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Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

typing-clipart-typing-on-computerI’m humbled and thrilled to receive my first 5 star review for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story.

When a reader takes the time to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or their blog, they are not only reaching out to other readers, they are reaching out to the author. After countless hours, months, years, the writer sits on the edge of his/her seat, waiting to see if anyone out there actually enjoys the story, as they’ve told it. We are anxious mother hens, hovering over our chick, pushing it forward, clucking away, and full of nervous excitement.

Reviews also affect the discoverability of a writer’s work on on-line venues, and in bricks-and-mortar stores. Just like word-of-mouth, it helps spread the word about a new release, or a book that’s been around a while. Places like Amazon use something called algorithms to help place the book in line with others of it’s kind, and rise it in the ranks of scores of other books. The more reviews a book gets, the higher up the line it rises, thereby making it easier for potential readers to discover. No one seems to know exactly how these algorithms work, but it is vital to the success of a book, and of course, to the writer and publisher.

When considering a new book, I know I check the reviews first, just like I do when considering whether or not to book a hotel. It isn’t that I rely on that information only when buying a book, but when I see a pattern (positive or negative), it sways my decision-making. I combine that information with my opinion of the cover art and back cover blurb, and if I like what I see, I’ll lay my money down.

Reviews may also help bookstores decide which books they give valuable shelf space to. Their business is to sell books, so it makes sense that a bookstore is going to want to place books that are more likely to sell.

Finally, (honest) reviews help the writer determine whether or not they’ve hit their mark with the story. It gives us much needed feedback, and feeds the fires of inspiration to keep us moving ahead with the next book, and the next, and the next.

shout-outBut how do you write a review? Honestly, it’s easy. Once you’ve finished reading a book, go to Amazon and set up your (free) account (most countries have their own Amazon sites). Next, search for the title or author, and click on that book. This brings you to the book’s sales page. Just below the author’s name you’ll see a series of five stars. Beside that you’ll see a line that states how many reviews that particular book has. Click on that, and it’ll bring you to a new page that gives all the reviews that book has received to date. Beside the star review, you’ll see an area that says “Write a customer review”. Click on that and follow the prompts. If you’ve read a book on a Kindle or via Kindle app, at the end of the book you’ll be taken to a “review” page, so this is where you can easily leave a review. Amazon, and other e-venues, is trying to make this really easy for readers, because they know how valuable your feedback is.

As for the portion where you can leave a comment, it can be as long or as brief as you like. Read through a few others on that book or any others to get an idea. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t have to be perfectly worded. It just has to be honest. Typically, it’s helpful to explain what you liked (or didn’t like) about the book. In some cases you can give a brief synopsis (no spoilers though, please), or not, and a recommendation, such as “I’d highly recommend this book to other lovers of _____.”

Once you’ve submitted your review, Amazon will notify you that it has been accepted, and what’s really cool, is that if your review proves helpful to another reader, you’ll receive an email notification to tell you.

On behalf of all writers out there, and for me, thank you for your incredible support. It means more to us than you know!

Finally, do you read reviews before purchasing? If so, tell us why. If not, share your reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

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Christina Hamlett

Christina Hamlett

I’m thrilled to welcome the multi-talented and accomplished media relations expert and award-winning author, Christina Hamlett, as my first blog interviewee. Christina and I initially met online via LinkedIn, then followed each other over to Facebook and began connecting on a more regular, personal note. I quickly realized that here was a lady who had walked the walk and gave back generously to those coming up the ranks. I was honoured when she offered to interview me for her own blog, You Read It Here First, in May, 2014. After reading and reviewing her book, Media Magnetism, I was convinced this was one writer I wanted to interview and get to know better, and whose words of wisdom needed to be shared.

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Q You have been involved in so many things over the years; playwright, author, actress, theatrical director, etc. What are you most proud of today, and why?

Being able to write plays that are performed across the country and around the world by young people, and receiving sweet fan mail like this: “Dear Ms. Hamlett. How are you? I am fine. I beat out my best friend for the part of Lady Elaine in The Knight of the Honest Heart. It was fun to put on this play. I’m going to be a famous actress when I grow up. I just thought you’d like to know. Thank you for writing this script because it has changed my life.” Priceless.

Q What has been the lesson most difficult for you to learn, either personally or professionally?

Patience! Back in the day when everything was sent via snail mail, I was very much like Charlie Brown sitting under the mailbox and waiting, waiting, waiting. At that time, it could take six months or even longer to get a response to a query. Although email has significantly shortened that wait period, I’m the first to admit I get impatient if I don’t receive a response within 10 minutes.

Q You know I have to ask this; What advice would you give to up-and-coming writers?

The universe will never open up and grant you nine unobstructed years to work on your Great American Novel. If you’re really committed to the dream of being a writer, you have to grab chunks of time whenever and wherever you can find them. As a writer, you are your own boss as well as your own worst obstacle if you allow procrastination and self-doubt to keep you from plunging ahead. You also have to learn not to edit-as-you-go. Many a writer never finishes a book because s/he is much too hung up on trying to craft the best possible first sentence in Chapter One. Insider secret: Whatever you write, a zealous editor could likely end up changing it anyway so just stop agonizing about it.

Media Magnetism

Media Magnetism

Q In your book, Media Magnetism (www.mediamagnetism.org), you talk about using social media wisely. We’ve all seen people, some very professional people, misuse this communication tool. What do you see is the key to using social media wisely to help build a strong platform?

It’s all about establishing yourself as someone who is engaging, entertaining and offering refreshing posts that readers can’t wait to tune into each day. Surveys show that customers are more likely to purchase goods and services from someone whose name is not only familiar to them but whose personality is also genuinely likeable and trustworthy. While there’s nothing wrong with tooting your horn about your latest book, for instance, you never want to do a hard-sell in social media. What you want to do instead is a soft, subliminal sell that establishes you as the best possible expert on your book’s topic. It’s likewise critical to know who your audience is, what’s important to them, and where they tend to congregate so that you can fashion your own blogs – and do guest blogs – around topics that will hook their attention and make them curious about what else you know that’s helpful to their lives, jobs and dreams.

Q Writers and other creatives deal with rejection on what can feel like an almost daily basis, and this can be tough on the ego. When you give or receive a review or critique a piece of work, what are you looking for, and how do you approach giving or receiving feedback (two sides of the same coin)?

When I give reviews/critiques, I always take an objective approach (even if it’s not a genre that appeals to me) and look at elements such as originality, character development, dialogue, pacing, structure, etc. I also look at whether the writer has used the most effective medium to deliver his/her story. Many aspiring screenwriters, for example, have skill sets that would be a much better fit for plays, novels or short stories and I share this with them. Further, I remind them – and myself – that writing is a subjective craft. If 10 people independently find 10 different things they like/dislike, it just reinforces that subjective element. Conversely, if 10 people zero in on exactly the same things (i.e., dislikable characters, contrivances, lame dialogue), this is something that needs to be remedied. I also tell writers that although it’s lovely to have the adoration and support of friends and relatives giving critiques, odds are that none of them are actually in the publishing or production business to make informed decisions about a project’s marketability.

Q You have mentored many others along their own personal and/or professional paths, but who would you consider is your greatest mentor, and why?

I was blessed the most to be mentored in the craft of playwriting for 20 years by the late Sylvia Burack, founder of  The Writer and Plays Magazine. She taught me everything I know about crafting an entertaining story, peopling it with interesting characters, and putting words in their mouths. Unlike a lot of editors and publishers, she also took the time to explain why she was rejecting a script and what she believed I could do to make it better. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel her looking over my shoulder and either nodding in approval or raising an eyebrow and saying, “Are you quite sure that’s your best work?” Everyone – regardless of their career choices – should be so lucky as to have a Sylvia encouraging them to pursue their dreams. When she retired years ago, I asked her what she was going to do with her old IBM Selectric typewriter, the very typewriter on which she had composed 20 years worth of letters to me. She was going to just leave it in an alley behind the office on Boylston Street for someone to steal but then decided they’d more likely give themselves a hernia doubled up from the laughter of seeing something that antiquated. And so instead, she shipped it to me along with a new ribbon and a box of white correction fluid. Today, it keeps company in my office with a 1917 typewriter that weighs roughly the equivalent of a cast-iron stove…and still works!

Q Where do you do most of your writing?

I have a beautiful home office with French doors that open out toward the dining room. (We do lots of entertaining so this set-up makes it incumbent upon me to keep the room reasonably tidy.) The French doors are flanked by a suit of armor and a black velvet dragon named Mischief. Holding court in the middle of my Oriental rug is Viktor the Siberian tiger (one of 310 stuffed animals I have collected throughout my life). My L-shaped oak desk has a high, 6 foot long hutch with lots of cubbyholes and cabinets that prompted one of my friends to remark that it reminds her of a really quirky Advent calendar! My love of books is evidenced by all the bookcases behind me and my love of photography (we travel a lot) is reflected in the fact that virtually every square inch of wall space has something hanging on it. (I suspect that one day the drywall will completely collapse from the weight of all the frames.) A life-size standing cutout of Captain Jack Sparrow literally has my back. I often turn on the miniature white lights in my silk ficus tree when we have dinner parties; they throw off just enough light that guests who haven’t been here before have been known to freak out that there’s a pirate standing in the shadows by my chair.

Q You write for Plays, The Magazine For Young People and have written two books targeted to aspiring young filmmakers: Screenwriting For Teens and ScreenTeenWriters. What is it about working with young people just coming into the business of screenwriting that you enjoy the most, and the least, and why?

I like being able to ignite young imaginations with tips, tools and resources that weren’t available when I was their age. And besides, nothing keeps you younger than mentoring teens and tweens! Sadly, the thing I find the most disheartening about the current generation is the pervasive attitude of “entitlement” which has been fueled in large part by the current administration. While I delight in letting young people know what they need to do in order to hone their craft, there’s a growing segment that is not only ignorant of how to correspond professionally and respectfully with adults but also believes they shouldn’t have to work hard if they can just make demands on anyone they perceive is successful at what they want to do. I even had one of them tell me, “The problem with Hollywood is that all you old people need to go away.” My, my, not exactly the best way to endear oneself, is it?

Q We all experience failures and successes in our professional careers. What would you consider your greatest failure, and what did it teach you in preparation for future success?

Not joining the Navy in 1972, although I’d really label that more of a disappointment than any sort of career-crushing failure. It was a rainy Sunday morning and I had just come home from an audition. My heart was really set on getting a particular part but I learned that same day the role was going to someone else. Maybe my theatrical career was already over, I thought, and I should be doing something completely different. I remembered walking past the military recruiting offices everyday on my lunch hour and a light bulb came on that maybe I should just join the Navy and see the world. So off I scampered in the rain to sign up, only to discover that the recruiting offices weren’t open on Sunday. I came home, sulked for a bit about the lost audition, and the following Monday I got a surprise call from a director I had auditioned for three months previous asking if I’d like the lead role in an upcoming comedy. The takeaway lesson in this is that there are three important lessons in life: (1) Everything happens for a reason, (2) It’s never the reason we think, and (3) Timing is everything.

Q With so many significant changes happening right now within the publishing industry with regards to digitalization, self-publishing, and questions surrounding the need for traditional agents and/or publishers, what do you see is the future of publishing and writing, and why?

Traditional publishing and electronic publishing will continue to co-exist but I predict that more and more writers will want to take control of their own intellectual property. What many aspiring authors don’t know is that (1) the shelf-life of new books in brick and mortar bookstores is 2-6 weeks; (2) traditional authors get 8-15% royalties vs. 70% royalties for those self-published; (3) almost 30% of hardcover and paperbacks end up in landfills; (4) the timeframe between book contract to actual publication at traditional houses is 18-24 months; and (5) agents are rarely interested in authors who only have one book up their sleeves. As more writers turn toward self-publishing their work, this will also require them to become their own PR/marketing department as well as fully utilize the advantages of social media and professional networking.

Q As children, we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up. Would you say you are following that dream, or something completely different?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer and, happily, that’s exactly what I am.

Q What has surprised you the most about your life now vs. when you first started?

The only real surprise is how my writing style has evolved from what it was when this journey began.

Q Do you let anyone read your work in progress or do you make everyone wait until you’re all done?

My husband (who is also an excellent writer, editor and proofreader) is not only my brainstorming partner but he’s also the first one to read whatever I’ve written. We especially have fun reading all of my new scripts together out loud at the dining room table. Since we have both spent time on stage (I was in theater; he was in opera), we’re adept at splitting up the roles and doing a wide range of accents. I’m sure that on the occasions when a window is open and our readings are particularly boisterous, our neighbors must wonder exactly how many people are living with us.

Q What is next for you, Christina?

In addition to several new plays, I’ll be releasing a new business book this fall called Office For One: The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide. I’m also working on a chick lit novel called All But the Midnight Kiss, and Exit Strategy, a contemporary political suspense about a cover-up in the Congo, the escalation of Ebola, the scandalous resignation of an intelligence director, and a corrupt president.

Bio: Former actress and theatre director Christina Hamlett is a media relations expert and award-winning author whose credits to date include 30 books, 156 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films and hundreds of articles and interviews that appear online and in trade publications throughout the world. She is also a script consultant for the film biz (which means she stops a lot of bad movies from coming to theatres near you) and a professional ghostwriter (which does not mean she talks to dead people). Learn more at http://www.authorhamlett.com.

 

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

That is the question, especially if you are a reader and are looking to provide valuable feedback, support, or to help the author raise awareness of their work. If you are a writer, you already know how important reviews are to you and your work. If you aren’t sure, read on.

 

Before I became a writer I had no idea that reviews were so important to a writer. I mean really, I just read a book, and if I liked it I told my family and friends. I didn’t contact the writer and tell them I’d enjoyed their book, and I certainly didn’t even think about going onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo to post a review. I’d never heard of Goodreads, Smashwords, or the scores of other reader/writer websites that have sprung up on the net. Why would I? I was blissfully ignorant in the ways of the publishing and writing world.

 

All that changed when I decided to pen my own novel. Suddenly I wanted and needed to learn all I could about this new venture. I never considered it a hobby. I always knew that one day I’d write, and that when I did, I’d give it my all. That’s when I started reading about the importance of reviews. Of course I’d read the reviews posted about top selling writers and their newest work, and sometimes I’d even read those reviews so beautifully and glowingly featured in the book’s first pages or back cover, but I figured the only ones that counted were the ones from the New York Times Best Seller List, or other highly acclaimed and sought after literary professionals and authors. I was no professional reviewer or famous author, so why would what I had to say matter to anyone?

 

The more I read, the more I began to understand, and appreciate, just how much my own little words of support and feedback really could impact a book and it’s potential sales. I realized that the writers really did value reader’s reviews, perhaps more than those oft quoted literary luminaries. I was a real person, who hadn’t been paid anything to purchase the book, read it, and comment on whether I liked or didn’t like it. It doesn’t get more real or grass roots than that, and that’s pretty cool, I think.

 

That’s not to say the other, paid for reviews, such as Kirkus Reviews, don’t matter. They do, and they hold a lot of sway within the industry. But so do ordinary reader’s reviews and comments. As a writer, I can’t tell you how excited I am when someone reads my book, then takes the time to let me know what they thought of it. Of course I love the five star reviews, who doesn’t, but even the ones that come in with three and four stars have value and merit. Those reviews point to potential areas where I may want to tighten things up or give consideration to. All feedback is valuable; you just have to decide what to do with it.

 

Reviews are especially helpful for other readers though. Personally, I always check out the reviews of a new book or author, to get a good overall feel for the story and writer. That doesn’t mean I go by reviews only though. It’s just another way for me to ascertain whether or not I think a book is of interest to me and worth my hard-earned money. In that vein, reviews are extremely valuable to writers and other readers. Honest, carefully written reviews are worth their weight in gold when it comes to selling books, whether ebooks or print. That’s why virtually every online book retailer clearly provides readers with the means and access to provide an honest review of books they’ve read. Some, like Amazon, even go so far as to email their customers a few weeks after purchase to ask how they liked the book and provide a direct link to write a short review.

 

In talking to family, friends, and book signing attendees about reviews, many express the fear that they don’t know how to write a review. They think there must be some grand, magical, or special literary talent you have to have to do so. I remind them that all other readers and writers want is an honest opinion of their reading experience with the book. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. It can be as short as, “I really liked it”. Ideally though, a book review should address three things: whether you liked the book, or didn’t, what you liked/didn’t like, and why. An example of this might be, “I really enjoyed this book because it made me laugh and think about subjects I hadn’t considered before,” or “I didn’t enjoy this book because the characters didn’t seem very realistic, so I couldn’t connect with them.”. Reviews are subjective, meaning each person is going to either like or not like it based on their own internal set of criteria, and that’s perfectly fine. When a book starts gathering more reviews and ratings, patterns begin to emerge, so that potential new readers can see what the “general consensus” is about the book. 

Book ratingThen there’s the rating. Rating is a system whereby there are five “stars”, and each star has a rate. On Amazon, one star is for “I hate it”, two stars for “I don’t like it”, three stars for “It’s okay”, four stars for “I like it”, and five stars for “I love it”. This break down will translate very closely to other sites rating systems, so don’t worry about having to learn a bunch of new systems. To be fair to other readers and the author, if you are going to take the time to rate a book, please also write a short review in the “Share your opinion” section. Without the comment, no one will understand why you gave it the rating you did. This can even be done anonymously, if you’d rather not have anyone know who you are. A few of my readers have done this, and I respect their privacy, while appreciating their time and feedback.

 

Getting lost in the stack

Getting lost in the stack

The final reason reviews are so important is because it affects how easily a book is found among literally thousands of other books in the same genre. You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have written a book that people are responding well to, but because it doesn’t have enough reviews and/or rankings, it’s virtually impossible to find by potential new readers who might enjoy it and are just doing a generic search. Without those important reviews and rankings, your book falls to the bottom of the list and at the end of countless pages of other books.

 

So, as you can see, reviews (and rankings) are extremely important. Not just to writers, but to other readers as well. Once I started providing brief reviews of books I was reading, I found it not only easy, but enjoyable as well. It was my small way of thanking the writer for penning a good book and entertaining me, or teaching me something I didn’t know before. Other than the five minutes it takes me to write a quick, thoughtful review, it doesn’t cost me a thing, but I know it’s value.

 

What are you reading right now? Have you ever written a review, and if so, what did you take away from the experience. If not, what’s stopping you.

 

Your comments and feedback are important, so please also feel free to comment below.

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Jumping for joyA really cool thing is starting to happen since the release of In The Spirit Of Love. People are starting to notice! They’ve purchased a copy of my book, either in downloaded ebook format or in POD print, and they’re letting me know what they think. Very cool, since the highest honor I can conceive of as an author is to have people part with their hard-earned dollars and buy and like my book.

When an author sits and writes a story, they really have no idea how it will be perceived by the outside world. I know I didn’t. I hoped that others would enjoy the story, and when my publisher, Karen Syed of Echelon Press said she really enjoyed it or she wouldn’t have signed me, it gave me a boost of confidence. But what about the rest of the world? What about my family and friends (some would be my toughest critics)?

Then I had my first newspaper interview, and it was a great success. I’ve now had a few, and each one builds my confidence, but also my experience in interview formats and questions. I’m still a new babe on this one, but I learned that each interviewer comes with his/her own agenda and lists of questions. Whether they email me the questions, or we do a personal interview, I’m really pleased with the in-depth, and sometime quirky, questions I’m asked. There are the usual ones, such as ‘where do I get my ideas’, and ‘how did I get started’, etc., but then there are those that really make me think and go ‘huh’?

Gotta love camping

Gotta love camping

An example of the latter type of interview question came from Kat of The Book Tart. Kat asked me a question I doubt anyone else ever will. She asked me to liken writing to camping. I really had to sit back and think about that one. My first thought was, ‘how is that relevant’? Then I really started thinking about it and, because we happen to do a lot of camping (my kind of camping anyway) at our mobile home trailer with our children and grandchildren, I had something to relate to.

It occurred to me that camping is fun, messy, and spontaneous. As I said in the interview, you can’t worry about whether the kids are going to get dirty, or what you’re going to do for meals. You just kind of go with the flow and ad-lib throughout the day(s). I think it’s why we love BBQs so much. I can always throw on a few more burgers or hot dogs, run up to the store for extras if needed, toss together a little more salad, or whatever the general concensus is. No muss, no fuss, and no fancy dinnerware. Condiments are placed on the table in their containers and it’s paper plates all the way. She also asked about s’mores. Well we love s’mores – who doesn’t, and again, they’re messy, gooey and you just can’t worry about it.

So what does that have to do with writing? Well, for me anyway, when I sit down to write, I don’t do a whole lot of planning with storyboards or plot lines. I just plant butt in chair and write. I start with a germ of an idea and let the story unfold as it may. In the first draft, I don’t worry about how clean and tidy it is, although I’ll admit I can’t handle spelling and punctuation errors, so might clean those up as I go when I find them. I really try to just relax and enjoy the journey the story takes me on, and if I come to a point where I’m stumped and don’t know what to write, I stop. Sometimes I’ll even stop for a few days and mull it over in my head until I’m ready to begin again. When I think the story has gone as far as I can take it (even when I plan to follow with a sequel), I stop.

It’s in the editing and re-writes that I get serious about clean up. Kind of like the camping analogy. I worry about full clean up after the day is over and/or everyone has gone home. You see, I don’t want to miss any of the fun by being anal about making it all perfect. As I said, that comes at the editing and re-writing stage. Of course once I’m in that mode, then it’s serious business and I’m as vigilant as the next writer. We have to be. We want to be.

So now my work is out there. People are buying it and reading it, and they have opinions. When they reach back and share those opinions, it really matters, because that’s what tells an author if he/she is on the right path with the story or with our writing. Even negative comments provide invaluable feedback. If a reader says she didn’t connect with the heroine as much as she’d like, I have to take it on the chin and ask myself why. Am I missing something, or is it just a matter of personal opinion? I can’t just fluff it off and pretend I didn’t hear it. I need to take heed and pay attention, not just to that review, but others as well. Is that opinion shared by other readers? If so, I’d better do something to ensure my characters are relatable and believable.

The positive, five star reviews are great though, especially in the beginning, since it’s our only validation. It lets the author know their work is hitting the mark, and it lets other readers know whether or not this is the kind of book they might enjoy. I love it when people put their name to a really great review, but I understand when they don’t. Some people just arent’ comfortable having their name out there for all to see, even when they’re giving positive feedback. I get that. I’ve even done it myself (long before I became an author myself). I figured the feedback was enough, and didn’t need to add my name. It is, and I thank anyone who has penned an anonymous review. It is deeply appreciated.

Messy HandsIt occurs to me that, not only is camping messy, and sometimes the writing process, but so is life. It’s rarely all tied up in neat little bows or packaged with pretty paper. It’s hard work, it’s spontaneous, it’s lol crazy, it’s heart-rending, it’s everything and more. When I realized that, it was one of my aha moments. I love it when things come together easily and effortlessly, and yep, I love getting pretty presents, but when I’ve gotta get my hands dirty and just do what needs to be done, then I can do that too. You see, writing isn’t just a dream, or a passion. It’s sometimes just something ya gotta do. You can’t imagine not writing. Still, you have to have the confidence in yourself that what you are putting out there is worth other people’s time and money. You have to believe that it’s what you were put on this earth to do. But most of all, you have to be able to have fun with it. Worry about the hows, the whys, the what-ifs later. Be messy and just write.

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Review Writing

It’s been all the buzz in the publishing industry. Amazon has been pulling reader book reviews on it’s website, seriously upsetting authors world-wide. It would seem that, in this case, one bad apple – or even half a barrel, do spoil the whole bunch.

This appears evident in the “sock puppet” case, whereby prize-winning English crime writer, R.J. Ellory, admitted to having written negative reviews of other writers’ books under a pseudonym, while at the same giving his own works glowing reviews on the same sites. In an article on Forbes.com, Suw Charman-Anderson tackles this subject, effectively explaining and expounding on the issues. After reading it, I had to admit I agreed with her position. Is Amazon throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Hmm, maybe so.

Staff writer for the L.A. Times, Carolyn Kellogg, states that, when one author questioned Amazon in a letter, he received this reply in return, “We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.” According to both articles, this seems to be the standard reply. Not very heartening.

Okay, I understand you don’t want reviewers who gain financially from a review, and it can and does happen, but what about the thousands of writers who write legitimate reviews on books we’ve personally read? I’d have to say the number of authors who write honest reviews would far outweigh those who try to manipulate the system. As both Carol and Suw state, all authors are not evil rivals. I feel this way about the sales industry too – sure we’re all out there working our butts off, but we can also be our own greatest source of support, if we choose.Being new to the industry and naïve, initially I was shocked to learn that this was happening. I’d also never dreamed there were paid reviews, which could quite easily be skewed in favour of the paying author or publication house. Then I thought about it. It isn’t so shocking really. This type of underhanded behaviour happens in virtually any money-making business. Competitors are often vying for the same market, and everyone wanting a bigger piece of the pie. But that doesn’t make it right.

We can all help

I’m an author, but I’m also a reader. It’s no surprise or stretch to imagine that writers also read – a lot. We often become writers because we read. As I put one foot in front of the other in this business, I look to other writers who’ve gone before me, as well as the ones who are walking the same road beside me. Some day, I’d love to be one of the writers who will reach back to those coming along behind me. To me, that’s the way life should be. We all help each other, not out of avarice or desire to get something back, but because we want to; because it’s a hard road and helping one another makes it a little easier, and a lot more fun.

As a writer, I also review other author’s books. I understand what goes into making a good book, how hard it is to find the right words, the struggle to get the story from a writer’s mind and into the hands of readers, and the learning curve to understand the requirements and demands of the complex publishing business. It’s tough.

After writing for countless hours, we then shake out our confidence and don it like a voluminous overcoat to protect us from the onslaught of rejections we receive from agents and publishers who tell us “no thanks”. More and more authors are tired of running the gauntlet and facing the gatekeepers inherent with the traditional publishing mode. They’re stretching themselves even further and becoming “indie” authors—writers who publish their books independently, using publishing venues like, oh, Amazon.

Amazon has long been the friend of authors, without whom they would not have climbed so far up the publishing and distribution ladder. It’s supposed to be a symbiotic relationship, but as with so many things in business, rules and regulations take over from common sense. People misuse and abuse the trust placed in something as simple as a book review. Amazon has always used these reviews in their algorhithms and ranking of titles and authors, but also posted them for other readers, so they can get an idea of whether a particular book strikes their fancy. Simple.

When I think of all these shenanigans, I wonder why people have to muddy the waters. I mean really, to me, a review is kind of like a thank you, or at the very least, constructive criticism. It’s also intended to help other readers choose a book or author they might enjoy. But then I’ve always believed in thanking others for a job well done, or offering honest praise/feedback.

Even when standing in a line-up, if I really love the earrings, shoes, whatever, of the woman ahead of me, I’ll tell her so. We’ve become so insular that, on hearing the praise, the woman is always surprised. Then she smiles—a genuine smile, and says “thank you”. She goes away smiling. No matter what else is going on in her day, someone said something nice to her, or noticed the extra effort she took while getting dressed that morning. So simple.

I also work for a rewards and incentive marketing company, and one of the things we try to remind CEOs and company HR personnel, is that rewarding and recognizing employees, referral sources, and those who help make your business a success throughout the year, can pay huge dividends. People respond more favourably, and are more inclined to give back to the company, when they feel appreciated. Simple, yet effective.

 

Simple, yet effective

So, I can’t do anything about how others conduct themselves in this world, but I can do something about how I deal with others. I can approach the business of sales, writing and publishing with integrity, and when I review a book, article, or comment on a blog, I can do it with honesty. If others want to misconstrue my good intentions, I can’t change that. I am only in charge of me. Simple.

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So just how importantare rating and reviews to book rankings?

Juding by the information I’ve been able to gather over the past few months and the inside talk-very. To investigate a little further, I Googled ‘how to review a book’, and found an article called, “So you’d like to get your book reviewed on Amazon and boost your sales“. Okay, perfect. This is just was I was looking for. According to Amazon, “Good reviews on Amazon are particularly crucial for books by new authors and for niche books, and it stands to reason that they boost sales not only at that site but everywhere people are buying books, although we don’t yet know what percentage of buyers at brick-and-mortar bookstores made their choice by reading Amazon customer reviews.”. This article also went on to explain how to approach Amazon’s top reviewers, and even provides a sample script to try to elicit the review.

Of course there’s a downside to reviews, and that is the dreaded negative review. In that same Amazon article, they point out, “Yes, negative reviews can hurt sales in the short term, but over the long term, allowing criticism builds credibility and helps shoppers decide what to buy, Bezos says: “We don’t make money when we sell things; we make money when we help people make purchase decisions.”

Rampant Techpress has an excellent article on Amazon Sales Rank Tracking that’s well worth taking a look at, as it breaks down how the giant book seller actually ranks an author’s book. I found this really useful in understanding the mechanics behind rankings.

Opinions seem to vary between “no, not important and it’s just an author’s vanity”, to “yes, extremely important”. With the advent of indie publishing, self-publishing and ebooks, I believe book rankings has become one of those hot topics everyone is trying to figure out. According the big hitters, ranking is definitely important. After all, what is the New York Times Bestseller’s List, but a ranking of books the publisher’s and critics like? Why are the readers’ opinions less important. To authors, they aren’t. In the grand scheme of things, readers buy books, not publishers, agents, critics or even book stores.

Can rankings be padded or faked, of course they can, and sometimes are. Word is spreading that some of the big publishing houses are actually even hiring individuals to post poor reviews for indie authors for the sole purpose of bringing their rankings down. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Selling books has long been big business, and in today’s highly competitive publishing industry, with the increasing rise and popularity of ebooks, it’s no wonder.

So, are rankings and reviews important. I think so, but hey, I’m an author, so I care what others think of my work. It’s how I plan to grow and improve my craft, as well as how I hope to sell my books.

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So just how importantare rating and reviews to book rankings?

Juding by the information I’ve been able to gather over the past few months and the inside talk-very. To investigate a little further, I Googled ‘how to review a book’, and found an article called, “So you’d like to get your book reviewed on Amazon and boost your sales“. Okay, perfect. This is just was I was looking for. According to Amazon, “Good reviews on Amazon are particularly crucial for books by new authors and for niche books, and it stands to reason that they boost sales not only at that site but everywhere people are buying books, although we don’t yet know what percentage of buyers at brick-and-mortar bookstores made their choice by reading Amazon customer reviews.”. This article also went on to explain how to approach Amazon’s top reviewers, and even provides a sample script to try to elicit the review.

Of course there’s a downside to reviews, and that is the dreaded negative review. In that same Amazon article, they point out, “Yes, negative reviews can hurt sales in the short term, but over the long term, allowing criticism builds credibility and helps shoppers decide what to buy, Bezos says: “We don’t make money when we sell things; we make money when we help people make purchase decisions.”

Rampant Techpress has an excellent article on Amazon Sales Rank Tracking that’s well worth taking a look at, as it breaks down how the giant book seller actually ranks an author’s book. I found this really useful in understanding the mechanics behind rankings.

Opinions seem to vary between “no, not important and it’s just an author’s vanity”, to “yes, extremely important”. With the advent of indie publishing, self-publishing and ebooks, I believe book rankings has become one of those hot topics everyone is trying to figure out. According the big hitters, ranking is definitely important. After all, what is the New York Times Bestseller’s List, but a ranking of books the publisher’s and critics like? Why are the readers’ opinions less important. To authors, they aren’t. In the grand scheme of things, readers buy books, not publishers, agents, critics or even book stores.

Can rankings be padded or faked, of course they can, and sometimes are. Word is spreading that some of the big publishing houses are actually even hiring individuals to post poor reviews for indie authors for the sole purpose of bringing their rankings down. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Selling books has long been big business, and in today’s highly competitive publishing industry, with the increasing rise and popularity of ebooks, it’s no wonder.

So, are rankings and reviews important. I think so, but hey, I’m an author, so I care what others think of my work. It’s how I plan to grow and improve my craft, as well as how I hope to sell my books.

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I just read an excellent article in The Huffington Post this morning about how to use social media for new start ups.

Writing is a business, as much as it’s a craft. In order to gain the readers we want and followers we need, we are constantly trying to find the most efficient and effective means of connecting with our audience. Social media has been a major boon to writers of all genres. It helps us connect with family and friends to let them know what we’re doing, it allows us to connect with others who might be interested in our work, but more importantly, it needs to be about connecting with others-period.

In order to be well received, we have to show respect, listen to what others have to say, contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the conversations that interest us, and if we want others to help us promote our work, start by promoting theirs. Pay it forward before asking for paybacks. I guess I think of like this: If you walk into a room and start boasting about your accomplishments, talk only about yourself and what you’re doing or think, and monopolize the conversations, you’ll quickly find yourself standing in that room alone. On the other hand, be polite, listen and contribute intelligently, ask about others and be genuinely interested in them (not faking it till it’s your turn), and be prepared to offer assistance where you can, others will gravitate to you. No pushing needed.

What  are your thoughts or pet peeves on social media?

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