Are You Ready? (to publish…trust me, this joke got old quickly which means you don’t have to see it again anywhere in this book)
Hello. My name is Travis Hill. I’m a self-published author. You might know me from my memorable roles as “That loser that thinks he’s a writer” and “If I published something as bad as Mr. Hill’s book, I would probably cut my own head off and mail it to my worst enemy to let them know I am no longer a threat to them or anyone else.” If that sounds a little brutal and grim, self-publishing might not be for you. Because I’ll be honest, sometimes you’ll run into a pack of wild animals known as ‘reviewers’ who don’t have your best interests at heart. They say they do, but it’s only after they scatter from your bloody corpse when the authorities arrive that you realize they only wanted the marrow in your bones, not the words on your pages.
Now, this book isn’t about how terribly mean and nasty book reviewers can be. If you haven’t published anything yet, you haven’t felt the wrath of a bad review. Maybe you’ve watched other authors have their mountains of gold-plated skulls flattened by a scathing review that went well beyond criticism and almost ended up being evidence in a criminal trial as a threat/promise. Yeah. That’s pretty scary stuff. But you know what? Get used to it. I’m not going to try and say you will get one of these per day (unless you are me, it’s like someone posted a sign on my back that says “SEND ME HATEMAIL AT ANGRYDOUCHE@GMAIL.COM BECAUSE I’M A DOUCHE”), but at some point as a published writer, especially a self-published writer working the flea-market stalls of Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and such, you WILL get one of these reviews. And some hatemail.
Thick skin is not only your best friend, it is your ONLY friend as a writer. Let’s take a look at my world, and if it doesn’t scare the ever-loving shit out of you, then you will probably be ready to finally hit that PUBLISH button and rolls your own dices.
I’m going to get a bad review some day, aren’t I?
Thick skin. Steel yourself for it. It’s coming. No author in the history of humanity has escaped without someone taking a crap all over their masterpiece. That phrase, by the way, ‘taking a crap all over <insert whatever someone was taking a crap all over>’ is actually from about 400,000 years ago. In the ancient days, cavemen would come by another caveman’s drawing about a mammoth being hunted, and would smear excrement in the shape of a penis on it. This was Og’s first bad review, and he was incensed enough to hunt down the offending reviewer and crush the reviewer’s head with a heavy stone.
Rokk, the caveman lawyer, well he successfully defended Og, getting him acquitted, and then went on to draw cave paintings of how he successfully defended Og and got him acquitted. Of course there were plenty of other cave people who though Rokk was the lowest form of caveman scum, even for caveman lawyers, and they smeared many pounds of excrement all over Rokk’s masterful drawing of his lawyerly prowess. However smelly that was, Rokk’s ego was saved by the many more supporters he had that would smear honey or blood over the cave painting, while others would draw little cave paintings below Rokk’s masterpiece, and those little drawings were of themselves drawings of little drawings below Rokk’s masterpiece. This was the first set of known reviews on Amazon.com.
Yes, I know it was before electricity and computers were invented. Who’s story is this? Mine or yours? That’s what I thought.
I roll my 1d20 every day when I look through my page at Amazon. Sometimes I roll a 3 and have to eat a bad review (critical hit). Sometimes I roll a 19 and get a bit of a gusher that hopefully becomes one of my minions (or at least a follower). Sometimes I turn 40 like I did today and have a real moment of reflection that A.) I’m a complete and utterly nerdy nerd and B.) You rolls your dice and you takes your chances.
I see a lot of posts at author forums and writer hangouts where writers are either wringing their hands or maybe in tears about either being harassed by bad reviewers or just getting a bad review. Some do this with a 3-of-5 star review. I’ve read a lot of the ‘You are the worst writer in this arm of the galaxy. Do yourself a favor and jump into the sun so we never have to be cursed with a book that has your name on it again‘ reviews that people leave, and I don’t really understand the motivation behind it. Not that I haven’t ever written a negative book review, but I’m pretty sure I never told the author to off herself or that if he ever stepped foot into a B&N near my city I’d show up with a chainsaw and a video camera.
I read these posts and think ‘maybe this isn’t for me‘ because to be honest, I’m not really down with the lower dregs of humanity getting an opportunity to put their misplaced hate on me for their own shortcomings as social beings in a civilized society. If a reviewer gives me 2 or 3 stars and explains why they didn’t like it, I will sometimes comment on that I appreciate all reviews, even bad ones, and I am always interested in hearing from readers as to what they thought I got right and wrong.
Only a dishonest writer would tell you that a negative review, even a well-written one that points out problems in a well-presented case doesn’t hurt a little.
(Actually, these ones hurt the worst because it’s a person who REALLY paid attention to your words and kind of de-constructed it in a way that can never be equaled by a simple “YOU SUCK, KILL YOURSELF!“)
Well, maybe if you happen to catch a new 1-star review on a book you’ve already received 328 reviews on with an average of 4+ stars. I have no idea what it feels like to look down upon such a puny 1-star review from my throne in the sky that almost touches Author Heaven (yes, we get our own separate heaven, because apparently we are the most insane as a group that has one binding interest). When I get there, I’ll be sure to lord it over each and every last one of you. Until Hugh Howey shows up and smites me with his Sword of Two Hundred Million Copies Sold for using my powers in such a selfish, unprofessional fashion.
But then I tell myself…it’s just one review. Yes, I want to drink bleach because I’m awful and probably harmed multiple humans by allowing them to read the Words That Should Never Be Written In The First Place (i.e. anything I write, including this book). But I’m actually confident in what I write. I may say self-deprecating things about me and my words (breaking yet ANOTHER Unbreakable Rule of The Author’s Guild, like Thou Shalt Gain 20,000 Twitter Followers and one of the first three commandments of Henceforth You Shalt Not Write In But A Single Genre *so sayeth The Guild Elders*), but I would never have hit the Publish button if I wasn’t really ready to put on my flameproof pajamas and spray a couple of 16oz. cans of Troll Repelzit (Apply Liberally To Affected Areas!).
I told myself, repeatedly by the way, and now my wife watches me with a suspicious eye which is making me nervous, “I am my own worst critic. I am my own worst enemy.” You can imagine hearing me chant it in my nasal voice over and over it might seem creepy. I tried to imagine the worst things a reviewer could say about what I’ve written.
Let me tell you something: I’m a pretty imaginative man-boy. I remembered a lot of what other guys said about me in junior and senior high school. That wasn’t bad enough, so I remembered what the girls back then said. Yeah. I can feel the sting like a razor across the length of my outer thigh. Made your leg wince too, didn’t it? A little. Don’t lie. I picked apart my stories. Then I went further and picked apart my chapters. Then my paragraphs. Then my sentences. Then my words. Then I realized I was just re-editing what I’d already agonized over during editing the first time. This is actually worse than anything any girl in high school ever said to me. And some said some things so cruel that if I repeated them, I would hear your scream of shock from here in Boise, Idaho.
There is nothing worse than mind-editing what you’ve already published. Not that awful self-published novel you downloaded six days ago and almost stomped your Kindle into a thousand pieces because of how frustrated it made you (probably mine by the way, this is the majority of my hatemail…legal claims for broken hardware). Not running a power sander over most of your body and then diving into an iodine bath. Not reading this long-winded, entirely unfunny book. Nothing.
I read my own tripe and want to hurt myself. “How could I let that get by my editor? Oh…I’m my editor.”
“What the…what is this? WHO WROTE THIS???”
“I swear if I wasn’t the author of this, I would be in jail for battery if I ever found out where he lived.”
“Please kill me.”
“WHO THE %@#$#@ WROTE THIS???”
“Hmm…I must have been drunk. <shrug> Weird since I don’t drink. <hits Publish on more garbage at Amazon>”
But yeah. You probably know exactly what I’m talking about. No one is as awful as you are as the writer. No writer can match your terriblenessicity (not sure if that’s a word, but it is now so back off, trademarking it as we speak).
Your wife/husband/voice in your head is LYING TO YOU. What you wrote is so bad that your wife/husband/voice in your head had to swallow back a little vomit when you looked at the sky in joy that your writing was able to get one person’s approval. Your friends have bets running as to who can give you the most praise without you finally starting to realize they are mocking you. Your mother cut your face out of the family photo. Your dad burned the little face your mom cut out.
Whoa, got a little deep there. 1-star reviews will do that to you. They suck the life out of you (I stole this quote from at least nine hundred authors who’ve said/written it and didn’t even bother to paraphrase it). Yet when I read a review that says:
“Travis Hill is possibly the most boring, ignorant, narrow-minded, goat-legged, non-nose hair trimming, weak little girly man I’ve ever attempted to read a story from. I personally think the nurse’s gurney rolled over his head soon after birth but everyone felt sorry for him and has lied to him by encouraging him to write, a career path he is about as suited to as I am in performing heart surgery at John’s Hopkins, and he produced this partially-aborted, unrecognizable-as-even-English-gibberish-let-alone-literature TRAVESTY. I hope he writes his own obituary and the coroner has to remove his cold, rigid hand from the poor pistol that drew the short straw and is now ridiculed by all the other guns as the gun involved in this loser’s suicide. Do the reading world a favor and eat Sani-Flush crystals. Chase with a bleach-ammonia cocktail.”
(this is a real review by the way. Okay, it’s real in the sense that I just wrote it…and to be honest, it’s actually a pretty good review that I think I’m going to go leave for one of my own books because let’s face it, I’m terrible and maybe this will be the final straw that gets me to stop writing)
*ahem* I say HAHAHA because I’ve already written a review worse than that one as I picked apart whatever story of mine a review like that one was for.
To make a really short story unnecessarily long (TL;DR for nerds/gamers), WRITE. EDIT. PUBLISH. The rest…if you read your reviews, read your negative reviews. Positive reviews only set you up for the fall when you get a negative one (I’m pretty sure I’ve now stolen this from multiple authors without even giving citation as well…for that, I apologize profusely). It’s great to have your day lifted by being told that you have been elected as the new Supreme Councilor for a great new cult in Florida because of your incredible prowess with the prose.
Then the next guy comes along and smacks you down with a random variable of “stop breathing” and now your whole day is ruined.
Inside, I know I’m a good writer, even if no one else thinks so. I entertain myself. Profusely. And I break a lot of Unbreakable Rules. Inside, you have to know you are a good writer, even if no one else thinks so. If someone says you aren’t, pay attention to their reasoning. Learn to cast off the nonsense and pay attention to the proper criticism.
If someone says, “Mr. Hill used the word ‘profusely’ too profusely, and he quickly annoyed me by constantly putting adverbs insertingly into almost every sentence that he foolishly wrote terribly.”
Then I will probably say, “Yeah, I did. #@#@$ you for pointing that out, but…thank you for pointing that out. I gotta fix that.”
If someone says, “This book reminds me of why condoms were invented: to keep people like Mr. Hill from being born so he’ll never write this obnoxious, toxic-to-intelligence piece of rubbish that is so awful it probably wouldn’t burn even after being soaked in gasoline for a week.”
Then I say, “Hah, that was actually pretty funny. Can I steal that for my next book?”
If someone says, “Mr. Hill, I commend you on your ability to believe you wrote a book. Hint: you didn’t.”
Then I say, “Ow! That actually hurt worse than the last guy telling me I could put my genitals through the pasta maker attachment on one of those big Sunbeam stand mixers.” But then I’d go back and make sure I actually wrote a book. Sometimes customers ARE always right. And I’m kind of a putz when it comes to this stuff sometimes.
Right. So. There was a point in here somewhere. It got lost when all of the hot air emanating from my voice-hole shredded the molecular bonds holding it together.
Believe in yourself. If you aren’t ready for the Big Time, don’t hit that publish button. Because the Big Time isn’t you chumming around with LeBron and Tom Brady while sipping champagne from Hemingway’s skull that you paid seven-figures to have a mob crew go exhume just for the privilege. The Big Time is eating criticism and bad reviews. Some kids are great in college, but they get to the NFL and they find out they just can’t hit hard enough, can’t block good enough, can’t catch well enough. They get tackled by that first big bad review, their femur shatters, and next thing you know they are selling cars at Shady Bob’s Supreme Auto Emporium back home where they grew up and enjoyed being The Big Shot as a varsity halfback. Don’t let this be you. Stay in college another year and get the experience, bulk up a bit more, spend the season mentally preparing yourself for the NFL Combine when it comes around again and you are ineligible to play another year at Scribe University.
But you’ve come this far. You’ve written your story. You think it is good. WRONG! You better damn well think it is the most awesomesauce explosion-riddled train derailment in the history of Michael Bay movies. Okay, maybe ‘train derailment‘ doesn’t exactly describe something that is totally awesome.
But you’ve come this far. You’ve written your story (trying this again). You think it is good. WRONG! You’d better damn well believe that it is a story that some random internet stranger would find interesting enough to not put back on the shelf or delete it off their e-reader after the first few pages. Your story might not be that good yet, but there’s a couple of reasons and none of them might have any relationship to the story itself.
Let’s take a look and see if your preliminary checklist passes muster:
If you don’t live and breathe SPELLCHECK (see, my spellcheck says spellcheck is not a word), you are doing it wrong. If you don’t grab a silver katana (huh, it says katana is not a correctly spelled word either…maybe we should re-think the whole spellcheck thing? Nah, SPELLCHECK FOR THE WIN!) and slash through every single undead punctuation problem you have, you are doing it wrong. Trust me, you have them. I already know you do. I’ll hang out and wave this katana around for a bit while you go check.
(If I scream really loud, you might want to just call 911 because in the time it took you to run back here and see if I was all right, I’ll probably have bled to death…I’m that bad with sharp objects.)
Have you REALLY taken the time to check your grammar? I know sometimes the whole ‘I can haz cheezeburgr’ thing is really funny, and a lot of it is the way the words are spelled, like you know, how a cat would spell them, because cats really would be too uppity and lazy to learn anything but minimal textspeak, so that’s the joke…but anyway, check your grammar.
And check for things like run-on sentences because even though you learned this stuff in grammar school and had it pushed into your brain repeatedly by the time you graduated high school it seems that some people didn’t actually pay attention and then they go thinking it is okay to write a book with these really long sentences where the sentence goes on and on but not even a drop of punctuation could be found within the Run On Desert to quench the thirst of the run on sentence that you have in the fourth paragraph of page…every page really, except, where, you; use some kind, of weird punc-tuatio-n rules that I’ve never heard of but whatever I’m not an English professor wearing a stuffy stinky smoking jacket and trying to get chicks from the nursing classes down the hall to rub those weird patch-y elbow things on your jacket just because you got a PhD from some school in Snooterville which is somewhere up in Upstate New York I think.
And then there the missing words. You know what mean. Trust me, I it all the time. And after you’ve read so many times, the missing become invisible and your thinks it sees the words when aren’t really there. Pay special attention to missing words.
Oh, and you know how sometimes you say “I followed he down the block.” but it’s actually supposed to say, “I followed her down the block.“? Yeah. I do that to. I don’t mean too do it. I’m usually good about they’re/their/there and such. I type really fist though, and again, my brain think that the ward is correct but I just can’t sea it. Notice how these sly bastard errors sneak past your spellcheck. Except for the word spellcheck. Maybe it is two words. But I am the Unbreakable Rule Breaker. I can break some of those dusty old rules. Spellcheck is one of them. Except when they made those rules, I doubt they had a device called spellcheck unless that word comes from a dude that lived in 1359 Gaul…a Father Pierre Spellcheck possibly.
If you read all of those examples and said, “I don’t do at least one of those, probably don’t even do a few of those.” then guess what? You are ready to publish. Because I do those things. And I’m working on publishing my 5th story and have a couple of novels in the editing stage.
Let me put it to you simply: If I can publish a novella and get 19 reviews with an average of 4 stars, and only a single 1-star review and a single 2-star review, then you, my friend, are going to have it easy if you just work hard and publish something that doesn’t look like a potato that rolled down behind the cabinet and we didn’t notice it for like seven months, and when we finally found the source of the smell, it was that potato, except it was not really a potato anymore, it was more like a thin balloon full of poison potato gas that had grown sentient because it hissed and spit the poison potato gas at us when we tried to clean it up.
Yes. You heard that right. We let a potato grow into a miniature WMD without even realizing it. FOR SEVEN MONTHS! Who doesn’t smell a rotting vegetable for seven months? This makes me a little worried that our house might stink so bad that we couldn’t possibly notice poison potato bomb up for that long.
Yes, you heard that right. If I can publish a stupid novella that is terrible, has weak characters, a nonsensical science fiction plot (that is barely science fiction at that), some gay agenda preachy stuff, and shoehorn it down into a digestible format that 20+ readers per day have downloaded since May (for free, because I don’t want them to have yet one more thing to bitch about…like…”Gawd I paid $.99 for this trash…I might as well have lit a dollar bill on fire and then dropped it in my hair, I would have been more entertained“) as a nobody author that not even my own wife has ever heard of, and get NINETEEN reviews, with the majority of them 4- and 5-star…then you’d have to be such a big loser in life that you probably should have already drank the bleach if you couldn’t do better than me.
Seriously. My cat could write better stories and sell more copies than me. Of course, cats are really popular on the internet. So let’s say that dead gopher that must have eaten a bad grub and expired somewhere under my tangled tomato bushes and is really stinking up the place…he could write better than me and sell more copies.
Hence, you can too.
You see, this self-publishing thing…it’s not for the faint of heart. If your skin is so thin that I can see your blood vessels and muscles like one of those creepy museum exhibits, you shouldn’t self-publish. You should also see a doctor and get that taken care of before a gang of unscrupulous museum curators plot to kidnap you and keep you as a living art piece.
If your skin isn’t thick enough to deflect a barbed arrow made of hurtful words, if it isn’t tough enough to shrug off multiple blows from a morning star made of harassment, if it isn’t slick enough to slide under double rolls of razor wire that reviewers will lay down around you, then you shouldn’t self-publish.
But Travis, I don’t have thick skin! There’s got to be a better way!
This is the part where I tell you that for three easy installments of just $19.95, you too can own the secret to beautiful, bark-colored, roughened skin that smells like burnt tea and freaks out little kids when you walk by them.
Here’s the first secret:
Remember earlier when I talked about all those mean things the girls in high school said to me? They were actually talking about you. Unless you are a girl. Well, they were talking about you too. My wife tells me all kinds of stories about her high school students that have no qualms about completely destroying someone’s reputation, regardless of sex (though it usually revolves around whether or not the girl is having sex). Girls are kind of vicious. Guys just punch each other in the face (or the gonads, but those guys get really bad reputations and hung from a locker hook by their underwear or someone else’s dirty jockstrap). Girls…they play the long game. I knew a girl once who waited eight friggin’ years to exact revenge on another girl. That’s some serious shit.
What were we discussing? Oh yeah.
There is no magical solution though. I lied. I apologize. Hugh Howey will definitely find me and squash me like a bug for misleading you. If you don’t know who Hugh Howey is, by the way, you should probably just…hah, you thought I was going to say “KILL YOURSELF!” but no, what I was actually going to say is you should probably KIL…er I mean go to Amazon or whatever bookstore/website you prefer and look him up. He wrote some little story called “Wool” that no one has ever heard of I guess.
Don’t judge your writing to his though. He’s sold twelvety-thousand billion copies of that goddamn story and now drives a gold-plated yacht down the street, throwing money off the deck to peasants like us just to make himself feel good that he remembers us, the ‘common author’ that still scrabbles at the hard dirt as we try to grow enough healthy words to eat for another season.
But ask yourself this, and if you were going to ask yourself if it would be easy and profitable to wait until that gold-plated yacht rolls down the Boulevard and simply gank him and steal his life and make it your own, then you sir/ma’am are on a completely different wavelength than me. But ask yourself this: Was Hugh Howey ready to click that PUBLISH button?
Damn right he was. Even if he wasn’t. He did. Now look at him. LOOK AT HIM! The guy is rich. He maybe cared what the first few reviewers that came along and said about his book(s). Now he pays thugs to hack Amazon and find out where nasty little reviewer trolls live so even bigger, more square-jawed thugs can drive to their nasty little troll houses and rearrange their nasty little troll faces.
I kind of hope he doesn’t sue me for telling you these things. It’s another Unbreakable Rule. Thou Shalt Not Divulge Inner Circle Secrets of Our Famous Elite. I suppose ‘kind of hope’ might suggest he does sue me. This would not be a correct suggestion. Though the publicity from such a thing…hrmmm. I must ponder this for a few minutes.
Okay, I’m back. Hugh Howey, if you ever lower yourself enough to read this, please don’t sue me. I loved Wool. Molly Fyde was all right, but it was no Wool. Write Wool again, but this time in outer space or under the ocean. Break the mold and write the same story nine different ways. Just like Hollywood does with every movie.
Anyway, my point other than please don’t sue me or send thugs to my house (however, my wife is now Googling you to find out how to pay you money to do this very thing…I think she’s hinting it is divorce time…), is that Hugh Howey didn’t write a book that has over 1,000 reviews at Amazon alone and then let a 1- or 2-star review stop him. He ran right the fuck over those reviews because he believes in himself.
He believes he’s a good writer. Just like I do. Just like you do. If you don’t believe this, you shouldn’t be writing. Writing books is hard enough. Writing books and having some asshole come along and tell you that you’d probably write better if you started your car then sucked on the tailpipe with the garage door in the closed position is like…many levels below writing a book.
Spelling is proper?
Grammar is at least readable?
Punctuation doesn’t look like you had a seizure while trying to add an apostrophe to your text?
Formatting is proper and there aren’t six sentences jumbled together to the point you can’t even read the text, followed by eighty-nine paragraph breaks before a few more random sentences that you don’t remember writing?
Cover art that doesn’t look like you hired me to create it? (For the record, open up MS Paint or GIMP and just pick a brush and allow it to wander aimlessly across the screen. For two straight minutes. Whatever result you end up with, mine will be worse. It’s the Travis Hill’s FunTime Art Emporium Now With 90% More Book Cover Art money-back guarantee. Since you paid no money, there’s no guarantee other than you passed this test. Carry on.)
Flameproof pajamas with Troll Repelz spray?
Skin thick enough to withstand a lightsaber attack in the middle of a blue hyper-giant sun that is nanoseconds away from going supernova?
Congratulations. You are now ready to publish your very first story. When you are rich and famous like Hugh Howey, looking down at us from your thrones made from the discarded bones of dead traditional publishers, clinking together mugs made of platinum and diamonds filled with the blood of virgin agents, remember who gave you this advice. I’ll still be toiling away down here in the rubble-filled streets that powerhouses like you leave in your wake as you stomp through the rankings at Amazon/iTunes/B&N/Kobo/Smashwords/D2D.
First, I’d like to thank Hugh Howey for not suing me. Or having me beaten into a mash of bones and muscle and tendons and other pulpy, fleshy bits. However, if this book you are reading is an underground copy because Mr. Howey did have me roughed up and sued, then it is safe to assume that Mr. Howey (my attorney is making me use his formal title, it was part of the settlement that kept me out of Author’s Prison) wasn’t really such a good sport about me using him as an example.
However, as he is one of my heroes (JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Michael R. Hicks being a few other examples) of self-publishing, I simply can’t help myself. Because he is really one of the best examples of what a self-published author can become, can create for himself. For the record, I have no idea who he is other than the author of one of my favorite books, “Wool”. He has no idea who I am other than the fact that I sent him a message asking for permission to use him as an example without having his henchmen arrive in the middle of the night to remind me why it isn’t a good idea to have a little fun with the imagination when it comes to powerful, famous people.
If this book is filled in spots with a guy named Drew Doughty, and you aren’t a fan of hockey and the Los Angeles Kings, it means Mr. Bigshot Famous Self-Published Author did not give me permission to use him as an example. Yeah. You know who you are Mr. Drew Doughty. And your “Spool” novels and your “Holly Tide” books.
But seriously…anytime I see a story that mentions Mr. Howey, I read it. I don’t think everything that comes out of his mouth is pure gold (at least silver though sometimes a little copper, and once he said something tin, which kind of disappointed me in the same way that finding out Santa Claus is an axe murderer (SHAMELESS BOOK PLUG BY ME! IT’S FREE HINT HINT. IT’S ALSO TERRIBLE.) did. However, he is asked a lot of questions about how he got to where he is, and it’s always interesting to read his answers. I also commend him on the fact that he doesn’t seem to be annoyed to the point of answering those types of questions with either cruel insults directed back at the interviewer, or by slugging the interviewer in the mouth and walking away (and dropping the mic on the ground like rappers do…if he’s being interviewed between rap battles, that is).
Readers like me read that stuff. Writers like me digest that stuff. Crazy multiple-personality psychos like me read “Well, Don, I didn’t become a famous writer with my very first book, it took a long time and a lot of hard work to succeed, but I never gave up!” and interpret it as “Kill Ben Affleck for thinking he could play Batman!” Yeah, if Ben Affleck does actually play Batman in the new movies, a lot of you are going to be able to say you heard it here first. Unless you watch Entertainment Tonight, read TMZ or HuffPost. But I’ll still claim that I broke that story and those other chumps stole it from me.
Enough about Drew Doughty. You guys might think I have some kind of crush on him. Or that I’m a slimy bastard who figures Google will index this book and see Mr. Golden Yacht’s name a thousand times and rocket me to the top of search results. Because I would NEVER ride on someone else’s coattails like that. Yet.
The point of this little book was a bit of parody about the self-publishing side of literature, as well as taking a few good digs at myself. Some famous writer guy said we should never talk bad about ourselves or our work. Well, if you read this piece of shit book and didn’t just skip straight to the author’s notes to find my email address so you could send me hatemail, then you know I’m a RULE BREAKER. I think that humor makes a point easier to get across sometimes. Or it just makes a point funnier. Or it just makes you angry because the last descriptor you would ever use to describe me is ‘funny’.
I do see a LOT of authors wondering why they got a bad review, or why their book isn’t selling. I see a lot of those authors not admitting that they didn’t follow some of these guidelines and suggestions I wrote about. I’ve seen countless discussions where one of them asks why no one is buying their book or leaving them bad reviews, and I snap open the cover of my Kindle and download the sample of whichever title they are talking about. And I find out why within the first couple of page clicks.
If the second sentence in your book has a misspelled word, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t figure out who is talking and where dialog begins and ends, that’s not a good sign. If after five page clicks I still don’t have a clue as to what your book is about or what your characters are up to, that’s not a good sign. If your narration sounds like Cajun guy from Louisiana just ate a really hot pepper and is cursing a lot in a thick accent, that’s probably a pretty cool image in my head and will make me laugh, but that’s not a good sign.
And I’m not even remotely suggesting that I’m some angel of perfection. I’ve got two missing teeth and I’m currently wearing my fourth nose splint from the punches to the face I punish myself with after publishing something and then read it…and find errors. I hate it. I’m not necessarily a perfectionist, but I’m pretty sure there’s a very distinguishable line between a sentence that might have a missing comma (OXFORD COMMA! NEVER FORGET! ROAAAAR!) or a ‘your’ instead of the correct ‘you’re’, and a sentence that has two misspelled words, missing quotes along with the comma where the dialog ends, and an entire missing word that throws off the whole rhythm or cadence that you are trying to present to the reader’s brain.
Every self-published author ever swears that you have to have an editor. This is probably true. Then again, I bet there are authors out there who do it themselves. And they do it better than some fancy New York editor with a degree and seventeen years of editing experience. Unless you are that guy, you probably want an editor. Even just a fresh pair of eyes reading your story and only looking for punctuation/grammar/spelling errors is about ten thousand percent better than relying on yourself. You’re not that guy. That guy is a pretentious asshole who went to Harvard and probably majored in Editing. Not sure if there’s such a course offered at any college, but if there is, I guessed correctly.
Oh, and make sure that fresh pair of eyes is someone you are quite sure has a good grasp of the English language. Not like “Yeah, speak English, I live in ‘MURKA!” grasp. More like the jerk who texts you back to rank you out because you texted ‘Im heded home. C U 2 in 15 min’ with about 13 rapid-fire texts both correcting your shitty English abilities when it comes to a mobile phone and lecturing you on how being lazy in everyday, mundane tasks like texting a simple message to a friend can end up with you in a nursing home while battling dementia because you couldn’t stop being lazy and actually exercise your brain.
Yeah. That guy. That’s the guy you want to give your story a look-see. If he wraps the printed pages around a rock and throws it through your front window, that’s a good sign you probably need to fix a few things.
If he just treats you like the IT guy does when the computer in your cubicle is on the fritz and you can’t seem to follow his instructions of clicking the start menu, then Accessories, then Command Prompt, then a string of nonsense like Ccolonforwardslash remedydotexe -att /runonce so he just shows up and growls at you to move your fuckin’ ass so he can get back to porn in the server room coming in at 1Gbit/s (yeah, like you knew what ANY of that meant other than porn), that’s a good sign that he didn’t wrap your manuscript around a rock and throw it through your front window. It means he’ll heap much disdain on you, belittling you constantly about your poor grammar skills, using snide little jokes to make you feel an inch tall, but in the end, you’ll end up with a manuscript that might still suck total ass, but it won’t have a single goddamn misspelled word, punctuation problem, or instance of improper grammar.
Of course, if you write as poorly as me, he’d hand you back a single sheet of paper that had your name and book title on it, and a large, bold, “KILL YOURSELF!” in the middle.
Long story short: get an editor. Trust me on this. I have one now, but I didn’t before writing this.
(disclaimer: if you read this after downloading from Amazon and see all of the errors I warn you about, it is not her fault. She’s a good editor. I just know this book is trash and was too embarrassed to let her read it until after I published it. Plus it means I didn’t have to pay her. Any day I don’t have to pay her is a good day. Except when reviewers show up and tell me that I should have paid for an editor. And to kill myself.)
How about cover art? My take on this is that only rubes buy a book based on its cover.
Every other author in the world…their take is the exact opposite of mine. They swear you have to have a catchy, well-made cover.
Well, guess what? I disagree completely. Which is why I probably sell no books and I’m reading this one two years after publishing it just before I do kill myself because I didn’t follow the advice of getting a good book cover and none of my books sold. So…I’m going to call that one a draw.
But yeah, get yourself a nice book cover. You can spend anywhere from $25 to $25,000 for a book cover. If you are spending $25,000, then your name is probably Drew Doughty and you just tossed the $25k at the cover artist as you drove by in your diamond-encrusted limo with the hot tub in the back that you and eight attractive ladies are lounging in.
Personally, I stopped buying or reading a book based on its cover when I was nine years old. I learned this lesson by NOT reading a really good book that had a shit cover, and then being made fun of by the entire Twin Falls, Idaho library staff for not reading a book that everyone else in the city had read. It was a really good book too. I’m not going to say the name of it, but it is a REALLY good book. It just had a shit cover. Now I actually read the first few pages (or the sample at Amazon on my Kindle) along with the blurb, and if it catches my interest, I could care less if the front cover has a picture of a dead bird being eaten by a live bird but all drawn in shaky crayon.
But if you’ve learned anything by reading this book, it is that you shouldn’t take my advice. Because it is wrong about this whole cover art thing. I pay a nice woman named Dawn to make my covers. She does a good job and I now have to blame the fact that my books don’t sell based on another fact, which is that I’m a terrible writer.
Which proves that good covers don’t sell books!
Wait…I just confused myself.
GET A GOOD BOOK COVER! (don’t listen to any other bullshit I might say contradicting this)
So you got yourself an editor, a cover artist…what else is there? There’s really not much else beyond sacrificing animals in a ritual that might not be legal in your state or county. Oh, don’t forget to actually write something. Here’s my advice for this, and this is probably the one and only truly serious thing I will write in this book:
Write what you want to write.
Don’t write shit other people say you should write.
Don’t write shit other people say will sell.
Don’t write someone else’s shit with your own characters. Be original. If possible. Zombies and vampires and werewolves are about as high on my list of things to write about as vaginal discharge syndrome and anal fistulas. One of those is made up, but both range from disgusting to kind of funny but not pleasant to think about.
Don’t write to sell books. If you are writing for money, you maybe should…no, not kill yourself. Sheesh. I’m not that reviewer. You should probably not write though. See the next one:
Write to engage readers and make fans. This kind of swings from ‘write what you would want to read’ to ‘write really good stories that other readers would pick up and not want to put down’. If you engage readers and make fans, then you kind of get to make some money. I’m still working on this. Since you probably paid $.99 for this, you helped me achieve my goal. I can now buy one can of soda because only you and six others bought this book. The rest of you probably waited until it went free. But that’s okay too, because the more people who read my work, whether free or paid, the more chances I have of engaging a reader and making a fan.
Wow, that last one was like a whole paragraph instead of a short, to-the-point suggestion or rule.
Seriously. Give away your book for free sometimes. Or do like I have and write a few short stories and novella(s) (this assumes you are reading this sometime later and I have more titles available) and give them away for free. Your name is your brand. It is important to a reader. When I say “Stephen King” you know who the hell that is. When I say “Travis Hill” you have to actually check the front of the book to see if that’s who I am. Yes. That is me. Hi! I wrote this. Poorly. But I did it. Now you know who “Travis Hill” is. (an author who should KILL HIMSELF!)
And now for the most solid, written-in-stone, Unbreakable Truth about being an author:
Not everyone will like your work. Some, as maybe mentioned once or twice in this book, will hate it and will smear excrement all over it just like Og’s victim. Get used to it. I think that actually is the point of this whole book. Jesus Christ…it took me almost 10,000 words to make a point. I really suck at this.
If you can’t handle reading someone ripping apart your masterpiece, get the fuck out of Dodge. Truth.
(note: Those of you who rip apart THIS masterpiece, I will not give you the pleasure of letting you see me cry. This is why I publish on the internet and don’t do book tours. I do not want you to see me cry. You guys can be really mean sometimes.)
I guess that’s all I have to say about this subject.
Travis Hill (douche)
Special thanks to Hugh Howey (awesome mega-ultra cool author who didn’t sue me or pay muscle to stomp my ass into chunky mud-flesh). He didn’t write any of this except the Cease & Desist letter which I am not allowed to reprint under penalty of law. See you in court, bro. You can’t get blood from a turnip!
The Real Author’s Notes
Hello again. It’s me. I’ll try to be serious here.
VERY huge THANK YOU! To Hugh Howey. Or Drew Doughty. Like I said, depends on if he gives me permission to poke fun at him and myself.
Huge thank you to Kendall Nellis, my ‘work wife’. I hope my ‘real wife’ doesn’t read this. They know each other, but maybe not the whole ‘wife’ thing. I mean, Kendall knows about my wife. I just…never mind. I said I’d be serious.
Mega thank you to Killswitch Engage and DevilDriver. One of these days they’ll read my crap and say, “Hey, we influenced some jagoff to write a book!” You sure did, sirs, you sure did.
Thank you to Kboards.com for not banning me. Yet. It is my new home as it mixes authors and readers together in a nice stew pot where trolls are strained out and tomfoolery is not tolerated. My kind of place.
Most of all I want to thank, once again, my wife Carly. Today is my 40th birthday, and this is one of two short books I’ve written today. This one is for me, a self-given birthday present. The other one, “Forty”, is for her. Hopefully it is better than this one. But writing a book for myself is like me giving you a handmade present that involved a saw and wood or model glue and plastic. Heh, yeah. You know what that looks like.
“Forty” is actually a nice reflection on my life, and our life together. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not even Hugh Howey’s genius. Oh my God. I do have a crush on him. I’m sorry Carly.
If you hated this useless pile of words, complain here: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you liked this useless pile of words, I guess…like my Facebook page?
If you are one of those ‘tweeter’ types: @Angry_Games
If you just want an infrequent dose of stupidity injected into your brain:
I’d give you my mobile phone # but some of you would abuse that privilege. But that, in fact, sounds really tempting. No, not this time. Maybe one day.