I have followed Kristen Lamb for a long time. She is well versed in the history of Amazon’s rise and the mistakes made by Barnes & Noble. The following link is an excellent blog that gives insight into the possible future of indie publishing.
Let me get straight to the point. I don’t like it when we term a book review “bad.” I think of it as someone speaking their honest opinion. I know we don’t like it when someone says the book is horrible. It doesn’t feel nice, that’s for sure. But we discount the person who was at least willing to leave a review.
I am more apt to leave a negative review than I am a positive review of something I like. It seems to be human nature to be critical. You have probably encountered a boss like that. Never compliments what you do well; only points out your faults.
Well, this isn’t Unicorn land. We wrote a book. Not everyone is going to like it period.
Now granted, there are those who seem to enjoy being mean, but that is their problem. We all can spot those reviews on products. They are pissed off at the world, and you just made them madder. But then we have an honest review. I love honest reviews.
Just as there are good writers and poor ones, so you have reviewers. Some know the right words to use, and others don’t. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you eat dessert all the time, and nothing else, you won’t be healthy for long. If you eat dirt all the time, the same thing goes. A balanced diet is healthy and allows you to grow.
An honest review states what a reader did and did not like. Remember, in this day and age of consumerism; the reviewer looks at your story as a product. It must meet their view of what that product should be. And it is a chance for you the author, just one chance, to make a change. It shows where you might be able to do better. Granted, you can’t please all the people all the time as I said before. And you still must consider the percentages on your reviews. For instance, if you have five good ones (and they are all family) and ten negative ones (who aren’t family and friends), there is a problem. But an honest review gives you direction.
You, as an author, know when it’s an honest review because it reveals a spot where you were unsure of like in plot or advertising. I recently had a review that showed me what I feared; I am promoting my story in the wrong genre. It gave clarity to where I need to list it and how to advertise it. I did this by overlooking the general dislikes the reviewer stated, to understanding this person was saying they had bought a product that didn’t fulfill their needs as a reader. It was not as the advertising lead them to believe. It was only one little review, but they nailed it. I want more reviewers like that. They aren’t good or bad; they are honest.
I am not afraid of hearing you don’t like my story; it grows me as a writer. That is why I send my book to copious amounts of beta readers. Then drag it through edit after edit. I want the best I can produce for those readers who are looking for this particular genre. I’m the same way about my cooking. Why waste my time and food if it’s not going to be palatable?
And yet, hell yes I’m into praise. We all are! I love the “likes” and the “wonderful job” comments. Who doesn’t like a tasty dessert? But I can’t be healthy on that diet. I need honest reviews: honest beta readers, honest editors, and honest customers.
If for you, it’s only about the dessert, the kudos, the Atta girl, find something else to do. It is tough to compete in the book field. Writing is personal, but to become a great author, you need the criticism, just as an athlete needs a good coach. Always try to take the bad and find something useful. None of us are perfect. I’m a fair writer, but I want to be the best writer I can be. I have read other people’s writings and wonder why I even try. There is real talent out there. I recognized that in my teens when I dreamed of becoming a concert piano player, it never was going to happen because I didn’t have the talent. I also feared I’d never make a living as an author, so I worked jobs that honed the skill everyone told me I had for writing. And while I may never have a best seller, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying. And without honest reviews, I will never succeed.
So please readers, friends, family, editors, and customers don’t be afraid. Tell me the worst. I appreciate it. Thank you!
Feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever learned anything from an honest review? I would enjoy hearing your opinion. 🙂
As a child, I wrote on walls to learn the art of creating a word. Later I wrote because words were fun. In the teenage years, I wrote in secret to express the mountain of emotions roiling inside of me. Then, as an adult, I wrote because a job demanded it. But there was always the reason I loved to write, and that was for the pure joy of it. When I retired, I finally could chase my dream of writing a book.
I discovered the new frontier of self-publishing and all those who blogged about making money selling their books. So, I learned to blog. I followed all the lemmings into the sea of self-publishing, and then something changed. It wasn’t about writing anymore. I perfected my writing style. Learned to kill off my darlings that were ineffectual to a story, doubled down on the grammar, began to figure out what made a good story, hired an editor and cover artist, then published. Before I just gleefully pounded out words to create scenes, imaginary characters, and involved plot structure. But along the way, I lost the joy of writing and became driven to seek the Holy Grail of Authors, book reviews.
I wanted the reader to enjoy the story, and I craved feedback for my effort. My family was great at this. Friends as well, but something was lacking. I wanted the accreditation of the Reader, a stranger who didn’t know me or want to feed my struggling ego. I needed the Reader to give me an honest opinion to prove I wasn’t wasting my time. When creating books, this had been the carrot at the end of the stick for all those nights of tapping away at the computer, researching infinite details, getting every sentence right.
I gave away a zillion copies in hopes of a review. I bought high-powered write-ups through accredited sources like Clarion and Kirkus, but to no avail. I spent hours learning about how to promote, advertise, and edit again. Tried keeping up with Amazon as they changed program after program on me, trying to grasp the secret language of the algorithm. I became obsessed with needing to check sales reports, seek out new contacts, to create mailing lists, and have a million ‘friends’ on places like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
No matter how good the book was, no matter how hard I tried to advertise, no matter all the elusive leads that I chased to find the Holy Grail, I failed — leaving me to ponder where the joy had gone.
But there is a happy ending.
What did I do? I went back to my first love, writing. I started blogging again and created more books. Most importantly, I reviewed other people’s books. Yup, I found the Holy Grail of Authors. Not for my books, but for others who are creating even better stories than me. I found peace in giving reviews, striving to help others find that validation I sought. I wrote words of encouragement, honesty, and gave back to people who provided me many hours of enjoyment in reading. I don’t do this on Amazon because I’m an author and can’t review other author’s books. But, on sites like Authors Den, Smashwords, Bookrix, Goodreads, and a myriad of other places where I find books for my enjoyment, I respond to people who ask for advice, input or a review.
How can we expect something from a self-consuming, greedy world, unless we, ourselves, are willing to give it? I have not seen reviews of my books magically appear because it is not about that. It’s the satisfaction in creating art from words. I find comfort in the words of support, direction and validation I give to others.
Of course, I still want the Holy Grail, but it’s not the focus of this journey anymore. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, being here for each other?
So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?
That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.
I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.
But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!
Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key
When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.
I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.
For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.
But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”
I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.
Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.
Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!
And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂
For several years I have followed Kristen Lamb’s blog. I have found her commentaries filled with witty, humorous self-help tips and noted she has definitely a finger on the pulse of the book industry. The link below will take you to her blog post that gives a bird’s eye view of the ever-changing landscape of Indie Publishing and gives hope for the future of the business. I encourage you to read it today!