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When Trolls Attack!

You know, that sounds like the title for one of those B-movie horror films that are played at three in the morning. When Trolls Attack! “Don’t cross that bridge. You may not like who wants you to pay the toll!”

But all kidding aside, internet trolls are a hot topic as of late. With the anonymity of the internet to protect them, trolls go skulking around the forums and the discussion groups and the blogs and Twitter, using threats, name-calling, false reviews, and a plethora of other despicable tools at their fingertips for just one purpose: to hurt the targets of their e-bile. Authors seem to be a special target for these trolls. Get on the wrong side of one and they will take great pleasure in trying to bring down the rating of your books or leave hurtful comments on your blog.

And the world has not let this phenomenon go unnoticed: thousands of authors, self-published and traditional, large and small, have signed petitions trying to get Amazon and other retailers to take measures against the intentionally hurtful reviews trolls leave behind (I’m happy to have signed one myself). Authors like Anne Rice have taken to Facebook to encourage others not to be discouraged and to fight back against trolling. Articles have been written on blogs and in newspapers and magazines, and a recent study on trolls has come out, confirming what we already know about them: that the people who engage in troll behavior are “everyday sadists” who enjoy cruelty and seeing others in pain.

Yes, we are fighting the trolls as well as coming to understand them. However, it can still be pretty traumatic when a troll decides to target you. If, God forbid, one should set their sights on you, here are some tips in order to hopefully mitigate the damage and maybe even fight back:

1. Take a deep breath. If a troll leaves a nasty review on Amazon or a cruel comment on your blog, take a moment to calm down. Remember, trolls will target just about anyone, and what one is doing to you isn’t out of any personal grudge. So take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, do whatever you have to do to calm down and approach this rationally. When you’ve calmed down, talk to someone about it if you need to, preferably someone who understands the effects bullying can have on others.

Once you’ve calmed down a bit, the next step is to:

2. Create a record of the trolling. Even if the post or comment or review isn’t threatening or violent, it’s good to keep a record of the harassment. If this same troll keeps coming back to make you a victim, you cn use your record to prove there’s a history of harassment and fight back.

3. Try to get rid of the post, if possible. Once you have a record, you can delete the false review or cruel comment if you want. I certainly would, if I felt that it was in my interests. It might take a little work, but you can even get Amazon to get rid of a review made by a malicious bully.

4. If the harassment continues or starts to get threatening, don’t be afraid to contact the authorities. I know some people might be wary of approaching the police or contacting a lawyer, especially if the harassment is restricted to the Internet. However, not fighting back only encourages a troll, and no one should make you feel uncomfortable, especially not some coward who hides behind a keyboard to hurt others. So if the bullying doesn’t stop, and if it starts getting threatening, don’t hesitate to take action to protect yourself.

Now, sometimes those in the authorities will hear that this is happening on the internet, and will immediately stop listening. To them, you might as well be talking about Wonderland, Atlantis, or the planet Raxicoricofallipatorius, crazy talk that has no bearing on the real world. If this happens, don’t get discouraged. Ask for the supervisor, talk to a lawyer. Keep pushing, because this is your safety and your mental health at stake.

5. Fight back. Once you’ve taken care of yourself, it’s time to fight back. Talk aobut your experiences, advocate for ways to control or stop what trolls do. Signing that petition is one way. And remember, you are not alone. Other people have experienced trolling and survived. You can all band together and work together to stop the continued persecution that internet trolls revel in.

Now, I’ve never experienced trolling personally (and I hope this post doesn’t lead to me experiencing it). But I’ve talked and spoken to and heard from people who have been attacked by trolls, heard how they reacted and I’ve taken what I’ve learned from them to form this article. If anything I’ve said sounds inaccurate or like a bad idea, I do apologize for my inexperience and naiveté.

But if this post helps in any way to fight against trolling and makes it easier for you to deal with their sadistic tendencies, then I am glad to have been of some sort of service. Because if we wish for the world to change, we must be the agents of the change in the world. Nothing’s going to get done unless we do it, and I’m just trying to do my part.

Categories: Amazon store, Blogs & Websites, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Writing Descriptions

Have you ever watched the movie, “Charade”? If not, go and watch it. This movie keeps you on your toes after scene after scene takes you in different directions. The movie stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

When I taught writing, I showed part of this fast-paced movie to my students and had them write down what they saw. This made them pay attention. What often happens is we observe the world around us without really studying our environment.

Many years ago I took a course titled, “Writing for Children and Teenagers.” In their lessons, they told you to keenly observe the people in your life. Watch them and listen to the way they respond to you. Look for such items as the way they speak, what color are their eyes – really are – not just green but a grey-green – to how they grasp your hand from strong to weak or what?

When you “keenly observe,” you notice those hidden things you take for granted. Jot these down. Take a notebook and go outside and just watch life. As I drove Saturday to a writing-group event, I glanced at the sky. It was blue but not just blue it was aqua-blue with pure-white clouds. Notice I used specific words here, and this is what you need to do in your writing.

A place becomes “real” in writing when readers see and feel it. This includes the five senses – sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Of course, not every scene allows you, for instance, to have a character sip tea, for example. However, when you can incorporate all of these, it adds “reality” to your work. Here is a scene from Lockets and Lanterns, which critique readers said made them feel as if they were there:

“Florence pulled her cuffs over her knuckles. Her fingers cool [touch] to the spring breeze, which drifted in from the window behind her. The pot roast smothered in gravy sat on the china platter. [taste] She inhaled [smell] the potent onion aroma and passed the plate to her left.”

Descriptive scenes are important. It lets readers know if the work is an imaginary place, such as in science fiction and fantasy, or something they are familiar with either in today’s world or in the past. In Ruth Ann Nordin and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, I set the scene for my novella, She Came by Train, included in the anthology as such:

“The train chugged toward the station. Smoke bellowed from the engine’s stack. Standing underneath the roof of the brick-and-mortar depot, Opal gulped as she watched it approach.”

What words give you clues to the time period? They are the smoke bellowing from the engine’s stack (denoting a steam-engine train no longer in existence) and her standing underneath the roof of the brick-and-mortar depot (giving you the impression of a past railroad station).

Thus description brings in your audience and helps them experience that period. However, you do not always need a long span of descriptive words to set a scene. In Ruth Ann Nordin’s Return of the Aliens, you learn through a few choice words that the setting is contemporary.

“‘Thanks for the reminder.’ She walked over to the closed door of the dressing room in the bridal shop.”

How do you learn to make scenes come alive? Write, write, write and learn to add such items as a breeze (touch), a fragrant flower (smell), a food (taste) and a character’s voice breaking as he/she remembers or experiences something tragic. You cannot do this in every scene, but you can, as previously stated, do that in a lot of them if you make an effort. Lead the reader in and let them truly “live” with your characters, and you could do this by simply watching your surroundings and remembering to choose specific words and include the senses.

Remember also to use your thesaurus whether it is the old printed copy or online.

Below is a simple observation test to get you started.

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Observation Test 

 Ask yourself questions as you watch your everyday life. Do you see the details and/or remember them?

1. What specific colors are the sky and the clouds today?

2. How many doors are there in front of the school nearest you?

3. In a traffic light, is the red or the green on top?

Now, come up with some of your own to stimulate your mind. Have a pleasant day and many of the Lord’s blessings to you.

Categories: Amazon store, Barnes & Noble store, General Writing | Tags: , , , ,

CreateSpace’s New Distribution Options: Pros and Cons

Recently, CreateSpace added several new free distribution options to their distribution channels. This includes distribution to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and your local bookshop, academic institutions and libraries, and to CreateSpace Direct. These options, once available only to authors who were able to afford them, are now available to self-published authors with all sorts of incomes, writing styles, and fan followings.

Now there are definite perks to doing this. Authors would love more readers, and if they are able to reach readers in places previously unavailable to them due to monetary concerns, this can only be good for them. And bookstores, which have been suffering with the rise of the e-book and online distributors, will probably benefit being able to cater to the fans of authors whose works were before only available on certain online retailers. In a way, it’s a symbiotic relationship, both for authors and booksellers.

Not only that, but the books of self-published authors are sometimes rejected by libraries and academic institutions because they are self-publsihed in the first place, or their self-published status means that the books don’t come from certain distributors. If authors are able to get their works into libraries, that means people who don’t own e-readers or who can’t afford to buy books online can now read the books of self-published authors through this new distribution system.

And, using the expanded distribution channels means a potentially higher royalty rate for every copy sold.

However, there are drawbacks to this. Amazon, which owns CreateSpace and it’s print-on-demand services, determines minimum prices for all works published through them. They calculate these minimum prices by determining the length of the book, how much it’ll cost to print, how much they get from the sale of the book, and how much they need to give the author. Recently when I published my novel Reborn City, I saw that the minimum price they gave me was a little less than nine dollars, much higher than I’d expected. I wasn’t happy about it, but I decided to go with it and make the best of it.

When today I decided to try these expanded distribution options on RC, I found out that in order to use these expanded distribution channels, the list price would go up to at least thirteen dollars. In other words, the increase didn’t cost anything for the author, but it did cost extra for the reader.

I decided not to take these extra distribution channels because of the price hike it’d require. Some of my friends and family would not be able to afford a paperback copy because of a list price, or they’d be much more reluctant to buy it because is it not  their genre in addition to being over thirteen dollars. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to make people pay too much for his work more than he wants them to actually read his work. Terrible character flaw, I know, but I live with it.

However that’s my own personal choice. If you wish to, go right ahead and sign up for these new channels. It’s your choice, which as I’ve said before is one of the best perks of self-pbulishing.

And who knows? You could see your sales go up dramatically, and your fanbase expand like a hot-air balloon. Not to mention the joy of telling friends and family that your work is now available in bookstores and libraries.  That’s always something to make you feel good. And for some books, the increase in the list price might not be too high, so if you have my problem with pricing books too high, it may not be so bad after all. I might still use these channels for my collection of short stories, which is already very low-priced.

What do you think of these new distribution options? Are you planning on use them? If so, why or why not?

*Note: Since this post’s publication, I’ve had a change of heart and I’ve decided to try distributing my books through these new channels in the hope of reaching more readers. Whether or not I’m successful, we shall see. Wish me luck, as well as everyone else using these options for the first time.

Categories: Amazon store, Author Platform & Branding, Book Pricing, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Createspace, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Print-On-Demand, Self-Publishing, The Reader, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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