to the test. Ultimately, they form a unique and powerful bond through their shared trials and tribulations. Together they continue onward and follow a path that leads to new and remarkable discoveries of both the worlds around, and within them.

Connect with Illise:
Twitter: @cajeck
Tumblr: http://www.illisemontoya.tumblr.com
Blog: http://www.illisemontoya.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/montoya

All music and images used under various Creative Commons licenses.

Music: “She Moved Through the Fair” by Sláinte – http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Slinte/

Images:

“Enchantment” by Marina del Castell – https://www.flickr.com/photos/95011179@N08/14032345481/
“Lungerersee in Alps” by Artur Staszewski – https://www.flickr.com/photos/34920308@N07/8442008652/
“SummerHalloween Self-portrait” by Dr.Cialtron – https://www.flickr.com/photos/50850668@N04/9321302286/
“Glory” by Snake3yes – https://www.flickr.com/photos/15509125@N00/200624031/
“Beautiful Natural Scenery” by Kashmir Pictures – https://www.flickr.com/photos/95491601@N04/8717824074/
“Flaming Torches” by Dan Taylor – https://www.flickr.com/photos/56783767@N00/60363010/
“Xcaret Panther” by Robert McGoldrick – https://www.flickr.com/photos/40045573@N03/10074571886/

“Tributaries” Cover Art by Kayla Mayer – http://krmayerillustration.tumblr.com/

Video created by Illise Montoya.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrating 5 Years of Epic Love and Magic!

Join me in celebrating five long years of Eikasia! Get the ebook Tooth and Nail for FREE at Smashwords when you use the code: ZG56K (not case sensitive).

Click here to get your free copy now. 

Share this deal with friends!

Tooth and Nail ebook cover

Offer valid till 9/30/13.

Tagged , , ,

Trigger Warnings for Writing

I’m not sure how I got onto this topic today. I was literally supposed to just sit down and read my assigned pages for class this week, when some link or tweet or whatever caught my eye, and it got me thinking on trigger warnings for books. Namely that I don’t see them! Now while I am not a victim of abuse or trauma, I can say without a doubt that I truly appreciate content warnings from films and shows. If they say: “This presentation contains graphic sexual abuse and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” I will listen! I don’t like getting blindsided with the sight of a man or woman getting raped, abused, or tortured. I like knowing when these things may happen so that I can decide for myself if I can stand watching them. But the courtesy of trigger warnings is less important for me, and more important for those who have actually suffered such experiences, or perhaps knows someone who has.

Even subtle warnings seem to be absent in most books. For instance, my copy of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett fails to mention that one main character gets raped, and another is forced to watch–not to mention all the incest. Was Mr. Brett expecting his readers to just take for granted that a dark fantasy book would feature such things? And there are plenty of books on the market these days that pull the same thing. What gets me is that movies and television shows are expected to warn viewers beforehand due to censorship ratings, but because books aren’t held to that standard they just don’t do it. I’m not saying books should be rated, but I find it a little disappointing that so many fail to think of those readers who re-experience their traumas again because of someone’s writing.

Of course, there are arguments for and against trigger warnings. I really liked the write up by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who provides a reasonable argument as to why she–a PTSD sufferer–disagreed with trigger warnings. It was a dilemma I found myself facing when putting trigger warnings on Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic. What “triggers” should I even mention? Was I going to have to put a trigger tag on every post containing a potential scene, sentence, or phrase that could set someone off? And we’re talking about years worth of writing here, so the task felt overwhelming… But as Coslett states, triggers are everywhere and can come from the least expected things. I realize that not everyone who has suffered a particular trauma or negative experience may be triggered in the obvious ways. For all I know, one of my in-story jokes could set someone off. Another write-up by Ann O’Malley argues that people should at least have the choice to deal with such things, because the old phrase “don’t like it, don’t read it” doesn’t work if someone isn’t aware it’s even there. Cosslett touches on this a little bit too.

So here’s what I decided to do: for Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, I will not be tagging potential triggers in posts or hiding them in spoiler links.* On the front page (aka the “New Readers” page) for both sites, the header for trigger warnings will be highlighted in red (with a red instruction under “ratings” to scroll down to see it) and in that list will be a general breakdown of potential trigger warnings for each story arc for both series. In these lists, I try to cover some of the more common triggers, including one or two less common ones that I think are worth noting (like child death). Given the size of both Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, combing the stories for triggers would be unfeasible. The best I can do is highlight those that are most likely to trigger someone, and let the stories run their natural course.

The point here isn’t to coddle people or to shove an agenda into people’s faces. I agree with Cosslett that the tendency to tag everything (from blog articles to tweets) with potential trigger warnings is a bit much. But everyone deals with trauma differently, and for those who seek solace in stories like mine, I think it is important to at least give the person a heads up about what they may encounter. People immerse themselves into stories, and sometimes that level of empathy can really impact a person strongly. I’d hate to send someone over the edge just because I failed to take the short time to offer a warning!

*For those Eikasia readers wondering why I’m not putting spoiler links on posts with possible triggers when I do that for graphic sex scenes, here’s why: Eikasia began as a story that didn’t feature graphic sex. I had asserted in the past that I wasn’t interested in writing sex scenes, but this later changed. In order to keep from alienating those readers who did not want to read sex scenes and came to expect their exclusion from the series, I put spoiler links. So the difference with trigger warnings and sex scenes is that I had always intended to write about certain controversial issues in Eikasia, whereas I hadn’t with sex scenes. I hinted at things like self-harm, rape, and torture early on, setting them up as a constant in the setting, and therefore something to be encountered at one point or another. Conversely, Akumu Love Panic does not have spoiler links for its sex scenes because it was established that the story would be featuring such things from the get go. I hope that is clear.

Tagged , , , , , ,


Continuing from my writing inspiration video, I talk about different tools and tactics you can put to use when brainstorming or organizing your story ideas.

Tagged , , ,