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Posts Tagged ‘Smashwords’

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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Beware of False Claims

Beware of False Claims

Caveat Emptor”; it means “buyer beware”. Scams and rip-offs are nothing new, and writers are not exempt from being targeted, especially eager new writers. I recently read an article on Forbes by Suw Charman-Anderson about this very subject, and I couldn’t help but think of all the ways that people can be taken advantage of in this industry.

We’ve all heard about the evils of vanity publishing, which is not to be confused with self-publishing. To my understanding, vanity publishing is where a writer hires a company, for a fee, to publish their work. There is little or no support on behalf of the so-called publisher, no editing, no cover art support, no marketing and promotion. If the writer would like these services, they agree to pay the publisher additional funds for them.

On the other hand, self-publishing has gained huge recognition in the publishing industry at large, and has grown exponentially around the globe. In this instance, writers are taking the bull by the horns and, rather than rely on agents and/or publishers to get their work into the hands of the reading public, they are doing so themselves. They are working directly with companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc., to upload their original works into ebook formats, and contracting the direct services of legitimate printers, editors, cover artists, etc., to produce quality books that rival that of the big six publishers ( Critical Pages).

Racing Ahead

Racing Ahead

But here’s the catch, in the eagerness to self-publish, some writers are being pulled in by scams that claim to assist them in getting their work out there to the masses, for a sometimes very substantial fee. According to Charman-Anderson’s article, and others that are emerging, some of these seemingly legitimate sources are proving to be anything but helpful. In fact, claims are starting to emerge about companies, such as Author Solutions (AS), that are apparently backed by Penguin, one of the world’s leading publishers. Who can fault the writer for believing they are safe with a company backed by this big hitter? Not me. With so much falling to the writer in terms of marketing and promotion, design, formatting, reaching audiences and growing a solid author’s platform, I completely understand how some writers are lured in by the prospect of obtaining some “professional” help in these areas. We are overwhelmed and underfunded, but also eager and determined to “make it” in this cut-throat business of book publishing. The writing part is nothing compared to these stresses.

But wait, what can writers do to help ensure this doesn’t happen to them? Well, I’d suggest reading as much as possible about industry related news, to learn who is doing what. The amount of information available on the net is massive, so start small and just begin by typing in words like “publishing”, or “publishing news”, etc. Look around, become familiar with sites you really like, bookmark them, and frequent them often. Next, I’d suggest researching online about possible bad reviews of publishers, editors, and agents. Yes, these reviews exist. Websites like Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write Water Cooler, etc., give reviews and comments on companies who have run afoul of other writers. Also, by Googling the name of a company you are considering, you can learn a great deal about the dealings of a potential company claiming to help authors self-publish. If there are bad reviews out there, best to discover it before signing on the dotted line and paying out hard-earned money.

Another way to be prudent of course, is to have a lawyer examine any and all contracts before signing them. If there are any hidden fees, or obscure wording that doesn’t completely spell out what the company will and won’t do, a lawyer experienced in reading such contracts will ferret it out and advise you. This will cost you money for the lawyer, but perhaps better that than discovering, well into the process, that you are caught in a trap that you’ve paid for.

If it walks like a duck...

If it walks like a duck…

In the end, it really is up to each individual writer to treat their work as a business and ensure, to the best of their ability, that they have checked out any potential company they are considering working with. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This means there is even more reason to check everything out thoroughly, before committing to anything.

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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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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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