Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What NOT to do when you get a bad review! AKA THE GREEK SEAMAN

You knew this was coming.

First off, I am the king of bad reviews so I feel like I should say something on this huge train-wreck. With what Vincent Zandri is doing with his book The Innocent and how it has went beyond the tipping point, well this same thing works in the other direction. Here is the link to the Review so you can get some background: BigAl's Books and Pals:

And the you-tube: Video

After this show she is racking up bad reviews on Amazon and her Facebook page is being blasted. It looks like she has not been on her page yet and this storm is just getting going. I bring this up as a example of what not to do when you get a bad review.

Face it, not one of us want a bad review. It hurts and it is hard not to take personal. On the other hand, if you ask for one don't get mad when you get one. Just by writing a book and putting it on the market you are open to the good and the bad.

My first book had a ton of problems and is in editing yet again. But I understand what I lack and I am doing everything I can to fix the problems. I get some good reviews and some bad reviews but as long as the person is good about it I figure it is their right.

In this case Al did a great job in handling it and was very nice. He did not provoke her and we could go on and on about it. But let us learn... when we get bad reviews take them to heart. See if they are right and if you need to correct something do it if you can. But the truth of the matter is this: Your biggest fan is wrong and your worst enemy is wrong, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The next thing is understand a bad review may at times be just as good as a good one. A lot of people are scared to trust a book that has all 5 star reviews, they think most of them are friends or family and want to know the good and the bad. There was no comments on this review for a few days and it might have not done anything to hurt her but she kept pushing and once the people took up the fight it was on!

Lesson #3 is never be a jerk. No matter what try to be nice. If someone is going to blast you in a review don't lower yourself and blast back. Take it and use it. I have this blog and a following because of a bad review. My book was called the worst book ever and I was told in a review to never write again. Now I didn't listen, in fact I use it to reach out to others and if you know about what we do here you would agree that in a way she put a fire under me. It is all in how you use it.

The last thing is how things go beyond the tipping point. We have a few authors that have reached this point and once the snowball starts down the hill it will take on a life of its own. This is also going on here, but in a bad way. People are talking, it is being pushed across the internet and there is nothing she can do to stop it. Remember before you feel sorry for her, she did this, she opened her mouth and pushed... It is sad how bad it is getting for her but it is also sad that she did not have enough in herself to take the review and move on like an adult.

Here is the correct response:
Thank you for the review, I will look into the formatting errors and have it re-edited. I am so glad you liked the main story and I hope once it has been worked through you can review it again and maybe we can move the 2 stars up to 5.

Problem averted.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Want to lose money writing?

The saying goes, "The truth shall set you free."

I agree yet for some the truth is scary and may hurt. It is what it is and is not dependent on if we believe it or not. The thing about real, truth is it will not change, the hard part if finding it or seeing it through our foggy glasses we all wear.

Some may ask why I am so hard on the publishing industry, and how I can be so dogmatic when after all I am a publisher. To this I say, "I am a publisher but I understand that you don't need me." What I do is help authors as one author to another. We sit down, make a deal and I take the time to do what you can do but I can do it most of the time faster and allow you more time to write.

This is all I really add. But for most it is enough. Think of Amanda Hocking, she took a big deal because she wants to just write. The formatting, cover design and all the time it takes to publish a book were to much and not what she wanted to do. This is the future of publishing. we provide a service, not something you can't do on your own but a service.

Now this being said here is the point of this post. I am angry. Angry for you the author. Angry at the big 6 and for the way they have taken advantage of authors for years. I am an author first and seeing good people struggling to make a living gets me hot real fast.

So here is the skinny.

I was talking to a writer the other day. This person has 10 books out or so and is with a regular publisher. This person has not seen any money past the advance and my guess, never will. Both the book and eBooks are selling very well so I did some number crunching to see just what this person was missing because of the book deal they are locked into.

Just on eBooks based on the ranking on Amazon the publisher is bringing in on the low end 12K a month. Now the print is more so lets be conservative and say 25K each month of pure profit. How much of this should this person be getting? 30-50%. how much are they getting? 0%.

Now to be fair, I don't know how much the advance was and if the % is only like .25-.50 per book it could take a long time to pay back. But on eBook this should be paid off faster. I also understand that even a few years ago this book deal would have been a good move. But not now. We can't change the past but we can change our futures.

This is a typical move for publishers. Now I know they paid for marketing, printing and so on. They did take a risk but now that the world has changed and moved on, we the authors must take our own futures in hand. We can only kick ourselves around the block if we take a deal now without understanding what it means.

What can we take away from this? What do I want to see in the next few years?

1. I hope to open the eyes of as many writers as I can. I hope to have a list of authors that are selling books and making a living doing so.

2. I will do everything in my power to bring down the big 6. call it a mission. If I can change the right persons mind and that ripple in the pond breaks the foundation of Random house so be it. That or see them change how they do business and pay their authors a better royalty and get rid of advances. It is bad business and can't go on forever. Paying for something and hoping it will return a profit is called gambling. you will win some and lose others. Do you want to be their gamble? If so the house wins... just a thought.

Now the "Oh, wait,"

Would I take a big book deal? Yes. Why would I after all my spouting off about them and how big and bad they are? Because I would go in knowing it was a game, I would throw a few books to the wolves and that in turn would make all my other titles sell better. But I would do it knowing why I was doing it and not expect a dime off that book. It would be like a lamb to the fire, and that is like counting cards. I could win a hand or two and come out better.

If you want to write and make a living I would not go to a big house. Find a small one that works hard and make it on your own... If you don't believe me, ask Vincent Zandri... Ask me... Ask a NYT bestseller and see if he works a second job.

The truth will set you free.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Post by Vincent Zandri: I Want My Virtual Tour!

Vincent is a joy to work with and his numbers reflect his hard work and skill as a writer. He has gone from selling around 50 books a month to this month he will hit somewhere in the 6000 range. This huge jump is due to online social media, blog tours and all the other things he does to keep top of mind. I would suggest following his blog as well as his work, he is one to watch.


I Want My Virtual Tour!
By Vincent Zandri

30 years ago the rock music world was in the midst of grave upheaval. Radio was giving way to something previously unheard of, and something entirely revolutionary: Music Television or, what would come to be known as MTV. Music videos were the all the rage and no rock outfit, big or small, could compete in the marketplace any longer without having a music video produced. MTV became so big so fast it would prove the The Buggles 1979 hit, “Video Killed the Radio Star!” (the first music video to be broadcast on the newbie cable network), pure prophecy. The station that played music videos 24 hours a day would become such a visual phenom for youngsters and adults alike that musicians like Peter Townsend previously made famous by transistor radio were now filming advertisements in which they were paid to pronounce: “I want my MTV!” Clearly, the music paradigm had shifted.

But MTV wasn’t just an entertainment medium for the music starved masses. MTV was more than that. It was a marketing marvel. So much so, that bands were formed specifically for the MTV market while bands that struggled to “move units” during the 1970s were now finding themselves playing stadiums, all because of a single music video that became more popular than the actual music itself. Duran Duran (“Rio…Rio!” … gag!) is a prime example of a music career purposely founded and designed for MTV marketing. Also ZZ Top’s 1980’s revival (“She’s got legs…She knows how to use them…” Yup, sex sells…), DEVO’s classic “Whip it Good,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” tight jeans period, and even The Monkeys (minus Michael Nesmith) major mid-80’s comeback all owe their due to the marketing power of MTV video.

Fast forward to present time.

The world is undergoing an entertainment upheaval of sorts again. Only this time, the seismic waves are being felt in the literary and publishing world. While bookstores rapidly go out of business, and wasteful paper gives way to green E-Readers like the Kindle and the Nook, millions of authors, both indie and traditional, are investing in virtual tours. Designed to replace the traditional book tour of schlepping yourself to bookstore after bookstore where no one shows up not to buy your book anyway, the virtual tour takes place entirely online. It’s comprised of reviews (especially from the all powerful Mommy Blogs…don’t mess with them, trust me!), guest blogs, trailer teasers, giveaways, Facebook parties, interviews, chats, and more. And you don’t have to burn even a mile’s worth of gasoline to get there. It all happens on your computer making them the first zero carbon footprint book promo tool ever.

Like MTV all those years ago, the virtual tour is a powerful reader vehicle in that it provides a new kind of interactive entertainment whereby a fan can openly and intimately correspond or, if you will, reach out and virtually touch their favorite author over a period of 30 days—the usual length of a tour.

But also like MTV, the virtual tour is much more than entertainment.
It is powerful marketing.

As time that used to be spent watching the boob tube becomes traded in for time on the computer and, in particular, the social networks like the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter, more people are becoming exposed and turned on to new writers. Writers whose careers are quite literally being made and rejuvenated by the virtual tour.

I am one of these writers.

Take the case of The Innocent, which was formerly published under the title, As Catch Can by Random House imprint, Delacorte Press back in 1999. Back then, the internet was still relatively new and the concept of a virtual tour hadn’t even been conceived of yet. Books were pushed (or, as in the case of Catch, not pushed) the traditional way: book signings, author tours, perhaps an advertisement in the New York Times Sunday Edition. That was it. The rest was left up to word of mouth.

Writers weren’t expected to blog (what’s a blog?), create a social network of fans and friends, invest in trailer teasers, or anything else that is now becoming the standard marketing model for authors simply because these ideas and online platforms did not exist. Not one to get all lathered up over book signings, I sort of skipped out on the promotion junket, and as a result, Catch quickly tanked.

But now, ten years later, Catch is republished by StoneGate Ink. The book is re-edited, it’s got a new cover, and major a global tour has commenced. A virtual global tour, that is. This time, the resulting guest blogs and reviews have grabbed reader’s attention, not just in my hometown, but all over the world. The trailer teaser has been viewed by nearly one thousand people in the first month alone, and the chats, giveaways, and interviews, have created a forum for me to personally meet and greet my ever growing fan base.

But what’s really cool? The Innocent has climbed to number 4 on the Amazon Hard-Boiled Mystery bestseller list, number 7 on the Psychological Thriller list, and thus far, number 61 on the overall Kindle bestseller list. Because of the virtual tour and the attention it derives not only from my social network alone, but many social networks and tribes who share common literary ties, The Innocent has become a breakout bestseller in North America, and it’s also a steadfast bestseller in the UK.

The last traditional book signing I did in my hometown attracted maybe eight people. When you exclude my parents, that number is shaved to six. Not only did the bookstore not advertise for the event, they purposely double-booked a local news anchor who wrote a locally flavored tell-all. When I arrived, I was told to head on in to the “back of the store,” while the old news anchor got the top billing at the front. I signed my eight books (oops, I mean six), and walked out, vowing never to suffer that kind of humiliation again. I actually tossed my Sharpie in the trash. Oh, the bitter irony.

But that irony is pretty darned sweet too.

Because of the tremendous global marketing power of the virtual tour, The Innocent is not only selling thousands of copies, all my books in print are bestsellers. All of them!
And never again will I have to step inside a bookstore again unless I want to. The power of the virtual tour can be witnessed from my bedroom in New York or a hotel on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. What’s the song I’m singing now? “Virtual Tours killed the lousy, humiliating, book signing!”

Maybe MTV has given up music videos for smutty teen programming. Maybe CDs have given way to downloads and play-on-demand internet radio stations. Maybe movies can be downloaded to your computer instantly along with your favorite TV show (who needs to sit inside a crowded movie theater while the dude in front of you passes gas). Maybe novels are now available on your favorite E-Reader or Smart-phone audio program. Maybe the world is changing in ways we all never imagined and maybe we have no real idea of what’s about to change next, but for now there is one thing that will remain a timeless constant for yours truly:

“I want my Virtual Tour!”

Journalist Vincent Zandri is the author of the bestselling thrillers The Remains, The Innocent, Godchild, and Moonlight Falls. His new novels, The Concrete Pearl and Moonlight Rises, are forthcoming from StoneGate Ink in 2011. For more information on the author or to view his archived virtual tours and to purchase his books go to

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post by Heath Lowrance

Heath and I come from different backgrounds and have very different views on writing and all that. But he has made a name for himself and I am always open to good topics and discussions.

We are doing a blog post on each others blogs at the same time. So once you read this post go on over to his blog to check out mine. His blog is:

Heath Lowrance

Since so many of Aaron’s readers are Christians with a taste for edgy crime fiction, and since my own work has been described as “anti-faithful” (which it’s not, not exactly), we thought it might be fun to respectfully address the issue of religion in fiction head-on.

Flannery O’Connor once wrote: “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.”

She left out “blackly funny”. Wiseblood is one of the saddest, bleakest, funniest books you’re ever likely to read and had a huge impact on me as a writer, as huge as anything by Jim Thompson or Charles Willeford or any of the other great psycho-noir types.

What makes this strange is that O’Connor’s preoccupation was with the idea of religious salvation—she was a practicing Roman Catholic living in the predominantly fundamentalist American South, and almost all of her work was concerned with matters of faith.

I didn’t know any of that when I first read Wiseblood. I’m not a religious guy. To me, Wiseblood was an existential black comedy, tragic and grotesque, full of bizarre characters and beautifully unlikely scenarios. Southern Gothic Noir.

But hey, I’m not here to talk about Wiseblood, really…

My novel, The Bastard Hand, is also about faith. Kind of. My protagonist, Charlie, is as confused about religion and faith as any character in an O’Connor story—this confusion makes him the perfect pawn when he winds up in Memphis and in the snares of the Reverend Childe, a preacher bent on booze and women, a man of God with a very dark agenda. When Charlie and the Reverend descend upon the small North Mississippi town of Cuba Landing, they bring with them a very small, very personal Apocalypse.

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide what the message is in The Bastard Hand, or even if there IS a message worth anything. But I can tell you this much, at least: the “action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it” doesn’t come into the equation.

Religion, man, it’s just a… preoccupation of Southern writers. It always has been. Even the ones who have become non-believers still feel the weight of that cross. It would take an entire book to outline the possible reasons for that, but themes of faith and salvation (or the lack thereof) bleed through the lines of almost every great book written by a Southerner in America.

For me, it’s a scab I can’t stop picking at. You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a non-believer (why be coy about it?) but questions of faith still plague me from time to time, enough so that I love talking about it and exploring it.

Don’t misunderstand me: The Bastard Hand is NOT Wiseblood. But is IS “hard, hopeless and brutal”.

It’s also blackly, blackly funny.

And without the balm of grace.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

THE FUTURE OF BOOKSTORES: Ebooks and Print, what does it all mean?

The exciting and sad future.

This is for bookstore owners, workers and readers who love the printed word.

Books with paper, ink and the sound of pages turning. I like you grew up with a book in my hand, the smell of a book is like nothing else. I am a reader as well as a writer and because of that I love books. But as we see our world changing we have to change with it or we will end up angry and alone.

eBooks are amazing, and this is coming from a guy that would have laughed in your face if you said that to me even two years ago. Enter the new wave of eReaders. Kindle, Nook, iPad. They came in slow but in the last year have taken the world by storm.

Why you might ask?

Content. This war is not about books, paper, ink, stores. It is content. A book is a story and content, we want and need it. How we get it does not matter to most people. In a audio book, paper, or as a eBook. It is all the same content.

Remember that word. As we talk about the future of print books, think about Content. As a eBook is is cheaper, faster, eco-friendly, and easy to carry. Try bringing 2000 books with you on vacation.

Cheaper: Average eBooks price: 2.99-8.99, average Printed book price: 10.99-14.99
Faster: Download a eBook in 30 seconds. buy a book in a store, yeah, fast, but online 3-6 days and you pay to ship it.
Eco-friendly: Publishers pulp millions of books each year so they don't have to pay taxes on them at the end of the year. Paper, ink, blah, blah, blah... you get the idea.
Easy: eBooks can be read on a eReader, phone, PC, or most any other device. They can be shared, gifted and as they grow in demand they will only get better.

Now, what does this all mean?

For readers, nothing much, just a different way of getting content. For publishers, some will go under as they have built a business around print. some will merge and others will close. This is all good news for authors as the Big 6 have had the control for far to long. Down they come I say. Let it fall, in fact if I can push it a little I will.

Publishers have a place but it will change to a King to a servant. The Kings will not make it. With this most publishers will fight to keep the authors they have now and lock them into contracts for eBooks forever. BE CAREFUL!

Publishers are the ones on the out. eBooks bring the author and the reader together. What do you need a publisher for? really, for what? Everything they can do, you can do as well if not better. Distribution is a thing of the past. Marketing is up to you anyway. If you are a bestselling author and are not moving toward doing it on your own or with a small house that will give you 50% you are missing out on a ton of money. But maybe you like giving it all away... =)

For you I am most sorry. This will hit you in the face like a baseball. Stores will close as most people shop online. big chain stores will go first and the little ones after. But in all this you can fight it or embrace it and adapt.


What is one thing you have that we can't get with an eBook? The author. I would bring in authors and do events every night of the week. Book signings, talks, classes, anything you can think of. Bring the author to the reader. Have a online eBook signing, have them bring in their eReader and have it signed.

Bookstores will be reduced to small specialty stores. But, they will have first editions, signed copies and the only books in the future that go to print will be the cream of the crop. This will be less work for you and the reader as they will know if it is in print it will be good.

Books will always be here, just different. books like non-fiction will be the last to go, coffee table books and the like. The small bookstore can make it a long time if they get out of the box. Get on Social media, talk, interact. Bring in every author you can, learn about eBooks, readers and be a place they can go. Sell coffee, places to sit and read the Kindle. Plug-ins for laptops. Be the place to hang out.

This is a exciting time! Not a time of loss but opportunity. Just think of the new bookstores, the community, the way we can embrace this new era.

How will you look at it? will you fight and die on the hill? Will you be on the front end of the wave? find the people doing it right, the ones who get it and hang on tight. Things are about to get fun!

I understand this is about two years ahead of our times, so if you do not agree... well you would be wrong. Lol... kidding. But, no you would be wrong...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Guest Post by Bill Myers: "Writing Edgy Christian Fiction."

Bill Myers has sold over 8 Million books worldwide and is a master of suspense in the general market as well as the Christian market. I love working with talented writers and Bill is one of the hardest working authors I know. He works his craft every day and it shows.

Thanks Bill for the post and all the best.



I’m still not sure what that term “Edgy Christian Fiction” means. Edgy for Christian readers? Edgy for the world? Edgy for me? Edgy for Christ ? All relevant questions that I’ve been kicking around for 25 years and would no doubt offend both liberals and conservatives with my answer. So I’m not going there. This will not be a list of no-no words and no-no scenes. That’s what the religious and irreligious Pharisees on both sides of the aisle want.

Let’s assume our desire is to go deeper than that. Let’s assume we’re Christian writers who have already prayed earnestly over what we’re writing and are serious in glorifying God – which doesn’t necessarily involve evangelizing, challenging or affirming Christians, or making money . . . though any and all would be nice. It does mean in whatever arena we work, our goal is to subtly or overtly, somehow, someway glorify God. There’s plenty of other good writing, but if you’re going to slap the term ‘Christian’ on it, that had better be its purpose.

As far as morality, I’ve read ‘safe’ Christian novels that are as poisonous as novels with profanity, sex, and violence. To me, some of the Christian romances are unhealthy in that they encourage the forty-something reader to be just a little more dissatisfied with her husband by comparing him to the strong, sensitive, compassionate man the heroine in her story is falling for. In some cases this is nothing more than female pornography. I also believe nice, tidy endings can be equally immoral -- those stories that say the Christian life should always end in “happily ever after.” Seems to me that Christ often promised just the opposite (at least in this world). Enough of either poison and the reader grows dissatisfied or even resentful toward God and the life He has given them.

That said, and thanks for letting me get it off my chest, this is how I’ve learned to write what some call, “Edgy Christian fiction.” I simply ask myself if I am being honest. Now before you jump to conclusions, hear me out. Honest is not the same as graphic. There’s no more honest book in the world than the Bible, but it is never gratuitously graphic.

Let’s take a sex scene. Am I stirring something up in the reader that shouldn’t be stirred? Am I making them disillusioned and dissatisfied with their own relationship? Is there another way to say the same thing without creating unhealthy desires? There have been times I’ve written a scene so well that I’ve had to go back and tone it down or, and this is better yet, I’ve had to go deeper to show the devastation happening inside the participant’s souls as they sin. I’m still hitting the same story beats, but much more deeply and honestly. I’m showing sex in its entirety. When producers accuse me of being dishonest about today’s values and say I’m afraid to be real about sex, I say, “Okay fine, I’ll write you a sex scene, but let me be honest and also include the sexual transmitted disease the boy gets, the agony of the abortion she struggles with, and the fear and burden of teen pregnancy. You say you want honest reality, I’ll give you honest reality -- not some false, painted up version of half truth, but the whole thing.” Isn’t that how the Bible handles sex? It never cheats and defrauds the reader with tantalizing half-truths. Instead, it is completely honest.

The same can be said about violence. Drama is conflict. The most overt conflict is physical violence. And the Bible is full of it. So how do I handle violence? Do I show all of its evil consequences? Or do I give half-truths, encouraging my reader to justify his own desire to resolve a conflict physically? Do I revel in it so the audience enjoys the vicarious thrill of getting even? Or am I honest and show it in its entirety? Do I laud David’s violence and stop there? Or do I also write about his broken heart when God said he couldn’t build a house for Him because of hands that shed human blood?

Finally there is language. My first adult novel, “Blood of Heaven” was on the best seller’s list for nearly two years. The first third of the book takes place on death row. Language doesn’t get any grittier than there. Yet there is not one word of profanity in the book and no one has missed it. In fact a secular producer who has bought the movie rights thought the scenes were so real that I must have served time in prison. My secret? I didn’t run from edginess. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought. I simply faced it head on and (this is a little trick I learned from the Bible) as cleverly as the Scriptures. It’s amazing what you can do with the words, “He said with an oath.” Isn’t that how Peter cussed out the people around the fire when Christ was arrested? We didn’t hear him go into graphic detail, but the author didn’t sugar coat the moment, either. Instead, we have something like: “’I don’t know him!” Peter said with an oath.’” Brilliant. Same power without indulging in the sin.

And that’s the bottom line . . . catch the truth and power of the moment without stumbling your reader, causing them to indulge in the sin. There are portions of the Bible that may be offensive to the more tender ears. But never are the immoralities glorified. There may be portions in some of my books that are offensive to the more tender reader. But the immoralities are never glorified.

Edginess can be an important tool in story telling, IF it is used properly in the hands of a sensitive and thoughtful writer. Like the Bible, Christian writing should be pure and powerful and honest . . . more so than the world. And, if you slap the word ‘Christian’ on it, then the motivation must be the same – to, in one way or another, bring glory to God. If that is your purpose and you approach your work prayerfully, there is no such thing as ‘edgy.’

©Copyright 2011 Bill Myers