Category: Fantasy & Speculative Fiction––Blog Articles and Reviews

Yoo-hooo! Calling my Tribe – Where Are Youuuu?

MY PLATFORM AND HOW I GOT IT

I received a message from a fellow author wanting to know how I, as a successful person (and assumed, successful author) built my platform. She loved what I was doing and asked for advice on what to do to gather her own tribe and have her message resonate with potential readers. She mentioned a bunch of stuff she was doing, in addition to writing her book and sharing it widely. What else should she be doing?

I thought to myself, I can answer this in two ways: Give her the truth, or make up a bunch of **** and sell it as a seminar.

Truth or consequences? I may end up doing both, but I’ll start by telling the truth. Here’s the basic question, authors: If you aren’t already making a living with your writing, do you need to for some reason? Some people make big bucks as authors. That’s cool. But if you are struggling to make a living with your writing, thinking any day will be the big break through––I would suggest that you change professions. That’s even if you did take a course on following your dream and living your passion. Writing is just a dismal, hard way to earn a buck. I wrote a blog article somewhere about the tens of thousands of Bureau of Labor Statistics job categories that will earn you more than writing. Pick one of those and do your scribbling in your spare time.

If you already make tons of money with your writing, cool. If you don’t currently rake in the dough and don’t need to make a living with your writing, you won the jackpot. You can have lots of fun without spending too much, and maybe make some money, if you pay attention to what I say below. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up crazy, just like authors trying to make living at the dismal occupation. (The unofficial name for economics is “the dismal science.” It’s not as dismal as writing.)

I used to be an economist. It was easy: just earn straight As for at least a BS and an MS, and a PhD if you can. (Though I only did a year of the PhD.) While in school, wow your professors with your erudite and insightful grasp of the subject, so that they enthusiastically recommend you to their friends, who are in a position to hire you. (Remember the days when a person got out of school and there were jobs?) After getting a job, I found success was a simple matter of analyzing the **** out of whatever my bosses pointed me at. And presenting it at professional meetings and to local governments. I did that, and my bosses loved me and so did their bosses, and even people like the economists and analysts at the RAND Corporation and National Science Foundation. Easy peasy.

Not so with writing as a career. The woman who asked me “What do you do to build your platform?” does not want to know what I did to succeed or for how many years I did it. I did everything any writing pundit, no matter how obscure, said, for years and years. Enough so that when the IRS audited our literary adventure and I told them what I had done to be a commercially successful author, they fell to their knees, sobbing, “Oh, you poor baby.” No, the IRS does not do that. But we won. Anyway, I did everything that the major books about what you should do to succeed as a writer say.

After years of study and doing everything, I have formed the following basic principles about succeeding as an author that I’d like to share with you. Buckle your seat belts, compadres: my maxims pack a wallop. (I wrote this yesterday when I was in a feisty, facetious, and, indeed, flippant mood. Perhaps too flippant. I’m going over this today to make sure I said what I really meant and to clarify where needed. This “turn all the rules on their heads” model is new to me. I’ve tried it in previous years, often for days at a time But I always fell back into the crazed maw of obsession with sales that is the publishing world. Well, the worm-ette has turned. I’m going for what feeds me. And that’s below:)

1. FORGET YOUR MARKET. ALSO FORGET YOUR TRIBE. THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.
All the marketing/authoring pundits say the opposite. Great. They aren’t you and they don’t live in your skin. If you feel lousy because you’re hanging your well-being on your Klout score, your writing will stink. I need to amplify that.

Of course you want your work to succeed and you want profession friends and buddies. Of course you want to show up effectively in whatever genre you write. But at what cost? Your individuality? Your soul? Do you want to sound like everyone else–”Grow your tribe.” “Establish your platform.” Do you want to lose yourself running from one pub-guru to another? This is funny, because I’ve been self-pubbing since 2006. Most of the dudes giving the classes and seminars had not heard of independent authors or presses then. There’s a scene in my book Stepping off the Edge where I’m in Mark Victor Hansen’s huge MEGA Selling University. The MEGA University is reduced to a set of CDs now, but it was a big deal when I took it. In that scene, an editor from a Major Publisher speaks, and the floor tilts toward her as thousands of publication-lust-maddened wannabe authors stampede toward her … The scene captures the world in which independent and traditionally published authors find themselves as well as I could capture it.

I am going to be extremely snobby and judgmental for a bit. I write visionary fiction (Amazon calls it Metaphysical Science Fiction and Fantasy. Amazon will call it whatever wants. That’s the thing about a monopoly.) To me, visionary fiction is fiction–made up stories–with a moral core. That means that right and wrong, good and evil, exist and the book is about the struggle for right over might. Doesn’t mean good will win. In addition to having a moral core, my kind of visionary fiction features at least a few characters who reach a higher level of human development. I don’t go so far as some writers in positing that the species elevates to the woo-woo sphere, because I see no empirical evidence that our species is on anything but a dive into the nasty. But to be my kind of visionary fiction, some people in the book grow in spirit and consciousness.

This type of writing is more demanding of the writer than, say chick-lit (Most likely. I’ve never written chick-lit, nor have I written romance or other addiction-based genres. Yes, that’s judgmental.). My soul writes my books and does everything else for me. For this to work, my soul must be cleaned up so that it coughs up verbal sparkles of enlightenment, rather than dirt clods. Chiefly, this means taming my major addictions and being whole spiritually. What does this mean in concrete terms?

This is what I feel like if I’m in good shape spiritually: I feel the outlines of my body, a solid core. I feel my heart beating. It radiates, light, love and good will. That’s what hearts do. It’s state pulsates outward. I feel my chakras, those pesky energy centers that no one can see but are there anyway, lined up from my tail-bone to the crown of my head. My energy is pulsating and I can feel all of it.

Nothing disturbs my equanimity, my peace. I’m not reaching out trying to grab for something, living in a state of lust. I’m not attached to getting anything, nor am running in terror or any kind of aversion from anything in my world. I am free and blissful.

“Detached from aversion and attraction, the yogi lives in peace with a silent mind.” (The Bhagavad Gita says something like this. Google wouldn’t find it for me.)

You can write some killer visionary fiction from that state. Any kind of fiction or nonfiction, too. My Stepping off the Edge, a cross-genre nonfiction memoir/self help for writers and everyone else, was written in that state and higher. (Meditative states have an infinite up side.) I expect that regular writers do their best work from that sailing “wheeeee” that accompanies the state I just described.

Say I read a  book or go to a seminar and someone tells me that I have to find my tribe and grow it and have a brand and follow the hottest, sure-fire marketing plan? How about I start charting my daily sales figures and looking at my website stats all the time? What if I read all the writers’ blogs and FB threads about everything I have to do to be a writer? What happens?

I lost my tribe, before I found them. And my sales . . .

My chakras deflate in an instant. If I’m hanging on people, numbers, friends, or likes, I cripple myself as a writer of spiritual fiction or any kind of work that requires “soul clarity and truthfulness.” I might be able to cough up a salable book or two, but they won’t be of a caliber that will satisfy any spiritually developed person. Spirit sings. Also spreads its bliss.

Think about yourself. This upside-down thinking is new to me. I used to play “She with the most FB Friends wins.” “Every five-star review is a step closer to heaven.” I used to get really upset if my books didn’t sell the way I thought they should. In other words, I used to think marketing, platform, selling first, and Sandy second, or maybe fifth. What I did with that was run that racket hard enough to make myself sick.

Not too long ago, I was a mess. My hands hurt. Thumbs most, but a good writing session on the computer will cause everything, including my pinkies, to howl.  My hands are well on their way to being wrecked from spending so much time on my iMac. Not too long ago, my brain was fried. I was crabby, and exhausted. Snapping at everyone, mostly my dear husband. I thought obsessively of going to Venice, the one in Italy, not the one near Los Angeles. I wanted to escape.

About a week ago, I made the inner flip that resulted in what you’re reading here. I’m changing my behavior so that how my body feels and the joy I feel with my profession is the barometer to success. I want those chakras flaming! Spinning! Frolicking! And I want to write and sell a lot, too.

How does my brave new world work, relative to the opposite? I have no clue, other than to say that I had just made the transition to putting my soul and my physical well-being first when that stranger-to-me author contacted me about my great platform. Just a coincidence?

WHY YOU SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN SPIRIT I started making these Maxim cards when putting out the second edition of Stepping off the Edge. The book bristles with these pithy bits. I may make a picture book out of them, ir some on-line, subscription presentation. Who knows. Was this the result of building on my book's platform? Was it part of my marketing program? No. The idea just came to me. It's a good one. If people can't/don't get my book with words, they'll get it with pictures.

2. LEARN TO WRITE
Looks like this will be a series of articles. This particular article is I’m already at 2,900 words, but I can’t quit without adding this crucial bit about writing books that get read. I have more than 700 books on my Kindle. Most of them I got through BookBub, ENT, Blurb-a-minute, or Read-Me-or-I’ll-Die–the emailed, juried lists of new, cheap, or free books that fill our in-boxes every day. Those arbiters of mass taste and harbingers of our success as authors are hard to get on. You may have to beg, as my friend Consuelo illustrates here, but it’s worth it for what they can do to your sales, often for a week or more.

So, as a self-pubbed author, you devise the perfect book cover and two sentence blurb, hustle up fifty great reviews (this requires magic, black or white–whatever works) and you are accepted by one of the big book advertising sites. By some trick of fate, I see the ad and your efforts snag my attention for the approximate ten seconds needed to download your tome. I get it. And forget it. I’ve already downloaded 700 books. But say I open your book for some reason.

I read two pages. Blecch. Delete. Bad writing shows up that fast. A book has to  hook me in a page or it’s off my Kindle.

Writing fiction is not the same as professional or academic writing. I did LOTS of both. Here’s an example from a study I participated in with the RAND Corporation. (My previous married name was Tapella.) Here’s an amazing example of academic writing from my MS thesis in economics: 

“The determination of the cost of sprawl is based on the differing responses of service providers to increased demand for services from contiguous and noncontinuous new urbanization.”

That was an easy sentence compared to some in that thesis. If you’re going to have anyone read your stuff, it can’t sound like that. (However, that sentence and many more like it got a master’s degree that got me a job that earned me more than 90% of the population of female workers, including writers. So, go figure.)

Though I’m pleased with the way my work reads now (and so are my reviewers), it took me nineteen years to attain that proficiency. In 1995, I had the big YOWSER spiritual experience that I write about in my Author’s Notes that started me writing full time. From there, it was work, work, work. I was in one writing group run by a local poet for nine years. It petered out and I joined a group of traditionally-published professional writers led by a professor of literature for two years. (In the following article, when we discuss controlling your PTSD in writing groups, I’ll go into this more.)

After eleven years in writing groups–let that sink in: eleven years–I had a giant breakthrough and met my current editor. She is reputed to be a niece of Freya, the Norse Goddess of War, and does her edits with a golden machete. I love her. She’s tougher than the lit professor was and does not let an extra word slip by. It’s all: action, action, one word of dialogue, then climactic action. That’s the modern novel. She delivers the manuscripts she has dissected in such a kind way that I seldom sob for more than an hour after receiving an edit back. I’ve been working with her for eight years. I don’t claim to be the best writer in the world, but what I’ve become, I owe to her. I’ve internalized her voice, so that when I begin to write words like “price elasticity of demand,” my fingers refuse to type.

So, if you spend nineteen years working on your writing and learn to throw out everything but verbs, you may develop a writing style that guarantees success.

In future articles I will divulge my other secrets.

All the best! Don’t forget: put yourself first! If you feel lousy, your work will stink.

Sandy Nathan: Remember, You Come First

Sandy Nathan
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WHERE’S MY TRIBE? THE SERIES YOU WISH YOU’D READ FIRST.

This lil’ article kicked up a fire storm for me. Here are a few topics for later posts:

  • TO RESONATE WITH YOUR POTENTIAL READERS, JUST RESONATE. They’ll find you.
  • FORGET FOCUS GROUPS AND BETA READERS AND MOST PARTICIPATION ON LINE. Don’t forget editors, copy editors, and proofreaders.
  • DON’T BE AN IDIOT. If it seems too good to be true, it is. This is a predatory industry. Lots of people want to take your money to help you with your book. They’ll promise anything to get it.
  • IF YOU HATED SENDING IT OUT, OTHER PEOPLE HATE RECEIVING IT.
  • GIVE UP YOUR MESSAGE. Whatever your message is–save the planet, get everyone enlightened, treat the breweries right, kill the immigrants, or a least their parents (these are real messages I’ve seen on FB)–it is wrecking your writing. Stop it. Or write your message out it full, put it in a drawer, and write something else. If you have a real message, it will come through your words without effort or thought on your part. I have a great example here using my Earth’s End sci-fi trilogy. When I dropped my message, the writing sizzled.
  • DON’T PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA TO “FIND YOUR TRIBE.”  Finding your tribe is a good concept: connect with people similar to you who like the same stuff. Maybe you can help each other, or, if not, have a good time. How many people are currently selling seminars, running FB groups, or trying to teach you to “find your tribe”? The tribal concept is overdone, like vampires. Time has come and gone for tribes and bloodsuckers.
  • DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE ON-LINE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS AND YOU CARE ABOUT THEM. YOU WANT THEM TO BUY YOUR BOOK: THE FRIENDS BUSINESS IS A PLOY. ONCE YOU’RE HONEST ABOUT THAT, THE POSSIBILITY THAT THEY MIGHT REALLY BECOME FRIENDS OPENS UP. MAYBE THEY’LL EVEN BUY SOMETHING OF YOURS. Pretending to be friends to get someone to buy your book is phoney and rude.
  • HOW TO HAVE A GIGANTIC TWITTER PRESENCE EASILY. I have about 6,700 Twitter followers. A famous author found out about that and wrote to me, ecstatic. “Oh, you have such an amazing Twitter presence.” She still didn’t give a blurb for my book.
  • THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT: MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL! THAT’S MY PLATFORM. BEAUTIFUL WORK, BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED AND ILLUSTRATED. WITH BEAUTIFUL VIDEOS, COVERS, BOOKMARKS, NAPKINS AND MATCHING TOOTHPICKS. Whatever is associated with the book should be beautiful. Beauty attracts.

 

 

 

London Houses, Country Estates, Royalty, Etiquette, Polo, and Golf – Will the Leroy Watches Jr. We Love Survive?

Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull - An Award-winning Contemporary Western

Leroy Watches, Jr., the hero of Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull, is getting to be known and loved.  He’s receiving fan mail. People mention him in emails. “He’s my favorite of all your characters,” someone said. “I’m in love with him,” someone else said. “What’s it like to be surrounded by gorgeous men?” [That referring to Wesley of Mogollon  and Leroy.]

Why shouldn’t they say stuff like that? I’m in love with Leroy, too. What’s not to love? Leroy Watches Jr., you got to know him as the polite, incredibly tall (6′ 8 1/2″) hunk with supernatural powers and great rodeo skills. He’s Grandfather’s (the shaman of Mogollon and Numenon) only blood relation. He is an enrolled member of Grandfather’s Nation, thus Native, African and European American all at once.

In Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull, Leroy emerges from a warm, loving, and full life that stunted him in many ways. He was raised on his Nation’s reservation in New Mexico, the site of the giant spiritual retreat/riot in Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem. More recently, he lived on his father’s cattle ranch near Yosemite, CA. Not much call for sophistication in either place. Or formal table manners, knowledge of etiquette, or anything but shamanic practices and herding cows.

In my upcoming Christmas book, In Love by Christmas, the unfortunate man finds himself dropped into high society, not just high–royal–society, in the UK and other (undisclosed) places. Poor thing. That’s what happens when you’re a figment of my imagination.

I have been researching things like correct deportment [behavior], use of silverware, and how to address nobility and royalty. Along with foxhunting rules and how to play polo. It’s been a hoot.

I have a secret: I once knew all that stuff, and not so I could write a character in a book. I was once a princess, as I spell out in my new, truthful bio on my Amazon page. Yep. I was raised in one of the hallowed neighborhoods of the San Francisco Peninsula. As a matter of fact, it was right here. (Or formerly right there. New owners tore the 1950s structure down.) My parents had been very poor during the Great Depression. They made up for it by being very successful. When I write about  Will Duane, the richest man in the world in my Bloodsong Series, his cronies, buddies, and neighbors, I know what I’m talking about.

My dad could have been the prototype corporate founder/CEO/captain of industry. I spent the best hours of my childhood/teen years riding my horse in Woodside, where the CEOs of almost every Silicon Valley corporation now live. I lived in Woodside for fourteen years, and in Atherton for more than that. I also hung out in Palo Alto. That’s where Steve Jobs lived, the garage where Hewlett and Packard “founded Silicon Valley” is, the fictitious Numenon International Headquarters is sited, and my husband and I resided for seven years.

LINDENWOOD-GATES

These are the gates to the estate on which my family lived. We didn't own the whole thing, it had been subdivided years before. We had an acre of paradise. Lindenwood was formerly the Flood estate, the Floods being leaders from the robber baron era of Atherton.

Living in such neighborhoods is not all formal teas and basking by the pool. No. Rules exist. If you don’t know them, they will. The people you’re trying to get to accept you know the rules. So do their servants, their dogs, and most of the large shrubs in their gardens. Everyone indigenous to the area will know the difference between a pickle fork and a butter knife. Everyone will know that a man must wear a cummerbund with his tuxedo, that a woman who shows her bare legs under a skirt has no taste. Even worse, a woman who wears a tank top with her bra straps showing is worse than than a trollop. She’s nothing. outside the pale of civilization.

Hundreds of such rules exist, and if you came up in Atherton when I did, you had to know them if you were going to be taken seriously. Everyone I knew had had years and years of dancing lessons, cotillions, blah-dy-blahs, to prepare us to be debutantes or their escorts. Making one’s debut in society was cracked up as the highlight of a girl’s existence. Coming out in San Francisco was much more elevated than being a Peninsula deb, but, hey, who can be choosy?

Was I a debutante? No. My father was a liberal Democrat. No way he’d let me participate in expensive, upper-class puberty rites. Besides, the only “coming out” ball that really mattered in the United States was in New York. What my friends were so excited about was the the minor leagues.

Several friends were debutantes; I was invited to partake of the introductory festivities, formal teas, and such, that their parents sprang for in preparation of the Big Whammy Ball. Ask me about the time I was at a deb party on a yacht at the San Francisco yacht club and got locked into the ladies room. [Known as the "head" in some circles.] It was a potentially socially ruinous experience where the warped wood of the door stuck in the jam. I could not get it open. The only way I could escape was to raise my voice. [Known as "yelling" in some circles.] That would have been worse than spending the rest of my life locked in the head. That prospect gave me super powers and I yanked that door open like one of the X-men, escaping into the festivities beyond. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were also involved with this, as party guests.

With the influx of tech money, almost all standards of decency have disappeared. Everywhere. I cringe every time I see a woman with a spaghetti-strapped top with her bra straps blatantly showing. This is wrong.

LEROY WATCHES JR.

Leroy Watches Jr., a man any of us could love, and would, if he was real.

I may sling the jive here, but if I walked into a mansion occupied by truly upper class people anywhere on the planet, I would toss off my carefully affected casual demeanor, tuck in my bra straps, and behave like Leroy is going to have to. Or will he? And why?

Will we lose our primitive, incredibly attractive Leroy, the one all of us wish our daughters would marry? Or that we’d like to marry ourselves? Will he change when exposed to an unrelenting barrage of proper English and cummerbunds?

 * * *

That’s why I’m researching polo and foxhunting. Some authors torture their characters with chains and hot tongs. I prefer formal teas and golf.

Searching on-line, I’ve found a series of true gems my search for deportment and proper dress.  Wonderful sources of information for the upwardly mobile, or for all those Silicon Valley geeks who are rolling in money but not culture. Or, for those who worry about suddenly finding themselves in Downton Abbey, knowing that they couldn’t qualify for the lowest housemaid position.

Here is a series of articles which will solve your problems, especially if the issues above concern you:

William Hanson, etiquette consultant, broadcaster, and social commentator, has written about the etiquette faux pas in the various episodes of Downton Abbey. I know you don’t think any exist, but they do. Mr. Hanson, I am not poking fun at your work. Readers, you may think this is unnecessary. But what if that bit of software you’re working on hits it big and you get to move to the neighborhood of your dreams?  What then? There still are people who know about white and black tie and why cummerbunds matter. They know all about what Mr. Hanson discusses and they live in the neighborhoods you aspire to invade. It’s true. So suck in those bra straps and listen up:

Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull was a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards

While you're learning about etiquette though Downton Abbey, I'll add a bit in the sidebar. Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull was a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Western Category. I'd call it a contemporary visionary western, replete with rodeo and shamans.

 

 

Dounton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 1

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 2

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 3

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 4

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 5

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 6  Tons of great info throughout, but Hanson’s commentary here is stellar, as he explains proper white tie dress. I must raise a nit. In the Chicago Manual of Style, the novelist’s bible, the very few words are upper-cased. I would rather see white tie than White Tie. But my editor may say something else.

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 7

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 8

 

You can find the most wonderful things by Googling. A while ago, I found Rick Mora, Native American actor, model, and activist by Googling “beautiful Native American man.” Half the image results that came up were of Rick. I shot off the famous email that started everything, and now, he’s not only on the cover of my new book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I think we’re Facebook Friends. Are we Rick?

I found William Hanson by Googling some etiquette-related topic.  And I found the marvelous Black Tie Guide | A Gentleman’s Guide to Formal Wear, where you can get straightened out on the difference between proper black tie and white tie apparel. Alas, the author was critical of President Obama’s formal dress. I make it a point not to criticize heads of state, especially those who control drones.

Leroy Watches Jr. Will he turn into this?

Leroy Watches Jr. Will we lose our Leroy? Will he turn into this?

Which brings us to the point of all this: you can rise as high as you can, be as smart as you want, and be the first of your race of sex to achieve the ultimate, but if you don’t get your cummerbund right, someone will take pot shots at you.

I point this out time and again in my writing, and I do it in large print in In Love by Christmas. Will Leroy change from the informal, manly guy we know to something like the fellow to the left?

Suave, sophisticated, properly dressed?

Lord, help us.

My, I’ve gone on. I should sell this post as a Kindle short!

Sandy Nathan
Sandy’s Website
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I didn’t win in the 2014 IPPY Awards – neither did 4,900 other people

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

It’s amazing how the Universe reaches out shows you what really matters. I was getting all anxious about whether or not I’d win anything in the 2014 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards. I put my new book Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem in maybe four categories, doing a shotgun approach and entering it in any category that it might conceivably win. I thought I’d win something. In the past, I’ve won Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals in the IPPYs with other books. I know my stuff is pretty good, and I think Mogollon is the best I’ve written. The cover is amazing.

These concerns were swept aside when my hands began REALLY HURTING in the days before the 2014 IPPY winners were announced. Do not make the mistake of thinking that itty-bitty joints will only have itty-bitty pain. They can have REALLY BIG PAIN.

I have been blissfully abusing my shoulders, arms and hands for almost twenty years, since I began writing full time in 1995. I wrote in eight-hour marathons, producing torrents of words, book upon book, with no physical problems.  Yes, my shoulders would occasionally refuse to move after a writing session, but nothing prepared me for the full scale physical rebellion that occurred as the 2014 IPPY Award contest approached its close.

When your hands REALLY HURT and you’re wondering how you’re going to produce the ten or so books you’ve got as drafts on your hard drive, or if you’re going to be able to keep doing what you love most in life, how you did in a friggin’ contest pales to insignificance.

* * *

A realization threaded through the tenderness of my painful pinkies: if I pulled a big zero, so did approximately 4,900 other entrants! We are the majority! In any democratic system, we’d be the winners! Even though my focus at the moment is on my digital woes, I realized that many of those 4,900 people might like  a pick me up about the whole thing.  Fortunately, I have an article about losing in contests prepared and ready for you. [I've lost before! ;-) ]

If you feel badly about spending a bunch of money and getting nothing back but heartburn, read and enjoy:

While winning is fun, you can learn a lot from losing. Maybe even more than from winning. The last time I lost big in the IPPYs, I wrote a lengthy true story about what I’d learned from losing in horse shows. I’m linking it here and above.  I’m gonna do a short recap below. I think I’ve got about ten minutes more typing in me for the day. (No, my hands haven’t stopped hurting.)

* * *

What you can win from losing: I’ve ridden horses most of my life. My family operated a  ranch where we bred, birthed, raised, trained and showed horses for twenty years. We still have five, even though we’re in retirement mode.

To show horses and win, you have to be a killer.  Getting a horse trained and in shape for showing, getting yourself in the same shape, learning to ride well enough to perform in the show ring, and handling everything that goes on at a show [your nerves and the horse's] is a HUGE job. Huge. You have to really want to win to master all that. You need to develop “one-pointed consciousness” like meditation masters and martial artists. A horse show championship is the black belt of riding.

The Monterrey Trails Classic Peruvian Paso Horse Show was one of the most prestigious shows in the Peruvian Paso breed. One balmy day, I found myself in the arena mounted on Vistoso, one of the best horses we’d bred in twenty years. A gorgeous bright chestnut (think the brightest red Revlon hair color ), Vistoso was an amazing horse. Beautiful head carriage, collection. Gait up the wazoo. Plus I had a jacket that exactly matched his coat. We were on as we cruised around the ring. That horse did not take a false step the entire class.

AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY This isn't me on Vistoso, this is me on his full brother, Azteca. Don't have a pic of Vistoso.

I figured we had it made in the shade. The class was ours.

The announcer began calling out the winners. The way Peruvian shows go, everyone who didn’t win is dismissed first, then the awards are announced lowest place to highest: fifth, fourth, third. Second.

For some reason, they called my number. I got second. What!? Impossible. We were perfect. More than perfect. Way better than the winner. She was a petite woman I knew from hanging out at shows. Her horse was a small liver chestnut. Liver? Yes.

She won. I got royally pi**ed. And stayed that way.

Later that evening, the dinner dance that the show hosted was rockin’. Food, drink, everything. And everyone. Threading my way through the crowds, I ran smack into the judge. She beamed at me and said, “Boy, you really rode that horse this afternoon.”

I’m not a  wimp. I’m a liberated woman. I’ve taught assertiveness trainings. I fired back, “If you thought I rode so well, why didn’t you give me first instead of second?” My eyes were not shooting daggers, they were machetes.

She rocked back and said without pause, “This is a really good show. A second here is the same as a championship somewhere else.”

I left, glad I’d asserted myself. I felt righteous.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season. I was at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the mega-horse park where our National Championships were held that year. That competition was too tough for me; I didn’t make the first cuts in my classes. With nothing else to do, I watched the show from the stadium. My back went up when that woman, the one  who stole the class from me in Monterrey, rode in on that rotten little liver horse.

I leaned forward, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich brown hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. There’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

My mouth fell open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterrey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing that woman in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed.  I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

Addressing my fellow 4,900 “losers”, am I saying that our books didn’t win in the IPPYs because they weren’t good enough? Well . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterrey. You can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t do something similar and embarrass yourself.

LET’S LOOK AT BOOK CONTESTS. YOU’VE ZEROED OUT AT THE IPPYS THIS YEAR. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? HERE ARE SOME OPTIONS:

1. Never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the nineteen (yes, nineteen) years of my life I spent writing my book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I forked out perhaps $300 in entry fees for the categories I entered.

Here’s a big question: do indie authors need awards from book contests to sell their books? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs.  And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of. (I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the linked article and do what it says. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year. [Caveat: you don't need to include press kits anymore, so putting together a winning entry isn't as awful.]

Or–change contests. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests tells you there’s no sense at all in entering, try picking a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you see no reason to enter anything after my little pep talk above.  The National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes for the top books in the competition. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Earth’s End 1) This is The Angel's original cover, which won the Gold.

4. What does winning  mean?

A WINNER! In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the 2011 IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is the first book of the Earth’s End series. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet.

The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.

 

 

Lady Grace & the War for a New World

A LOSER! Lady Grace & the War for a New World is the second book in the Earth’s End series. I entered it in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better.

“Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor, who is one tough cookie. Others professionals said the same sort of thing: I’d hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

How do you tell when you’re getting accurate feedback? A woman who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

So, even though everyone loved Lady Grace and it was a better book than the Gold-winning Angel, it got Zippo in the 2012 IPPYs. A big nothing. However,  Lady Grace’s original cover sucked. It was a case of me directing my designer too much and in the wrong direction. We changed the cover and title. Voila! A repackaged book that’s way better that the WINNER! But it’s still a LOSER!

 

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

ANOTHER LOSER! Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem is the best book I’ve written, in my opinion.  My little band of fans also says it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s got a killer cover with Rick Mora, a famous Native American actor, model, and philanthropist on the front.

 

SO WHAT ABOUT JUDGING? I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterrey.  I don’t know what the competition was in 2012 or 2014, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior ones not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012 and 2014, and they had different preferences. A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-four awards is enough.

So, to the 4,900 friends and fellow campers who did nothing in the  2o14 IPPYs, we’ve finished our romp through Book Contest Land. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

HERE’S BREAKING NEWS ON THE POWER OF BLOGGING AND THE INTERNET: I posted the article you’re reading and thought nothing more of it. A few days later, I Googled 2014 IPPY WINNERS and was stunned to find that my blog article was the #6 ranked entry, with only posts by those who ran the IPPY Awards above me. I Googled again the next day and found my article was #5th and #6th listed out of a total of 247,000 results. It was ranked above ALL THE WINNERS and the gigantic GOODREADS! I’ve got it on my Facebook pages, asking people to share. (If  you’d like to share this blog article, I’ve got a share mechanism on the page somewhere. Have a ball!)

Remains to be seen how this will shake out, but losing that contest may be the biggest break I’ve had!

So long friends, win or lose–blog about it!

HERE’S THE EVIDENCE: A SCREEN SHOT OF MY YOUR SHELF LIFE ARTICLE VERY CLOSE TO THE TOP:

HERE'S PROOF: ;MY ARTICLE ABOUT LOSING GOOGLES #5 AND #6 ABOVE ALL WINNERS AND GOODREADS!

So long for now! Keep losing, everyone! The company’s great and you may get lots of recognition from it!
Sandy Nathan: My old, really cool website with all the award stickers and a free eBook download through May, 2014!

My New, Interactive Website

 

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