May 31, 2012

New Domain

After some thought and a few suggestions from friends, I've decided to move over to wordpress with the new domain,

Hope to see you all there!

May 22, 2012

The Problems With Fantasy and Why Authors Never Change
I love fantasy - I absolutely love it. I love the adventure, the incredible universe, the never-ending twists and turns the characters experience throughout the book. For me, there is nothing greater than a fantasy story done right. The problem, however, is that nearly nobody does it right. Why? Because so many writers who try to step into fantasy writing think that their hook will be the fantasy aspect, while forgetting every other aspect of a good book. People are too focused on creativity that it becomes the opposite, becoming forced and contrived, while letting the story and character elements dangle along in an escapade of cliche and ridiculousness.

Aspiring fantasy writer.
Writers are trying too hard in all the wrong places. People think, "oh, I'm going to be a fantasy writer," and all of a sudden they assume that all they have to do is borrow races, monsters, cities and whatever other generic points they can find, and then they think their work is through. They think that just because their races and cities are out of this world (a.k.a. "fantasy") that their story is going to be amazing. Hell no, that's not how it works. Fantasy books should have fantasy, but that shouldn't be your hold on the reader - you still need an amazing story. It's exhausting just reading on and on the descriptions of different variations of Orcs, or how many different ways authors can describe a race that is essentially just a Tolkien elf.

"Jegolas, Prince of the Skinny Tree Men."
But they're missing the point. Readers want to fall in love with fantasy books from how it makes them feel, not how much bullshit there is between the sleeves. The details are nice, yes, but they shouldn't be the point of the book, they should be merely details, addons. When I try to remember all my favorite fantasy, from the biggest titles, I don't think about how many different languages and races LoTR had, or how many talking animals roamed around Narnia. I think about how amazing the bond was between Frodo and Sam, and how Aslan taught the kids (and I) more lessons than I ever could've learned in Sunday school.

Same haircut too.
I want to read about the human spirit. I want to read about struggle and love and truth and hope. I want to follow characters that I grow up with, I want to see them make the mistakes that I would make and I want to see them succeed where others wouldn't. This is what separates good fantasy from bad. Good fantasy realizes that it's about the story and the connection, while bad fantasy thinks it's about the fantasy. I'm so sick of authors who think they need to have the biggest words and the most complicated scenes. I'm tired of reading about petty things, petty wars between petty races with no real reasons or motivations other than cliche plot #62. I want to relate with the characters in the book, and I want the world to be real with fantasy elements, not fantasy with real-world elements.

And hopefully someday, some authors will remember this and will stop writing about dwarves and elves and orcs and goblins, and realize that it's not the dwarves and elves that made LOTR amazing. It's LoTR that made LoTR amazing.


March 23, 2012

Book Covers – Why do so many books fail?

Yesterday I talked about poor marketing, and today I want to discuss book covers. There is the age old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Pretty much anyone who knows English has heard this line, mostly because it’s true. The cover of a book has no bearing on how entertaining the story between the binds actually is. The cover does not make the story.

However, covers are still very important. Specifically talking about fantasy books here, when I walk through a bookstore, looking at the shelves to each side of me, I scoff at most of them. Scoff – not laugh – scoff. Why? Because the covers are so horribly made and generically designed.  I don’t understand how so many covers come to fruition. Books go through the author, editors, publishers, and dozens of other people. How is it possible that these bad covers are allowed to exist? How is it that so many people went blind at the same time?

I know that many publishers choose the book’s cover, and the author basically signs away his say in the matter. Do they do this because they’re afraid the author might choose a bad cover? Why do they have to worry about that when they’re already designing horrible covers in the first place?

What makes a bad cover?

And what are you looking at?
*Pictures of real people. This may just be me, but I find it very awkward when the cover shows a picture of an actual person portrayed as one of the main characters. It just doesn’t feel right. When I read a book, I like to imagine the characters in their fantasy world, doing their fantasy things. This is limited once you give me a real live person on the actual cover. You’re being a detriment to the ONLY thing that books have over movies and video games – the freedom to imagine. Once you put the main character on the cover of the book, it’s just always a reminder that he’s there. Now, if the book is made into a movie, it’s different, because you’ve already thought up your idea of the main character. You’re done with the reading part, and you don’t really mind anymore.

At least with Dora you know what
you're getting.
*A cover that shows nothing, usually with a person staring somewhere blankly. This second point is usually incorporated with the first point I mentioned. So an author spends half a year writing a book, and another half getting it published. And then, when everything’s said and done and all your hard work is about to pay off, you have a cover slapped onto it that has less meaning than a cover of a “Dora the Explorer” book. I’m not saying simple covers are bad, not at all. But at least have a reason for your cover. Don’t just put a picture of some red-headed woman holding a gun with sassy eyes. What is that supposed to represent? How is that supposed to lure me in?

*Dated covers and fonts. I don’t know how they do it. Go to a bookstore and look around at the fantasy section. It’s like you walked back 50 years in the past. All the artworks and colors feel like they’ve gone through 50 years of wear and tear and fade, and only now they’re being put up to be sold. As for fonts, it’s like so many books chose Arial and were just done with it. Be creative or something. If you look at the first print of Harry Potter you see they used a pretty normal font, but once it got famous the publishers took it back and redid the font. There’s no reason you can’t make/choose a good and original font in the first place. You may think it doesn’t matter, but it does. It stands out, it catches people, it turns their heads. This is what you need to happen.

Oh, how awesome.
You're riding a horse in full armor!
*Lame covers. Yes, I said it: lame, a word with more ambiguity than the recipe of a casserole. I don’t read many fantasy books anymore, just the big ones that I hear about. I don’t like picking up most fantasy books, I don’t like giving many fantasy books a chance, because so many fantasy books just look lame. You may call that an ignorant point of view, but hey, sue me for not willing to waste my time on what may be an experience I regret. Walking through the bookstore, you see fantasy covers with talking animals, kids carrying weapons, a dragon here and there, a landscape – cliché. All you see is cliché after cliché. This is why the fantasy market is so often accused of being derivative, because the only thing most fantasy publishers and writers are capable of is cliché after cliché.

What makes a good cover?

A mixture of things. It’s hard to point out specific things that makes a good cover, because everything has to work together for it to work, and so what may be considered effective one way, might not be very effective another way. But, just to give out my general opinion on what makes a nice cover:

*Font that stands out
*Color theme
*A picture that makes you think and wonder, but doesn’t tell you anything
*A cover that doesn’t make fantasy look lame. Yes, this is the second time I’ve said it.

Covers I like? I always appreciate the Inheritance Cycle covers, how they stick to one color theme and how each dragon has a story to be told (except for the last one; that was rather ridiculous). I also like the A Song of Ice and Fire covers, because they also have a color theme, and the object in the middle represents something to the story.

I know if I ever get signed to a publisher, I will not be giving over my rights so they can mess up my cover. If the fact that my cover is suspiciously similar to the cover of one of the best-selling games of 2011 isn't enough to win them over, then I'd rather not waste my time.

"This looks like that game we love! Let's buy it!"

March 21, 2012

Why do so many books fail?

(I’ll be writing this in sections, so come back daily to see the rest.)

I grazed along this topic a bit yesterday, but I want to talk about the other reasons now. Why are there so many books out there that just fail? 70% of books don’t make a profit, and don’t even make back the advance the writer was paid (which is tiny. Small-mid sized publishers give out advances worth a few thousand dollars at most). More and more writers are also switching to e-book format with the hopes to get famous on the Kindle/Nook, but are still failing. Why?

*Poor marketing. It always baffles me that a person will spend months upon months writing, editing, rewriting, perfecting their book, but then as soon as they get accepted by a publisher, they think they’re done. No, you’re not done. People complain about how publishers these days don’t support marketing, but hey, you knew that when you started writing. You knew that when you submitted to the publisher, that you would have to do the marketing or else no one would. This isn’t news to anyone anymore – most publishers don’t send you city to city on book signings. You have to make this opportunity.

Once you get past the realization that you have to be your own publicist, remember to think outside the box. Don’t limit yourself to conventions and seminars. You know who goes to these things? Other writers promoting their own books. It’s just another version of “sub4sub” on YouTube.

I feel many writers are so out of touch with what attracts young people today, and this is one of the reasons why young people are reading less. Change up your marketing. I’ve just been thinking about it for a few days, but when I start promoting my book there are several things I’m going to do:

*Give out hoodies/t-shirts with the title/logo on it
*Have concept art made by hired professionals (there are many amazing artists on sites like deviantart)
*Pay for your own travel to go city to city for book signings
*Be proactive. We know the usual tip these days. “Use Facebook/Twitter.” Yeah, FB and Twitter are great if you have followers, but if you’re starting out, you can’t just make a facebook and twitter account and expect to get famous. You have to put yourself out there. Make a blog with great information, make a Youtube channel with videos about your information. Do something.

Now you might say “I don’t have money to do these things,” or “I shouldn’t have to pay for this, this is my publisher’s job!” Save up money, and realize the fact that this is your book, your name is on the cover. Think back to your favorite books. Do you remember the publisher? Most likely not, because readers couldn’t care less about the publisher. The publisher would be happy either way if your book makes 1 dollar of profit or a million dollars of profit, because they still have hundreds of other authors waiting in line. They’re not expecting you to be the diamond in the rough, they’re not expecting you to be the next big thing. You have to market your book. There are thousands of diamonds in the rough out there, the only problem is no one is digging them out. And if you’re not going to do it, why should anyone else?

How mainstream literature is absolutely needed by the industry

I want to talk about the difference between mainstream literature and ordinary literature, and how I wish more talented authors would focus on the former. The thought crossed my mind today while I was browsing through writer forums and writer sites. I was reading posts by published writers on various topics, and I was interested to see if their books (as they usually have links to their site/blog in their signature) were successful.

Only one of the writers was a New York Times Bestseller, while the others were mostly unknown. Now, this isn’t a one-time observation I’ve come across, but something I very commonly see. Writers who are published with well-known publishers, but their names are unfamiliar to anyone outside of the “literary circle.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they were known within the literary community, but to the general public, they are not.

So I want to ask – why? I suppose not everyone can be a Bestselling author, but the reason cannot solely be because they’re bad writers. I’m sure they’re all quite decent, and I’m a hundred percent positive there are thousands of writers who deserve worldly recognition, but aren’t known in their own town. There are probably plenty of reasons for this: failed marketing, low distribution, lack of a follow-up, but there is one I want to focus on. The overall point of the book.

Let’s think about who reads books. Think about your friends (and no, not friends you met at your book club/writers conventions). Think about the people you meet daily, think about your family, and everyone else you know. How many of those people actually read, and enjoy doing it? If I’m guessing correctly, not very many. We live in an age of computers and television, where videogames and movies show beautiful sceneries and enthralling storylines, with no effort required from the audience than to sit on their butts. Reading is nothing more than a hassle to many people. And honestly, as much as I hate to say it, I agree with them for the most part.

These statistics from show a very grim truth:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. 
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. 
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. 
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 
57 percent of new books are not read to completion. 
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance. 
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit. 

Why is this? Why are so many books failing, and why do so many people loathe reading? There are several points, but again I’ll go back to my main topic – the point of the book.

Writers need to stop writing books that only appeal to other writers. Writers need to stop following the formula, stop listening to tips and stop trying to impress other writers. These are not the people who are buying your books. These are not the people who will make you a household name. Your pizza boy, your dentist, your accountant, your coworkers – this is your audience. Writers are killing their own field, because our shelves are lined with book after book of stories and themes hardly anyone wants to read.

You don’t believe me? Let’s go back to the question of how many people you know that actually read. Out of those people that read, how many of them only read Game of Thrones or Hunger Games in the last year or so? How many of them read Harry Potter and the Inheritance Cycle as kids?

Yeah. There is an audience out there. There are many people who would love to read, there are many people who would love to sit down and enjoy an amazing, interesting, work of art between binds. The problem is, writers are not catering to these people. And those that do aren’t hitting the mark.

So you may say, “oh, but I don’t write that kind of stuff.” That’s understandable, but if decent, easy-to-read literature is not produced, then the writing market will continue to shrink at an exponential rate. The work you like to write as a writer will continue to be ignored, because people are no longer being introduced into the market with the mass-appeal literature. I fear if there had not been Harry Potter in the last generation, it would be much worse now. We need a new Harry Potter more than ever, and we need it now. So please, if you’re a writer, and if you’re talented and imaginative, write something that the masses will enjoy.

And also – if you want to write the next Harry Potter, please don’t treat kids like idiots. They don’t appreciate it.

March 19, 2012

My first blog post

Let's start things off. I'm a writer, or at least I hope to be, and I have just finished my first book. I'll be trying to get it published soon, as right now I'm doing the final touches before I send out manuscripts. As for now, I'll be posting on this blog, to hopefully generate some attention to who I am and why you should spend your time reading the things I write.

 Firstly, I'm a 19 year old college student. Some may say that's way too young to start writing, (or some may not, as there are young published authors out there) but hey, why wait? If I can do it now, then why not? I don't understand why people wait; life is so short and fragile, if you don't do the things you wish to do now, what makes you think you'll do these things tomorrow? Am I right?

Secondly, this blog won't be my personal diary. I absolutely hate those personal diary blogs, where people have one or two decent articles, and the rest of the posts are really just their life story on the internet. No one is interested, really. This blog will be where I discuss ideas, and hopefully people will appreciate this. I don't claim to be a genius or a philosophy major (thankfully), nor do I have the most enthralling vocabulary, but I can convey enough to intrigue.

Anyway, cheers, and good luck to this blog! Thanks to anyone who might stop by.