1. Constant, shameless self promotion is tired and loathsome. We (readers) know you want us to know about your book, but there’s a time and a place for that. Show us that you’re an interesting person by your opinions on other books, and your views on the world outside of publishing.
2. Readers are arm-length consumers of your work. We don’t need or want to know that you rewrote this five times while your aunt was sick, your dog died, and your mortgage got behind. Write the best book you can, market it appropriately, and you’ll find an audience. Eliciting sympathy to gain sales is a disgusting (and useless) technique.
3. Arguing with your reviewers makes you look small and petty and ungrateful. We didn’t write our review for you. By even commenting on it, you become a hovering author others will be afraid to try out. By arguing, you’ve lost many potential fans.
4. Hiring professionals is not optional. It’s a requirement. Readers can spot a homemade cover from a mile away. We’ll discover your lack of professional editing before we get to the end of the Look Inside sample. If you don’t have the money to pay for these services, save up until you do. We are all quite tired of paying money to read a book you refused to invest your own money in.
5. We hate when you ask for our opinions, then either completely disregard them, or argue with us about how you were right all along.
6. We wish you wouldn’t use betas as editors. An actual editor has experience and knowledge the average reader doesn’t. They won’t necessarily catch inappropriate punctuation, wordiness, clichés, or every plot hole. Editors are trained to do this, which is why they get paid.
7. For high fantasy authors: please dial back the absurd names. A blurb that identifies a main character with a name I can’t pronounce, living in a land I can’t decipher, struggling to achieve goals I can’t hope to comprehend is not selling your book for you. Example: “A’hama-uran of Chybrecht Kingdom in the hills of Zhuyrx’er’il must find the treasure of Phredrianakist in order to save his shi’tahai.” Just…stop. Please.
8. All YA does not need to be told in first person.
9. All characters in Romance do not need to be drop dead gorgeous.
10. Not everyone is going to love your book. If all your reviews are five stars – and I don’t care if you have a hundred of them – I’m going to be REALLY leery of your book. Not fair, perhaps, but true. Readers want to see some low ratings. They legitimize your work, telling the world that someone other than your friends and family have read it.
11. A low rating without an accompanying review is not the equivalent of a drive-by shooting. What it means is that someone didn’t like your book, and didn’t care enough to spend an hour drafting a review in order to educate you on whatever issues they had. Get over it.
12. If a reader wants to have a long, deep, meaningful conversation about your work, they’ll get in touch. Don’t initiate contact with your readers, ever. Make sure you’re easily reached, and let your audience find you.
13. In the same way that a purchase of your book is not a personal favor to you from a reader, a review is not a personal attack against you.
14. Trading likes, reviews, and ratings cheats the system, cheapens your work, and makes readers not want to participate in what has become a popularity contest among friends.
15. The writing is just as important as the story because, fact of the matter is, if your writing sucks then I can’t even find the story.
16. We (readers) have a brain. Unless you are writing a story for children, cut back on those adverbs…and infodumps…and expository dialogue. I don’t need the entire backstory of your character in the first five pages.
17. TSTL (too stupid to live) characters are painful to read. There’s a difference between naivety and stupidity. One can be charming, the other annoys readers.
18. We understand that you want us to know exactly how a line of dialogue should read, but passages like this:
“Stop!” Jamie shouted.
“Never!” Monica screamed.
“Guys, please,” Bertha pleaded.
Wendell muttered, “This is insane.”
are obnoxious and unnecessary. Once again, TRUST YOUR READERS!
19. Cliffhangers are acceptable only if the next installment is immediately available. Don’t string me along for a year – I’ll lose interest.
20. Physical descriptions of characters should be given serious consideration. I have a decent imagination. If you tell me Betty Lou has dark hair and eyes, I already have a picture in my head. If, however, you want to detail the very print on her lips, think about what adjectives you use. A “sensual” nose, for example… let’s just not go there. “Luscious” ear lobes? Um. NO!
21. Your blog should be entertaining. This does not mean excerpts of your work, reviews of your work, your own interpretation of your work, and lists of sites where I can buy your work. You can sprinkle that stuff in, but readers need more. Entertain us, for crying out loud. If you can’t, you’ll never sell us.
22. We’re tired of vampires. And witches. And elves. Not because there aren’t good stories that could still be done, but because what keeps getting pushed out in no way compels us to read. We’ve experienced vicious vampires, and sparkly vampires, and vampires in training. I’ve personally had about all I can take of any variation on “magic school” (which was already exhausted for me when Charmed jumped on the Harry Potter wagon 10 years ago). If you want to redo something that’s already been done, make it new. Make it exciting. Make it YOURS. Otherwise, why (oh, why!) should I care?
23. And yet…if you want to claim your book is a “different” kind of horror, romance, or mystery, you should figure out how to convey that in the pitch – and without slamming anyone else’s work. Example: “My book is nowhere near as lame as Stephen King’s Carrie. It’s DIFFERENT and BETTER than all other horror.” The writer who posts these kinds of threads has done nothing more than turn me off. What if I really LIKE all other horror? And, what if Stephen King is my favorite author? Unwise, my friend.
24. Rating and reviewing your book makes you look bad. Don’t do it.
25. Adding a little slang and/or foreign words and/or dialect to your dialogue can provide authenticity to a character’s speech. HOWEVER, too much and my eyes glaze over. I don’t want to work to decipher words or meanings. I’m lazy and I lose interest fast.
26. Beta reading is not a gift bestowed upon readers by generous authors. It’s work, appealing only in the potential enjoyment of a new story. If you want betas, you should advertise with this in mind. Give the blurb and ask if anyone would be interested in taking a look.
27. When your friends “vote down” negative reviews and/or argue with your reviewers, it makes YOU look unprofessional. I mean that. Every person seeing the argument assumes the author is behind it. This is fact.
28. People don’t fall in love in three days. They don’t fall in love in three weeks. Lust can happen in this length of time. Or infatuation. But love? NO. If your characters believe they’re head over heels after two brief meetings, or a few long, stolen glances, I’ve lost all respect for them and have chucked your book at the wall in disgust.
29. You have a public image to protect. I’ve stated this in many different ways, in many different places, but it bears repeating. Any public comment you make can alienate a reader. Most of us aren’t that easily offended, but choosing your words and considering the tone of any remark on any forum/site/group/etc. is important. Readers can get away with being jerks – we aren’t selling anything. Authors, on the other hand, are businessmen and women, marketing a product for profit. You shouldn’t be afraid to state an opinion, but you should pause before doing so to reflect on how your words might be taken.
30. Fantasy & Sci-Fi authors – Don’t get carried away with world building. Yes, your futuristic Chicago or secret kingdom of Nu’hrdurf is, no doubt, different and fascinating…but no reader wants a wiki-dump on it. Show us your world through the eyes of your character, explaining only what’s necessary when it’s absolutely necessary.
31. Don’t offer excuses for substandard work. “This is the best I could do,” does not give me back the time and money I spent on your book. Apologize, and find a way to fix the problems.
32. Not everyone wants to write a book. Honest. Criticism is not always based on jealousy.
33. We want to enjoy your work. Time is precious and we read because we love the experience of finding a wonderful story. Though some of us are pickier than others (and I might be the pickiest of them all) we never pick up a book so we can trash it. Something about your novel spoke to us – either the cover, blurb, sample, or a combination thereof. We want to love it, and we’re disappointed when we don’t.
More will be added as feedback is generated from readers…