Category Archive: reviews

Feb 01 2014

How to Improve Your Writing by Reading Your Book’s Reviews

fivestar

There are three things you can do when it comes to reviews of your book. The popular advice is that you should not read them. This saves you from getting discouraged if readers bash your work. You can also read the great reviews only, which requires you to have a friend willing to look up reviews and send you the links to only the four and five-star reviews. Or you can read the reviews (the positive and negative) and learn from them. Here’s how I analyze reviews to allow it to improve my writing, and how you can do it too. But first things first…

Must do:

  • Read reviews when you are feeling your best. There’s nothing like reading a hate-filled review when you’re already having a bad day.
  • Go into it with an analytical eye and a blank doc (or pen). Think of it like an important assignment, you’ll want to take notes.
  • Focus on the common praises and complaints among several reviews. What’s the popular topic readers are commenting on? This is what you’ll have to address most importantly in your future works.
  • Focus on the things you CAN improve. No need to stress over the character’s names when you can’t change them in the next book of the series.
  • Be prepared to do the work. If it’s too easy, you’re not doing it right. A motto you’d want to pick up if you haven’t already (can be applied to anything too).
  • Remember reviews are highly subjective. Know a reader may love the very thing another reader hates. So take caution when making changes, and modify what feels right to you and your vision.
  • Understand this technique may not work for every author. Sometimes success requires a bit of luck. Still, don’t give up yet.

 

Must NOT do:

  • Respond to reviews, especially the negative ones. Don’t invite confrontation or bullies by publicly “defending” your work. Also, some readers are afraid to be honest when they know the author is watching.
  • Try to explain your intentions or correct the reviewer. Each person will take something different from your story that you may not have intended. Remember, that’s the beauty of books, it inspires discussion.
  • Don’t take it personal. Sure some reviewers attack the author. However, they do not know you personally and their words are just assumptions and accusations. Remember that.
  • Don’t focus on things you can not change. Your voice and writing style is unique to you. Don’t change what’s natural to you and what makes you stand out.

 

How to use book reviews to your advantage

When reading reviews ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the majority of the reviewers like? Discover what you’re doing right and continue to do it.
  • What does the majority of reviewers NOT like? Find what you’re doing not-so-good and stop doing it.
  • What specifically did the reviewers comment on? What topic dominated the review? See what readers think of your characters, plot, dialogue, etc., and improve it in your next project.
  • Were the reviewer’s expectations met? What did readers expect from your story or writing, and how did you deliver or drop the ball. Then correct it in your next project.
  • What do readers hope to read in your future books? How can I deliver? Do they mention they want to see more of a certain character, etc.?
  • What do readers want to read less of in future books? How can I axe it? Do they mention what they can do without?

 

 

How reading reviews worked for my series

 

The First Book

In 2012, the first book of my Refuge Inc. series was released. And the very first review was a two-star review from a reader declaring she wouldn’t be following the series. Okay. That was just one reader, right? I mean, the betas loved it. But as time passed and more reviews came in, I realized that although most reviewers liked the story, it wasn’t what they had expected.

So as the reviews continued to pour in. I began to take note.

What was the majority of readers saying? Well, one common interest most of them shared was their fondness of the four-legged companion in my story. One common criticism was my characters being intimate too soon.

So even though I had an outline for the entire series and knew where the story was headed, I knew I had to listen to the readers and alter a few things.

The Second Book

One of the major changes I made in book two was to axe the sex and up the action. And reader’s appreciated the changes. In a lot of cases they actually missed the intimacy! Since the dog was well liked, the dog became the characters’ chief motivation of book two.

As we speak, book two of the series is highly favored (estimated from current reviews and ratings).

The Third Book

So I repeated my actions for book three, which was released late 2013, taking notes from reviews of the previous books. In most cases, readers enjoy it equally or more than book two! (I got this data by comparing reviews of the three books by the same reviewer. In most cases, the reviewer enjoy each book more than the previous.)

To balance the “two much intimacy” in book one, with the “lack of intimacy” in book two, I added one intimate scene in book three. And so far, what I’m getting from reviewers is that it was just right.

Conclusion

I owe a big chunk of the series development to the readers, especially those who reviewed the series or publicly stated their opinions. If they liked the series or not, in a lot of ways, they helped me write it. From the mention of the character’s behavior, to the demands of an epilogue. I listened.

I constantly remind myself that reviews are just opinions, and the fate of the series can change drastically in the future, but (as of today) those opinions helped me write a series that the fans enjoy. And that was my mission.

I still get giddy when a reader says, “I’m disappointed that Adam and Elliot’s story has come to an end.” Only because it feels like I accomplished what I set out to do … create a world and characters most readers would enjoy.

 

 

 

Image credit [Emily Conwell]

Jul 12 2012

Before the Darkness Virtual Book Tour

Before the Darkness has a 14 stop virtual book tour scheduled for July through the 16th and the 30th! Here’s what is scheduled.

VBT SCHEDULE:
Jul 16: Reading Diva’s Blog (Review)
Jul 17:
House Millar (Interview)
Jul 18:
Have Novel, Will Edit (Interview)
Jul 20:
Delighted Reader (Guest Post)
Jul 21:
Literary Writings (Guest Post)
Jul 22:
Sapphyria’s Steamy Book Reviews (Book Feature)
Jul 23:
Nette’s Bookshelf Reviews (Guest Post)
Jul 24:
Reading with Holly (Interview)
Jul 25:
Redheads Review it Better (Guest Post/Review)
Jul 26:
Coffee Beans & Love Scenes (Interview)
Jul 27:
Words of Wisdom from The Scarf Princess (Guest Post)
Jul 28:
Ramblings From This Chick (Guest Post)
Jul 29:
Black Hippie Chick’s Take on Books & The World (Guest Post/Review)
Jul 30:
Reviews By Molly (Review)

Hope you’ll join me on this tour. I’ll see you there!

BLURB:

After an asteroid strikes Earth, a series of violent earthquakes destroy secluded Phoenix and leave survivor Elliot struggling to stay focused in the bleak aftermath. And then he meets fellow survivor Adam. Together, the two search for reliable shelter and other survivors while distant murky clouds fast approach. Their hunt for shelter leads them down an alternate path when they find spray painted symbols directing them to a mysterious place: Refuge Inc.

As ominous clouds slowly shut off all light to their devastated world, they are forced to come to terms with their pasts and their growing attraction for each other.

Neither thought their pasts and personal crises would affect their ability to endure the horrors they’re forced to live through. Neither thought they would be drawn so close to one another in the aftermath of an unimaginable catastrophe. By working together, can they continue to survive? Or will the mystery of Refuge Inc. cause diverse expectations and lead them to decisions that further threaten their lives?

Mar 17 2012

Your E-Publisher May be in Trouble: Red Flags

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, right? Here is a list of some of the red flags to look for in your book publisher. Maybe this can help you prepare for their unfortunate closure, keep you from signing over the rights of future books, or warn fellow authors about said publisher.

These are just some of the red flags I myself ignored when a previous publisher I was contracted with went under. Just because your publisher is experiencing one, some or all of the red flags on my list doesn’t necessarily mean they are doomed, although all reputable and professional book publishers should be up to par in regards to their business and not slack on these important issues.

Warning signs:

Lack of communication:

Your emails are starting to go unanswered or there’s always an unreasonable delay in replies. Sometimes it’s a week before someone gets back to you. Sometimes you never receive a reply.

Lack of professionalism:

A member of the publisher’s staff writes an article on the publisher’s blog about his or her distaste of multicultural books with paranormal themes. Or your publisher shares unwanted personal information such as having to fire a staff member and even shares the details in a mass email to all the authors.

Staff is changing frequently:

They’re going through editors, cover artists, and other staff quickly. Every other week or month there’s a rotation, someone leaves and someone new is taking that person’s place. They rotate so fast and frequently you barely remember your last two editors’ names.

Inaccurate or late payments:

That Paypal payment you were expecting from your publisher on the fifteenth showed up a couple weeks late. And didn’t your statement say you made ninety sales? You’re pretty sure a twelve dollar payment is a mistake.

No website or blog updates:

The same blog post is still at the top of the page every time you visit the publisher’s blog. You’ve been looking at the same post for the past month.

Poor manuscript editing:

While reading other books from this publisher you notice a handful of spelling and grammar mistakes that should have been caught before publication. Come to think of it, you only had one round of edits from your editor too. You looked over your own manuscript more times, and although you have a good eye you still found a misplaced comma here or there.

No sales details:

Sure, you get a sales record but it’s only a Word document containing a list of your books, the amount sold for the month and the amount of money owed. You don’t know when the books were sold, from what retailer, or the publisher’s cut. When you inquire about lack of detail, you’re told the next statement will be more detailed.

Delve in shady practices:

You heard other authors discussing your publisher paying for five star reviews? Or part of your contract was to have at least five of your family members leave reviews of your book on the publisher’s website? Other practices like these that are frowned upon and dishonest spells doom for that publisher.


Keep an eye out for red flags, listen to your instinct and act before it’s too late to avoid being deceived. Are there any other red flags you might add to my list?