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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Helping Writers

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Its come about thanks to a Twitter post that my Book Tour schedule is full for the rest of year, and my Author Interviews are also heavily booked, so I wanted to ask that if you are a writer with a website you help too.


So, where to start?


This is both the easiest and the hardest part. You just get started, you open your website and start posting. Six months ago I hadn’t started this, and now I’m fully booked. You’ve just got to knuckle down, send out a well tagged tweet, and wait and see.


Plus… you know… I’m a writer too, you could ask me… *ahem* Moving on…


There may be other ways to do this, but I just went to other people’s websites, worked out how I wanted to set it up on mine, and got the pages ready. I use WordPress, and I am not great at it but I’ve got mine trucking along. The more you use it, the more you learn and get better.


Start by setting up your pages for Book Tours, and Author Interviews. Feel free to explore mine and other author websites on how they’ve gone about this. I also have another sub-section for archived author interviews. Then I have a space specifically for Indie and Traditionally published book reviews, which also has an archive. The reason I have separated the two is because I don’t want to show I read just one type, I want to show I read widely, and not every book is perfect. I’ll go into how I post reviews, both good and bad.


Draw up a Google spreadsheet/Excel/preferred scheduler and work out how often do you want to post. Once a month? Once a week? I do mine twice a fortnight, because I work full time and it does take a bit of time to put it up. I’m getting faster the more I post, but a Book Tour post will take about 30mins, and an Author Interview about an hour. Sometimes its less but I’m slower because I’m careful.


I therefore have two lines, for two times of the month, and then the corresponding months at the top of the column. Yes, I’m drilling down into basics but not everyone is familiar or comfortable with excel/spreadsheets.


On a second tab I list the name, email address, links, a marker whether I’ve emailed them and whether I’ve received all the relevant information I need to make the post at the time. I then have a folder in my emails for correspondence for Book Tours & Author interviews as two separate folders to help me stay organised.


Once you have your schedule ready for both you can do the following;


  1. Book Tour


This is easy, put a post up on Twitter offering spots on your website. Take it as first in first served and close it off quickly once you are booked up.

I then put the twitter tag against its date in my schedule, grab the details off the person via a DM, and send them an email with all the info I need. This is a drafted email I copy and past to save on time. It asks for the following information;


  • Book Cover
  • Blurb
  • Book link to Amazon (or most commonly used publishing site)
  • An author pic and short bio


I usually have word restrictions to make sure people don’t go overboard, it also helps to say to people that most blurbs are about 150 words, (fantasy 180). If people’s blurbs are longer you can politely let them know that, some people just dont know. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a blurb, put out feelers in your community to ask for help, or come to me, I am always happy to help.


Once they’ve emailed you, mark it off on the spreadsheet, and make sure to post it on the date. You can go to my website or just Google search Book Tours to get an idea of what other sites are doing and how they are displaying this information.


  1. Author Interviews


This is pretty much the same as the above, I have a drafted letter and enter people as I book them on the spreadsheet. For the interview of course, there are questions too. Its good to have something less formal and more customizable as a first or final question. The others are then pretty standard about writing, but find your own way of asking questions. Think about what you want someone to ask of you in your writing.


Limiting the word count here is paramount. Some writers can waffle on for hours about absolutely nothing, including yours truly.


You can also check out mine and other author websites for how they manage interviews.


      3. Book Reviews


This is not a service I offer.


I will sometimes give away reviews, but its rare.


The reason being is that there are a lot of authors who go out woefully under prepared, and that’s on their manuscript alone. I feel that way about my first novella, and so will be pulling it down off Amazon in the coming weeks, and offering it for free on my website. Its not a bad story, but it’s a slow world and character build.


I write fiction that likes to amble along beside you, not come up and punch you in the face.


We all write differently, and we all read different styles, we are allowed to not like everything we write and read.


Therefore when you go to start reviewing, be prepared for negative reactions. Not everyone is going to like, appreciate, or want your feedback. I have been dragged down into petty arguments by people who didn’t like what I thought of their book.


So I buy the book on Amazon usually, sometimes Kobo, and I leave a review on my website, Goodreads, & Amazon/Kobo.


I always try to use the critique sandwich; good stuff, bad stuff, different good stuff. It’s a great format, but points out issues to the writer.


When I first started writing I needed that desperately, and still do to a large extent. Beta readers are usually people you know, and in turn will be kinder. Someone’s who paid for your book is going to be far less so. You don’t need to be cruel, but you also don’t have to shower praise over it.


This is why I leave reviews for both Traditional and Self published books, because I like to make the clear distinction I dont see them any differently. I’m here for the story. I will rarely pick on editing unless its truly dreadful, and a deterrent to the book. I also don’t usually post anything less than 3 stars, and my reasons for doing so are that its seems cruel not to find anything nice about the story. Most stories that make it to any form of publication have something redeemable about them. When I come across a book that I’d rate that low, I am usually very specific in my review as to why.


If you are going to offer reviews please be prepared to expect a backlash if you give a book a less than savoury review, especially when its badly articulated and lacking in itself. If you are going to upset an author its better to phrase it well, and kindly, so they take the advice on board and look to improve themselves, rather than be bitter and tear you down in return. Which has happened to me. It was vile and unpleasant and its why I’m stressing that you be careful when doing this.


Here is the other thing to be wary of ⸺ some authors will refuse anything other than five stars.


This is why I prefer the anonymity of picking and choosing what I will and wont review, it doesn’t give the author a choice. This is just my preference however, how you want to review is up to you, its your website, and your reviewing platforms.


The most important thing to remember is that you dont have to do all of this, or do it this way. Go out and explore, work out what you want to get out of this, and how you want to go about doing that. All I get is the warm glow that I’m helping, and added benefit of website traffic. But mostly the warm glow.


My aim as always been to help other writers, with whatever I can, as much as I can. Will you join me?


Book Marketing

I am going to preface this by stating I don’t have all the answers.

 

There is a lot of information out there that doesn’t tell you certain things, like signing up with certain marketing companies doesn’t work unless you write their genre, or your book isn’t ready, or you write a series. And most of all as an indie author, I made a lot of mistakes I am hoping to show you how to avoid.

 

Here is what I have learned, and I know its worked because I have sold books. Not recently but when I release and follow this plan its worked very well for me, and I’ve done it 3 times now for 2 novellas and one book, that sold a thousand copies in its opening month.

 

Here is what I have learned about marketing my book to get that kind of response, and its simple, and stupid, but I learned a lot of this the hard way.

 

  1. Is your book ready?

 

No really.  Yes its been edited, yes its been gone over a million times by you and your editor, and a few beta readers, but is it *really* ready? I made the mistake all three times of rushing to my publishing goals rather than the book goals. I’ve backed off the last year to get it right, and I’ll still have made mistakes. One book I 100% thought was ready I haven’t published because it needs a rewrite, even though it got good feedback. I can just feel it. This is also the reason why trad published books take so friggin long to come out. They write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, copy edit, beta read, review, polish, re-beta, test, review, edit, polish… on and on until it is flawless.

Look at your book and ask if you’ve given it the same kind of love. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do a lot of it. I recommend GOOD creative critics and beta readers, and Pro-Writing Aid, even if you do have an editor. We all miss stuff.

 

  1. Covers

 

This irks me a lot. There is nothing worse than looking at a really good book and people with terribly covers saying “But the cover shouldn’t matter! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

Why not? You do it. You aren’t going to touch a book with a terrible cover, you aren’t even going to read the blurb. But here is the thing I do get. Finding people to do good covers at a price that don’t look like something out of a high school project is hard. Fiverr covers tend to be very hit and miss, and more miss, or you can spend close to $300US to get a good photoshop one.

 

There are two solutions here: Finding decently priced cover designers who sell predesigned covers at lower rates, & Gimp.

 

The first, I can recommend Violeta’s current page and her Christmas giveaway. She’s a kind person, and her prices are very reasonable. There are others out there, but you have to know who to go for yourself.

 

If you are going to use Gimp I can tell you two things; its frustrating but worth it. I recently ran into very tight financial situation because we are trying to buy a house and just couldn’t afford a cover artist. I have spent a lot of time looking at covers in my genre, and ended up designing my own, which is the last one below.

 

 

 

No, isn’t as good, but it does at least fit with the theme, and it wasn’t too hard after I followed a lot of tutorials. The most important thing about this though, is to be absolutely sure that the images you are using are fine for ebook commercial use. That is NOT a can of worms you want to mess with.

 

  1. Blurb

 

This is the other way you are going to hook your reader after your cover has engaged attention as it’s a LOT harder than it looks. I am happy to help rewrite blurbs but I’ve found these simple rules work:

 

  • Limit of 150 words (180 for fantasy)
  • Hook first and last
  • Read the top 20 blurbs of your genre for flow and feel

 

There really isn’t much more to it than this, but it is important. Also get feedback for posting, say it aloud, review and polish. Its your first impression for your audience.

 

  1. Pick your Price

 

This may sound easy but its getting much harder. You don’t want to make your book too much but you want to be sure its not free. The trouble is that people are assuming the content isn’t very good if its only 99c, but how else to break into reader groups if you don’t make it as affordable as possible?

This is where promos come in handy, and you can get a lot of downloads for a free weekend, but you are better off advertising a more expensive book for a 99c weekend and then running a series of promos.

Check what everyone else is advertising in the top 100, and don’t forget to lower your pre-order price and up it when it goes live to what you  want it to be.

 

  1. Get your platforms in order

 

Website, Facebook, Twitter. You should have all three and while its hard to maintain them all, its worth it for exposure. If you’re struggling for content look at what other people are posting and offering. What are you talking about? How are you helping? There are numerous articles about how to create engaging content, but most of all you’ve got to work out what works for you.

 

KEY POINT: Do a lot of research on what tags to use and when, check trending tags, reach out and grow your circle.

 

 

So now that’s the basics sorted, how to get it actually out there?

  1. Books Go Social

 

I owe an awful lot to what I know about self publishing to Books Go Social Facebook groups. They offer a lot of entry level stuff that is super helpful they have a dedicated and friendly team, all under the wonderful Laurence O’Bryan and his thoughtfulness. There are a lot of media groups out there, but I generally found that just being part of the community they created and engaging some of their services was a great introduction to self publishing on a marketing level. You can also ask questions, get feedback on blurbs and covers, they offer a helpful service to upgrade your cover at a good price, and generally it’s a great learning field.

 

Here is the thing though, not every part of them is for you. Its great for books that are one off’s but not for series, but series are hard to market when the whole thing isn’t out. If you sign up to their Netgalley offers make sure to get a couple of months worth as while it is worth it, you need a couple of months, because people read slowly, take their time, and you need it to still be there for them.

 

They also have reviewing sections which are great for getting (NOT SWAPPING) reviews.

 

  1. Reviews

 

Apparently you are supposed to get a magical unicorn that farts rainbows at 30 reviews. I heard recently that Amazon had upped it to 50, which doesn’t surprise me giving the amount of services that sell reviews (do NOT  do this, ever, or swap, its against T&Cs).

 

giphy

 

So how to get reviews?

 

ARCs, Goodread giveaways, groups like BGS, Netgally, competitions for free copies on your social media sites. You have to work at it, its hard, and don’t expect everyone to give you a review, you quite often wont get one.

 

But you can ask, just don’t be pushy about it.

 

 

  1. Author Support Services

 

 

There are a lot of great services out there, but here are two I have used frequently in the past.

 

Alliance of Independent Authors is a great source of up to date clear information about what’s happening in the market. I am not a member, but will be next year.

 

You will see their members floating around and not only do I love these people I’ve seen them monitor and watch situations where people are buying reviews, faking popularity and other such great services that spoil it for the rest of us.

 

The best thing about them was that they had a complete list of safe websites to get promos from. It was absolutely golden, because it did 2 things. It helped you find good websites to advertise on, and which ones were dodgy as all get out.

 

The other cool one is Authors Unlimited and this very helpful and concise article about getting going.

 

  1. Promotions

 

This is the *HARDEST* sell (puns totally intended) because you have to spend money. After all the work you’ve done spending money seems like a complete pocket suck of the precious money you have for book selling. If you want your book out there though, it doesn’t hurt.

 

You basically need to plan months in advance for a promo weekend, book in with hosts of email services that for small fees will list or discounted (99c) or free book on their weekend newsletter. This is THE way to advertise for romance. It also gives you time to rack up the reviews.

 

There is also the magical BookBub deals, but I won’t go into it, because that isn’t for beginners. You need to have been doing this a while to get one, and they are VERY expensive.

 

 

  1. Books… write a lot of books.

 

A self published author who writes full time recently offered to answer questions. And I asked her how she does it full time, what was the kicker?

 

A book EVERY 3 to 4 months.

 

That is a lot of time, and so we return to point one of polish, review, edit, revise.

One book is never going to be enough all by itself. I know a lot of traditionally published authors turning to self pubbing for the books that their agents or publishers didn’t like the sound of, and they already have the reading base because of their traditionally published books.

 

So no matter how ready you think you are, you might not be. And that’s OK. This is a long game, and if you are here to make a lot of money then you aren’t my kind of writer. If you are telling stories you are doing what you love, even if its just a hobby for now, and if you want to get self published, you need to get to a point where you can release every 3 to 4 months, and you can’t do that if you stop writing.

 

So what are you going to do?

 

A writer's mind is never emptyInside rage demons, devils, and doubts

 

The Last Prophecy – Explained!

You’re doing what?!?

Writing a 21 book/novella series… and in my sleep Cthulhu eats my brain.

This came about thanks to @lilcrow during a flurry of twitter when she asked me what I wrote, and I blabbed about my series, later realising I’d given her the complete wrong impression. She’d assumed I’d actually finished this mammoth task, and flattering as it was, I’m a long way off. But I am determined… if somewhat crazy.

And she’s not the only person to question my sanity, or in fact, what it actually is I’m doing.

So here goes – I’m writing a 21 book/novella series.

10 books and 11 novellas.

3 are available now;

The Hidden Monastery; Novella 1

The Last Prophecy; Novella 2

The Well of Youth; Book 1

I will hopefully this year release the next two books in the series;

To Chase a Prophecy; Novella 3

A Phantom Presence; Book 2

The books revolve around a prophecy found during the 2nd novella – and thus what the series is named after… the Last Prophecy;

Since capture and taming of fire

Cross worlds lit by man’s pyre

Relics of old will not rust

Lost in time, crowned in dust

In man’s hands, certain fate

Gripped by limitless hate

Frozen tears start to thaw

Sleepers awaken from before

Shadows slink in puppet’s guise

Striking the sinless, led by the wise

Words of gods cross the night sky

Struck black earth, letting virtue die

Let loose the howling beast

Hear its lies on devouring feast

Twisting thoughts through fear

Singing to silence not to hear

See echoes of a soul unknown

Holding deceit in the heart of its throne

Turning the key on misguided fool

Exhausting the dead, endless pool

Feel the lingering touch of blight

Stealing from seer, sacred light

By the fists of many, a realm will quake

Time for world’s end to awake

Brought together by faith, led by a lie

Till the end, where darkness comes to die

Found in a sealed cave written by a mad immortal, it tells of an age when the word faced a time of great distress. And in such times, humanity always turns to the surest methods of survival, even at the cost of their own morality.

The overarching story features a series of books that are mostly standalone, but are best read with the novellas. This will change as the series progresses, but for the moment the books can be read by themselves. They feature a range of characters of different countries and backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, in a world that changes them, and what they choose to do about it.

The novellas for the most part follow Lady Katarina Salisbury, as she does her best to discover the origins of the prophecy, and how best to stop its unimaginable power falling into the hands of those that would misuse it. Or so she thinks. Her story is interwoven between the novellas and in some of the books.

At the moment I have also got half of two of the books in the series done, and a couple of the novellas, so while I have not even reached half way on this project, I am cutting through it, one book at a time. I write a book every year, and a novella every November for Nanowrimo.

Each book is about 130k words, and each novella ranges between 45 and 70k words.

WHY??

Why would I do this to myself?! What unhinged dream that came swirling out of my dark imagination convinced me that I could do this, let alone would? Still got a good guess for who I blame…

giphy

Ever hear the saying that in ever person is a book? Well… I have a series.

I’ve never been convinced I couldn’t. Every time I wonder if tackling this self publishing thing is worth it, I have to remind myself that underneath it all is a very definitive purpose, I’ve been as sure of this book series as though its my own breath.

And this is why I self published. I couldn’t let anyone else dictate to me how these books had to be written, I just knew that this is how it would be. When you have a gut instinct driving you to spend your weekends indoors writing, and throwing every single penny you have at it, it becomes everything you are.

And I’ve never been prouder of myself – and from someone who has contemplated suicide in a fit of depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming feeling of uselessness, that statement speaks for itself.

So, writers and creators, don’t let anyone stop you, no matter how crazy you think your idea is, because otherwise it will be stuck inside you until the day you die and you’ll only have regret. And if that’s not a scary enough threat for you, then try this; imagine how proud you’ll be when you’re done. I know I will be, because I already am.

SelfPub at a Writers Expo? Where do I sign?

No, really, its not an rhetorical question.

It shouldn’t be a question.

I’ve been on this journey for three years now, and I’m still asking myself that question.

When I started my self pubbing journey I did it because there was a voice inside me that wasn’t just the woman who occasional wrote a bit, had even finished a couple of novels. I had a story I desperately needed someone to hear, and I could, and would not stop writing. My other novels weren’t so serious, but one summer I had a very serious story, and it grew and grew until it couldn’t be contained. I didn’t need to tell someone – I HAD to tell everyone!

And one of my earliest thoughts was; nobody will publish this story I’m writing.

Quickly on its heels came an immediate fear; then no one would read it.

Image result for self publishing meme

My journey for self publishing has been explained away many times, mostly to myself at night during bouts of sleepless self doubt. I didn’t think a publisher would take it on, it’s an epic story. I could get far better margins for myself if I was self published. I had to get the story out there so people could read it, because that was all that mattered to me.

Except I read an article the other day going off about the #cockygate, (and frankly, many of us did, romance writers or not). The entire affair was offensive, but what I noted about the article was something I myself had feared; the writer tore apart the offending party (we all know who she is), and in the process pointed out something rather critical.

“You self published because you’re scared of rejection.”

That hit home. Hard.

Everyone is scared of rejection, for a very simple reason; it hurts. A lot.

Even if she was doing it during an absolute shitstorm of rage against an author dragging down the very people who would have helped her get there in the first place. Many self published authors are kind, open, and perfectly happy to give advice on how they have gotten that golden opening to write full time on stories they love.

And there are quite a few of us now, and the number is growing every day. Some are just hobbyists, others incredibly serious. And I think somewhere in the middle are a not so small group who, like me… are hopeful. For what I couldn’t say, but its more than a hobby, but not yet a career.

So, when you look at the self pubbing authors, do you think all of them were scared? Oh boy, I hope so. I was scared of having my work rejected, not only as a novice writer but also because my idea (refresher – 10 books and 11 novellas all as one series), seemed so mammoth that it would be turned out on its ear from a traditional publishing house.

There was no way I wasn’t going to write it. For reasons that will become self evident over time. I firmly believed, heart and soul ,and in the darkest of nights, that I had a very specific story to tell. And friends, I didn’t sit for six hours in a torture chair to have the word “Storyteller” tattooed down my spine for nothing.

I can’t even tell you where I began, or how much I learned during this process. I can credit Nanowrimo and the subsequent prize of publishing with Pronoun (who’s departure from the selfpub field I am not over).

There are so many articles, websites, facebook groups, manuals, books, and online tutorials for self publishing that it isn’t funny.

And many of them are self serving, or have obvious intentions of solely making money, or simply put, have their own opinions based on a very narrow field of experience. Where are you from? What genre do you write? Did you have a cover designer? Have you got a social platform? You must have an editor. Let alone how good are your stories – that almost becomes a backdrop against what you have to have as a self published author.

Do you know what there isn’t a lot of? A central place for many striving authors to go and discover if this rather complicated journey is for them. Or if they keep trying to fight an incorporeal judge who, by reputation, has already told them, in no uncertain terms: “No, we don’t take work from unpublished writers.”

Every publishing house ever – even the ones who say they do accept non published authors, still need for you to get a good editor, good synopsis, and a host of other things, for them to even look at it.

I would have given anything to go and talk to someone before I decided to do this. It brings me to tears to think about how many mistakes I made, how I wasn’t sure I was ready or capable for the dedication this requires. If I was prepared for the amount of work involved, that has nothing to do with writing my actual stories.

When so many other countries are embracing what is one of the most rapidly growing markets, why aren’t we making places to do this that aren’t online groups?

Come on, Australia, why not? We are such a country focused on community and the arts and driving our passions, why aren’t we catering to one of the greatest fields out there?

Why aren’t we telling people with very small means, that no matter how insignificant they might feel, will one day change the world, that there is a space for them to simply tell stories.

The Well of Youth is LIVE!!

It didn’t dawn on me until I was sitting at the launch, the display out for everyone, that I felt like I could be excited! The local Mayor was coming to give a speech, my Dad flew down from the NSW coast unexpectedly, but I didn’t feel until that moment that I’d really done it.

As people started turning up it started to pass in a blur, but I got so many pictures, and I am pleased to say this is one of the few I took alone (the rest are with the many loved ones standing next to the banner with me – or without me, I’m looking at you David);

There was cake too! – Ok, so it doesn’t look like it, but that big fat book is really a big fat chocolate cake that was delicious, thank you Vaye!

I got to catch up with so many old friends, and people I didn’t expect who made the afternoon wonderful! It felt less about showing off what I’d done, and more being grateful to all the people there.

To Scott who spent so much time helping me with it.

To Nushie, who couldn’t be there, but gave me such beautiful artwork, breathing life into my stories.

To Kate for making me look so pretty.

To Caroline for making me not feel awkward when she took pictures.

To Lorna for being my aid that day, unquestioningly making it go smoothly.

And to Emily who cracked jokes when I was nervous.

To Dee who gave such a… moving speech. It was very hard to do my speech afterward!

All the friends who came from far and wide, and it felt far less like I was talking to a bunch of strangers about my self spoken importance, and more about how far I’d come, and that they’d all had a part of it.

To my husband’s family who was there to support me – it meant so much and they have always made me feel so included in their family, even if I was a little odd.

To my Dad… who didn’t just come, he helped inspire all of this. I still got through the speech but it wasn’t easy!

I spent the evening hanging out with old uni friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and eating pizza while we reminisced. And then I went home and tired as I was I couldn’t sleep!

The next day should have been about follow up but instead I was at the Allcan Events Fundraiser for Breast Cancer, giving a speech, not about my stories or that I was an author, but about my very brave aunt who fought off cancer for nearly twenty years.

A beautiful event hosted by a work collegue and friend, Gigi, I was honoured, not just that she took the time out of a busy prep Saturday for her fundraiser to come to my book launch, but she also asked me to speak at her luncheon.

Its been a few days coming but I am glad to see the books finally online everywhere and now the hard part of marketing.

I couldn’t have done any of it without the love and support of my husband to whom I am truly grateful. He probably won’t read that but its OK, I do tell him, every day. And intend to keep doing so even with all the books that are to come.

Thank you all of you who were there on the day, and those of you who couldn’t make it I still got your wonderful messages of love and support and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Thank you all!

Birthday Book Launch!

Its coming, its so close and I am so excited to start talking about it!

SIX WEEKS TO GO until The Well of Youth will be officially released and available for purchase! To celebrate this culmination of years of hard work and passionate creativity, I will be hosting a launch event in my home town of Trentham.

I invite you to join me to celebrate not only the release of the first book in the Last Prophecy series, but also, my birthday!

The launch will take place at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in TRENTHAM, VICTORIA (21 High Street, Trentham) on Saturday, 14 October, from 4-7pm (AEST).

I will be speaking on the day – as will some invited guests – and I expect that the local, intimate nature of the event will provide plenty of opportunity for you to grill me about what you can expect as we continue through the Last Prophecy stories!

Now, I am very aware that Trentham is a bit of a hike – even for those of you based in Victoria – so I have decided that the event will also be live recorded on my Facebook page. This will mean that the prizes (yes, there will be prizes) will be on offer to my wonderful supporters and network all over the world. Stay tuned as the event approaches for more details!

So get out your bookmarks and save the date – Saturday 14 October, 4-7pm – and come along and join me in toasting the release of my new book, The Well of Youth.

 

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