First, let me start off by saying I didn’t officially sign up for NaNoWriMo. I wrote about my reasons for taking the best of NaNo without committing to the event in an earlier post. Suffice to say, after a terrible year for me personally, I didn’t need the additional stress.
But even with the extremely modest goal of 200 words per day, I failed. How lame is that, right? 200 words EVERY DAY and I failed to meet this low bar.
In my defense, it wasn’t entirely my fault. As most of you know, I have a young puppy. He’s about 8 months old now, and full of beans. One ear up, one ear slightly floppy. Legs that go in all directions and a tail that spins like a helicopter when he runs. He’s a big goofball with little sense of personal awareness.
Last week, he was under my workstation when he got caught in the power cable to my laptop. His movement jerked the laptop sideways into my glass of wine. As the wine tipped over, I snagged it with catlike reflexes–we’re talking WINE here–but some of it slopped over the brim into my keyboard, shorting it out.
I wasn’t going to let this defeat me, however. I knocked the dust off the desktop, one I had inherited last year but never set up. I met each setback with grim determination. The monitor was missing the power cable–no problem, I found an old one that still worked. The mouse wouldn’t interface with the system? No problem, I found a wireless one that did. The ethernet cable didn’t work even when directly connected to the PC? Got it covered–we’ll connect to the modem wirelessly. I’m listing these things because normally tech issues like this have me pulling out my hair and cursing a blue streak. But I refused to give in to these issues. I solved them.
And then I discovered the inherited PC didn’t have Word on it. Seriously?? Who doesn’t have Word??
Not wanting to mess up my WIP trying to integrate some alien word processing program with it, I pulled out one of my many lovely notebooks and wrote by hand while the SO worked on my poor laptop. Take that, One Ridiculous Setback After Another!
Only the words ground to a halt. I couldn’t muster even the measly 200 words per day I’d set as my goal.
Why? Because the story was a hot mess, that’s why.
I had 39 K written by the time of the Wine Incident. Very respectable for 3 weeks, NaNo or No NaNo. But to my dismay, those 39 K words only covered the first 24 hours of action… and my story was supposed to take place over a six month time span.
Obviously I had a serious pacing issue. Not to mention a ‘bogged down in minutia’ issue. The story might have had good bones (and I still think it does) but it was seriously flawed. And it took being forced into inactivity for me to admit it.
I could have kept plugging away at it and reached 50 K easily. I would have unofficially ‘won’ at NaNo but I still wouldn’t have a usable story. Worse, I would have continued to build on an unstable foundation. It would be like laying down railroad tracks with an incorrect map. The tracks would have gotten progressively off-course, needing a much larger correction than if I’d just stopped and regained my bearings.
So in short, what I learned from failing (once again) at NaNo:
- NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. There is no shame in this. Sure, when everyone else around you is constantly posting and tweeting about their NaNo experience, you might feel left out, but ask yourself if NaNo is really right for you. If not, there is nothing wrong in not participating. Seriously.
- There is one very important lesson to be learned from NaNo: park your butt in the chair and write. I can’t emphasize enough how much this matters. All the writing courses in the world, all the marketing advice out there, they all boil down to this: you must commit to writing on a regular basis. You must create and publish no matter what, come rain or shine, in order to build your audience. More than anything else, the next story is your best marketing plan. So shut your browser, stop checking your social media or sales rankings, and sit down at the keyboard.
- Writing is a muscle you must exercise in order to make stronger. But just like with your own muscles, you have to mix things up to prevent injury or strain. Yes, you’ll go farther with daily training. Want to get good at something? Practice, practice, practice. But just like with your own body, you have to learn to respect your creativity. You don’t weight lift every day–you alternate weight training with cardio in order to give your muscles a break. You need time to rest and rebuild your creativity too. I recommend do something every day with regards to your writing–but remember that reading and watching movies–exploring how other people tell stories–is part of the process. Sometimes the story you’re working on needs to marinate a while during which you figure out what the next move might be. Don’t rush that process just to bang out words.
- Don’t just bang out words. Not unless that’s part of your process. I’m a pantser by nature, but with the current WIP, I can see I’ve gone off the rails. I could just keep pounding away at it, but I think it’s better to take a little time to solve my pacing issue before I go any further. Either I need to shorten the projected timeline, or introduce time jumps that don’t jar the reader after detailing every minute of the current time frame, or both. The trick is not letting too much time pass while you let a story mature. Give yourself a deadline: set the story aside for 48 hours and come back to it. If you can’t solve the problem by then, maybe the thing to do is shelve the project until such time as a solution presents itself to you. Or slog your way through it. Only you can tell which is the best course of action.
- I saw a Tweet today from Chuck Wendig, in which someone asked him for ‘advice you wished someone had given you when starting out as a writer’. He said, “That every book takes the time that it takes, and the writer you are when you begin is not the writer you are when you finish.”
Some stories are more complicated than others. Some stories you’re not ready to tell, even though you think you are. Some stories practically write themselves–but that doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than stories that someone slaved over for ten years or more. Give your story the time it needs to grow up. NaNo is a wonderful concept with many good things to offer, but it is not the only path to writing a story. That’s different from author to author and from story to story.
The current WIP is a hot mess. It’s up to me to decide if it is salvageable or not. I think I know how to fix it, so I’m going to give it my best shot. But for me, the worst thing I could have done would have been laying tracks in the wrong direction.
Sometimes ‘failing’ is the right thing to do.
I’ve worked with publishers and I’ve published on my own. One of the biggest differences between the two is how much work the publisher does on your behalf: cover art, editing, sending your book out to review sites and so on. There’s also the advantage of the built-in audience your publisher already has, the value of a larger group newsletter, as well as networking opportunities with other authors in the same publishing house. Sure, when you go indie, you retain more control over every little detail of your work. You get to set your production schedule, retain complete control over cover art, have the last word on editing, and get a bigger share of the royalties. But there’s a reason publishers take the lion’s share of sales earned.
You have to wear a lot of hats to be an indie author.
There are some people who love this. They relish having all the control. But there are others who are overwhelmed with spinning all the plates at once: finding a good cover artist and editor. Scouring the review sites to find ones that will accept your story. Lining up beta readers and ARC readers. Designing eye-catching graphics and running Facebook groups. Scheduling posts across the board to all your social media sites. Holding giveaways and writing guest blog posts. All the while working on the next release because we all know the next story is your best advertisement.
Where does anyone find the time to do all of this? Especially if you haven’t a freaking clue how to set up a newsletter or your attempts at website design or graphics look as though a second grader created them.
The good news is you don’t have to wear all the hats. (Do you like my image above? It was from a Peggy Carter cosplay photo session I did last month 🙂 ) You are allowed to delegate.
The bad news is you might have to pay for that delegation.
Here’s my take on where you can and cannot skimp.
- Pay for an outstanding cover. No, seriously, you can’t let your BFF with Photoshop make your book cover unless he or she is a graphic artist and is looking to expand their portfolio. For one thing, you can get in a lot of trouble if your cover artist isn’t using royalty-free images (or images they purchased) that have been licensed for cover art. But even more importantly, if your cover art looks like it’s been done by an amateur, if it doesn’t match genre expectations, then readers will give your story a hard pass. People DO judge a book by its cover. And a crappy cover will sink even the most amazing story. You have a nano-second to catch a reader’s eye and make them take a second look with your story. Don’t blow it with a crappy cover.
- Pay for quality editing. Yes, good editing is expensive. There’s a reason for that. An editor doesn’t just correct your grammar and punctuation, though that is important. A good editor tells you when you use repetitive phrases or actions. When your story has continuity errors or plot holes you could drive a truck through. When you are writing outside genre expectations. A good editor meets deadlines and does more than give your story a cursory read. It may take time to find an editor that’s a good match for you, but when you find him or her, cling to them for all they are worth because they are worth their weight in gold. Readers will notice crappy editing and comment on it in their reviews.
- Formatting: if you can’t figure it out, pay someone to do it. There are lots of people out there who offer formatting for all the major outlets for reasonable fees. Nothing pisses a reader off more than weird formatting on their e-readers. Yes, there’s software out there like Calibre that will put your book in the different formats, but if you want elegant formatting–pretty chapter headers or reliable reading across the different file formats–pay someone. If you have to cut costs (and believe me, I’ve been there) teach yourself how to do it.
- Graphics: Social Media Posts and Teasers. This is a tough one for me because there are some great options out there for creating your own, like Canva. However, I simply don’t have the time right now to learn how to make sophisticated graphics. I can make a serviceable image, but an elegant one? Not so much. If I have to chose between spending 3 hours messing around with Canva to produce an image that looks cheesy or write 3 K on the WIP, I’m going to choose the WIP every time. Eventually, my skills will improve. But in the meantime, I’ll pay someone to give me this:It doesn’t have to be expensive. Talk to your friends. You probably have friends who would love to make something like this for you without charging you an arm and a leg. Or again, find that graphic artist looking to expand their portfolio.
- Marketing: You have to do it. You can’t simply launch your book like Noah releasing a dove from the deck of the Ark, hoping it will eventually return with evidence of dry land. I wasn’t able to nail down exact numbers but read that in 2014, Amazon reported at least 5 K new releases each day. You might think that’s insane, but what’s really crazy is expecting your book to get singled out among the pack for notice if you make no effort to call it to anyone’s attention. I highly recommend Bad Red Head Media’s 30 Day Book Marketing Challenge. Get it. Read it. Do it. If you want to pay someone to promote your book you can, but this is one area if you’re willing to do the legwork yourself, it will pay off.
- Create a Book Bub account for yourself. If someone follows you, boom. They get notified every time you have a new release. Post that link on your website so people can find and follow it. Easy. Free.
- If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, consider hiring someone to teach you the ropes at first. Yeah, you hear me say ‘hire someone’ a lot, and believe me, I know what it’s like not to have the funds to do that. But you only have a couple of options: Teach yourself or pay someone to do it for you or pay someone to teach you to do it yourself. I’m a big believer in hiring the right help to teach you how to do it for yourself.
- Don’t have the discretionary funds to pay for the right help? I get that. Then join groups/lists/sites where you can learn what you need to know for free. Consider offering your services to another newbie needing to learn the ropes. I like the ‘watch one, do one, teach one’ philosophy because I think (aside from being a cool thing to do) sharing what you’ve learned helps you retain those lessons. Face it, if you only ever set up a newsletter once every few years, you’re going to forget how to do it.
- Decide what’s really important to you and what works best. Don’t waste your time on things that frustrate or annoy you. If participating in every Facebook group or wasting hours on Tumblr is not your thing, don’t do it. You only have so much time and most of it should be spent working on the next story. Because even though it isn’t sexy or cool to say it, THE NEXT STORY IS YOUR BEST ADVERTISEMENT. Sure, there are lots of people out there willing to take your money to teach you how to make your next book a bestseller but if you aren’t writing and releasing on a regular basis, it’s all for naught. Readers are like stray cats: feed them and they will come. Stop feeding them, and they will drift off in search of food elsewhere.
- Check out the time-saving options for scheduling posts across various sites. Crosspost whenever you can. This post will automatically appear on my Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr pages. When I use Hootsuite to schedule a post, I can set it to post to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook simultaneously. Simplify your life whenever you can. But pick a schedule and post regularly. Your audience, like stray cats, will expect you at certain times once you establish your schedule. Don’t disappoint them.
One other thing I would add: be authentic. I confess, I struggle sometimes to balance the author side of me with the part that is enraged about world events or just wants to post pictures of my pets. Don’t work so hard at presenting your brand that you show your readers someone who doesn’t actually exist. Yeah, there’s a risk in revealing your real self. You might lose readers. But truthfully, your real self is revealed in every word you write. So what do you really have to lose?
Bottom line: if you have the time, energy, and skills to teach yourself what you need to know to be a successful indie author, go for it. But in those areas where you have doubts, where your skills are subpar, hire the right help until you can master those skills. There are some things I believe should always be left to the experts–cover art and editing being the biggies–but be ruthlessly honest with yourself. If you’ve been skimping on services because you can’t afford them, consider saving up to give your story the best launch possible before releasing it into the world. After all, you want that dove to bring back an olive branch.
Dragon Solstice by Anna Morgan
Today we welcome Iris Sweetwater as part of her book tour for her newest release: The Heart of the Pack (Brothers of Fang Book 3). Happy release day, Iris!
Name: Brothers of Fang: The Heart of the Pack
# in Series: 3
Blurb: Isaiah knows that the war between the pack and the coven are over, and that means things will change. It is time to let go of what is in his heart bad go with what is best for the Olympia pack. However, doing so is not as easy as he thought as the beautiful hybrid, Annalise remains in his territory. When he finds out that the coven is at risk without her, he must make a heartbreaking decision to send her home, even if it kills a piece of him and her both.
Now, there is a new war, one that is being waged inside the leaders of the coven and the pack. It is the kind of war that cannot be won with claws and teeth. It is a war of the heart, and no one knows who will win and who will be lost in the process.
Release Date: 10/20/17
Special Deal: Anyone who purchases the Brothers of Fang books by 11/3 and shows confirmation to me on any of my social profiles gets all the exclusive bonus chapters full of untold secrets.
Bio: Iris Sweetwater grew up writing poems and thinking up crazy stories while she was bored at school. Everyone was certain she would become an author one day, especially when at 13, she saw her first poem being published in an anthology. Since then, life has given her many twists and turns, seeing her as a sales associate, an SEO content manager, a teacher, a curriculum specialist, a mother, and a ghostwriter. All of these things have led her to finally being in the time of her life where she knows she should be sharing her own stories and not just someone else’s. She hopes to make a career out of writing paranormal romance, young adult fantasy, and contemporary romance while still pursuing ways to help children engage in the learning process.
I started to write a post about my addiction to diet and health books, but as I was gathering the evidence for a photo, I realized I had a much bigger problem: I’m addicted to buying books in general.
I have stacks of unread books all over the house. Books are piled precariously on counter tops and nightstands. They threaten to topple over whenever the cat brushes past them, and on more than one occasion, I’ve had to rescue a book from the jaws of the puppy.
The last time I moved, for giggles and grins, I counted my books as I was packing them. I stopped after 5 K because it was slowing me down. And that’s not even counting what I have on my Kindle! Many I’ve re-read dozens of times. Some I’ve only read once. But lately my TBR stack has grown out of control, and I strongly suspect some of the books I’ve snagged will never be read at all.
The Japanese have a delightful word for this: tsundoku. I am tickled to know there is a word for this, because it means I’m not alone.
According to Wikipedia, it means “acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them.” The image I’m posting here could have been taken from house, if I had the acres and acres of lovely bookshelves pictured here.
Truth be told, it wouldn’t matter how many bookshelves I had, I’d still have an overflow of stacks of unread books waiting their turn.
That’s not to say I won’t read these books. Some day I will. I used to read five or six books a week, so buying books on this scale wasn’t unreasonable. I don’t have that kind of time anymore, particularly since I’m writing as well. I love books. I love going to bookstores and libraries. I love going to someone’s home and checking out their book collection. You can learn a lot about a person by the books they have.
I hear people talk about decreasing clutter and getting rid of their books because they have electronic readers now. I get it, I do. I see the attraction of having your library on a single device, never being at risk of running out of reading material, only battery life. But it saddens me just the same. I envision homes of the future where blank sterile walls greet you as you walk in, and you cannot glean any information as to your host’s tastes in literature because their library is entirely digital.
And I worry about the future of writing as an industry when I see fewer people reading, and more people exhibiting signs of a decreasing attention span–a problem fostered by our addiction to smart devices. The people who used to read on the bus or waiting in line now seem to be scrolling their Twitter feeds or streaming a television show.
Maybe I’m part of a dying breed, but I came from a time when books were the major gateway to another world, a different existence. They connect us to the past, and with great minds that have gone before us. With a book, far more than with any other medium, I can step into the story and be a part of it. Books have saved my life more than once. I lived for sci-fi and mysteries when I was a teenager. I still reach for my favorite horse and dog books when I need comfort. And there are some series, like the Lord Peter Wimsey books or the Amelia Peabody mysteries, that I’ll read over and over again.
I like to think there will always be readers because there will always be storytellers. That’s the part of me that wants to believe in a happily ever after.
These days, I need to believe in a happily ever after. Life is kind of stressful and I need the escapism of a good book. At least I never have to worry about not having something to read! So yeah, maybe I’m hoarding books just a bit. Maybe it is an addiction. But as addictions go, there are worse ones to have.
As part of a promotional thingy, The Panther’s Lost Princess is free on Amazon for a limited time! Book One of the Redclaw Security series, The Panther’s Lost Princess introduces us to the elite paranormal agency when top investigator, Jack Ferris, is assigned one of the most challenging cases of his career: find the heir to the shifter kingdom of Coreldon, who went missing as a baby.
And find her he did, tracking Princess Ariel de Winter to a hole-in-the-wall diner where she worked, oblivious to her heritage, as a waitress under the name of Ellie West.
Finding her was the easy part.
Convincing her to come with him more difficult.
Keeping her alive when assassins hit their trail: a nightmare.
But discovering his assignment was also his fated mate? Impossible.
She can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.
Each book in the Redclaw Security series can be read as a standalone, and though there is character crossover between stories, it is not necessary to read them in order. Be sure to grab your copy of The Panther’s Lost Princess soon–free on Amazon only until 10/11/17!
Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Jennifer, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
Wow, let me see. I have a boy job by day. I’m a Brazer at a local factory and I have done that for 18 years now. I have only been writing since 2015, and I am the proud author of four books. I have two grown kids and now I have both of their better half’s also. I have a very rotten granddaughter who reminds me to play, with very supportive parents, aunts, sister, and friends. I have been blessed with my very own Happy Ever After. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who makes me smile every day, and after all these years I still miss him when he isn’t around. Rick is my very best friend in the world and I’m lucky enough to be married to him.
I began writing in 2015, after my husband had a dream about a girl and her magical Water Skippers…. He got up one morning and said, “Come on, we need to go buy a few things.” He took me to a local office max. I honestly, had that deer in the headlight look. I had no idea why we were there, anyway, he says. “Pick out a nice notebook and a pen I have something I want you to write.” We came home and he told me all about this dream. This is what my very first book Water Skippers is all about… A dream my husband had.
The underlying theme is Love, Love…. Our lives are so much more than sex and arguing. There is no greater gift than to love or to be loved and my books hit that hard.
That is so fascinating–an entire series born out of your husband’s dream! I love too how supportive he is of your work. I have that too, but so many women writers I know struggle to find support among their families for what they do.
What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?
A little town in southern Ohio, called Ironton.
I’m a small town girl myself! There’s a lot to be said for growing up and raising a family in a small community.
How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in my forties… so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…
Hah! I know what you mean! I think a lot of writers try out different professions and hobbies until they realize it was all just prep for writing. What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?
I only like to read things that aren’t real.. life is real enough, so of course I want to escape into my writing the same way.
Have you written in other genres?
City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?
I am all country girl, but I can play dress up also.
I know what you mean! I wear practical clothes but love pretty lingerie and having my nails done. 🙂
“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?
I think things that are experienced are easier to write.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it! Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?
I have to have the ending in my head, but other than that. I write as I go.
What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?
1000 miles from nowhere, with room service.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?
Ragon my pet dragonfly is my favorite. He represents all the good we have in all of us.
Oh, that’s nice! Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?
Water Skippers. It’s the first book in my series and they are the magical creatures in all of my books. They are my little heroes, and they always help the guy get the girl.
What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?
My husband, family, and books…. I need more than three hahahah.
If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?
I want to be a dragon.
Nice! Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?
I would love to write full time, just can’t afford to.
I hear you on that one. I’d love to be a full time author myself. What advice would you give to someone starting out as an author? What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?
Have very thick skin.. This is a crazy rollercoaster ride. Don’t stop; write until your fingers fall off, because when someone tells you they love it… It’s all worth it.
Remember the little things, like the first time you held a guys hand, or that amazing awkward first kiss. Take the time to look up at the stars, and take the time to play in the rain. It’s the little moments in life you will always cherish.
You are so right there! How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
There is a lot of my own life, and especially the way I feel about things in all of my books. All of my books are me. My mom says it’s like being inside of my head…. So many of the stories in my books, have really happened in my own life.
Research: love it or hate it?
I don’t do it… this is fiction, just go with it.
Editing: love it or hate it?
Ohhh the misery, but I like to learn new things.
How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?
It means everything.
Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?
Ohh yea, I have cried like a baby.
I think we’ve all had that experience. I recently wrote a blog post about handling bad reviews as a reminder to myself and others how to deal with the stinger you get sometimes.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?
Yes, it helps tune out all the background of the world around me.
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
When I finished my last set I cried. It was like I had lost a member of the family.
What are your writing goals for 2017? Your personal goals?
I honestly don’t know.. my set will be put in a box set for Christmas, but other than that I’m open.
Where can your readers find you and your stories online?
Http://Amazon.com/author/jjm5325903. I am also on Twitter www. Jenniferrick@twitter.com…. Also I love to talk so email me at Jenniferjuliemiller@gmail.com…. And I have a website https://jenniferjuliemille.wixsite.com/mysite..
Book One: Water Skippers
Book Two: A Dragonfly’s Whisper
Book Three: Earth Shadow
Book Four: Shadow Reborn
A friend of mine recently got a stinging review–the kind of gif-laden nasty review that is a deliberate slam to the author with little purpose except to wound. I went looking for a post I’d read several years ago about the best way to handle ugly reviews to share with her, but I couldn’t find it. Rather than spend several hours searching the internet for similar posts (and reading them all to make sure they were worth sharing), I decided to write my own. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all gotten reviews that made us wince, cry, or seriously consider chucking the whole writing gig altogether.
Many of us strengthened our writing skills in fandom, writing reams of fanfic because we loved a set of characters so much we wanted to spend more time in their universe. One of the gratifying things about fanfic is within minutes of posting it, you can see the counter change, indicating the number of people who’ve clicked on the link. Within 24 hours, kudos and comments start rolling in. And because you are writing about specific characters and pairings, you have a built-in audience which is predisposed to be kind because they love those characters too and are desperate for more stories about them.
At least, that used to be the case. I’m seeing a greater sense of entitlement creep into feedback on fanfic. Perhaps it’s because nearly every website on the planet encourages you, the consumer, to leave a review, that things are changing. Amazon, in particular, in conjunction with Goodreads, has given an enormous amount of power to the reviewer–the ability to raise or lower a story’s visibility, and therefore, sales. Reviews on original fiction are few and far between compared to fanfic, and are definitely blunter. I see some of this bluntness–and in some circumstances, downright rudeness–seeping into fanfic feedback these days. But I digress.
Not only are there far fewer reviews (on average) for original fiction versus fanfic, but there is a much longer delay between writing and publishing an original story and when those reviews begin to trickle in. Instead of the nearly instantaneous feedback you might receive on posting to one of the big fanfic archives, your original story goes through a lengthy editing and publishing process. In some cases, it may be months before a finished story is released. If you’re like me, after you hit ‘publish’, you keep refreshing your sales page to see if anyone has left a review. I don’t think most of us can help it. We’ve groomed our child, prepped it for school, and placed it on the school bus. We can’t help but wonder how the first day of class went.
But if you only have twenty-five or so reviews, it’s going to make the one or two bad ones stand out even more. Funny how one nasty review has the power to negate fifty or more stellar ones, right? But it can and does.
So let’s break this down.
First, with fanfic, comments are the currency of fandom. People aren’t buying your story, they are ‘paying’ with feedback. It’s one of the reasons I find the ‘kudos’ system on Archive of Our Own a little disappointing. It effectively made every story 99 cents, if you know what I mean. I appreciate getting kudos, but I miss the detailed and loving feedback fellow fans used to give.
When you are publishing original fiction, your audience is paying with actual money. So if your sales are fantastic but few people are leaving reviews, I wouldn’t sweat it. People are leaving reviews–with their money.
The longer I’ve been at this, however, the more I’ve learned to take reviews with a grain of salt–especially the bad ones. Here are some of my ‘rules’.
- Stop looking for reviews. No, seriously. I do a search on occasion (and my reason will be listed below) but for the most part, I avoid places like Goodreads. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solicit reviews from review sites. That’s one of the ways of bringing your story to the attention of the reading public. But don’t set up Google Alerts to notify you of every mention, and stop constantly checking your sales page for stats.
- Keep a file of your outstanding reviews. Not only will you want pull quotes for future promo, but it’s helpful to have a folder of lovely things people said about your stories to read when a particularly spiteful piece of feedback lands in your lap. Yes, I know this is contradictory advice to the point above, but often the people who write nice things about your stories send you that information directly. Use it.
- Read the reviews of your all-time favorite authors/stories. You’ll be amazed. Books that you think are outstanding, authors so good you would sell your soul to the devil to be able to write even a fraction as well–they all get horrible reviews. If someone can slam a book that you think is phenomenal, then face it, not everyone out there is going to like great writing. Not everyone out there is going to like your writing, or if they do, not necessarily all of your stories. That’s a good thing, actually. It means there is room out there for all kinds of storytelling. One person’s cup of tea might be another person’s poison, but the tea drinkers out there will appreciate your work.
- A mean review isn’t the end of the world. It seems to frequently be the case that one person loathes the thing 98% of readers love. Often the thing that the reviewer detests is the thing that makes me dash out and buy the book in question. Which leads me to number five…
- Don’t rant about a nasty review in public. Don’t post links on Facebook or Twitter with a furious rundown of the reviewer. That is tantamount to asking your fans to go after the reviewer, and that’s a big NO. No. No. No. Don’t encourage your fans to attack someone on your behalf. That review is someone’s opinion, something they are entitled to. If you find out your fans are vehemently defending you, ask them to stop. By not doing so, you wind up looking like the bad guy, even if you never said a word to your fans in the first place. The ONLY exception to this is if you can post about a negative review with a sense of humor, not outrage. NEVER give specifics. Someone on my Twitter feed recently posted about a negative review she received, citing the reviewer’s objection to her ‘liberal political beliefs’ intruding into the story. She said as far as she knew, the only liberal beliefs were that everyone in town recycled. OH THE SHAME. It was both funny and made me one-click purchase the story.
- The nasty, gif-laden review. Let’s take a moment to address that. It’s my belief this form of feedback became popular after this particular review of 50 Shades of Gray. I could be wrong, but after this review, I seemed to see a lot more in a similar vein. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought this review hysterical. I also don’t feel too badly for E.L. James, as she is probably laughing all the way to the bank. But I do regret the number of people who’ve chosen to leave feedback in this manner as a result of the popularity of this particular review. This kind of copycat review has only two purposes: either to wound the author and/or to appease an audience. I call it the ‘Simon Cowell Review.’ Face it, some people tune into America’s Got Talent to watch Simon roast some poor delusional participant. People who deliberately choose to review in this fashion either intend to destroy an author’s self-confidence or like the attention they get from people following their reviews, or both. In all honesty, this is the type of review that’s the EASIEST for me to ignore. There’s another agenda at play here. Either the reviewer hopes to crush me, in which case he/she is a Dream Vampire stomping on my hopes and ambitions because someone stomped on theirs, or they are there to entertain their groupies. I have no time for that.
- If, however, you’ve ignored my advice about reading your reviews and you’re faced with a lot of negative reviews that say the same thing, you have to face up to an unpleasant fact: either you didn’t get the point of your story across as clearly as you’d hoped or there is a major problem with your story as told. If many people are saying the same thing, the sad truth is they are probably right and you screwed up. Still, this is not an end-of-the-world experience. Listen. If necessary, be ruthless. Pull the story, fix it. Chalk it up to experience and vow you won’t release a book before its time ever again. Take writing courses, find a critique group, pay for quality editing. Don’t bristle up defensively and double down on your position. Admit you made a mistake and fix it if possible. If you can’t fix it this time, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Never, ever respond to negative reviews. Heck, I’m not sure you should respond to positive reviews–the opinion seems divided on that. But everyone agrees you should NEVER respond to a negative review, particularly on Goodreads. Why? Because authors who attempt to address negative reviews, even if it is only to correct a reviewer on something they stated that was wrong, are always the villains here. Always. Goodreads in particular is considered a ‘reader’s’ site. in that, outside of an author-run group, Goodreads is for readers. Readers want to be able to post their honest opinions without feeling as though the author in question is watching over their shoulder. The truth of the matter is most of us are watching. But at the very least, we should have the sense to keep our mouths shut. Especially since dog-piling and blackballing can get very ugly on Goodreads. It is simply not worth it to engage with a disgruntled reader. Not on any level.
- Don’t let a negative review derail your writing plans. I did that once. I let a lukewarm review shatter my confidence on a planned story arc, and as a result, I sat on subsequent installments of a series until fans had given up all hope of seeing a sequel. The series lost momentum as a result, and never took off as it had the potential to do. All because one review made me doubt what I had in mind. One out of hundreds which indicated the reader couldn’t wait for more. I could kick myself now.
- Accept the fact that reviews have the power to make your book more or less visible with the algorithms that make up sales. But you have to decide right now whether or not reviews have the power to make you stop writing. If the answer is yes, they do, then know sooner or later, you’ll receive one that’s a mortal blow to your desire to write. If the answer is no, bad reviews will not stop you from writing, then congratulations, you’re an author. Now be the best author you can be. Once you decide that nothing will stop you from writing, the negative review loses a lot of its power. That’s not to say they don’t still have the power to wound or infuriate you. But if they can’t stop you from writing, they are nothing more than annoying gnats.
Today I have Liza Street, author of the Corona Pride series, sharing with us her favorite heroes from shifter romances. I’m delighted to hear what she has to say, as some of these delicious shifters are new to me! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already added to my TBR pile based on this list.
Don’t you just love this cover? Be sure to check out Liza’s links at the end of the post to find out how you can get a free story!
So tell us, Liza! List your favorite shifter heroes and why you find them so amazing!
- Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Clay was my first shifter heartthrob, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the violent acts he does to ensure the safety of his pack and his questionable behavior toward Elena in the early stages of their relationship (which I won’t spoil just in case there are one or two PNR fans who haven’t yet read this book), I fell hard for his southern accent and his absolute devotion to his mate. In my head, he’s even hotter than the guy who plays him in the television series. Is he flawed? Very much so. But since he’s my first, I go easier on him.
- Matt Barns from Gray Back Bad Bear by T.S. Joyce
It’s impossible for me to talk about how much I love Matt without saying how much I love his mate, Willa. These two were absolutely perfect together, at turns vulnerable and hilarious. Willa, especially, brought some geeky levity to their relationship, and while I adore Matt on his own, I love him even more with Willa.
- Arik from When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais
So this guy is completely vain, especially about his hair (that is, his “mane”), but…I sort of loved him for it. Sure, I also wanted to throttle him, but I liked that even though he thought so highly of himself and his mane, he was still vulnerable with his friends. His vanity was great for laughs.
- Alcide Herveaux from Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Alcide…sigh. I really couldn’t care less about Bill or Eric. I wanted Sookie to end up with Alcide. Of course, a whole lot of random complications kept them apart throughout the series, but for a while there, I was Team Alcide.
- Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
Okay, I’ll be honest. I read Slave to Sensation a long time ago and I can’t remember any details about Lucas except that he was totally hot and there was tons of sexual tension. Hmm, might be due for a re-read….
- Derren Hudson from Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright
If you love a good alphahole, you will love Derren. He starts off the story with all kinds of prejudice against Seers, and of course the heroine just happens to be a Seer. He’s controlling and derisive and super controlling. Something about Ally has him rethinking his prejudices, and you know what happens to a controlling man whose worldview is challenged? He’s cranky. So yes, Derren’s an alphahole. If you don’t like violent sex, this book might not be for you. (Not violent as in non-consensual or rapey, if I’m remembering correctly. Just…violent. Explosive. Demanding.)
- Adam Hauptman from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Hello, Hot Neighbor! This dude is just solid. Solidly built, and solid at heart. I don’t want to say too much and spoil later events in the series, so I’ll just say that I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with Mercedes in Moon Called, and the way she teases him by leaving an eyesore junker car in sight of his house. Sa-woon. I love those two.
About Liza Street:
Liza likes her heroes packing muscles and her heroines packing agency. She got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. It wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.