๐ƒ๐จ๐ง’๐ญ ๐๐ž๐ฅ๐ข๐ž๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐‡๐ฒ๐ฉ๐ž ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ “๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ข๐ง๐ ”

I was eager to read the airplane thriller Falling because I’d been watching terrific movies set in the air: Red Eye, Executive Decision, Air Force One, Flight Plan, and Non-Stop.ย  I also re-read Chris Bohjalian’s dazzling, beautifully written thriller The Flight Attendant.ย 

So I wanted to love Falling, but the book falls flat again and again despite the insane hoopla it’s been generating.ย 

As the crime fiction reviewer for the Detroit Free Press, I often saw my fellow reviewers across the country rave about books that were badly.ย  Sometimes they even admitted as much, or came close to it, but shrugged off indifferent or even dreadful prose because they liked the plot.ย  Their cascading kudos, plus blurbs from best-selling authors and good packaging, could easily make a bad book successful.

That seems to have happened with T.J. Newman’s debut thriller about a pilot being given the choice by a terrorist to crash his plane or have his family killed.ย  The book has a beautiful cover but goes wrong in the very first chapter when the author grossly cheats her readers: the nightmarish flight she describes is only a nightmare.ย  That’s an amateurish mistake a conscientious editor should have warned her to avoid.

The frantic shifts in the opening chapter from one character to another are just as wrong-headed, and even worse, there are lines that need to be re-read because they don’t immediately make sense.ย  Despite a slew of blurbs from writers like Stephen King, Ian Rankin, and Diana Gabaldon, this book is marred by writing that’s either weak, confused, ungrammatical, or trying too hard.ย  Here are some examples:

Jo immediately understood why Big Daddy had failed to put a finger on the man’s essence.ย  He had an intangible mysteriousness, a mercurial quality of shadow.

A hollow dread seeped out of his heart.
ย 

Carrie stared at the floor.ย  The kettle began to screech and she shut off the burner.ย  The noise gradually softened until it was only the clock making noise again.

Daddy covered his mouth, a glint of Eureka! gleaming in his eyes.
ย 
A cold and hollow ache pooled at the base of his spine.
ย 
Stepping off the jet bridge stairs onto the tarmac, Bill squinted under his hand’s attempt to shield the sun.
ย 

Turning it clockwise, yellow digital numbers descended toward the new frequency.

Lying at Bill’s feet, broken and bloodied, her jaw hung open but no words came.

The author also doesn’t seem to know what “residue”ย  means or the difference between “definite” and “definitive”–among other problems with diction.

The story’s momentum is damaged by sometimes pointless flashbacks, one of which is three pages long.ย  Aspects of the plot don’t always make sense either, and that’s even more problematic.ย  Would a mother with young children let in a repairman who shows up unexpectedly without an ID–and then offer him tea?ย  And it’s unbelievable that her husband sees this man at home but a few hours later doesn’t recognize him on a video call.ย 

Perhaps the strangest element is the author’s relentless attempt to humanize the terrorists, whose reason for choosing this particular pilot is never really clear.ย  Almost as screwed up: the baseball players at targeted Yankee Stadium decide to keep playing even when they’ve been warned to evacuate because the plane is headed their way.ย 

Ten years as a flight attendant have given the author deep knowledge about planes and on-board protocols, but she overdoes the details at times, adding to the book’s overall weakness. It’s not entirely her fault, of course. Knowing that Falling book had been rejected by 41 agents, her publisher should have given the book the editing it badly needed.ย  They didn’t, which is either careless, cynical, or both.ย 

Lev Raphael is the prize-winning author of 27 books in genres from memoir to mystery and has been a newspaper, online, and radio book reviewer for over twenty years.

 

 

Writing is My Passion–But It’s a Business Too

My father had a small business which I thought imprisoned him, so when I was growing up I swore I would never “do retail.”

Boy, was I wrong.ย  As an author, I wound up owning my own small business and it’s as vulnerable to competition and the vagaries of the marketplace as any physical store.ย  Sometimes it’s just as exhausting.

From the beginning of my book publishing career in 1990, I was deeply involved in pushing my work, contacting venues for readings, investing in posters and postcards, writing my own press releases when I thought my publisher hadn’t done a good job, and constantly faxing or mailing strangers around the country about my latest book.

Then came the Internet and everything shifted to email.ย  Add a website that needs constant updating; Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram; keeping a presence on various listservs; blogging and blog tours; producing book trailers; updating ebooks in various ways; and the constant reaching out to strangers in the hope of enlarging my platform and increasing sales.ย  It never ends.

And neither does the advice offered by consultants.ย  I’m deluged by offers to help me increase my sales and drive more people to my web site.ย  They come 24/7 and when they tout success stories, I sometimes feels as if I’m trapped on a low-performing TV show while everyone else on the schedule is getting great Nielson ratings.

Going independent for a few books after I published with big and small houses momentarily made me feel more in control, but that control morphed into an albatross.ย  My 25th was brought out by a superb university press, Terrace Books, and I was relieved to not be in charge, just consulted.ย  Ditto with nos. 26 & 27, mysteries published by Daniel and Daniel.

Way too often, the burden of business has made writing itself harder to do, and sometimes it’s even felt pointless because it initiates a whole new business push.ย  So this isn’t a blog that promises you magic solutions to your publishing problems.ย  This blog says: If you’re going to be an author, prepare to work your butt off at things that might not come naturally to you and might never feel comfortable, whether you’re indie published or traditionally published.

One author friend who’s been a perpetual NYT best seller confided to me that despite all the success she’s had, “I still feel like a pickle salesman, down on the Lower East Side in 1900.”

Lev Raphael is the author of 27 books in genres from memoir to mystery.ย  He coaches and mentors writers, as well as editing manuscripts, at writewithoutborders.com.

The Secret World of Author Blurbs

Before I got my first book published, a novelist I knew quipped, โ€œThe only thing worse than not being published is being published.โ€ I had no idea what he meant, but I soon figured it out.

Take blurbs. Begging for blurbs for your forthcoming book is a definite downside of being published. Itโ€™s humiliating to have grovel to for them rather than have your publisher take care of it (when they remember!). You can feel like Dorothy in Oz.

Far too many authors think blurbs will magically rocket a book to success. That the right, brilliant blurb by some famous author will impress the publisher, readers, reviewersโ€“and of course our friends, family, and fans.

But do blurbs really make a difference in terms of sales? Itโ€™s hard to say. How can you quantify a blurbโ€™s impact? As a reader, there are actually some authors whose names make me not want to read a book because theyโ€™re what’s known in publishing as “blurb whores” and love having their names on as many book jackets as possible.

What you can be sure of is that not getting a blurb you hope and pray for is a major buzz kill, and getting it is often like July 4th on steroids. The entire world is ablaze with joy. Someone famous, or at least someone you admire, has given you their blessing. They like your book, they really like itโ€“wonโ€™t their fame be contagious?

Is it any wonder blurbs can make us writers frazzled? A writer friend told me a hilarious, sad story about a new author asking a national best-selling author for a blurb. I canโ€™t name the celebrity writer, but sheโ€™s huge. The newbie waited and waited. No response. So the anxious author tried again. This time she got a swift and stinging reply:

โ€œMy Dear: I understood your letter to be a request, not a demand.โ€

I sympathized with the celebrity author feeling put upon, but I felt sorry for the writer who was embarrassed, and wished The Famous One had simply said โ€œnoโ€ the first time.

Stories like that have made me determined never to ignore a request from an author or publisher asking for a blurb. If I canโ€™t do it for whatever reason, I always let them know ASAP.

Still, you never know how competent a publisher is. Once a publisher of mine in New York never got advance copies of my book out in time for blurbs and had to rely on reviews for my previous book. That wasnโ€™t a disaster, but it was very frustrating. And I recently did a blurb that the author loved, but despite her insistence, it didnโ€™t show up on the book. The publisher wasted my time and the authorโ€™s, which is just more proofโ€“if anyone needed itโ€“that publishing is a crazy business.

Lev Raphael is the author of Writerโ€™s Guide is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir which have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Author Blurbs Drive Authors Crazy

Before I got my first book published, a novelist I knew quipped, “The only thing worse than not being published is being published.”ย  I had no idea what he meant, but I soon figured it out.

Take blurbs. Begging for blurbs for your forthcoming book is a definite downside of being published. It’s humiliating to have grovel for them rather than have your publisher take care of it (when they remember!). You can feel like Dorothy menaced in Oz.

wicked witchFar too many authors think blurbs will magically rocket a book to success. That the right, brilliant blurb by some famous author will impress the publisher, readers, reviewers–and of course our friends, family, and fans.

But do blurbs really make a difference in terms of sales? It’s hard to say. How can you quantify a blurb’s impact?ย  As a reader, there are actually some authors whose names make me not want to read a book because they’re blurb whores and seem to love having their names on as many book jackets as possible.

What you can be sure of is that not getting a blurb you hope and pray for is a major buzz kill, and getting it is often like July 4th on steroids. The entire world is ablaze with joy. Someone famous, or at least someone you admire, has given you their blessing. They’ve blessed your book–won’t their fame be contagious?

happy dance

Is it any wonder blurbs make us writers sometimes get a little frantic? A writer friend told me a hilarious, sad story about a new author asking a national best-selling author for a blurb. I can’t name the celebrity writer, but she’s huge.

The newbie waited and waited. No response. So the anxious author tried again. This time she got a swift and stinging reply:

“My Dear: I understood your letter to be a request, not a demand.”

I sympathized with the celebrity author feeling put upon, but I felt sorry for the writer who was embarrassed, and wished The Famous One had simply said “no” the first time.

Stories like that have made me determined never to ignore a request from an author asking for a blurb. If I can’t do it for whatever reason, I always reply.ย  Will my blurb make a difference if I’m able to do it? I hope so, even for a little while, and that’s good enough.

Still, you never know how competent a publisher is.ย  Once a publisher of mine in New York never got advance copies of my book out in time for blurbs and had to rely on reviews for my previous book.ย  That wasn’t a disaster, but it was frustrating.ย  And I recently did a blurb that the author loved, but despite her insistence, it didn’t show up on the book.ย  The publisher, Crooked Lane, wasted my time and the author’s, which is just more proof–if anyone needed it–that publishing is a crazy business.

Lev Raphael is the author of Writer’s Guide is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir which have been translated into a dozen languages.ย  He’s done many book tours across the US, Canada, and Europe.

The New York Times Outs a “Blurb Whore”

This week Malcolm Gladwell was outed by the New York Times as a “blurb whore.” The Times didn’t actually label him that, but it’s the term publishing insiders use for an author like Gladwell whose name appears promiscuously on book jackets.

The Times article revealed how often Gladwell blurbs books totally outside his own areas of expertise and that his name “adorns scores of book covers not his own.”

If blurbing were an Olympic sport, he’d clearly get the gold.

“It’s hard to compete with Malcolm Gladwell,” said A.J. Jacobs, the author of four books, including The Year of Living Biblically, who was once such a prolific blurbist, his publisher demanded that he stop writing them. “He is always going to get the front cover. I get the back cover or, maybe, inside.”

Gladwell’s blurb helped make Freakonomics a best seller and publishers hope for similar success for their books when they enlist the nation’s Blurber-in-Chief.

33578-malcolm-gladwell-journaliste-auteur-origine

The Times reported that Gladwell hands blurbs out “like Santa,” though he doesn’t seem to care if authors are naughty or nice. No matter what the book’s genre, it does seem to help, though, if there’s a personal connection: “Many of the people for whom Mr. Gladwell has written blurbs he knows socially or has even dated.”

But the personal apparently goes deeper than that.

When Jacobs wrote about his “blurbing problem” a few years ago in the Times, he said that Gladwell told him tweeting and blurbing were “conceptually identical: the short, targeted judgment in which the initiator draws attention to himself while seeming to draw attention to something else.”

Blurbing is clearly an ego-boost and good publicity for authors writing blurbs, no matter how famous they are. Jacobs confessed in that article: “I get a thrill from seeing my name scattered throughout the bookstore.”

His tone was less serious than Gladwell’s, but the story sounds very much the same: “Me! Me! Me!”

Lev Raphael’s books–from mystery to memoir–can be found on Amazon.

This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post.