The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.

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Writer’s Block

by C.M. Saunders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

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            The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and a skinny latte because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

            You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

            I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative God’s, deliver me from this hell!

            I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

            But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from.

            Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

            Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

            One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

            I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, an excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some writers like to blame their inadequacies on things that are beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being fucking lazy.

            I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

            If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

            You see? Pros and pretenders.

Privately Publishing and Promoting Your Novel

By Frank E. Bittinger

            After you have written your manuscript and polished it to the best of your abilities, your attention turns to putting your novel out there for the public to read. Deciding to privately publish your written work, instead of or after you have submitted your manuscript to mainstream publishers, is arguably the second most important decision you will have to make in your professional writing career—the first being your decision to begin a writing career.

 Speaking as an author who has chosen this route, I know the effort that goes into researching private publishers, for there are literally dozens and perhaps hundreds out there from which to choose.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to select a publisher who can make your book available to Ingram Book Group, the largest wholesale distributor of books in the world, because most book stores order product from Ingram instead of from individual authors or publishers. If one of your goals is to make your book available to chain stores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, it is imperative for your chosen publisher to have the capability to make your work available to Ingram. This also gets your foot in the door when approaching book stores about scheduling signings for your novel, but we will talk more about that later. Amazon also offers a nice publishing set up and your work will be available on their sites worldwide.

My second piece of advice is to select a publisher who can offer you the total package. Watch out for those who will offer you a list of services—such as cover design, ISBN assignment, etc—priced individually as extras even if they claim the basic publishing is free. Request publishing guides so you can gain a better understanding about what the publishers have to offer you. And look for deals. Many times publishers will have incentives for submitting your work by a certain date. For instance, if you submit your manuscript by such and such date, providing it is ready to be submitted, you may get a bigger discount on copies or a certain number of copies free. And do not be afraid to ask the hard questions such as “If I am paying to have my cover art designed, do I retain the copyright or will I have to pay a royalty to the artist if I choose to use the artwork on publicity posters or postcards printed in order to promote my book?” (A hint about cover art or editing: Local colleges and universities are full of students looking for projects as part of their class work or work experience; seek them out!)

Take your time and do the research, get the most for your time and effort. It will be worth it.

If you find one or more publishers who look good to you, remember you have the ability to go to the bookstore or library to check out books they have published, to see firsthand the quality of the merchandise. Look at the binding, the quality of print and the paper on which it is printed, the dust jacket, and any and all artwork on or in the book. You want your published work to be something of which you are proud, as well as a book that will hold up to more than one reading.

Once you have made your decision and your book is in the process of being published, the next step is planning your battle strategy for promoting your novel. It’s never too early to begin promoting, unless you have not yet written the book.

Local newspapers and magazines are a terrific way to get exposure. They are usually interested in artists living in the community and may be able to offer you an interview or an article. Radio stations are also a viable option. Remember, you can offer one or two autographed copies of your novel as “give-aways” to the above-mentioned to sweeten the deal.

Bookstores are always on the lookout to host author signing events. This is why it is imperative to have your book available to Ingram Book Group. Don’t be afraid to go to bookstores and introduce yourself. Tell the manager or assistant manager you are an author, take a copy of your book with you, and you are interested in scheduling local book signings. Ask if your book is available for the store to order. Persevere, for every no you get, you will get a yes.

Libraries are also places which host author signings and offer a great opportunity for promotion. In most communities, when an author donates a copy of his or her book to the library, the local paper or magazine will print an article and perhaps a photograph.

Find out if there are any book clubs in your area. A good source for this information is the library and the newspaper. You will often see blurbs in the paper or flyers in the library for these events. Make your offer attractive to the book club, tell them you are available to come to the club meeting to discuss your novel and to answer any questions. Trust me, readers discuss the books they read with family, friends, and other people they know. My experiences with book clubs have proven to be enriching and worthwhile.

Offer to give readings: this is where an author will read excerpts from his or her work at events. This is an excellent way to intrigue people who may be walking by or merely browsing. Select what you believe are some of the best scenes from your book, ones which will capture the attention or imagination of your audience.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer about promotion and publicity is to network, get out there and get to know people. Hand out bookmarks and flyers, mail postcards, and, yes, even give away a few copies of your novel. Word of mouth has proven to be the most effective method of advertising and it’s free in most cases. The more people you have talking about your book, the more publicity you will have.

You can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Be active.

Get your book out there—get the buzz going.

What Bugs You?

Everyone’s got something that annoys the shit out of them, right? I think sometimes creative types are a little more in tune with such things, because some of us pay a little too much attention to people and what they do. So, we thought, why not share our peeves, and then invite you all to share yours. Once a bad thing is out, it’s not so bad, right? Maybe. Here goes.

Liam: Autocorrect is evil.

(Agreed, but sometimes it’s also funny)

Steve: Publishing pet peeve – Writers who point out other writers’ typos publicly on social media (without invitation to do so). You’re laying down a gauntlet there, and you’d better be pretty fucking good before you feel you have carte blanche to call out other writers based on a typing error. And in most of the writer groups I’ve been in, nobody’s that good.

Other Pet Peeves – People who assume moral superiority for having the “right” opinion. I’ll take a brash cunt that does the good in front of them over a prick that loudly moralises from an unchallenged high ground any day of the week.

(I love it when you use the C word, Steve.)

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Hanna: Someone chewing with their mouth open, which makes me want to scream, For fucksakes, close your damn mouth when you chew!

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Katrina: Publishing-wise, when a writer is convinced they’ve nothing left to learn or refuse to edit beyond grammar mistakes. Makes me stabby.

(Like, one time I said I wasn’t making the edits. ONE TIME. Jeeze.)

Christian: (Are you all ready for this?)

1. Cunts who block me on Facebook for no reason.

eyebrow.gifFTL markets (In English: For the love markets, which pay zilch to authors)

2. Snowflake pretenders who spend a lot of time whining about how hard writing is instead of, you know, writing.

3. People who have multiple online profiles. I don’t mean pseudonyms for writing. That has a purpose. But I’ve recently learned that some weird fucks maintain multiple profiles just for the hell of it.

(We’ve contacted his doctor and he’ll be receiving stronger medication in the future.)

Renee: Oh, the list is so long. I let too much annoy me. First, I cannot stand know-it-alls, so I guess that’d fall into snowflakes who think they don’t need editing or have nothing left to learn, and moral high ground assholes, as Steve mentioned. Second, loud eaters. Really hate those. And close talkers. Mostly because they breathe on me and I hate when people breathe in my face.

Publishing: Whiners bug me. Do your bitching in private, not on social media. Kay? Thanks.

Finally, just in general, I also can’t stand sniffers. By that I mean, people who constantly sniff and snuffle. Get a fucking tissue and blow your damn nose. I think that’s enough for now.

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Now it’s your turn. What bugs you guys? Come on, share and we’ll judge you for it.

 

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Filling Your Niches

 

by Renee Miller

Many of us here at Deviant Dolls write in what are called “niche” genres. A niche genre is one that appeals to a small, specialized reader base. So, unlike something like romance, which has thousands and thousands of loyal readers, our genres attract a fraction of that number. And traditional publishers don’t go gaga over such books. Yeah, they want you to write something original and new, but not too original or new. They need to have somewhere to put it. If they can’t find the shelf your book belongs on, it’s a marketing problem. Plus, a fraction of thousands is not as good as thousands. It’s risky. Publishers are businesses, so this is understandable. Frustrating, but sensible if you’re looking at things from their point of view.

Just wish they’d stop asking for all this newness if they don’t want it. *grumbles*

I’m joking. Mostly. So, why would we choose to write in genres with such limited sales potential? Well a number of reasons.

First, a niche genre doesn’t mean you won’t sell just as much as someone writing in a popular or “commercial” genre. I mean, consider how many authors are out there writing the popular stuff in the first place. Spread those many readers out across those many authors, and the numbers aren’t so staggering for individual authors.

Second, I’ve found that these niche genres have the most loyal readers ever. This means, if they like what you’ve got, they’ll keep coming back, because it’s hard to find what they like. And they don’t mind paying. There are a lot of readers out there who’ve grown accustomed to the freebie. They expect it. Nothing wrong with that. We writers have created that expectation, so it’s our own fault. However, fans of niche genres like bizarro, erotic horror, absurdist comedy, slipstream and the like, know that it’s tough to find well written books that appeal to them, so they see value in it. When a reader sees what you’re offering as valuable, the freebie thing becomes less important.

Third, it’s fun. The most exciting part of publishing today is that we can bend and break genre lines. There are a bazillion sub-genres out there, and authors are creating new ones every day. Are they going to be bestsellers? Probably not. I mean, selling is the really tough part of publishing. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t sell. You can experiment. Have fun with your settings, themes, characters, etc. This experimenting helps us learn and evolve, and eventually, find the genre (niche or otherwise) where we excel.

I love writing weird stuff. If it’s strange or uncomfortable, I’m your girl. I also love writing sex scenes. Is that weird? Probably. I love writing about themes that are uncomfortable and using bizarre characters or situations. The more “WTF” or “OMG, no!” a story is, the more fun I have writing it. I’m not much for the butterflies and rainbows or the happy ending. What I’ve written previously that includes such things was a chore to write. I struggled to make it be what I was told it should be to “fit.” Sometimes I love writing tried and true stuff, but my “muse” is only truly satisfied when I’m going to an extreme of some kind. I like being a little uncomfortable with what I’m writing. Makes me more productive.

At Deviant Dolls, we chose to embrace genre straddling (and genre breaking) authors, because we believe in fiction that challenges the reader to think in new ways. We believe entertainment is valuable and so is allowing the reader to escape into a world that asks only that they buckle in and enjoy the ride. We love readers who beg to be scandalized, horrified, and/or tickled until they wet themselves. Niche genres make it easy to do this. Maybe, one day, these niche genres will become part of the norm. (Exciting) It’s more likely they won’t. That’s cool too.

Because we’re always looking for new ways to keep our readers happy, we’re curious: What’s your favorite niche and is it being filled? (Pun intended, because puns area great.)

Check Out Our New Member

by Renee Miller

 

How’s your Sunday going? Lazy, I hope. Before I can get on with the lazy, there are updates to be posted. So, what’s up with the dolls? Well, we’re being disgustingly neglectful of this blog, but with good reason. We’re busy little bees. Also, everyone but me is kind of a jerk. (I’M JOKING FORBES. PUT THE MATCHES AWAY.)

First, say hello to the newest Deviant Doll, Frank E. Bittinger. Frank writes horror mostly, and he’s a tad eccentric. That’s how we like our dolls, right? Of course it is. Make sure to check out Frank’s book and stalk him a little. He likes that. He likes a lot of strange things, apparently.

What else? Well, Katrina Monroe (also known as Katrina Saete, because she got – ugh – married) FINALLY released her haunting Neverland re-telling, ALL DARLING CHILDREN in October via Red Adept Publishing. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. Get your ass and gear and do it.

Speaking of must-reads, Tony Bertauski has added another science fiction adventure to his list of only the best books ever. Humbug (the Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge) will be released on November 15th, BUT if you pre-0rder it, you’ll get it at the low price of just 99 cents. So what are you waiting for?

And Forbes West has also been doing things. Writerly things.  Like re-releasing his weird, but wonderful tale NIGHTHAWKS AT THE MISSION, via Auspicious Apparatus Press. Not only is his original story reworked, but there is bonus material you don’t want to miss. If you don’t buy it, he’s going to bitch and moan. We’ll have to tell him pretty things and hold him for a bit. Please, help us.

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Hanna Elizabeth has been quiet the past few months, but while being so, she’s released a haunting tale originally published in the FLYING TOASTERS anthology, titled THE MAN UPSTAIRS. A haunting little ghost story that’s perfect for a cold, dark night, as most are this time of year.

What’s what? Oh, that. It’s just Steve sobbing. He does that sometimes.

Speaking of Steve, I see you over there eagerly awaiting news about him, you frigging weirdo. If you haven’t already yet, check out his  Authors & Dragon’s podcast. HIL-ARIOUS. Steve is also working on new bookish things, but he hasn’t told us much about them yet. Stay tuned. Don’t worry, he’s only crying because he’s happy. Promise.

*Katrina, do something about him.*

The other funny-talking Doll, Christian Saunders, has a few short stories coming soon. Keep your eye on DeadMan’s Tome, because they’ll be publishing Christian’s SOMETHING BAD in mid-November. He tells us there is significant emphasis on black goo, so that’s intriguing.

And finally, there’s me. Well, I have a few novels “in progress,” such as a follow-up to Mind Fuck, called “Small’s Soldiers.” I know you’re all used to me publishing those rather quickly, but I’ve slowed down the past few months. Not because I’ve stopped writing. I’m just taking it easy and shit. By shit I mean I’m working on short fiction as well. Look for my latest, THE FRIDAY SPECIAL, on November 11th over at DarkFuse Magazine. It’s delicious, I promise.

I guess that’s all for now. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page for news, events and the occasional free goodies. We’re also planning a Christmas thing. It’ll involve festive days filled with little contests, freebies, new books, and possibly a virtual party. We know how you enjoy those. Stay tuned.

Do you love a party?

 

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Happy Friday, Dolls! Here at Deviant Dolls we have two priorities: writing and readers. Keeping that in mind, we try to make sure we thank you, readers, for your support. For example, every Monday on our Facebook page, we give away freebies to a lucky reader. Of course, you have to like the page to be eligible for said freebies, but that’s easily done, right? Right.

And we’ve committed ourselves to connecting with you in whatever ways we can manage. This includes hosting regular virtual “release” parties. That sounds kind of kinky, eh? It’s not that kind of release. Some of us publish new books on a somewhat frequent basis, and others are simply too shy to make a lot of fuss when new titles are available. We also know you guys are too busy to get excited about every new release we offer.

So, we’re going to celebrate both our new books and you, lovely reader, every few months by drowning you in shits, giggles, and goodies. Sounds exciting, yes?

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Over the next few months (and during the past few months) your Deviant Dolls have been working hard to give you something new and exciting. For example, this summer, Christian Saunders released No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches, while Renee Miller released Mind Fuck, Steve Wetherell released the audio version of Shoot the Dead, and Katrina Monroe popped her self-publishing cherry with A Tale du Mort. In September, we look forward to the third installment of Renee’s Fangs and Fur Series, titled Dragons, Dicks, Sins and Scribes (she’s nuts), and Katrina will be releasing All Darling Children with Red Adept Publishing. And we’ve got more to come.

For now, look at this delicious cover…

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Keep an eye on the Deviant Blog, because we’ll also be doing a Christmas Blog Hop and virtual party to celebrate new fall/winter releases by dolls such as Tony Bertauski, and yeah, probably Renee too.

The first of these parties will be September 18th. You can get all the details on our event page on the Facebook. Goodies will include Deviant Doll titles, as well as a few new books from our Deviant friends. We’ll also be showering you with cool “fan” stuff from our store. You can check out some of that right here.

Can’t make it to the party? Don’t worry. We’ll still be giving away cool stuff every Monday, and we’ll offer a few goodies in the weeks leading up to The Big Day. Stay tuned.

 

 

Do You Deviate?

by Renee Miller

According to Meriam Webster, deviant is defined as, “Different from what is considered to be normal or morally correct.” So, the opposite of deviance, in my opinion, is conformity. In art, I think conformity is the enemy. Don’t you?

You there. Yes, the one who disagreed. You’re outta here. Go on. Take your shit with you.

Norms, as most of you probably know (I hope), are rules and expectations, which members of society use to determine right and wrong. Deviance is the failure to conform to these norms. Social norms are different from culture to culture, so what’s deviant for you might not be deviant for someone else. It’s all so subjective. Sigh. In most societies, fighting is considered deviant, because we shouldn’t physically harm one another just because we can, and yet, boxing and ultimate fighting exist, and we LOVE them. So in that context, physical violence isn’t deviant. It’s a sport. Killing each other is also deviant in most cultures, except of course when the law dictates it’s okay (during war or as a punishment, for example, not that I’m taking sides on either, so just calm the fuck down). See what I mean? It’s all so confusing.

Deviant behavior is generally given a negative light, but we still embrace it. Why? I think it’s because many of us realize there are many positive things that can occur as a direct result of deviant thoughts or behavior.

Yes, extreme deviance, such as murder, are not good at all. Bad deviance. Don’t do it. Deviant behavior or ideas that lead chaos and/or violence is not a great thing either. Don’t be deviant in a way that creates a cluster-fuck of awful. Do it in a way that helps us evolve and become better humans.

Be the type of deviant that forces social change, for example. How does being weird or “not normal” change anything? If an act deemed as “deviant” occurs often enough, it can eventually become accepted. Once upon a time, women weren’t allowed to read. If we could read, we might think, and if we thought—gasp—we might question or neglect our womanly duties. The horror! Our bold lady ancestors were having none of that, though, and women secretly learned to read and write anyway. Soon, there were so many women reading, the menfolk were all “Fuck it, boys. They’re doing it anyway.” Sure, it wasn’t as simple as that, but you get my point.

Deviance also helps us adjust to change. It’s terrifying when something new comes along. Alternate lifestyles, new technology, and the like are scary for many people. But those brave few who embrace these initially deviant and unpopular things help the rest of us find the balls to check them out for ourselves.

Using the oppression of the female gender as an example again, remember when women weren’t allowed to vote or how it was frowned upon for a gal to wear pants? Remember when it wasn’t okay for a girl to love another girl (or a guy to notice his team mate’s sweet ass)? (I realize we’re still struggling with same-sex relationships, but stay with me. We’ve come a long way.) A few so-called deviants did things differently anyway and over time, the deviant kids made these new things less scary, and now we all have pants and (in some cultures) we can love whoever we want to love and women can vote.

The downside, I suppose, is that deviant behavior can also be used for evil. Religion, for example. Back in the day, many folks used religion as a reason for murdering countless women (and some men). They were burned, drowned, and whatever else the judge in question deemed appropriate. These behaviors are definitely deviant. I mean, in polite society, we do not kill people for doing naughty things like magic. However, with enough time and enough preaching, the church’s murderous ways were accepted as the norm.

That’s bad deviance. Don’t do it.

We chose to embrace deviants here at Deviant Dolls, because the dolls believe in pushing boundaries. We believe in change and individual expression. We love the outcasts, because the outcasts are the ones who typically break new ground and burn the old, useless institutions that do nothing but stop or slow down progress. Besides, we’re all deviants in some way. There is no single person in today’s world who follows every single law/norm/moral society dictates we should follow. Whether you smoke, drink, gamble, masturbate, hate your asshole neighbor, drive above the speed limit, make an illegal u-turn, cheat on your taxes, pick a scab, or whatever, we’ve all deviated from what we’re told is right. Sometimes we even have good reasons for it.

The only way to change what is normal is to do what is not normal. You must question the preconceived notions of what is morally right. You must challenge people to look outside their box and view the world from another perspective. This can’t be done if you don’t deviate a little bit. In writing, the willingness to do what isn’t “accepted” is extremely important. It frees us creatively in a way that is terrifying and awesome.

That is why we are deviant and it’s why we encourage you to be the same.

NOT the bad deviance. No murders, rapes, burglaries or whatever’s going to hurt someone else or get your ass thrown in jail. Do the deviance that has a purpose in the grand scheme of things.

There. Now you’ve been disclaimed and informed. Go be an innovator and a shit disturber. We’ve got your back.

 

Typewriting Monkeys

by Katrina Monroe

 

 

This past Tuesday, my older daughter had her first softball game of the season (and second, because this league likes double-headers and pissing parents off). Unlike last year, this year the girls are allowed to do fun stuff like slide and steal bases. My daughter stole her first base and, as she stomped on it, she clutched her heart like a Victorian ingénue who’d stumbled into the Red Light District. She’s the smallest girl on her team, so this drew a collection of “D’awws” from the other moms.

Then, one turned to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re not videoing this right now.”

My first thought was, “Fuck off.”

My second thought was, “Oh, shit. I should.”

But I didn’t whip out my phone like some twenty-first century gunslinger. I continued to watch my daughter play.

Later, I felt a little guilty. My parents live in Florida, which is a far fucking cry from Minnesota, and rarely get to see my kids. A video would have been nice to show them. Or I could have had it to transferred to DVD to embarrass my daughter with later. Or I could have just had it to watch over and over again when she’s irritating the crap out of me and I need to be reminded of her good qualities.

But then I stopped feeling guilty because I’ve been feeling guilty a lot lately.

As writers, we feel two things predominantly: overwhelming excitement over a project and guilt.

Guilt over writing too much.

Guilt over not writing enough.

Guilt over sacrificing time with family, friends, and “real jobs” to get the fucking words on paper because we need to sleep at some point, too.

It comes from every angle. And sure, sometimes people have good intentions—You’re looking pale, maybe you ought to go outside; Have you eaten?; Tequila is not a fruit—but in the end, the most torment comes from within and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Except stop feeling guilty.

You didn’t write today. Instead, you planted your ass on the couch with a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies and read the shit out of a book that’s been on your to-read list for months.             Good! Where do you think inspiration comes from, anyway? The toaster?

You didn’t read, either. You took a walk. Or went grocery shopping in peace (praisethelord). Or bought the fancy coffee and watched people quietly argue over that bitch, Jennifer.

Good! How do you expect to be worth a damn to yourself (or anyone else for that matter) if you don’t take the time to do nothing once in a while?

You spent eight hours in front of the computer, typing like a trained monkey, because the words just wouldn’t leave you alone. The house is a wreck, there’s no dinner on the table, and your significant other is seriously concerned over the state of your lightning-fast fingers.

Good! Protect that writing time fiercely! If you don’t take it, no one is going to give it to you, and you’re not going to write that book. Or play. Or script. Or whatever it is that makes your little heart go pitter-fucking-pat.

You’re not a typewriting monkey, and you’re not a useless human being for spending the bulk of your mornings making shit up, either. You’re a person. Or a humanoid cephalopod; we don’t judge.

Do what you think is right for you in this moment and the next, because no one else knows better than you. And for fuckssakes, stop feeling guilty about.

I don’t. Not anymore.

The Long Game Baby

 

by Renee Miller

 

Sometimes I wonder what the Christ I’m doing. Here I am, starting a collective of authors, which, in case you’re wondering, is a lot of work that doesn’t involve even a single pat on the back or anything, and I’m working the day job, and I’m writing, and I’m marketing, and I can’t even afford a goddamn island. I’ve been at this writing and publishing shit for almost ten years. What have I got to show for it? Well, not much on the surface. I still work a day job, as I mentioned. Still fight for every single book review, both good and bad, still agonize over how to sell a goddamn book. Still dream about one day, getting up, leaving my jammies on, and writing from sunup until sundown, while my adoring fans eagerly await the dropping of my next title and my maid, Julio, massages my poor, tired shoulders. Yeah, Julio, right there… Oh! Julio, you’re so bad.

Oh, the dream…

Where was I? Oh, right. You guys see very little forward movement in my career, except, perhaps, for the mounting number of titles on my Amazon page. Hell, I don’t see much movement either. It’s depressing. It’s soul shattering. It’s fucking infuriating.

WHERE IS MY FUCKING FAME AND FORTUNE?

Actually, I’ve achieved a great deal behind the scenes. So have many other authors. This site, DDP, is new, but none of its authors are. We’ve been around the block, some of us many, many times. Bunch of publishing whores. That’s us.

The thing is, smart authors know publishing isn’t a quick payoff kind of game. It’s a long, arduous process with few rewards and a shit ton of bullshit.

The key to success is baby steps.

And an addiction to unhealthy things.

Maybe a bit of ego.

Masochism…

And baby steps.

First, learn how to write. Anyone can write a book, but it takes skill to write a GOOD book. You have to learn that first. Me? I started with a couple of children’s books. Awful children’s books. Then I moved on to horror. Awful horror. Then I wrote a romance. It was also awful. Then I said, wait. I need to figure this shit out. I spend a few years learning instead of just vomiting the shit from my head.

It was a lot of hard work. I spent at least five years JUST LEARNING. I didn’t publish my first book until about three years ago. And I did that myself. I had a traditional contract once upon a time, but it didn’t pan out. This up and down world of publishing is like that sometimes. Give you a series contract, publish your book, put you through the agonizing process of writing a second book you never even planned, then the edits, sobbing, and then, “sorry, we’re closing” and you never hear from them again.

Where’s my fucking money, man?

Another tangent. I apologize. I admit, some days, I hate this fucking industry and contemplate packing it in. But I don’t.

Baby steps, I remind myself.

I hear so many authors bitching and moaning about all the hard work they’ve put in. Why aren’t we seeing a payoff? Why aren’t my books selling? Why isn’t this agent making me rich? Why the fuck can’t I get anything but a small fucking press contract? Why don’t the agents love me? Aaaaageeeeennnnntssss!

Slow down, buddy. Just breathe. Let’s look at the bigger picture.

How many “big” publishers are there? That’s right FIVE. Used to be six, but shit happens. Anyway, there are five major publishers for all the wannabes out there.

  1. Hachette Book Group
  2. HarperCollins
  3. Macmillan Publishers
  4. Penguin Random House
  5. Simon and Schuster

Each of these publishers have a shit ton of imprints and divisions, but many of them don’t accept unsolicited or unagented manuscripts. So, here we are. What are we left with if we can’t land an agent, which is a fucking nightmare process that doesn’t even guarantee your book will be published before your grandchildren are born?

We have small presses. Sure, they’re small and sure, you won’t see a shit ton of sales or forward momentum, but sometimes success requires taking a chance and being willing to sit back and watch what happens.

Yeah, you say, but I’ve already worked with small presses. ANOTHER small press would be a lateral move.

 

Not necessarily.

You need the RIGHT small press. The reality is in today’s traditional industry, our best chance is with almost entirely small press, boutique press, new press, etc. Very few big names are offering new talent a shot, agented or not. If they do give you a chance, odds are you’ll see mediocre results. Is that a tear? Stop being a little bitch. This industry isn’t for crybabies.

What’s a girl to do? Well, first you get a few books published with respected small presses, maybe release a couple on your own, and then you work to achieve some decent sales and reviews, and then you network. Maybe you sign a not-so-great deal just to get yourself lined up for that no-so-great-but-slightly-better-than-the-other-one deal. It’s okay. We all have to kiss a frog now and then. Maybe blow him. No judgments here. Just don’t spend the night. Network again. Market. Oh, look, more networking. Some writing. Writing. Queries. Crying. Hello unhealthy addiction to booze, food, and/or narcotics, and back to writing.

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Once you’ve done this a few times, for an undetermined number of years (the actual number is a vague calculation based on the tide, the phase of the moon, alignment of the stars, the weather in Spain, and what you had for dinner last Tuesday), you get a better shot at an established or at least respected agent and then maybe, MAYBE, a shot at impressing the bigger publishers.

Long game, baby. Buckle up. It’s not a smooth or even very fun ride.