Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Last May I had the pleasure to launch Stonewall Goes West at the 150th Anniversary reenactment of Chancellorsville. I met a lot of nice people, but also one not so nice fellow. He came over, chomped on a sandwich with his mouth so wide open as he spouted tinfoil hat theory that he dribbled and spat crumbs every which way, and generally made himself obnoxious.

I was a new, insecure author just a couple of weeks into having a book out, and initially I didn’t want to alienate a potential reader. That quickly faded, because I also have things like dignity, self-respect, and the gleeful willingness to physically confront people engendered by a couple of decades spent in and out of boxing gyms. I soon lost my patience, stepped out from around my table, and flatly told him to get lost.

Nowadays I have two lively Facebook groups, one for whiskey and one for my novel(s). A word of advice I have for anyone using social media — Facebook groups, forums, twitter, website comments, what have you — is not to neglect netiquette standards in the name of building an audience. I view my followers and members as my guests, and I don’t let one jerk abuse any of the others or myself in the name of keeping the one jerk.

Don’t shrink from banning a troll after a fair warning. It’s both good manners and good strategy.

Since Stonewall Goes Out came out, I have had some decidedly mixed experiences with various promotional efforts. Once of the pieces of advice I have for all indie and small-press authors out there: don’t self-advertise on Goodreads.

I can’t speak as to how effective other means of advertising on the Goodreads website, such as book giveaways or their big budget, in-house promotions packages are. This is strictly about their clickable, Google-style ads that are self-service.

My own experience with the pilot project I did with Goodreads was that it did such a minute amount of business after several weeks that most of the money allotted remained unspent. I tinkered with the audience I was targeting, and raising my budget and click bids. Nothing I was willing to do within the realms of reasonable economy improved the performance of my ads, so I pulled the plug. *

My guess as to where the problem lies is that while Goodreads has an impressive active members stat, most of those members are barely active. The result is that while there is a large number of theoretical eyeballs, the number of eyeballs that could see your ad everyday is much smaller, especially after one zeroes in on a particular, narrower audience base than “readers in general.”

* Fair is fair, and Goodreads was very gracious and prompt in refunding my money upon request.

I’ve adopted the rule of not responding to reviews of my work, either by readers or professionals. Most authors follow this line, and I think that is a wise policy. Even if an author produces a good work, taste is taste, not everyone will like it, and it’s better to grow a thicker skin that to descend into unseemly bickering.

Yet when a reviewer makes factual statements in a review that are inaccurate, well, that is an entirely different ball game. And when the reviewer in question has semi-professional status, it demands rebuttal.

So it is with Rea Andrew Redd, the “Civil War Librarian.” If this review had appeared in a newspaper or magazine, I would be on the phone with the editor demanding the kind of corrections that would likely ensure Prof. Redd would never write for that publication again. However, Redd is a blogger, so I must publish the correction myself.

Redd’s Factual Errors
In his review, Redd makes three factual errors:

1. “Jackson is a corps commander at Gettysburg”

While Jackson survived Chancellorsville and retained his rank and position, the story clearly states that Jackson was convalescing with his family in Lexington for the Gettysburg campaign. He was not “at” Gettysburg, and did not participate in the campaign, as implied here. This may be a merely a misstatement, but I doubt it in view of the more serious error Redd made just a few sentences later. In either case, it is still plain wrong.

2. & 3. “Within sixty days Jackson has the Army of Tennessee at Nashville and Sherman never enters Georgia.”

Mistakes two and three were more serious. In my story, Jackson assumed command just after New Years, and the fictional Battle of Lawrenceburg was not until early May. That is a space of four months, not two.

My guess is that Redd is dating his statement from where my story picks up with Jackson in Georgia, which is in March 1864. However, scenes in Richmond clearly describe him as intending to assume command after the Holidays. Furthermore, there are multiple scenes set in February which refer to Jackson as already in command: Jackson actually sends Cheatham’s Division to Polk to combat the Meridian campaign; Polk and Cheatham talk about having Jackson in charge; Sherman discusses Jackson with Banks in New Orleans after the Meridian Campaign is over.

So it is about 120 days, twice as long as the period Redd mistakenly describes. Since Redd accuses me of “not staying within historic parameters” and criticizes the plausibility of the story, the fact that he demonstrably missed so many references as to how long Jackson was in command before starting his campaign, and therefore how long he spent preparing, is damning of his opinion to say the least. How many other obvious details did he miss in a similar fashion?

The simple answer is “more,” which is proven by the last part of that statement. The novel ends on May 9, and the historical Atlanta Campaign’s opening moves were on May 5. Also in the novel, I have a conversation between Sherman and George H. Thomas which clearly indicated Thomas was to be left with a large army and charged with the task of invading Georgia. In saying “Sherman never enters Georgia,” Redd acts as if none of those things were in the book. Given that the subject is discussed at length and the timing of the issue, that part of the statement is also in error.

Fanciful, But Unprofessional, Opinions
Redd made three factual errors in a mere two-paragraph plot synopsis, getting almost as much wrong as he got right, and two of them couldn’t possibly be interpreted as careless misstatements. Plenty of other readers are on the record as having picked up on these details, so I can only speculate that he didn’t read the book very closely before writing his review.

Beyond that, the sloppiness of this review calls into question not just the merit of the review itself, but the merits of the blog Civil War Librarian as a whole. Having made such demonstrable errors in his review of my work, it is entirely plausible that some, most, or perhaps even all of Redd’s other reviews are just as inattentive to detail.