BE KIND REVIEW
A couple weeks ago I ranted on about negative book reviews. Yes, we
have to have thick skins and yes there will be readers who don’t like
our genre, style, or characters. Yet, there are some negative reviews
not backed up by comments and left anonymously. I have been a
reciepient of both.
Remember the old Video Stores? And the old VHS tapes? Be Kind Re-Wind comes to mind. Hence the title for this blog.
Reviews, as I find as I go along, are so very important to book sales.
We care what our peers are saying and I for one have listened to some
comments when choosing a book, to read or listen to, and moved along
to a different choice when we don’t want to spend a weekend reading a
novel that is not worth the effort (in our opinion). Yet, I have
ignored reviews other times and picked up a book and ended up enjoying
it. It really is a matter of preference.
What got me to writie another blog on this subject was a trip to a
local restaurant to pick up a quick dinner. While telling Jay not to
use the GPS to go around the corner he plugged in the name of the
restaurant anyway. Siri told us that the restaurant had a 2-1/2 star
review and would we like to choose a different location. What? Even
Siri, the automated voice, is a critic. We have been going to this
place forever. We like it and go there often. Someone gave a bad
review, or several people gave a bad review. But this is messing with
someone’s business and livlihood. Hence the conundrum. Why put in a
negative review? It’s only one opinion. You like your pizza hot... I
like mine cold. Not a good example. I don’t know what the reason was
for a negative review. The boneless chicken wings had bones?
I edit manuscripts and review audiobooks. I don’t give a negative
review. If I don’t like the MS, I don’t take it on. I check the audio
sample, stay within my genre, and try to make a good decision before
committing to a review.
Authors especially Indie or new authors rely on reviews to get their
visibility up. If you read a good book, leave a review. Sign up on
audible for a listener page or on Amazon and Goodreads. My advice
would be to take the last five books you really loved and give them a
review. Read the other reviews and see if you agree. Learn how to
write a good review. Cover all the high points and what you liked best
about the story.
We love to have our books read. We love to hear when someone likes
what we wrote it’s not something that happens regularly and it’s a lot to ask.
Readers; Write Reviews
I belong to audiobookboom.com. Every week I get an e-newsletter
listing audiobooks that are free with an audible book review.
My audiobook has been offered in this promotion as well. I pick a book
from one of the many genres and listen and give a review. It’s a great
way to listen to a great audiobook and give a review. Picking from my
favorite genre and listening to the five minute sample unsually
guarantees I can honestly give a favorable review. I have discovered
three favorite new authors this way. It also gives an opportunity to
create a listener page where your reviews are tallied and when an
author is dealing out promo codes they can view your history. It helps
them decide if you’re going to be a reliable reviewer. Before
publishing my own books I never gave a review. I read many books and
never thought to send my praised to the author. Since joining
audiobookboom.com that has changed and my listener page on audible has
over 25 reviews to date. Still what I need to do is learn how to write
a good review. Recently, I received two five star reviews for my
audiobook and I was overwhelmed by the depth of detail the reader(s)
were able to glean from my story. The only other experience that I
found came close to this was a Book Club review where I was present to
hear the detail and the thirst for information these voracious readers
craved from the author of the book they read. I loved it.
Unfortunately in these days of quarantine, libraries aren’t open and
the warm experience of in-person reviews are not possible. Another
good experience I had for feedback was the trade shows. For now those
are a thing of the past as well.
If you read a good book, give it a review. If you’re not a member on
Amazon, become one. Same with goodreads, they have so much to offer
readers. If you’re not a member of Audible.com, follow the link on my
audiobook page get a free copy of my audiobook with a new membership.
If you are a member, use a credit and give the book a review.
Hopefully you’ll choose one of mine
A RUN ON WORDS
To be a good writer, I will do anything. Although I have only been
writing for five years, it has been a Jacques Cousteau sized
submersion into the craft. My first novel was a four month spill of
words. What I had was a rough, rough, rough draft. An excellent
outline and a good start. Another four months of more writing, intense
review, and editing went by, and I had another rough draft. I didn’t
realize this at the time. While this book was out for agent approval,
I started another novel. Six months later, I had entered my first book
in a contest and my second book was queried out. Switching genres, I
wrote book three. My fourth book was a short story that didn’t stay
that way for long. I had a new respect for editors, so I sent my third
book out to be professionally edited and paid a good price. After all
the suggested cuts were made, the book was cut in half. From 60,000
words to 30,000. I cried.
Not being able to touch my wounded half-a-book, I applied all I
learned to book four. By that time this book four (now a 70,000 word
novel) was sent out to ten agents and publishers. It was picked up. A
year later my second edit had so many typos when it came back for
final approval, I panicked. I went online and reviewed my grammar
basics ( I thought that was what a publisher did) no longer I was
told. My book was published. I wasn’t happy with the experience. While
I was waiting (one year) for book four to be published I wrote the
sequel and the trilogy. That spring book three sprung to life. I sent
it out to several agents and I got a request for the MS. I was over
the hurdle. So I thought... it was rejected. So I decided to
self-publish. I worked in printing as my career and found the road to
self-publish not too difficult.
First Draft MS
Never send out a first draft to query. It needs to be carefully
reviewed and edited. An agent, beta reader, helpful online MS partner
wants to read your story and not be distracted by carless mistakes
that a careful edit would find. Use spellcheck and ‘Learn Spelling’
for unusual words or names. A squiggle on page 50 will alert you to
the fact your special word or name was misspelled. I find spellcheck
useful for some things but not for all it is a machine after all.
Style gets in the way of grammar rules. My opinion is you should learn
how to walk before you can run. Know the basic grammar rules then
break them intentionally.
Other than writing
I have always been an avid reader of Historical Fiction. I joined a
Book Club to widen my scope of books I read. I joined an online
critique group and then another one. I have been editing for two years
another critical tool for writing better, I feel.
During covid I lost my best venue for book sales. No gatherings so no
tradeshow. Luckily I had set another poker in the fire. I
self-published book three and produced an audiobook. I found the
perfect voice on acx a division of amazon. Hers was the voice I hear
when I imagine my protagonist. I self-published my second book and
produced an audiobook for that one as well. A Historical Fantasy, a
fairy tale where I imagined young girls voices and I found the perfect
voice for that in the same manner. Soon to be released. I have a third
audiobook in production and had an audition come in and his voice was
perfect. Early 2021 release is expected.
I have joined the APA and several facbook groups. I tweet every day
and never give up.
You can’t speak or write about writing without mentioning that four
letter word. Review. (I still can’t count) . It is extremely hard to
get readers to review your book. Yet, a good review brings attention
to your hard work. So if you loved an audiobook, review it on audible.
If you loved a book, review it on amazon or goodreads. I write about
my Book Club reads and blog on my website about books and other
things. If you’re reading this, you’re there.
Gleaning e-mails from the website is difficult, for me, as well. I
don’t have a lot of people subscribing to my maillist on my new blog
site. My first site had significantly more most of which were robots.
So I rely on my inbox. By only gleaning e-mails that were sent to be
directly, I feel a shameless plug is okay once in a while. Using
constant contact they only need to unsubscribe. There is so much more
that I should have done, but didn’t. There are so many suggestions I
have followed and learned by listening to the experts. By becoming an
expert myself and learning from my many mistakes, I can help others
and happy to do so.
August 28, 2020
Because Of Covid-19
I have spent the last few months concentrating on audiobooks. I have one published in February 2020, one was uploaded in June 2020 and still hasn't been released for sale on audible. The third audiobook in in production.
Flashback to January.
I started writing a third book in the trilogy. I was building an inventory for a trade show in March. A local event that has given the best sales results. Last year I sold out on the third day of a four day event. So, clear sailing. Ordered new business cards, bookmarks, and copies of a book that came out in February. Then, as everyone knows the quarantine hit. No public meetings… anywhere. So I continued to write I got to the half way point, 40,000 words and put it aside to do some research. Couldn’t go anywhere.
Forward to April
I found a narrator Lianne Walker on acx and started producing my second audiobook. It went rather smoothy and I was so happy with the performance. Lovely voice sweet characters... take or leave a a few. It was uploaded early June. Covid again. I’m still waiting. Sales of my first audiobook slowed. So I started looking into marketing and promoting audiobooks.
Back To The Present
All my books are on kindle and in print as well as audio. All my books are self-published. When I sat down to write my first novel, I was green as green can be. I’m thinking of the expenses it takes to write a book and get it published. It took my first paid edit, 90 pages, to show me how green I was and what an expense it was to get a professional edit. No periods or commas were moved. It would have been a waste because the entire MS had to be rewritten. The editor suggested I get several books, I did. The editor pointed out the highlights and suggested I get rid of the lowlights, I did. I used a confused omniscient voice and the editor suggested a third person limited, I did that too. A very painful experience. I put the book aside.
A partnership where I paid half of the projected expenses. Another mistake. Contests, queries, paper and ink. Conferences, books. What I’m getting at is I should have had a plan. But I don’t live that way. Head first ask questions later. Once the book is done there’s other expenses for cover design, marketing, promotion, reviews, narrators if you’re going audio. Every where you turn. You have to have money or you have to be savvy.
I had to learn the tools of the trade. Since I had a career in printing, I was able to navigate the self-publishing. Being a graphic designer, I managed to design my own covers (so far). I refreshed my grammar lessons, joined a writing group, book club, and online critiquing exchange group. I found narrators willing to share royalties (as an indie author, I retained my data rights) and wonderful beta readers who reviewed my books and I reviewed theirs. Those decisions were not mistakes.
So what was my original premise, oh yes? Audiobook promotion. A blog, guest posting, podcast interviews. By the way, the answers are all out there, you only have to have the proper key words. Find facebook groups and join them. Baby steps. Familiarize yourself with alll the social media platforms. Being an introvert (INSF), I would much rather sit in my office and write and be creative. I did do some public speaking. That was also a mistake. I do well at the trade shows though. I don’t have the same fight or flight feeling while I’m speaking one-on-one.
Keeping up with your social media obligations is key. I think. You never know where that one tweet or share will make your day. Like a five star review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible. In my last blog I ranted on negative reviews. They really hurt sometimes. That might be one of the hardest set backs in this career. A great review on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. A confirmation that that instinct you had about keeping that character or that particular setting or choice of words was correct. Not everyone you meet will like your genre, or the fact that it is fiction or memoir. These decisions come from what you love and decide to put on paper. So don’t let others tell you otherwise. Some best selling authors were rejected many times before that editor’s assistant picked the MS up and insists it get another chance. In my case that first edit was critical but also gave me some encouraging advise to continue writing. Selling over 200 copies of my first book. Getting the first “I loved your book” and even better, the smile that went with it. The Book Club that read it and reviewed it in front of me. Discussing my characters, using their names, asking the tough questions. Finding details that I didn’t realize anyone would pick up on. I invited them in and they accepted.
A New Beginning
It’s been five years since I started writing. A lot has happened
since. My idea was to journal my experiences as I started writing. I
had a blog in the first two years of my writing career but I stopped
when I lost my sight. Six months later it came back and I picked up
where I left off. By that time I had a published book. It was released
in Novmber of 2017. I have since severed my relationship with my
publisher and have my data rights back and hope to have an audiobook
I saved some of my original blog posts and thought I would add one to
my latest blog entry.
This is me, spilling my guts.
In January I started a project, just, something to do to get quality
time with my sister. I thought writing a novel by posting paragraphs
back and forth embellishing the story so as to inspire a more creative
exchange would be fun. I e-mailed a prompt and she e-mailed back a
paragraph with a curve. Then I e-mailed a second paragraph and she
sent back another — several days later. I was so worked up that I
cheated, and wrote another three pages. I probably overwhelmed her
because she encouraged me to keep on writing, so I did. Three months
later I had what I thought was a pretty good sized book (28,000
words). I presented it to my sister thinking she may jump in and enjoy
doing research, editing, etc. in the hope we would spend creative
weekends together but there wasn’t the “fire” I had experienced. She
continually encouraged me and actually read the story, liked the
characters and theme, the syntax however was getting in the way of the
readability. Since then “Part One” has been gone over three times and
there are now four parts and 130,000 words.
I have written some letters, stories, newsletters in my lifetime but
nothing like what I experienced this winter and spring. I have been
told my letters made her* cry. My novel is complete. I just need to
tweak Part Four and do some research to reinforce what I have written.
I would like to attend a writer’s conference.
Its true what they say about the “trance” writer’s get because I can
still sit down and write — not really knowing what will end up on the
paper. Memory DNA? That is an awesome thought.
Whats Wrong With Woven?
June 15, 2020
My first novel has been re-written three times. It was resurected two
years ago during NaNoWriMo month and died another slow death the
following spring when the WIP was sent out for review, even my beta
readers weren’t impressed.
I decided to let it die, but Lazarus is trying to make another come back.
First Novel Blues
This first attempt at writing was my favorite. No impedements, such as
pov, target audience, or outline. It was a raw, four month,
free-flowing event. It is now a tangled mess. Appropriately it’s
called Woven, an epic fantasy of world building, Egyptian Gods,
warriors, and seventh sons. It spans three generations and four books.
Planning serious edits, it will end up being one book, four parts
instead. Which darlings are going to be sacrificed? That’s a good
question. In my mind, on this particular day, I won’t compromise on
some but have a sadistic view on others.
In my fifth year of writing, several books published, and two
audiobooks produced, I have a different perspective than when I first
sat down to write. I walked head first into a portable fan of slice
and dice opinion. If I knew then what I know now kind of mindset.
Only 15% (give or take) of the population read. Of that less than 50% read
Historical Fiction, my chosen genre. I avidly read historical fiction and to
expand my world, I belong to a book club and read other genres as well.
The Evasive Agent
I also edit MS’s through an online critique exchange group. After two
years, I began to get insight into how the professionals might react
to hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts in a week. In ten words or less, I think
the general problem is the desire to have your story read takes
precidence over the cold truth of self-edit and containment. Sixteen
words or less. Most first sentences or paragraphs are not worth
reading on and simple errors in grammar are a turn off. In my case, I
just wanted someone to read my book and tell me what was wrong. That
could cost thousands of dollars because no agent will take the time to
edit your work. The best response I ever got... 'We received your MS and if
you don’t hear from us in 90 days, it’s a no...' Most times, there’s no
response. Eventually, after sending out hundreds of queries, I got two requests for
MS. Neither worked out. Then, I was blindsided by a non traditional
publisher who offered a partnership because ‘my writing should be
published’. Despite all the warnings not to go along with a paid
partnership, the dangling treat was too much for this greyhound to pass
up. One book was published with this vanity publisher and the rest
have been self-published.
Even after five years of writing, conferences, trade shows, bookclub reviews, and editing dollars spent, I still don't know what will become of 'Woven'.
Reviews and Criticism
A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
I won't give negative reviews. My opinion is just that. Why would I try to ruin someone else's accomplishment? Any author deserves credit for writing the story and having the courage to get it published. Reviews are what we live on. We want to hear constructive criticism, but are all reviews constructive? I think not. Especially when the bad reviews are dealt anonymously.
Reading through most reviews you will find a wide range from 'I loved it' to 'I hated it' and such is the way of the world.
Why did you hate it?
Not my genre. Not my taste. Hated the ending.
And who are you? Why should your opinion matter so much that it ruins a work that took years to write and it's sliced with one swipe of a bitter sword?
Can we suppose that most substandard works are edited before hand or left on the cutting room floor? What about the agent or publisher that promoted such work?
What about Independents such as myself? Recently I heard the comment from a narrator. What do I do if the work sucks? (Not a direct quote). Simple answer. Don't narrate it.
I have been at the end of both constructive and harsh reviews that leave me with no answer as to what was wrong? A matter of taste?
As a reviewer/editor of first draft MS's, I have begun to learn what makes a story good and what keeps it from its full potential. Yes, I can finally see what an agent goes through on a very limited scale (my scale). I have readers that love my books and others that won't read them. I listen to audiobooks and when I glaze down the reviews I have learned that if I ignore the most negative ones, I may end up listening to a most enjoyable book, for me.
In the sea of hundreds and thousands of books to choose from, one bad review can cause a reader to move along. So very unfortunate. I have read some first drafts and see so much potential, but alas, the opinion panel at the publisher or other censorship critic will cause a good story to never see the light of day.
Shirley Nomakeo received a B.S. Degree in Graphic Design from Rivier College.