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by Elliott Baker
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Messages - Puddleduck

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1
Protection: that's the point. A man who loves you doesn't want you do die, to get a horrible, incurable disease, or even to get a beard friction burn. That's why we call these guys heroes.

Just to play devil's advocate, doesn't this imply that he has some horrible, incurable disease? In which case, how is the HEA expected of a romance novel going to play out? Are they going to use a condom every time, even when they're an old married couple? I can see putting it in because you want readers to see it as normal in case the reader lets books affect their behavior, but strictly in the context of the story ... given that condoms aren't 100% effective (even when they don't break), wouldn't the more "heroic" thing for a man with AIDS or some other incurable disease to do would be to not have sex with the other person at all, because a very small chance of giving someone a terminal illness for your own pleasure is still less heroic than zero chance of giving someone a terminal illness for your own pleasure? It's not like an incurable, terminal illness magically goes away once the couple marries or becomes exclusive and serious about each other. In fact, even as an author ethic thing, it kinda seems like constantly telling readers that wearing a condom will definitely 100% protect them from any kind of pregnancy/illness (when that isn't the reality) is less responsible than not ever writing about condoms.

2
Writers' Cafe / Re: Ethical Ways to Incentivize Readers to Review?
« on: July 05, 2018, 05:45:22 PM »
I've seen a couple of tactics being used. One author I follow does something similar to what ShelleyK mentions above, the author tells her followers that she won't write the next book until the current one hits 50 reviews. If a book doesn't hit 50, another book in that series doesn't happen and she moves on to a new series.

Holy crap, there is no way I would (knowingly) read an author who did this. Not happening. Yuck.

Crystal, if your sales are solid, why are you even worrying about reviews?

This is giving me flashbacks to fanfiction.net. "Please read and review! When I have 20 reviews, I'll post the next chapter."

Followed by a guilt-trip note at the start of the next chapter scolding people who don't review.

I was reading through a fanfic from, like, a year ago, where the beginning of each chapter had a long author's note whining about how mean everyone was being to her for questioning her poor plotting and characterization, then eventually the note was thanks for all the support (from people guilted into trying to make her feel better) ... and then she responded to the criticisms by pointing people to a blog post where she "explained" why she made the choices she did. And I was thinking, "Girl, if everyone's asking why you made the story decisions you did, they're not asking for a peek into your creative process. They're telling you your story doesn't make sense. Accept the criticism." It was actually kinda funny. And kinda sad.

Professional writers should not engage in tactics or discourse which reminds me of such fanfic writers.

3
As to the chapters thing, I definitely recommend NOT getting rid of chapters. People need places to pause. And places to skip to via the TOC on an e-reader if they're looking for something specific. (I have a Kobo, and one of the few gripes I have with it is that the search function doesn't let me jump to a particular instance of a word or even give me more than a line or two worth of context. Or if it does do that, I haven't found it yet.)

The Twilight novella that Stephenie Meyer wrote not only has no chapters, but no scene breaks. No breaks of any kind. It's nearly 200 pages of one solid piece of text broken only by paragraph breaks. That was really annoying.

IMO, chapters aren't a, "Yeah, we still do them, but nobody knows the reason" thing. I'm sure there are authors out there who omit chapter breaks and have success, but unless you have a very, very good reason, I wouldn't try to be one of them. (On the reverse side, I wouldn't make the chapters too short. *cough*Patterson*cough* In my experience as a reader, not only does that annoy me, it gives me way too many chances to put the book down. There was a book that took me like two months to read because chapters were only a couple pages long, and that was never long enough to make me interested in what was happening in the book.)

4
Writers' Cafe / Re: ACX: Using a Narrator from a Different Gender?
« on: July 05, 2018, 02:52:05 PM »
My reasons:

Authority, trustworthiness, and continuity.

Different strokes for different folks.

I kinda suspected it was because you thought people would take your words more seriously if they hear a man saying it, but I hoped I was wrong.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I prefer a male voice. It's not remotely because I think it's more authoritative. It's because I'm a straight woman and appreciate a nice-sounding male voice.

5
I think of condoms as being like a seat belt, you can just assume they're being used. If it's part of the story or adds to characterization, etc, then it's good to include, but it isn't inherently necessary.

Good analogy. If I were reading a steamy romance with characters who'd been established as sexually active adults (meaning they're not virgins and have had multiple partners, and especially if they treat sex at all casually), I'd probably assume that they were using condoms and a description of it would be as odd as describing someone putting on a seat belt. Unless there was some good plot or character reason to point it out.

I play the 'did they use a condom game' all the time in the sex scenes because I expect a baby to sneak in anytime they don't.

I actually read a book recently where there was a surprise pregnancy even though the author made a point of writing the whole "condom putting on" bit. Because it turns out (the woman knew the next morning, but the guy doesn't find out until he finds out about the pregnancy and that the baby's his) that the condom broke. Which I kinda liked, because condoms aren't 100% effective. Remember, it's "safer sex", not "safe sex". In a case like this, an extended "putting on a condom" scene could be used as a misdirect if you're going to have surprise pregnancy pop up.

6
The condom use in sex scenes question is a huge and controversial discussion by itself. Personally, as a reader, I agree that it pulls me out of the scene a little and feels kinda preachy most of the time. I prefer it without. But then, I also prefer the characters to be married (to each other) and not have a sexual history prior to that, so I'm definitely in the minority there when it comes to steamy romance readers, so consider my opinion with that in mind.

I don't like the "he's the most amazing at everything" trope because it's so very, very unrealistic. I suspect a lot of readers agree with me on that.

As for the woman climaxing while the man doesn't, you might consider that most romance readers are women and you are a man. Of course you'd find it odd that the man doesn't climax while the woman does. OTOH, it's a pretty common real-life occurrence (and has been throughout all of human history) for the man to climax without regard for making sure the woman does so as well, so I feel like a female fantasy about the opposite happening is hardly unexpected or problematic. Yes, it is sexy (for a lot of women) to imagine that the man cares so much for her that he wants to please her without getting pleasure in return. The man not climaxing is sort of proof that he's not just servicing her in order to get his own or get reciprocity from her. It "proves" that he's really interested in her and what she wants. Remember, the romance genre is mostly about female fantasy. So yeah, this is to me entirely a normal and expected trope. I would certainly not say it's necessary to include if you're writing a sexy romance, though.

7
That's a good point. Yeah, Tor is pushing novellas lately, but do we know if authors are killing it with novellas in SFF over the typical length? I would love it to be true because I personally prefer writing novellas, but haven't seen any real evidence to back it up yet.

As a follow up to my previous thought, just theorizing here, if a tradpub author wanted to try to encourage people to publish with them, it would make sense to try to tackle a section of the market that didn't tend to do well for indies. Meaning that if an author had a great SF/F novella and wanted it to have readers, they'd have better odds dealing with a tradpub (and the downsides that go with it) than going it alone as an indie.

What I'm suggesting (because I have the feeling I may not be making my point as clearly as I'd like) is that theoretically, if novellas weren't doing well for indies, that would be a prime reason a tradpub (or tradpub spinoff like Tor.com) might try to carve out that niche for themselves. Which, if true, would mean that Tor.com pushing novellas could mean the exact opposite of novellas being big in general right now. Especially if we can't see the sales figures/profit margin to know if they're actually succeeding in that market or only trying really hard to succeed.

Which is just to say that if someone means to suggest novellas are big in SF/F right now, I would need to see more evidence than Tor.com running and pushing their own novella line before I'd even begin to be convinced of it.

8
Writers' Cafe / Re: Novellas versus novels
« on: July 05, 2018, 07:16:48 AM »
a +100k brick

LOL, in what world is 100k a "brick"? I sense a lot of anti-long book prejudice in your post. I mean, it's fine to prefer short books, but you're putting it on a little thick.

Its easier to condense a +100k story into a 30k book tho, but the tone becomes another - for a different audience.

Easier than what? You're talking about cutting 70% out of a story. You think that's easy or would result in merely a tone difference? You talk as if you believe all long or long-ish books to be overwrought and padded, which is far from the case.

It's totally fine for people to have length preferences, but it's always annoying and tiresome to hear people who like short books deride long books as if the authors of longer works just can't manage to tighten their story like they "should".

(Personally, knowing that I won't have some agent or editor arbitrarily telling me to cut out 50k words from my novel because 140k is just too long--regardless of the actual content of said novel--is part of the reason I'm indie.)

9
Writers' Cafe / Re: ACX: Using a Narrator from a Different Gender?
« on: July 05, 2018, 07:07:14 AM »
I'm male and write non-fiction.

I would never hire a female to do the audio.

I'm really curious what your reason for this is and why you feel so strongly about it.

10
It's worth noting that there has been a big push toward novellas (20-40k) lately in Fantasy/SciFi. Tor.com has been publishing a ton, and even doing open calls for them. I think many readers like to read stories that are a more manageable length.

A push by who, though? One tradpub pushing them because that's what it likes and wants people to read doesn't necessarily indicate any kind of reader preference for that length.

11
Writers' Cafe / Re: ACX: Using a Narrator from a Different Gender?
« on: July 05, 2018, 06:30:11 AM »
Only one question. What POV is the work? A female voice with a first person male narrative might seem odd.

This is pretty much the only reason I could see a problem. If the book is about a topic and doesn't involve any personal, first-person anecdotes or references to being a father/son/husband/etc., but if it's solely a discussion of the topic at hand, there's no reason not to use a female narrator if that's who's best. Most listeners, I think, know that the narrator is not necessarily the author (and usually isn't). I mean, if you think about it while listening, it's weird to hear first-person stuff in non-fiction read by any narrator who you know isn't the author. It's not really all that much less weird if they're the wrong gender.

I'd say if you've got a very first-person book filled with stories about and references to your actual life, narrate it yourself (if at all possible). If that's not the type of book you have, it doesn't matter how closely the narrator resembles you.

12
The third one is the one that jumped out at me the most, followed by the second. Although now that I look more closely and see that the third one doesn't have a coffin in it except for in the guy's mind, I'd say go with the first one. I'd get rid of the thought bubble in any case, though. It's hard to read, clutters the cover, and "the book that could change your life" is off-puttingly hyperbolic, IMO.

13
Writers' Cafe / Re: Easter Eggs?!?!?
« on: July 04, 2018, 11:54:15 AM »
I don't intentionally put in "easter eggs", but then, I don't really agree with what some of y'all are calling easter eggs. I wouldn't consider a character name reference to be an easter egg, for example. Hidden letters that spell something out, okay, I guess I'd call that an easter egg. But naming characters based on a certain theme is just a naming convention you use. I guess I feel like once you start calling too many things "easter eggs" when they're not really hidden or terribly subtle, the term loses any meaning.

I don't intentionally put in secret messages that only I get into my books. That seems kinda silly to me. And I've found that in the past, when I tried to get too cutesy or clever, it just came off looking amateurish. If they're subtle enough that they amuse you and don't get in the way for people who don't get them, go for it, I guess. But as soon as it crosses the line where someone who doesn't get the joke gets bumped out of the story because of it--or if they get bumped out even if they do get it in the "Yeah, I got the joke; I just didn't think it was funny" kind of way, then it's gone too far.

Quoting lines from famous movies without referencing that it's a quote, or naming characters based on actors in your genre or something--to me, those are just references, not easter eggs.

14
Don't forget the people who lost all those page reads and had their accounts suspended or banned because of the bots/click farms used by the scammers to generate borrows and page reads. That activity puts a target on anyone with books in KU or with permafrees, and it is still going on unabated. The ones who got banned are just the visible tip of of a very large iceberg.

Yeah, it makes me hesitate or second-guess to use a permafree. Which is annoying, because it's a thing that obviously works for a lot of people, so the fact that it's a risk at all is frustrating. It shouldn't be risky to do a permafree, but because of these people, it kinda is.

15
Writers' Cafe / Re: What Would You Say to B&N?
« on: July 04, 2018, 11:24:21 AM »
I don't have a lot of experience with B&N (we don't even have one of the stores within an hour of where I live), but I'd say they should make the author interface and uploading easier. Their site was the first (non-Amazon) store I tried to go direct to, and it was so frustrating that I quickly gave up and used a distributor. I'd prefer to go direct to the stores, but when it's a huge pain, it's not worth the trouble.

I might also suggest that they need to work on pushing the Nook so that more people are aware it even exists, and give people more incentive to use it. A lot of people I talk to still don't seem to be aware that anything other than Kindle exists. These people often don't even know what "e-reader" means, let alone "Nook", and these are intelligent people who read that I'm talking to.

16
Writers' Cafe / Re: Novellas versus novels
« on: July 04, 2018, 08:06:58 AM »
Quote: "When someone calls a 50K word book a novella, I generally assume they're not all that much of an expert when it comes to publishing."

Your opinions and advice are valued by everyone on this forum including me. Your assumption about my level of expertise, because I called a 50K book a novella, wasn't necessary.

Except that unlike you, I didn't actually make a personal comment. Nor was I the only one who made that expertise assumption. Frankly, conflating "novel" with "book" doesn't convince me any more of the expertise level behind the statement. And I still think the sarcasm was uncalled for, given that I tried to phrase my comment in the politest way I could.

17
Writers' Cafe / Re: Novellas versus novels
« on: July 04, 2018, 07:16:22 AM »
I'm not worried about technical definitions of what's a novella and what's a novel. I'm just interested in keeping my readers happy.

My full length books are well over 100K, so I've labelled a 50K piece as a novella to make it clear that it's much shorter. I don't want anyone buying something in the expectation that it will be well over 100K and being disappointed. For what it's worth, my longer books sell better.

This is probably one of the reasons a lot of readers don't really understand that there is a technical difference between "novel" and "novella". A novella isn't simply a shorter novel than what any individual author usually writes. If even writers don't use it consistently, why should anyone expect readers to?

I usually aim at 100k for a novel, though I do have plans to do a trilogy of around 50k each. I plan to label those "short novels" and price them lower than my longer novels (but not as low as a novella). I think the issue of readers being unhappy with a shorter length when they're used to getting longer from you can be mostly solved by pricing it lower and by clearly labeling it as a shorter book. (If you have enough books out to have a "usual length", in a case like this, you could say something like "about half the length of one of my usual novels" as a simple shortcut.)

18
Writers' Cafe / Re: Goodreads Giveaway Results
« on: July 04, 2018, 06:50:56 AM »
Sorry you got such poor results, but I appreciate you posting about it. This confirms what I (and probably a lot of people) suspected already, that the new Goodreads giveaways aren't even close to worth it.

19
Writers' Cafe / Re: Novellas versus novels
« on: July 04, 2018, 06:37:10 AM »
Yes, today 50K words is the new "book" (what constitutes a "book" was a long and often acrimonious argument that got to ridiculous lengths when KU 1.0 was trashed and Page Reads was introduced). Many promotors, including Bookbub, draw the line now at 50K to define a book-length title. Welcome to the new world, you're plainly a genuine expert.
But back in the day, when the economics of printing and distribution was a real factor, most publishing houses demanded at least 90K words to be regarded as a book, and anything less - certainly 50K - was a novella or short novel. It's old school, but then again so are many demographics that indie writers are targeting.
By all means call 50K a book - I do too now - but there are a lot of readers who will consider themselves short-changed at that length and call it a novella.

Wow, I really don't think that sarcasm was at all warranted. Nowhere did I say what a "book" was, and frankly, that word is so vague that arguing that 50k isn't a "book" is ridiculous. Of course 50k is a "book". What else would it be? It's far too long to be a pamphlet. But the question at issue is how long does a book have to be before it crosses from "novella" into "novel", and that's not a matter of what publishers want when they acquire books or what "readers" (vague term, since readers are not a singular unit who all have the same opinion) expect, especially given that many readers don't have the first clue about what a novella actually is or how it's different from a novel. The SFWA defines a novel as 40k or more. There's some wiggle room depending on who you ask (meaning actual publishing professionals and professional organizations, not ignorant people on the street), but 50k is pretty much always firmly in "novel" range. The fact that most people generally expect novels to be longer than that has no bearing on whether 50k is technically considered a novel or not. So please take your derision and sarcasm elsewhere. Nothing I said deserved it.

20
Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: July 03, 2018, 11:58:15 AM »
So basically what you're saying is that God said so, so it's immoral.
Okay, that's fine.
I was hoping this might be a discussion on, you know, actuality and real life consequences (if there are any) rather than God says don't lie so it's immoral.

If someone else wants to chime in to answer the question, I'm all ears!
If it doesn't hurt someone, how could it possibly be immoral?

So basically you're saying you don't believe God exists and therefore my point is stupid. Which is kind of exactly the point I was trying to get across. In order to debate whether something is ethical, the parties involved must have some base level agreement on where ethics even come from to get anywhere in the discussion. We don't. So you simply dismiss my viewpoint because you don't agree with where my viewpoint comes from and demand an argument based on your own viewpoint. It's silly to have this argument on a board about writing. What you want is a college ethics class, I think.

21
Writers' Cafe / Re: On the topic of Pen Names
« on: July 03, 2018, 11:33:51 AM »
This is very interesting to me.

If it hurts no one, what exactly makes it immoral or unethical?

That's a much larger discussion about philosophy and religion. I would say if you don't believe in God and therefore some arbiter of absolute truth outside of humanity, you might not be inclined to agree with me on this point. But that's a discussion well beyond the scope of this thread, I think.

Maybe to avoid getting into a discussion of, "What even are ethics?" this thread should focus on what the majority of people (and the majority of readers) would feel/think about the issue of pen names vs. pen personas and presenting whatever evidence we can that our view is the majority view. And perhaps weighing the pros and cons of engaging in certain activities even if we think they're fine given that some number of other people think they're not fine.

22
Y'all want to start a site where you list the people you suspect of misbehavior, go right ahead.

It ain't happenin' here.

Not suspect. Know. That's the difference we're trying to highlight. No one wants to start naming people based on speculation. But when there's hard evidence of bad actors that legit authors should avoid, it's frustrating and unhelpful when people constantly talk around them but never name them so those of us not already in the know can avoid them. I think of the person sometimes referenced as "RH" who was talked about a lot at various points, while she was still doing her thing, and it was said to avoid her but without any information that would allow newbie authors to identify her and therefore know who to avoid. What's the point of even warning people, then?

23
Writers' Cafe / Re: Novellas versus novels
« on: July 03, 2018, 10:42:31 AM »
A 50k ebook isn't really considered a novella.

Yeah. It's not technically a novella by pretty much any standard that I know of. Some people would simply call these novels. A lot might call them short novels. When someone calls a 50k word book a novella, I generally assume they're not all that much of an expert when it comes to publishing.

24
Writers' Cafe / Re: Yet another WIP cover
« on: July 03, 2018, 10:41:07 AM »
Why "Zen" anyway? Is there actual Zen in the book at all? Because as it is, it comes across as playing off the word just to try to make a catchy title, which is meaningless and annoying. I wouldn't use "Zen" if there is no discussion of actual Zen in the book. If there is actual Zen discussed, I might have a tagline hit on that.

25
The only reason I did is because non-Createspace books are shown with a "will ship in 1-2 days" right above or below the BUY button.  For some people this may pause (and stop) a purchase.  In reality, the time to receive the book is the same (both are POD and both are likely using the same equipment), but the perceived wait time for the customer is less.  And as we all know, looks is what sells.

Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I don't think the majority of people are quite that concerned with getting something immediately, since they know that even if it ships right now, it'll still take a couple days to get to them. I think people who want a paperback over an ebook are already accepting a certain amount of delay. The "must buy now" people are probably getting the ebook anyway. It's certainly not something I'd base a business decision on, especially if it meant having to deal with so much more aggravation.  (And the stubborn part of me refuses to allow Amazon to manipulate me in this way, putting up with their nonsense in exchange for a completely artificial 'benefit' that they offer in exchange for doing so. Screw that.)

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