Tag Archives: publication

It’s here! Book 2 of The Wandering King published.

level_3_announce

Apologies Department

I owe readers of the the first book in The Wandering King series a sincere apology.  It was a huge mistake on my part to think I would have the second book done by the end of 2014.

As you may well imagine, a book is, quite simply, finished when it is finished, nor will that conform to a set date.  Rather than rushing out an inferior story, I felt it was more important to get the job done right.

Book two, subtitled, With This Shield, is a longer than book one, Summer, Harvest, War, by two chapters.  Which I did not anticipated when I started writing back in the summer of 2013.

Book two is a more complex book.  Not that you need an engineering degree to read it, it’s just that the story line and characters are more multifaceted.  Whereas, book one was at its core, an adventure story, book two continues in the same vein, but also gets into areas of Greek philosophy, politics and religion, that I hope readers enjoy.

Too, I have also been remiss in keeping up with this blog.  When given the option of working on the book or creating a blog post, the choice was easy.  I devoted all of my free time and put all of my efforts into finishing the book.

So I hope my readers will forgive me.  The good news is:  the book is done.  It was placed on Amazon this afternoon.  By Monday, it should have been approved for sale by Amazon.  If book two is received half as well as book one, I will be immensely satisfied.

Appreciation Section

Several thank yous are in order.  A shout out to my friend and mentor, Dr. James Morris, for assisting me with the proofreading.   Though I probably gave him an ulcer by spelling many names using the Greek form when he preferred the Latin, such as Heracles for Hercules, and Asclepius for Aesculapius, I appreciate his ability to back off when needed.

Sincere thanks to Jean Cauller, at Green Eye for Design, for helping me with the book cover.

In addition to producing the cover for With This Shield, I also asked Jean to redo the cover for Summer, Harvest, War.  The primary change was to enlarge the book title, so that it’s easier to read as a thumbnail on Amazon’s website.  Jean did a great job, and will be assisting me with the paperback covers as well.

Anticipation Sector

While the book might be up for sale June 29, you might want to hold off for a few days.  My intention is to offer the book for free for 5 days.  When I do, I’ll tip people off here in my blog.

It’s my small way of attempting to repay my loyal readers and thank them for being patient with me.  Can’t wait to see how the story is received.

 

Advertisements

The Good, the Bad, the Mediocre: Amazon Reviews

 Cartoon%20of%20the%20Day

Good Reviews: The Bubbles in the Champagne

Since publishing The Wandering King in April of 2013, approximately 2,000 copies have been distributed through various booksellers.

Ninety-seven percent of the sales have been e-books rather than hard copies, and 99% have been through Amazon. A distant second is Barnes & Noble (20 sales), and behind them is Apple iBookstore (2 sales). Dead last is Smashwords (1 sale).

The success The Wandering King has received on Amazon has been largely due to the reviews.  The average rating of your combined reviews gives your book a ranking under the ‘top rated’ listing and a special spot on Amazon’s web page.  This ranking has placed my book in the #1 to #3 spot under the Ancient Greek History category for the last 9 months.

To date, the book has received 40 reviews on Amazon.  Here is a breakdown of the number of 5-star through 1-star reviews:

                (28) 5 stars
                (9) 4 stars
                (2) 3 stars
                (1) 1 star

It has been a delight to read reviews such as:

  • Turning the last page of a good book, ending a good read, is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. One relishes the experience of both and longs for more time together…                    

                                       Dianne Smith

  • Many thanks to the guy who wrote this book. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to all my friends. The book is something special, great character development; this man can really write.  

                                      Steve Fowler

  • Well-crafted historical fiction both educates and entertains the reader. Stephen Marte’s ‘The Wandering King’ achieves those goals. I’m looking forward to reading more of his story…

                                      Gregory Stoltz

  • Fantastic story, absolutely loved this. It is the story of a young Spartan growing from boyhood to manhood. The author portrays a character raised in a harsh world, but who still dares to defy tradition and what is expected of him. Brilliant, I cannot wait for the sequel…

                                      Tomas

A heart-felt thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review.  You have greatly contributed to the success of The Wandering King.

I do not know Dianne, Steve, Greg or Tomas, or the vast majority of my reviewers, which makes reading their reviews immensely gratifying.  Knowing people you’ve never met in Pittsburgh, Dallas or Portland enjoyed the story so much they can’t wait to read more, is music to any writer’s ears.

Admittedly, I do know four of my reviewers. My mom, my brother and two friends have reviewed The Wandering King, but they all read the book and enjoyed it, so their reviews are legitimate. Knowing Amazon will delete your book and toss you off their site if you try planting fake reviews, is all the motivation any author should need to play it honest.

I wish I could get more of my family, friends and co-workers to post reviews. When someone tells me they’ve read the book and loved it, my stock response is: “Put it in writing. Post a review.” Unfortunately, the majority of people who have told me they’ve read the book, never post anything.

Bad Reviews: The Worm in the Apple

The Wandering King has received only one bad review. After a year of nothing but good reviews, I received this in May 2014:

  • This is one I put down early. I’ve read Herodotus a number of times and have wondered what Doreius [sic] and His [sic] adventures to the lotus eaters could have looked like. The author tells his story rather than shows. The writing lacks even basic description. I do not have any idea where the other reviewers gave this book even a score higher than 2. It’s that briutal [sic].

                                    Sparta Fan

If Sparta Fan had an axe to grind with me, he succeeded.  His 1-star review succeeded in knocking The Wandering King off its perch as the #1 top-rated Ancient Greek History book on Amazon.  Seems hard to believe one review could knock me out of the top seat, but it did, which has adversely affected book sales.

As a professional writer who has spent a lifetime researching The Wandering King and three years writing and polishing his work, it is distressing to read, “the author tells his story rather than shows” and “the writing lacks even basic description.”

I refer Sparta Fan to the first chapter of the book, which appears here in my blog, The Planistai. To quote a sample of showing versus telling:

  • While we waited, I noticed Gorgo was trembling beside me. “Are you all right?”
    She looked at me wide-eyed. “I am so excited!”

If I wanted to tell the reader how Gorgo was feeling, all I had to do was say, “Gorgo was excited.”  Instead, these two lines show her trembling and wide-eyed.

Also in the same chapter appears:

  • “No girl is going to tell me what to do,” my cousin Pausanias snorted. Especially not the daughter of Cleomenes. Pausanias was a husky boy, with a thick neck, gloomy, deep-set dark eyes, a face full of pimples and a broad, pug nose that had always made me think of him as a wart hog.

If I wanted to tell the reader Pausanias did not like Gorgo, all I had to say was, “Pausanias did not like Gorgo.” Instead you see how Pausanias feels through his dialogue. Also in the paragraph is a brief description of Pausanias’ appearance. Why Sparta Fan would state the book “lacks even basic description” makes me wonder if he even read it.

Rather than continue to quote additional excerpts from The Wandering King, if you want to make up your own mind on the matter, please read the sample chapter on this site: The Planistai. It’s free.

I apologize if I sound defensive. I am. Writing is an intensely personal experience. Your books are like your children. Insult my son and like any good parent, my reaction is to leap to his defense.

A friend who read Sparta Fan’s review called it a ‘hatchet job.’ In looking over the other books Sparta Fan’s has reviewed on Amazon, I see he’s highly rated a number of books by British author David Gemmell. I’ve tried to read Gemmell’s work, but I don’t care for his style. I would describe his writing as, ‘historical fantasy,’ which doesn’t interest me. To be fair to Sparta Fan, I am guessing he was expecting historical fantasy like Gemmell’s work and instead got historical fiction. 

In the end, what I’ve learned from reading Sparta Fan’s review is that everyone has different preferences, and you can’t expect to please everyone.  It’s like looking at a painting by Picasso. One person sees an odd collection of blocks and colors that remind them of fingerpainting, while another person sees a woman weeping that is so evocative the viewer is moved to tears.

I suppose all I can do is be thankful that the majority of my readers appear to enjoy my writing.  On the flip side, I’ve learned that reading negative reviews can destroy your motivation.  Who wants to spend all of the time and energy required to write a book if some stranger with an axe to grind is going to piss all over your work?

Mediocre Reviews: The Flavorless, Chewy Steak

The Wandering King has only received two 3-star reviews. In one, the reviewer had nothing but good things to say about the book.

  • The Wandering King is an entertaining read that paints a different picture of the principal families of Sparta than other books of the same genre. Interesting stories, good detail, and enough action to keep the pages turning.

                                          David Nolletti    

David appears to have enjoyed the story.  Why he gave it an average rating is a mystery.  Perhaps to him a 3-star rating means it met his expectations or maybe some people are just tough reviewers.

The only other 3-star review commented that the book was “entertaining” but he found it troublesome that I used some modern language that he did not feel was appropriate to ancient Greece. Wish he had given some examples. If he had, I would have corrected them.

* * * * *

Where initially I loved seeing a new book review appear, I am now a lot more tentative about reading them.  It’s tempting not to look them at all lest it sap my energy to keep writing.  That said, I have no intentions of quitting.  Yes, I write so others will read what I’ve written, but first and foremost, I write to create something I would enjoy reading, and that feeling is not likely to go away.

If others have had similar experiences or advice regarding book reviews, would be curious to hear them.

The Trials and Tribulation of Publication

cartoon publishingThe true joy of writing a book is the daily routine of sitting down and writing.  The process of creating something out of nothing is magical.  For me, that’s been the most rewarding part of the journey.

The worst part has been trying to get my book published.  This part of the journey has been a nightmare akin to Martin Sheen’s trip upriver in the movie Apocalypse Now.

I began by going to the reference work the Writer’s Market.  You can find it in any library.  It lists all of the publishers of books and magazines in the U.S. and Canada.  It also lists a large number of literary agents.  I went through The Writer’s Market and made a list of all of the publishers interested in historical fiction, and quickly learned my particular genre is not exactly highly in demand.  Seems there are a lot more publishers out there looking for gay/lesbian themed books, cookbooks and ‘how-to’ books than they are fictional novels about ancient Greece.  When I was done I had a list of about a dozen publishers, not one of whom I’d ever heard of before.  All were small presses who typically publish 1-5 books a year.  It seems all of the big, recognizable publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins do not take unsolicited manuscripts.  They only work through agents.

Having met someone who published through a small unknown publisher, and who ended up with no support and a second rate looking book, I determined right away that I wanted to get to a well known publisher.  I needed an agent.  Where to begin?

On the author Bernard Cornwell’s web site is an active forum where readers can post comments and questions.  Atop the forum Cornwell asks readers not to send him their own writing, unless it’s been published, in which case, he invites readers to send him their books.  He also states that if you are in the process of trying to get published, he was willing to help and could suggest a reputable agent.  So I began by emailing Cornwell.  His personal assistant replied giving me the name of an agent in New York City that works at a large, well respected agency called The Writers House.  I followed the instructions on The Writers House web site by sending them a 1-page query letter.

Ah, the infamous query letter.  Agents are such busy people, they don’t have time to read through dozens of manuscripts, so they ask that you to mail them a query letter first.  In one sheet of paper, you have to explain why anyone on the planet would want to read a book you’ve written and give a quick synopsis of your story.  Knowing no one would ever look at my book unless I came up with a good query letter I spent a month writing and re-writing my letter, selling myself, my idea and what felt like my soul.  I sent it off to The Writers House and to my surprise I received a one sentence email from the agent’s personal assistant (doesn’t anyone in the book industry reply to their own mail?) stating that they were very intrigued by my idea and to email them my book ASAP.  Which I did.  And then began waiting and waiting and waiting…

The Writers House web site asks you to be patient, explaining they’re very busy people, so you might not hear back from the for 8-9 weeks.  I waited 10 weeks then sent an email to the agent and his personal assistant, apologizing for writing to them, and explaining that I was eager to hear what they thought of The Wandering King.  I received a quick reply from the agent saying, sorry, but he was very busy working with authors who made him money and sad to say, he’d completely forgotten about me and my book.  He promised to read The Wandering King and get back to me in two weeks.  In about a week’s time I heard once more from his personal assistant saying that although they were impressed by the amount of research I’d done and by my writing ability, they just weren’t ‘feeling’ my main character.

So after almost four months of waiting, I’d been rejected after what I thought was a promising reaction to my query letter.  Picking myself up off the floor, I wrote back to the agent’s assistant and asked him if he had any suggestions on where I might go next.  He replied telling me to try the Publishers Marketplace, a site devoted to agents, publishers and writers.  I went through the site, picked out five agencies who stated they were interested in publishing historical fiction and sent my query letter off to them, only to be rejected by three of them – two never even bothered to reply.

I keep telling myself plenty of successful authors, Joseph Heller, William Faulkner, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling among them, were rejected before getting their books published.  William Golding’s classic The Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers, one of whom wrote to him, “An absurd and uninteresting fantasy that was rubbish and dull.”  Still, my first foray into the world of book publishing was pretty deflating.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Stay tuned.