Fifty Shades of Telling it Like it Is – Meet the Reviewers Part Deux

I’m back with the reviewers for Part Deux of the interview. What do they have to say about self-publishing and the problem of sockpuppetry? Read on to find out.

  • Question #7 – The ease at which writers can self-publish has created a flood of books available for either free or for next to nothing. The filter through which manuscripts passed (i.e. publishers and agents) is no long there. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Cat Alley

  • From a writers stand point it is a good thing… from a readers it means more is available and a lot at much cheaper price. But what I am also finding is a lot of editing errors. If we continue this way then the writer has to find good editors. I understand that no one can be a perfect editor, but that is why you have readers before you publish your book. It is a reflecting of you as a writer, take more pride in your work.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think the good outweighs the bad. Yes, you get the occasional book that is atrocious, but for the most part, you get such a wide variety of stories and voices. I enjoy being able to read good stories and not being told what constitutes a good story by publishers. Sometimes they get it wrong.

PW

  • From a writer’s point of view, the ease of self publishing is good, however, the author needs to take extra care about typos and editing because it can make or bread their book if a reader has to constantly deal with typos. A few don’t matter, but a lot can jar the story. Editing becomes critical, because you want to make sure character names don’t become mixed up, or situations in the storylines get confused.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #8 – It seems as if reviews are one of the only ways to separate the unreadable detritus from the true gems. Do you think because of this too much emphasis has been placed on the importance of reviews?

Cat Alley

  • Not at all. I think they are very important, but not as important as your beta readers and your editors. Reviewers only help sell it after.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think reviews are a great tool in deciding whether or not to take a chance on a new book, but most readers still go with their gut on a book regardless of reviews. Maybe if they see all ones and twos they’ll pass it by, but for the most part, either the book will pique a readers interest enough to buy, or it won’t. Reviews give a reader confidence to purchase a book they’re interested in more than tell them which book to buy in my opinion.

PW

  • I agree with Cat that a beta readers and editors are critical. The only thing a reviewer is going to do is give an opinion of the book, which can help some people decide to read a book or not.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #9 – Can you judge a book by it’s cover?

Cat Alley

  • The cover is what always attracts people at the beginning. For me that is the first attraction, then i read the back and if it sounds interesting I get it. It is a lot like meeting a new person. You instantly judge if you want to meet them by there looks, then you introduce and make small talk, if a spark is there you learn more about them.

DelSheree Gladden

  • A great cover definitely helps, but it is by no means a guarantee of quality. Two of the most eye catching covers I’ve seen this year turned out to be the two books I gave the lowest ratings to.

PW

  • Ususally the cover is the first thing to catch a reader’s eye, then the blurb about the book. The blurb will actually be the selling point once the reader picks up/looks at the book after seeing the cover.
  • Livia Ellis
  • Question #10 – There have been a lot of reports in the media recently about bogus “sockpuppet” reviews. Does this activity diminish your status as reviewers or make what you do that much more important?

Cat Alley

  • umm.. I don’t watch the news or really listen to it so I have no clue what a “sockpuppet” reviewer is, but it doesn’t sound good.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I think the quality of the sock puppet reviews show through and don’t convince readers as much as the person posting them hopes they will. When someone is posting dozens and dozens of reviews because they’re being paid for them, not because they actually read the books … well, it’s hard to be that creative and write quality, meaningful reviews. They all start to look the same and readers pick up on that.

PW

  • I think that bogus ‘sockpuppet’ reviews hurt legit reviewers as a reader may not trust them in the future. I also feel that this ultimely hurts the authors, as it may give readers the impression that this is the only way they can get someone to read their book.

Livia Ellis

  • Final Question – Have you ever started to read a book with the intention of reviewing it, and it was so bad you just abandoned it before you wrote it up?

Cat Alley

  • I have always finished it if I have been asked to review it published, might not have been a great review but I have a very hard time just abandoning a book… I always hope that it will get better. The few books I have come across so far that has been very hard to finish have been beta books where I could sit down with the author and discuss reasons why it was hard to read, see if it is something that can be fixed or not. But I have had one beta book I could not finish. I am sure it had nothing to do about the book itself, just was not my cup of tea and I could not relate at all to the characters.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I have a weird compulsion to finish a book no matter how bad it is. There is only one book I started reading in my entire life and did not finish. That was back in high school and it still bugs me. However, I have really wanted to quit reading books. With books I review, I try very hard to find at least a few positive comments, but I do say as nicely as possible what the book’s failings were.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I always finish a book and review it if I have told the author I would do so. In the couple of cases that I didn’t particularly care for the book, I try to leave a constructive review. There is only one book I can think of that I absolutely could not bring myself to finish, and that was the second I’m the Shades of Grey series. Thank you so much for doing this! It has been fun!

PW

  • I always finish a book I get for review. I may not like the book, but try to give some positive remark if possible. If I end up reading an author with two books I don’t like, I just don’t get their books to read. It’s not fair to the author. I have actually not finished a couple of print books because I just could not deal with errors or storyline, but they were not something I was going to be reviewing.

Livia Ellis

  • Final Final Question… anything you’d like to add?

PW

  • This has been fun and I look forward to the blog. Thanks for the questions and getting to meet other reviewers.

Samantha Truesdale

  • Thank you so much for doing this! It has been fun!

DelSheree Gladden

  • Thanks for the fun questions! Can’t wait to see the blog next week!

Cat Alley

  • I want to thank you for taking the time to ask me what I think in general of my process. I can’t wait to see your blog!!

The Two Scariest Words in Publishing – Synopsis and Outline

Emily Dickinson. She lived quietly. Wrote a few things between the beginning and the end.  Died. Had her brother and his lover publish her poems. Then became famous.  Personally I’d like to get published while I’m still alive. Fortune and glory isn’t really my goal. Telling a good story that people enjoy reading is. So, unlike Emily Dickinson, I’m putting what I have to offer out there.

I’m playing it safe and leaving no stone unturned. To that end I’ve self-published the first of a twelve part series –  Memoirs of a Gigolo, I’m signed with two small publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver Books, and I’m going to take a stab at once again trying to court an agent. This isn’t my first voyage of the damned – I’ve tried traveling this road before – I usually get hit by a couple of cars (big American made cars, not tiny little Japanese hybrids) then give up.

After a bit of email repartee with a friend that has not only an agent and a publisher, but also a couple of best sellers racked up on his score card and very little tolerance for my “incessant pissing and moaning” about the injustice of the publishing world when I refuse to “suck it up and play the game”, I’m going to try to tackle a synopsis and outline that might get me some airtime with an agent.

I’ve finished a manuscript that ticks every box for me. It’s topical. It’s well written. I’m passionate about the characters. It has commercial appeal. I love it. It’s YA dystopian with a Hunger Games meets 1984 vibe. I’m too paranoid to give up any details. I get like that when I really like something I’ve produced. I clutch my manuscript to my chest and start looking over my shoulder. I will say I’ve drawn extensively from my knowledge of ancient Persia and modern day Islamic nations, found a character that turns from a lump of coal into a diamond under pressure, and then added a healthy dose of the more things change the more they stay the same.  I think it’s worthy of publication. More than that. I think I have a break-out novel on my laptop. I’ve read what a lot of the publishers that deal strictly in YA have to offer and it stands up compared to other works.

So what next? I must confront the blank page and write a synopsis & outline. Then it’s time to open the proverbial kimono to the world to be told either yes, I have nice boobies or no, my bottom is flabby. Because that’s what it’s like.  As marvelous as I know my manuscript is, unfortunately I can’t walk into Simon & Schuster or Scholastic and hold a gun to the receptionists head until she calls an editor to disarm me. Even if she did call an editor and got them to come down to the lobby, I’d have to turn the gun on the editor and then I’d have to wait while they read my brilliant manuscript, my arm going numb from holding up the gun for so long… let’s just say it’s not done.

So I need to write a synopsis & outline. I really really really don’t want to. I never know what to write. How to condense 100k words into a couple of pages? It’s not like I haven’t tried. I even have a file filled with rejection letters from agents on my laptop. My famous writer friend that has no tolerance for my “whinging and f***ing moaning” doesn’t mind letting me know that he “sucked it up and f***ing did it”, so I have to too. He hated it. Everyone hates it. I have yet to find the writer, published or not, that finds either of these tasks less than daunting. But it has to be done. There is no way around it unless you’ve already proven yourself and the dynamic has shifted.

I’m no quitter, and I don’t really take rejection on the nose, but I’m not great at selling myself. If there was another way, I’d grab it. But I don’t think there is. So I’m off to write a synopsis and outline.

How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

Dear Readers (can I write dear readers without sounding twee? I don’t think so, but anyhow…) –
Earlier this week I had a bit of a professional crisis wondering how the heck a little ant like me could make it to the top of the publishing heap when those who had made it were making a concerted effort to be jerks. My post about the skulduggery of R.J. Ellory reached more than a few people who were outraged, but also had been around enough to know that he is just one bad example in a world filled with people that truly to go out of their way to help others.
Anne R. Allen, author, blogger, speaker, and all around decent human being that would never write a spiteful review of anyone’s work, commented on my post, and added a link. The topic, one which I had been discussing at length with another writer that is struggling as much as I am, how to query a book review blogger. The very thing I’d been biting my lip and scrunching my nose trying to figure out. And voila – in the way that only these things can happen serendipitously, the answer was presented to me.
I have cut and paste Anne’s recommendations below. I do encourage you to have a look at the full post. We may have Anne around later, so please feel free to leave your thoughts, impressions, and questions.

How do you find interested book bloggers?

The best way is to check similar books in your genre—especially those that have been recently released. Do a search for those titles with the word “review” and read as many reviews as you can. Make a list of the reviewers you like and read the review policy.

Almost no blogger will take all types of books. Some only read traditionally-published paper books; others want only indie ebooks for Kindle. Some specialize in Nook. They almost always have specific genre requests, so read carefully, and always follow them. Even if the blogger agrees to do a review outside their genre, you won’t reach the right readers. People don’t go to a chick lit review site to discover the latest zombie gore-fest.

How do you approach them?

You should make initial contact with a query—the same way you approach other gatekeepers like literary agents and editors. This means you send a professional letter—not a Tweet or wall post on Facebook.

Here are some general rules for scoring a review:

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
  • Then, um, follow the guidelines carefully.
  • Never send an unsolicited book: query first.
  • Don’t query with books outside the prescribed genre. Personalize the query.
  • Keep queries short and intriguing.
  • Don’t take it personally if they turn you down. Reading takes a lot of time and most of them are swamped.
  • Understand the review is for the READER, not the writer, so negative reviews happen.
  • If you get a less than stellar review, mourn in private and move on. NEVER respond to a negative review.

Last November I interviewed popular childrens’ book blogger Danielle Smith of There’s a Book, and she gave some great advice on how to get your book reviewed by a blogger. She says the best way to approach a book blogger is to keep your query professional, but show some personality.

Reviewer Danielle Smith’s guidelines for authors:
  1.  Make sure you address the blogger by name
  2. Include a two to four sentence synopsis—no longer
  3. Keep personal information to a minimum. And don’t guilt-trip.
  4. Attach an image of the book cover
  5. Give the age range of the intended audience
  6. Include the page count (for print books)
  7. Provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.
  8. Don’t ask for a review outside the blogger’s genre
  9. Don’t query if you don’t have a website or a blog. (That screams “unprofessional” to a blogger.)

In other words, treat the book blogger like a professional and she will reciprocate.

If you want to know more about book bloggers and how to approach them, Danielle Smith is leading a panel at the Central Coast Writers’ Conference with several Book Bloggers, including Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, and Pam Van Hylckama Vleig aka Bookalicious Pam who is also an agent with San Francisco agency Larsen-Pomada.

And if you want to read some genuine, not-paid-for Amazon reviews, here are some hilarious ones for a set of Bic pens.

How about you, scriveners? Would you ever consider paying for reviews? Does this change your opinion of John Locke? Do you read book review blogs?