In July, I sold The Color of Sunshine to silverthought. There are actually three versions, each of which I liked too much to choose. The paranormal version is the one that was published.
Updating my sales page was something I had planned to do. As it turns out I planned to do it so much, that I thougth I had done it.
Now it sounds like I find posting sales to be a chore. No, no. I'm a member of the Two Headed Turtle Society. Never heard of us? You will once we stop procrastinating long enough to get organized.
This blog gets about 200 unique visitors a day-- I consider this pretty darn good all things considered-- but I'm small potatoes in the internet pond. Nevertheless, over the last couple of days I've received an unusual amount of spam comments.
In the early days of blogging I fell for the first few, but I quickly realized two things: First of all my readers rarely comment. ( Comments cause me lots of stress. Should reply? Does this sound too _____? So this really works for me.) Two, all of the comments amount to "Thanks for the info." Some are oddly flattering, but meaningless. They're so vague, they're like black hole that only absorbs gullibility.
Instead of treating spammers with the typical derision and scorn, I'm going to make you guys an offer to keep your spam comments on my blog.
The daily plan: For a nominal fee of $121.12 per day, your spam comment can stay.
Whey the 12 cents? Because I like the number 12. I recognize that's hardly a sound reason so, lets make it an even $121.00
The weekly plan: $121.00 x 7
The monthly plan: $121.12 x 31. I like you guys so much the monthly plan is only 12 cents more per day and you have the convenience of paying for 31 days even when there are only 30 days in the month.
The yearly plan: Just$ 293,345.47 ! I'll even throw in a copy of Midday Mussing for an additional $20.00. Granted, I've been know to give this book away but I like you so much, I'm willing to raise the price!
Don't delay, order today!
Me: I got a great idea.
Ellie: Another one? You just had ten.
Me: I thought was elven, but who's counting? I'm chock full of good ideas.
Ellie: Remove good from the sentence.
Me: Okay, I'm chock full of ideas.
Ellie: True. So what's it now?
Me: Let's make a short film. We get a pizza and a fishing pole.
Ellie: Oh, Lord.
Me: We tie the pizza to the fishing string. This is so we can we put the fishing string over a branch the pizza will go up.
Ellie: (Looks at her beer and then at me.) Is there something the beer?
Me: Maybe a bear. (This is an inside joke. Ellie smiles and nods.) So the pizza is hot and there' a homeless man sleeping-- obviously he's an actor playing a homeless man and since we can't afford an actor, it's Paul.
Ellie: This is wrong on some many levels. First of all, Paul is too clean for the role. We need John.
Me: Good idea. And when the John smells the pizza while he's sleeping on the bench in the park, his eyes pop open. He sees the pizza--we should do this in December that way there will be steam coming off the pizza-- he jumps up to grab the pizza but it floats higher. Then the pizza kills him. It's a weird story. We can call it "Attack of the Killer Pizza."
Ellie: Oh, I get it. It's like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes but with pizza.
Me: And a fishing pole. Another beer?
Ellie: Yup. Hey, I got an idea...
When I was in second grade the book fairy took the tooth I had placed under my pillow and left me a book. "Mom, what is this!"
"It's a book."
I burst into inconsolable tears. The book fairy had stolen my tooth. Now the tooth fairy would never come and leave me a quarter. I was forced to eat last year's Halloween candy.
This never happened.
I don't know why I love books. There is not a single member of my family that loves books -- or literacy in general-- besides me. Look, I'm not being hard on them. They are who they are. But nothing makes a child wonder if they were adopted like trying to read Chris Crutcher while their Uncle is teaching their sisters and cousins how to set a fart on fire without burning their butt cheeks.
This really did happen.
My inspiration for this meandering blog post was my trip to the used bookstore. A month ago I had left a big old bag of books because the owner was not in and purchased three books at full price.
I waited for a call about the store credit. It never came.Today I saw many of my books on the shelves. There was zero credit in the computer. I started to overact. (By overreact, I mean heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and steam came out of my ears.)
They advertise that they give 1/2 of the cover price for titles. Shipping aside, I should get about $3.50 for a book that costs $7.99. I get closer to $1.00 per book. Because I need to limit the amount of books I have-- my apartment is small -- I've decided to see it more like a swap that's good for me. I give them four books I have read, and they give me one book I haven't.
There is a limit to how much I'm willing to overlook. So, I took a deep breath and calmly shifted the stack of books I had picked out to the side, making clear that I wouldn't be spending any money.
This got the girl's attention better than if I'd shouted. She called the owner. When she returned she said, "you have twenty dollars credit."
I happily spent all of my credit plus another twenty dollars cash.
Here are titles:
The Invaders Plan by L. Ron Hubbard
Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
Lisey's Story by Stephen King
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
The Face by Dean Koontz
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup
And to improve my Korean for which there are no links:
Grim's Fair Tales in English and Korean
A collection of Poe's short stories in English and Korean.
Now, Book Fairy, please trade in some Laura Lipman!
I grew up in a home filled with things. This is not important except to say that one of the many things my mother collected was animals. There was Mop-It the dog that looked like a mop, Bark E. Lee who got his name because he never stopped barking, and Grandpa the really large lop-eared rabbit. There were three other rabbits I don't remember the name of, several turtles, numerous fish, numerous cats, a cockatiel
name Damian and of course princess, the cat who ruled the neighborhood.
Out of literally hundreds of animals, I've only been close to a few. Princess was the first, but even though we called her my cat, she was really my mother's cat. The two of them would sit on the couch eating cheese corn and watch late night T.V.. They were two peas in a pod. Had I grown up in the age of Youtube, they would have been the source of many quirky pet videos.
The pea in my pod was Mindy. She was mixed with everything and then some. She had the long body of a Dachshund but she was too tall. She smelled like a hound and she had this red stripe down her back that would stand on end. She was very territorial and even among my family, whom she loved, she'd defend me to death. I was her person.
I first met her when she was the property of a young couple. They had adopted her from the animal shelter. She did not like them very much-- people can force themselves on pets when their temperaments are not compatible. I'm not saying they were bad to Mindy. They were very good to her. She just didn't like them and to be fair, Mindy didn't like most people.
Much to the couples surprise, their dog didn't try to bite me, but hopped right into my lap. They let me take her for a walk and our relationship was cemented. After they took Mindy home, I said to my Mom that she was going to be my dog.
The next day, Mindy showed up on our door step. And the next. And the next. Every time the couple took her home, Mindy came back. Still, they were determined that she was their dog.
Finally, their war came to a head, when Mindy chewed everything in their camper. And by everything, I mean if it wasn't nailed down it was shredded. And if it was nailed down, Mindy had put in her best effort.
They showed up with Mindy and ribbon around her neck. "She's your dog, by her choice."
In the years I had her, she never once chewed a hole in anything. Her biggest vice was wheedling her way into my bed every night... and threatening to chew anyone who looked at me sideways a new asshole.
If you can believe it, I've never done pot or any mind altering substances stronger than caffeine. Perhaps it's because I have an overactive imagination.
I know nothing about mind altering drugs but I have worked in a rehab. The job lasted about six months and it the hardest job I've ever had. I learned a lot of things, one of them is that marijuana is not always benign.
But even for those people who did become so addicted that it affected their ability to function, you could still draw a distinct line between a pot-head than even an alcoholic.
The first line is in the number of pot-heads. The facility I worked was a 28 day program, accommodated about 30 adults and 15 adolescents. Even though the clients didn't all come on the same day, in the six months you can estimate that I worked with 180 adults and 90 youth. In that time I only worked with two tried and true pot-heads. There were plenty of addicts that did drugs. In fact most had started with pot and moved on to the harder stuff.
This is why marijuana is often called a gateway drug. Pot is benign, give people a feel of confidence about using drugs. I think drugs are like sex for kids. Parents and society teach kids sex is bad to try to keep them for doing it. And it works until it doesn't.
But with drugs, kids are left wondering if their parents weren't wrong about the other drugs too. This is at my core belief why I think pot should be legal. Not only does pot give young adults a misconception of the dangers of doing drugs, getting it puts them in direct contact with the people who can get them the harder stuff.
Still, I've been under the misconception that all marijuana is mind altering. As it turns out in this article about a father who gives his son marijuana, that's not true.
I have kicked the internet out of my house.
However, I cannot, simply canNOT, bring myself to call the cable company and cancel my service. So I took my internet cable to work, locked in the draw and purposefully lost the key.
As with most resolutions I was HIGHLY motivated... at first. And
"Oh, my God, I hear crickets. Cool."
"Oh my God, I can hear the crickets and they WON'T shut up!"
And then I started to chew my fingernails.
"I don't have internet, WHAT can I DO!"
"You can write more," I replied to myself and since I was talking to myself I knew it was BAD.
So then, I went to get the cable of the drawer but I PURPOSEFULLY lost the key, remember. And because I'm oddly principled, I refuse to buy something I already own EVEN if it's just ten bucks. (To be clear, I have no idea how much a cable costs but I wouldn't buy it again for dollar.)
my boss asked, "What are you doing?"
I looked up from where I lay whimpering on the the floor after losing my fight with the drawer. "I don't have the internet, or the key to this drawer to get it OuT and the coffee shop has started billing me by the second."
"That's, um, strange," she replied. "Well get up. You're scaring your coworkers."
So DON'T lock your internet in a drawer unless you want to confuse your boss and scare your coworkers. Let this be a lesson to you.
Before I begin, let me don my flame retardant suit. Good. Let's open this can of worms. I'm not a writer. Not really. To date I've made enough money to buy one decent dinner, a case of ramen noodles and beer. To be clear "case" describes the quantity of both ramen and beer.
Look, I acknowledge that the word artist encompasses a certain way of thinking and that not all artists make a living creating art. People are certainly free to define themselves how they want. For example, when I was seven, I told everybody I was a princess. I was not, in fact, a princess. None of my family is related to royalty or anybody who was ever famous for anything.
The guy in the picture is a basketball player... at heart. Unfortunately this is what he does when he meets new people.
Stranger: "What do you do?"
Man: "I'm a basketball player."
Stranger: "Really? What team do you play for?"
Man: "Oh, well I'm not on a team. I'm working on my jump shot and free throw."
There are risks inherent in labeling one's self as a writer too soon. This is one of them. Lets look at the same scenario again. This time the social faux pas won't be so clear. To authors anyway.
Stranger: "What do you do?"
Aspiring Author: "I'm a writer."
Stranger: "Really? What have you sold?"
Man: "Oh, well, I haven't sold anything. I'm working on a novel. It's a romance between a bear and a chipmunk...."
Over the years I've read plenty of blog posts from aspiring authors. I've read tons of blog posts about what to do in this situation. This issue seemed of great importance, until I realized the inherent social life suicide in claiming to be something you're absolutely not. People embellish all the time. It's practically expect. Here in Korea everybody who works at Samsung or LG are engineers. A great deal of them work on the assembly line. With technology the line is fine enough to call oneself an engineer.
Look, I'm not say that authors who call themselves writers lying, but they are intentionally misunderstanding the question. When someone asks, "What do you do?" they are not asking about your dreams or your aspirations. People are asking about your job because that tells them a lot about who you are and where you are in life. Later, after your relationship has developed from stranger to one of friendship, you can tell them that in your heart, you're really a writer. In the meantime, if you sell chicken for a living, stop being embarrassed about that. Nine-nine people out of one hundred won't look down on you for the job you do. And they certainly won't look down on you if you take ownership.
If you cannot resist announcing that you're a writer to strangers say something like this: "Well, I work full time at the 711. In my spare time I write. Maybe one day I'll get published. What about you? What do you do?"
Another pitfall of calling oneself a writer too soon is taking yourself too seriously. And that's exactly what inspired this diatribe.
Writing Commandment 1. Never take yourself too seriously.
On August 25th, the New York Times ran an article on Book Reviews for Hire. As always I'm a day late and a buck short on keeping up with the news.
To short of it:
A man by the name of Tod Rutherford charged authors $99.00 for one review, $500.00 dollars for 20 reviews and $1000.00 for 5o reviews.
To get some perspective. Kirkus changers about $500.00 for one review. The difference is Tod Rutherford, guaranteed positive reviews and Kirkus charges for the review but you are not buying the reviewers opinion.
Eventually Amazon caught on to what Tod was doing and removed his reviews. His website Gettingbookreviews.com was blocked by Google and he now sales RV's somewhere in the Midwest. He does not hang his head in shame.
I understand the ethical issues but what is the difference between paying MR. Rutherford $99 dollars for his opinion on your book and lets say paying Joe Namath to promote Noxema. Well, there are two differences: Joe got paid a lot more and his review was via commercial. It's the latter that probably matters. People know that when they seen a commercial that it is an add. That the celebrity is being paid for their opinion.
Well sort of. If you ask most people if they believe x product that y celebrity is selling is a good product, they'll say yes. They'll say they trust in the celebrity's opinion.
And of course we have infomercials which are commercials disguised as purveyors of information. Testimonial of testimonial will be given by members of the audience who will also oo and ah over the product of the hour. And this is a legitimate form of advertising. Take away the commercial, and you have left is a bunch of bought reviews.
So what really is the difference between a review given freely and one paid for? It comes down to customer expectation. Customer reviews have largely been written by actual customers where commercials and infomercials have not.
What do you think? Is it unethical for writers to purchase opinions in order to sell books?
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).