Blunders found Beta Reading

I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading lately, and thought I’d do a quick five minute post on some easy solutions for frequent problems I’ve been running into in my reading;

 

  • Repetition
  • Tell not show
  • Character reactions
  • Action sequences

 

Of all the things I pull people up on these are the ones that I come across the most and today I wanted to give you the tools to help get around these things by letting you know what I use to avoid these horrible things.

 

Repetition;

 

When I first started writing the “Repetition Stick” from my editor started out as a light touch and ended up as a bludgeoning stick.

repeatedly hitting

I quickly found an excellent tool in Rhymezone.

It allows you to look up rhymes for poetry (yes, I write a lot of poetry, I have a project about that I’ll be sharing at the end of the year), but what Rhymezone also allows you to do is look up synonyms!

So all of a sudden the dark cave that’s super dark becomes the gloomy cave that’s inky depths stretch on into the dark.

I have also recently found Power Thesaurus which appears to be another excellent resource for these issues.

 

Tell not Show;

 

I recently beta read this absolutely lovely little story involving a scene scape and the author really captured my fascination with the ocean floor in one sentence and then lost it in another.

We hear this all the time; show, don’t tell!

HOW? What witchcraft is this!?

There are heaps of blogs out there but where this one crops up a lot is in scenery and action sequences, and I’ll get to action in a moment but for scenery what I recommend is a little writing exercise… that doesn’t involve writing!

Imagine you’ve crashed on an alien planet, there’s only one space suit, and you’ve got to go outside and see what’s out there. There are no windows, and no cameras, so out you go, and now you’ve got to tell the shipmates what you see…

forest

What do you see? Tell me, out loud, describe the above for me. Yes, do it, I’m not here to stuff around. You may think I can’t hear you, but believe me I am going to be sitting here listening. DESCRIBE IT TO ME, SOLDIER!

If you’ve just said you see an alien city, the first question from the shipmates is going to be; is their life? What does I look like? They will have questions. Answer them.

Chances are you struggle to find the descriptive words you want to use when saying it out loud, so now try writing what you see, as though recording for future generations, not missing a single detail, you are the first person to find the ruins of an abandoned alien city. What do you see?

 

Here is what I see;

Spires of silver strike the sky, the grasping clasp of the jungle wrapping around the throat of each building to strangle the life that doesn’t exist within.

 

You do not need to spend a lot of time on a description, even a single sentence will convey a landscape well. Picture what you want to convey, remove the story and characters and focus purely on the single scene.

 

Character actions;

 

This is one thing that I run into a lot, and its usually for a very fundamental reason; the writer is focusing on the plot, and not the character.

The reactions your characters have to the plot points, such as the emergence of a stranger in town, is both in dialogue and in reactions.

I was reading a romance once where a character quite literally abandoned her friends to follow a stranger down a dark alley, because he was hot. There wasn’t even a supernatural aspect such as feeling they were bound together. She followed him down a dark alley because he was hot.

rolling eyes

EVERY WOMAN’S SELF PRESERVATION INSTINCT IN REAL LIFE WOULD BE; LIKE, NO.

It made it completely unbelievable. I lost so much respect for the character, and while the writer made an excellent follow on scene out of it, I had already lost a lot of believability for the character and thus the story.

So, when you need your character to walk down an alley, look at why. Is it a shortcut? Would you do it? Ask around for better natural reactions, say to a spouse or friend; hey, why would you walk down a dark alley? Chances are its not the alley, but something on the other side.

This is true in dialogue too.

What people say to convey the greater story elements should be in character to their personalities.

You are not going to have a cautious self-protective friend let the protagonist walk down a dark alley after a stranger. But you can’t have her, go with them either, it’d run the moment with said hot guy.

So what to do?

“Call me when you get to your bus stop.”

“Take my pepper spray.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”

But above all, it shouldn’t be something like this;

“Wow,” she said, “he’s hot, go follow him and see if he’ll take you home.”

But especially from the over protective friend who wanted to get her friend a cab home with her.

Our protag is not a stray dog…

If you are questioning the actions of your characters but aren’t sure how to get it across, put yourself in their shoes, don’t force them into situations that aren’t feasible or you will lose a lot of believability in the characters, and that will lose you the reader.

 

Action sequence;

 

One of the easiest ways I see writers lose action sequences is with succinct specifics and order.

There is a lack of spatial awareness, as the writer becomes focused on telling you what’s happening that the details get missed.

A sequence I read recently (in my own damn writing), had a character the MC was fighting suddenly disappear for several moments. They vanished from the script while the MC fought someone else.

What were they doing? Standing there?

Think of yourself as a sports commentator if you will, you want to relay the sequence of events in tight punchy lines to better relay to the reader (who is a listener too), what you want to convey;

Player one kicks the ball to player two, who kicks it into the goal. The ball rolls as though shot out of a cannon.

Really? That’s it?

The sequence should be as follows;

Player one kicks the ball to player two. Player two kicks the ball hard enough it’s as though its shot out a cannon, and scores the goal.

This seems simple enough but check your actions sequence for flow and look at breaking them down into single action sequence.

Sometimes I’ll do this, especially with fighting, by watching videos of the action sequence and doing a small exercise in describing just what I observe, the same as the above section with the landscape. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but it does need flow through, so the action sequences make sense.

 

Ultimately, you’ll find that you make these mistakes, it’s the whole point of revising and editing.

But if you can teach yourself not to make them as you go you can make doing these things much easier. Sometimes its hard to tell, and that’s where getting beta feedback and good editors are going to pick these up for you. The more you can get this feedback, you can better focus on where you fall down as a writer and how to help improve not just that story, but you as a writer in whatever you are working on right now.

An Honest Review

There is a battle on Twitter at the moment.

 

I first witnessed it from several readers who were attacked by Indie authors for leaving anything but a five-star review. Authors… attacking readers.

 

What kind of a fucked-up person do you have to be to attack your own consumers? One reader had given four stars, and posted a glowing review, but took it down after the indie author not tracked them down and told the reader remove it, but abused them in the process. I see SO many cases of this happening and its, simply put, bad fucking behaviour.

 

Where have we forgotten that these are the people we are hoping to inspire and entertain?

 

I was flabbergasted.

 

The backlash of such actions has been the tendency for readers to not leave reviews *ESPECIALLY* for indie authors, because of this attitude. I’d like to pretend I was surprised. But I wasn’t.

 

This has been something I’ve witnessed from about five years ago when I started getting into reviews and noticed that one of the key readers for indie authors were other indie authors. Its very hard to get reviews, what better way (there is a better way, you nonce, read it here), than to help each other out? Not swapping reviews, oh no, against Amazon’s T&C’s, but you know, being kind to other authors struggling against apparently insurmountable odds and a slush pile that is the indie ebook market.

 

So, in order to avoid having their book trashed, regardless if it was good or not, indies started making their reviews nice so as not to rock the boat, and have their own books given insincere & low reviews. Harmless at first, many admitting that not getting five stars is okay, its opened the floodgates to authors expecting you to call their work five stars… even if its really not. The growing sense of self entitlement to a perfect review by authors, but predominately self-published and indie authors, (yes, I’m talking about YOU), is honestly, disgusting.

 

Books that have been poorly edited, books that have terrible covers, books with no rhythm or flow, books where, as much as I want to love every single storyteller, reads like a first draft where someone just said; hell I spent so much time on it, that’s ALL I’m going to put into it.

 

(Not only is it critical to have beta readers to give honest and helpful feed back (which I offer), but get your editing together, and if you can’t afford one, look at getting ProWritingAid and seeking assistance out on Twitter for editors who will do discounted cheaper rates for struggling authors. This should be essential for those querying too! If you are self publishing or even indie, don’t forget to have a marketing plan, effective to your books release, and there is an in depth guide here.)

 

NOT doing those things for your beautiful creation, I don’t have to tell you, is fucking lazy and a disgrace to the creation you have made. It dishonours you, your house, your cow… I digress.

 

But here’s where the curve ball comes in.

 

Readers want your diversity, your odd ideas, your fandoms, your creations. They genuinely want them AND… they don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel like quitting. A lot of them are writers too, after all…

 

So, in order to leave a good review, readers are going to great efforts to say something other than “1 Star – this was a dumpster fire” and other unhelpful and harmful reviews. These are really hard to hear, so many readers are making the effort to write details as to why they didn’t like it. They don’t want to hurt the author, (well, some do), for the most part if they leave a great review they are trying to do one of two things; help the author improve, tell other potential buyers the issues they have.

 

You know… WHAT A REVIEW IS FUCKING FOR!

 

So they take the time and effort to write something substantial. Helpful. Insightful.

 

I am 100% behind this, as someone who learned through some harsh reader feedback I’ve learned and grown as an author to try and become a better writer.

 

On the other hand doing so takes a lot of time an effort. Recently, an author was unnecessarily harassed for telling people they should be leaving reviews, and that it really doesn’t take that long, and was promptly roasted for her flippancy regarding posting reviews quickly. A gross overreaction that reminded me that with all the authors (traditional/indie/selfpub) out there demanding reviews; readers are getting sick of this shit.

 

They are tired of getting called out on their judgements, on their opinions, on their feelings about your story both good and bad. Wondrous and terrible. Uplifting, emotional, and lovely, falling right back to the terrible, poorly constructed, and glory seekers just copying other authors to make a buck.

 

They spend time to read about stories they want to love!

 

And we are putting them off.

 

What do we do about it? Yes, you, damn it, I am talking to you!

 

I think the Writing Community needs to tackle this as a whole, and it means no more lying. I was actually scared to post this article because of backlash and, obviously enough, made that the key decision to post it because I felt like that. I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for saying I didn’t like a book, and neither should ANY reader.

 

If you don’t like a book say so. Review on a separate account if you’re worried. There are so many ways to hide your identity so you aren’t attacked, and can separate it from your author profile, but most of all this must stop!

 

There’s hurting an individual author, and then there is the widespread damage this is causing the very people we sought to entertain. People who are being alienated from genuine self & indie writers because of the poor behaviour of more than few. Not a few. Many. I know many writers who behave like this and I say enough.

 

I didn’t give out 1 or 2 star reviews, for those same reasons – I will be doing so from now on. I will stand by my convictions and base each story on its individual merit.

 

But with the way people feel about what is meant of a 1 star review, right up to 5, what am I going to be basing my reviews status on? Jonothan Pickering joins to my blog as we knuckle down and go through what is going to warrant a terrible book to a great book, in our minds.

 

ONE STAR – Very poor

 

EJD: This book needs serious work. It read like a rough draft that was hastily published for the thrill of having a novel. Whether the work has a redeemable story line or characters is immaterial. A work of this caliber could be improved with the judicious application of an editor to help improve the writer, and perhaps recreate this book to better standards. Things that would warrant a one star but aren’t limited to;

  • No editing
  • All tell (no show)
  • No flow
  • Could not read/did not finish
  • Haphazard, disconnected, made no sense, full of plot holes

 

JP: A book that simply isn’t ready for publication. Riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that could be resolved simply by running a spellchecker. Disjointed plot that reads like a stream of consciousness, which is fine for a first draft that will never see the light of day, but is a far cry from a polished and readable story.

Significant improvements need making, up to and including entire rewrites now that the skeleton of a story is on the page. Major proofreading and editing passes necessary to make the text readable.

One star books are VERY rare for me as I can usually find some redeemable quality in a story that somebody had passion enough to write. However, there are rare instances where a book is so far from being ready that I feel the author has just done themselves a disservice as a writer and I find myself getting frustrated at them for not doing justice to their own creation.

I’m one of those readers who feels compelled to finish every book I start, but these books severely test my patience and inherent resistance to DNFing.

 

TWO STAR – Poor

 

JP: There’s a kernel of something in a two star book that piques my interest, or certain particulars that I think the writer did well, but overall is still lacking. This could be for any number of craft reasons; one dimensional characters; plot holes; unconvincing dialogue or just being plain dull through lack of dramatic conflict and stakes.

The problems are fewer and often more particular to specific craft issues than the shotgun effect of problems that litter a one star book, so there’s often no overarching solution to improving these stories. One book may have skillfully inserted nuggets of lore and worldbuilding while avoiding lengthy exposition but still needs work on upping stakes and fleshing out the characters. The issues may lie entirely elsewhere in a second story.

 

EJD: A book like this has the makings of a good story, but for whatever reason fell short. This could be based on any of the one star ratings issues, but there was a semblance of something in the story I liked. Work like this can easily be revisited by a serious developmental edit, to bring the characters and story to the level where it can be a really great tale. It also means that there should be a series of secondary edits and beta reading done to ensure this is a properly polished story.

 

THREE STAR – Okay

 

EJD: I liked it. I’m not running around the house naked about it, but I did enjoy and finish it. A rating like this to me represents time well spent. If there are aspects or elements for improvement, I’ll mention them in detail when and where I can. If I give an author 3 stars, I think the most important thing that they know is that they tell a good yarn. They are on their way to becoming if not a great, then a good writer, and I think this should be a form of encouragement, but also a notation on where they can hopefully improve.

 

JP: A good, solid book. Well done author, I enjoyed your story. I’d say most books I read are three stars – something enjoyable and well worth reading, but not exceptional. There may be some issues here and there, but nothing major enough to ruin the experience of reading a good story. Honestly, if I give your book three stars, it’s something to be proud of.

 

FOUR STARS – Good

 

JP: An exceptional book. I will rave about this story and recommend it to the world. Some of my favourite works of fiction are four stars and I guess this is the part where my rating system begins to majorly digress from many others. “If they’re your favourites” I hear you say, “why not give them five stars?” I’ll get to that in the next section.

A four star book for me is a book that pulls me into its world, where the characters truly come alive on the page, where I feel emotionally invested in their lives and goals, a reminder of Carl Sagan’s assertion that books are “proof that humans can work magic.”

 

EJD: A seriously good book. The author tells a tale that keeps you flowing with the story, solid believable characters who the reader someone they can lose themselves in. If there are any issues, they are usually minor, based on preference, and should only ever be considered my opinions and thoughts alone. Not every story is perfect, nor does it have to be. For me, a four-star review represents a tough element at play, because I swing from just liking to absolutely loving. Whatever the reason I give for not making it 5 has usually bugged me enough I felt compelled to say something.

 

FIVE STARS – Excellent

 

EJD: This book picked me up from the first line and carried me along until I got lost and my legs fell asleep on the toilet. Graphic I know, but I want to enforce the idea that books are portals to worlds the reader falls down, like Alice, chasing a plot bunny to the ends of the book with a host of wonderful characters who enrapture the reader into obsession. These are true storytellers. Whether innate talent or years of crafting their writing style, whatever it is that they have inside their books is pure magic. Even if I call umbridge at any perceived flaws, it doesn’t matter in the face of my delight with the work. I’m highly likely to reread this book, and others by the same author.

 

JP: This book is a gamechanger, possibly borderline genius and represents a turning point in the cultural zeitgeist of a genre. Again, these books are incredibly rare and represent literary gold dust. For me there needs to be a distinction between a very well-written, four star story and something truly extraordinary that will go down in history as leaving an indelible impression on, or even entirely changing the way we view literature, culture and society as a whole.

 

E. J. Dawson .COM

 

Being a writer isn’t just about editing or getting beta readers or a good marketing plan.

 

It’s learning to capture the audience and entertain them. If that means taking a few bad reviews to learn where you need to improve from impartial strangers who aren’t going to lie to you about your book, then do it. Learn, grow, create again. There is no limitations on one story, one ending, one finite piece of you, if you truly are a storyteller. And there is nothing like having another idea, writing it down, and have your peers tell you that you are improving, you’re getting better. You aren’t just making magic anymore… you are flourishing.

 

Its by far the best compliment a reader has ever given me, and I highly recommend it.

 

So now I’m asking you, will you be honest about the books you are reading?

 

Will you let someone tell you that your book isn’t that great so you can improve?

 

Because the story that you are telling isn’t just about you, its about the life you lead as a storyteller, and just like the characters in those stories, you need to learn to grow and improve.

Beyond Beginners Marketing

I was recently speaking to a friend about what else she could do beyond the basics of getting her marketing plan ready, and what it was to actually have one. There were things I knew, information I’d learned over the years that I’d kept to myself.

Another Twitter user asked for some pointers, completely separate, and I thought about sharing my secretes with them too, before I asked myself why the hell was I keeping this to myself? If your book is good, and you do all the right things, starting with this helpful beginners list to self-publishing, then you will find your audience. It takes time, but this is a great way to start. You should also look at reviews, and your idea of what success should be.

There is a secondary stage to that list, that I wanted to talk about today here.

Marketing companies are very expensive because marketing takes a lot of work. More so sometimes than editing or even writing the damn book to begin with. So today I’m going to cover tools to make it easier, and what I use to help.

Ultimately, you should be using these tools and the ones within the above links in tandem to create a detailed and set out marketing plan that follows the correct trends. Whether or not you use all of these or only some, is up to you, and what you are comfortable with, but my recommendation is to spread yourself across all of them for the best impact.

 

  1. Social Media Tools

Making posters and social media content is intimidating, and I’ll be honest, you are going to stuff it up. Imagine asking someone who creatively writes to create an attention grabbing poster. Not everyone can attune themselves to that sort of imagery and this is where there are some tools that are helpful to use in your social media platforms. Some of these have small fees, and its worth paying them to get some better images and access.

Canva: IS GREAT! Free to use, browser based, you can pay for a higher membership which gets access to better and more importantly commercially free pictures. Don’t just go to any photo/image site and copy or download images. If you are using them for marketing always check what the rights are, and buy them if you don’t have them and it’s the perfect image.

Canva comes with a host of premade social media images that allows you to just change the text and images until you get comfortable with how you are marketing yourself. Don’t forget to check out what other people are doing, and get feedback on how they look.

Book Brush: This is an excellent if somewhat more advanced tool, the same as Canva, browser based and has a fee for higher level of use. What the real appeal here is that they are specific to books, and have a range of templates as well as 3D images you can put the cover of your book on. There is even one for a cover reveal as well, which is  great tool to use to help drum up interest in the book.

 

  1. Timing

You are ready! The book is edited! You have a great cover! You’ve done everything you need to! Its all a go!

So when should you really publish?

Timing is everything, they say don’t release a book in the last quarter of the year, unless you’re a horror/thriller (for Halloween), and of course Christmas themed books. There can also be a slew of health and non-fiction diet books to get rolling in time for the new year.

The timing for all genre’s is different, but some are obvious; romance on Valentines.

Others aren’t so much, and its a good idea to find when certain books throughout the year are released for your genre.

January to June tends to have much of the heavier reading of the year, preparing for the summer season. Then there is the summer reading itself, good for lighter books/holiday reading.

Pick your time, observe the trend, and spend your time working towards that goal.

 

  1. Book Tours/Blog Tours

You can find many services willing to offer book and blog tours to help promote your book.

I can’t list a single service here because not only are there hundreds of them, if not thousands, you have to pick what’s right for you.

Google them, find the ones that fit your genre, make sure they are on Alli’s safe list (or at least not a scam) and check their prices out.

You can also contact a slew of authors on twitter who do this gratis for other indie authors, such as myself.

Its good to remember too, not only should smaller platforms like mine not be overlooked, but spending more money doesn’t equate to more exposure. Don’t sink all your funds into one avenue, use multiple ones, and record how well they do for next time.

 

  1. E-newsletters

The above goes for e-newsletters as well. You an spend hundreds of dollars advertising your science fiction drama… to a very small audience who are actually only interested in epic fantasy.

Make sure you look at the content of these services, because when you google them there are hundreds of them all promising sales and it can be overwhelming. Don’t fall for every one, look at what they are advertising, and if it isn’t a good fit for your book, discard it.

The trick to note here as well, is that many of them are booked out for months because books are released very far ahead of schedule. It takes a lot of planning. Which is why you need to plan the books release well in advance in order to make sure you can actually get your book listed with these services at roughly the same time.

Take the time to use both book/blog tours, and e-newsletters, to time their release together to get as much exposure as possible. The more your book trends, and is bought, the higher up the ladders it will climb, gaining it more attention.

 

  1. Pod/Youtube Casts

There are heaps of these around the indie market by indie authors for indie authors. You can ask around, many will do interviews, but also see which ones are just to talk writing rather than just interviews. You are there to promote your book, but not everyone wants to hear just about that.

Its still a good way to gear up attention for your book, especially if the listeners/watchers like what you have to say, which will then give you the opportunity to pitch it, normally referred to a “plug” at the end of the cast, where you can talk about your book and when it’s out.

The advantage of these is that not only are you self promoting, and getting your work out there, you’re also networking, a useful tool that gives you a lot of visibility.

 

  1. Advertising on Amazon & Goodreads

My impression of this is that its better to do these things again close to your release date but they can be very expensive. If you have your plan down pat and can afford to do it, it can be quite lucrative, but not always.

I’m hesitant to advocate it, given it doesn’t work for everyone and I’ve had reports of both abysmal and successful runs with these advertising platforms.

The same can be said of many of the book promo sites out there. You can pour as much (or little) money as you like into those sorts of avenues, but without all the groundwork, and a good book, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

 

 

These can all seem super intimidating, and they are, but its important if you are an indie author that you do you and your book a favour, and make a marketing plan.

This does however take time.

You need to plan for months in advance and if you are impatient, and don’t think some of these through, you’re liable to have your book reach a quick peak, and then fall rather flat.

Incorporating all of these methods into your book, will help get it the attention and love that you want, and find it some forever homes in the hearts of readers.

With so many indie books available on Amazon, a veritable ocean, your single drop needs to have a ripple, and your marketing plan is that ripple.

 

The Story & I

The St

Sixteen weeks ago I was curled against the wall sobbing that there was no point being a writer anymore. I had to stop working on the Last Prophecy series and I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this. I wasn’t just tired, I was well and truly beyond weary. Exhausted.

Five years ago I met with a doctor who’d taken a series of blood tests. The original tests were supposed to have been done with my regular doctor, but the doctor suddenly wasn’t at the clinic anymore. So a stranger told me that I probably wouldn’t have children without IVF aid. Even that wasn’t a sure thing.

My life stopped.

I’d never had an overwhelming desire to have children, but when the option died, a part of me did too. I was torn apart, and I spent years being vaguely misplaced, only regaining what I’d lost inch at a time.

My husband was understanding, adoption had been something we’d discussed before.

But I felt useless. As though the complications of my womb were a manifestation of my personal failing. I didn’t have a job or career I loved, I became purposeless. My life lost all its meaning.

If my mother taught me any rule that was of value, it was this: what do I DO about it?

What I’d always wanted; to be an author.

The answer was the easiest one I’d ever made. I was yet to know how much harder it would to be do.

I’d never done much about my writing, I’d written two or three novels, each of them I knew wasn’t worth publishing. Writing had only ever been something I did when I was bored and had the itch to pen story to paper.

Now it became a necessity. If I wanted to have a purpose in life that wasn’t a family, I needed to do something about it now.

One afternoon I went online, and to a random website for a story prompt idea. I was going to write something new, fresh, different.

I ended up after half an hour of random generators with a story about airships and desert chases. I started writing a tale about a navigator in a fantasy world, with corrupt government officials, conspiracies and a haunting darkness. I was 30k words into it when I started to realise it wasn’t a standalone story.

Cut to a month later and I’d outlined a 21 book/novella series. All based on a poem I wrote. I knew immediately to start research into self-publishing, I didn’t even consider traditional. No publishing company wanted this monster of a project. But I wanted to write it, because it gave me the purpose that had been taken away.

I wrote the first novella, asked around a few friends for an editor and found Scott. He was open to editing my manuscript at a rate I could afford, and so I gave it to him.

Thus began a learning curve of writing and editing I wouldn’t forget. Scott was kind, helpful, and deeply intuitive about my work and how to phrase to a novice writer where to improve. Sometimes it was hard, things didn’t work, needed to be rewritten, but we worked at it together.

After a while I published The Hidden Monastery through Pronoun. I’d written the following novella, The Last Prophecy during Nanowrimo, and Pronoun offered winners a chance to self-publish through them.

Pronoun was a platform that took care of the self-publishing process for you, making it easy, simple and a service I happily would have paid for if I’d known they were going to shut down.

I published the other novella with them, the Last Prophecy, and then my first book, The Well of Youth, in October of 2017. It was my birthday, which also happened to be International Independent Author Day. I felt like I was finally making progress.

A month later I got the email stating Pronoun were closing down.

After years of work the world tilted. I wanted to give up. I was in a very bad place emotionally and physically, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my husband.

I decided to keep going, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I kept applying myself to the craft of writing, Scott kept raising the bar of what he expected from me in his genteel way. I learned from reviews where my writing was falling down, and where it excelled.

I worked hard at it, isolated from the world by circumstances outside my control, but it was also self-imposed. I didn’t feel good enough around people who were building their careers and family, their very lives, whereas I may as well have been starting from scratch.

Over these years I watched as people became vaguely mocking of my “hobby”, mostly because I was self-published. As though it were merely an exercise in vanity. But it wasn’t a hobby to me, it was far more than that. I was determined to prove I wasn’t in this for a stint, or for attention. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write full time.

In anger I started a book that originally was to be sold quickly, and all of it went on hold when the plot flowed out of my hands into something greater, that would need more time and consideration. I couldn’t even let myself write a romance just to make money. It was selfish and vain, and I hated myself for it.

And so Queen of Spades went into the time consuming process of writing the entire trilogy, and even now is going through rewrites so it can be better. Just be a good story. That was what I wanted. To write good stories.

There were knocks to my goals, setbacks and delays, the worst of which was earlier this year, the whole drive I’d had to make myself an author went cold. I couldn’t afford to pay Scott while we were trying to buy a house. It wasn’t fair to keep Scott waiting, and I knew that the Last Prophecy was going to be put indefinitely on hold.

In a fit of freedom and rage I started another project.

An idea popped into my head, and I just ran with it. I had no goals, no expectations, it was just the story and me.

Along came a woman, fighting to escape a past she couldn’t control. She was out there to show others what mistakes not to make. She was intriguing and compelling. She was a coward, and I couldn’t stop writing her story.

Twenty-five days later it was done. I was exhausted but pleased with what I’d created. I sent it to my mother, who said it was the first thing I’d written she actually liked. With that cheering thought, I kept at it.

Using ProWritingAid, I went over and over it, eliminating mistakes, smoothing it out, reading it aloud to an empty room to get the tone and sentences right. Every word I fell more in love with it, I felt I’d created something real, something special. But all those years of failings made me hesitate, uncertain.

I gave it to a friend to read. Renee said, you should pitch this on Pitmad. I had two days to get ready for the event, and spent hours pulling together every inch of the savvy I’d built up over the last few years to get my synopsis and query letter ready, and to put together the most important thing; the pitches.

I put the tweets up on a timer, as an Australian its always out of hours for us, and went to bed.

I woke up and two agents liked the tweet.

I submitted the synopsis to both.

One came back with a full request.

I sent it, having been over the script a few more times in preparation for beta readers. I already had Violeta working on the cover, expecting to be rejected from the publishers I’d pitched to, but hoping I could self-publish this if they didn’t like it.

They did more than like it, they offered me a publishing contract within weeks of it being written.

I signed a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust a few days ago.

This isn’t about my ability to tell stories. This is about my ability to work hard and consistently. To apply myself to the craft of my writing. Fear of failure is not a demon you beat once and move on, you confront it again and again, each time a newer twisted version of the exact same one you handily thrashed last time.

All the while it tells you to give up, and that there is no point.

But it can’t take away those years of work.

Nothing will tarnish the fact that I made it this far.

No one will be able to take away all that I’ve managed to accomplish.

What it took was hard work, the willingness to improve, and to keep going. For as long as it takes, that’s what I’ll do, and if you take away anything from this blog post, then I hope you don’t quit too.

 

Kindess Costs Nothing

 

Kindness

The Writing Community on Twitter has become the largest, fluffiest blanket of love and communication on Twitter. Ask any writer or creative and all sorts and they will assure you that the community on Twitter has made them a better writer.

With people posting success and losses, times of trial and celebration, there are any number of people to reach out to for help, encouragement and support.

But for such a bunch of talented people, my goodness are some of them completely feral.

Forgetting that there are accounts that are nothing but serial retweeters, follower hoarders, and pedophiles floating around, there are legitimate accounts where if you say the wrong thing to them, you may as well close your account.

With the surplus of people using Twitter as a means to communicate and find other writers, some accounts have gone from a few hundred followers to tens of thousands overnight. That’s good though, people should be posting content that’s engaging and encouraging.

What’s not is when things get messy.

You’ve got 280 characters to express an opinion and if you don’t hit your mark just right you can be torn to shreds.

Time and again I’ve witnessed the owner of a big account (one with LOTS of followers) not agree with something that’s been said by a smaller user on their feed, which is fine, we don’t all agree on a host of subjects. What’s not is then having those said thousands of followers absolutely destroy the offender, even if what they said wasn’t that aggressive to begin with.

What this then devolves down to is targeted harassment.

Not cool, Writing Community.

You know that, and if I asked you, most of you would put up your hand and say; yes, I’ve been bullied, and I’ve been bullied online too.

This blog post, I’m shouting out the #WritingCommunityMum, Emma Lombard, who loves to look after new twitter users, and even has great advice for older ones! (I still don’t know why I should put a dot before I @ someone…)

Emma’s newest blog of her Twitter Tips for Newbies series includes a detailed post on bullying, but we’ve come together to give you a few tips on how you can handle these situations;

 

  1. Should I really post that tweet/reply?

 

Emma: I avoid confrontational situations but even then, I sometimes hesitate when I’m about to send a reply, especially if it’s one that is laced with my own sense of humour. Not everyone will read into that humour, no matter how many emojis I add. I’ve caught a couple of tweets that could be misconstrued before I’ve sent them out, and a couple after the fact – in which case, I have chosen to delete my response and re-word it for clarification.

 

EJ: If I have even the smallest doubt about what I’m about to post it goes in the delete pile. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Standing up for yourself shouldn’t be about tearing someone else down. Defending your statements should be about you and what you want to say, not about others and their flaws.

 

  1. Someone was rude:

 

Emma: Despite my very best efforts to be polite to people on line, I still had one snappy belligerent reply of “Whatever!” to one of my comments once. I was about to try and clarify what I had meant and that I had not intended it to come across as rude – and I was about to apologise too, when I stopped myself and realised that I wasn’t going to win that one. My mantra in these cases is no response at all. No explanation. No apology. No like. Just scroll on past and shake it off. How many of us post stuff that we know never gets seen because it is lost in the Twitterverse void without a single like. If you don’t reply to someone, there is no way for them to tell if you are ignoring the comment or if their comment was simply swallowed up, never to see the light of day.

 

EJ: Ignore it, leave it unliked. You don’t actually have to respond to those tweets you think are going to cause trouble. I’ve had the most random people walk into one of my threads and start shouting for attention. The best way to get rid of them is to not respond at all. Engaging these people validates your acknowledgement of what they are saying.

 

  1. They have a big account, but I don’t like what they are saying

 

Emma: When I was new to the #WritingCommunity (with all 36 of my followers!), I was in awe of the accounts with huge follower numbers! I marvelled at what they must have done to grow like that. As I became more experienced, I realised of course that there are so many ways to gain huge followings, and not all of them are healthy or good for the followers or the followees, like blind following without screening followers and allowing hundreds of bots to follow you. As I now find myself in the supremely fortunate position of having 13k followers, I have realised that having such traction and such a wide reach online actually comes with a weight of responsibility to speak and act appropriately even more than ever. Just because you followed someone with a large following, doesn’t mean you are obligated to stay following them if you see behaviour that makes you uncomfortable. You won’t necessarily be able to get that person to see reason – in fact, I’ve seen too many folks try and get burned in the process, so I don’t recommend it – but you do have the power to quietly remove that person from your feed.

 

EJ: This isn’t facebook, just because you went to high school with that twit who joke asked you to prom doesn’t mean you HAVE to be friends. Fuck that. Unfollow them, mute them, block them if you want. I have a few dozen accounts I’ve done this to, mostly because I’ve found whatever they are saying offensive which is more about their platform, and their message. This is your platform, you are choosing to spend time on it, spend it with people who validate you.

 

  1. I said something that was misconstrued and now I have a whole pack of people after me. What do I do?

EJ: If you did make a mistake, apologise, sincerely. Most people react well to it. Anyone who doesn’t accept and decides to verbally attack with name calling is someone you can and should block. Some of these people are treating the anonymity of social media as mask to cover their poor behaviour. Eleanor Roosevelt once said people don’t remember what you said or did, they remember how you feel. If you don’t feel good, hit that block button.

Emma: If what you said was well meant but was just misunderstood, the best way I’ve seen folks handle this is to give a quick apology for the misunderstanding and then move on, no longer engaging on the thread. It would be wise to mute the conversation so that you are not tempted to be drawn back into the conversation. When that mob mentality sets in, it is near impossible to try and get people to see reason when their blood is up. Depending on how ugly it gets, you might also see a truer reflection of some of the people you are following and this may be the decider for you to unfollow, soft block or hard block a bunch of people. It’s okay to do this in order to keep your feed full of the content and types of folks who you want to see. It’s all part of the continual job of Twitter housekeeping.

 

  1. My friend is being attacked online. Should I dive in to defend them?

 

EJ: Diving is a hasty word, it relies on not taking into consideration what’s going on, or things that fall outside that thread. I saw an agent and writer get into a massive fight, but because they kept retweeting the other’s response with a comment, it got very messy. I was asked via DM to block someone who was racist. In both instances I looked at or round the offending tweets, and decided for myself. If you have a good friend, and they are being attacked, it’s good to come and support them, but you are also making yourself a target. As long as you’re ready for that, and what else comes of it, then you can do it. But sometimes you can’t talk to these people and butting in can make it worse. So don’t dive in. Make a clear and level headed decision, and if you think you should come to their defence THEN cannon ball that shite.

 

Emma: I’ve seen this happen a couple of times to folks I know online. I personally never dive into the conversation publicly but I rather contact my friend privately via DM (direct message) to offer support. I check that they are okay and then gently suggest they disengage from the toxic conversation.

 

  1. This all sounds too hard and not worth it – I think I’m going to give up Twitter.

 

EJ: Twitter is a great platform, BUT ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE. It takes a lot of time, a lot of tweeting, and vigilance. You’re in a sea with a lot of other boats, some of them are friendly, others are not, no matter how nice you are. Some you’ll run into one by accident, other’s you’ll leave far behind. At the end of the day its still your vessel. How you use it is up to you. People take breaks from it all the time. Consider doing that if you feel harassed, and check in to keep it active but keep a pinned tweet saying your on a break. If you come back and its still not for you then dump it. At the end of the day its an app on a phone. It doesn’t define you as a writer.

 

Emma: The best way to navigate Twitter is to educate yourself about how it works and what functions you have at your disposal to mould your Twitter account into a place that makes you happy to come to. You can do this by searching online, or asking others in the #WritingCommunity for help to understand a particular aspect that is stumping you. Yes, EJ’s blog covers how to manage the nastier side of Twitter (which is actually super important to know) but there are also so many folks out there brimming with goodness and a desire to support and uplift other writers. Don’t be afraid to take control of your own Twitter feed – it all starts with who you decide to follow, or unfollow, in the case of when it goes wrong.

Happy Tweeting!

 

 

Ultimately, whatever you put ANY effort into, be it work, career, home, family, friends or a social media app, needs to be worth that time. If you don’t feel good, or are still uncertain, reach out for help. Its not the end of the world to mute or block someone. No one is calling you on your decisions, and if they do, remember that its your account, you can be an ass, or you can make genuine and life changing connections.

 

The #WritingCommunity has so much to offer, and it’s a shame to lose it for a few people who aren’t being kind. There are enough internal doubts and external negativity to what we writers do, that we don’t need the pressure of a stranger’s inflated ego making us feel bad. Kindness costs nothing, and if someone isn’t kind to you, don’t be afraid to remove them from your life.

The Dark Side of Self Publishing

 

 

The darker side of self publishing.png

 

Google Selfpublishing scams.

Because if you haven’t yet, and you are a self publisher you may have made a colossal mistake. I write this article not to identify the scams but to make it clear that its likely someone you know is using scams to increase their self-promotion.

There are a host of articles out there identify the tricks that some services use to lure self publishers into getting their name out there, at any cost.

Paid Reviews.

Promotional packages confirming best sellers.

Copying books, and republishing under new names.

Using KU read pages to push titles onto the Amazon bestseller list.

Writers buying their own books from bookstores to put themselves on the NYT bestseller list.

 

Dreadful isn’t it? The lengths that people will go to just to sell their work. But not you, right? Not me.

But these people exist in our community, and I was unpleasantly surprised when one of these people turned out to be someone I knew.

He worked hard.

He was always online.

I was happy for what I believed to be his genuine success.

I was wrong. He cheated.

 

For the sake of this blog post we’re going to call him John.

The article was about using racks of phones to download KU books and spin through them giving them a false sense of popularity and pushing John’s book to the top. It might have hit the radars sooner if he’d been in a key genre, but he wasn’t, it was a niche, a lucrative one but a niche nevertheless. Since they were pushing it to the bestseller listing the rest of the sales took care of themselves once he was at the top of his genre. People pay attention to those lists, not just the author so they can give themselves the hollow credit of calling themselves an Amazon bestseller.

But John’s “self-made success” lie got called out.

It came about on a facebook group that will go unmentioned. Someone wrote a blog post specifically about John and the service he’d used. Someone else in the facebook group then read the post and called out John in our facebook group. This was two years ago. I no longer have the any of the articles.

At the time the comment went online, the US was asleep. As an Australian I was not, and as Europe was waking up I watched this disaster of lies unfurl.

I asked him. “Did you do this?”

Of course the answer was no.

“How did this happen?”

“Someone is making things up…” At this juncture the conversation became garbled posts that made next to no sense. Mostly denial, but it was all so chaotic I couldn’t see clearly. I knew John.

I couldn’t believe the damage this would cause, it was catastrophic.

I contacted the facebook group’s administrator, I listened to John’s defence.

I wanted to believe, knew it wasn’t fair to think otherwise but then the article made too much sense to be ignored. I think I read it fifty times in the space of two hours.

It dug into the patterns of John’s success with an accuracy that was startling spot on. False accounts, fake reviews, but the worst of all was that the Amazon bestseller became meaningless to me because I knew now it could be bought. Even if John wasn’t guilty.

John never confessed, the outpouring against him created a slew of 1 star reviews and his reputation was charred. I wasn’t sure, but the implication was too strong to be ignored. His actions and mannerisms at the time spoke of guilt. He was someone I worked along side, helped promote, I’d been a mindless guppy for someone who was fucking the system.

 

 

It was tempting to give up writing. I didn’t.

I saw John the other day online. In a different group, but this time the other signs where there, ones I could now recognise. Bought Twitter followers, loads of five star reviews against new books that were the same garbage spilled out again. It was the wake up call I’d been missing for some time. One that reminded me I was in this for the writing, and that writing my books needed to be enough.

I wanted to believe John, but the fact of the matter was that I’d watched his success with disbelief for months. Because I’d been ignoring a truth for far too long.

There are a host of self-published books which do not have any redeeming features. Its why I review books honestly, why I’ve segregated my self-published reviews and my traditional ones.

I’d picked up one of John’s books and hadn’t been that impressed but figured it just wasn’t for me.

That was the last time I let a self-published book I couldn’t read simply “not be for me.”

I can and will read anything with a good hook and this book was garbage. Worse still, John had almost a dozen books just like it, all the same trash but someone was buying it.

After all, they’d been paid to. And now I can see John’s twitter account with the words “Amazon Bestselling Author.”

If you ever needed a reason to wonder why there are people out there who hate self-publishing then this is it.

Before someone offers you, for the right price, the success to an Amazon bestseller, ask yourself, for those fickle moments of fame that won’t be remembered, is it going to be worth fucking over every other author you’ve ever befriended? Because that’s what these scams do.

And it’s tempting to give up when you realise what lengths people will go to.

I didn’t give up.

You know what I did? I became a better writer, I wrote better stories. I review ceaselessly and with honesty for a damn reason!

I always have at least five indie books on my phone ready to read. I download trad books that pull my interest to keep my reading fresh.

The only way these people are found is if you review their books. So the next time you hesitate to give a bad review, remember this; it’s not just about giving the author clear feedback, sometimes it’s the only way these people get found out.

 

 

 

 

The Big Bad Betareader

 

 

It’s scary, I get it.

You’re asking someone who is potentially a stranger to put their grubby paws all over your creation. To dirty it’s walls with comments on the plot. Smear mud on character development. Wee on info dumps. Put a massive turd in that unforeseen plot hole.

And the way you think about a betareader and their feed back is wrong.

You’ve asked them to read it as they would a novel, but you’ve also given them a much harder task, to find the mistakes. To do so, they have to look for them, they have to assess and point out its flaws. It makes the process intimidating.

So you take it to someone you trust.

To be kind enough to say the right things, not be too cruel, not pick on your work or show you how much it needs more put into it.

Because you already feel like you’ve birthed this idea, a monumental effort that left you gasping with tears and laughter and probably too much wine. I’ve been there, many times.

But you aren’t helping yourself if you give it to someone who will be kinder to your darling.

Give it to a stranger.

The hard part is picking the right stranger.

A lot of different people will offer different levels, but here is how I tackle scripts given to me. It comes across as more of a developmental edit, however I feel this is what beta readers need to do, as getting an editor who will also cover development can be very tricky. I’ve read many stories that were well edited but didn’t appear to have had any developmental editing at all. This can really put a reader off, and it needs to be more openly addressed.

I always want the scripts in Word so I can add comments and read it with ease, and this is also why I only ever accept shorter sections of a body of work, I don’t want anyone to think I’m nicking ideas. Don’t give your full book to a random stranger, it shouldn’t need to be said, but for novices this can be a harsh lesson. People do steal books, they will take your general premise and run with it. Research your beta before you give them the script.

After I’ve added all my notes, I will email the word doc back to the writer, and give a short summary of what I thought, probably emphasizing key points that I talk about in my comments, but especially anything I believe needs a lot of focus.

This is what I feel a beta reader should do, but its more complicated than that because how you critique someone matters. For writers just starting out, and its their first script, the easiest way to hurt someone is to say something negative in an insensitive manner. It’s also hard to tell people their writing needs serious work.

The points below aren’t just for betareaders, they are for writers too, because more often than not they are the same, and you should understand what goes into a good beta read.

 

  1. Always point out the good stuff

 

Every story has something going for it. Every story I’ve ever read had that original spark. Whether it was clearly evident in well written prose or deeply hidden under layers of badly constructed sentences, it was still there. A lot of beta readers wont necessarily do this, they point out the books flaws, its what they were asked to do.

I point out bits I like because as a struggling writer there is nothing quite like hearing that someone liked a very specific thing.

This is a fundamental part of the beta reading process because you aren’t just complimenting the writer, you are building up their confidence. So when they get that great review they don’t doubt it.

We look at a lot of our reviews and either don’t believe good ones or get completely bummed about bad ones, and this is not the right attitude. You need to have confidence, but you also need to learn where you can improve. Accepting both is a long and hard lesson. Beta reading really helps with that.

Plus, when you’re dropping a lot of truth bombs that can get them down. A nice comment is like finding the cookies to cheer them on.

 

  1. Don’t be useless

 

Yes, I know it’s a lot of effort to read someone else’s work thoroughly, however if you’re going to tell them something is wrong don’t just say that you don’t like something. There is nothing more useless than getting a message from a beta stating: I didn’t like this.

Didn’t like what? What the character said? Did? Reacted? WHAT?!

Be specific.

This was a weird thing for the character to say.

Okay great, but why? What’s the reasoning? When I leave these sorts of comments, I try to phrase it as per the below;

I thought the characters reaction was odd, because earlier on he said X, and this isn’t in keeping with that kind of philosophy. Perhaps amend to say Y, or try having him not respond at all since he disagrees.

This has the dual purpose of pointing out errors, but also offering a reason, and subsequent solution. It also allows not only for the writer to examine that one instance, but also gain a better understand of their characters as people, rather than puppets pushing along the plot.

 

  1. You are not the Grammar Police, but you are an informant

 

YOU. ARE. NOT. THERE. TO. EDIT.

 

Unless the writer has specifically said, hey, can you check the editing for me, leave it alone. I know it might be tempting, and I might point out a couple of serious flaws, but after the first couple I let it slide. This isn’t just about you not being there to edit, its to save you time too.

If I’m working with a draft I may say something really obvious if I see a few really bad mistakes. For the most part I stick to the following section;

  • Repetition: similar/same words too close together
  • Info dumping: too much description
  • Terminology: for words that are actually other words ie. Their/they’re

There are other things you can do as time affords, but these are the ones I focus on because it interrupts the flow of the story, which is what I’m interested in. You could do more as a beta reader, but ultimately, if the editing is poor, its worth stating so at the end or in your summary.

 

  1. Never rip the script

 

This shouldn’t need to be said, but part of what prompted this post was a tearful tweet I saw about a so called friend who tore their story to shreds.

You goal here should be to point out flaws, absolutely, but in a constructive manner that helps, and getting frustrated at what you might see as an inferior piece of work is the last thing a writer needs to hear. They are asking for your help. They are trusting you with a sliver of their soul. Don’t be an ass.

There are gentler ways of suggesting to them that the script essentially needs to be rewritten and these are ultimately about overarching plot points.

I’m going to tear myself apart for your example today.

When my editor told me one of my novellas needed to have the ending completely rewritten, he phrased it roughly (and more simplified) like this;

 

This ending is part of different story, one that should come perhaps later in the series. The focus should be on character X, and why she’s doing Y. The ending doesn’t serve either of these purposes, and ends up becoming less about her journey and more about Z. I also believe this other character is not coming across as you intend, and his character needs fleshing out to convey your intention in these ways. It would also be great to reduce the amount of time the MC spends on thinking, and give her more interactions with the rest of the alphabet, as these side characters are rich and have a lot of potential.

 

Believe it or not, he was far more eloquent than this, and I knew as soon as he said it, that he was right, and I pretty much rewrote the entire book.

Remember you are trying to help the writer not make them quit writing.

 

 

Finally, this isn’t a point, and shouldn’t need to be said, but it is for the writers waiting on betareading.

If someone beta reads for you, it doesn’t matter if they told you things you didn’t want to hear, THANK THEM.

I’ve done a lot of beta reading over the last 3 years, and I am amazed at how often I barely get a thank you back, or any response at all.

This is gutting. I have spent hours I could have been using on my own work, and having someone not bothering to respond to that work is awful. You never ask what it costs the beta reader to help you instead of themselves, or worrying about damaging your relationship when they do give their honest feedback. Being truthful to people whose writing journey you care about is fucking hard.

You are NOT going to like everything that they say, and this is why I always advise writers to get a second opinion. A third, fourth, however many it takes to help sort it out and be the best story it can be.

If you are a writer querying agents you NEED their feedback. You need that honesty if you are going to improve, and if you are seeking a betareader you want to improve.

Remember that when they tell you something you didn’t want to hear.

They are there to help you.

from

The Elusive Review…

E.J. Dawson & Mrs Y...

 

 

You may as well admit it.

 

When it comes to wanting a review authors can be like Voldemort, stalking through the Forbidden Forest looking for the elusive unicorn, the magic number of fifty reviews to start spiking on Amazon’s algorithms. Its hard to get them, and there are a host of reasons why; you’re self pub, you just published, you didn’t have your marketing done quite right and if you need help with that please check out my other blog post.

 

But there are other ways than becoming a dark lord to actually get your reviews, and with my today is the lovely Mrs Y, who is appearing on my blog post today to talk about how you can get a review from her.

 

Reviews are important because they help get your book a lot of attention, especially when you can get a few of them, but its important to know some fundamental rules when it comes to reviews that Ive noticed a few authors aren’t clear on. These are rock solid, unbreakable rules. There are few of these when it comes to writing, but if you break these rules on Amazon you can get you whole account suspended or shut down;

 

  • DO NOT REVIEW SWAP: I don’t know how many times I have seen people do this. You do it often enough and you WILL be caught, I’ve seen it happen to people, they lost not only their reviews of other peoples books, but the reviews on THEIR books. They ended up taking their books offline.

 

  • DO NOT BUY “FAKE” REVIEWS: We’ll talk about where you can pay to get a paid & honest review from credible sources, but whatever you do, don’t go to fiverr and buy a fake review, those accounts get caught by Amazon all the time, and you risk the above.

 

  • Friends & Family: This one is especially tricky, because when you are just starting out it’s a good way to get a few reviews in, and they want to support you. The trouble is friends and family know you, they aren’t likely to review a product honestly (which may not be your experience but Amazon don’t care), and then the above applies.

 

Even if your book isn’t listed on Amazon (and for the purpose of marketing your book, it really should be), don’t forget that the other key place for reviews is Goodreads, and if you’re with current (ok, not so current now) events, you’ll know that Amazon own Goodreads now.

 

SO HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET A REVIEW?!?

 

There are a few different methods, but the most important thing to know before you even start asking is that if ANYONE reads your book, please don’t forget they did that. They took the time to read your words, hear your story, and write what they thought about it. Good or bad, they gave you their time. Time is valuable to nearly all of us, we don’t have a lot of it, and when we spend it on you, that’s time we don’t get on our own work, our own family, or our passions.

 

  1. Ask a Reviewer: I give you the FABULOUS Mrs Y!

 

There are people about the place like Mrs Y, who literally have Professional Reader in their job title. If you would like her to read your book, then there are a few different ways to go about it, which she’s given to me, and is accessible through her website.

 

Mrs Y is quite special, in that nearly all her reviews are kind, thoughtful, detailed and extremely helpful to budding authors.

 

She chooses her books based on her Kindle Unlimited subscription, and she uses it specifically to find Indie authors. Amazon then picks up her reading habits to offer more suggestions to her, meaning that its usually the same genre. To diversify, she also watches what’s trending in the Writing Community on Twitter and selects books that appeal.

 

She does not accept ARCs, stating that people used her critique in the place of professional critiques & editors, which is not only hurtful, its unprofessional.

 

Part of the reason reviewers like Mrs Y are so wonderful is that they will read your book end to end, properly, and state very thoroughly all the good parts, and the bad ones too, but more importantly their review is designed not just to help the author, but to give the reader a very clear idea what they are signing up for.

When Mrs Y does give a review, it isn’t just a few paragraphs, she pretty much writes an essay on the book, going into finite detail and allowing both the author and the reader to know clearly and her takeaways from the book. The detail of her reviews is an absolute pleasure and privilege to see, and her attention to the book is nothing short of flattering.

 

 

  1. E. J. Dawson Book Reviews

 

I select books based on whats on my Amazon page but I also offer competitions occasionally for reviews. I base my normal preferences by things I also see trending on Twitter.

 

My reviews are posted on my Amazon AU page which is a little irritating for the US (I am really sorry, I’ve tried to have this changed but since Amazon got to AU its impossible), Good reads, and my website here. I have two sub-headings to distinguish books I’ve read that are published by traditional publishers, and those I’ve read by Indie Authors.

 

I will normally base whether or not I buy a book on whether the “Look Inside” feature grabs me. I have to be reading until the end of the third page or have already decided to buy, in order to review it. I do not base my reviews on Indie works on editing (unless its poor), or covers or blurbs.

 

The reason why is that I understand having done this myself that its hard to get covers and blurbs exactly right, and shouldn’t take away a good story. However many readers will judge you for it, and if it is extremely poor no good review is going to help.

 

When I post my review I like to use a critique sandwich; good stuff, bad stuff, great stuff. Not all books are made equal, not all books appeal to every reader. In the event I can’t give a book more than three stars I will leave it, or if I can try to get in touch with the author. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with a book for me to rank it that low. My average ranking is three to four stars, as when I’m reviewing these books I am looking for the story, the characters, and the writers ability to keep me reading.

 

 

You can find lots of people online who have websites where they review books. The best way to speak to these people is to ask once, very politely, (and according to whatever their submission guidelines are), if they will read your book. They often have their own preferences, and can say no if your genre isn’t what they read. This isn’t a free for all, do your research and find out if they read your genre before you ask. If they accept then it’s a good sign, and you should be proud!

 

But then the hard part is that you MUST WALK AWAY. Leave the review in their hands, and be patient.

 

Nobody likes being forced to read a book, (do you remember high school?!), and it takes some people a while to read a book. Leave a reviewer alone once they have accepted your book. For me, asking me where my review is, is nothing short of the height of rudeness. I’ve had this done to me once. I did not review the book.

 

 

  1. Review Services

 

Ah, the other way to pay for reviews and have it be legitimate. This part is tricky, because its hard to find people and be sure that what they are offering still adheres the Amazon T&Cs. This is why we’ve put together a list of services that let you get reviews;

  1. NetGalley: This is an excellent way of getting early reviews of your book before it is published on Amazon. You do need to pay a monthly fee in order to list your book, which can become very pricey over time, but it allows NetGalley reviewers the chance to get a copy (free) and give an honest review. It’s excellent testing ground for your book, especially if you believe its everything it can be. The reviewers aren’t just judging your content, they judge the blurb & cover too.
  2. SPR Reviews: I signed up with them when I first started in 2014 and had an excellent experience. It takes a little time, & there is a fee (starts at $139), but this is a great way to get an honest review of your book, and put it on your Amazon listing to give readers an idea what to expect. They are kind and thoughtful reviewers, and if they run into any serious issues they’ll tell you.
  3. Book Sirens: List your book here for quite a small fee, but if the book garners a lot of attention you can expect that to go up. At a $10 listing fee, there is a $2 charge billed month for anyone who requests your books. They have a 75% review rate, and the reviews are posted on Amazon or Goodreads – you pick.
  4. Booktasters: Mrs Y recommends trying this site to get some reviews in as well, their packages start at $100,
  5. Twitter: You can find several authors willing to review books, but some of them also charge, or don’t necessarily offer reviews per se, as feedback on your book. Some of these include Mark (Proofreader & Reviewer) & Tory (Critique Editor). They will go over their own methods of how they give you feedback, and what’s involved. Not necessarily a review but if your book is falling down they might be a great place to get an idea of what could be wrong.

 

While these services are helpful in getting reviews, they are going to give you an honest review. If your book doesn’t meet their standards they will tell you. They are not services to ensure you get “5 star reviews”, as stated before, this is against Amazon T&Cs. They will however be helpful and insightful reviews/feedback, and are a good way to judge how well your book is going to be received.

 

 

  1. ARC, Giveaways, Goodreads, & Free weekends

 

A great way to get reviews is to offer your book for free. Not permanently, but certainly there are methods to build up hype about your book release or your book in general, to help get reviews.

 

  1. ARC: Advance Reader Copy – this is the option for someone (usually a winner of a Twitter/FB competition) to get early access to your book. They can then review it on Goodreads (if they wish), and you can use their review to help market your book.
  2. Giveaways: You can offer copies of your books over public holiday weekends, celebrations, or even just randomly through your social media platform. Since a reader wins a book for free, it’s a great way to ask them (politely) when they receive it if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review when they are done.
  3. Goodreads: They have a special Goodreads giveaway you can organise directly through the site. I am hesitant to talk about it, they have only recently opened this up to “ebook only” authors who are predominately self published, and I’ve yet to hear good or negative feedback about the experience. Overall I have heard that it can be quite expensive to run a campaign.
  4. Free Weekends: This is simply listing your book for free for a promo weekend. It isn’t a great way to get reviews, but it does help promote your book and allow a lot of readers access to it, hopefully resulting in a review.

 

 

  1. How to Treat Reviewers

 

Be thankful.

 

Someone has just taken the time to read your book, and the least you can do is be polite about it. Bad authors get a reputation for being difficult, and will occasionally be named and shamed if their behavior is truly unacceptable. Most reviewers are too polite to do this, some are not. Some will leave a scathing review of your book, which only hurts everyone. Good authors are often a delight to review for, and will be more likely to be reviewed again & by others if they are a pleasure to engage.

 

Here’s some things you can do to encourage reviewers to read your book;

 

  1. Like the review on Goodreads/Amazon: it shows the reviewer you cared about what they think, but also their status as a reviewer goes up too.
  2. Send a thank you note once you receive a review: they’ve taken the time to write something poignant, especially in the case of Mrs Y, then the least you can do is take the time to say you appreciate them looking at it, perhaps open a dialogue as to a piece they love or a constructive criticism they gave you.
  3. Never be rude: They can delete their review. Some people will change it, and state specifically that you were rude to them, meaning other reviewers will not look at your work if that’s how you treat reviewers.
  4. DO NOT HARASS THEM: I can’t believe I need to reiterate this, and if you are getting bored, I’m sorry, but the LAST thing you do is ask someone if they’ve finished it. This applies to beta reading too. I’m a fast reader, I will devour a two inch thick book in an afternoon if I feel like it, and the story grabs me. Other people can only read for so long at any set time, and we are normally doing this during “relaxation” time which for many of us can be few and far between.

 

 

One of the hardest things isn’t actually editing or publishing or even just writing the damn thing.

 

Its getting reviews, and this is the longest part of the self publishing process. You can do nothing, and sit in anxiety while you wait for answers, as I have done in the past. But these days I like to think of it as giving people a gift, a sliver of my soul, wishing them well of it, and leaving them alone. If they come back to me then I’m flattered, and no matter what they say I listen.

 

You are going to get bad reviews. Not reviews that say: I didn’t get a chance to read it/this wasn’t delivered on time/shit book. These are unhelpful and should for the most part be ignored. The bad reviews I’m talking about is when people pick at flaws in your book. The best way to deal with these is remove yourself and your emotional involvement from the book. Are they saying something that rings true? Is there some nuance of the review that you didn’t even see as a mistake? All of these things are ways to improve upon your writing. Take the feedback and grow from it, don’t make the same mistakes next time.

 

And when you get those glorious good reviews, crack the damn champagne. Having a stranger love your book is the best blessing you can bestow upon any author. Whether its a glowing exploding five star review, or a modest four star with compliments and criticism. Someone has still read, liked, and even loved your books.

 

And isn’t that what you set out to do? Share your story, and don’t be afraid of a big bad review.

 

 

 

 

1 Book in 25 Days

I wrote a book in 25 days.

Lets cut straight to the facts as they are;

  • I don’t have kids
  • I live in a rural area
  • I have a short commute
  • I worked fucking hard at it

 

I love the book, I think it’s a great stand alone story and for me that’s a rarity.

It sprung into my head after I halted work on the Last Prophecy series because buying houses is expensive and the budget said no to editing. Hell the budget said no to my damn haircuts, but we negotiated over vodka. I gave up desserts for it as part of keto.

Scott, being the wonderful and supportive person he is, rightly pointed out it’s just a delay so those of you who’ve stuck with me this far, I’m sorry. I’m still writing the stories, but the release dates are totally out of my hands.

Instead I’ve done some beta recommended rewrites on Queen of Spades the last month, and this other idea I’ve titled Behind the Veil.

The book wouldn’t shut up. It wouldn’t go away. I sat down and wrote it with no idea what was going to happen. I don’t think it’s a steaming pile of garbage but the verdict is still out from the first beta reader.

So, how did I write it?

 

  1. Writers Block

 

When you don’t have an idea what happens next you need to think quickly and keep typing, keep writing, keep the momentum going. I’d start a chapter with a bang and finish it on a cliff-hanger of a comment which dragged me back into what happens next?

It kept the story moving briskly and my pace was very high. There was more to it than that but I’ve written articles on how I do this before.

 

  1. Sprints

 

Fellow writer Zack Riley runs a cosy little discord channel that allows me to do writing sprints. I normally run for an hour, and will do several hours all in a row with 15 to 30min breaks.

The sprints have a bot timer so you have a prompt to keep you on track. You start a sprint, add yourself & your word total, and go when the buzzer hits. There is no TIME to stop and think, you’ve got to write as many words as you can and you are only challenging yourself. It takes practice to do it on command, (I’ve been doing it for 5 years) but after a while you can just sit and work on the story.

When I started I’d be lucky to get a couple of hundred.

Now, on a bad session, I’ll get 1200 words or so. On a good one I’ll get 2.5k words.

 

  1. Outline

 

There wasn’t one. I just wrote Letitia’s story as hard as I possible could. I kept the story going as much as I could. Letitia may as well have been possessing me for how this story spilled out on its own.

I like to credit my imagination, but I read a lot of horror, I’d just never written it before, and it was exciting to be doing this for the first time.

You should have some idea of where it is going, just don’t be afraid if the story turns into something else, if its pressing you to write it, then its exciting, not just for you but hopefully the reader too! If its becoming boring and predictable to you, how is it going to feel to the reader? Try just letting yourself go, and sprints is a great way to do that.

 

  1. No breaks!

 

No capes, no breaks.

I would get up in the morning and write, I would write at lunch, I’d get home and write, and I’d write for as much as ten hours on a weekend. I felt invigorated and refreshed by the constant appeal of not knowing what was going to happen. The story that was whispering in my ear, kept me coming back, even dreaming about it. By the end of it I just wanted to go back and edit it because I was in love with it.

No games. No TV shows. Nothing but writing and reading breaks (with the odd Armello game with Zack).

It meant I watched a couple of movies with my husband. We live alone, and we’re far from friends, so my time was able to be utilized to write, and knowing it was important he was incredibly supportive and reminded me to eat.

 

  1. You can do this too

 

I am lucky in that I don’t have kids or other commitments that consume too much of my time. I live in a rural area I’m new to which means I don have many local friends.

But I work 40plus hours a week.

I have a dog that needs walking twice a day.

Hubby & I share the housework evenly. Sure he might have cooked more, but I do my part.

It was how I utilized my writing time. Rather than socialize on Twitter, I told people I was writing.

Rather than stuff around doing other things I focused solely on what time I sat down at my computer and how much writing I could put into that time. It wasn’t something I could do when I started five years ago.

All of this takes years to balance and even now I feel overwhelmed and overworked some days.

You can do this too, remember what time you sit down at a computer and ask yourself what do you want to get out of that time.

Do the writing sprints and get better with practice.

Take the story other places, let it guide you, learn to listen to it.

 

 

 

At the end of this all I want you to take away is that you could do this.

You could write a book in 25 days.

Ask yourself how you are utilizing your time, and what you want to get out of it.

Learn how to do writing sprints and how to fly by the seat of your pants. Even if you plot, you really just have to know what you are writing next, sit down, and do it.

I had to give up on a part of my life that had never made me happier. The Last Prophecy series is my calling to write. But while its on hold, and while I can write like this, I know a two very important things;

I’ve never been poorer, & I’ve never been happier.

I’ll write my own stories, my own way, and every time I figure out a new way to do it I’ll share it with you.Choose to be happy.

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