Genre – the bane of my writing life

Hello to everyone finally officially in Spring from me in Autumn / Fall.  To combat the reverse envy I’m now sensing, at least Melbourne has a long weekend for Labour Day. :-)

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

This fortnight’s post for Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop is “My Favo(u)rite Genre”.  Again, I fail miserably to fit into mainstream thinking on this topic!  Oh, I absolutely understand the need for genre classification, especially now that e-books are flying across our e-noses from all sides, but for someone who’s endeavouring to draw readers towards a topic to which they may not have previously been exposed, I constantly bump up against the walls.  And they’re not padded…

We live in a world of drop-down lists, check boxes and radio buttons, for which I’m partly to blame, since I’ve been involved in many such abominable creations.  These nifty, high-tech methods of filtering and sorting clearly enable us to group the abundance of treasure into manageable slices of information.  The more we depend on websites to make our selection of reading material, the greater the need for some speedy classification mechanism.  Genre in the Internet age has found renewed purpose.

I also understand that genre is a convenient way for authors and readers to connect on common ground and feed their shared passions.  It’s a signpost to direct supply and demand to consummate that magic transaction, and in the absence of a better solution, I suppose I’d better “suck it up”…!

As a reader, I spread myself shamelessly across as many genres as I have time for, but still there are a few I avoid.  My least favourite subject at school was History, and on the whole I tend to steer clear of reading historical books, whether fiction or non-fiction.  Yet why then do I list my all-time favourite authors as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Ionesco and Fyodor Dostoyevsky?  My conclusion is that they too were generalist observers and change agents who sought to breach boundaries rather than to exist within the constraints of tradition and convention.  I wonder what the Blog Hop posts of these esteemed gentlemen would tell us about genre in bygone days?

Therefore, as a writer with social justice aspirations, I have to target my favourite genre as Contemporary Fiction.  Mention the words “love” and “romance”, and most men run in the opposite direction.  Throw in “star” or “celebrity”, and the work may be dismissed as superficial or lacking in substance.  Mention “inspirational”, as I did before I realised its connotations in North America, and I find myself stalked on social media by evangelists promising to save my e-soul.  And dare to discuss “depression”, “post-traumatic stress disorder”, “deathwish”, “nightmares” (sans vampires) and “inescapable social exclusion”, and everyone except fellow sufferers is disaffected.

Contemporary Fiction is, by definition, an overwhelming buffet from which it’s often difficult to decide or even identify what might take our fancy.  On the other side of the coin, however, strict genre classifications tend to “preach to the converted”.  What I’m seeking is the “I’m willing to open my mind” genre; the “teach me something I don’t know, and entertain me at the same time” category.  Now that would be the perfect genre for me, and one which would have allowed my post to be a whole lot shorter!

Best wishes from a cloudless Melbourne Sunday!  There’s writing to be done.

Goals for 2014 – to finish what I started!

I’m delighted to be part of a blog hop run by Ruth Snyder. The group’s first topic is “Our Writing Goals for 2014″, so here goes!

I always hesitate to set goals, simply because experience has taught me to expect the unexpected. For example, when I moved back to Melbourne from Perth in September last year, I never imagined I would still be unemployed in January. My old dog has failed to keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed and is also well past retirement age now. Hence, while I’ve put this extended “holiday” to very good use for my writing and building a social media profile, my priority must remain securing a PAID job!

Tiresome necessary evils aside, my goals for 2014 can be broadly categorised as “more of the same”:

(1) Having self-published the first two parts of my “A Life Singular” serial last year, I hope to finish Part Three in June and Part Four in December. I have abandoned the idea of using a self-publishing company in favour of Amazon’s CreateSpace after Xlibris Publishing censored my work to the extent that the whole premise of Part Two was negated. The CreateSpace experience was not only significantly cheaper but also allows authors complete flexibility with content and design.

[Note on Goal 1: as an e-chick with 28 years in the IT industry (and hopefully more!), receiving the first copy of a paperback with my name on it, my cover design and my words inside was probably THE most significant event of my life! My first e-book was certainly satisfying to finish, but I was totally unprepared for the pride and sense of achievement I felt when holding a printed book with physical dimensions and weight! So, to all authors hoping to publish in print for the first time this year, I can assure you that your soul will not be disappointed with its reward!]

(2) Consolidating my social media platform is high on the priority list too. Currently I run my own website, through which I sell books whole and by chapter and also post news about launches, trailers, etc. However, a recent invitation to renew my web hosting subscription has prompted me to take better advantage of WordPress’ features, which these days allow us to create almost fully-functioning web presences at a very low cost. This will cut down my e-maintenance effort considerably also!

2013 saw Twitter’s coming of age, and indeed it’s now considered the marketing tool of choice for many authors. I can’t help but think of it as spam though, given the volume of tweets that flash past and then disappear before we get a chance to read them. Despite the proliferation of retweets, follows, mentions and advertising clogging up my ‘phone, tablet and browser, I must get over this aversion quickly and worship the little, blue bird as my hero!

In short, the objective of Goal #2 is to find a more efficient way of optimising my time across Twitter, blog / website, Facebook, Pinterest and all the various services which promise to increase my reach. I am experimenting with SocialOomph and Hootsuite to accomplish this without spamming my friends to excess.

So far – and here’s where my cynicism refuses to let go – none of these endeavours has led to an increase in book sales. Perhaps this comes with critical mass, which segues perfectly on to Goal #3…

(3) World domination! No, I am not signing up to fight in Syria and indeed fervently hope for peace in the Middle East as soon as possible… I only seek to continue standing up for the rights of Australian and New Zealand writers. Living on a huge island continent with a tiny population and wishing to break into in the larger markets of the USA, UK, Europe and Asia, I am hopeful that 2014 will see a more integrated global market in Amazon, Goodreads and the like.

Amazon’s Australian outlet, Amazon.com.au, was “opened” a couple of months ago, before which time all Australian and New Zealand books were sold from the US “store”. Luckily, any pre-existing customer reviews were transferred into the Australian “store” with our books. Not so for our Author Profile however, which still needs to be set up for each regional site separately. This in isolation is not a huge issue and actually makes perfect sense for non-English-speaking markets, when it’s important to translate at least part of one’s profile into the domestic language.

However, the segregation of customer reviews is a HUGE issue and a grave disadvantage for new authors from smaller markets, who are more likely to obtain their early reviews from friends and family, who in turn are more likely to be local. Amazon does not make new customer reviews visible across all stores, and consequently potential US and UK readers are not aware of the quality of our work and we do not advance in the search rankings.

Mailing physical books internationally is prohibitively expensive too; it costs AU$56.55 to post one copy of my book to a US or UK address, which is obviously more than the book sells for! Many reviewers, giveaways and competitions are still only accepting books in print format, which I will also add to my campaign for this year!

(4) My last goal is to read more. Again, my unforeseen sabbatical has afforded me time to read as well as write, which I never could have accomplished while working my 50+ hour week. I aim to read a wide variety of books, both to support other independent authors and also to improve my own writing and general knowledge.

Four goals in twelve months is probably enough. Please visit the other blogs on Ruth’s hop and check out their writing goals.  Let us know yours too! Happy hopping :-)

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

Consolidation of book reviews across Amazon’s international “stores”

A question for my author friends:

I’m wondering if anyone outside the US has solved the problem of book reviews provided by readers in regional markets not displaying in all “stores”?  This appears to disadvantage non-US authors, especially those from smaller markets like Australia / New Zealand.

Amazon.com.au has been up and running for a couple of months now, so my early reviews were posted on the US site.  Fortunately they saw fit to migrate these existing reviews to the new marketplace, but reviews I’ve received since sit only on the Australian site.

New authors are most likely to obtain early reviews from people in their locality, friends and family, etc., which means that if you are in one of the 11 non-US Amazon regions, it will be difficult to get exposure in other, larger markets.

I have raised the issue with Amazon, but their support service is staffed with IT professionals and not writers, therefore they don’t understand the problem. Does this mean that we need to ask our early reviewers to copy their review into all 12 “stores”?

If anyone has overcome this problem, please could you let me know?

Thanks very much in advance,

Lorraine Pestell Melbourne, Australia