Posts tagged: numenon: a tale of mysticism & money

The Final Type of Review in our Survey: the Stupid Review – plus – A Your Shelf Life Extra on How Reviewers can Keep Authors as Friends

IN THE PREVIOUS POSTING, I COVERED THE  GOOD, BAD, AND VICIOUS TYPES OF BOOK REVIEW. HERE WE MOVE TO THE STUPID REVIEW, OR TO BE MORE COMPASSIONATE, THE DUMB OR MISTAKEN REVIEW Phew! It’s good to get out of the province of trolls and witches into the land of idiocy. HOWEVER, this type of review really bothers me. It’s the type of negative review I’ve received most.

Tecolote and I. I thought I'd have him for ten more years.

Before giving you examples of Dumb Reviews, I’m going to reveal a treasure trove of information readers can use to select books, in addition to the reviews of other writers. It’s called the book’s Sale Page. You find it on Amazon or wherever the book is sold. You already know about it: it’s the page you went to to buy the book!  All sorts of info is on this page to help you buy a book you’ll like.

Here’s a screen shot of part of the sale page of one of my books, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could. This is a heartwarming story of a baby horse born prematurely on our ranch. Baby horses don’t do prematurity well. A foal born two weeks premature dies. Teco was born 10 days early during below freezing weather conditions. This little horse had no chance of living when he was born. But he did, and grew up to be a wonderful riding horse. My personal riding horse.


What this screenshot shows you, in addition to my sub-basement level of sales, is a bunch of useful information. Right up top, Amazon tells you how big the file is. It’s 36 pages. That’s short. That’s because it’s a kids’ book. Tecolote’s reviews, the handful of them, for which I am very grateful, are very good. Amazon pulled common comments in the reviews and placed them front and center. The top one says the “story is perfect for children.”

Way down at the bottom of the sale page, Amazon lists their rendition of the book’s category. Amazon’s categories are NOT the same as the official “BISAC” versions. Amazon does the reader a disservice, when its categories are different  than what the author officially specified when publishing the book. In the case of  Tecolote, the official BISAC code was Juvenile Nonfiction. Nothing for adults at all. Amazon also places its category information almost off the page, where almost no one will know to look for it.

Maybe that’s why this poor reader was so confused and gave Tecolote this review:

Of course, it’s short like a child’s book. It IS a child’s book.

This is what frosts me as an author. Of course, it’s short like a child’s book. That’s what it IS. But three stars isn’t that bad a review and the author was disappointed.

How can an author make sure a reader sees what’s in front of his/her face?

I’m very sensitive about this book because Tecolote ended up being my riding horse. You need to know how tight that bond is. To horse people, asking to borrow another person’s horse is like asking to borrow her husband for the night. Tecolote was MY horse. While his book was coming out and winning awards, Tecolote contracted pneumonia. I’d never had a horse with pneumonia. He didn’t get better.

Turned out, he was in heart failure and the pneumonia tipped the scales of life or death for him. As the book awards rolled in, Tecolote went downhill.  My beautiful, sweet, kind horse died. What I’ve got left of him is this book and a hunk of his mane. I ended up in the hospital with chest pains induced by a broken heart.

So when I see stuff like what follows, I want to bite anything within reach.

What? This doesn't make sense. Apparently the reviewer thought the same: I noticed that this isn't the original review that blew my mind so thoroughly. The "Also a great story of survival." on the title has been added. The review after "But also …" is new. The star rating hasn't moved. Wha …?


While not as bad as a 1 star review, two stars is considered a bad review. The above review of Tecolote that makes no sense. The review itself is very good, but it isn’t the review that originally went up–that I remember. The original headline was: Young kids or weird teenagers are qualified. The rest was added later, presumably when the writer’s mother found it or its writer had a fit of conscience. The original review read: Good for little kids or strange teenagers who are weird. The rest is an add-on.

A review can be modified by the writer, as it was here, but the star rating wasn’t changed. Can it be? Or is that momentary click of a button the same as casting a moment’s pique in bronze?

I had so many feelings about this book that I added the following message to the book description. It’s the first thing a prospective buyer sees:

This is the first thing a potential buyer of Tecolote sees. Sorry about the quality of a screen shot. This message gives the book's official category, its page count, and the fact that it was written for children.

Did this work? Maybe. No more reviews like that on Tecolote. I did get a two-star review on the older version of my Stepping off the Edge saying it didn’t give instructions on how to do different spiritual practices and wasn’t particularly spiritual. The first review of the book, located right under the book’s title says, “Not a How-to Book.” All the other reviewers raved about it’s spiritual impacts. Its awards were for spirituality, among other things. What’s a writer to do? I put this in the book description:

This sits top, front, and center on Stepping's sale page. "It isn't a 'how to' book …"

Stepping off the Edge originally was published as a modern spiritual companion in 2006. Know what? Nuthin's changed since 2006.

I’m announcing this right here: the text of the new edition of Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul is virtually identical to the old version.  If you read the old version, you may want to skip the new one. Or not. Why? Because the condition I write about, the human condition, hasn’t improved since the first book. On-line addiction, infatuation with celebrities, effects of drug and alcohol abuse, general abuse, evil so bad that the devil itself could have done it: all the big nasties we have to deal with are the same. So are my remedies. So’s the book. A refresher is often good. I’m pulling the old version of Stepping Off the Edge off the market today.

THE PAINFULLY DUMB REVIEW. I’m sure it’s clear to everyone by now that authors read the reviews readers write. I try to ignore mine as much as possible because 1) I’m always working on something new and I don’t have time, 2) a one or two star review can not only ruin my day, it can throw off my current writing. Bad reviews can have such extreme effects on me (if I deem them warranted), that I’ve removed one book from sale A book that cost me nine years of my life to write. Even if the review is based on missed or erroneous information and I don’t agree with it, it will gall me, as I’ve shown here.

Either way, bad review = bad day.

Life is rough, but you could have contacted me first …

HOW TO KEEP AUTHORS YOUR FRIENDS [Special Your Shelf Life Extra!] Say you’re “friends” with an author, as much as anyone can be friends with someone they’ve met only through electronic impulses. You didn’t like the author/friend’s last book and want to let them know it. So you write a review saying that. Freedom speech and all that. This is not a wise course of action if you want to keep things copacetic with your on-line buddy.

Remedies exist for the problems I outline above, problems of “missed information.” These are remedies that reviewers can apply before dropping their bombs. One is thoroughly checking the info on the book’s sale page before initiating Star Wars. Asking questions. Amazon now lets potential buyers ask questions of past ones. They probably do it for books. You can contact other reviewers, if they put contact info on their pages.

More than that––Did you know that you can contact me and other authors and communicate about your considerations about their books? This may be harder with the big name authors, but you can get through if you’re persistent. Try Googling this name: Sandy Nathan. Bingo! One click and you can see my new author picture, get my website and every social media I’m on and all my contacts. I have a contact page on my website that sends messages right here. To my desk. You could email me in seconds if you wanted to. If you’re clever enough, you could probably march up my driveway in an hour and a half.

Contacting me is not hard. If you have a beef about something I’ve written or are planning a bad review, talk to me. Yes, I know, it’s harder than slamming around low stars. It does require some courage and integrity. But you never know what might happen. I’ve heard of authors giving back the cost of a book a reader doesn’t like. I’m not saying that I’d do that, but I might. You might also learn things that might be pretty embarrassing to you if you had delved deeper. Like the author is in the middle of writing exactly what you wanted or has just had a heart attack.

Say you don’t realize this and just want to drop your load. We live in the age of diffused blame and hostility looking for a target. Shoot first, aim later.

Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull - An Award-winning Contemporary Western. This is the original cover.

For instance, my new book Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull  has won one national award (in Western) and had all five star reviews until recently. It is a novella, a short novel. Rules exist in the industry defining the lengths of various forms of fiction.

Standard Numbers of Words by Type of Fiction

Searching through my files yielded the most recent Word version Leroy, which allows me to see the number of words. Leroy Watches Jr. has just under 37,000 words, placing it on the high side of the novella word range. Amazon clearly states its length on its sale page: 132 pages. That indicates a short book. When I uploaded the book, I added a note to the sale page about it being a Novella. This is the first text the reviewer sees, just below the book description. It’s also cheaper than any of my other books, which should be a clue.

Leroy's novella length is reflected in the number of pages reported on its Amazon sale page. Leroy is actually a ittle long for a novella; they range around one hundred pages.

I was so excited about the novella concept and the fact that writing a 130 page book is easier than writing a 454 page book, that I wrote this little note, shown at the very top of the text in the Amazon sale page.

I think the concept that Leroy Watches Jr. is a novella, which is shorter than a regular book, should be clear. Novellas are all the rage now, by the way. See this great blog article from Anne R. Allen, “Why Novellas Are Hot and How to Write One.”

All this defining material is not enough to prevent a review like this:

With all the information that should have told the buyer what s/he was buying, this happened.

I’ve beaten this to death, but I want to let my readers know that they can contact me, though any of the easily available ways. I would love it if they did before posting something like this. (Not that it’s a one-star review. Three stars is considered OK, neither good nor bad. And its tone is polite.)

If this reader had contacted me, s/he could have been among the first to know that I’m writing another book about Leroy Watches Jr., In Love by Christmas. It is full length–it’s 60,000 words right now and I haven’t even gotten to the bits about polo and fox-hunting.

Reviewers should realize a few things: writing a book is hard. Everything about the process is hard, taxing, and will make the author and all concerned want to scream and throw things, often at each other.

It takes much longer to write a long book than a short one. I wrote Leroy Watches Jr. because I wanted to give my readers a little tasty morsel to gobble down after reading the “big book,” Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem while they were waiting for the next biggie. I can’t turn out 492 page whoppers three times a year–they take time.

My writing plans for the rest of the year are ambitious. I plan on getting In Love by Christmas out in time for Christmas buying. AND I’m planning on getting another book, the sequel to Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, at about the same time.

The brilliant and captivating cover of In Love by Christmas. Thank you, Clarissa Yeo!

In Love by Christmas is the “most badass Christmas story ever written.” Leroy Watches Jr. takes the most dangerous ride of his life as he rescues his soul mate, Cass Duane. Cass is the daughter of Will Duane, the richest man in the world and the hero (after a fashion) of Mogollon.

Phenomenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Miracles,  Mogollon’s sequel, takes the crew at Mogollon’s retreat through the week; Mogollon ends on Wednesday night. The retreat is over on Saturday. That’s plenty of time for everything that didn’t happen in Mogollon to happen. And it does.

If I succeed in finishing these to books and getting the two new books published before Christmas, I may be dead, but I’m giving it my best shot.

In other words, I’m going to be working my buns off through the summer and fall for you. For me, too, but for you, my readers.

You may say, “Well, Sandy, you’re taking this review thing pretty hard.”

You bet I am. Writers and artists are among the most sensitive creatures on the planet. That’s why we can write. I would like the people who review my work to exhibit the courtesy and commitment to excellence I try to show them in my writing.

For instance, after receiving the above review, I instructed my cover artist to change Leroy’s cover so that The Bloodsong Novellas appears on the front and rear cover of Leroy so that no one else is disappointed.  This is a good idea. Wish I’d thought of it earlier. We’ll do that for the up-coming novellas, too.

See: There it is, right on the cover: A Bloodsong Novella.

So there we have it: the most benign of the bad reviews, the Oops-missed-something review. Most people drop them and never look back. Is there a cure? Instant “check your info and get things right”? No. But talking about it feels marvelous.

Ciao, everyone!

Sandy Nathan
Sandy’s Other Website, the Interactive One
Sandy’s Amazon Author Page

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Sandy on Twitter-I strongly dislike Twitter. I don’t answer messages or tweets or nuthin’. Try Facebook.



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.


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., 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
Sandy’s Interactive Website
Sandy’s Facebook Page

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.


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!



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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