Monthly Archives: September 2011

Keep it polite or keep your mouth shut

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While we’re on the topic of reviews, let’s have a little discussion about being polite to others, shall we?

Luckily, I personally haven’t had any issues, but I have heard several friends complain about other people who knock their reviews. For example, a friend was reviewing “classics” and she was being honest about what she liked and what she didn’t like. People came by, read her reviews and basically told her she was full of crap and didn’t know what she was talking about. Really? You people think you can judge someone’s opinion? Guess what? NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE. Sorry to have to yell that, but it’s an important statement we all need to pay attention to.

I see nothing wrong in having a civil debate with someone, pointing out why you think a review is or isn’t fair. Civil is the important word there folks. I’m all for debates, especially when it comes to classics that I don’t think should be pushed anymore, but I would never out and out say “OMG you’re wrong and stupid and XX is the best book ever, you stupid person!” That’s just not necessary and quite frankly, it makes you come off as the stupid one.

In case you haven’t noticed, this blog has some reoccurring themes: be honest, be nice and not everyone is going to like the same things. You’d think these things would be common sense kind of things, but I guess not.

Things on the internet are traceable and I have heard stories about people bad mouthing agents when they get rejected or publishing houses that put out books they don’t like, etc. and it often comes back to bite them and being rude in forums and on sites like Goodreads and Amazon is not going to go unnoticed.

Better to be nice, be civil or keep your mouth shut.

The 5 star controversy

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I’ve become a bit of a reviewer. They’re not super in depth descriptions of what the story is about but more my personal feelings on how I enjoyed the book or what I didn’t like about it. I try to always be polite and I know that criticism  goes best between compliments.  I do these reviews for two reasons:

1) To let others know how I felt about the book and possibly turn them onto it or warn them to stay away (although to be fair, that’s rarely my call)

and

2) To give the author some feedback on where I think they shine or could use a little more polish.

I feel like I’m doing both the reader and writer a service. That’s the way it should be. That’s the logic behind reviews in the first place.

Therefore, when I hear things like people paying $5 bucks for a 5 star review or asking friends and relatives and fellow writers to choke the system with phony 5 star reviews it makes me kind of lose my shit.

I get it. You are proud of your work and you want to spread the word so others will come read it and bask in its glory. That’s all fine and dandy, except I don’t know about everyone else, but I am QUITE stingy with my 5 star ratings. A book really has to be well written and emotionally impacting (to me personally) in order for  it to get  5 stars. I don’t even rate my own work  5 stars people. That’s not to say I don’t love my stuff and I haven’t worked hard on it, I do and I have, BUT I know there are things out there that just blow my writing away and that’s why I’m honest with myself and my readers with my ratings.

This buying stars and backwards comradery of “I’ll get all my followers to rate your book 5 stars, even if they haven’t read it or didn’t like it if you’ll do the same for mine” is utter bullshit.

You’ve got money to spend on buying stars? Use it on a good editor to make a better product instead.  You want to bring traffic to your book and get reviews? Find book bloggers and hold contests to give out ARCs and ask for honest feedback in their responses and ratings.

People who do this kind of thing are giving the indie/self published a bad name. It’s already a struggle for those of us not going the traditional publication route and when a reader comes along and sees a book has fifty 5 star reviews they think “Hey! This should be good!” Then they read it and (often) find that the book was nowhere near 5 star quality. This post, by a a fellow “indie” author goes into detail about how these things going on makes him not want to be associated with the indie crowd. I understand his frustration on how a few are making it bad for the rest of us. (Be sure to take time to read the comments on that post!)

Not only is it bad to dupe your audience, but you’re not helping yourself as a writer and you’re certainly not going to gain any repeat business. There is one specific book out there (which is discussed in one of the blog links above) where much of this occurred. I found a mere smattering of unhappy reviews in an overwhelming sea of 5 stars.  Those few 1 and 2 star reviewers were as baffled as I was “did we read the same book as all these other people?” I almost gave the book 1 star. 1 STAR! That’s a rating I normally  reserved for a bunch of monkeys who type gobbledegook. I don’t care if that author wins a Newbery award , I’ll never buy another of her books. 

There are others out there who are trying to cheat the rating system in other ways. Recently, a friend of mine noticed a particular Goodreads member was going around and rating immense amounts of paranormal novels. 3,500 novels to be exact. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except that she was rating them all with 1 star. Every.Single.One. She only had two friends on Goodreads. One of them was a paranormal author, whom I’m sure got her only good review.  Thankfully, several people brought it to the attention of the site staff and the account was killed. Whether or not they can undo all the reviews she gave, I don’t know, but seriously lady? Did you really need to knock down the confidence of 3,500 people by rating them a one? Not cool. Bad karma is coming for you.

As discussed before, it really just comes down to being honest folks. Be honest about what you like and dislike. Be honest about the quality of the work. Be honest with yourself. You’ll be happier in the long run and if you’re a writer,  think of how much better you’ll feel when you get those good reviews knowing you actually earned them rather than bought or bartered for them. Maybe those lower starred reviews will help you grow as a writer and you’ll produce something that is 5 star worthy. If I see it, if it moves me, if it’s worthy, I’ll give you that coveted quintuplet rating. You’ll have earned it.

Book Trailers

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So, book trailers. What are they and are they really important in helping promote your novel?

A book trailer is very similar to a movie trailer. It’s a video clip, normally set to music, used to catch the eye of a potential reader. To garner attention and make them excited to pick up your book.

They should be short and sweet and above all, interesting. Make it a snooze-fest and people will forget about it, and your book, the second after they click off the page.

There are different kinds from the extremely awesome, obviously professionally made ones, to the amateur, work with what you’ve got, trailers.  They can be a collection of images and text set to music (*cough*this is good for the monetarily challenged folks like myself*cough*), or it can be a collection of scenes from the novel acted out or even an animation.

As to how important they are, I can’t really tell you. I think they’re a helpful marketing tool, but do I think you can gain as much interest for your novel without one? Probably, but I do think trailers appeal to the occasional reader. The ones who would most likely opt for a movie or TV show over reading a book. We’re visual creatures and I think, for those types of people, the trailer helps generate more interest than just the summary would do. As long as your trailer doesn’t look a complete mess, I think it can only help, not hurt.

I have to admit, I don’t watch too many book trailers myself. I’m not sure why because the ones I do stop for seem to be good. Maybe it’s just because if I’m interested in a book, it’s due to the blurb on the page and if that catches my attention, then I don’t need the trailer. Obviously, that didn’t stop me from making one of my own.

Mine is no where near professional, but I think it’s interesting enough to catch someone’s attention and as an indie author, I need every bit of help I can get!  Let me know, honestly, what you think. I value your feedback, even if you think it sucks. ^_^

Back that thang up!

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No. No. I’m not talking about your ample backsides…although if you enjoy that kind of thing, please, be my guest.  I’m talking about backing up your precious, all consuming, seemingly never ending, writing endeavors.

Let’s paint a not so pretty scenario, shall we? Let’s say one evening you’re working on some edits for your almost ready to publish novel. You smile as you make the changes knowing that they will make your characters seem more believable and add credibility to your story.  You save your changes in Word, or whatever other processing program you use, and you close the laptop lid for the night.  When you wake the following morning, you’re anxious to start your day; check some email, tweet, post something on Facebook. When you open the laptop, you’re face with a completely black screen and some flashing lights. No it’s not in sleep mode. No it’s not a result of built up static. No the battery and/or power supply isn’t broken.  It’s the laptop itself. Suddenly it has become a very expensive paperweight. A prison for all your important information, images, bookmarks, etc.  Now would be the time where you might bust into tears. Perhaps you consider lobbing the dammed thing across the room to see how many pretty pieces you can break it into. Maybe you plan a coup on your local HP building demanding a replacement, a refund, all your priceless data back.  Maybe you just accept defeat and start browsing for a new piece of overpriced equipment while mourning the loss of hours of your life, work and creativity.

While you can’t always predict when electronics will have an all out meltdown, the loss of your data and hard work is preventable.  There are several options to backing up your work. Most word processing programs will back up as you write, but that’s only good if your computer freezes or spontaneously reboots (it happens). To back up your work long term, you can use outside sources like flash drives, CDs/DVDs or an external drive. These are all good choices so long as you know where you put the drive or the disc and that nothing happens to those.  If you’re like me and electronics seem to hate you, you should also look for other options.  I had a large external drive where I stored all my stuff and then the USB port broke a pin and I was screwed.  It prompted me to look for other options.

Storing your work online is handy for more than reason. Firstly, depending on where you save it, you should be able to access it from any computer with internet access. Secondly, you don’t have worry about losing anything (except maybe a password) and someone else is maintaining it for you.

If you opt for online storage (and I actually recommend using more than one of these backup ideas, better safe than sorry), you can use a site like Drop Box which holds a looooot of data, even with their free version. I would recommend a place like that if you have a lot of mixed media to store; music, photos, documents, etc. If you’re looking to just save your manuscripts, I recommend emailing them to yourself.  Use the title in your subject bar for easy searching later on.  Luckily I had emailed several of my manuscripts to other people for beta reading so I had copies of everything in my email. Gmail, which is a free internet email program, has tons of storage so I rarely empty trash or sent mail so all my stuff hangs around for such an occasion.

There are other options out there as well if you do a little searching. Again I recommend using more than one back up method and try to remember to do it on a somewhat frequent basis. You can even use calendar programs to pop up reminders if you’re apt to forget.

Be smart and save yourself the heartache by backing up your work. Do it today people! You’ll thank me later if you have an issue. Get on it!

Books read in 2011 – August

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Almost forgot to put up the list of books read last month. It was a busy reading month too, surprising since I felt like I did so many other things writing related. Maybe I’m getting better at multitasking? Nahhhh.

Rating system:
Outstanding. You need to run out & get this NOW!
Great!
Good.
Meh. I was not much of a fan.
Under no circumstances should you waste your time with this.

August

Title
Author
Rating

Forever Mine (Moreno Brothers 1)
- Elizabeth Reyes
 
Dragon Slippers
- Jessica Day George
 
Dragon Spear
- Jessica Day George
 
Dragon Flight
- Jessica Day George
 
Always Been Mine (Moreno Brothers 2)
- Elizabeth Reyes
 
The Demon’s Surrender (Demon’s Lexicon)
- Sarah Rees Brennan
 
River Marked
- Patricia Briggs
 
Between the Lines
- Tammara Webber
 
Chain Reaction
- Simone Elkeles
 
Flat Out Love
- Jessica Park
 
The Boyfriend Thief
- Shana Norris
 
Reason to Breath
- Rebecca Donovan
 
The Wrong Path
- Vivian Marie Aubin  du Paris
 
Breathe
- Abbi  Glines
  (I feel bad giving this, but I have to be honest)
Rock and a Hard Place
- Angie  Stanton
 
Sophie and Carter
- Chelsea Fine
 
Blind Sided
- Cheryl Leigh
 
Heart on a Chain
- Cindy C. Bennett
 
Love Unscripted
- Tina Reber
 
The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies)
- Pittacus Lore
 
Leaving Paradise (re-read)
- Simone Elkeles
 
Return to Paradise (re-read)
- Simone Elkeles
 

22 books read