April 2, 2012

Indie Author - THE GAME

Roll the dice. Move your token. Play the game everyone with a word processing program is playing! Learn as you go, because the rules change as fast as the publishing industry!

Land on the Goodreads square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. Author approaching forum. Use extreme caution. Do not engage the indigenous readers in conversation about your book. Severe consequences will result! Move ahead one space.

Land on the Librarything square: Enter your ebook in the Member Giveaway program, where readers can get a free copy of your book in exchange for a review. Discover that ‘winners’ of Member Giveaway books are chosen at random, unlike the traditionally published books given away in the Early Reviewer program, where Librarything uses a complicated algorithm to ensure good placement. Give away fifty free ebooks, get two reviews and be thankful you got any!

Draw a Book Review card: Three Stars! A quick check on this person’s other reviews shows s/he is historically stingy with stars. You’re pathetically grateful s/he gave you the “It was okay” thumbs-unenthusiastically-up. Move ahead one space.

Land on the Publicity square: You’ve just been asked to appear on an unscripted podcast/internet radio talk show with an aggressive host, so polish your smile and prepare to field random questions LIVE on the internet in direct opposition to the introverted nature that made you a writer in the first place!

Draw an Expense card: You blow tons of money on video editing software that comes with a user’s manual written for a much earlier version. Then you spend weeks slaving to make a decent book trailer. After uploading to YouTube, you get seventeen views, two disgustingly profane comments (before you figure out how to change the settings to allow comments only with approval), and an anonymous thumbs-down. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Book Promotion square: Your endless marketing efforts have sucked every last drop of joy out of the thought of writing another book and your muse is actively trying to convince you to take up pottery. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Amazon Discussion square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. You stumble into an Amazon Discussion titled ‘Badly Behaving Authors’ and are horrified at how much venom is directed your way. Leave with your tail tucked firmly between your legs and seriously consider changing your user name. Lose a turn.

Land on the ‘I Used to Enjoy Reading’ square: Your swaying TBR (To Be Read) pile is stacked a mile high with other indie authors’ books. You owe so many reads it will take you until the year 2525 to fulfill your obligation. Go back five spaces.

Land on the Facebook square: You are among friends of your own choosing, many of them indie authors like yourself. You may relax and spread the joy by clicking ‘like’ on other authors’ posts about their books. You may enjoy the steady stream of inspirational and funny pictures...until, that is, your former best friend begins tagging you in a series of embarrassing photos from your ‘wild’ days and your dad, who never learned that all-caps is shouting, posts a LOUD admonishment on your wall that you never call him. Bye-bye professionalism! Go back two spaces.

Land on the Twitter square: Welcome to the Land of Spam, where the one who dies with the most followers wins! Here, indie authors are free to spam each other to our hearts’ content. Make your followers happy and retweet their spam - they’ll return the favor and retweet yours! Spam it up! Nobody cares because with thousands of followers, we’d have to spend 24/7 reading tweets to keep up! Whee!

Land on the Family square: Of all your family members, the only one who bothers to read your book is ‘No-holds Barred’ Aunt Fanny, who promptly reviews it on Amazon and tells the world that funny story about how you lost your bikini bottoms while waterskiing on the Sacramento River. What a cute butt you had! Go back one space.

Land on the Kindle Forum square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. You start a forum thread offering to swap reviews with other authors. Within 12.3 seconds, you have seven responses from the established forum cronies advising you that what you are proposing is sleazy and unethical. Leave with your tail tucked firmly between your legs and request from the forum administrator that your account be deleted. Lose a turn.

Draw an Expense card: You splurge for a portrait at the local J.C. Penny that makes you look like a refugee from an eighties Glamour Shot. In desperate need of an author headshot, you break out your ancient point-and-shoot and, ignoring the burning pain of holding your arm out straight for three hours, take exactly four hundred and twelve photos until you get one where both eyes are open the same width and your nose doesn’t look like it belongs on Mr. Ed.

Land on the Royalty square: You receive your first email from Amazon with your royalty statement. Take the family to McDonald’s in celebration, but restrict them to the dollar menu. Advance token to the Taxes square.

Land on the Taxes square: The IRS gleefully adds insult to injury by taxing your meager royalties. Enter the data into Turbotax and watch in horror as the extra income pushes you into a higher tax bracket. Attempt to conceal the information from your spouse, who always knew no good could come of this crazy author venture. Go back one space.

Draw a Book Review card: Two Stars! This reviewer got the book for free and admits to only reading the first chapter. S/he claims to not be in the habit of reviewing books s/he ‘couldn’t finish,’ but s/he immediately hated your flawed heroine and brilliantly deduced how the story would end anyway. S/he would have given it one star, but doesn’t like to be cruel. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Blog square: You’ve been blogging for years already, but have to go through and read all your old posts to clean out the ones in which you are ranting, raving, revealing TMI about yourself or your family, or otherwise coming across as unprofessional. From this point on your blog posts are strictly limited to discussion about books, writing, and the ‘author experience’ - just like all the other indie authors out there. Your followers, all six of them, don’t notice the changes.

Draw an Expense card: You purchase the cheapest drag-and-drop website design software on the market and begin the frustrating job of learning how to use it to create an author website. The user’s manual has been badly translated from some foreign language, but you eventually cobble together a somewhat professional-looking site. Advance token to the Domain square.

Land on the Domain square: Your dot com name is already taken, so you are forced to choose from an embarrassing dot net, dot org or dot biz. Once you own your spanking new domain, you begin to wade through the incomprehensible world of GoDaddy. You upload your site into the ether a dozen times before locating the problem on an obscure user’s forum thread. Yay, your site is finally live! Begin checking the site stats every day, several times a day. Be impressed at how many visitors you’ve gotten - until you find out what ‘spiders’ and ‘bots’ are. Move ahead one space.

Land on the Pirate square: Ahoy, Matey! You are happily Googling around to see where your ebook has been mentioned on the interwebs when you find that it is available, for free, on a site called Zippyshare. After you finish freaking out, you contact the site and accuse them of copyright violation. They quickly respond back that your book has been removed from their site, but you find it elsewhere, too - on sites that are using it as bait to get people to download it - but anyone who does will also be getting a nasty case of computer herpes! You struggle to reconcile your hatred for hackers who create viruses with your glee at the thought that there’s Karma out there for those who steal your book. You are at an impasse. Arrrr. Advance token one square anyway.

Land on the Formatting (alternate name: Author Hell) square: You spend three unwashed days in front of your monitor obsessed with figuring out how to format your manuscript to Smashwords and Kindle specifications. Several times you consider throwing the entire PC out the window. By the time you’ve uploaded and all seems right in the world, your family has taken to tip-toeing and whispering and you have several mounds of tear-stained tissues littering the floor around you. Move your token to the Upload square.

Land on the Upload square: Three days after uploading to Kindle, a writer friend contacts you with a long list of typos s/he spotted in your book. After suffering a debilitating anxiety attack, you fix the errors and reupload. You find yourself glad no one bought your book. Lose two turns.

Draw a Book Review card: One Star! Oh NOES! This reviewer did not read the book at all, but thinks since you are an indie author all your five-star reviews must be fake, so s/he wants to even the playing field by lowering your book’s overall stars.

Land on the Book Blurb space: A blood pressure spike sends you to the ER after several days spent attempting to write the perfect book blurb. Go back four spaces.

Draw an Expense card: You create an ad for your book and buy space on a popular reader’s site, among thousands of other so-tiny-you-can-barely-read-them authors’ ads. After two weeks, you’ve only received five accidental ‘clicks.’ Go back two spaces.

Draw a Book Review card: Four Stars! And from a stranger who paid actual money for your book without you having to beg them to buy it. Skip ahead two spaces.

Land on the Amazon square: You browse the Indie Book store looking for your book only to discover Amazon has limited the Indie Book store to only the first thirty best-selling (which does not mean ‘best’) self-published books. When you attempt to browse Amazon book categories, you give up after six hours of clicking through 7,000 pages. Your stomach begins to produce excess acid as the realization sinks in that the only way someone will find your book on Amazon is for them to use a direct link. Go back two spaces.

Land on the Author Interview square: Bloggers love author interviews because not only do you do all the work answering their list of questions, they don’t have to actually read your book. Plus, they get free content for their blog! Go ahead one space.

Land on the Book Blogger square: After three days of searching through blog after blog with big, bold “I DO NOT REVIEW SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS,” in the review policy, you finally find a blog that does! Too bad they only have three followers. Go back two spaces.

Draw a Book Review card: Five Stars! Too bad it’s from a coworker who admits to knowing you in the review. Here come the downvotes!

Draw an Expense card: Advance token to the Book Cover square.

Land on the Book Cover square: You’re no artist, but paying one to make your cover is out of the question, so you fire up the old photo editing software that came with your computer and begin the process of bringing your vision to life. You buy a cheap, royalty-free photo online and settle on a font that conveys the genre without being overbearing. Yay, your cover is complete and looks pretty good if you do say so yourself! The first book review you get calls it, “Hideously amateurish.” Go back two spaces.

Draw an Expense card: Your vision of the perfect book trailer includes music from your favorite band - but you can’t afford that and wouldn’t dream of using another artist’s work without permission, so you find a website that sells music from the public domain. Your choices range from scratchy old recordings of Amazing Grace to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. In the end, you find a royalty free music site and pay for a 15-second clip that you loop in the background and hope no one notices. Go ahead one space.

Draw a Book Review card: Five Stars! From a stranger who raved about it and posted their review on their blog as well as Amazon, Goodreads and Libarything! THIS is why you decided to self-publish. Skip ahead to the end of the game.


April 1, 2012

Why I Hate April Fools Day

In the fourth grade I was in love with all things horse. I had horse figurines, horse books, horse pictures, horse everything. I wanted a horse SO BAD.

One morning before school, my mother and older brother woke me up. “Lisa!” (That was my nickname) “Get up! You won the horse! You won the horse!”

I rubbed sleep out of my eyes, confused. “What?”

My mom said, “I entered you in a contest at McDonalds to win a horse and you WON! We just heard it announced on the radio!”

My eyes must have been as big as saucers as her words sank in. “Really?”

She urged me to get up. “We have to call them to claim your prize!”

Sleepy and dazed at the thought of my dream finally coming true, I followed her and my brother out into the living room. She picked up the phone and dialed, handing me the receiver.

“What do I say?” I asked.

“Say, ‘I’m the one that won the horse,’” she replied.

At the other end of the phone, a young male voice answered, “This is McDonalds. How may I help you?”

In a voice shaking with excitement, I said, “I’m the one that won the horse.”


“I’m the one that won the horse!”


Surprised and confused that I’d been hung up on, I looked to my mother for answers. She was doubled over from laughter. My brother was actually on the floor rolling around.

“April fools!”

As a deeply heartbreaking sense of betrayal overtook me, I burst into tears and ran back to my room. It took my mom half an hour to calm me down.

I have disliked April Fools Day ever since.