Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 4

8 Ways to Get Honest Reviews for Your Books

8 Ways to Get Honest Reviews for Your Books

It will come as no surprise that the number one way to get reviews is to ask for them. Today I talk about, first, who to ask and, second, how to ask. Let’s get started!

1. Use focus books to find reviewers.

Ask yourself, “What other well-reviewed books is my book most like?” Go to your book’s product page and scroll down until you see the heading “Customers who bought this item also bought.” This tells you what other books your customers are interested in. For our purposes here, what we’re interested in is who reviewed these books.

Step One: Filter the reviews.

Go to the page of a book similar to yours. As an example, here’s a link to the review page for Jim Butcher’s Changes. You’ll notice, near the top of the page, Amazon gives you the option to both sort and filter the reviews. I used the following settings:

- Sort by the MOST RECENT:

I chose to sort by the most recent reviews because CHANGES was published in 2010. I suspect some folks who left reviews in 2010 don’t review books anymore, or perhaps their tastes have changed.


The other option is “verified purchase only.” I didn’t choose this because reviewers who were given a copy won’t show up under the verified purchase option.

- Filter by 5 STAR ONLY

I’d suggest concentrating on 5 star reviews because you want to reach out to reviewers who love this sort of book.

- Filter by Kindle Format

Personally, I find it easier to give reviewers an electronic version so you will want to find reviewers who read digital books.

Step Two: Choose 10 reviews.

10 is an arbitrary number; choose whatever amount works for you.

The process:

Look at the list of reviews you’ve discovered and read the first. Was it well written? Did the reviewer demonstrate she has a clear understanding of the book reviewed? Did you think the review was well written?

If the answers to the above questions are yes, then right-click on the reviewer’s name to bring up her page. Look at other reviews she’s written (sometimes the reviewer’s profile contains a list). What you’re trying to assess is whether the reviewer has done a good job. If the book under review was poorly written then a negative review is warranted. (If you don’t want to buy and read the book reviewed, think about reading the sample.)

Also, and perhaps more importantly, pay attention to whether the reviewer is careful to separate the writer from their work. After all, even a good writer can produce an awful book.

For example, though I admire Stephen King’s work, he’s written at least one clunker. It happens. But just because King wrote an awful book doesn’t mean he’s an awful writer; you want to try and get an idea whether the reviewer respects the difference between the author’s work and the author.

Why is this important? After all, your book isn’t an awful book. Your book is well-written, well-formatted and has been copyedited.

Here’s why: Everyone is different. Ask 10 people what they think of something and you’ll get 11 opinions! Because taste is both idiosyncratic and quirky it’s inevitable that someone, sometime, is going to think your story is complete and utter dreck. When this happens you hope they will review the work not the writer.

Step Three: Contact the reviewers.

Sometimes reviewers give their email address in their profile. If the reviewer doesn't, you can leave a comment on their review. If you feel comfortable, leave your email address in the comment so the reviewer can contact you. (Amazon will notify the reviewer that a comment has been made.) If you don’t want to leave your email address for all the world to see, come back in a week or so and either delete your comment or edit out your address if the reviewer hasn’t responded.

How to ask for a review

At this point you’ve got a list of 10 people you want to ask to review your book. How do you go about contacting them? Joanna Penn in How To Get Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers To Review Your Book) has you covered. She suggests sending an email that includes the following information:

  • How you found them.
  • Why you think they will like your book. Mention you’ve read another review of theirs (include that book’s title) and mention that your book is similar.
  • Offer them a copy of your book, free of charge. You’re not offering the book in exchange for a review. You’re offering them the book and if they choose to review it then great. If not, that’s okay too.
  • Thank them for their time.

For example:
Hi [Name], I read your review of [book title] on Amazon and noticed you liked [list points]. Given this, I thought you might like my book, [your book’s title], since they’re both [list similarities].

[Include a one paragraph summary of your book].

I’ve included a link to it, below:

[Link to a downloadable version of your book.]

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. If you read [book title] I would love to know what you think of it.
[Your name]
[Your email]

2. Offer your book, free of charge, to anyone on your mailing list who would like to write a review.

Another way to get more reviews for your book is to offer it to anyone on your reading list who would be interested in reviewing it.

If you don’t have an email list then forget about soliciting reviews, set up a mailing list! Here’s a terrific article on how to do this from Joanna Penn: How Authors And Writers Can Build An Email List For Marketing.

3. Develop a list of dedicated readers, people who will receive a copy of your book before it’s published.

The next time you send out a newsletter you could mention you’re looking for dedicated readers. These folks would get a copy of your upcoming books before they’re published. The main purpose of such a list is for you to receive feedback about a book BEFORE it’s published, but dedicated readers often end up leaving a review as well.

4. Offer a free review copy to your contacts on social media.

If you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., don’t be shy about asking the folks you’ve connected with if they would like a review copy of your book.

5. When someone leaves a review, thank them publicly.

Use social media to share each positive review you receive. I think this is a lovely way of thanking the reviewer for taking time to write a review as well as subtly encouraging anyone who has read and liked the book to leave a review of their own.

6. Ask book bloggers to review your book.

Years ago, this was one of the better ways of getting reviews. Recently, writers I’ve spoken with have reported mixed results. If you do contact book bloggers for reviews it’s important to record which ones you were able to contact, which ones read your book and posted a review as well as any personal details about them that will help break the ice and show them you’re not a bot! Keeping a spreadsheet of all these details will save you a lot of time in the future (I talk about this, below, as well). Here are a few directories that contain links to a number of book blogs:

The Indie View
Karen Tilton
Directory of Book Bloggers on Pinterest
YA Book Blog Directory
The Book Blogger List
Book Reviewer Yellow Pages

7. Ask Amazon’s top reviewers if they would consider reviewing your book.

To read more about this I recommend, “How to get reviews on Amazon once you’ve launched your book,” by Milena Canizares. Here is her advice:

  • Make a list of reviewers. If you want 10 reviews, MC advises compiling a list of 40 names.
  • Put these names into a spreadsheet. Include the reviewer’s email addresses and personal interests. (KW: If they have a website or blog I would list that as well as their social media accounts. You don’t want to stalk them, but any information you can obtain will help you tailor your pitch.)
  • Put together a template you can send out to reviewers (see above), making sure you personalize it for each reviewer.

Pertinent links:

This is a lot of work, but it's difficult to overstate the importance of reviews to book sales.

8. Offer reviewers your book in the format of their choice.

Although digital publishing is easiest, some reviewers prefer reading physical books. Using a print on demand (POD) service like CreateSpace you can order a book and send it directly to the reviewer: this has the advantage of being easy, quick and not very expensive.

Tip: Say Thank You!

When you approach someone to review your book it’s nice to give them something, a small gift.

For instance, if your book—the one you want reviews for—is fiction then perhaps put together a short document that contains information about your characters’ backstories. Or perhaps write a short story, perhaps even a piece of flash fiction, about a crucial bit of your most popular character’s backstory.

The point is that it’s often unproductive to ask someone for something without first giving them something. I’m not talking about payment or tit-for-tat, this is just being considerate.

Here’s my own (not terribly subtle!) pitch: If you would like a review copy of my book, The Structure of a Great Story: The Structure of a Great Story: How to Write a Suspenseful Tale! please contact me and I'll send you one.

Every post I pick something I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m recommending The Author Startup: A Radical Approach To Rapidly Writing and Self-Publishing Your Book On Amazon, by Ray Brehm.

From the blurb: “[T]he truth is, you do 20% of the work for 80% of the result (The Pareto Principle). How does one accomplish this? By streamlining all the tasks down to the minimum requirements, and focusing on those. The Author Startup is a process to create a minimum viable product for your book. It is used to get your book out there and build momentum for you.”

That’s it! Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you again on Wednesday. Till then, good writing!

Monday, June 3

Dean Wesley Smith On What Makes Writing Fun

I love Dean Wesley Smith's posts--especially the mini series he did as he wrote a 70,000 word book in 10 days--but I have a feeling this one is going to be my all-time favorite: Success, Failure, and Caring: A Personal Note.

Ignore The Bad Reviews, The Rejections

In Success, Failure and Caring Dean talks about what makes writing fun for him and how he can ignore the bad reviews and the rejections. Dean writes:
So as a way of helping readers of this blog understand the type of person I am, why I can take the risks, ignore the bad reviews and rejections, and fight through the down times, I want to tell you a short, but personal story that few know. I think it is illustrative of how the ability to just not fear failure is part of my nature, a nature that has allowed me to keep taking chances with writing and publishing.

And how that ability, my very nature, colors everything I write here.
I've heard of students putting themselves through college by waitressing, or working at a supermarket--one student I knew paid for her tuition by being a mail carrier.

Dean, though, put himself through college by playing poker. That's right, by being a professional gambler!

This is what Dean says in one of the comments:
[M]y attitude from a very early age (and I have no idea where it came from) was that I could never see a reason to do any kind of job I didn’t like. Of course, I was broke many times over my life, and homeless a couple of times, but strangely enough, I never once put together a resume for a job. (I wouldn’t begin to know how to do that.) I just always had the attitude that if it wasn’t fun or worthwhile or educational, why bother.

Now, this attitude will cause friends and family no end of grief, especially early on when they think you are wasting your life and your (evil word) potential. And it drove a couple of wives nuts along the way as well. (grin) Kris now, after twenty-seven years, just laughs and says, “That’s just Dean.” The reason we are still together after 27 years I suspect. (grin)

Do I think other people in the real world should be like me. Oh, heavens, No! But do I think writers should learn how to let go of the fears with their own writing, focus on learning to be better writers, focus on having fun with their writing. Oh, heavens, Yes!
I've sort of jumped the gun by putting Dean's comment up there, before you hear his story, but it was too good to bury.

Dean's Story

Here's Dean's story:
So I ... caught a ride with three great guys heading for Lovelock, Nevada, in an old Volkswagon van.  When they dropped me in Lovelock, (south of Winnemucca) it was about two in the morning.  I went into the only open hotel and casino on the main street of town and asked how much a room was. I really, really wanted a shower and some sleep. But rooms cost $45.00 and I couldn’t talk the guy down into giving me one for $20 for just a few hours.

So I wondered over into the small casino, bought myself a candy bar and a soda with the change I had, leaving me with $22.00. Then I stood against a pole and watched the only blackjack table going. A single-deck game with a sloppy dealer who didn’t shuffle well and only one drunk customer playing dollar chips sitting in the last chair.

The pit boss came over and talked to me after a bit. Friendly guy, so we talked about me headed back to school and that I had gotten road weary and needed a break. (I never told him I was hitchhiking. I let him think I was driving.) I seem to remember he had a kid going to college in Reno. It was that kind of conversation and he didn’t seem to mind me standing there. He was facing a long, boring night, and I was a distraction.

All the while we were talking, I was watching the table and the cards. And when the deck turned in the player’s favor after a bad shuffle and the drunk taking some of the bad cards off the top of the new shuffle, I shrugged at the pit boss, said I might as well spend something, before heading back out onto the road. I got out my last twenty bucks and sat down.

At that point the deck had gone to a dreamed-of level where I had about a 60% advantage on the house, which meant, in reality, I would win 6 out of 10 hands under normal conditions, played over a million hands. The dealer changed my last twenty into chips and I put five bucks on the line.

I lost the first hand, put out another five. The deck was even better now. (That means it was filled to the brim with face cards and aces.)

I won the next five or six hands in a row, doubling up on some of my bets and all the time laughing with the pit boss and talking about his kid. He had no clue I was counting the deck. When I had exactly seventy bucks and the dealer went to shuffle again, I pulled my winnings. “Oh second thought, I’m too tired to go any farther. I think I’ll get a room and get a few hours sleep before heading on.”

The pit boss laughed and told me that was a good and smart idea, gave me a chit that cut ten bucks off my room. I tipped him five, paid for the room, slept until eight, had a great breakfast and hit the road again, making it to my mom’s house outside of Boise by dark. And with more money then when I had left Reno.

I could have just as easily have lost $15 of that twenty, spent a cold night on the street, bought a light breakfast with the remaining money. That was the risk I took. But I had a skill and I understood the chances and the risks and I was willing to take the chance and the risk for the reward of a hotel room and a shower.
Now that's a great story!

Don't Worry About Failure, Just Write What You Love

You might be wondering what it has to do with writing. Dean continues:
[O]nce I finally applied that same attitude to my writing in 1982, after really understanding Heinlein’s Rules, I have had little or no problems. Sure, my career has crashed a couple of times, but I’ve also had fantastic years, one year alone I published fourteen novels. Sure, I’ve had books tank and bad reviews, but I’ve also had wonderful reviews and have sold over eight million copies of my books to wonderful readers. Sure, I’ve been rejected more times than I care to think about or count, but I’ve sold more stuff than I can almost count as well. [Emphasis mine]
.  .  .  .
When you step back and look at everything, the risk with this writing business is little, the choices are many, and the fun is great. I will write some great stories and some stinkers, I’m sure, as time goes on. But what does that matter? The readers will let me know one way or another. For me, now, what is important is having fun with the writing.
.  .  .  .
And why do you think I remember that incident way back in the early 1970s? Because even though I was risking a cold night on the street, I was having fun with the risk.

Just as I have fun every time I type in a new title and start a new story that I have no idea where it is going or if it will work.

I always do the best I can and failure is always an option. The key is to train yourself with your writing to just not care.

Enjoy the hand, enjoy the play.
THAT's the attitude to have.

Life's not a stage, it's a poker game. (grin)

Dean's article is well worth the read.

Photo credit: "behold the mask" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, May 6

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

Have you ever quit writing for a period of time? Perhaps for years?

I did.

I was a teenager and had written a story I was particularly proud of. I'm not sure why, after all these years the memory is vague, but I remember being pleased.

Then I made a mistake. As it turns out, a huge mistake.

I gave it to the wrong person to read and then I asked them for feedback.

It's not just that the feedback stung. It's not just that this person's list of things wrong with that story was as long as my arm, it's not just that they clearly felt resentful that I'd wasted their time. No, it was that my own judgement had been so far off, that I'd been proud of a story that was so clearly crap.

I hope you folks see the flaw in my thinking. I'd asked one person.

Yes, sure, that person had read most of what I wrote, but I failed to ask myself whether they could have had a bad day, whether they were going through something in their private life which might have made them a tad grumpy and irrational. Which, as it happens, they were.

But let's imagine that my critiquer had been having a great day and wasn't the least grumpy and gave the same devastating critique. In retrospect, what should I have done?

Ignore it.

Here's what I think: if anyone gives you a critique so scathing that, were you to take it seriously, you'd never want to put pen to paper again then ignore the critique! Do NOT take it seriously.

Even if you gave the story to 10 people and they all thought it was fit for nothing but lining bird cages that doesn't say anything bad about you as a writer. You liked the story, that's what counts. And, sure, there's probably something about the story that's personal to you that makes you love it, but that's not a bad thing. Save the story, cherish it. That one's for you.

Now move on and write the next story. Do it NOW! Right away.

I've only ridden a horse once, so I don't know from personal experience if it's true that after being thrown you have to get right back on, but I think if a person has a horrible experience with a story they have to write another one right away. But, please, be sure to give your new story to someone who isn't having a bad day and who seems genuinely happy to give you feedback.

Also, it can help to be clear about the kind of feedback you'd like as well as what you consider constructive as opposed to destructive criticism.

As long as you're writing you're getting better. Not writing never helped anyone become a better writer.

What to do if your story is given a devastating critique

1. Talk about it

Having friends is great, having friends who are writers is a must.

Embarking on a career as a writer without having a network of writing friends and acquaintances is like going on a deep sea voyage during hurricane season without lifeboats or a personal flotation devise.

2. Write about it

I think this is a great way to turn a bad experience around. Especially if you can sell your story. Turn your horrible experience into creative non-fiction and then send the piece out or indie publish it.

You might want to write a first draft and then let some time pass--weeks or even months--before you read it again. Make sure it's not a rant. (grin) Or, if it is, make sure it's a rant that would be entertaining to others.

Making money from the experience may not be the best revenge (Joe Konrath had a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions a while back) but it's still darn satisfying.

3. Learn from it

As I mentioned, often destructive criticism has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of your story and everything to do either with an agenda the poster has (some reviewers enjoy dumping on anything they perceive as indie), or the kind of day they're having.

Since you've read the critique the damage has been done so try to determine if there's anything you can learn from what the poster said.

Were they irritated because you'd used a mirror to describe a character? Were they perturbed that you didn't tell anyone your protagonist's name until well into the story? You don't have to change something just because a reader or three was upset about it, but sometimes the information can be useful.

Sometimes it makes one feel better to know why a critiquer had the negative reaction they did. "This story is a pile of crap" isn't helpful, "This story is a pile of crap because X" helps put the review in perspective.

4. Do NOT respond

Whatever you do, don't respond to the negative critique.

I once had a crank caller who I suspect was my ex-boyfriend. This person would call at all hours of the night, wake me up, then make gibbering noises into the phone.

At first I politely asked the caller to stop. Then I shouted. Then I used a loud whistle.

Nothing worked.

Then I stopped responding in any way and just hung up the phone and disconnected it from the wall for the rest of the night while I slept.

The calls stopped.

Responding to negative reviews just wastes your time--time that could be spent writing--and it can  make one look unprofessional.

5. Don't look

Don't look at your reviews.

(This point only applies to reviews on social media sites and retailers like

I know, I know, this is much easier said than done. We want to know what other folks thought of our work.

Actually, that's not true. We want to know that readers loved our books. Chances are most will but it's inevitable you'll get a bad review if you keep writing for any significant amount of time.

And you can't do anything about it. You can't respond to the reviewer (see point 4, above) so what's the point of looking?

If we write hoping for the approval of others we set readers up as our judges, which isn't how it should be. Yes, we want to share our stories with others--that's a big part of why I write--but I write primarily for myself.

If I think I've written a great story, if I had fun writing it, that's all I can ask. Of course I give it to my first reader, and I usually do another draft after that in response to their feedback (they seem to always catch something I missed) but, fundamentally, I write for myself.

6. Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is good. (grin)

Question: How do you get over a destructive critique?

Other articles you might like:

- Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions
- Creating The Perfect Murderer
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "Galapagos Sea Lion's Baby Portrait" by A.Davey under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, April 13

How To Get Honest Book Reviews

How To Get Honest Book Reviews

Book Review Bloggers

Honest reviews are one of the best ways of increasing book sales. I know it's anecdotal, but Amanda Hocking credits reviews left by bloggers as being responsible for much of her early success. She writes:
Book bloggers have saved my life. Book bloggers absolutely without a doubt sell books. I can prove it to you. In May, I sold just over 600 books. In June, I sold over 4,000. In May, I had no reviews. In June, book bloggers started reviewing my books. (Book Bloggers Are People, Too, February 9, 2011)
I think even an honest one-star review is better than no review! That is, as long as it's not a screed against the author admonishing him to never again put pen to paper.

So how does an author go about soliciting honest reviews?

Book Bloggers

Book bloggers read and review books free of charge and will often post their reviews not only on their book blog but on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

It vastly increases ones chance of receiving a review if one reads and follows each blogger's submission guidelines as carefully as one would those of a publisher or agent.

Keep in mind that many bloggers only accept traditionally published books and, of those who will review indie books, often they will only review certain genres or they will only accept a physical, paper, book.

I look at it this way: if I don't do what a reviewer wants me to do then how can I ask the reviewer to do what I want her to do?

What to send

If a reviewer specifies in their submission guidelines what they'd like you to send then that part's easy, but sometimes they don't. Then what do you send?

Mike Reeves-McMillan suggests the following:
"1. A good brief blurb that piques interest in your book ..."

"2. A synopsis."

"3. An author bio. Try to find something interesting to say about yourself."

"4. Links to where your book is for sale, if it is."
These links will make it easy for the reviewer to find where on the internet to post their review of your book.
"5. More links to you and your book on Goodreads (or Shelfari or LibraryThing if you use them; some reviewers will post there), to your blog, and to your social media. Some reviewers want these."

"6. Your cover art."
"7. An author photo."
"8. An extract from the book."
Mike put all of the above in a press kit and included a link to the kit in the email he sent off to any reviewer who didn't specify what they wanted an author to include in their submission.

I think that's a brilliant idea!

Keep track of your submissions

Mike also recommends starting a spreadsheet--he used Google Docs--so you can track:

- Which book reviewers you submitted to
- When you submitted
- When they responded
- What they said
- If they posted a review

Mike also kept track of:

- Where the review was posted (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.)
- How many stars the reviewer gave

Once you have this information you can use it when you're getting ready to send out your next book for review.

Mike reports that the number of bloggers who accepted his work for review outnumbered those who didn't by a factor of 2 to 1. That response rate is excellent! He also included a generic letter in his post, one that he sent out if a reviewer didn't request anything specifically.

You can find Mike on the web over at The Gryphon Clerks.

Finding Reviewers: Databases Of Book Blogs

Last year I discovered a couple of databases containing contact information for book bloggers who accept independently published work. These are all honest reviewers who take pride in the fact they write and post their reviews for free.

The Indie Book Blog Database

The Indie Book Blog Database contains information about hundreds of blogs which review indie books completely free of charge.

Jennifer Hampton, the database owner, reminds writers that since these bloggers review books as a hobby, and since they are routinely flooded with review requests, authors must be prepared for a lengthy wait between submission and review.

The Indie View

The Indie View is another database which keeps track of review blogs which will consider indie published books for review.

In order for a reviewer to be included in the database he/she must:

- Actively post reviews
- Not charge for reviews
- Not be affiliated with a publisher

Definitely something to take a look at!

Book Blogs Search Engine

The Book Blog Search Engine allows you to search thousands of book review blogs but be aware that many of these reviews do not accept independently published work.
Question: Have you ever submitted your book to a blogger for review? What was your experience like?

Other articles you might like:

- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line
- Is Writing Rewriting?

Photo credit: "Song (John Keats, 1795-1821)" by jinterwas under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, March 27

Mark Coker, Founder Of Smashwords: Six Ways To Increase Book Sales

Mark Coker, Founder Of Smashwords: Six Ways To Increase Book Sales
Mark Coker, founder of, in his recent article, Six Tips to Bring Your Book Back from the Doldrums, shared 6 ways to increase book sales.

If you feel your book is under-preforming, Mark's article is a must read. What follows is a summary.

1. Does your book evoke passion in your readers?

One way you can tell if your book evokes passion is through its reviews.

For instance, are the reviews mediocre? If the book receives mostly 5 star reviews that's fabulous! People love your book and they're passionate about it. Also, if you get mostly one star reviews, at least your work has evoked passion in readers--perhaps not the kind you'd like, but still!

Three star reviews can be the worst. Readers didn't feel strongly either way.

That said, beware of clumping the reviews together and focusing on the average score. Look at the distribution. If your reviews are split between 5's and 1's then chances are you've written a great, controversial, book. There's a lot of passion there, don't change a thing!

Mark writes:
You need to WOW your reader.  It doesn’t matter if you write romance, mystery or non-fiction, if your book doesn’t move the reader to an emotional extreme, your job isn’t done.  
Bottom line: If folks aren't passionate about your book think about doing a major rewrite. Or, perhaps, take what you've learned, and write a new book.

No reviews

If your book has no reviews Mark suggests offering the book for free. Perhaps not permanently, just to get folks reading what you've written and hopefully get some reviews.

Why are reviews important? There's no way around it: reviews help sell books. Mark writes:
For the first two years (2008-2009), Boob Tube sold maybe 20 copies.  It had only one or two reviews.  My wife and I decided to set the price to free for six months.  We got 40,000 downloads, a lot of reviews, and even our first fan mail (yay!).  Then we set the price to $2.99 and it started selling.  Without reviews at the retailers, Goodreads, LibraryThing and elsewhere, few readers will take a chance on you.  FREE helps readers take that chance.

2. Does your cover image give the correct impression of your book?

If your reviews are 4 stars or over, congratulations, people feel passionate about your book and they like it. If it isn't selling well think about redoing the cover.

Here's Mark Coker's test for whether you need a new cover image:

1. Take all text off the title so it's just the artwork.
2. Ask yourself:

Does this image/artwork tell the reader: This is the book you're looking for to experience X?

If your book is a romance book then X="the feeling of first love."
If your book is horror then X="horror."
If your book is a thriller then X="edge of your seat suspense."
If your book is non-fiction or how-to then X="knowledge."
If your book is a memoir then X="an inspiring story of personal journey."

I think that's a great test!

Here's another one:

A test to see if your book cover is professional enough

Compare your book cover to "the top-10 sellers in your category or genre."

Does your cover look as good as these? You want your cover to look just as good, preferably better.

3. Is your book priced too high?

The more you charge the less likely it is that a reader is going to take a chance on it, especially if you're an unknown author. Mark writes:
For readers who could afford it, the high price can make the book less desirable when there are alternative books of equal quality at less cost.  Last year, when we conducted a comprehensive study of the impact of price on unit downloads and gross sales .... We found books priced at $2.99 earned slightly more than books priced over $10.00, yet enjoyed six times as many unit sales.
Another advantage of pricing your book a bit lower is that "if the reader feels they received a great read for the price, they may be more likely to give you a positive review, and positive reviews will lead to more readers."

4. Look at how many sample downloads led to sales.

The Smashwords store has a little-known feature I think is entirely unique in the ebook retailing world:  We tell you how many partial samples were downloaded.  If you click to your Dashboard, you’ll see a column for book sales and a column for downloads.  The download count is a crude metric, but if you understand how it works, you’ll be able to use it as a relatively good tool.  This data is only for sales and downloads in the Smashwords store.

The download data includes both sample downloads and full book downloads for purchased books.  If a customer or sampler downloads in multiple formats (such as epub and mobi), or downloads multiple times, each time will tick the download count higher.  To make the data cleaner, subtract your paid sales from the download count.  Divide your sales at by the number of downloads.  This will tell you, roughly, what percentage of downloaders actually purchase your book.

When I do the numbers on my priced book, The 10-Minute PR Checklist, I find that approximately 13% of sample downloads lead to sale.  That’s pretty good.
 The higher the percentage the better.  50% would be fabulous.

5. Are you targeting the right audience?

No one can make everyone happy. Don't even try. If you give your paranormal romance to a person who only reads sci-fi then chances are they'll hate it, no matter how great of a paranormal romance it is.

When you know who your target audience is make sure your "title, book cover, book description, categorization and marketing are all aligned to target that audience with fine-tuned precision.  If you send the wrong messages, you’ll fail to attract the right readers.  Instead, you’ll attract the wrong reader, and the wrong reader will give you poor reviews."

In short, "Avoid the temptation to target a broader-than-necessary market."

6. Grow a thick skin and never give up!

As Mark Coker writes, it takes bravery to publish. Chances are your book will get brutalized at least once and the reader who did it may not stop at your book, they may start in on you!

We can't improve as writers if we don't know our weaknesses. Learn from the reaction your story gets and do whatever it takes to make it better. As Mark Coker writes:
If you want to be a successful writer, you have to be willing to listen to the judgment of readers.  Your readers, through their word of mouth, will determine how many other readers you reach.
Mark Coker's article Six Tips to Bring Your Book Back from the Doldrums is filled with practical, easy to follow, advice. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to increase the sales of a book.

Other articles you might like:

- Embrace Rejection: Write More, Write Better, Share Often
- 8 Ways To Channel The Power Of Your Unconscious Into Your Writing
- 4 Ways To Enchant Others

Photo credit: "The art of silence..." by VinothChandar under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, March 4

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

What would I do without The Passive Voice Blog? I shudder to think! Passive Guy (aka David P. Vandagriff) tweets the best, most interesting stories.

Stories such as ...

Did you know Moby Dick--a treasure of world literature--has garnered many one star reviews on Amazon?

The following is from bibliokept: Selections From One-Star Amazon Reviews of Melville's Moby-Dick, thanks to Passive Guy for the link. (By the way, I found the original reviews on and expanded the quotations used for the article.)

One Star Reviews Of Herman Melville's Moby Dick

Title: Incredible story. What a lousy writer. Name: A Customer
4 of 22 people found the following review helpful
When I think of anyone being FORCED to read this novel (poor students, whereever you are) I want to fall on a harpoon. Ray Bradbury, who wrote the screenplay for this novel, (a la Gregory Peck) couldn't even finish the damn thing! He too just read bits of it ...  He recognized it's inner greatness, its actual grandeur absolutely mired in prose that makes you want to gnaw your foot off...
Title: Moby Dick: a tiresome book, Name: A Customer
1 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Moby Dick, was a horrible waiste of time. Along with its wordy paragraphs, it also talked about uninteresting issues. It is also to long, and you don't hear of them encountering the whale until the end of the book. Heres a good idea, after you read this book, go buy a vile of arsenic, drink it and you will be much happier. The only monster was the book itself. It leaves you with that, "I hate myself" feeling you get after accidentally destroying a major city with a hydrogen bomb or something, anyways, do not read it!
Title: Have trouble getting to sleep at night? Get this! 
Name: A Customer
9 of 38 people found the following review helpful  
[I]f your looking for a good book, dont read this, you will only become agitated. Such was the case with me. I am quite the fan of stories which involve man eating sea creatures, such as Jaws. Moby Dick is nothing compared to such classics, I fear.

In fact, it is boring with a capital B. What is the whales motivation? You dont know. There is no suspense, and I find the idea of people hunting whales offensive. 
Title:A tired old tale - Save the damn whales already!!!,
Name: Gracie Lou Freebush
2 of 21 people found the following review helpful  
This book is HORRIBLE! Classic, my eye! I would love to know what's so great about this book. I have seen better writing in a Hallmark card! Boring! Give me a good ole copy of Elvis and Me! A true story that really tugs at your heart strings! I sleep with that one under my pillow!

Ray Bradbury's Comments On Moby Dick

Since Moby Dick is undeniably a classic of world literature, these are deeply satisfying reviews for any author who has gotten a one star review on Amazon! Though, I should note, what the anonymous commenter says about Ray Bradbury seems to be true, though Mr. Bradbury's remark may have been due more to pique than honesty. The following is from the Wikipedia on the 1956 film Ray Bradbury collaborated on.
During a meeting to discuss the screenplay, Ray Bradbury informed John Huston that regarding Melville's novel, he had "never been able to read the damned thing". According to the biography The Bradbury Chronicles, there was much tension and anger between the two men during the making of the film, allegedly due to Huston's bullying attitude and attempts to tell Bradbury how to do his job, despite Bradbury being an accomplished writer. (Moby Dick (1956 film))

What Critics Initially Thought Of Moby Dick: Not Much

Initially Moby Dick had a rocky reception in America. It was not love at first sight. Although Melville considered Moby Dick his magnum opus the work received scathing reviews when it was first published.
He [Melville] considered Moby-Dick to be his magnum opus, but he was shocked and bewildered at the scathing reviews it received. Instead of bringing him the literary acclaim which he sought, this masterwork started a slide toward literary obscurity in his lifetime. This was partially because the book was first published in England, and the American literary establishment took note of what the English critics said, especially when these critics were attached to the more prestigious journals. Many critics praised it for its unique style, interesting characters, and poetic language, but others agreed with a critic with the highly regarded London Athenaeum, who described it as:
"[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."
One problem was that publisher Peter Bentley botched the English edition, most significantly in omitting the epilogue. For this reason, many of the critics faulted the book, what little they could grasp of it, on purely formal grounds, e.g., how the tale could have been told if no one survived to tell it. The generally bad reviews from across the ocean made American readers skittish about picking up the tome. (Moby-Dick)
I wanted, for the sake of balance, to include 5 Star reviews of a horrible book but it seems easier to agree on what constitutes great literature than what constitutes drivel.

Any author who has received a one star review on Amazon--and I would hazard to say that practically all published authors have--take heart! You're in excellent company.

Have you ever thrown a book across the room on frustration? What book was the worst book you've ever read? What was the thing you disliked most about it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Writer's Journey: Writer As Hero
- Hugo Gernsback And The Future That Might Have Been
- Writing And The Monomyth, Part Two

Photo credit: "A Storm of Swords" by flossyflotsam under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, October 30

How To Get Honest Book Reviews

How To Get Honest Book Reviews
"workstation" by striatic under CC BY 2.0

Tonya Kappes has written a fantastic article on how to get honest reviews for your books. It's a must read. I'll summarize her points, below, but Tonya's article is one you're going to want to read and bookmark.

1) Do a Goodreads Giveaway

I've never tried this, but Tonya has. Hold a giveaway, get requests, then send a copy of your book to the winners. The winners promise to give an honest review of the book, AND you might get reviews from the people who didn't win but went ahead and bought your book anyway.

2) Create a press kit for each of your books

A press kit should include:
- your bio,
- a head shot,
- the cover of your book,
- the blurb for the book,
- a summary of the book, and
- all the links to where it can be purchased or downloaded. 
 The easier you can make things for potential reviewers, the better.

3) Amazon: Ask top reviewers to review your book

Tonya thoughtfully gives the link to a list of Amazon's Top Customer Reviewers. She cautions that you'll want to read each biography carefully to find out which people might like reading the sort of book you've written. Chances are a person who hates horror books, even if they agree to read your zombie novel, won't like it.

4) Announce your book launch to your community

Your loyal readers are going to want to know you've come out with a new book and chances are some of them would love to write a review of it.

As long as authors make it clear they want honest reviews, good or bad, I don't see anything wrong with this.

#  #  #

I love Tonya's tips! Great ideas that (hopefully!) don't take a lot of time to do. :)

Once again, this information is from Tonya Kappes' excellent article How To Get Reviews For Your Novel.

Other articles you might like:
- Book Review Blogs That Accept Self-Published Work
- 5 Ways to Spot a Trustworthy Amazon Review
- What to do if your book isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

Friday, September 7

5 Ways to Spot a Trustworthy Amazon Review

5 Ways to Spot a Trustworthy Amazon Review

With all the fake reviews floating around out there can Amazon reviews be trusted? Janet Boyer says, "Yes!" and tells us want to look for.

1. Look for the Real Name badge.
She writes:
In order to have a Real Name badge as an Reviewer, an individual must VERIFY her identity via credit card. When an individual puts her name on a review, she is saying "I stand by my review and will put my reputation on the line for it."
2. Hall of Fame Reviewer or Top Reviewer badge
In order to get these badges the review will have to have written a lot of posts combined with thousands of 'helpful' votes.

For her other points read Janet's article: 5 Ways to Spot a Trustworthy Amazon Review.

Thank you Janet for all your wonderful, and wonderfully honest, reviews!

Are there other ways to spot a trustworthy review? Please share!

Other articles you might like:
- Amazon's KDP Select Program: The Power Of Free
- 8 Tips For Blogging Success
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Photo credit: qthomasbower

Monday, July 16

I Dream Books: Rotten Tomatoes For Books

Emily Temple over at Flavorwire writes:
Pretty much everyone we know relies on Rotten Tomatoes when deciding which movie to see, but what to do when you’re on the hunt for your next novel? Sure, you could just read whatever your best friend is reading, or pick up whatever’s on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, but for those who want a broader perspective, we suggest I Dream Books, a Rotten Tomatoes-like review aggregator that just launched this morning. Just like Rotten Tomatoes, I Dream Books collects reviews from both “professional publications and individual critics” and assigns a numerical value to those reviews, eventually coming up with a score somewhere between “Must Read” and “Don’t Read” (indicated by happy or sad little clouds), in hopes of offering readers an easy way to see what a wide range of critics are saying.
Great idea! I'm going to check out for book recommendations, but so far I've had a lot of success with Amazon.

For instance, I just finished reading A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison (good book!) and the "Frequently Bought Together" list on that page contains other books I like: Kiss The Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton and Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris. Kiss The Dead is on my 'to read' list and I've already read--and enjoyed!--Deadlocked.

Also, and I've found this invaluable, Amazon tells me what other customers who bought a particular book also bought. Granted, I've read and enjoyed about 80% of the books in the list for A Perfect Blood, but it's showing a few by Patricia Briggs I'm sure I'd like.

That said, I'm looking forward to using for recommendations in addition to Amazon because there's no such thing as too much of a good thing. Right? ;)

Other reading:
- 10 Female Science Fiction Writers Who Changed Our Lives
- His Wish Granted: WIlliam Faulkner's, "The Sound And The Fury", Color Coded
- Google Drive: Who Owns Your Stories?

Saturday, June 9

5 Book Review Blogs

When my book, Until Death, first came out I went on a hunt for book blogs. I'd read about Amanda Hocking's incredible success and knew that she attributed much of the early popularity of her books to the many book bloggers who reviewed her work.

Funny thing, when I searched for book review blogs a few months ago I couldn't find more than a dozen and, of those, only two or three would accept self published work.


As luck would have it, I recently came across a few book review blogs and thought I'd tell you folks about them. (This also gives me a nice convenient list for when I need it next!)

You'll notice that most of the book review sites I mention below don't have a stated policy on whether they accept self-published work. Since many book review sites do explicitly (and emphatically!) state they do not accept self-published work, I'd say that those without a policy are willing to treat a self-published book as a book like any other and you're free to query them like the author/publisher you are.

I've found each site has different policies regarding whether to send a query first, what form the query should be in, and so forth, so I've provided a link to the site's review policy in the title.

1. JJ Ireads: Book reviews and more from an e-book lover

Kind of books: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Mysteries, Nonfiction memoirs (humor)

Book formats: Ebooks (mobi, epub, PDF). Electronic formats preferred but will also accept paperback or hardcover.

Self-published work: This reviewer did not state whether they accept self-published work.

Notes: May also do author interviews and giveaways. Contact the site fore details.

2. Reading Teen

Kind of books: Anything teen or young adult.

Book formats: Hardback or paperback please.

Self-published work: This reviewer did not state whether they accept self-published work.

3. Mundie Moms

Kind of books: Only young adult books, please.

Book formats: "At this time we only accept paperback or hardcopies of books, ARCs and manuscripts. We only accept books that follow our blog's genres."

Self-published work: I found no explicit mention of whether Mundie Moms accepts self-published work.

Notes: Mundie Moms also does author interviews and giveaways.

4. Novel Thoughts

Kind of books: "I usually am drawn to read Young Adult novels, but I read the occasional Adult or Middle Grade books. I do not accept ebook requests. If you think I would be interested in reviewing your books, please contact me at: contact [at] novelthoughtsblog [dot] com."

Book formats: No ebooks.

Self-published work: No stated policy.

Notes: "I would love to read and review your books, host giveaways, or hold interviews here on my blog, Novel Thoughts."

5. The Book Smugglers

ARCs: "Ana Grilo and Thea James, The Book Smugglers, are currently open to receiving solicited Advance Reading Copies and Review Copies of books."

Kind of books: "Our preferred genres are Speculative Fiction (Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction), Young Adult (Speculative Fiction/Paranormal and Contemporary), with the occasional Romance novel (Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary). This does not, however, mean that we will not consider books from other genres! We love graphic novels, manga, mysteries, historical fiction, and will consider any book with a great synopsis."

Book formats: "Our review copy preference is for ebooks, followed by print copies. As such, digital ARCs/review copies will be given precedence over print copies. Our preferred format is EPUB."

 Self-published work: Yes! They write:
While the bulk of the books that we review are from large publishing houses in the United States and the United Kingdom, we also love to hear from small press and independently published authors (i.e. Joel A. Sutherland’s Frozen Blood or Michael Hicks’s In Her Name).
Notes: Contact The Book Smuggers here:

I'm going to start keeping a list of book review blogs, especially those that accept self published work. This is something of an experiment, but if you review books, please use the contact page (see the top of this blog) or email me at karen [at] karenwoodward [dot] org and send me your site address as well as your review policy and I'll be sure to include you.

Keep writing!

Sunday, September 4

Joe Konrath: Why Writers Shouldn't Care

You shouldn't care about people liking you. Praise is like candy. It tastes good, but it isn't good for us.
- Joe Konrath, Not Caring
This is why I like Joe Konrath's writing: Not only is it snappy, but there's something behind it. ... Not, of course, that Joe cares what I think!

He continues:
The world is filled with a wide variety of people. But only a few of them should really matter to you. The rest are just white noise. They can amuse. But don't give them more power than that.

One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.

But don't take my word for it. My opinion shouldn't matter to you at all.
Great advice! To read the entire article, go here.

Sunday, July 17

One Star Reviews And What To Do About Them

Sometimes great discussions get going in the comments section of a post. This often happens on Dean Wesley Smith's blog and I'd like to share one short exchange with you because, even though I haven't yet received a one star review, it resonated with me.

Blarkonon 15 Jul 2011 at 1:25 am

If you’ve got a couple of novels up and you write one that is, not to put to fine a point on it, reviewed like a turd, should you pull that one because it’s damaging your “brand”? (you’ve mentioned that writers can’t really tell how good their work is, which is how this hypothetical book gets up their in the first place – how do you crap filter your own stuff if all writers are bad judges of their own work?)

I’m guessing the strategy of working to get a large number of novels published is an effort to “cast a bigger net” and establish a “Brand” of sorts – catch a reader with one and you might get them to read others. If you have a book that seems to be attracting horrible reviews, is it worth it to keep it up there? (as it might scare curious readers away from reading your other works, even if they’ve liked some of them)
Dean's reply:

dwsmithon 15 Jul 2011 at 1:31 am

Blarkon, wow, the day I start reacting to any review by a failed writer is the day I hang up my computer keys and run away. Reviewers are failed writers. Who cares what they say. Leave the book alone and keep writing is my suggestion because you give those idiots power, you are lost in your own head.

Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m a long-term writers. I have had fantastic reviews and ugly, nasty reviews and couldn’t care about either to be honest. I just keep writing and that’s what I do.

The New World of Publishing: The Death of an Indie Writer’s Career