FAQ: “How do you get reviews?”

There is a ratio going around that you’ll get on average one unsolicited review for every thousand books you sell. At this moment of writing, I have 115 reviews on GoodReads and 75+ reviews on Amazon. And I can assure you that I haven’t sold a 1000 books per review, more like 30-50 books. And none of these reviews is bought*.

I did a few giveaways on GoodReads that netted me some reviews, but most of my reviews are from two things:

  • I give away ARCs, which are Advance Review Copies. That means that I send reviewers my books before they are published, so they can post a review when the book is published.
  • I ‘request’ reviews from my readers by posting this message at the end of each book:

Thank you for reading the Amsterdam Assassin Series. 
For an independent author, gaining exposure relies on readers spreading the word, so if you have the time and inclination, please consider leaving a short review wherever you can.

Most readers won’t consider leaving a review, because they are not used to voicing their opinion, or because they don’t see the importance, or just because no one asks them for their opinion. That’s why the message at the end of the book is so powerful – I just remind them gently that I would appreciate if they’d tell others about this book they enjoyed, so others can enjoy the books too. And I’m serious about reminding them gently – don’t push readers into feeling obligated to review your books. And be grateful for every review, whether it’s 20 or 200 words long.


 

*Customer reviews now outnumber professional reviews, but that has also made for some underhanded practices – just as you can buy Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, you can also buy reviews, especially through websites like Fiverr.com which trades in fake reviews that are posted through multiple accounts.

Other loathsome review practices are the ‘quid pro quo’ review circles, where authors buy each other’s books and give each other glowing reviews, and authors creating ‘sock puppet’ accounts to write their own reviews and upvote themselves (and/or downvote their competition. Most of these fake reviews are easy to spot, since they are as formulaic as the books they promote, but it’s still profitable since many readers equate having a lot of reviews with ‘a quality book’.

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In Pocket now on GoodReads and Amazon.

In PocketIn Pocket by Martyn V. Halm

As the author, of course I cannot rate or review my own work. What I can do is give you, the potential reader, some background information about In Pocket.

About twenty years ago, when I was working on what was to become Reprobate: A Katla Novel, I had a half-finished story on a busker who lived in a delivery van and pretended to be blind in order to rake in more money. As such, Wolfgang was the only one who saw a murder by assassin Katla Sieltjes, who promptly started hunting him down to shut him up.

The story didn’t work and I wrote a new story with Katla as the protagonist, who breaks her rule of never leaving a witness alive when blind busker Bram Merleyn enters her crime scene. Readers of the Amsterdam Assassin Series know what happened after that, so I’m not going to rehash that story.

In the meantime, Wolfgang was still living in his van with his pet rat Gabriel, but he changed from busker to pickpocket, and acquired a heroin addiction (being one of my characters can be very taxing).

I often write on several projects at the same time, and I kept adding to the story of Wolfgang the pickpocket until it reached critical mass, all the pieces fell together, and In Pocket almost wrote itself.

In Pocket is a stand-alone novel, but it has some connections with the Amsterdam Assassin Series beyond the same locations – if you read carefully, you will find cameos from characters that also appear in the series.

I make free e-book review copies available to readers who want to review In Pocket on GoodReads and retailer sites. To get your hands on a free review copy, send an email to katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘review copy In Pocket’ in the subject line.

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In Pocket cover by Farah Evers


REVIEW: How Do You Deal With Negative Reviews?

Can You ‘Deal’ With Negative Reviews?

I don’t ‘deal’ with negative reviews, since there’s nothing to deal with. A negative review is the opinion of a reader, intended to express their feelings about your work to other readers (not, I repeat, not to you, the author, because that is what ‘feedback’ is for). By the way, I make a distinction between a negative review (where the reviewer criticizes the book) and a bad review (where the reviewer criticizes the author).

I read all the reviews I can find. Not because I like to flagellate myself, but I’m interested in the opinions of my readers, even if they don’t contact me directly. Sometimes you can glean information that might help you avoid a scathing review in the future. File that nugget and go on your way.

The one thing you should never, ever do, is try to convince the reviewer that they are erroneous in their opinion. That has about 0.001% of actually succeeding.

You write a book, but you publish a product. If the product is good, then the ratio of negative to positive reviews will be low. If it sucks, the majority of your reviews will suck. You control the product, not the opinion. If you cannot live with the negative reviews, pull the product.

Personally, I don’t want to give a negative reviewer extra power by becoming upset. Reviews are like the weather, you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s more useful to carry an umbrella than to become angry at the sky for the rain.

There is no book that receives 100% positive reviews. And that is good. Because a book that pleases everyone is probably not worth reading.

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OPINION: The Need for Champions

If you ask authors to list what they dread the most it’s having to sell themselves and their books. Apparently, self-promotion remains one of the most daunting tasks of the whole process, especially for self-publishing authors and trade-published midlist authors.

Even though most people understand the creative accomplishment of writing a book, authors who toil for months and sometimes years to craft a novel are often reticent about spreading the word that their work is available. Not because they don’t want to, but because they are afraid of the backlash of self-promotion.

When we were children, we’d stand up and proudly show the drawing we made or the castle we built and bask unselfconsciously in the admiration and adulation of our parents and teachers.

But when we grow older, many of us are discouraged to speak of our accomplishments. There’s an element of crassness and arrogance associated with self-promotion. We are expected to be humble and wait for people to ask what we do, and when we speak about our novels, we are encouraged to do so with humility and self-deprecation, so people know that we’re not arrogantly thumping our chests over our accomplishments.

How can you tell people that you’ve written and published a novel or even a series without embarrassment?

With the proliferation of self-publishing through Amazon the current offering in reading material is astoundingly high in volume and ironically low in quality. A recent census revealed that 80% of the people living in the U.S. want to write a book. Sadly, not everyone who wants to do something truly excels at their endeavours, so there are a lot of books flooding the market that are not really worth a reader’s attention.

Many readers are turned off by the glut of badly written self-published books that beg their attention. As a result, readers will not listen to authors promoting their books, but they will turn to other ways of deciding what books to read.

One of the most influential factors in choosing a novel to read is when books come recommended. Preferably by friends, because recommendations carry more weight if delivered by someone trusted for their good judgment.

Many readers are unaware of how important recommendations are, especially for beginning authors who rely on the word-to-mouth to build their readership.

Although this counts doubly for self-published authors–who don’t have a publicist or a publisher to coordinate their marketing efforts–even trade-published midlist authors are pretty much left to their own devices.

So how can readers help their favourite authors?

Be their Champion.

If you meet someone who might enjoy the same books you enjoy, tell them about your favourite authors. Write about the books you read on GoodReads. Leave reviews on retailer websites. Like your favourite author on Facebook. Pin their covers on Pinterest. Follow their blogs. Apply for Advanced Reader Copies of their books. Start or join a fan club.

What do you think? Please comment, and let me know I’m not just talking to the void. If you have ideas to increase word-of-mouth, don’t hesitate to share!


Stopped Reading REVIEW: The Killing League by Dani Amore

The Killing LeagueThe Killing League by Dani Amore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I managed to get to 29% of the Kindle version of The Killing League until the lack of verisimilitude deflated my suspense of disbelief.

I had high expectations of this book, due to the enticing blurb, but the story failed to deliver. The characters were described to provide a visual image, but I got no sense of their internal emotions beyond what Ms. Amore told me they were feeling. The writing is not unskilled, and some of the descriptions were quite visceral, but when someone fires a gun in a forest and:

The smell of cordite hung in the air around them.

That’s a huge red flag that someone doesn’t know what they’re writing about. Cordite hasn’t been used firearm ammunition since second World War and the triple-based gunpowder that replaced might have a acidic metallic smell that might be picked up by extremely sensitive noses, but only if someone fires boxes of ammunition in a closed space, like a small room or a badly ventilated shooting range. In the open air? No chance that a smell will hang around after firing one round.

Of course, Ms. Amore is probably not the only writer who mistakenly uses cordite with post-WWII ammunition, but there was more to The Killing League that failed to engage me.

The lack of characterization was grating. None of the characters was even faintly interesting. Not the serial killers, who seemed derivative and unoriginal, nor the protagonists Mack and Nicole, who are both bland and superficial.

The pace was sluggish because the writer felt compelled to fill whole scenes with descriptions or explanations that were not necessary for any mildly intelligent reader to figure out for themselves. Dialogue was often pedestrian and interspersed with dragging descriptions:

“Hey Boss!” Antony Toffol, her sous chef, called out as she started inventory on the wine selections.
“Yeah,” she said. He stood with the door to the kitchen open. Nicole smelled the olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary, shallots, paprika and black pepper that were being used in various incarnations.
“Someone dropped off a card for you,” he said. “It was under the door when I opened up — it’s over on the receptionist table.”
“Okay, thanks,” she said.

I don’t like to ‘force’ myself to read. There are so many books still to be read, that I couldn’t justify wasting my time on this one. Sorry, Ms. Amore, but the second star is merely because the formatting and editing seemed professional. The story itself didn’t rate more than 1 star for me.

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Stopped Reading REVIEW: YA martial arts story.

Girl Fights BackGirl Fights Back by Jacques Antoine
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

As a martial artist, I was interested in this series after reading the premise. Jacques Antoine failed to deliver, however. Apart from various formatting/editing errors, I was mostly irritated by the lack of emotional depth due to the consistent ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ and the random ‘head-hopping’.

The protagonist is a 17-year old girl who undergoes a dramatic transformation after a series of traumatic incidents. I read about 30% of the book, but the story failed to engage me. The martial arts scenes were well-written but too long. After each traumatic event, we are told how Emily feels, but despite the insistence of the author that Emily understands the devastating effects of what happens to her, they don’t affect her.

My suspension of disbelief was finally shattered when Emily changes her appearance by dressing in her step-mother’s dresses, cutting her hair and applying make-up when she goes back to school after the most important person in her life dies and her whole identity turns out to be a deliberate lie.

Wait, what? She’s 17, her whole world is turned upside down, people get killed and the killers might be after her and she goes back to school? Not just that, but she changes her appearance from unnoticeable to extremely noticeable? And suddenly everybody wants to be her friend? And she laughs and jokes with them less than a day after getting chased by killers and watching her father die?

While we’re repeatedly told about the emotional roller coaster the characters seem to experience, they behave and talk as if they have Asperger’s Syndrome. Not a single scene shows any emotional affect.

I understand how the author probably created a kick-ass teenage heroine that other teenage girls could empathize with, but in my opinion that would require a heroine who would also feel doubt and fear and anger and sadness. Emily Kane comes across as an autistic martial arts genius.

If that floats your boat, this book might be something you enjoy, if you can also get past the formatting/editing issues and the ‘head-hopping’, but Emily Kane failed to engage me.

1/5 stars.

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