Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Cents on Art Crits

Art criticism is an established style of criticizing works of art.  There are three components to it before one judges the work.

Detailed description - The critic must document all the details in the artwork.  What is there to see?  In a landscape, it wouldn't be just I see trees, it would be I see three trees in the background, in the top left of the painting.  They have an assortment of colored leaves including orange, yellow, and green.  The middle one looks to be a maple tree by the shape of the leaves.

Actually, more detail than that, but you get the picture.

Analysis - This is a detailed look at how the formal properties of art are utilized in the work of art.  How did the artist use the elements to create balance and rhythm, etc? 

Interpretation - What was the artist trying to tell you in the work of art?  Is it a painting about social injustice or love?  What are the clues that establish any kind of emotion and how do you feel when viewing it?

These three criteria for judgement reveal the three components in a work of art  - imitationalism, formalism and emotionalism.  Some people just like how realistic something looks.  Others appreciate a more formal use of color theory and line quality in their art.  Then there are the people who think art should have a message.  When a piece of art works on all three levels, the result is a good judgement, maybe even a masterpiece.

The truth is, most people don't understand art.  Some artists don't even know about these isms, especially if they are self-taught.  But once one sees that there are all these things behind the scenes at work, one tends to appreciate the gift of art.

So, now that I'm a writer, (okay, a self-taught writer) I try to utilize this same structure in my own work.  Writing is weird in that your finished work isn't actually finished until an editor or series of editors gets their hands on it and makes you second guess your original choices.

I admit that while formalism is my strong suit in painting, it is my weakest area in writing.  I am not super-duper well-versed in sentence structure, so it is helpful to have a second or third set of eyes on the work.

It just really bugs me that book critics don't use a standard format to judge the work.  They will have an emotional aversion to something and forego the amazing detail and organization of plot.  They won't see the brilliant use of literary form (if it's there).

Writing is also weird when trying to peddle to publishers.  We like sex, but not anal or whatever.  We like this but not that.  No this, this and this.  And that too.

I'm not used to such seemingly rigid guidelines to my art.  I create alone - then spring my finished series of paintings on the guests of my artist reception at a gallery.  They are always intrigued by the originality of the work.  Other artists always tell me that I'm very brave because I tend to use imagery and ideas that appeal to me personally, which tends to make me more vulnerable to criticism.

If an artist doesn't leave a piece of themselves in the work, then all it is to me is imitationalism.  I can't stand that.  It just isn't enough.  Writing can be an artistic outlet (should be) and I wish places like Amazon would stop treating a writer's art like it should be criticized without a legitimate form of assessment.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amazon Censorship Alienates Power-Buyers

I hate to say I told you so, Amazon, but...

Okay, I don't hate to say it. 

But I DID tell you so!

According to the numbers being thrown around, Amazon is alienating its ebook "power-buyer" audience by banning erotic fiction.

What!? People are buying PORN on their Kindles? *gasp* 

Yes, yes they are. They're buying a LOT of it. And I don't know why this is such a surprise. Porn has driven every major new technology we've released. And this ain't your mama's porn.

Look, I don't know how much the holier-than-thou reading our porn in the closet commentary while spouting morally indignant objections from customers influenced Amazon's decision to ban certain books from their virtual shelves - however, I do know that while those folks are a vocal MINORITY, the Kindle "power-buyers" are a non-vocal MAJORITY - and they're voting with their dollars.

They are taking their business elsewhere, Amazon.

Do you have any idea how much my sales increased at Barnes and Noble because Amazon "banned" my erotic books from their site? ONE HUNDRED TIMES. That's right, I went from making about $1000 a month on Barnes and Noble to... *drumroll people* almost $100,000 in a month. Now, granted, that number has decreased since the whole banning thing also happened to coincide with the Nook's crazy Christmas-buying extravaganza, but I'm still earning three times the amount on Barnes and Noble than I am on Amazon almost six months later.

The polls don't lie. Readers are abandoning their Kindles for Nooks, especially the "power-buyers" that the publishing industry is drooling over. I could have told you months ago - in fact, I did - that the power-buyers were also erotica readers. And that while they might not email Amazon and protest about the book ban (although some did) in the numbers of the morally-objecting vocal minority - that Amazon was going to feel the sting of actual monetary loss when those erotica readers abandoned Kindle and went elsewhere to find their reading material.

Told ya so.

So is it a good payoff for Amazon, do you think? Was my $100,000 month just a drop in the bucket to the mega superstar? (Their cut would have been about $40K... but Barnes and Noble pocketed that money instead...)

Is Amazon too big to fail?

In this ebook game, I wouldn't make assumptions like that, even if you are Amazon. 

Selena Kitt
erotic fiction you won't forget

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Give It Away Now

I started out (or rather, restarted out) by posting stories up on amateur writing websites. Those stories (brushed up) feature in my short story collections. The originals can still be found on the internet. I thought about pulling them down, but I didn’t in the end.

For the past two months I’ve been running a little serial on my blog.

So, why am I doing this? Why am I essentially giving my work away for free?

It’s a fair argument. I could just as easily package up the serial I’m working on now as a novella and charge people 99¢ to read it.

And it could just as easily sit there on Amazon, unread, forever, even at 99¢.

I think sometimes people are too attached to the notion they must receive something from their writing for it to have value. The problem is value is determined by the market. If you’re nobody and nobody wants to read you because you’re nobody (and remember 99% of everything is crap), then your writing has no monetary value anyway.

I like try-before-u-buy. I like to give my readers try-before-u-buy. I think this is even more important for self-published work. There are still some deep-rooted prejudices against self-published work. If 99% of everything is crap, then everything with no quality control must be 99.9999% crap. The best way to counter this is to make sure there are plenty of samples of your work up and easily accessible for people to read. That way they can see how good it is for themselves.

It’s a little easier with short stories. People read the stories I have out on the internet, decide they want more and then go on to buy the books (which contain stories that can’t be found anywhere else).

I started the Locked in with a Succubus serial to drive traffic to my blog and find new readers. I don’t know if it’s actually resulted in more book sales, but it has doubled the number of visitors. Hopefully, some of them will like what they read enough to spend money on my books.

If you're unknown, you need to get known. You need to get people to read your work and get interested in what you're writing. I don't mind giving some of my stories away for free to achieve this.

M.E. Hydra

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Branding, blogging and a new release...

Hi folks, it’s been a while since I stopped in here, but I’ve been busy editing my next book and getting more distribution channels for my short stories.  That’s an interesting adventure.  Uploading to the different sites is a lot of work, much more than I expected it to be and no two sites seem to have a consistent process.  Such is the life of the self-published. 
Beyond being busy with editing and uploads, I’ve been thinking about branding.  I’m hoping the path I’m going down will elevate  J.E. Taylor into a recognizable brand.  At first, my short stories were put under Taylor Publications – not very original and not something that leaves a lasting impression.  I wanted something with more punch.  More pizzazz.  Why?  Because Taylor Publications is just too boring a label for me. 
Going back to the image I’ve been building for many years – I decided to leverage JET - my nickname in writing circles which has even been expanded to "JET-powered Jane" by one of my online writing teachers (shout out to Margie Lawson – you rock!).    Thus, my own personal imprint ‘tis born:   JET-Fueled Fiction.
So now, I’m changing all my e-books and paperbacks to have  JET-Fueled Fiction listed on the title page in addition to my name.  It’s a fun and tiring exercise – updating documents, reformatting, replacing copies on all the distribution sites that I utilize, updating the paperbacks on CreateSpace, and all in preparation for my official launch of Hunting Season this month. 
And this is my first official blog in my blog tour and giveaway that I’m doing in May.  If you’re interested in getting in on the giveaway, swing by my blog at and check out the rules. 
Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


When Excessica changed its pricing policy, I was skeptical.  I had been steadily selling about twenty books a month on at the $7.99 price point.  I didn't think I could sell more than that since I have only one book published and I thought sales tended to go down the longer the book was on the market.  (Cinderella Club has been out since August 2010.) Plus I do virtually no advertising - except the occasional pop-in at and, and Facebook.

So on April 1st, I held my breath - and started selling, and selling.  Made the same amount of money with the $3.99 price point!  Counting the UK sales and paperbacks, I sold forty-six books.  (If that doesn't sound like much to you then sorry to disappoint, because I think it's pretty good for a nobody.)  I shouldn't have doubted.  I love the fact that twice as many people bought and will read my book this month than last.  And hopefully the trend will continue.  I'm on my way with five sales for the month of May and it's only the third!

I have two novels in the pipeline.  Both made it to 50,000 words.  Dr. Cockburn's Medicine will be released by Excessica on October 28, 2011 and Jude's Whore has a December 9, 2011 release date. Picking photos for possible covers is like a bride picking out china patterns.  I love this alternate reality, as long as I continue to sell-sell-sell!