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Dana King
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Good post on its own, plus it hits on something I've often wondered about. Given two authors with similarly sized hardbacks, one of who is Stephen King and the other is someone building a readership, why are both books the same price? People would be more willing to try someone new if it wasn't as expensive, just as they're probably willing to pay more for the proven commodity. Am I missing something?
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Allison, The way I get around it is to give a one- or two-paragraph synopsis of the story, with as little plot as possible. Often it's just the inciting incident and a hint of the subsequent complications. After that i talk about the writing. Is it humorous? Hard-boiled? Noir? Are the characters believable? Are the plot twists believable, without giving any away. (This can be tricky.) Dialog: do the characters talk, or make speeches? Does the book remind me, favorably or not, of another book or movie. Most important, what can I tell the reader about whether they should spend $25 on the book themselves. I'll give a qualified recommendation for a book I didn't care for if I know my misgivings are a matter of personal taste.
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I write 12-15 reviews a year, and I rarely have to agonize over dropping a spoiler, because I'm reviewing the book, not summarizing the plot. My poet peeve with today's reviews in general is they're more like book reports, giving a quick summary of the book's events up to a point where the reviewer thinks he should let it go lest the final effect be spoiled. The problem with that is there are often little events along the way that should be learned in the reading, not in the review. That being said, there's no good reason not to discuss potential spoilers in a blog or web discussion. The reader should know the topic before she reads too far (maybe a single "HERE BE POTENTIAL SPOILERS" alert at the beginning would suffice). Then, if they're worried about spoilers, they can just stop reading. The reader lacks that option when reading a review; that's why they're reading the review, to learn about the book. Not to have it ruined.
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I WAS a teenager during the 70s, and I agree completely. Monty Python changed comedy forever. Their great gift was understanding the inherent weakness in sketch comedy was finding a suitable ending, so they left the endings out by going to something completely different. (Like a man with three buttocks, or a man with a tape recorder up his nose.) Rolling the parrot sketch into the Lumberjack Song was brilliance. BTW, there is a Spam Museum in Minnesota, near the Hormel factory, where live actors recreate the Spam sketch throughout the day.
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I was one of a handful of men at the "Writing for Women" panel at Bouchercon. One point continues to astound, confuse, and irritate me. When it was pointed out that women are the primary readers of such books, the explanation was offered that women see the killers brought to justice and feel safer. What about the victims that allowed us to get to that point? Incidental collateral damage? There's a disconnect here, and I'm not sure what to think about it.
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A friend pulled that on me once, in front of a room full of her friends who were strangers to me. That was about twelve years ago. To this day, I occasional gig her for something and say, "That's for 'say something funny, King.'"
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I'm pre-published, so I've never had to worry about a cover from the author's point of view. As a reader, I'm always a little confused by this discussion. I can't remember the past time I picked up a book because of what's on the cover, aside from the author's name. Of course, now that I think about it, I have NOT picked up some books because I didn't like the cover, so I guess that's the same thing, from the opposite side.
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I remember Lou Jacoby well, and always got a little anticipation when I saw him appear. You're right about MY FAVORITE YEAR; it's much underappreciated. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.
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Well put. I'm sick to death of characters who are distinguished by gimmicks. I've been told my PI character needs to be more damaged; the immediate reaction when I spoke to some writer friends was to make him an alcoholic or drug abuser. The character trait that will make him memorable--if it does--will have to be something that is part of him, not just stencilled onto to him to make him less "ordinary." It will also have to affect his responses to what happens to him without seeming like a reach, so that, even if the reader is surprised at first, she'll think for a second and say, "Of course that's what he'd do."
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Bring a pizza or a dozen doughnuts or something for the staff at the bookstore. They're being inconvenienced with no benefit to themselves. Make them feel appreciated. It may not help with your hand selling, but it sure won't hurt.
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You're absolutely right about Letterman. On a side note--and I hate to bring this up because I'm still new here--Al Franken does not give the Democrats a veto-proof majority. 60 votes can stop a filibuster; it takes 2/3 to override a veto. David Letterman is very funny--much funnier than Jay Leno--but he is also very strange.
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You and Chris nailed it. You're right: art doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's sickening to see how many artists want to pick and choose when they're subject to public scrutiny, and when they're not.
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I had a not dissimilar experience when a synopsis was requested of a manuscript I had. What I did was to lay out one sentence descriptions of each chapter, then pick the five of six true high points that HAD to be mentioned. Then I wrote material to connect them. It forced me to focus on what was truly vital to tell. What if you write your 200-300 word review, then pick two or three salient points and throw everything else out. From that you could stitch together some connecting material to make it work. Just a thought.
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Just like your other list, we pretty much agree again. I like football and fish more than you do, but I find myself getting tired of football as I get older.
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I generally prefer Faces to Heels, though there are notable Heels who can rise above it. (My favorite character of all time may be Al Swearengen of TV's DEADWOOD.) My issue with flawed heroes is the flaws seem too often to be applied like decals, just so he has something to overcome. I much prefer a "normal guy" as the hero--cop or PI--who has to confront something horrible and try to keep it from scarring him in the process. I know I'm in the minority on that.
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Thank you for this. I'm a pre-published author. Should I ever get to knock the "pre" off, I know my publisher will expect me to handle most, possibly all, of my publicity, and will not only not help much with the expense, they're not likely even to help with contacts or a knowledge of what works best. Some kind of publicity assistance will be needed, as I work a full time job and can't afford to pull a Joe Konrath and meet personally with every adult in the United States to sell my book. (That's no rap on Joe; I just don't have that kind of personality.) You've just given me some valuable knowledge.
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I'm with you half way: I wouldn't take a PDF file for a review. I've done over 100 reviews, all for free, and I do most of my reading on the subway to and from work. I'm not going to print out and bind hundreds of pages of a book I may not like. We differ on one point: I would NEVER sell an ARC. Some I keep; the others I give away to my mother or friends or libraries.I was told early on it's not ethical to sell a review copy, and I think that's fine. I got the book for free, and the pleasure (I hope) of reading. I'm not writing 2,000 page retrospectives of how this book fits into the author's oeuvre. I'm devoting about 600 words to helping a reader make up his mind. The book alone is payment enough.
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My Beloved Spousal Equivalent and I just recently watched all 60 episodes a second time. It will probably be an annual occurrence for us, at least for a while. The best thing I can say about it is, when the last episode finished, I still had the feeling all those people would continue to live their lives. We just weren't going to get to watch them anymore.
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Just two words: Yankees suck. I'm good with the rest of it.
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