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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiQuestion:

When is a “debut author” not a debut author?

I recently saw an ad for a new book by a “debut author.” Amazon was flogging this book hard, and the publisher had placed adverts in the trades and bought ad space on websites and magazines. Much buzz was being generated about this “debut novel” from a brand-new author.

Thing is…I’m acquainted with this “debut author.” I’ve met her a couple of times, at signings and readings. Signings for her books. Readings of her books. This author is a very nice person and a very good author–I’ve read her work and enjoyed it very much–but she is not a “debut author.” She’s just branching out, writing under a pseudonym.

Pseudonyms are a common practice in writing, and there are many legitimate reasons for using them.

  • An author doesn’t want to be directly identified. A pseudonym creates a buffer between the author and the reading public.
  • An author has failed with his own name, and his track record makes him the literary equivalent of “box office poison.” A pseudonym provides a fresh start with a clean slate.
  • An author has succeeded with her own name, in a specific genre, and her name is now associated with that genre; but now she’s branching out, writing in a different genre. A pseudonym allows her to “rebrand” herself, and write in multiple genres without confusing (and possibly alienating) her faithful readers. I mean, if the latest Stephen King book was filled with epic poetry, some readers might be pissed off (at least in theory).

But it is not the pseudonym that bothers me; not at all. It’s the publisher’s use of the “debut author” label. Yes, this is done all the time; yes, it’s a common marketing practice. There’s nothing illegal about it, certainly, but still, it bothers me. First, it is vaguely insulting. I mean, are readers so dumb that they can’t figure out that Stephen King’s latest (hypothetical) book, titled Odes to Mothers: A collection of epic poetry in the Gothic style, is probably not his usual fare?

It is also unethical, dishonest, and disingenuous. This isn’t a “new voice” in the literary world. In all likelihood, this author’s style is going to be similar to past works, regardless of genre or what name is on the cover.

And more importantly, what does this do to all the other, real debut authors? Does this cheapen their work in comparison? Does this harm their debut? Will people miss their book, in all the noise about this other “debut?” Will buyers think less of the title because the publisher hasn’t put the same kind of oomph behind it?

This is just publishing at its most cutthroat, at its most businesslike. It’s a marketing tactic, designed to maximize ROI, nothing more. It isn’t that the buying public is getting a lesser quality work; on the contrary, these ersatz “debuts” arguably provide something of higher quality than legitimate debuts, so the public is not cheated. But a person can be duped and not be cheated.

Why do we accept dishonesty, if the outcome is not harmful?

k

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Stack of BooksAmazon wants to sell your used ebooks.

Yep, it’s true. Amazon wants to sell your used e-books, and a lot of people are really, really upset by it. “It’ll ruin author’s livelihoods,” some say, and “It’ll destroy the publishing industry” say others.

BTFU.

Before we all go running through the streets with our hair on fire, let’s think about it for a second.

Amazon wants to sell you an e-book for your Kindle and then, once you’ve read it (or not), give you the option to sell it back to them so they can re-sell it to someone else. This allows them to sell it without paying anything to the publisher (and thus, the author), just as if it was a physical book…

Hey…wait a minute…

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Composing a post for your blog? Writing an email to a colleague? Here are a couple of tips:

The letter “r” is not a verb.

The letter “u” is not a pronoun.

It doesn’t surprise me when blog posts or emails have this sort of embedded “text-speak.” Nor does it surprise me to find them riddled with bad syntax, incoherent thoughts, and errors both typographic and grammatical. It saddens me that those intent on communicating via the written word don’t have the sense (or self-respect) to proofread what they’ve written before they hit “send,” but it doesn’t surprise me.

What does surprise me is when I come across the same in posts on writers’ discussion boards. What does surprise me is when a writer doesn’t catch his own mistake when he writes “Art thou saint or satin?” And it goes beyond surprise when, as I saw the other day, a presenter of a TED talk repeatedly used the letter “r” as a verb in his Powerpoint presentation.

Dude…srsly?

If you want your words to be taken seriously, stick close to the standards of writing. In speech or in the written word, if you consistently flout the accepted standards of spelling, grammar, and composition, your words, your thoughts, sometimes even you as a person, will be discounted, diminished, or totally ignored by the world at large.

I shouldn’t have to use a secret decoder ring to translate a writer’s words into comprehensible English.

In fact, I won’t.  And I’m not alone.

I’m not being a grammar Nazi or a writerly snob. I’m not asking for high-falutin’ rhetoric or exquisite imagery. I’m asking for comprehensible grammar and correct spelling. Allowances for hurriedly written texts and non-native English speakers aside, a writer must strive for quality in the written word. You can only blame your iPhone’s predictive spelling function for so much.

In the end, if you don’t mind looking like an idiot because you don’t know the difference between “satin” and “Satan,” fine.

Just don’t expect me to take you seriously at the same time.

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I’ll admit it. I got nothing done this weekend. I was positively glued to my iPad, pulling up the growing stats on my promotion for Unraveling Time, watching the numbers click upward hour by hour, day by day.

It was fascinating, and it totally exceeded my expectations.

(And in case you missed it, no worries; it’s still available for free, thru midnight tomorrow. Don’t be left out. Go claim yours!)

So, instead of something pithy and/or insightful, let’s talk about the progress so far.

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Stack of BooksYesterday’s promotional campaign–offering Unraveling Time free of charge for an entire weekend– came under the heading of “It couldn’t hurt.” I thought it might get my book in front of a couple of new readers. It did, but it did more than that. There are secondary effects.

Unraveling Time is a time-travel/historical/adventure/romance (yep…it is) and as such, I listed it in two sub-sub-genres: Historical fantasy and Time Travel Romance (didn’t know there was a Time Travel Romance sub-sub-genre, did you?) Well, this morning, due to the free copies that people have downloaded, Unraveling Time is in the Top Ten for its genres. Now, I grant you, those are rather specific sub-sub-genres, but here’s the thing. At Amazon, there are people who subscribe to the RSS feed of top sellers in those genres. There is even an RSS feed for top free books in those genres. And that, my friends, is targeting your demographic.

Of course, it’s a free promotion, and I’m not making a dime off it, but as folks in another business say: The first taste is free.

Already, I’ve had emails from people thanking me for the free book, telling me that they’ve started reading it already and are enjoying it, and one email from a brand-new reader just to tell me that she really loved a line from the book (“…and the sand
beneath him that smelled of ancient anger.”)

I can’t tell you how big my grin was when I read that.

So, if you some friend or colleague or even just a blogger like me says, Here’s a book for free, go get it. Even if you don’t read it, you’ll help that person’s book reach new readers and that is, essentially, what most of us are striving for.

k

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Stack of BooksIt’s out there. For free. Go get one!

Unraveling Time is free through Tuesday!

What are you waiting for?

While you’re doing that, I’m going to write up a review of the book I finished yesterday.

k

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Attention, biblio-nauts! I’m kicking off a promotion for one of my recent novels.

Starting tomorrow (Friday, April 5), you can get a free copy of Unraveling Time for your Kindle-reader.

No gimmicks. No strings. From April 5 through April 9, this book is entirely free. Go, get it, and keep it forever. It is literally yours for the taking!

(Remember, you can read Kindle books on your PC, your Mac, your iPad, your iPhone, your Android phone or tablet…anywhere!)

Still not sure? Read an excerpt of the book right here on this blog! What can you lose (except a weekend spent with a good book)?

Want to know more? Want to know what it’s about? (more…)

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