Sunday, July 26, 2020
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Many, if not most of the folks who visit my blog are writers or avid readers. Therefore, I think you are the best possible audience to let know what recently happened to me.
As you know, it takes a lot to create a book. In my case, I average about a year for each book. Since writing is my only job, that’s a year without pay. Then, once the book is done, I have to find an agent, and/or find a publisher. Once a publisher is found, that’s not the end of it. Now there are edits to perform. All of this takes time and work. My next novel, for example, took a little over a year to write and I actually sold it seven months ago. It’s scheduled to launch in November. A long time from when I wrote the first words.
There are a lot of things arrayed against the publishing of a book and a lot of time to wait on a paycheck if it overcomes all the obstacles. Up until now, it’s just been part of the deal. Nobody likes it, but we all accept it.
And now, one more obstacle has been thrown into the mix. And this is a big one.
As you know, unless you’re a brand-name author, any publicity you get for your work is hard won. Mostly, publicity for your work consists of reviews for it. And, virtually the only place reviews can be placed and seen is on Amazon. Authors have little to no control over the reviews they get. Folks buy and read your book and then post their opinions of it on Amazon. Hopefully, their reading experience was positive and so is the review they write and post. Not always. And, we have no control over that.
Over many years, I’ve received many reviews for the books I’ve written. Thankfully, the vast majority of them have been positive. Very few negative ones. And, they’ve helped tremendously with sales.
Imagine how I felt when about a week ago, I decided to check the number of reviews I had for my books. I knew a couple were getting close to those “magic” numbers that trigger Amazon’s algorithms and once achieved, leads to them including your titles in various promotions. I’m not sure what those numbers are, but someone told me that 50 reviews was one of them. A couple of my books were approaching this number.
One that had been close was my novel, THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING. I hadn’t checked in several weeks but the last time I had it was at 48 or 49 or thereabouts. When I clicked on the title, I received a severe shock. A bunch of reviews that had been on it for months and sometimes years, had disappeared. They only showed 23 reviews! After telling several writer friends and notifying the publisher, I was hugely disappointed in their responses. A couple of friends said things like, “I’ve heard of them doing that,” and offering their condolences, and the publisher saying the same things, but no one offered to help me figure out what had happened or what my recourse could be.
It took some digging and trying to figure out Amazon’s maze to reach an actual person, but I finally did. I sent an email and a couple of days later, received this:
This time, I went through their maze of responses and finally got a real person to talk to. Oh… also, by this time, reviews for another book of mine, BOMB!, had vanished close to 40 reviews or more and there were only 11 left! Here’s the exchange I had next.
Hi Les Edgerton, Ada here.
Hi Ada,Reviews have disappeared from my books on sale with Amazon. Last week, over 30 reviews disappeared from a novel and this week about the same just disappeared from another novel. I responded to the first instance and got an email saying that there were four reasons this happens, but it didn't tell me which of the reasons applied to mine, nor was I given any info on what I could do to remedy the situation. Now, it's happened again. I don't have a clue why this is happening.
Ada | Customer Service
Sorry to hear that.
Let me check it for you.
Yep. I've been a loyal customer of Amazon's for many years--have purchased many, many books myself as well as sold my own books. This is disturbing as I've never had any problem in the least with y'all.
Ada | Customer Service
i don't have a direct contact to the department that handle this kind of issue at this moment,is it okay if I sent an email to them?they'll just get back to you after 24hours.
That would be great, Ada. I just don't understand this at all. Now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop... wondering which book is next on someone's hit list. Reviews help drive my sales and are very important to me. Thank you for any help you can give me--I appreciate it.
Ada | Customer Service
i already send an email to them
they will just get back to you after 24 hours
Bye and have a good day. I appreciate your help.
Ada | Customer Service
Thank you for contacting Amazon.
Have a great day!
Take care and God bless.
I got a reply from them and they didn’t actually lie—I received it after 24 hours… to be accurate, after 72 hours, and it was the same message they’d sent the first time, this time signed by a guy named Justin H. Up to this point I had been polite and restrained, but this was too much. Here’s what I sent Justin (or whatever his or her real name was):
This is totally unacceptable. This is out and out censorship. Someone is systematically removing dozens of reviews from my books and I have no recourse to see who or why they were removed? This flies in the face of everything that is American and is more akin to something done in a repressive country like Russia, Cuba, North Korea or China.
Of your four "reasons" I cannot think of a single review I have ever received that would apply to any of those criteria.
i have spent literally thousands and thousands of dollars on Amazon books and other products. This is simply venal and evil.
I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m hoping that enough of you will forward this to friends and make it go viral and maybe Mr. Bezos will see it and realize the kind of censorship his minions are performing. Probably not. If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. Someone in a cubicle or working from his mom’s basement seems to have control over you and your livelihood.
Or maybe thousands of you will rise up and flood Amazon with millions of reviews for my books. Yeah…
I’ve just never felt this helpless. I depend on your wonderful reviews to help sell my books and to have some halfwit just take them down for one of their “reasons” arbitrarily because his mommy forgot to put the jelly on his PB&J sandwich or wash his tidy whities on time just makes me want to meet this dude in a dark alley and “talk” to him. I can face my accuser in a court of law, but I can’t face the unknown moron who is messing with my livelihood on Amazon. It’s clear they have us writers by the short hairs and care nothing about our rights. This is a cautionary tale—this is what monopolies like they’ve become often do.
If anyone has any idea of any recourse I might have, please let me know. I’m just sick. This is symptomatic of many other things happening to our country and our rights.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Saturday, March 21, 2020
I’d like to throw out something for your consideration. We’re in a national crisis as you know where an awful lot of us are staying home to do our part in defeating the Coronavirus, To make our self-imposed exile from each other even worse, our entertainment options have been severely curtailed with the cancellation of most sporting events, concerts, plays and many of the normal outlets we enjoy. As a writer, one positive thing is that people are reading more and book sales are up.
There is one thing that is available to those of you who are writers or have often wondered if they have the skills to be a writer. As most of you know, I host an online novel-writing class. We’ve had enormous success over the years with nearly three dozen people who’ve attended our classes and/or been coached by me privately having succeeded in publishing their novels over the years. I don’t know of any other class with our kind of class record.
Class members of an early class, all of whom became published (with the exception of Joe who is the husband of Maegan Beaumont whom he's standing next to.)
We also have another service we offer. For quality control, each class is restricted to ten people. That way I can spend sufficient time with each classmate and they can spend time with each other as well. So we can’t add new classmates. But we have another popular feature. We often have class auditors. Those are folks who sit in on our class and see everything we’re doing. The only difference is they can’t participate actively. They’re observing just like auditors in any college course. It’s extremely valuable to every level of writer—from the raw beginner to the polished professional. We’ve even had agents audit from time to time. Agents audit to scout potential talent and are the only people we don’t charge. They provide a valuable service for our participants.
All writers make the same errors that prevent them from getting published. Over and over, we see the same mistakes repeated. That’s why auditing is so valuable. Writers often don’t see their own flaws, but when they see the same things they do repeated in other writers and see why it’s not a positive trait and why, it informs their own writing tremendously. I had one auditor who held an MFA from a good university tell me after auditing our class that he’d learned more in ten weeks than he had in the entirety of his university experience. That’s probably because our only goal is to see each of our classmates become published and published well.
Two of my books we use in class.
There’s another benefit to auditing. Whenever we have an opening, we go first to our auditors and offer them the opportunity. Also, many times a newer writer is unsure about their ability. Sitting in class and watching everyone else’s work and approach is an eye-opener. Very often, they see their own level of ability reflected in others and it raises their confidence. By the same token, often auditors see that they have holes in their writer education but see clearly how to fill those holes. All in all, it’s a great experience for a writer of any level of experience and/or ability. It’s simply demystified.
Okay. Sales pitch over. Just wanted to let folks know of our existence and availability. We’re just beginning the second week of this session and everything we’ve done to date is always on the site to study. The cost for full membership in class is $400, but the fee for auditing is only $50.
This is a great time to join us! Just seeing what we do will give many a sound idea where they are as writers and for advanced writers, you’ll see work that will inform your own work and take you to another level. And, for not much money at all!
If interested or if you have additional questions, please shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Hope to see some of you looking over our shoulders soon!
Just a couple of the novels written in class.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Well, we’re just finishing up our final weeks on the current session of my online novel-writing class, “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers,” and find ourselves with a couple of openings. Our next session will begin on March 8 and consists of a ten-week session, with the probability of taking a week off sometime during the term to recharge batteries.
This is a call for new class members. Not sure how many openings we’ll have as we offer vacancies first to our auditors.
The basics are the course costs $400 and it’s limited to ten people. The $400 is nonrefundable, as if a person quits during the session it would be impossible to fill that vacancy. As this is my primary source of income, it would be detrimental for myself and my family.
We’ve had a remarkable history of success. Nearly three dozen writers over the past dozen years who has become a part of our class or whom I’ve coached privately has gone on to being legitimately published and/or secured a good literary agent. In fact, that is our only goal—to become legitimately published.
Two of our published novelists--Maegan Beaumont and Linda Thompson (the ugly guy in the middle is moi...
I try to warn people who are thinking of joining us, how tough the class is, but I know from past experience that even so forewarned, at least some are going to be in for a shock when they see that we really don’t hold hands, pat people on the back for minimum efforts, or overlook writing that doesn’t work. I’m not cruel (at least I don’t think so) nor are any of the oldtimers in class, but most new folks haven’t been exposed to a class like ours. The truth is, most writers who haven’t had a class like ours has been praised in other classes or most likely, has been in classes that use the “sandwich” method of teaching. You know—that deal where the teach applies a bit of praise, then a bit of criticism, and then a bit of praise. Well, that ain’t our shtick. Not even close. The comments we all provide on everyone’s work fit one definition only. They’re honest.
This isn’t to be mean or to act like we’re the only folks around who know what good writing is. Except… we do. I’m not aware of any other class out there with the kind of track record ours enjoys. Virtually every writer who stays the course with us ends up with a top agent and/or a book deal. That doesn’t happen in a single ten-week session. About the earliest anyone has earned an agent or book deal in our class has been about a year. And, that’s reasonable.
The thing is, our writers don’t expect things to be easy.
I figured I’d let some of the class members give you their take on our class. They don’t hold back and they all have tough skins. They will all tell you the same thing. It isn’t a class for sissies or for those who need their hands held or lots of pats on the back. Becoming published is hard, hard work and isn’t an undertaking for sissies. To get there, our students know they have to put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and expect to work harder than they ever have in their lives—and to never, ever “settle” their standards of excellence.
From a student several years ago:
Hi. Since Les opened the floor for comments from the "class veterans" I'm chipping in with my two cents. I have a file cabinet filled with stuff I sent Les and then needed asbestos gloves to take the paper off the printer. When I started this journey, I'd never taken an English class past high school. (I was pre-med in college) I figured I love to read, so how hard can it be? Okay, quit laughing at me. Clearly, when I wrote my first version of my first novel, I had no idea about story structure, POV, any of that. I figured I'm pretty articulate and therefore I can write.
Les quickly set me straight. All of this is to point out that we've all been on the receiving end of Les' brutal honesty. I will find some of the comments he made on my work and post them but phrases like "throwing up in my mouth now" and "bury this so deep in the yard no one ever finds it" are seared into my brain and I don't have to look to find those!!! The point is, I took other classes before I met Les and the teachers were kind and gentle and never told me I sucked. If it weren't for Les, I'd still be churning out awful drivel that makes people want to throw up instead of trying not to throw up while I wait to see if my agent is able to sell my book. I would never have gotten an agent without Les. So hang in there. Listen to everything he says and if it doesn't make sense, ask away.
From another student:
The novel that I am currently trying to sell has been a work in progress for several years. The first time Les saw it he sent it back and told me to re-write the WHOLE thing!!! My character was a wimp. She sat back and let things happen to her. I argued a little, rewrote a little and then moved on to another book. After a year, I went back and reread it and saw the truth. It was awful. So I took a deep breath and started over. Page one. First sentence. Re-wrote the entire thing. It took a full year and then I revised it again. It's definitely a process. But once you get the inciting incident and the outline steps down pat, it's a whole lot easier. Trust me!!! And you'll never graduate completely. A few months ago, Les and I went head-to-head on one single passage. I was trying to be lazy and take the easy way out. He called me on it and I resubmitted three or four weeks in a row, revisions on the same passage. I was sure my classmates were so sick of it they were going to stick needles in their eyes rather than read it again! But in the end, the passage rocked!! So hang in there!!!! It'll get better. (Note: This novel sold and the writer is currently working on her fifth novel.)
Class members come from all over the globe. We’ve had students from the UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Spain, all parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Luxembourg and many other places. We work with writers in virtually every genre on the bookshelves. We agree with Nabokov that there are only two genres--good writing and bad writing.
The way class works is that the class is divided into two equal groups. We used to have just one group, but it got to be too much for many students. In the past, everybody in the class was required to read everybody else’s work each week and provide in-depth comments on everyone’s work. That meant they had to read nine other class members’ work and deliver intelligent commentary on each one. We’ve since evolved to a more manageable number where now each class member reads and delivers comments on just four other classmates’ work. I provide comments on everybody’s work and that’s why the class is limited to only ten. With ten writers, I can give each person the quality of time and analysis each deserves.
Each week begins on Sunday evening, when people can begin submitting their weekly pages from Sunday until Thursday. If it’s a new writer to the class, they are allowed to submit their first five pages of their novel, plus an outline which consists of five statements and a total of 15-20 words. Oldtimers in class call this “inciting incident hell.” If the outline isn’t working and their beginning doesn’t represent the inciting incident as provided in their outline, they are required to keep submitting each week until it does. Our feeling is if they haven’t thought through their novels sufficiently and provided a publishable novel structure (evidenced by the outline), then they most likely don’t have a novel ready to be written and to simply plunge ahead will almost invariably lead to an unfinished novel. We don’t want that.
Inc inc hell...
Once they’ve been okayed for the beginning, from thereafter they can submit up to eight pages per week, along with the others in class.
...and go on to win the pennant!
Time zones don’t matter. Everybody’s work, including everyone’s comments and my own comments on each person’s work each week is posted on the class site and folks can go to it any time of the day or night. Class members can begin sending back their comments on each others’ in their group from Sunday through the following Sunday, when it begins again. Although, in practicality, most members send in their work each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s like being in an “on-ground” class in that everything said or done in class is seen by everybody.
We do have a chat function and people use it all the time, even though they’re in different time zones. One of the best things about this class is that we have lots of old-timers who know from their own experience what works in a novel and what doesn’t and more importantly… why it works or doesn’t work. It’s like having a group of seven or eight other professionals helping you with your own novel. Probably at any given time in class, there will be four or five who already have had a novel or several published as a result of being in class, so it’s a really rarefied group. And, if you think that you couldn’t operate in a situation like this because you’re a beginner, that simply isn’t the case here at all. Nearly every single person in each class began just the way you did, as a rank beginner. And, they remember and they have complete empathy for your situation, if you’re a beginning writer.
It’s not a situation of simply saying, “This doesn’t work.” Myself and others in class will surely say that, but we then let you know why it didn’t work and give you solid suggestions on how to make it work. We collectively have a nurturing nature and all of us want the newcomer to succeed just about as badly as that writer wants to.
If you are still interested but still feel intimidated, I think if you simply look at how the class works, you’ll quickly see how you’ll fit in comfortably. Since we’ve got two weeks left in class, for anyone who would like to see up close and personal how we work as a class, I’d be delighted to give you auditor status for our last week. Besides class members, we also have an auditor function which works the same as it does in a “regular” college class. You’re admitted to class and can view every single thing we’re doing and the entire class session is archived and easy to access. Normally, the cost of auditing the class is $50, but for our last week, for those interested in simply getting a look at how we work, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know and I’ll have our class administrator, Holly, get you on board asap.
I know there are no doubt a lot of questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask me anything you’d like.
From past experience, when we’ve had openings like this, they go quickly, so if you are interested, please get in touch, okay?
For those interested in such things, here are a few of my own qualifications to teach writing.
MFA in Writing from Vermont College
Taught writing for the UCLA Extension Program
Taught writing via Skype for the New York Writer’s Workshop
Writer-in-Residence for three years for the University of Toledo
Writer-in-Residence for one year for Trine University
Taught writing classes for St. Francis University
Taught writing classes for Phoenix College
Taught writing for Writer’s Digest Online Classes
Taught writing classes for Vermont College
Published 20 books, including craft books on writing, novels, sports books, YA novel, historical nonfiction book, humor nonfiction, black comedy novel, noir, thrillers, literary and existential fiction.
Dozens of short stories published in such publications as The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Aethlon, Flatmancrooked, Murdaland, Best American Mystery Stories and many others.
A lot of living… much of it as an outlaw…