Respect The Reviewer 2: How to Find, Contact and Stay on the Good Side of Reviewers

A great post on soliciting reviews in a polite and respectful manner, from happymeerkatreviews.

Happymeerkatreviews

Here’s the second Respect the Reviewer article I’ve written (the first can be read here).  This is for all authors out there.  While some tips might be obvious others you may not have thought of, either way I hope some of these tips will help you find a reviewer and go about contacting them the right way.  🙂

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All authors know the importance of getting book reviews. Not only can a good book review encourage others to buy your book but if you get enough of them your book will be listed higher on amazon (or so the rumour goes). But how can authors go about contacting reviewers? And what’s the right or wrong thing to say and do when asking and waiting for a review?

I’ve been reviewing books for some time now and take this ‘job’ very seriously. I recognise the need to give an informative and honest…

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Tips to Help You Write a Novel

A recent post in The Writer’s Digest got me laughing. Titled 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them), the article highlights, in a tongue-in-cheek style, some of the many reasons would-be writers fail to complete their masterpiece. Waiting for inspiration, self-doubt, resentment and giving up are some of the reasons stated and there are others. If you’re stuck in the novel-writing doldrums, here are some ideas to help.

Inspiration

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Waiting for inspiration to strike is a big obstacle for some. The problem is centred around the myth that good writing in only produced when the muse magically appears, or we’re ‘in the mood’ or something moves us to write. The fact is, successful writers treat writing like a job. They turn up on time and do their work, regardless of whether they are bursting with ideas or not. If you wait until a brilliant idea pops into your head, you may find you never manage to do very much writing at all. Often, ideas come after you start writing, not before.

Self-Doubt

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Worrying that your writing is bad is natural. We all have moments of self-doubt about our abilities, especially when it comes to something as subjective and unquantifiable as ‘good’ writing. If you manage to write a novel or other longer work, the self-doubt demon often raises its head about midway, after you’ve committed so much time and effort that it would be a serious setback to give up and start something new. You can sometimes temporarily overcome self-doubt through the support of family, friends and other writers, but the only effective long-term solution I’ve found is to accept that your writing may be bad, but to write anyway. Usually, when you look back you find it isn’t as terrible as you thought.

Resentment

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Taking offence at rejection or adverse comments on your writing is going to slow you down, if not put you off writing altogether. When you spend hours crafting a piece only for its ideal market to return it within days, or even hours, it hurts of course. And it can be hard to accept feedback that seems to point mostly to the faults of your writing while failing to see its merits. But the negative emotion of resentment is a drag on your energy and productivity. The best way to prevent resentment from interfering with your writing I’ve found is to put on your big girl knickers and move on, seriously.

Rejection

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Publishing is full of stories of classics that were rejected 50+ times, and in recent history there have been many instances of traditional publishers rejecting novels that went on to sell hundreds of thousands when self-published. What do all these stories have in common? The writers never gave up. The same is true of every book that appears for sale. Understand the pros and cons of giving up before you make that decision. Giving up isn’t the easy option, especially if you’re contemplating giving up writing entirely. It means living with regret and wondering what might have been. It’s easier to live with hope than without it.

Planning

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So much for what you shouldn’t do if you want to write a novel. What about the things you should do? One of the most important aspects of novel writing is to have a plan. Not necessarily a plan of the novel, but at the very least a plan of how you’re going to get the work done. If you do prefer to plan your writing – and many have found that outlining is the fastest route to completing a novel – I recommend Take Off Your Pants as a valuable guide to structuring your writing. If you prefer to pants it, planning how you’re going to write your novel helps you get it done. Whether it’s 1000 words a day, four hours a weekend or ten chapters a month, setting goals helps you achieve progress. Having no goals is a sure-fire way of allowing life to intrude on your ambitions.

Feedback

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When you have a sizeable piece of work, solicit feedback. This could be from online writers’ forums, writing groups or friends or family who are experienced readers. (Beware – the danger of approaching friends and family is that they’ll only tell you positive things about your work. Kind though this is, it isn’t helpful. Only honest feedback helps you improve as a writer.) As well as helping you improve, feedback can spur you to continue writing, providing you can avoid feeling resentment.

Submitting

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Submitting your novel may seem like the obvious end point of the novel-writing process, but writing and sending off that query letter or sample chapter is a high hurdle for some. Suddenly the novel becomes a real thing in the real world and the fear of rejection becomes insurmountable. One method for overcoming that fear is to view publishers’ responses not as the ultimate arbiters of your worth as a human being, but as a sign of their estimation of your novel’s likelihood of commercial success (because that’s what they actually are). Alternatively, when you’re sure your novel is the best it can be, and you have professional editing and a gorgeous cover, you can self-publish and find out for yourself your novel’s appeal to the masses.

Writing a novel is an ambition many have but few execute, and the reasons are often less to do with practical constraints than the inability to overcome the many obstacles our minds place in the way. If you’re really struggling to write, I recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Though the book strays uncomfortably far into spiritual territory for my tastes, it’s spot on when discussing the writer’s (and other artists’) struggle. Understanding why it’s so hard to complete your novel is the first step to defeating your writing demons. You CAN succeed.

 

 

Shameless Self-Promotion for Authors

Whether traditional or indie published, writers these days need to get over their reluctance to self-promote. Sure, if you’re Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman you’re going to sell books regardless of whether or not you post on Facebook and Twitter, but for most authors, self-promotion is a necessary evil.

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Margaret Atwood@MargaretAtwood

 

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Neil Gaiman@neilhimself

A phenomenon tied up with the creation of art is the notion that if the work is good enough it will naturally find its audience. The evidence supporting this idea is a tautology: we judge that successful works are good because they’re successful; but in fact there are many highly successful novels that aren’t well-written, even when generously assessed. A more important factor in a book’s success is that readers are aware of it.

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Writers are notoriously introverted, and of all professions they’re one of the least likely to be found on social media. They’re also reluctant to use social media and other promotional tools to draw attention to their books. While such an attitude is understandable, it hinders writing careers.

 

The Reality of Book Promotion

Nowadays writers can take several routes to publication. They can submit to literary agents or directly to traditional publishing houses, pay a vanity publishing company to publish their book (an expensive and ill-advised method), or indie publish. Traditional publishers often handle promotion to a lesser or greater degree on behalf of the writer (though many smaller houses often rely on writers also promoting their work); vanity publishers may or may not include promotion as part of their service; but for indie writers, self-promotion is part and parcel of the work needed to sell books.

How to Promote Books

No one likes a braggart, and no one enjoys being spammed with endless Buy My Book ads, so how can indie writers draw attention to their work without being annoying? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of self-promotion methods:

  • Book Promotion Sites

A range of paid and free sites that advertise books have sprung up in recent years. Depending on the number of reviews and the book’s genre, some of these are worth the cost or effort required. Here‘s a list of useful sites.

  • Amazon Promotion Days

If a book is enrolled in Amazon Select, the author can reduce its price to 99 cents while retaining 70% royalties for seven days, or offer the book free for five days, per three-month enrolment period. When advertised at some of the promotion sites mentioned above, these can be useful methods for getting books to readers

  • Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are some of the most controversial for selling books, mostly due to insensitive advertising and overuse, but they can be great resources for engaging and building a relationship with readers who are interested in your writing. Blanket, random advertising is unlikely to be effective, but as a way for readers to interact with writers and for targeted advertising, they’re invaluable. Mark Dawson offers excellent, free advice.

  • Book Review Blogs

Popular book review blogs can introduce a book to many readers, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for writers to get a slot because reviewers often have a backlog of books to read and review. It helps to pick a site that deals exclusively in the book’s genre and follow the submission details to the letter to increase the chances of the book being picked. It also helps to submit the book several weeks prior to publication so the reviewer can tout the novel as a new release.

Poor Book Promotion Advice

There’s a lot of poor promotion advice given to writers, often by traditionally published authors and others who have little or no experience of independently selling books, such as the above-mentioned notion that a good book will naturally sell well. Writers are also advised to write another book, thank their publishing team and be kind to their colleagues (I’m not joking) as methods for raising their profiles as authors. Such advice is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous, and leads to disappointment and a sense of failure when writers put their hearts and souls into writing excellent novels, only to find they don’t magically rise to bestseller status. I liken it to a child being told if they’re good Santa will bring them presents.

Indie Book Promotion in the Real World

The first step to becoming a full-time indie author is to tell a good story and avoid writing badly. This means good developmental editing and proofreading. The next step is to provide an excellent, eye-catching cover and engaging blurb that entice readers to find out more. When those goals are met, the writer needs eyes on the book, which means shameless self-promotion.

Traditional publishing doesn’t rely on the authors writing another book, thanking the publishing team or being kind to sell books. No, it spends great deal of effort and money on book promotion. An unknown indie writer has little choice but to do the same. Self-promotion is essential to recognition, and writers should understand that promoting their books, in a non-annoying or invasive way, isn’t shameful bragging, it’s taking their art seriously and behaving like a professional.

Image of Neil Gaiman courtesy of Wikicommons.

Image of Margaret Atwood courtesy of Wikicommons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes at InBetween

When the TWG spread its wings and visited Kaohsiung recently, we had the pleasure of meeting the organisers at InBetween International and participating in two events inspired by our anthology, Night Market. The TWG gave presentations on their writing journeys, and artists, musicians and providers of natural foods and beauty products joined ranks to create wonderful, cultural evenings. In our downtime we also had plenty of fun exploring Taipei’s foremost southern city.

First stop was – naturally – a night market. Liuhe Night Market provided a quick dinner before that evening’s event. 20151121_18253120151121_18290120151121_18365520151121_184628

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Next we had a great time at the cultural night market organised by InBetween, giving presentations, selling books and making new Kaohsiung friends.

 

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We were also delighted to meet a reader who had asked for both anthologies to be posted to him when they were published earlier in the year. I found out later he also kindly blogged about the InBetween events.

 

After a long day and exciting evening, it was time to wind down with Kaohsiung friends. 12238070_10207118896642968_1734641540323636407_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day was spent at Pier 21, a vibrant cultural centre, and taking touristy photos. 12265921_10207118902123105_6122546492772647310_o 12239254_10207118900603067_9097948950577054155_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yet more was in store for the TWG in the evening of the second day, when we met some writers interested in setting up their own group, and we were able to share our experiences.

Thanks to our gracious hosts, In Between International, the TWG’s first venture beyond Taipei was a blast and a resounding success.