The Inside Scoop on Book Blogs and Reviewers (Part Two)

Submitting a request to a book blogger can sometimes feel like shouting into the void. To understand why you might not be getting replies, or why those replies are not as enthusiastic as you’d expect, I drafted a list of questions and enlisted several reviewers to enlighten us.

My second interview is with Charles Franklin, of This College Dropout. He writes excellent reviews and has a very useful “Resources for Writers” section on his site. When you get the chance, I’d urge you to check it out. For now, let’s get to the interview!

1. Why do you review?

I am aware of the power of reviews. As a reader, they allow me to get some perspective before purchasing a book in this crowded world of content. They also allow me some interactivity with people that I would not ordinarily have. Through reviews, I can ask the reviewer (or even author) questions about the book or make comments.

2. Why indies?

It’s probably the direct, grassroots connection that I have with them. I love Dan Brown’s books, but I know that I have a better chance at winning in lotto than be in direct communication with him. Indie authors are different. I can communicate with them and watch them grow from the ground up. It’s an exciting thing to watch and be a part.

Another reason might be the accessibility. Indie books are often priced cheaper and are quicker to obtain. Before the eBook craze, you might have to wait years before an author writes a book. Now, it be a couple of months (or even weeks). I can get the book online or have it shipped quicker than I could waiting for a book to get to the bookstore.

Yet another reason might be the uniqueness. Traditionally published books tend to be similar. That’s by design. Publishers are trying to sell a lot of books, so they tend to be conservative by nature (unless something blows them away).

Indie authors aren’t bound by those rules, so they can publish what they want. In some ways, this is an amazing thing because you get a variety of unique writing talent that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else. It doesn’t always work. Because anyone can publish. I come across books that make me want say “Please do not quit your day job!”

3. What is the primary reason you might not finish a book?

Content. As you read more and more books (especially good ones), my tolerance for bad books becomes smaller. I can now tell within the first 2 to 3 pages, whether I will finish the book. I don’t know what it is, but if a book does not capture my attention in the first few pages, I’m gone.

4. Have you experienced any backlash from authors after posting a negative review?

I generally do not post negative reviews. I usually provide the comments to the author. Many authors I have come across prefer this method because some authors are new to the process. They may have never even received a review yet or received feedback about their book. Also, I really don’t have the time to post a negative review. Writing a positive review already takes enough time!

I do appreciate those who write reviews, both positive and negative. That is about the only quality assurance readers have with an indie book. That being said, I do positives and negatives about a book. I have also posted a negative book review or two, but never in a mean spirit.

5. How do you prefer to be approached?

Email. I will consider requests by Twitter as well.

6. What turns you off a review request?

  • There are a lot of things that authors do that are atrocious to reviewers.
  • Begging for reviews repeatedly on social media (If your book can’t generate interest without begging, quit writing!)
  • Contacting me when I don’t read the genre (I don’t read romance, erotica, or most YA. I have authors who have mentioned they enjoy my blog and then ask if I want to read the latest new romance!)
  • Sending out mass emails when I don’t even know the author
  • Promoting a book as the “new best thing” and the cover is horrible or the editing could have been done by a third grader (Sorry for being so harsh!)

7. Biggest mistake writers make in soliciting reviews?

Not taking the time to follow the reviewer’s guidelines

8. What pet peeves do you have regarding author behavior?

There are quite a few. I see this from both sides because I read indie books and I promote them. From a reader’s perspective, some big pet peeves are:

  • Constant “Buy my book” posts on your social media
  • Begging for reviews
  • Creating crappy content

From a marketer’s perspective, some big pet peeves are:

  • Not investing in your book’s editing, formatting, and marketing
  • Starting social media or a blog and then abandoning it
  • Giving up
  • Trying to market yourself as a writer after you’ve written a book
  • Not listening to constructive feedback

9. What was your favorite review request, and why?

I guess my favorite review requests are the unassuming ones. These requests come from humble, but good (and creative) writers who ask for a review. I agree to it and the book is absolutely amazing. As a result, I follow them on almost every social media and support them in every way I can.

My least favorite review requests are from the self-proclaimed “best-selling” author who has a horrible book, but continues to go on and on about how their book is so special. Those kinds of review requests make me want to throw up.

10. What have you learned from your blogging/reviewing experience?

As a reader, I’ve gained more knowledge about what I like in a book and what I don’t know. As a person who helps authors, I’ve learned the importance of building and growing an audience.

11. Do you have any general advice for indie authors?

Sure. On social media, be yourself (and promote when you have to!) On writing, write your best and share bits of that creativity BEFORE you publish a book. On marketing, start small but powerful. Ensure you have the best you can afford in time and money. You don’t need to have a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc. Choose what works best to share your story and creativity and invest there. In general, keep learning.

12. With reviews, on the whole, losing credibility, what advice do you have for readers who use these to gauge the quality of new authors?

First, never depend solely on one review for one book. That is a big thing for both authors and readers make. Look at as many as you can. Reviews can be purchased, manufactured, or could just express a reviewer’s mood at the moment. If a reviewer is having a bad day, it can come out in the book review. That’s why you need to look at as many as you can.

Another thing is to look at the reviews you are reading. Most fake reviews are surprisingly skimpy on detail. Good reviewers take the time to analyze and explain why they like or don’t like a review. It doesn’t mean that all short reviews are fake, but be careful. Lastly, look at the author themselves. If the reviews seem OK, but you can’t find the author on social media, that’s a warning sign. If the author has 35 positive reviews and their book only has 22 pages.

13. Aside from review requests, how do you find new books?

My main source online is social media, usually Twitter. Occasionally, I may across a good book in GoodReads or just browsing somewhere else online. Offline, it’s usually browsing in the library.

14. Does price matter?

Yes and no. It depends on the author and the content. Yes, I expect eBook prices to be lower than print books. Is that always a rule? No. If I know an author writes good content, I am willing to pay much more. For new authors, I’d rather stick to low prices until I can see how they turn out.

15. Do technical issues matter? If yes, how much?

If you mean technical issues, like formatting, it’s hard to describe. I normally don’t look at formatting, but hate a book if it’s formatting is too bad. I’m forgiving to a point ( I know personally how hard it is to write a book!), but I expect most of the technical stuff to be figured out.

Thank you, Charles, for taking the time to answer our questions!

_________________________________

Charles Franklin can be found at:

The Inside Scoop on Book Blogs and Reviewers (Part One)

Submitting a request to a book blogger can sometimes feel like shouting into the void. To understand why you might not be getting replies, or why those replies are not as enthusiastic as you’d expect, I drafted a list of questions and enlisted several reviewers to enlighten us.

My first interview is with Sadie Forsythe. She runs an amazing blog @ http://sadieforsythe.com/wp/ and was kind enough to spare the time to answer my questions. I hope you appreciate her participation as much as I do!

(Short disclaimer: This blogger is also an author. You all probably know how I feel about author interviews, but rest assured this is not one of them. Sadie is an established blogger with over six hundred reviews to her credit – reviews she’s written on other people’s books. Throughout this interview, I was impressed by her insight and advice, and truly felt she had a lot to offer both writers and readers.)

Now let’s get to it, shall we?

________________

1. Why do you review?

I have always been a reader, but I didn’t understand the importance of reviews until I published a book. Of course, until I published a book I also didn’t know that there was a whole thriving indie market hidden behind the glossy traditional paperbacks I was used to. This was a truly eye-opening experience for me, one that has changed my reading habits for life.

Once I understood the importance of a review to indie & self-published authors, I vowed to read more such books and review them all. This was initially decided as a way to help out other authors and contribute to the community as a whole. It became so much more, however. It became something I do for me, because I enjoy it, because I learn from it, because I use it as a touchstone of the market around me, because it grants me entrance to a community of readers who find the experience as gratifying and important as I do. Honestly, nowadays, I do it because I can’t imagine not doing it. It feels wrong to finish a book and not sit down and distil my thoughts on paper (or, well, on screen).

2.  Why indies?

It’s interesting. My journey to Indie-reader was both abrupt and arduous. Like I said, I suddenly one day discovered that there were a lot of books on the market, heck a whole market of books, that I hadn’t earlier known existed. And I threw myself in headfirst. (The seemingly limitless free books might have had a little to do with it too.) But over time, the more Indies I read, the less forgiving I became of the utter sameness of the traditionally published books I was also reading. Once I had encountered true variety, instead of the illusion of variety that had previously been available to me, I suddenly saw the formula so many traditionally published books used as painfully obvious. Eventually I found them less and less appealing and read fewer and fewer of them.

http://tonyriches.blogspot.com/2012/07/guest-post-by-sadie-forsythe.html?spref=tw

3. What is the primary reason you might not finish a book?

I very, very rarely don’t finish a book. They haunt me. Just about the only reasons I’ll toss a book on the DNF pile is if it’s obviously not been edited, the dialogue is too stiff to pass for believable (this is just a particularly off putting thing for me, personally) or there is an extremely childish, adult heroine who makes me want to chew through my own fingers to get them to drop it. I’m a pretty vocal feminist and I’m not interested in anything marketed to me, a woman, that perpetuates the myth that women are little better than tall children in need of protection, control and instruction from a godlike man.

4. Have you experienced any backlash from authors after posting a negative review?

Yes, but honestly very little, though it’s infuriating every single time. I’ve also received some classy, if obviously disappointed, responses from authors after a negative review. I think Indie authors, as a whole, are learning to hold their tongue better and it’s becoming less and less common.

What I’m seeing just as much of now is an overcorrection in the reviewing community. As reviewers who have found themselves under attack have become increasingly adamant that they be able to review in any manner they like, without fear of retribution (obviously), a certain cadre have become almost militant about vocalizing and enforcing this idea. To the point that I see the creation and polarization of the camps developing, leaving no room for middle ground or comfortable communication between authors and reviewers in a lot of cases. This can only hurt the writer/reader/reviewer community in the long run.

5. How do you prefer to be approached?

By email…only by email, at the email address I provide (unless I somehow meet you in person). Don’t tweet me. Don’t comment on the review of another book on the blog or on my bio page. Don’t Facebook me or contact me on Goodreads. The address I prefer to be contacted at is buried in my policies for a reason. I want the author to have to have read the policies to find it and if they can’t do that little bit, then they probably don’t deserve my attention in return.

6. What turns you off a review request?

  • Requests that tell me how much I’ll love the book. You, the author, don’t know that.
  • Blurbs that are just indirect praise for the book.
  • Amateurish or overly CG covers.
  • Authors who don’t give me the information I want or the book in a format I request (or don’t send me a copy of the book).

7. Biggest mistake writers make in soliciting reviews?

This:

“Good afternoon,

 I saw your contact on book tweeting service, can you send me more informations about book reviews? Where will you post your review? your blog, amazon, goodreads, Facebook?

this is my new book…

Thank you very much

Looking forward to hear from you

Best Regards”

Yes, that was a real request.

Accepting a review request is doing an author a favour. Reading that book is a second favour and writing a review is a third one. (And that’s before one even gets into what it takes to keep track of and organize all the books in order to provide that review.) There is no reason an author should do anything that creates more work for the reviewer.

Similarly, an ebook (which is all that I accept) costs the author almost nothing to send, if anything at all. It has no monetary value to a reviewer. None. In fact, it’s something that the reviewer has to keep track of, not lose, use and then essentially dispose of. It’s not like we can lend them to a friend when we’re done.

Any author who contacts me with the attitude that they are generously giving me something and thus I’m obligated to return the favor, infuriates me. It’s not the obligation so much as the dismissal of all that being willing to review an unsolicited book entails. I feel like it perverts the power structure of the reviewer/requester relationship and overlooks my goodwill and effort.

8. What pet peeves do you have regarding author behavior?

Arrogance. I try not to get involved in any of the author behaving badly debates. Most of them are just silly, anyway. But there is one particular argument that I see a lot and it irritates me. This is the, “unless you’ve written a book you have no write to judge my work” argument. It comes in a lot of forms. Here’s one I had thrown at me earlier this year, “I personally think that to post a review like this you must also post an example of your own work for critique.”

It was on a 1,000-word review, which personally I would consider an example of my writing. But more to the point it assumes that no reviewer is ever just a reader, that all reviewers must, in order to qualify to write a review, be not only a writer but implies that they must be demonstrably a better writer than the author in question. It insults readers in general and review writing authors specifically. I immediately mark any author off my TBR list that I find saying this sort of thing. (Though to be fair, in this instance it was the book’s cover designer, not the author, who hit me with the above comment on Amazon.)

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1X4M7ORDPS5KN/ref=cm_cr_rev_detmd_pl?ie=UTF8&asin=B00AQPJG0Y&cdForum=Fx7ZP8WHE3JULK&cdMsgID=Mx1YM462XGM4Q6L&cdMsgNo=4&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx2I9MFEXMU4A5W&store=digital-text – Mx1YM462XGM4Q6L

9. What was your favorite review request, and why?

Honestly, as nice as all the flattery is that usually comes with a request (I love your blog, I enjoy your informative reviews, etc), I prefer a bare bones email. Just a basic, “I’m requesting a review of this book, here is all the information and a copy, thank you, goodbye.” Given the sparseness of that type of communication, I can’t pick a single one out…or rather I could pick ten, with little difference between them.

10. What have you learned from your blogging/reviewing experience?

A lot. I have one book out. It took me years to write and it will likely be years before I publish another one. But I read and review a couple hundred books a year. I’m embarrassed to say that I was not a good review requester before I started accepting reviews myself. I didn’t understand what the other end of the review queue looks like. I know I broke almost every one of my own rules at least once before I knew they existed.

When it comes time for me to step across the line and send requests again, I’ll be more organized about it (lists are your friend). I’ll pay more attention to what bloggers want. I’ll put a lot more time into reading their reviews before I ask them for one, so that I understand what they ask for and what they don’t think to mention. (For example, reading the reviews of a proclaimed sci-fi reader could enable you to pick out that they love lasers and star ships but are apparently pretty lacklustre about technological dystopias. They probably won’t be that specific in their preferences section, but you can discover it. And if you have a technological dystopian novel maybe that’s not the best blogger for you.)

I’ll never assume that a blogger who says they’re not all that interested in X might make an exception for my book and send it anyway. I’ll never email to ask a blogger who only accepts physical books if they’d like a copy of my ebook. I’ll never send an ARC that isn’t clearly labelled as such, so they know if the grammar issues are pre-publication or worth mentioning. I’ll never email them 5 times with updated versions.

I’ll quadruple check I have all the information asked for, my links work, and I’ve spell checked everything before I hit send. I’ll ensure that my e-file is clearly labelled with the title of my book, not BlaBlaBla.azw. I’ll ensure they know if I have a time frame and I’ll let them know by when I’ll contact them again if a review hasn’t been published.

Now, I wasn’t guilty of all of the opposites of these, but I’ve seen them all. Many of these things I never would have even considered if I hadn’t started accepting review requests. Basically, I understand the whole process, start to finish, a lot better.

11. Do you have any general advice for indie authors?

Don’t rush to publish. If you can’t afford the editing service, save until you can. Publishing slots aren’t limited; no one will take yours if you don’t hurry.

  • Covers matter
  • I don’t need or want a story recap in the blurb, just enough (1-2 paragraphs at most) to tempt me to want more.
  • Read the polices before seeking a review. Let me say that again. Read the policies before seeking a review. If you want me to read your ~90,000 word book, you can read my 500 word policy page!
  • Don’t feed the trolls.
  • You should be accepting review requests too. You’ll be fanning your good karma, but you’ll learn a lot more than you ever could expect from it.

12. With reviews, on the whole, losing credibility, what advice do you have for readers who use these to gauge the quality of new authors?

Read more, read from the bottom up and discount anything that’s wholly praise or wholly disparagement. Personally, when I read reviews I start with the 1 and 2 stars. If I’m reading the reviews at all, I’m already interested in the book. I’m not looking to find out how wonderful the book is. I’m on the hunt for what the problems are.

Every book has them. I want to know if they’ll be issues for me. I don’t care if a book is extremely violent, so a one star review from someone who couldn’t handle the gore means nothing to me. I move on. A one star that says the main character is raped on page two and marries his/her attacker by chapter 10 is going to make me run for the hills, while it might not others. Take the time to read enough reviews to get a whole picture of not only the book, but who’s writing those reviews. It will likely make a world of difference in whether you find yourself agreeing with them or not.

Also, for me at least, one review from another trusted reviewer is worth ten from strangers. This is why I love sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, etc. that allow you to follow each other. Spend some time finding people who share your views, outlooks, opinions and tastes. Even if you’re not interested in dialogue with these people, finding individuals whose opinion you can trust to be both honest and similar to your own will make picking books (and avoiding duds) so much easier.

13. Aside from review requests, how do you find new books?

Anyway I can! I peruse the free lists frequently. I’m active on Goodreads and often buy/borrow books on friends’ recommendations. I win them. I go to my local library. (The invention of the e-lending library is a personal favourite.) I have a used bookstore within walking distance of my home. I buy them at yard sales and Goodwill. I trade them with family and have even occasionally picked up the floating BookCrossing books. (I always squeal a little when I find one.)

14. Does price matter?

Yes, a lot. I refuse to pay more than 3ish dollars for an ebook. (It used to be more, but I’m trying to keep my book budget down.) I understand authors have to make a profit and I understand that just because there isn’t a physical production cost doesn’t mean there isn’t cost involved in publishing a book that needs to be recouped. Editing, cover design, ebook conversion, marketing, etc all have an out of pocket cost. But most Indie books I encounter are written by unknowns and I won’t risking loosing more than about 3 dollars on an unknown. Plus, being less expensive is part of what makes Indies appeal to me over traditionally published books.

Additionally, I really resent buying an ebook and not being allowed the single, measly lend. I have, more than once, passed on buying a book that was borderline on price but not lendable. It matters to me.

15. Do technical issues matter? If yes, how much?

It matters what kind of technical issues we’re talking about. If it’s just the occasional odd spacing or blank page, no not too much. I can still read the book, so I will. I might mention it in a review, but I’m not likely to make a big deal of it. But if the file is a PDF that opens on my Kindle in a 4pt font and I can’t enlarge it, I’m never reading that book.

It also matters how the book has been presented to me. If I know I’m reading an ARC and that there may still be small errors in it, then I’m comfortable assuming those technical issues will be corrected prior to release into the wild. I might mention it to the author in an email, but I’m unlikely to point it out in a review. If it’s a final copy, especially if I purchased it, I might give up and return the book to get my money back (if possible).

________

Great articles worth checking out:

Tips for submitting books to ereviewers: http://sadieforsythe.com/wp/?p=5449

How to piss off a book blogger: http://sadieforsythe.com/wp/?p=4595

________

Thank you, Sadie, for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

Interviews

Anyone who has paid much attention to me on Goodreads knows I’m not a fan of the author interview.  Too often, these are about people I’ve never heard of, discussing books I’ve never heard of. I always felt they were more for fellow authors than readers, and that assumption soured me on the notion. While I do think authors have a great deal to share with one another (and they should!), I don’t think the best approach to gain a readership is to advertise to other writers.

See, other writers can help you with technique. They can aid you in your search for cover designers, editors, proofreaders, perhaps even betas. They can coach you through a blurb, and show you how to rework a scene. They can be a part of your critique circle, providing knowledgeable, insightful feedback on your work-in-progress. What they probably can’t do is find an audience for your work.

Every author – especially every indie author – is already swamped trying to promote their own books. Though many make an effort to spread the word when they find a great novel, they simply have too much to do to hunt down your target audience, talk up your book, and splash their review all over social media outlets. This is, I believe, where book bloggers come in.

Book bloggers are seemingly everywhere nowadays. They each have their own preferences, their own audience, their own style. Because I, personally, feel they are one of the best outlets to expose your work (I can’t tell you how many new books and authors I’ve found through these people), I thought it would be a good idea to interview several different book bloggers, and share their answers here. Have you ever sent one a review request? Are you curious as to why you did (or didn’t) get a response? Why do they take on indies? What are their pet peeves?

My initial idea was to do one mass interview, compiling all answers below a set of questions. Then I started getting my surveys back and realized doing that would result in the longest article I will ever write here. For the next few months, I will post one blogger interview per week. These will typically be one-on-one, but I reserve the right to combine interviews if the responses allow.

(After all interviews have been posted, I will add a permanent page under the For Writers section with a trimmed down version showing condensed answers for easy referencing.)

Stay tuned. This week, I’ll post my first interview…and hopefully shed some light on the reviewer/blogger mindset.

Kindness vs. Honesty

I’m a harsh critic. Those who’ve witnessed my screening on Goodreads, or read any of my reviews for Catherine Coulter’s work know this. When I don’t like something, I don’t mind telling you. Somewhere on this site, I did mention that I’m overly opinionated, didn’t I?

My recent reviewing streak has not gone well. In fact, I can’t remember ever handing out so many low ratings. Twice, as I was composing a review, I considered letting kindness trump honesty. I didn’t need to detail the errors I noticed, or spotlight poor characterization. A one star rating would suffice, wouldn’t it? Plenty of other people read and reviewed these books and found many wonderful things to mention. Perhaps the issues that bothered me weren’t that serious.

But they were.

When I buy a book (even during a free promotion), I expect to have bought a real book. I’ve been reading voraciously since I was in middle school. My brain is accustomed to certain standards. I know where commas belong, the correct placement of punctuation for dialogue, and when necessary exposition becomes info dumping. If your dialogue doesn’t sound real, I’m rolling my eyes. If your characters fall in love after three minutes of lustful staring, I’m grinding my teeth.

When I’m reading a book, I don’t want to wish for a red pen. I don’t want to think of better ways you could have opened your book, or handled a scene, or introduced tension. I want to immerse myself in your story, lose all track of time, and stay up way too late because I can’t put it down. I haven’t had that experience in a while, and my one-star streak is evidence of that.

Funny thing is, most of these books didn’t come with fair warning. The blurbs weren’t (all) terrible. The reviews might have mentioned a comma issue or two, but they didn’t shout: “NEEDS AN EDIT!” when I feel they should have.

Much as we all say that reviews are for readers, few of us stay true to that. An unreadable book should not have twenty reviews (3 – 4 stars) that say the love triangle was superb, or the characters really shined, or the plot was convincing without ever mentioning that a classroom full of kindergarteners could have improved upon the editing. I’m convinced that these issues are not unnoticed by all but myself. No, what I think is happening is that readers are attempting to spare the feelings of authors.

It’s a kind thing to do – on the surface. A writer once told me that there were a lot of things much worse than negative reviews…like no reviews. A book that by all rights shouldn’t be categorized as such will probably not go far. By ignoring issues and sparing feelings and remarking only on the positive, the only thing you are really doing is losing personal credibility.

Maybe you don’t care about that (although if you are also an author you damned well should). Maybe you just like getting review copies for free, and assume no one pays any attention to what you say anyway. Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t want to be “mean.”

This is not a call I can make for anyone other than myself, but I’d ask you to consider this: will a good review of a terrible book make it popular? Not likely. Will a bad review of a terrible book possibly encourage an author who has prematurely published a rough draft to pull it from the shelf and get some professional guidance? Okay, probably not. But the latter is infinitely more realistic than the former…

 

The Value of Ebooks

There’s something to be said for the instant gratification of buying a book without leaving your house, and being able to start reading it within seconds. Personally, I prefer holding a book in my hand, the satisfaction of physically turning all those wonderful pages…but I’m an impatient person willing to forego that experience if I can have it NOW.

Ebooks are terrifically convenient. Ereaders have bookmarks that never let me forget my place, search options to reference clever phrasings or dialogue. Nowadays you don’t even have to buy an expensive electronic device to enjoy them; I don’t. My laptop has apps for reading Mobi files, ePubs, and PDFs – ditto with my phone. I can read whatever I want, whenever I want.

When I first began consuming electronic books, I was over the moon for the convenience of the experience. I read everywhere, downloading books at a rate even I can’t believe, looking back. With free ebooks advertised all over the internet, cost was hardly a factor for me – until I started looking up bestselling authors and saw that the price difference between the ebook and the hardcover was (in some cases) less than a dollar.

An ebook, wonderful as it is, is not worth the cost of a hardcover. I would go so far as to say it isn’t worth the cost of a paperback, especially given the current outrageous prices of paperbacks. Ebooks are not easily shared. They can’t be resold at (for example) a garage sale. They don’t add to the lovely array of spines gracing my bookshelf. So why in hell would I pay fifteen bucks for one?

Well, I won’t. Even ten dollars is too much and, though I’ve paid that before, I won’t again. I might be an impatient person, but we all have limits and budgets and standards. To me, no ebook should be more than eight dollars. Self or traditionally published, it’s not a physical book. It’s a file, locked onto whatever device you purchase it on (though there are ways around that).

My advice for indie authors is to keep your prices reasonable. Stephen King and John Grisham have an advantage in that their books are in so many libraries – both digital and brick and mortar – that a twenty dollar price tag does not mean their books will go unread. Yours probably will. When pricing your work, think carefully about how much you’ve invested in it yourself. If you haven’t spent ten dollars on publishing, why should I spend even half that to read it?

Fifty thousand words put together does not make a book. Write a first draft and join a critique group. Rewrite the book and hire an editor. Get approval from a dozen beta readers, then pay for a final proof. Once the interior is up to par, find a cover designer. If you’re low on funds, commission an art student looking to make a name for themselves.

Only after you’re looking at a professional, completed book should you consider the cost…because only then is it worth anything.

Unheroic Heroes

Who decided the perfect man was an abusive, selfish stalker? Because I’d like to have a little talk with them…

I’m a big fan of both Romance and Young Adult, and I’ve noticed a recent (to me) movement towards emotional abuse  in love stories. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? A love story, to me, should be the gradual evolving of a relationship from friends or foes to the sappy happily-ever-after. In each genre, the main characters make mistakes. Sometimes the guy comes off as a jerk. Sometimes the girl is painfully stupid. The issues are varied, usually not enough to have me turn my back on the romance, but occasionally enough to blur the line.

For the most part, I’m cool with that. The redemption of any hero can not happen without his having made mistakes. Lately, though, the mistakes feel less like episodes and more like his all-the-time personality.

What concerns me most, however, is the prevalence of abusive leads in novels with romance as the primary theme – especially when those stories are written for a younger audience. Do we want our daughters believing that their knight in shining armor must first belittle them? That rape is okay? That the greatest love stories involve physical and/or emotional abuse? When our youth swoon over territorial, paranoid, aggressive men – isn’t that a little scary?

I always knew my ideal mate would be a kind man with a sense of humor and the patience of a saint. Is that because those were the types of heroes I fell in love with in fiction? I don’t know. But I can’t say it isn’t. My fictional boyfriends were a different breed than Christian Grey. In fact, Peppa Winter’s lead in Destroyed (review to come) made me want to scream.

For grown women, have at it. We all have fantasies, secret longings we wouldn’t even share with a spouse, and that’s okay. What isn’t is the teaching of impressionable young women that pain equates to love, that controlling behavior is the definition of true commitment, and accepting abuse is a demonstration of our own devotion.

Don’t we want our children to be strong? I’ve focused here on the potential damage to girls, but there are plenty of works out there (both written and on television) in which boys are learning that meekness is preferable, respect is optional, and that the enlightened man is at the mercy of his wife.

I could be wrong here, but…in our efforts toward equality, I’m beginning to suspect we are only weakening both genders of our youth.

Love Triangles Are The Bees Knees

You can’t see my rolling my eyes, but let me assure you – I am. Love triangles are not awesome. Not in real life, not in fiction. What began as an obnoxious plot device limited to a handful of titles has become the prerequisite element of WAY TOO MANY romance novels, of every sub-genre. For those of you that love them, there are hundreds now to choose from. For those of you that don’t, you should appreciate the following list of reasons (I believe) they blow.

1. Rarely is the love triangle pure. By that I mean we always knew Bella wasn’t going to end up with Jake. He was her back up, when Edward wasn’t paying enough attention to her. Sound cruel and judgmental? Well, it is. In The Mortal Instruments, Simon was never a realistic love interest for our MC. She never had the hots for him. From the beginning, he was her friend – and that’s how he remained even when the author tried to create tension with a division of affection. Realistically, the third wheel provides nothing more than a reason for the true hero to show jealousy, thereby proving his utter devotion to the heroine.

2. Most love triangles involve one girl and two guys, so that’s the assumption I’m using for my examples. The third wheel (let’s be realistic, that’s what he is) is treated horribly, most of the time. He IS in love with the girl, and suffers horribly for it – holding on to a foolish hope that the real hottie will somehow screw up so much that he can luck into a rebound relationship with someone who doesn’t really want him. I feel for you, Jake, Simon, and every other guy pining for the girl who doesn’t deserve you.

3. The girl involved in these stories becomes unlikeable, quickly. She wants one guy, but keeps the other hanging around because he makes her feel better about herself. She begins to be viewed by readers as selfish and cruel…which is what she is. I hate to keep referencing Twilight, but come on! Bella knew Jake was in love with her, knew well that she valued him only as a friend, but wouldn’t say goodbye in spite of the fact that it was the kindest action for all those involved – including Edward, who suffered for watching the relationship.

That’s all for now. I may, in the future, revisit this topic. It regularly makes me ill, and I like to keep people informed…