Friday Free-For-All – Are readers burnt out? #freebies

Hello, wonderful blog subscribers! Happy Friday!

What’s on my mind today is based on two recent book marketing experiences that raise big questions. So, I look forward to your input.

If you read these posts, you know I recently took my books to an International Guitar Festival in Dallas. It is huge. There were tons of people. It was there I first began to ponder the thought that, in general, folks don’t read anymore. Thousands of people passed by my table, and most looked the other way. It’s true most folks were there to look at musical instruments, but all of my stories have either a primary or underlying music theme, so they fit in with the atmosphere of the event. Yes, I sold a few, but for the size of the event, the sales were minimal.

Yet, because of a deep need to maintain a positive attitude, I have to believe there will always be a core group of people who love to read stories.

However, I found some statistics that support the idea that readers are dwindling in numbers.

According to recent book reading data, Americans read three fewer books on average last year than they had in the previous three decades.

According to the Pew Research Center Survey of American Adults conducted from January 25 to February 8, 2022, around a quarter of Americans (23%) said they haven’t read a book in full or in part in the past year, whether it be in print, electronic, or audio form.

So, what does that mean for us? Do we stop putting out new stories? Do we put out less? Do we put out more?

I know many of you write because of a deep innate need to tell a story, as do I. I’d dare to say most of us never think about who will read our books while we are writing them. In a recent interview, I was asked who is my target audience and do I write specifically for them? That question gave me pause, and I had to answer honestly. When I’m writing a story, I never stop and consider who might read it. I just write it. Perhaps that’s why I’m not more successful as an author, but if I get caught up in the commercial aspect of it, all creativity dries up. And without that creative spark, we may as well put our story ideas into AI and let a robot write them.

Now, I want to go a step further in this thread of thinking and talk about freebies. At one time, readers clamored for freebies and grabbed them up. But not now. There are so many books offered for free that it no longer holds any appeal or excitement.
I recently participated in two separate group giveaways. One was with the Fresh Fiction group to gain more newsletter subscribers, and the other was a BookSweeps giveaway designed to gain more BookBub followers. The Fresh Fiction campaign gained me a handful of new subscribers, for which I am grateful. It ran for one week. The BookSweeps campaign ran for ten days, and I gained a measly 32 new BookBub followers. That is disappointing and not worth the money I spent. The first campaign I ran with BookSweeps a few years back gained me over 400 new email subscribers. So, why the big drop in interest?

It’s just my own theory, but I believe it’s directly because there’s an author on every corner giving away a book, trying to gain some traction. Readers are numb to the giveaways.

That brings me to the question of where do we go from here? How can we get people engaged and interested in reading our stories? Are we beating a proverbial dead horse? I am discouraged and weary from the whole marketing rat race.

Courtesy Canva

Lots of questions without answers. I’d love to hear from each of you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, and, if you have one, your plan of action. At this point, I have no plan.

I do, however, have a new story or two to write. I’m not discouraged about writing the stories.

Thoughts? Ideas? Let’s talk!

Confessions of a Knight Errant #NewRelease @LoneStarLit

by Gretchen McCullough
Humorous Fiction
Publisher: Cune Press
Page Count: 240 pages
Publication Date: October 18, 2022
Scroll down for a giveaway!

Confessions of a Knight Errant is a comedic, picaresque novel in the tradition of Don Quixote with a flamboyant cast of characters.

Dr. Gary Watson is the picaro, a radical environmentalist and wannabe novelist who has been accused of masterminding a computer hack that wiped out the files of a major publishing company. His Sancho Panza is Kharalombos, a fat, gluttonous Greek dancing teacher, who is wanted by the secret police for cavorting with the daughter of the Big Man of Egypt.

Self-preservation necessitates a hurried journey to the refuge of a girls’ camp in rural Texas. Then a body turns up nearby that is connected to Middle East antiquities, and they are on the run once more.

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999.
Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today, and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bilingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013.
Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.


In Confessions of a Knight Errant, readers get a taste of the Hill Country. One winner will, too, with a one-pound bag of pecans from Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company!
(US only; ends midnight, CST 4/28/23)

Guess what Authors – Not everyone is going to love your book!

I heard you gasp. But I also saw you nodding your heads. We all know this, right?

We’ve all had it happen – that moment when a scathing review shows up. Famous mainstream authors like Tom Clancy and James Patterson get one-star reviews. Stephen King’s novel, The Stand has almost 5,000 reviews and yes, some of those are one-star ratings. That is proof that not everyone is going to like your book.

We spend days, weeks, months and sometimes years toiling over a story. Then with great enthusiasm we send it out into the world. I often compare it to giving birth. That baby is the most precious and wonderful thing to its mother. That baby is beautiful.

So, what do you think happens when someone comes along and says to that mother, “You have an ugly baby?” First off, the mother is going to feel protective, then secondly she is maybe going to feel a little hurt.

It’s the same way with our books. Our first reaction to criticism of our books is to defend and protect it. The second normal reaction is to feel hurt and maybe even a little beat down.

Sound familiar?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and while to most of us, it would seem mean or maybe even cruel to tell a mother her baby is ugly, it can represent that one person’s truth. And shouldn’t everyone stand in their truth? Maybe the baby is indeed ugly, and after all, don’t we promote freedom of speech?

Where is protocol for these situations? Or is there any?

A review with a low mark doesn’t bother me. I’ve given plenty of them. But when someone goes beyond leaving a review and chooses to trash our work publicly it changes the dynamics. And it is entirely up to us, as the creator of that work, how we respond. That is when it turns into the ugly baby scenario.

One thing I know for certain, is that you never engage in a debate about your work. You would be bringing yourself down to their level, opening yourself up to further criticism and making a mountain out of a mole hill.

In my opinion, the best option for any author in that situation is to take the high road. Look closely at the criticism. Maybe you can learn something from it. Maybe what you learn is that person simply doesn’t understand your story or doesn’t like your style of writing. Or maybe you learn that person, even though they don’t know you, don’t like you, or is jealous of you, and it has nothing to do with your writing. Or maybe they have a legitimate criticism about your writing but choose to express it in a harsh way. Whatever the answer is, the best solution for every author is to learn whatever lesson can be had and move on, always striving to be better and staying professional.

Remember when you put your work out to the world, you’re putting yourself out along with it, so developing a bit of thick skin might be helpful.

Don’t hold on to criticism. Don’t let it stop you from creating. Don’t let it destroy your confidence or your creativity.

We live in a society where many seem to believe that everyone who doesn’t think exactly like them is either ignorant and uninformed or plain stupid. The new normal is to discredit anyone who doesn’t see things your way. Please, never let yourself fall into that category. Everyone doesn’t read through the same eyes. Everyone doesn’t understand the same way you do. And everyone doesn’t have the same moral compass that you do. And none of that makes them wrong and you right or vice-versa.

Don’t stress over things you cannot change. Focus your precious energy on the things you CAN change!

Have you experienced the “you’ve got an ugly baby syndrome?” What did you do? Let’s learn from each other. This is a safe and open forum. Let’s talk!

A Virtual Book Festival

COVID-19 changed the way we interact with the world around us. And, one of the biggest ways it has affected me, as an author, is the cancellation of ALL physical book festivals. I absolutely love spending a day visiting with potential readers, talking about my stories and learning about them and their interests.

So, as a way to try and continue having this experience and opportunity, we are experimenting with virtual book festivals.

How is it going to look? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. But I’m willing to take a chance and participate just in case anyone wants to pop in and chat.

I have a Zoom session scheduled to begin at 9:30 am Central time, on Saturday, October 3rd. It will run until Zoom kicks me off. 🙂 From what I understand, that will be 40 minutes.

So, if you are free on Saturday morning and want to stop by, I would absolutely LOVE to chat with you about any and everything!

Here is the invitation:

Jan Sikes is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: 3rd Virtual Book Festival AMG
Time: Oct 3, 2020 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 770 5792 6887
Passcode: 4a2wct

I’d love to see you there! Here is a lineup of all the participating authors.

3rd VBF Zoom Room (10 min)

B Alan Bourgeois VBF Zoom9:00 AM  Barb Geiger VBF Zoom9:10 AM  Denise Montgomery VBFZoom9:25  Sandra Rhea VBF Zoom9:40  Julie Connor VBF Zoom9:55 AM Julia Hayden VBF Zoom10:05 Roxanne Hodge VBF Zoom10:20 Diann Floyd Boehm VBF Zoom10:40  Steve Freidman VBF Zoom10:55  VBF Zoom11:10 AM 

Their Own Zoom Rooms:

Greg KelsoZoom9:30 – 1010 AM

Jan SikesZoom9:30 – 10 AM

Marsha WestZoom9:30 – 10 AM

Rachel BoehmZoom9:30 – 10 AM

Ann NobleZoom9:20 – 10 AM 

Shelly Lee (Lady Lee)Zoom10:30 – 11 AM

Michael NewmanZoom10 – 10:30 AM

Diane Windsor (Motina Books)Zoom12:30 PM