What I’m up to lately and some rambling / grumbling

Hello, readers. It's been a while since I've posted any rambling thoughts, so I figured it was about time I go there again.  Weeee! Rambling thoughts!

I'm currently working on several projects. Number one is MacKenzie Fire, which is the sequel to romance Shine Not Burn that was published last summer. I expect this book to be finished sometime in March. I was originally shooting for February, but for reasons expressed below, it's not going as quickly as I'd expected.  I'm also working on Mismatched, a romance I'm co-writing with author Amanda McKeon. If you like Irish guys and fun girlfriends, you'll love this one! I'm also starting a romance serial that will be launching in February, title to be announced and cover to be revealed soon. I'll be putting it out in parts, and the first couple will be available for 99¢ so you can try it and see if you like it for a low price. I like the idea of putting out a book in parts and using reader feedback to help build the next parts. Let's hear it for crowd-sourced romance! Yay!

I've also been on a cover-making binge. Sometimes this happens to me, almost like a compulsion I can't control. I come up with a very basic idea for a book and suddenly I find myself searching cover photo stock sites trying to find something that leaps out at me.  It's possible this is writing-avoidance behavior, but at least it's productive!  It's very motivating to write a story when I have a cover sitting there on my desktop staring at me.

This week alone I made three different covers for different stories I have floating around in my head, and I just adore them! They turned out so well. [insert girly squeal here]  I was never trained to do any kind of art work, but I sure do love making book covers, especially when the concepts just sing for me like these did.

I know you probably want to see the covers now, and I really, really want to post them here for you, I swear!  But I can't.  [sad face] Why? Well … sigh … because this really annoying thing has been happening lately, and I have to do what I can to stop it. Here comes some grumbling, y'all.  Grab a snack.

I posted a few of my covers really early before the books came out last year, and then suddenly noticed another author or two using the same title as my book or the same cover model with similar designs for their covers. Some of them published their books before me, and some after, but since I put the covers out so far in advance, I have to wonder if the earlier publishers copied or if it was just a coincidence. In any case, whether innocent or intentional, it was annoying.  I'm not the only one this has happened to.  It's getting more and more frequent as new authors come in and some of them try to ride the coattails of those ahead of them.

Did these authors deliberately copy me?  Maybe not.  I'll go so far as to say probably not. But I figured it was better off to be paranoid and wait before publishing my stuff too far in advance. I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this felt more like trickery. I'm always up for helping my fellow indie authors (or any author, really), but I'm not cool with people trying to trick Amazon's system into bringing up other people's books with mine by using same title or by them doing other things like putting my name in their keyword searches.

My reason for not wanting this stuff happening to my books is because I worry that my readers will be misled and then have a less-than-enjoyable reading experience with my name somehow associated with it. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I'm not the only one.  There are some grumblings amongst other authors about this kind of thing, especially those writing in the romance genre.  It seems like the more you hit the bestseller lists, the more people come after you and try to use your name to boost their sales.

That leads me to another subject that's been on my mind.  Trolls.  You know those beasts who lie in wait under bridges and when you try to cross, they require you pay them some coinage?  I'm not talking about those trolls.  I'm talking about internet trolls.  They're way worse.  I'd much rather deal with a beast I could pay a quarter to and then walk away from.  Internet trolls are mean little a-holes who stalk you relentlessly for the pure black-hearted joy of it, and unfortunately, I've had to put up with them for the last year way more than I ever did before.

What do internet trolls do to authors? They post fake 1- and 2-star reviews on our books so they can't qualify for bestseller/highest rating lists at Amazon, thereby making our books less visible to potential readers. That hurts sales and income. They downvote good reviews which does the same thing. They accuse us of doing self-serving things when all we're doing is trying to help people out or be kind. They post nasty comments on blogs and forums about us. They upload our work to pirate sites. The list goes on and on, but to say their impact is minimal is ignoring the facts. Trolls can destroy the writing careers and/or reputations of hard-working, talented authors.

The biggest toll the internet troll's activities take on authors is not limited to financial stuff.  Trolls cause massive emotional damage to authors and their families. I can't quite find the words to express how it makes me feel to work as hard as I do and then see petty minds working so hard at breaking me down. ‘Disheartening' isn't sufficient to cover all the emotions that I've dealt with lately over this issue. This affects my work and my life at home, which then means it affects my family and their happiness too.

It's so easy to be a troll online. No one can see you, find you, or manage your behavior. An author can't respond to attacks because then the trolls recruit other trolls to punish the author and it gets worse. People who would never say a nasty word to a person face-to-face become the most vicious, mean-spirited jerks you could ever imagine. Being nasty makes them feel powerful and in control, smarter, better, more well-read, more educated, and a thousand other things that are just illusions. It's so very sad that they can't see this, that they can't see it just shows how petty they really are, attacking while in hiding. Trolls are cowards.

I have thousands of really amazing, dedicated, loyal fans – absolute angels. They send me messages and hang around my social media sites to stay in touch. They invest their time and money in my work.  They support me in every way imaginable, and they waaaay outnumber the trolls. People tell me I should just ignore the minority and focus on the majority.  It's great advice and most of the time I can follow it.  But sometimes I can't.  Sometimes the person in me who believes strongly in the tenant “Do no harm” cannot fathom the meanness it takes to be a troll, and it makes me terribly sad to know there are people out there like that coming after me. I'm a nice person! I help people out all the time. I'm a mom and a sister and a mother and a daughter.  I work hard to support my family.  I give to charity.  What the heck did I do wrong to attract this kind of attention?  I ask myself those questions and get no good answers. Then I find it hard to do anything, least of all the thing that lures the trolls in, which is writing and being visible online.

Does this mean I've stopped writing?  No, of course not.  I write every day.  But I will say that I'm more distracted when it comes to my writing. I'm taking a little bit longer to publish a book than I used to – 6 to 8 weeks instead of 4. I also don't go to my favorite online writers' forums and post helpful tips and stories for other authors. That hurts me the most, I think. I love helping others realize their dreams.  I love giving people the benefit of all my mistakes so they can get on the right path faster than I did. I've had people tell me I helped launch their new career, helped them become a full-time writer, inspired them to reach for their dreams.  Now all of that has been taken from me; or at least it sure feels that way. Talk about a downer.

I'm not the only one this has happened to. I've seen several authors who worked their way up the ladder just disappear. If you search hard enough, you can usually find a farewell post from them online, citing attacks and other very unhappy circumstances that forced them into seclusion.  I just find that terribly sad.  I don't want that to happen to me, but I can see the beginnings of it. An author came after me when I told an online forum that I was going to stop posting, telling me I owed the writing world my advice regardless of the harm it caused me and that I should just suck it up for the good of the many instead of the good of the few (‘few' meaning: me and my family).  I'm sorry, World, but I will never put the rest of you before my family.  It just ain't gonna happen.

I don't know how long this situation will continue for me or what will happen next.  All I do know is that I love to write, I adore my readers, and I don't ever want to let them down or stop living the life I have right now. I have a dream that someday people who wake up in the morning with angry thoughts will eventually either change their attitudes or find another target, but I know that's not realistic. In the meantime, I'll lean on my support structure of readers, fellow writers, friends, and family, and I'll keep doing what I do best and that's tell stories.

16 comments on “What I’m up to lately and some rambling / grumbling

  1. I’m so excited for the the sequel to Shine Not Burn! I’m also very sad and sorry to hear of your frustration with trolls and cover stealers/copiers/ etc.
    Just keep on doing what you do, however you need to do it! Hang in there and I’m happy to support you and your books 🙂

  2. I wish these things wouldn’t happen to you. I wish they wouldn’t happen to anyone. A few days ago, I was trying to decide how far in advance to release the cover and blurb for my novel. Your negative experience is what I feared. I don’t think there’s anything all that special about my cover and blurb, but it would be nice to be able to use them publicly before launch.

    Please don’t let the copycats and the trolls drive you away from your work. I know they are awful, but a lot of us out here are decent human beings. We care about you.

  3. Hiya, I can’t wait for the sequel to Shine Not Burn as well as your book with Amanda McKeon.

    On the trolls that’s a hard one. It’s so easy to say just ignore them when it’s not your happiness and livelihood that they’re messing with. I still think the best thing to do is to just ignore them if you can. They thrive on chaos and attention and any bit of attention that you give them just somehow justifies their own actions in their warped minds and they truly get off on it. Very sick and twisted people. And I also think it’s a very good idea to hold off on revealing your covers. I completely believe there may be authors out there who will steal or try to mislead.

    I’ve seen a lot of bad behavior on both sides of the isle lately. Not only have I seen Trolls and book reviewers behaving badly but also a lot of authors behaving badly. I don’t want to get into that too much but this seems to be a very bad time for not only author but legitimate reviewers and book bloggers also.

    And you always do what’s best for you and your family. Obviously they should come first. If you don’t want to post on other sites then that is your right. You owe nobody nothing. I can’t even believe somebody would claim something so ridiculous! If these people want you to post tips and helpful comments then why the heck won’t they moderate their own site for vicious comments. Maybe you can find places that don’t allow comments or actually have moderators to moderate them.

    I’d love to have some guest posts eventually as well as a tips section for bloggers, wordpress and authors someday and when I do you’re more than welcome to come post anything you want and I will make sure that absolutely NO bad comments get through. I will totally ban their IP every single day if I have to lol.

    I’m just sorry that has been ruined for you. I don’t know what the answer is to stop it all I suspect that more sites are going to have to have clear defined rules. First I think Amazon should get rid of non verified purchase reviews completely. That alone would solve the problem. Unfortunately the internet gives a certain amount of anonymity to people who will say and do things they never would in real life and by that very definition it makes them a coward. Every time I post anything I reread it first and ask myself would you say this to their face. If the answer is yes then I post it. Of course I’m not a jerk so the answer is always yes but still, it’s very easy to get caught up in that pack mentality and to let your emotions get the better of you so I make extra sure I’m not saying anything that would hurt anyone.

    • Thank you so much Jamie. You’ve been such a great supporter for me. I always look forward to what you have to say because it’s always something kind and uplifting. I wish everyone would follow your rule of asking whether they’d say the same thing to someone’s face. That would stop 99.9% of trolls dead. They’re cowards who only speak horrible things when they think no one will find out who they are. Otherwise, they know what socially acceptable behavior is. And I’m glad to hear your brother’s looking into your hard work and finding me in the process! 🙂

  4. Sigh, I didn’t mean to post with that account. I keep forgetting I have to switch back if I don’t want my blog profile posting 🙁 On a bright note I came here to read this today because my brother told me about your post. He came and visited your site from seeing your profile at my website. How cool is that? He knows I’m a huge fan and he wanted to come and check your site out and he was telling me all about your post 😀

  5. My approach is to tell em all to suck it. There will always be hatahs. In the end, they have no power beyond that you grant them. I promise your career will be in no way affected by these fecal specks. Trust me on that.

  6. The brighter you shine the more trolls you attract. I hope you can find some peace from them. Know there are real people like me out there cheering you on. As far as the forum, Elle, you don’t owe any of us anything. You’ve posted amazing things and I’m grateful for each of them. Sucks the haters ran you off. I’ll miss ya but I get it.

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