Category Archives: Self Publishing

A Most Frustrating Vendor Experience

I paid for a table at an Octoberfest in a nearby Texas town, to sell my novels, especially my newest release “Lady Gwendolyn”.  Saturday (Sep 28) was the date of the festival.  Not only did I pay for the booth, I was required to donate items for a silent auction, plus sign a statement that I would stay there until 8 pm before breaking down my table (penalty for not staying was losing a $20 deposit).

I didn’t mind doing those things — until I got there.  A music area was set up for a live band, for a karaoke contest, and later for an auction.  The sound was too loud all day, so much so that people could barely hear me greet them as they walked by.  They could barely even hear each other.  Subsequently, sales were dismal.

At 6:30 the auction began, and they cranked up the volume to the point that it became physically painful.  I could not subject myself to the pain, with no chance of making any sales, so I asked if I could leave.  I was told by that person that I could.  When I asked to get my $20 back, someone else showed up.  They had to talk to whoever was in charge, who sent me the money with the message that since I’d broken my contract with them, I would not be allowed in as a vendor for the next year.  No problem.  I won’t be back next year — or ever.  How can they expect vendors to stay for over an hour of that kind of physical torture?  No one was coming by the booths.  They either were at the auction, or had left to escape the noise.

While I didn’t stay until 8, didn’t they also break the contract by not supplying vendors with an environment conducive to sales until 8?

What a strange, frustrating day.

Review by Nancy Jardine for “Lady Gwendolyn”

I’d like to share my review of Magnolia Belle’s excellently written ‘Lady Gwendolyn’. This is a 5*, action packed, adventure set in the Middle Ages.

“Magnolia Belle plunges the reader immediately into a dangerous journey, one that is fraught with deception and treachery. Yet, this initial journey is only one of many – betrayal and a degree of confusion a continuing thread throughout the plot. Lady Gwendolyn and her maids, Madeleine and Ruth, find themselves perilously set upon and are embroiled in a trap that becomes filled with all the horror and bloodshed that can often be expected in novels set in the Middle Ages.

The detail throughout the novel is vivid and richly accurate, the locations straddling the border between Scotland and England.
At times, the current situation calls on characters, main and secondary, to act according to their conscience though they are torn about doing their duty to their liege lord. In Lord Richard’s case, he has some maturing to do very quickly to ensure the best for the people who are under his care…and for the lady he genuinely loves.
Magnolia Belle has created very believable characters, the developing relationships indicating just how constraining the era was in many ways regarding who might marry whom – according to their station and their contractual duties. I was very taken by the character of Beowyn, someone to rely on and wholeheartedly trust. Others were tainted, (no spoiler names here) and yet were redeemable. The little twists at the end bring the plot to a nice and tidy closure.
A very well written, and well edited novel, I can thoroughly recommend ‘Lady Gwendolyn’ to lovers of the medieval era.”

The Impatient Reader

I’ve been writing novels for many years now.  My first books are much different than my latest because I work at perfecting the craft.  I really, truly care about creating a professionally written tome.  My first books are quick, fast paced and lack in description.  The narrator told the story more than the characters showed it.  I’ve been told by a lot of writers that it should be the other way around.  The characters should show the story.

Okay.  I got it.

I have a friend (I’ve known her for 25 years or so) who likes to read my books.  It was with great anticipation I waited for her response to my latest book, “Lady Gwendolyn”.  She called the other night and told me it wasn’t her favorite.  It was too slow.

What?  I mean…what??  This is my best work yet.  Once I quit pouting, I began to think about what she said.  And I began to think about her personality.  She is, as I’ve come to term it, an “impatient reader.”  She doesn’t want to be slowed down by description.  Give her the quick and dirty and don’t waste her time.

I’ve always said (and believed) that every book has its audience.  I just had no idea that it could mean the book I’ve been trying to avoid writing.  It also explains why my first book has gotten many five star reviews on Amazon.  I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time.  But, now I know.  I have an “impatient readership”.

Typos – Gah!!

I received an email from Amazon Kindle several days ago saying that a reader had reported “T’on Ma” for a typo.  Would I please correct it.

What?  I mean…what??

Being reported for spewing racial hatred, or depraved sexual content, or even for being lethally boring – sure.  But a typo?

What was the typo, one might wonder.  Guilelessly was spelled “guilessly”.   After several read-throughs by my editor and myself, we both missed it.

At a book fair years ago, I had one author tell me he spent an inordinate amount of time hunting those little buggers down.  He even read the sentences backwards so what he meant to say wouldn’t cloud what was actually typed.  Sure enough, when he got his first order of paperbacks in, what was the first thing his wife saw?  A *#*^@ typo.

I discussed this problem with my best friend shortly after the release of my western “Tascosa”.  She  commiserated with me and said, “I know what you mean.  In your book, the first thing I saw was that you had typed ‘road’ when you meant ‘rode’.”  I think I whimpered.

This leads me to a firm belief rooted in years of experience and observation.  Editors and proofreaders are like a powerful disinfectant.  They can kill 99.9% of typos and homonym hiccups, but there will be a stubborn remnant that WILL get through.

Now, to the readers who find these rare gems in our tomes, please understand the amount of work it takes to get a book to press.  The attention to detail is enormous and time-consuming.  When you discover a typo, it shouldn’t reduce our  work by two stars. It doesn’t make the book “horribly written,” (as I had one reviewer complain).

Please understand – typos happen.

Let me introduce myself

I thought perhaps I should introduce my ‘author’ self.  Here is something I sent to fellow blogger Chris Graham today.

The pen name “Magnolia Belle” came from a dream of one day owning a riverboat that offered dinner, sultry jazz and hot R&B while floating down the Mississippi. Realizing I didn’t have the millions it’d take to get that dream off the ground, I took the name to write under. I figured it’d be one hard to forget. Plus, it’s as southern as I am.

I grew up in a military family and have lived in several U.S. states as well as the Orient. I graduated in 1978 from Tarleton State University, where, as editor of the University paper, I won first place in the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Editorial competition in 1977. I am also a member of “Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities” in 1977-78. A singer/songwriter and guitarist, I played with a band in the 1980s that made three albums. I currently lives in Texas with my husband.

Since 2005, I have written and coauthored several books.

The coauthored books are “Miko and Lil Onda Bus” and “Miko and Lil Onda Bus Again”, inspired by the lives of the three brothers in the Grammy winning band, Los Lonely Boys.  On the first day of starting a new tour, the Garzas find they have a talking mouse, Miko, living on their tour bus.  Miko finds his girlfriend Lil, moves her onto the bus with him, and teaches her to speak human.  Mayhem and hilarity ensue when ‘mousenappers’ want those talking mice! It was with Henry, Jo Jo and Ringo Garzas’ permission that the books were published.  All sales go to a SIDs charity.

The first series I wrote, “Black Wolf” involves the story of four Lakota brothers living in Austin, TX.  They have a rock band and have just signed with a national label when the series beings.  Through the four novels, readers see how their world explodes and how they try to keep their equilibrium.  The novels are “Black Wolf: Lakota Man”, “Black Wolf at Rosebud,” “Black Wolf on Tour” and “Black Wolf: Loco Lobo”.

The second series, “T’on Ma”, is historical fiction set along the Texas/Oklahoma border in beginning in 1850.  The Cooper family homesteads land about an hour north of what is now Abilene, TX.  When a Kiowa warrior and an Army lieutenant both fall in love with Lana Cooper, a story unfolds that carries them through the Indian and Civil wars. The three novels are “T’on Ma”, “Kuy Syan Joshua” and “Little Wolf Ranch.”

The first stand alone novel, “Tascosa” is a western set in what is now a ghost town in the panhandle of Texas.  It describes the life and adventures of a young woman, Amanda Clark, who moves to the lawless town without knowing anyone.  She manages to carve a successful business for herself, but not without facing heartbreak.

The second stand alone  novel, “Lady Gwendolyn” has just been released.  It’s also historical fiction, but instead of Texas, it is placed in 12th century England and Scotland.  Bandits beset a caravan taking Lady Gwendolyn Hampton of England to marry Angus Dewar in Scotland.  In the confusion, she escapes, while the bandits think her maid, Madeleine, is her.  From one peril to another, Madeleine must keep the ruse in order to stay alive.

All books are available in paperback at major online stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  They are also available in all e-reader formats from Smashwords.com.  Autographed copies can be purchased through the author’s website, http://www.blackwolfbooks.com.

Here is the book trailer for “Lady Gwendolyn”…

Book Review Swaps

So, you’ve heard that getting massive reviews on your book helps it sell.  Okay, sounds good.  But how do you get those massive reviews?  Your mom, Aunt Becky, and your best friend since 3rd grade only make three.  Hardly massive.

Being a highly motivated individual, you search the internet for ideas.  People offer to review your book for a (small) fee.  People tell you to search out reviewers of your genre by sending requests, crossing your fingers and hoping that they’ll say yes.

People tell you to go on a virtual book tour, setting up a string of bloggers to promote your book on certain days.  Some might review the book, some might not.  But do you know bloggers interested in your particular genre?  Enough bloggers to make an effective ‘tour’?  If not, you need to hire a tour host who has all those magical contacts in their address list.  It costs a few shekels, though, and you’ve only got $14.37 in the bank after buying your own paperback copies.

And then you stumble across a review exchange group.  You don’t have to buy each other’s books.  You can send PDF or Word files.  (If you’ve joined KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can’t sell on any other venue for a period of time, but that doesn’t prevent you from setting up your book on Smashwords and offering a free coupon to reviewers.)

a-HA!  The answer.  No money required, no hoping a busy reviewer will agree.  No need for a tour host.  So you find a book in the group that looks interesting to you and set up a swap.

Hold up there, buckaroo.  There are a few things you need to know.

1) Not everyone is as trustworthy as you.

2) Not everyone is as timely as you.

3) Not  everyone is good at reviewing.

There are solutions to these problems—easy solutions.  You just need to stick to your guns.

For the first two of these situations, insist that you won’t post your review of their work until you see their review of yours.  (I’m not suggesting that you try to get them to change their review, but to simply see it to know it’s been written.) That way, you’re not left dangling in the wind, waiting for a reciprocal review that eventually (if ever) shows up.  Then post at the same time.

For the third, exchange reviews before they’re posted, as before.  If you write a 500 word, in-depth review and they write a short, uninformative review based on the book blurb, you can refuse to swap.

What about tit-for-tat reviews?  What if you give this a 3-star review and they get mad?  What if they change their review to a 2-star rating?  It’s happened to me.

One solution might be to have three people involved.  Ms. A reviews Mr. B who reviews Ms. C, who reviews Ms. A.  It allows everyone to give an honest review without fear of reprisal, and to keep their reviewer reputation intact.  A little more coordination is required to get everyone at the same  place at the same time, but it’s do-able.

Now, finally, everything is in place.  You’ve found a book you’d like to review.   You’ve got everyone agreeing to the same system.  You’ve carved out a quiet Sunday afternoon to read it and…and…it stinks on ice.  Cardboard characters, cliché plot, stilted dialogue, and grammar that creates a whole new level of awful are just the first things you notice.  By the third chapter, you’re white-knuckling it every time you have to turn the page.  By the fifth, you’re eyeballing the whiskey bottle on the shelf across the room.  By the eighth, you slam the book shut and make an appointment for a root-canal.  It’s less painful.

How on earth do you review that kind of mess?

The terrible truth is that the literary world is full of authors who are simply not ready to publish.  They have no clue about structure or voice or POV.  Their mom said it was good, and that was good enough for them.  And now you’re committed to reading/reviewing it.  My advice…

Don’t.

Email the author and explain you can’t review it because it has too many errors for you to write a review that would help push sales.  Be tactfully truthful.  In my opinion, it’s best not to leave a one or two star review.  Those will show up from others.  Walk away and set up another swap.

What if YOU are the one the other can’t review?  You are the one who published too soon?  Get mad.  Be offended.  Throw a fit.  Hold your breath until you turn blue.  And then calm down.  Consider the possibility that they’re doing you a kindness by telling you the truth.  You would want someone to tell you your skirt was caught in your pantyhose, and you were exposing your backside to half of New York, wouldn’t you?

It’s the same thing.  Work on perfecting your craft.  Join writers groups for knowledge, critique and feedback.  Take a class online, or join a local writers group.  Whatever you choose to do, open yourself up to learning.  Chances are you’re a natural storyteller.  You just need to learn the tools.  Don’t give up.  But don’t be impatient to publish, either.

And now you have my 2¢ for the day. Take what makes sense and ignore the rest.  Hope it helps!