Is Goodreads’ Author Page A Minestrone?

This post’s title comes from a song released in 1975 by 10cc that claims, “Life is a minestrone served up with parmesan cheese.” I was 18 at the time and the song summed up my life very well. I had a profound sense of humor (if I do say so myself). Then I went off like a happy Don Quixote to fight windmills. I’ve not been the same since.

Fast-forward to my 65th year to be alive and my continuing adventures of self-publishing my books. Like Rocky and Bullwinkle looking for treasure, whether hidden in a jet fuel formula, buried somewhere in Frostbite Falls, or of the Monte Zoom kind, I’ve had my own Boris and Natasha impeding my way, disguised as helpful hosts along the Internet highway.

One of those impediments has been Goodreads’ author program. I was using their program since 2008 to keep track of my books, so after Amazon bought them out in 2013, they invited me to be a listed author there. It sounded like a “fun” thing to do. It wasn’t. You can read about a kerfuffle I had with them in 2014 at One Little Period Screwed the Pooch. That was when I published my books as Steven L Campbell and wanted my author’s name listed as such. They said no, it was their way or the highway. I chose the latter, but not because of the name situation. It was the rude comments from one of their librarians that led me to remove my books at their site and to stop publishing my books at Amazon.

However, time heals all wounds, so I returned to publishing at Amazon 2 years ago and made a new author page at Goodreads, this time as Steve Campbell. Right away, the folks (librarians?) at Goodreads confused me with another author named Steve Campbell and dumped his books on my author page. It took several weeks to clean up that snafu.

Now, 2 years later, they’ve dumped 7 books narrated by another Steve Campbell on my page.

Seriously, I don’t know what to make of how prone to errors their author program is. I contacted them yesterday (23 hours ago as of this writing) in their “Book Issues > This book is not mine, please move it (part 11)” section, which is part of their Librarians Group discussion section. I’m awaiting a reply. I’m #340 on the list, so it may take a while, though others who have posted after me have received corrections.

Some of the feedback I received last year at another site says, “Goodreads has been frozen in time since 2013 when Amazon acquired them” and “The design is like a teenager’s 2005 Myspace page.” Many authors that I’ve talked to have had to wait weeks before Goodreads listed their books correctly.

One alternative is to leave Goodreads, as other indie authors have done. “It hurts sales a bit,” a friend told me, “but there are other ways to promote yourself as an author. And I have fewer headaches than when I was at Goodreads.”

I may follow his advice. I can still publish at Amazon, leave their KDP Select program after a year, and publish elsewhere—Smashwords perhaps. Why not? After all, “Life is a minestrone served up with parmesan cheese,” and dealing with websites like Goodreads that don’t function well is “a cold lasagna suspended in deep freeze.”

That’s all for now. I’ll keep you abreast of any news or changes.

Thanks for reading. I need to put on some music now to help get rid of this ever-playing earwig: “Mini-mini-mini-minestrone…”

Another Year

Another December 31st, another year is ending. Here, in my cozy corner of our big planet, I’m ready with the new calendar going up on the wall to replace the old one now marked with appointments met (and some not met).

As I write this, my mind reflects on the past. It seems as if every year goes past us in such a hurry, which suggests a poem I wrote when I was a youngster at college. It’s more of a lyric than a poem because I structured it around a tune playing in my head at the time. I often wrote poetry that way and could have been a musician if I’d have pursued it. But making art was more important at the time, so…

The poem is called A Day Song.

Our eyes are fixing on the time
On moving hands and sacred signs
And chimes that ring the end of day.

Our minds are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate the day that stays.

Our time comes ’round in furrowed lines
In yellowed books and cellar wines
And bells that ring the end of day.

Our hearts are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate an endless day.

Old lips are thirsting springtime rain
To feel alive and young again
To taste the times we loved so well.

Our eyes are sad to see time go
To watch it run and always flow
To watch it pass and never dwell.

The end of every year stirs memories of accomplishments and failures. It’s what we do, then make resolutions to do better, accomplish more. While I write this, my mind reflects on my accomplishments and failures of 2021. My biggest failure was not blogging regularly.

I continued writing and stayed serious with my writing goals this year, though I did not post anything here during January. Thus, the month is a big goose egg in my blogging score.

In February, I posted two old Louie & Bruce comic strips from 1982 and received an achievement award from WordPress for blogging with them for ten years. I posted the news and earned a 3 for my score of posts for the year.

I scored a 2 in March for posting two more old Louie & Bruce strip from 1982, and a 1 in April for posting an apple orchard painting and the poem it inspired from 2006.

A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard
A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

I had nothing in May, which was a busy month of writing my books, designing book covers, replacing my old laptop with a new one, and learning some new writing and art apps that I put on it.

July was a busy blogging month, which I scored a 5 for posting more writing news, as well as reposting a poem about U.S. government’s calamities and a reflection of my stomach surgery in 2020.

I scored deuces in August and again in September. The four posts were about my writing and publishing endeavors. You can see several samples of my book cover art in the September posts.

If you’re still with me, October brought 1 post on Halloween (I love Halloween and frankly, the whole month of October) and another art post in November that features both wildlife and book cover art.

Day of the Fairies e-book cover

And now—ta dah! Today’s post scores me a 4 for the month. Three of them were shameless promotions of my e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon. During those posts, I got in a serious quandary here at home over why my spellcheckers hyphenate e-book but not email. No one I’ve talked to knows why. If you do, please leave me a comment telling me why.

So, here we are at the end of this post—number 20 and the last one of 2021. Obviously, my goal for 2022 is to post more than twenty times before December 31st comes again. Another goal is to finish more books and to stay healthy. And it’s good health I wish upon you.

Have a wonderful day and (drumroll—the old end-of-year joke is coming) I’ll see you next year.

Judging Books By Their Covers

I am trying to understand the reasoning behind the popular talk nowadays among indie authors about how to best present our book covers. Most of the how-to info is very complicated, and most of the advice ends with “Let a professional do it.” The idea is to hook the potential reader before they look inside the book.

I’m an old-school reader and buyer of books that began in the 1960s. Many of my purchases back then were paperbacks because they were affordable. Even in the 1970s when I entered the workforce and had a weekly income, I still bought paperbacks. So did my friends. Often, we went book hunting on Saturday afternoons, hitting the malls in search of our next read.

The covers on paperback books (and hardcovers) were simple in design. It was often the title that caught my eye. If it sounded interesting, I would flip the book over and read the back cover copy. That’s what either prompted me to buy the book or return it to the shelf.

Most online bookstores today have a feature equivalent to the old back cover copy. It’s the short blurb off to the side of the book cover on display. I call it the “What is this book about?” feature. And it’s here where an author either convinces me to buy their book or prompts me to continue browsing.

Beautiful, fancy, exotic book covers and plain, two-tone, neutral ones have never prompted me to buy a book. It has always been the “What’s this book about?” feature.

Look at this Stephen King paperback of The Shining from one of its first runs.

The book’s title attracted me because I asked, “What does the title mean?” The back cover copy gave me a clue and whetted my curiosity. Until then, I had never read a book by King. Neither had my friends. I ended up liking the story so much, I bought his two prior releases, ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie, on a gamble that I would like them too. I did. So did a million other readers.

Compared to today’s indie writing market, if King was an unknown author selling his books at Amazon, and he used the above cover, would you buy it?

Look at the replacement cover of The Shining a few years later during the movie release.

Would you still want to buy it?

I don’t think it’s wise to worry about eye-catching book cover design. I think we should continue to strive at writing as well as we can and to write a compelling “What’s this book about?” feature. If your story is captivating and entertaining, then people will notice, even if you’ve wrapped it in a brown paper bag.

Feeling the Rain

A year ago today, I was rushed into emergency surgery that saved my life from a perforated bowel.

During my weeklong stay at the hospital—first in a recovery room, then in a 24-hour observation room where my nurses kept watch for sepsis, I spent a lot of time alone. Covid restrictions allowed me one visitor, which was my wife who had to travel almost 40 miles to see me. When she and my nurses were not with me, I entertained by visiting the internet via my phone and perusing art and writing sites. One night, I found a long quote—perhaps a poem—by Walt Whitman about his desire to be closer to animals and nature. Being a wildlife artist for many years, I felt akin to that desire. So, with pen and paper, I jotted down a couple lines about animal life that intrigued me.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, they do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. Not one is unhappy over the whole earth.

The words took me back to the years I studied wildlife. Animal lives seemed so basic, so simple, which led me to practicing a similar simple life. My main purpose then was to care for my children. Although employment stole time from us, it gave me enough income to acquire necessities to keep them healthy and safe.

My children were long grown and raising families of their own when I left the hospital to finish recuperating at home. What had my purpose in life become? To grow old and die?

Beyond making purpose for a corporation by my employment to it, I decided to make purpose for me again. So I retired from the workforce and did a lot of soul searching for what I wanted to do.

I have been an artist—a good artist—most of my life. It brought me awards and recognition beyond my desires. And it brought me to a crossroad where I no longer felt challenged by it. So I spent the winter and most of spring looking at things that challenge me most.

One of my biggest challenges is writing well, mostly because I suffer a form of dyslexia that has hindered me most of my life. When I write well—and by that I mean something that reads coherently and moves my emotions long after I wrote it—the experience is an uplifting one, much like depicted in the illustration above.

I want to feel the rain when I write. And I want to feel it when I read it. That is my newfound purpose in life.

It will talk as long as it wants, the rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen. —Thomas Merton