Tag Archives: reviews

Buy my Book, Read my Book

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Introduction

You just published your first novel and you do the promotions properly. You don’t spam people with “Buy my Book” but cleverly promote it while talking to your potential readers. Sales start pouring in and you eagerly begin your next book. However, there’s one problem; there aren’t any reviews.

 

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Buy My Book!

Before I published my first book in 2014, I studied other authors’ methods of promotion as well as read articles on how to develop my Writer’s Platform. One of the main things I learned, above all else, was not to use the phrase, Buy my Book. It sends the wrong message to your potential readers. In a way it almost sounds like a threat: Buy my Book or else!

However, I see this kind of promotion going on throughout Twitter and Facebook and it seems to work, mostly. But I choose not to do it as I know better. I joined the site called Readers Gazette and they promote my books for free. Every time they promo my books, I’ll take and share it and add a little teaser from the story or create a clever way to promote it.

One of the ways that I promote book 1 of my trilogy is by using this phrase on Twitter:

2 girls, 4 towers, 1 magic key, endless adventures.

 

You would think that this would be enough to entice someone to buy the book but apparently not. Amazon lets you know when a book has been purchased but they don’t tell you which one. And unless, you have enough people to buy one of your books, you’ll never know how many of each is being purchased.

 

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Read my Book

A couple years ago I did a giveaway of book 1 as part of an author gathering. I gave away five copies of my book and the response was very positive. However, that feeling of happiness soon dissipated when that positive response was followed by: I have a lot of books on my TBR (To Be Read) list, but I’ll get to it. Two years later and still no reviews, no comments on my Author Page, nothing.

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The Ever-growing TBR list

I’ve had people claim they’ve read my book and when I ask them to post a review they act like they don’t have time. I’m thinking you’ve had time to read the book, why not take a couple of minutes to write a couple of sentences in a review. Before I continue, I am guilty of not doing the same but I will get those reviews written—eventually.

I’ve convinced family and co-workers to buy my book but some say they are too busy to read it, while others say they’ve started reading it and like it so far, yet, no reviews. No comments at all.

 

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Review my Book

When no one reads your stories it becomes very discouraging to an author. They can’t gauge what works and what doesn’t. They can’t decide if they should write the sequel or write something else entirely. I’m struggling with that very dilemma right now.

In addition to my trilogy, I’ve written four short plus a collection of blog posts by a character featured in the trilogy. They only reviews I’ve gotten are by: My cover artist, an editor, and a friend. Nothing from my fellow authors whose books I have read. I always thought it was an unwritten law that if you help out an author by reading one of their stories, they’d read one of yours. Guess not. I have hundreds of ideas for future stories but struggle with which way to go as I don’t know what’s worth writing.

I understand people don’t want to spend their hard earned money on an unknown author’s book if they know there’s the possibility of them not liking it but that’s the chance you have to take sometimes. I’ve read several books by people I didn’t know and absolutely love their work; sometimes better than the big name authors out there.

One of the reasons I provide short stories, and at only 99¢, is so readers out there can get an idea of what my writing is like and not have to spend a lot of money in doing so. Oftentimes, I find writing short stories easier as I can spin a good tale in a small of amount of space as compared to a full length novel.

 

Conclusion

I will continue to write stories; even if no one reads them because this is who I am and I have stories to share. I can’t think of ever stopping because it would hurt too much not to write. Fellow authors know this feeling.

So when you buy a book please read it and then give it a review. If not on an official page, like Amazon, send it to the author instead.

Do you review books after reading them? Or do you space it and move on to your next book? Share your comments below.

 

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

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Fifth Tower Interview–Susan May

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Good morning to everyone! This is my third in a series of interviews that I have done with Indie Authors. If you haven’t had the chance to read the other two, you can check them out now. The first was with Benjamin Wallace and the second was with Kim Scott.

Today’s interview is with Suspense writer, Susan May. I recently read her short story “Back Again” and enjoyed it very much. I invited her to the tower to talk about it full-length version of the story and some of her other works. Please enjoy!

Hello Susan and welcome to the Fifth Tower!

Chris, thank you so much for having me here. I’m really thrilled that you’ve invited me to meet your readers and, also, for your very kind words about Back Again.

Your current project, Back Again, is both a short story and a full length novel. Why is it both?

Back Again

I wrote the short story for a time travel anthology which didn’t happen in the end. So I finished Back Again and sent it off to my copy editor, Peg, at http://www.ebookeditingpro.com. She told me she loved the story, and made some suggestions about continuing past the conclusion. I had a few queries about the edits and the owner of the business, Christie, who is an ex-Penguin USA and St Martin’s Press structural editor, read through it for me. She also loved it. Then two days later, Christie sent me an email urging me to turn the story into a book and that, if I did, she had some contacts in publishing she’d like to send it to as a novel.

When I’d finished the short story, I always did think there was more story there. So, even though I had another project I was about to start, I thought that I may as well give this a swing. However, I wasn’t positive I could turn the story into a book because it had felt reasonably complete, except for a few niggles. I gave myself four weeks to see what I had at the end of that time because I didn’t want to waste too much time on it. It seemed tricky to pull off anyway, because I had to write around the short story and it wouldn’t be a linear write. As well short stories are pretty easy—you don’t have to explain everything; you can just allude. In a book, I would have to explain a lot of things that I hadn’t worried about and think of a different ending that went past my short story ending.

What thrilled me was that because I gave myself a deadline, I actually wrote the whole book in four weeks—84,000 words (350 pages). This book has taught me how to write and edit fast. I wrote some tips on this after writing the 12,000-word short story draft in a week. The total write time from start to sending off to my editor, including two thorough edits, was two-and-a-half months, and I think it’s the cleanest manuscript I’ve sent for editing yet.

Tell us a little bit about the story concept.

Dawn watches her son, via her rear vision mirror, killed in a vehicle accident. Then, after enduring ten days of unimaginable hell, she finds herself back again to the morning of the accident day. She thinks that she has just been given the greatest gift of being able to change the future, until she discovers that there are limitations to her return.

Do you really think it would be that difficult to alter your own timeline?

When I sat down to write this time slip story, I knew I didn’t want a setup like every other Groundhog Day type story, where the character goes back and repeats different versions of the day, with their only challenge being creating a temporal loop or something similar. So I gave Dawn a handicap that I’d never read or seen in a film or book before. Of course, readers will need to read the book to discover what that actually is.

And, Chris, I think it would be very difficult to alter my own timeline because I don’t have a time travel machine. If I did, I certainly would have Dawn’s same determination to never give up trying to save my children.

In reading the reviews for Back Again, someone held back one star because they were unhappy with the ending. Do these types of reviews bother you?

I always said I would never read my reviews, but I can’t help it—I do. If a reader is kind enough to take the time to write a review, then I feel I should read it. No, that doesn’t bother me that a reader writes something negative about my stories, because it’s so subjective. I’m a film and book critic, and the other film critics and I are always discussing our difference of opinion on films and making fun of each other’s tastes. Yet we’re all just as experienced. I know going in that some readers won’t like my work or an ending or a character, but I’m always grateful that they take the chance on reading my stories.

I wouldn’t change a story because of a review. I don’t even have a critique group. I have my husband, who is a great first reader and really nails most of the problem areas before my editors get the work. Then I have my editors. Once a story is done and published, it’s pretty much over for me. I’m usually well into the next story project. I don’t want to go back. It isn’t arrogance that I don’t listen to others. I just have a different type of team and mode of working.

You grew up reading Poe, Hitchcock, and Tales from the Crypt comics. Were you the creepy child in class everyone avoided?

I was a very weird looking—skinny with frizzy hair—as a kid and not hugely popular. I know I thought a lot differently to other kids. My first presentation in class in Grade Eight was on how they did the special effects in The Exorcist (which I’d snuck in and seen at 13—you were meant to be 18). A few kids told me that I was creepy after that. I worked out at age 11 that if you’re not good looking, you need to develop a sense of humor and a good personality. So that’s what I did, and I ended up hanging with most of the popular girls. So I became popular by association. I still use that tactic today. That’s why I initiated the creation of From The Indie Side. Having my story in a book with other amazing writer like Hugh Howey, Peter Cawdron, Kate Danley, and all the other greats in there, might make me look pretty cool by association.

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Looking at your list of published works, it would appear that you could be considered a female version of Stephen King. Do you have problems with being labeled in regards to genre?

I have no problems with that. That’s how I label myself. When Stephen King first started out, I bet he was compared to writers like H.P. Lovecraft or Ray Bradbury. He would have been thrilled, as well. Then eventually you hope that your work stands for your name, and other writer’s work is then compared to yours. I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was a teenager and he does inspire me, so its no accident that my storylines feel like Stephen King set ups.

Who is your artist for your covers? Why did you choose them?

Would you believe my husband—who isn’t a cover artist or has any lean towards art? I wanted to commission a cover artist with my first book Behind The Fire, but he said, “No give me a go. How hard can it be?” He uses a ten-year-old graphic design package and we found a website with thousands of free fonts. When you’re starting out, I don’t think you should spend too much money on anything. It’s going to take you a long time to recoup that. Of course, I use him because he’s cheap—well free! However, if he didn’t do such a good job, I would have to find some other solution. I’m very lucky that my husband is my greatest supporter.

When you come up with an idea for a story, how do you write it? (start in the middle, end, or just the beginning?)

I start with just an idea or a scene. Like in Back Again, I was sitting in my car waiting to pick up my son from a music lesson (just like my character Dawn) and he went around the back of my angle-parked car to put his guitar in the trunk. I thought: this is dangerous. It would only take a driver a momentary lapse to hit him. Then my mind went to what would I do? I would wish that it never happened. I would wish that I could go back and tell him not to stand at the back of the car. Immediately, I realized that was a good story set up.

I write from the beginning until the end and I’m a pantser. I have no idea what is going to happen. I’ve been writing for so long, I’ve learned to trust my characters implicitly. They always have the story in-hand, while most of the time I’m freaking out, thinking, where is this all going. But if I’m surprised by where the story goes, then the reader will be, too. So I like that kind of process.

When you’re not writing or chasing your family around, what do you do for fun?

My family keeps me busy. I’ve two boys, 12 and 14, and they have heaps going on. I’m a film and book critic, too. If I’m not with my family, keeping house, or writing or reading, I’m in a darkened cinema several times a week. Last year I saw 130 odd films on screen. It’s the perfect job for a cinephile.

Where do you see the publishing industry ten years from now?

Who can tell? It’s so volatile. I’m watching with interest and amusement. I actually know a great many people in publishing. I work with Big Five publicists behind the scenes with reviews and author interviews, and one of my best friends works for Harper Collins. She and I spend hours, over coffee, discussing the state of the industry and its future. It’s fun to talk about, but there is a lot of spin out there.

I think the publishers are responding to the new climate, despite what some vocal groups will have you believe, and that will evolve to embrace hybrid authors. How can you look to the future when we don’t even know what technology is coming? Ten years ago, nobody could predict what the iPod would do to the world. So I can only say what I see me doing in the future for sure. And that is, I’ll be telling stories with words through whatever means is available.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

When you are first starting out you don’t realize the long, emotional road that lies ahead. The writing will be horrible and you will feel like a failure more times than you will feel great. But you must keep going. Don’t get caught up in the politics of publishing. Do what feels right for you. Trust your instincts. Most of all— You. Must. Write. Social media, studying the industry, strategizing how to get reviews, talking about writing, IS NOT WRITING. Writing well with confidence comes organically, helped along if you do some courses or study up on it. However, even authors who study writing need to write a lot to become good, to learn about the instinct you need for words and timing. Don’t stop before you become good enough. Pay your dues. Do your time. (I’m still doing this.) Most of all, write for love and because you are curious about that character or that set up and want to explore it. Stay true to you, and I don’t see how you can fail. In the end, whether you sell a million books or one, you will have enjoyed yourself and learned something.

Once Back Again is available, what will be next for you?

Even as I finished the pre-editor edits of Back Again recently, I was already working on the next story in my head. I need to write another book immediately to be sure that I can write at the cracking pace I did with Back Again. The insecure writer in me wants to be sure it wasn’t a fluke.

Now I’ve learned how to write a novel fast (by stealing time and staying focused) I will put out at least three books a year in the future. I actually have a 40,000-word novella following on from Hugh Howey’s world of Dust called Particles edited back in March. However, I’ve decided that I want it to be its own work and not set in the Wool world, so I have to rework that for release some time later this year.

Due to the success of From The Indie Side, I have a few authors asking me when I’m putting together another anthology. So that will happen in the next year or so. Now I’ve created one anthology I have the blueprint for more. They are great fun and you meet and make friends with some really great talented people.

I’ve also got a bunch of short stories I’ve written over the past four years that I’m working on with my editor. These are for a science-fiction collection. I released the Behind Dark Doors Collection in April and I have another collection ready to go Behind More Dark Doors in the horror/dark thriller genre—I just haven’t had time to put it up.

Behind Dark Doors

And that’s what I mean about making it about the writing. I’ve written plenty of stories I haven’t even published because, as much as I’d love to be earning a great living from this, at the moment, getting the stories down is what matters.

Thank you for your time!

Thank you, Chris, for having me on your blog and I wish you all the best in your career. It’s a fantastic thing to help promote other authors. I’m all about that, and I do the same. You can’t expect people to review your work or help you when you don’t pay it forward. So it seems to me you are certainly on the right writing path. There’s another piece of advice for new writers (and some old ones), don’t do this alone. Reach out to others, be part of the community. Writing is no longer a solitary pursuit. Take advantage of that community connection, not just for your work, but for your soul.

For more information about Susan and her books, check out these links…

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Susan May’s books:

Amazon USA: Amazon USA

Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Amazon Australia: Amazon Australia

Smashwords: Smashwords

Scribd: Scribd

Find Susan where good social media people hang out:

Website: http://susanmaywordadventures.blogspot.com.au/

Twitter: Susan May

Facebook: Like Susan May

Google+: Join my circle

Linked In: Linked In Profile

Good Reads: Friend on Good Reads

Instagram: Instagram

Chair

About SUSAN MAY

Susan May was four when she decided to be a writer. But for forty-six years, she suffered from life-gets-in-the-way-osis. Cured in 2010, she has since penned several novels and multiple short stories—many published award winners in Australia, USA and UK. She pens book and film reviews and author interviews for Suspense Magazine in the USA, as well as, other popular Australian and International sites.

Although she works directly with the big five publishers in Australia and overseas with her reviewing work, Susan launched herself into the exciting new world of independent publishing mid-2013. She believes that self-publishing offers savvy writer’s an opportunity to control their writing and careers, allowing them to quickly deliver their stories into reader’s hands. Susan has very quickly made a name for herself in the speculative fiction genre, collaborating with some of the biggest names in the indie world today

 That brings this post to a conclusion. If you have any questions or comments for myself or Susan, feel free to post them here. Our next interview will be Thursdays, August 28th with Elyse Salpeter.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Don’t forget to TIP your Waitress…err, Author!

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Last week we talked about supporting your Indie Authors by reading more of their books. This week I want to talk about further supporting authors (Indie or otherwise) by writing a review for their book. Not sure what to write? Here are some suggestions!

Why should I write a review?

This may come as a surprise, but I believe there are people that think this way. They might say, “I bought their book, gave them my money, what more do they want?” The quick answer is your appreciation for all of the hard work that they put into the book that is now in your hands. Just like you would tip a waitress at a restaurant for good service, so should you show your gratitude towards and author and their work. It’s also a way for authors to gauge what their readers like or dislike about a story or characters.

Grant it not every author will change their style of writing to suit you or everyone for that matter, but feedback may help an author decide if another book with the same characters is worthwhile to write or not. If an author already has a series in mind, your review might help decide who comes back and who gets the boot. You won’t know of course unless you voice your opinion.

What should I write in a review?

The most important thing you shouldn’t do is to submit a review that simply says, “I liked this book.” This is a good thing, but it doesn’t tell the author WHY you like the book. All too often I have people “Like” my blog articles, but never say why. Feedback on any blog is just as important. It doesn’t have to be a review, but a few words of encouragement are always good.

Readers Review. Meme created by Kim Scott.

Readers Review. Meme created by Kim Scott.

When writing a review, make sure you talk about the characters and the scenes in the story. This will prove to the author that you actually sat down and read the book and didn’t just write a review because you were prompted to do so.

Definitely talk about the main character (MC) as this might the deciding factor as to whether a second book is written featuring this character. Perhaps you can do a comparison with the antagonist and share what you thought worked or didn’t work.

Also discuss secondary characters because they might return as well in another story. Or, perhaps, one of those characters might become the MC in a story of their own. In television, it not unusual for supporting characters to get a series of their own. For example, Dr. Fraiser Crane from Cheers got his own television series and it was very successful!

What shouldn’t I write in a review?

Please don’t be a praise junkie where every word is full of sugar that you inflate the author’s ego more than it already is. No book out there is so perfect that there isn’t room for improvement. Even if it’s only, “the story was great but too short for me.”

Do not promote your own work in a review. Remember, the review is about the book you read and the author who wrote it! The last thing an author wants to read: “This book on Jack the Ripper was really great but if you want the REAL truth, check out mine which can be found…” This also goes for non-writers. “This was a great story! In fact, my new album goes perfectly as background music. You can buy that here…”

I said it once and I’ll say it again…Remember, the review is about the book you read and the author who wrote it!

 What if I didn’t like the book?

Yes, write a review! Remember the old adage: No news is good news. If there isn’t a negative review, the author may assume that everyone liked it. Just because you didn’t like the story doesn’t mean you should avoid writing a review. An author will accept criticism both good and bad. Besides, just because you didn’t like the story doesn’t mean everyone won’t like it. I don’t know how many movies I went to see even though the critics didn’t like it but I loved it.

A negative review is just as important to an author because it helps him understand what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps you would have liked the story more if the MC was a female instead. Not to be sexist, but maybe the situations would have been more real had the lead been a woman. Or, instead of the setting being downtown Los Angeles, the story would have been better in a small town or village in the middle of nowhere.

A Word of Warning

This warning is for both authors and readers alike. There are a lot of people out there who intentionally give out 1 star reviews and write scathing negative reviews. I’m guessing that they haven’t even bothered to write the book, but are going around with intention of bullying authors and their stories. If you give a 1 star rating to a book, you better have a really good reason to do and facts to back that up. The last thing we need on the Internet is more bullies than we already have. One is too many!

Writers, if you receive a 1 star review do not give up your desire to be an author. The review may sting, especially if it’s a genuine one, but it should help to know what direction you need to go in. If it’s one bad review out of hundreds of great review don’t simply dismiss it either. I know you can’t please everyone but at least take it to heart and read what he or she didn’t like…provided it’s an honest review.

Conclusion

Writing a review doesn’t take up a lot of time and should be written shortly after you read the book. Keep it handy as well, so you can reference the characters and the plot. Indie authors crave reviews because it’s what keeps us going and is an encouragement to write more stories.

Do you have any other suggestions about writing reviews? Share them in the comments. Also feel free to reference reviews that you may have received and if you made any changes in regards to the comments.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Announcements
Next week, January 20, 2014, I will be doing an official cover reveal for book 1 of The Askinar Towers trilogy. The book itself will be released on January 31, 2014. Details will follow on where you can purchase the book.