The Dreaded “DNF”: When A Reader Rejects You

Okay, so… being an author is funny. Not funny in the, “Oh, haha, this is a barrel of shits and giggles,”—though, I struggle to find the joy in a barrel of shit—but funny in the more accurate, “I pour my heart and soul into every word of this piece of paper and then ask people I will never meet to shred it to literary pieces because I seek validation by my peers and already know I’m a hack but I will keep writing and do it all over again because I am also a masochist,” way.

Yeah, you know what I mean, fellow fledgling author. I see you, there. And if you don’t know what I mean, well, just wait. Come back when you get your first taste and we will commiserate together.

“Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?!”

For those not interested in writing that might be reading this, I am sure you are sitting there in your bubble of self-confidence wondering why on Earth any human would do something so self-flagellating. Well let me just throw a few quick reasons out there:

  1. It helps us hone our craft. Sometimes getting ripped apart is the best thing to happen to a book. It makes the author question things and go in to fix them. Fixing  usually = better content for you.
  2. We finally feel right! I’ve said before, there are two types of writers: One who thinks everything they touch is literary gold (regardless of the truth), and one who just knows it’s not good enough no matter how much they work on it and everyone who says it’s great is just placating you because they feel sorry for you or want to spare your feelings. (No, I couldn’t possibly be in group number 2.) You’ll be hard pressed to find an author who falls within the very narrow margin between the two.
  3. It keeps us honest. This almost goes with number 1, but by putting your work out there for critics, you are keeping yourself from developing an ultra-ego, helping prospective readers make a better decision as to whether they want to buy your book. In my opinion, transparency is invaluable when it comes to reviews. Not everyone is going to like your book (we’ll get to that in a moment) and when all people see are glowing reviews, it looks suspicious. I know if I don’t find at least ONE person nit-picking something, no matter how small, then the reviews start to feel disingenuous.

Also, to further explain how our brains work, we can save a lot of time by telling you to just NOT try to understand it. A creative’s brain is a twisty-turny labyrinth of nonsense at the best of times. Many people in my life have personally adopted the “smile and wave” strategy when dealing with me and I think it suits all of us just fine.

But that isn’t the main focus of this blog. As usual, I have derailed from my train of thought and wandered into a field of poppies.

No, I want to spotlight one of the most soul-crushing types of reviews:

The dreaded “DNF”.

4vq4l

 

For those who are not in-the-know—oh, how I envy your innocence—when you see “DNF” on a book review it means the reader Did Not Finish.

 

Let me say that again.

A reader, who is the bread-and-butter of your chosen path, who is of a type of personality that usually hungers for more and more books to read, DID. NOT. FINISH. READING. IT.

Nothing could be worse, right? Now you are back to an unformed lump of self-deprecation and hopelessness. All of your dreams and aspirations have been proven to be out of your reach and now you need to go ahead and finish those Insurance classes so you can return to the “real world’ and live out your life as just another wire in the machine of dull, menial, adulting. Right?

Okay, so, it might feel that way, but let’s take a deep breath and put down clipboard and 401k. (Okay, don’t really give up the 401k. You totally need that.)

giphy

DNFs happen. They happen all. The. Time. The fact of the matter is, you are not going to please everyone. There might be a million people who love you voice, your style of writing, or your genre, but there is always going to be a million more who are just not into it. Usually, thank God, many of those won’t find their way to you because they will know beforehand that your story isn’t for them. Then there are the few who actually do make it to your book, find it’s not to their taste, and put it away never to look at it again. Even then, it’s not the end of the world. The ones that hurt are the ones who actually review the book, stating that they couldn’t finish.

Yes. Ouch. That smarts.

tumblr_o1dc7zc86r1v0auhmo1_500

 

But, guess what. You’ll still be okay. How do I know this? Because today I got my first DNF review. My initial reaction?

 

 

Yeah… I’m not proud. I almost cried. Was ready to just give up and forget it all. Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?! Because that’s what you do! Once I settled my overdramatic ass down, I made myself really read the review again. Really take it in and mull the words over, savor them, and allowed myself to step outside of my mental hangups to really figure out what this meant. Do you know what I found?

That it doesn’t really matter.

Sure, hearing that someone just couldn’t even get through my (free!) book hurts me right in the feels, but that’s just one person. One person who, might I add, was actually completely sincere and sweet about how they felt. She didn’t slam my book, blame my writing skills, or in any other way diminish my hard work.

It just was not to her taste. Simple.

You might looooove grilled cheese sandwiches, but if you find you don’t like fig and goat-cheese (or, maybe more accurately, a sandwich filled with government processed cheese product) does that mean the chef isn’t even suited for a school cafeteria? No. You just have a taste for some things, and it didn’t quite hit that mmmm factor. That is basically what this reader did. She was even kind enough to ask that other readers not take her personal tastes as gospel when considering my book. That’s completely fair of her, and who am I to have a tantrum over that?

So, even if you find your book on someone’s DNF reading list, don’t despair. It’s not as bad as it seems at first. Don’t listen to the voice that tells you that one (ONE!) person not being into it means no one else liked it. That voice is lying, and a dick. Breathe. Eat the ice cream. Have the tantrum. Now pick yourself back up and keep at it.

 

 

How to Throw a *Proper* Virtual Launch Party

Launch parties. They sound fun, don’t they? I mean it’s all in the name. A party is a gathering of people coming together for some special occasion (my favorite occasion is having booze in the house) and letting the good times roll, and who doesn’t love to let their hair down once in a while? What a fantastic way to promote your new book!

With Deny the Moon getting ready for it’s own re-launch, I thought I might blog a little about my whole Launch Party process. You know, to sort of give the inexperienced a little peek into the whole thing.

giphy

Look up every resource in the entirety of the human earth (not to be confused with the non-human earth) on the subject of Facebook Book Launches. Follow every suggestion to the letter, including those that contradict each other, until you have consumed so much information that your head feels full and woozy and you suspect it no longer has to do with the fifth of Evan Williams you started in on during blog #67.

Take all of the advice you read about and throw it all in the trash. You are going to wing this!

200

Tell a couple of close confidants about your plans. Support is key to getting through this with some sanity. Make sure you repeat your worries, fears, and concerns over and over until they understand that you are totally not asking them for their help. Hold the tears inside when they don’t pick up on the hints. Swallow your feelings along with the month-old, half eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s you forgot was in your freezer.

79842a685024bff94dbe6948282d2301

Stalk other launch parties to see how well they did. Not to take their ideas, because we already decided they were rubbish and we are winging it! But we just want proof that this sort of thing actually works. Of course, there really is no proof because we can’t see their sales reports, but boy they look like a fun bunch!

Book launches can be broken down into five basic elements: Games, discussions, giveaways, music, and of course, promoting your book. I mean, the whole point of these things are to tell people about the fruits of the last seven years of your labor, but you don’t want to make the rookie mistake of making the day all about your book. No, why would we want to do that? That’s “rude.” You want to try to convince people to go to Amazon and buy a $3.00 eBook in the most upfront and honest way possible!? Pffft. Amateur. We all know what everyone in your prospective audience really wants is to jump through a ton of hoops and force a smile as you discuss character inspirations and mood music (not to mention all those rejections from “gate-keeping” traditional publishers.) Why, I’m sure most of them love to sit through time-share presentations before getting their free vacation, as well!

tumblr_m6roaz9eax1r5t6t1o1_500

Also, make sure you have been planning this thing for at least 6 months before you realized this was even a thing. These things take time, after all, which you don’t have! Now you have all of four weeks (if you are lucky) to do half a year’s preparation. Good times!

You  want to show these strangers that you really have your shit together, because when someone thinks “author” they think the picture of mental health and organizational godliness. So, set yourself up for success by finding a block of time that both gives you the freedom to mingle in real time with your party guests and manages to find that sweet spot of peak traffic time across the many time zones of the world!

One way to achieve this perfect union of scheduling is to just make the party last a full day, that way you don’t become that monster author that excluded anyone. There are no clique-queens here! Save the feelings of betrayal for when you kill off the one character your readers love.

giphy1

If you just can’t shove the rest of your responsibilities to that back burner where you’ve managed to dump all of your other works-in-progress while you focus on this one little launch party—don’t worry, I am sure you will remember those little sparks of ideas you had while scrolling through Published to Death for advice on throwing a virtual launch party (spoiler: there isn’t any)—then you can always create a script for you to copy and paste from. Candid interactions are so overrated anyway. So is winging it. And sobriety.

24272876

Make sure you set up a few party games for your guests to interact with one another (because, let’s face it, it’s unlikely you will get three to five hours of actual uninterrupted-by-life time to sit and focus on making sure every guest gets to know you on a deep, personal level!) They can’t just be any random game, though. You don’t want to shatter this illusion of competency with an unstructured party! The games should match up with your book somehow.

Theme is the key word. Everything needs to tie in to your book, so you better be certain of what the underlying theme is so you can apply it to your launch. This is not the time for novels written for the sake of writing. It has to have an ulterior motive. Or, you know, something you can hashtag the crap out of. Make it relevant. It doesn’t matter if you started writing it before the age of the internet (or that it’s set in 17th century Bavaria), if you want to get the most hits out of this shindig, then you better find a way to weave the “Fake News” narrative in there.

new-girl-gifnew-girl-quotesangry

Also, let’s talk giveaways. If we are being completely honest with ourselves, we know the giveaways are the only real reason most of these people take five minutes out of their day to pop in. Without them, all you have to offer is a book you wrote. That hardly seems worthy compensation for their time spent with you. And don’t even think about having nothing to offer your guests other than a free copy of the work you are promoting. Years of effort and tears or not, that is a cheap way to go about things.

I mean, you are an author, are you not? You need to dip into the buckets of wealth you’ve obviously somehow made prior to putting this book out for sale, and find things people actually want. That way, when they pass by a copy of your novel on the shelves, they will be overcome with warm fuzzy feelings and remember getting the Target gift cards, the custom t-shirt you spent $30.00 to make (each), or the Kindle Fire they can now read other people’s books on. Those memories won’t make them actually buy your novel, but gosh, isn’t it a nice gesture?

If you think people are going to remember you by the novel you’ve been sweating over, then maybe you should go buy a few more books on publishing and marketing. You’ll get over those dewy-eyed dreams of trending on Twitter, I promise.

tumblr_nqs0d7ztgm1r7v8dyo1_500

Here is where it gets interesting! All that careful researching, planning, crafting, luring, and binge-drinking you’ve done over the last month? Toss it. Forget about it. Pretend it never happened.

Why does this have to be so complicated? You wrote a book. You decided to self-publish. Was that not masochistic enough for you? If this is your first book, I’m going to let you in on a secret I stumbled upon in the end-days of researching: There is little to no chance that throwing an elaborate launch is going to do you any good. Why? Because no one knows who you are! I mean, really. Say you didn’t do the whole twitter thing, the whole networking and rubbing elbows with established authors thing. Let’s just say that, as far as recognition is concerned, no matter how many times you’ve retweeted one of those wacky writers you love, it has done NOTHING to put your name out there for people to recognize.

Would you follow some random guy on the street corner because he shouts about some party he’s throwing in your face as you walk by? No? Exactly. It’s better if you get your name out there with some of your actual work before you attempt this. No one likes those writers that tweet nothing but links to buy their book. No one like being shouted at to pay attention to something! 

If no one knows who you are, and you don’t have the benefit of word-of-mouth advertising for your party, that’s pretty much the equivalent of a buy-link avalanche on twitter.

e8985159ab2c5b57c4a87207c91850f1-500x281x15

Congratulations, if you made it this far, then you have successfully walked my own personal path of throwing a launch party. The bottom line? There isn’t gonna be one for Deny the Moon. Not like everyone says to do. Not yet.

I was making myself insane over doing this the “right way” this time, until finally I realized the right way does not exist. What works for all those other writers won’t work for me, and probably won’t work for you. Trying to copy their success (or attempt at it) isn’t authentic to me. I’m a fledgling author with one little novel. No one outside of my family and friends really know my name, and a good deal of them don’t pay much attention to my writing journey. How in the Hell am I supposed to make a name for myself if I only have one book? How am I supposed to make more books if I waste ALL my free time trying to pimp out this one?

I won’t. So, this Saturday, I won’t be throwing a Launch Party for my book after all. You can still stop by the Duckicorn Facebook page if you like, as I will still try to post some random tidbits. If you want to ask a question or start a discussion I am all for it! But I think I’m going to celebrate the relaunch by working on the sequel, for real this time. Maybe when that one is done, I will try again. Who knows. There might be a Kindle Fire in the future.**

**For me, not to give away. You heard me mention I am self-published, right?
A note about this post:
Most of this is pretty tongue-in-cheek and meant as a vent for my personal frustrations with marketing yourself and your book on your own. I do want to make one thing clear before I depart: Launch Parties can be a great tool for getting to know your audience. They won’t work for everyone, but quite a few authors have found success in them and this is not to belittle that success in any way. It works for some people. Some people it doesn’t. The point is to find the ways that work for you, rather than just going through with something because “everyone else is doing it.” I truly don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to promote yourself. There is only the way best suited for your product. 🙂 Cheers, and good luck!

~Melissa