Free Books Made Easier

I’ve written previously that I’m not a big fan of authors giving away their books, except under a few circumstances. It might feel good to see all those new potential readers, but I know from personal experience that I only rarely end up reading the free books I’ve downloaded.

However, for the times when it’s helpful to offer an ebook for free, Barnes and Noble has now made the process much simpler. I applaud them. Of course, the real issue is that Kindle, the biggest player in the game, still makes giving away your book a pain in the butt unless you choose to sell exclusively through them. I understand their rationale — they don’t make any money off free books. But in the long run, it may help some authors sell more books overall, which means more money for the beast called Amazon.

So come on, Amazon, give us a break. Make giving away our creative efforts a little easier.

Happy writing,

Kelee

8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers To Review Your Book #wrtr2wrtr

Good advice. Follow it!

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Book bloggers actually do want to review your book! But we don’t have a lot of time so when you forget to include vital information or don’t follow the submission instructions, your requests end up in the trash bin. Here are 8 ways to convince me—and other book bloggers—to review your book:

There’s no reason to pile on and make your request email an epic read – that’s your novel’s job. When approaching reviewers keep your request on point. Give each blogger exactly what they ask for – no more, no less. Remember, we get lots of emails and the easier you make it for us, the greater your chance of acceptance. Here’s what should always be included.

1. Reviewer’s name: Guess what? You may have to read through the blog a bit to find it. Check contact information. Read all the way to the bottom of submission guidelines…

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Wading into the Cultural Appropriation Minefield

In case you haven’t been keeping up on news in the literary world, novelist Lionel Shriver was raked over the coals last week for defending cultural appropriation in her address to a Australian writers conference.

I can’t judge what she said. I wasn’t there and her speech hasn’t been posted by the conference. I only know what I read in the New York Times. I do think cultural appropriation should be taken seriously. Throughout history, minorities have been mostly powerless to stop the dominate culture from using their images and culture for art and entertainment. We have become more sensitive about the practice, but we still have a long way to go. While very few white people would show up at a party in black face, we still have a football team called the Redskins that fans fiercely defend in the name of “tradition.”

But those are relatively simple examples. When we look at how white writers use minority characters and cultures in their books, it becomes much more complicated.

I remember reading the first Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, to my daughter. I was curious to also read the original 1930 edition. The caretaker in that version is a drunken, comical African American. Readers back then were so familiar with the stereotype they probably didn’t think twice about it. The 1959 version changes the caretaker to a white man. There’s no more ethnic stereotype, but on the other hand, there’s no longer a minority character in the novel.

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Some cultural appropriation activists believe writers from the dominate culture should never portray people of color in their books. Their argument is that we can’t understand their experience and the nuances of their culture. We end up creating a dishonest or superficial portrait of them. There’s truth in this. We as writers need to thoroughly understand our characters’ worlds. Those worlds become more authentic when we “write what we know.” But it also means we turn our novels into a bland, safe paste that literally lacks color.

Even writing positive minority characters can be disrespectful. When I was a screenwriter, I don’t know how many scripts I read featuring a “Magical Negro” as Spike Lee dubbed the character — a wise black man or woman, sometimes with supernatural powers, who advises the main white character and helps him overcome his emotional obstacles. Morgan Freeman has practically made a career out of playing these characters!

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There are other issues to consider. Even someone from a minority culture doesn’t understand all aspects of it. Should there never be another Holocaust novel because how can any writer who hasn’t lived through that experience write about it authentically? Should an African American writer who grew up in an affluent community write about the inner city experience? It becomes very complicated!

So what do we as writers do? First of all, I think we need to look long and hard at all our characters and why they’re in our novel. Did we make a character black or Latino or Asian just to add diversity? That’s not enough. Characters need to be fully realized in the context of the story and their culture, whether they’re white, black, brown, or any color in-between.

I think it’s also important if you’re portraying aspects of a culture you’re not part of, whether it’s a Native American ritual or an inner city barrio, to talk to people who know it well. Have them read and react to your book. Listen to them.

We as writers need to push boundaries in our lives and writing. We need to write unafraid that we might provoke negative reactions. But we need to make sure we’ve done everything in our power to consider the impact of what we write, and how it affects readers of all backgrounds.

Happy writing,

Kelee

 

What Do I Write Next?

I rarely suffer from a lack of creative ideas. My problem is trying to decide what to write next. This usually begins when I’m in the midst of my current book or screenplay. What started out as an exciting premise or character starts to bog down in the details. Instead of writing, I find myself staring wistfully out the window, thinking of all my other story ideas. When they’re still an etherial part of my imagination, those ideas seem so perfect. They could practically write themselves. Perhaps I should write one of them next, I muse. Or perhaps I should even put aside my current manuscript. I could take a break, write something else. Maybe my current project will be easier when I return to it.

But then my rational mind takes over… usually. I know I’ll face just as many challenges with my new idea as soon as it starts to take shape. If I don’t finish my current book, I may never get back to it. I need to focus and recommit myself to my present course. I’ll let the new idea gestate in my mind as I fall asleep at night. If it’s good, it will take root.  It will get better. Or maybe not. Perhaps a week or month from now, I won’t be so enamored with my new literary paramour. Then I’ll move on to my next idea.

Best wishes,

Kelee