Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gaining A Foothold

There are a lot of people who don’t want to climb the ladder one rung at a time. They want jetpacks and the ability to shoot straight to the top.

I think there’s a definite down side to too much success too soon. One of the things about climbing the ladder is that you’ve seen the view from every step along the way. You understand the full A to Z of the situation, instead of seeing only point A and Z.

Now, I know some of you might think I should be used to my ‘so-called highly-connected writer life’ by now, but there are moments I still get weirded out, for lack of a better phrase. There are moments I’m completely numb with shock.

Oddly enough, I’ve found myself becoming something of a basis for a formula. Want to establish a name in the business? Start an ezine. Build up your credibility, get your name out there, do the blog thing and attract plenty of attention.

It’s funny when I start hearing murmurings like that. “Look how she did it – just copy her.” Funny. The big difference is, I never planned it that way. I had always hoped that Spinetingler would be something I’d be less and less involved with, over time, instead of being busier and busier with it. In fact, that’s why I argued against it. I feared it would detract too much from my writing time.

Don’t believe me? If I’d wanted the name recognition from Day 1, I would have used my writing name on the Spinetingler editorial credits, instead of a version of my married name. With the first issue being primarily a contest issue we didn’t have many regular submissions to choose from, so we filled it out with a story I wrote, but I very specifically kept my stuff out of the ezine for the rest of the year. Instead, I’m sending stuff out elsewhere and facing rejection letters or external editing, just like everyone else.

And so is my husband, I might add. He’ll have a story coming out in Mouth Full of Bullets in their March issue. He could have just put it in Spinetingler – made an executive decision, since he has ultimate authority – but he didn’t. He sent it out.

It’s important. I know the angst of getting a rejection letter. And I have to write them. I never feel smug, superior or particularly happy about sending those out.

Something I have to do later this week over Cozy Noir, btw…

One of the most surreal moments for me at Bouchercon was seeing a quote from Spinetingler on the back of an author’s bookmark. Amongst endorsement from Steve Brewer and Midwest Book Review, there we were. What the hell? When did this happen?

I had another weird moment recently, and it did get me wondering about the value of a name. I’ve pondered that in reference to author blurbs on books and what impact that has on readers and purchasers. Some insist none.

The standard line is that the endorsement is more valuable in the industry, for getting publishers excited.

I’ve maintained that blurbs are all about helping an author overcome their own insecurities.

Now, it’s funny, because people are starting to ask to use my name on stuff. And that’s weird. Those are my “HUH?” moments now. Like when people say they read my blog and I have to bite back the Why?

Funny thing is, I put up the Bruen blurb here just yesterday, and already received two comments from people about it. Do blurbs matter? Do people notice? Well, it would seem they do.

It’s still just a bit bizarre to think of my opinion having any weight to it at all. Even in reviewing, I believe it’s just my opinion. I try hard to be impartial and objective, and fair in my comments. To be able to back up any criticisms or quantify them in some fashion. But also to note what is an opinion and just give the readers enough information to decide for themselves if the book is for them.

I have company visiting today. Life will start to shift back to normal schedule tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Tribe has done an interview I think you should take note of. Murdaland came out to try to carve a new niche in the business, and it isn’t easy to start a magazine in this day and age. This is a good way to get a perspective on what it’s like to be the new kid on the block, and if you’re looking at publishing venues for your short fiction, this is definitely one to consider. It’s also one to consider supporting. I have to say the print quality of the debut issue is excellent.

And we writers have to appreciate people who are opening new doors for us.

Uncle Charlie. Need I say more?

Mildred, 93, was despondent over the recent death of her husband Earl,so she decided to just kill herself and join him in death.

Thinking it would be best to get it over with quickly, she took out Earl's old army pistol and made the decision to shoot herself in the heart since it was so badly broken in the first place.

Not wanting to miss the vital organ and become a vegetable and a burden to someone, she called her doctor's office to learn her heart's exact location.

Since you're a woman," the doctor said, "your heart is just below your left breast Why do you ask?"

Mildred hung-up without answering.

Later that night Mildred was admitted to the hospital with a gunshot wound to her knee.


Anonymous said...


I'm the first to post! And I was so happy about it that I peed in my pants. Now I forgot what I was gonna say.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I just love you humourists!

Anonymous said...

Finally, a joke my grandma will love. Now I just have to remind my dad to print it out for her. norby

Vincent said...

I'm beginning to think the scenic A to Z route might well be the better way of getting to Z.

As for your doubts over your opinion, I think you provide the reason for why it counts: trying to be objective and trying to evidence your arguments makes an opinion worth listening to.

anne frasier said...

i think blurbs do have an impact on readers. i've had quite a few readers tell me they picked up one of my books because of a blurb by a favorite writer.

they probably have less impact with writer/readers.

Steven said...

Don't get too cocky about the blurb. Bruen blurbed me too for a book coming out next year - I think he said something like "I kept turning the pages and there were always more words...Amazing!" My editor will cherry pick from that, I'm sure.

I've heard that readers can be impressed. I also think it has to give them a sense of what kind of book they're holding in their hands. Presumably the book will be similar to those written by the blurber - if you write a cat cozy and get blurbs from hard boiled writers, there may be a disjunct the reader won't forgive you for, no? Don't know enough about it really.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I think it's nice to get positive feedback from writers you respect, end of story. The point here is, I was surprised people noticed and commented right off without me mentioning the blurb. And I'm more suprised that people want to use my name and quote me.

Cocky? Nope. It's nice when people say they like what you do - anyone who says otherwise is lying. But as soon as you get a compliment in this business, at least five people will come along and tell you it doesn't mean shit or that your writing is crap. I think you have to learn to enjoy a compliment for a moment when you get it because they aren't always readily forthcoming. I'm really not sure about blurbs. The only thing I really notice these days is if I pick up a book that has none.

Ken is very encouraging to newcomers in this business. That means more to me than anything he specifically says about my book.

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angie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
angie said...

Dammit. Dana beat me!

Glad to hear Spinetingler continues to grow, and completely not surprised. Here's hoping the love outweighs the headaches for you on this one.

Shit, whenever a kick ass writer like Bruen gives you a good blurb I'd consider that cause for celebration. Who cares if blurbs are effective for everybody? If they didn't have some appeal/impact, you wouldn't worry about getting them, would you?

Oh, and happy anniversary a day late!

(Oopsie...last comment had a typo that was too dumb to let stand!)

Sandra Ruttan said...

I agree Angie.

While the jury is out on whether blurbs make a difference in sales (some think yes, others no - Anne, interesting to see your opinion on it) it's something I think you can't ignore. The bottom line is, if everyone else is trying to get reviewed, you try to get reviewed. If everyone else is getting blurbed... well, you get blurbed.

Beyond that, I try not to worry about it too much. If I was really concerned about like styles only blurbing like styles, then could I review anything in Spinetingler? Not anything unlike what I write, or I'd end up quoted on the 'wrong stuff.' That would be ridiculous, for a number of reasons. My writing is in different veins. One book might be mainstream, but the other book is noir. Do I only get comments from mainstream writers or only from noir writers? Or no comments because I cross subgenres?

Bottom line is, not a lot of authors are willing to blurb. And a lot of authors who will blurb have rules within that - perhaps no debut authors, or only from specific publishers. So, when someone is willing to read your book and offers to blurb it, you accept that gladly and appreciate it and forget about the rest. If putting my 2 cents on a book that I like some day is going to help sell a few copies, by all means.

The whole point here is, though, that I find it odd to think my opinion makes a difference at all. There you have it. I won't analyse it any further than that. Asking people to blurb your book SUCKS. It's one of my least favourite things in this whole process. If I know someone, I will sometimes ask for a friend because I know how tough it is. But adding in any technicalities about who to ask or not ask? That just makes a shitty task that much worse.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Keep climbing that ladder, Sandra. You've got plenty of people holding it steady for you.

You know, there's just something damned impressive about the word 'writ'. And only Bruen knows where to put it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I agree with you on that Daniel!

And what I find exciting is seeing the people I'm 'coming up' with doing well. There are a few more I want to see climbing with us. Fingers crossed... (hint hint hint!)

Daniel Hatadi said...

I've bought a ladder, but now I have to find a wall to prop it against, and the correct shoes for climbing said ladder. And ... time to end this metaphor.

Seriously, it'll take quite a number of months before I have a novel ready for submitting anywhere. Danny Hawaii's firmly on the backburner, but my supernatural crime novel is rolling along quite nicely.

I'm also (possibly unwisely) using it as my project for NaNoWriMo. It's already very interesting to have a kick in the arse that heightens my focus.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Daniel, I'm so excited for you and Stephen. I think it's a great thing. Bear in mind, I start to finish my first drafts typically in six weeks, so I think this is an awesome bit of incentive for you guys. And since you've got it underway, you're in a good position.

Really, I think you'll end the challenge feeling pretty excited about it, and having a lot more material to work from.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I laughed out loud. My dog, sleeping at my feet was startled awake. He jumped up and stepped on the cat. The cat hissed and swatted the dog...both are being noisey and my husband is yelling for us all to shut up, 'cause he's trying to sleep!


John Gooley said...

If I pick up a book by a writer I know, a blurb doesn't mean much. But a blurb by any well-known writer (whether I read that writer or not) on a book by an unknown will always make me look twice. So I know blurbs sell books, because at times that's why I've bought a book.

Also, that's a great joke.

Trace said...

If I pick up a book and a writer I respect has given it a positive blurb, I'm more likely to buy it. Absolutely. I just make sure now that the blurb wasn't for a previous book. I've been fooled that way before. Not that the book I bought wasn't good. But you know what I mean.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Man, why is it that Blogger always waits to go wonky on me until I try to visit you, Sandra? It ain't fair...

LMAO at Dana!

Um, now she made me forget what I was gonna say...

Hi Sandra! I'm so excited for you! You are up there, baby, and you most definitely deserve it!

That joke is awesome too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

The thing about the blurbs Trace is that you usually don't get as much promo money for book 2. So it's often something that gets pulled forward, unless you're an author who doesn't need it.

Glad you guys liked the joke. And SW, I know what you mean. Sometimes, I feel like blogger just waits for me and then gets pissy and everywhere I go it eats comments. There are a few blogs I don't even bother trying on anymore.