Five Possible Reasons Why I Didn’t Endorse Your Novel

This title could also be used for a few other things. Why I didn’t influence for your novel. Why I didn’t review your novel. I’m going to go from the most important reason to the least.

Writing1I think it’s helpful to give actual reasons for this. When I first started in publishing, I felt sad and perhaps a little rejected when someone didn’t review my work or fulfill a promise they made. Now that I have 1 1/2 feet in the publishing industry (I’m one of those authors still working a “real” job on the side) I have a lot more insight into why people may opt out of my request.

#1: Time. This is definitely the number one influencer on whether or not I do any of the things listed above. It’s a reality for most authors that they are working a “real” job to support their family. It is an expectation of publishers that you build a platform, build a social media presence, and market your novel. That’s a learning curve for most so our “extra time” is spent working on learning, doing and perfecting these things. Reading for fun and helping other author’s promote their work falls to the bottom of the time consumption list. In reality, if an author did take the time to do any of these things for you, they gave up something else to do it. Be grateful . . . always.

#2: I didn’t like it. Reading is art and art is subjective. I’ve read novels by people I really liked but I didn’t love their work. If I’m good friends with them, I’ll probably provide an explanation. We as writers need to learn to emotionally separate what we put on the page from a personal attack against our person. Just because I didn’t like your book doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Also, this doesn’t hold true for all the author’s work. A good friend of mine chose not to endorse the first book of my trilogy. She kindly reviewed the subsequent books and gave glowing endorsements. If I don’t say anything to you, it’s likely because I think you can’t take criticism in a healthy way and I don’t want to deal with the fall out.

#3: The book went against my platform. This is different than #2. There are some books I’ve liked, but I couldn’t support because of the platform I’ve built– which is medical accuracy in fiction. My blog, Redwood’s Medical Edge, deals with how to write medically accurate novels. If your book has something entirely medically inaccurate, even if I love the story, I can’t endorse it. It would make me look foolish. It would be like a pro-life person endorsing a pro-choice book. In this instance, it doesn’t mean I won’t review it or even influence for it but I’ll generally comment on the medical details falling short in those cases.

#4: You sent me the book without asking. This drops you to the bottom of the list pretty quickly. If I get a book in the mail and didn’t accept a request to review it, I’ll likely not get to it. Often, it’s not something I would read anyway and I’m very picky about what I read because my “fun” reading time has been drastically cut short.

#5: The first five pages didn’t engage me.  There are plenty of books I start that are good in the beginning but leave me feeling ambivalent in the end but I do end up finishing them. However, if you don’t grab me in the first five pages, I don’t have time to get through the rest. I was recently asked to review a book that was published by a smaller press and the novel was edited (because the author credits two editors in the front of the novel) but the novel was difficult to read. Meandering, no conflict, no idea where the story was headed.

If you’re a published author (indie or traditional)– what are some reasons you’ve chosen not to read, review, influence or endorse a book?

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When the Bad Reviews Come {And They Will}

 

bad book reviews

“She needs to have more respect for the process . . . trying to claim that everyone should heal like her.”

The words pierced my heart.

Until then, I had enjoyed a couple good months of positive feedback, those heartwarming days after the release of my debut nonfiction book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice. The book hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases charts and then walked the Amazon {paid} bestseller list {in its genre} for a couple weeks in the top five. It also won some literary awards. But more importantly, my words were reaching the hearts of readers as comments like “inspiring,” “introspective,” “encouraging,” and even “life-changing” peppered online reviews.

That sort of feedback overwhelms a girl with God’s goodness, giving value to this shy writer’s words. To think He had somehow exchanged these primitive ramblings of one who simply longed to spread hope and had used them as encouragement for others, that’s humbling.

I’d finally felt the freedom to say it above a whisper: I am an author.

But then that two-star review hit my screen, attacking my sense of worth. It shouldn’t have, I know. Mentors warned me it was coming; they’d suggested I not even read it.

I didn’t listen.

I determined to mentally counter the negativity and then quickly return to my illusory sense of fulfillment. After all, I welcomed reviews—good or bad. Perpetual student that I am, I’m known to {relentlessly} solicit constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn. And here it sat, this chance for free education, this two-star review therapy.

But in a review-driven culture where we allow others to determine what we read, watch, eat, and even where we spend the night, how can we not be impacted when someone misunderstands our heart?

The judgement sliced soul deep, challenging insecurities I’d long ago buried.

This is the sort of vulnerability we open ourselves up to when we cast our words, our heart, into a public arena that holds potential for not just admiration and esteem but also misunderstanding.

You see, there’s nothing I’m more compassionate about than reaching the heart of a wounded woman and leading her to the restoring, redemptive feet of Jesus. But this particular reader didn’t know that, didn’t know me.

So how do we filter through these words when they come?

  1. We anchor. It’s crucial to anchor any negativity with perspective. We can’t allow disapproval to overtake our thoughts. For the one poor criticism, I had 49 positive reviews from folks who had been uplifted by my words. I worked hard to focus on those. {Very hard.}
  2. Bounce back. To feel defensive at first is natural, but if you find yourself wanting to respond negatively {as in hunt the person down on social media to blast them back}, walk away from the screen and refocus. Immediately.
  3. Consider truth. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Is the criticism valid? Did I somehow fall short?” If so, use this information in a positive manner and seek to write with excellence. However, if the negatives aren’t well-rounded and constructive, the point baseless, you simply have to let it go.

As word-weavers, this should become our default: in the face of bad reviews, let’s practice our ABCs to rebuild our confidence. Anchor. Bounce. Consider.

Okay, I’m curious now: How do you handle criticism?

The Surprising Thing About Book Influencers

My first book is almost a reality. In fact, a box could show up on my doorstep any day.

This stage of the process is humbling because I have to rely on busy people to read and help promote my book. At this point, I reminded myself that I’m not only working to promote myself, but I’m also working for the publisher who put so much faith into my project. That makes it a little easier to do the asking.

Two weeks ago, my publisher’s marketing gal, Cat, asked me make a list of all the media people and influencers who would read and promote my book. Media people? I only know the PR guy at Focus on the Family and a baseball sports announcer.

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Cat said media and influencers can be anyone who has a large audience. That means bloggers, authors, and speakers.  With that being the case, it turns out I know a lot of influencer and media peeps.  So, I collected names and addresses and passed them on to my publisher. Now hard copies are on the way to their doorsteps, too.

So what have I learned that I can share with you? Authors shouldn’t just ask for help from friends. They should ask for help from strangers, and big-time famous people.

Why?

You will be amazed at who says yes (and who says no). When I put out the word, I had some interesting responses: Some of my friends said they were too busy but if I passed along a copy, they’d try to get to it. Another friend hasn’t responded at all. Conversely, famous people I never thought I’d hear back from said, “Sure, I’d be honored.” Others went above and beyond: “You bet, and why don’t you let me put your book in a giveaway at my retreat and I’ll write a special feature about you” or “Hey, I’ll mention you at this event.”

Even strangers can have a powerful impact on your sales. I read a few articles that said if you can find top reviewers from Amazon to read and review your book, it can boost your sales. Finding someone within the top 500 is considered a coup. So yesterday I sent out four inquiries to reviewers who are interested in my genre. Two top-50 reviewers responded, “Sure, send the book.”

Feel free to read the articles about Amazon Top Reviewers here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/RNCWTLEMV71VM

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/16/get-amazon-book-reviews/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/amazon-top-customer-reviewers_n_878262.html

http://www.amarketingexpert.com/easy-tips-for-getting-more-amazon-reviews-now/

I guess the moral of the story is reach out to everyone, pray for the best, and don’t get hurt or upset when people say no. Lots of people will come out to support you.

If you’re a published author, how did you find people to promote your book? 

Generating Buzz Through Book Reviews

beeOptimizing buzz from book reviews can be an key part of your book’s overall marketing campaign, so it’s important to make time for it, even if you’re like me and writing isn’t your primary day-job. 

Allow me to share a few tips that helped me get SIXTY-THREE book reviews and interviews for my new book, Radical Well-being, while suffering only a short-term, reversible case of utter exhaustion. Yay!!

(1) Establish your platform and develop relationships on the Internet long before you ask people to review your book.

When you pitch to book reviewers, it helps if you already have an established presence on the Internet and elsewhere. That’s why you need as many of these as possible (I included links so you can see what mine look like): an author website, Facebook fan/author & book pages, an Amazon.com author page, at least ten positive reviews on your book’s Amazon.com page, a Pinterest page, a Linked-In profile, a video book trailer on Youtube (see my latest book trailer, for example), a Twitter account, a blog (I actually created an interactive forum for discussion about my diet book–with a blog embedded in it), an Internet talk radio show, a newsletter or e-zine, magazine articles, and as many TV and radio appearances as possible. Don’t necessarily shoot for perfection on your Internet pages before you publish them. Just get your pages up and running. You can improve them gradually, over time, if need be.

(2) Pitch to every reviewer you can, and do it early.

I started collecting names and contact information for book reviewers, columnists, newsletter producers, and bloggers in my specific niche about six to nine months before the official launch date for Radical Well-being. As soon as the reviewers responded with interest, I asked if they would accept an electronic version of the book when it became available. If the answer was “No,” I put them on a separate list to receive a bound galley copy (a rough version of the book).

(3) Ask your publisher for an electronic version of your book to send to reviewers early. Also, get the cover art to include with the book file.

Almost half of the sixty-three people who agreed to review my book were willing to accept an electronic copy. The copy was watermarked by the publisher to deter widespread bootlegging. Attach the book’s cover art, a short author bio, and a book synopsis to the book file when you email it to reviewers, and send sample interview questions if the blogger wants to run an interview about you, as well. Bloggers love it when you suggest questions they might want to ask you.

(4) Try to coordinate reviewers to publish on the day of your book’s actual launch date.

Start well in advance. Otherwise, you won’t allow your reviewers enough time to read your book and write their reviews before your launch date! I had to scramble in this regard, as my publisher unexpectedly moved up my book’s release date by two months! Yikes! To help my publicist get the galley copies out in time, I actually printed out cover letters and mailing labels and snail mailed them to her. That way, all she had to do was put the galleys in the envelopes, insert my signed cover letter, affix the mailing label, and send them off. It wasn’t necessary for me to do that, but it freed her up to get me more media hits than I could get on my own, so it was worth the effort on my part.

(5) Solicit radio interviews well in advance of your book’s launch date, if possible.

You don’t have to be a major author to get radio spots. Try for Internet radio! Some hosts with smaller audiences may be eager to have you on. The nice thing about radio is you can PRE-record shows, thus freeing yourself up for other buzz-building activities on your launch date. Plus, you don’t have to get all dressed up or travel far from home like you do with TV. As a side note…. when you pitch to radio producers, keep in mind they get hundreds of pitches a day. Odds are high they won’t make it past your email’s subject line if it’s boring, so write one that’s enticing! My subject line read, “Christian IvyLeague MedDoc/radio guest/author w/ unlimited FREE Kindle diet book downloads for ALL ur listeners, Jan8-12.” Yes, you read that right. I offered my first book, The Eden Diet, entirely FREE, in exchange for a chance to talk about my second book, Radical Well-being. (By the way, you can have my diet book for FREE, too, if you want it. It’s FREE on Kindle through January 12, 2013. Just follow the link above, which I shamelessly worked into this point. Do you see what I did there? Use every opportunity!)

(6) Make marketing opportunities for your book anywhere possible.

The launch date for my new book, Radical Well-beingA Biblical Guide to Overcoming Pain, Illness, and Addictions, was YESTERDAY!!!! Thus, I wrote this blog entry ahead of time and strategically set it aside for publication today. As you can see, preparing promotional material in advance is critical if you want to achieve optimal buzz around the time of your book’s launch.

(7) Send reminders to your reviewers and radio hosts.

Don’t expect everyone who promised you a review or an interview to necessarily remember your release date. In fact, just assume they already forgot. Send them a “thanks again for agreeing to publish my review on [insert launch date]. May I provide any further information to facilitate your writing the review?” Many reviewers responded with a “I’m so glad you reminded me…” or “Would you mind reminding me again in two weeks? I have a lot going on right now.”

(8) Thank your reviewers with back-links to their reviews. 

It’s only courteous! And it’s good for relationship-building. Keep in mind that you might write another book someday and might therefore solicit reviews again from these bloggers! As for me, I intend to publish “thank you’s” and back-links in the February 2013 edition of Dr. Rita’s Christian Health Newsletter, which goes out to over 3400 subscribers. I also posted thank you’s to my reviewers on Facebook and elsewhere.

As you can see, it isn’t easy to create buzz for your new books, but starting early, working hard, and establishing good cyber-relationships certainly helps. A little bit of OCD doesn’t hurt, either.

Do YOU have info to add, here? If so, I’m all ears! What additional advice do YOU have regarding how to solicit and coordinate book reviews and interviews to optimize book buzz? Any and all comments are appreciated!

Blessings from Dr. Rita!

The Book Review Conundrum

As a newly published author, I’ve found the review game an interesting one. Are all reviews good (1 star to 5 star)? What about paid-for reviews or even fake ones? What does this mean for an author?

I’m hosting book marketing consultant Rachel Simeone, with ZetaBlue Marketing, as she tackles the whole review question. I have not worked with Rachel personally but found her information valuable and am happy to have her guest blogging today.

Welcome, Rachel!

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With all the recent news about fake reviews on Amazon, a number of my clients have asked me if it is still useful to worry about getting reviews of their books. It is for several reasons.

First, even though readers are going to look at reviews with a more skeptical eye, they still offer the best “inside information” about your book. Readers who doubt the veracity of the five star reviews will simply begin to look at reviews differently. They will spend more time looking at three and four star reviews, pay closer attention to longer, more detailed reviews, and be more likely to trust reviews by top Amazon reviewers. But these differences will not change the simple fact that they are still reading reviews.

Second, there are a number of book sites out there that will list self-published books for free, provided that they have 10+ reviews with a review average of 4 or higher. Since today’s authors need all the free publicity they can get, these sites are an important source of potential readers, provided that you can get the reviews.

Third, new, positive reviews are newsworthy events that you can share on your blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. With each positive review, you are building in the mind of your prospective reader the perception that your book is a quality read.

Finally, good reviews create momentum. The more reviews you get, the more people notice, take a chance, and buy your book. The more sales you have, the better rank you get. The better your rank, the more potential readers see your book. And once those potential readers peruse the reviews, the more likely they are to buy your book, thus continuing the cycle.

So, given that getting authentic reviews is more challenging than ever, what is a poor author to do?

Friends and family
All writers hope that close friends and family will help them out by reading their book and reviewing it. I suggest that you formalize this process. Send out an email to your friends and family offering them a copy of your book in exchange for writing a review by a specific date. Send follow-up emails to those who request a copy reminding them of their commitment and the upcoming date.

Goodreads Goodreads is an important site for a number of reasons, not the least of which is as a source of reviews. Each time you run a Goodreads giveaway, you end up with a list of people who want to read your book. Contact some of them and ask them if they would be willing to write an honest review of your book in exchange for a free copy.

Other authors There are a lot of other authors out there who also need reviews. Find some authors who write in your genre and offer to do an honest review exchange. This approach can be a bit trickier, because you never want to write a completely negative review of a fellow author’s work. To avoid this problem, be sure to read an excerpt of the book before you agree to write a review of a book. If you see poor spelling, bad grammar, or sentence fragments and fear that you won’t be able to leave a semi- positive review, don’t agree to write one.

Don’t leave getting reviews to chance. With new clients, I generally spend the first two months actively pursuing 10 – 15 reviews for each of their books before the real marketing starts. Don’t skip this important step. Start actively pursuing reviews today.

What are your thoughts? What do you think the value is in getting reviews? Do you think an author should pursue paid reviews?

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Rachel Simeone is a book marketing expert with over 20+years of experience in Internet and consumer marketing. Implementing proven marketing strategies, Rachel develops customized marketing programs that attract readers and deliver sales. She is known for her innovative ideas that exploit hidden opportunities to give authors a marketing advantage. Previously, Rachel held strategic marketing positions at Time, Inc., Williams-Sonoma, and Gump’s, where she developed marketing programs and implemented best practices for America’s leading brands. If you are interested in maximizing your book sales and taking your marketing to the next level, contact Rachel today.

Are You Ready For A One-Star Review?

It’s no fun getting a one-star review on Amazon.  What’s worse?  Having your 10-year-old son read it in front of you.

When Nick looked up, he was fighting the tears.  Trying to stay strong.  Trying to act like it didn’t matter.

Then he gave his own critique.

“You know, Mom, some of this is probably true.  But, you know what really upsets me?  She didn’t criticize your book.  She criticized you.  And she doesn’t even know you.”

Like Nick, I was fighting the tears.  Trying to stay strong.  Trying to act like it didn’t matter.

But public criticism is a big deal.  And first-time authors are never prepared.  I wasn’t. 

Now, at this point in the blog, I’m supposed to give you the magic formula.  You know, the three-step plan to prepare you for a public flogging.  The things I wish I knew.  Wish I did.  Want you to know.  Then, you’ll walk away with some value added, and I can bask in the comments.

But I’m not going to do that. 

Don’t get me wrong.  If I had a secret sauce I would probably share it.  Heck, I’d probably write another book and maybe even make some money off of it.  But since that’s not in the plans (and Rachelle would probably give me a hard time about platform), the best I can do is share my story and let you draw your own conclusions.

Here’s how it works.  When you’re an author, you are supposed to actually say something.  If you’re lucky enough to get people to read what you have to say, some people may actually like it.  Others won’t. 

Certain gluttons for punishment, like me, end up writing memoirs.  So if readers don’t like our story, it means they don’t like us.  Plain and simple. 

In my case, Chasing Superwoman is a very personal story.  It’s my story about my struggles (and failures) being a working mother who admits she is trying to do too much.  And while I love Jesus madly, I don’t always act like it.  This apparently offended a few readers who told me both publicly and privately that I should really set my priorities straight, act more like a “Christian” and hang up my “worldly” ambition.

Sure, I could feel sorry for myself.  I don’t deserve the criticism.  It’s not fair.  These readers haven’t met me (or my darling children!).

But let’s face it.  I kind of asked for it.   Didn’t I?

When we tell our stories, we put ourselves out there.  We make it personal.  We pour out our lives on paper, give people loaded guns, and yell “shoot”! 

Which means we have no business complaining about it. 

Now, if you’re a fiction author, you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with me?  I write fiction.  It’s not my story.” 

Think again. 

We all know deep down that your first novel is secretly autobiographical and that all the characters are based on your family and friends.  So when people criticize your book, you are equally going to feel like they are criticizing you.  Trust me.

The good news?  We not only live through it, we become stronger.  I promise.  (I’m going to blog about that next month.)

For now, just know to expect it.  And don’t complain about it, ok?

Aspiring authors, are you ready for a one-star review?  Old-timers, what’s your advice?  And how do you protect those closest to you — like your family — in the process?