Archives for posts with tag: reviews

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I recently received an promotional email (no personalized salutation) from an indie author saying she noticed I’d reviewed a book similar to one she had just written and if she sent me a free e-pub edition would I be interested in reviewing hers?

What interested me was how she went about selecting reviewers? It must be an onerous task to go through reviewers on Amazon, even after applying the appropriate filters in regards to genre, and extract their emails. And once you have them there is no guarantee they’re going to review your book, or for that matter give you a good review.

So I agreed to review her book on the condition she tell me how she got my email address and any other tips she might have on marketing. To sweeten the deal I even purchased her book, very uncharacteristic for me.

She responded favorably and has been very forthcoming. Here’s what she has undertaken so far in producing and marketing her novel.

She says she wrote this book, her second in a series, taking into consideration the requirements and preferences of traditional publishers because she thought she might approach agents and traditional publishers with it.

“In the end, after reading several articles and consulting with the other authors in my two writers’ groups, I decided that self-publishing is actually the better option. If you’re interested in my reasoning, let me know.”

I am interested and will be asking her why she’d turn down a traditional publisher to become a self-publisher? Her previous book was also self-published so it’s not like she switched.

So how did she come up with my name and email address and those of other reviewers?

The answer is she bought a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (lots are available on the internet).

It works like this – you choose as many books as you want that you feel are similar to yours and receive what’s essentially an excel list of all the people who reviewed those books. The vast majority don’t have an email address but there are plenty that do.

So what to do with those email addresses?

She down loaded an app called Group Mailer because it makes sending out group emails easy.

So how is she doing?

“In about three days I’ve had about forty-five people agree to read and review a free version of the book and an additional twenty who declined the free copy and purchased the book to review it.”

Now that’s impressive, not the forty-five who agreed to review it, but the twenty who declined a free review copy and bought one. Who are these people?

She says she has another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she has yet process.

She’ll be running a 99¢ campaign for the e-book edition for two days on Amazon and one day free book promotions on Pretty-Hot Books and Discountbookman, spending ten dollars for a featured promotion on bookreadermagazine and running a giveaway on Goodreads.

She also has had no problem asking friends, colleagues and clients to buy her book and she anticipates reviews from about twenty percent of them.

She’s asked the other writers in her writers’ groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and has started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.

If that isn’t enough, and it probably isn’t, she’s considering spending $720 to have BookBub promote her book. BookBub claims the campaign will sell 2700 books, and the members in her writers’ groups unanimously support these stats saying they’ve received three times the return on their investment with such a promotion.

There’s a caveat here – BookBub only accepts professionally produced, error free books. They seldom accept new releases, preferring you have a proven track record with reviews. If you qualify be prepared to cut your price to the bone. Even if you want to promote with BookBub you may not make the grade.

To produce her book she hired two beta readers at $50 each and got a book cover artist from her writers’ group to design her cover for $65. No editor was needed as she just happens to be one herself.

So far her hard costs have been $375. Results are pending.

A lot of what she’s doing I’ve done:
– I have an Advance Reading Team e-mail list of a little over 200 who receive my new books free to stimulate buzz and encourage reviews.
– I have offered giveaway promotions on Goodreads, LibraryThing and BookLikes.
– I send a press release to local media offering them a book in return for a review
– I blog, and promote on Facebook and Twitter
– I have three beta readers who read my books free and are recognized on the book’s Acknowledgement Page.
– I edit my own books and design my own covers

Some of what she’s doing I’ll never do.

I have never solicited family, friends, colleagues or clients to buy my books. In my opinion it’s unprofessional. Besides I want my books to be bought because they’re well written and entertaining, not out some misguided obligation or as as way for someone to ingratiate themselves to me.

My hard costs on my last book were zero.

And so have the results.

Of course, there’s always the elephant in the room – the quality of the book.

I’m watching how this book launch does and hoping I can learn something. Maybe you will as well.

Speaking of book marketing…

CreatorCollabs Boosted Tweets
So out of the blue I get a promotional tweet about CreatorCollabs (CC) Boosted Tweets. Basically, post a tweet and share it on CC. Other CC users see your Tweet and share it with their online audiences. In-turn, you need to share content created by others to ensure your points stay high to continue to get access for your tweets.

There’s a free and paid plan. Of course, I used the free one.

For a week I loaded Tweets about my plays, Harry’s Truth and End of the Rope, available free on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin until December 31, 2017. In return I retweeted content about the books of other authors.

They have a stats bar so you can check how many people you’re apparently reaching. Here’s the results of one of my tweets.
– The number of retweets my tweet received from my own twitter followers = 0.
– The number of retweets my tweet received through CreatorCollabs Community = 7
(increase 700%)
– Number of my followers my tweet reached = 50
– Number of followers my tweet reached through CreatorCollabs Community = 10,131
(Increase 20,262%)

Increase in books sales in response to this enormous increase in reach = 0
Increase in activity on my website and book sales platforms = negligible.

Just another case of nobody being interested in anyone (or their books) but themselves – including me.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

Web addresses associated with this article:

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/home/overview.php
Book Reader Magazine http://bookreadermagazine.com/
Discount Book Man http://discountbookman.com/
Pretty-Hot.Com http://pretty-hot.com/
Groupmail http://group-mail.com/

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Author Amazon Page
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013287676486

 

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I want you to take a look at some research I’ve done and see if you come to the same conclusion I do.

Lets start with two novels I reviewed that are written by local Vancouver authors.

The first is The Continuation of Love by Other Means by Claudia Casper.

It has one, two-star review on Amazon.com, which I wrote, and two reviews on Amazon.ca, one of which is also mine, averaging three stars.

Lucky by Kathryn Para, the winner of the second search for the Great BC Novel, has two reviews on Amazon.ca, one mine and one that appears to be by a personal friend who “visited her at home”. The average is four stars. On Amazon.com Lucky has five reviews (including mine) for an average of four stars.

Not so stellar I’m thinking when you compare them to my latest novel, The Local Rag which has seven reviews on Amazon.com (none of which I wrote, paid for, or pleaded with friends to review) for an average of four stars, and one on Amazon.ca of five stars.

So how come both these women are getting paid reading gigs and interviews with main stream media and I’m getting nothing?

Upon further investigation I discovered local poets who are garnering the same acclaim with the local literati but zero with Amazon reviewers. Some didn’t even have their books available on Amazon or at the VPL.

I’m not disparaging these other local writers and I’m happy for their success, even though it would appear, at least on Amazon, that my latest book is more popular then theirs.

So what’s the difference between them and me?

One thing. They all have traditional publishers.

Sure, their publisher may be some small press operating from a barn just north of Nowhere, Saskatchewan, but these authors didn’t self publish. One way or another they got their manuscript accepted and published by a bona fide (?) Canadian publisher who’s likely getting significant grants from the Canadian government just for existing.

I’ve traveled the submissions route before and it’s like living in suspended animation. You send out your manuscript and wait at least six months. By then maybe you’ve heard something, maybe not. You decide to continue to wait or accept that the recipient of your work is not even gracious enough to let you know they threw your manuscript in the garbage, and you move on.

You have no idea what’s going on, you have no control over the process. You are, in a word, powerless. No wonder so many authors choose to self-publish their work.

Unfortunately, you’re very, very unlikely to receive any critical acclaim if you follow the self-publishing path and that’s because there’s a stigma attached to self-published books and regrettably it’s deserved.

With the increasing ease of self-publishing and the complete lack of gatekeepers self-published books have become an anathema to the serious writer. It’s estimated Amazon carries 37 million self-published titles, up 438% since 2008. Most of these books are terrible or mediocre at best. Finding a well written, good story among all this dreck is near impossible and every one has come to realized it including credible publishers, agents, reviewers and even readers.

For me to self-publish another novel is futile. I’ll garner a handful of positive reader reviews, fewer sales and that’s it.

So I’m going back to researching potential publishers and submitting my manuscripts, the first being East Van Saturday Night, four short stories and a novella.

It’s deja vu all over again only this time I’m older (not necessarily a plus), smarter (at least in this arena) and a far better writer.

It’s time for real critical acclaim and credibility as a writer – or not.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

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Find reviews, blurbs and buy links to my seven novels and two plays at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Facebook for writing news, my experience as a writer as well as promotions, contests, giveaways and discounts regarding his books

https://www.facebook.com/Rod-Raglin-337865049886964/

 

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

 

Cover Art of books by self-published authors at

https://www.pinterest.com/rod_raglin/rod-raglins-reviews-cover-art/

 

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

 

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

 

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

 

 

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When it comes to my writing and friends and family I’ve established clear boundaries. Here they are:

– I don’t talk about my writing even if asked. Those enquiring are usually only doing so to be polite and aren’t really interested. In any case, listening to someone talk about their writing is profoundly boring – even for me and I’m a writer.

– I don’t solicit reviews or ratings from them. I try to avoid even the faintest hint of conflict of interest in the support and criticisms I get.

– I very rarely give them my books. If they’re interested they can buy one.

I once went to a birthday party  where a friend’s partner had rented a gallery and had a show professionally mounted of her paintings. Needless to say, most of those attending bought some of her art. She was thrilled.

This to me is not a measure of artistic merit. I didn’t buy anything,  in fact, I was surprised and not a little offended. This was hardly better than  a Tupperware party.

I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to take advantage of my friends and family. I don’t want to demean myself and my work.

The independent publishing industry is rife with nepotism, gimmicks, and chicanery – all geared toward reaching bestseller status. I don’t care if I’m a bestseller, but I do want to become a better writer. I think these practices prevent that from happening by creating a false sense of accomplishment.

You think you’re good, but your not. You’re delusional.

I don’t know if this stand has hurt my sales or not. If it has it hasn’t been significant because I’m just not that popular – with friends or family.

I’ve also developed guidelines for social media.

I don’t solicit followers on Twitter, don’t “friend” people on Facebook, and don’t appeal to viewers to “like” or “subscribe” to my YouTube channel.

I do encourage comments and criticisms which I faithfully respond to and hopefully learn something from.

Amazingly, some people chose to follow me which is gratifying because it definitely is not reciprocated.

I had one expert tell me “social media is not for you”. Really? Maybe just not her kind of social media, the kind where friends and followers are little more than meaningless numbers and bare no resemblance of reality.

I still believe a social media following can be built by someone who has something interesting and original to say regardless of whether he’s a friend, follower or subscriber.

Later this month I’ll be waiting with Linus in the pumpkin patch.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

30

 

Find reviews, blurbs and buy links to my seven novels and two plays at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Facebook for writing news, my experience as a writer as well as promotions, contests, giveaways and discounts regarding his books

https://www.facebook.com/Rod-Raglin-337865049886964/

 

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

 

Cover Art of books by self-published authors at

https://www.pinterest.com/rod_raglin/rod-raglins-reviews-cover-art/

 

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

 

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

 

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

 

 

 

 

NROW_0006My Goodreads giveaway https://www.goodreads.com attracted twelve hundred and seventeen entries to win four paperbacks. Loving the Terrorist received five hundred and thirty-four and Saving Spirit Bear six hundred and eighty-three.

I just mailed the books to the four winners and the postage was $51.50, half of that was to send one book to a winner in Australia.

Tip: You might want to limit the entries to Canada and United States unless you’re rich or have a big following overseas.

When you factor in what Createspace charged me for print-on-demand copies and shipping the entire giveaway cost $88.98

Results? I did garner one five star review on Goodreads for both Saving Spirit Bear and Loving the Terrorist – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs and…hold on, what’s this, two hundred and sixty-five other Goodreads members have marked Saving Spirit Bear “to read”?

I’m flattered, but I’m thinking it might be a computer glitch.

Forty-five people took advantage of my LibraryThing e-book giveaway https://www.librarything.com of The Big Picture – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic. This cost me nothing except about an hour and a half sending emails.

So the question is which giveaway is better:

Goodreads with twelve hundred and fifteen entries and four paperbacks given away at a cost of $88.98?

or

LibraryThing with forty-five entries and forty-five e-books given away at no cost?

I’ll let you know, but considering I’m expecting the net result in reviews and sales from both giveaways to be little better than nothing I’m leaning toward the least expensive. I mean, wouldn’t you?

I see I have a royalty credit on Smashwords for $4.47 and Kindle Direct is sending me an electronic deposit for 35¢ USD (which will actually net out to about 45¢ CA), so once again I’m starting the year in a deficit position of about $84.00.

What was I thinking?

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Abandoned Dreams

Special Preorder Price 99¢ ’til March 6, 2016

After March 6, $3.99

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0191B3XDE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

Cover Art of books by self-published authors at

https://www.pinterest.com/rod_raglin/rod-raglins-reviews-cover-art/

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and a buy link to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS Book 3, Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

ECO-WARRIOR Book 1, Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success? is available at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

ECO-WARRIOR Book 2, Loving the Terrorist – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs is now available as in paperback at

http://www.amazon.com/author/rodraglin

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

 

SunsetChurch123114_0031As per the previous blogs regarding my commitment to review new, self-published authors. I wrote a review of indie author HJ Lawson’s novel, War Kids. She responded. I responded to her response. Hence – a review, a response, and reality – at least from my perspective.

Weak writing hinders well conceived story

War Kids starts with a BANG! in the middle of the action. Jada, a fourteen year-old girl wakes up to witness a horrific scene – the hospital she is recovering in has been bombed. You never know how she got there or what her injuries are, but she’s fit enough to escape the ruins.

Zak is at school when the soldiers arrive and begin indiscriminately killing everyone. He manages to escape as well.

So starts the individual journey’s of Jada and Zak through war torn modern day Syria to try to reunite with their families.

Author, HK Lawson has picked a contemporary theme and packaged it with an excellent cover, but unfortunately her writing is not up to the task.

Very early on the author’s inexperience becomes apparent. She uses capital letters like BANG to indicate gunshots, THUD, THUD, THUD, is the sound of heavy boots. Rather than find appropriate descriptive words and images she resorts to capitalization and punctuation (there are 463 exclamation marks in the book) including the combination ?! (used 21 times) which is supposed to indicate what I’m not sure, questioning shock perhaps?

Gratuitous profanity is also used for emphasis, though oddly it’s mostly in the character’s thoughts and not in their dialogue where it might have been put to good use.

Clichés abound, diction is limited with the use of “horror, horrific, horrible”, and “hell” repeated countless times as is “God” (used 55 times).

The narrative is littered with horrific events and human tragedies but because the characterization is so shallow and one-dimensional I never got to know anyone as a real person and so the impact on this reader was minimal. Except for their gender the children could be interchangeable, they are all good, virtuous and brave; the soldiers are all bad, evil and cowards.

The author gets caught up describing the details of the action, much of which would be better left to the reader’s imagination, but comes up short on giving the character’s reaction to events which would help develop their personalities and create reader empathy.

Another example of the lack of craft is displayed when the author launches into a couple of pages of back story about how Jada’s father taught her to use a gun just as she’s about to blow the brains out of a bad, evil, cowardice man intent on raping her.

Half way through the novel it reverts to a YA romance, but here again the lack of depth in the characters and their reaction to these new feelings left this reader unsatisfied.

The plot is a bit convoluted and at one point flashes back 19 years and introduces and entirely new line that really stretched this reader’s suspension of disbelief. The story would have perhaps been better served if it would have stayed focused on the two original protagonists and delivered from just two points of view instead of six.

Nitpicking issues include a BBC journalist allowing an interviewee to editorialize to an international audience – would never happen, I know, I’m a journalist.

As far as I can discern, the UN has had a limited presence in Syria in the role of observers. Whenever the heavy hitting begins they pull out, so it’s not likely they would be rescuing any civilians from a bombed hospital as the reader is lead to believe near the beginning of this story.

And what about religion? Only ten percent of Syria’s population is Christian, yet all the children in this novel pray to God not Allah.

The lack of political context could be justified by the fact the characters are children, however, the kids I know, at the very minimum, reflect the parent’s prejudices. I think the lack of understanding of the situation may have more to do with the absence of research into the issue. Consider this paragraph by the character Faith, an international doctor in the war zone, delivered to a BBC television reporter.

“Suffering has gone beyond all boundaries. There is no safe place left. Syria has become a battlefield. Every aspect of human rights, freedom, and citizenship are lost from view, and no one cares. Entire villages have been cleared off the map. Innocent children are being massacred, and a whole generation is being erased. For what? I pray every single moment that the government and all political parties around the world will engage with the rebels. The rebels are capable of engaging in dialogue, because if they do not, the blood of the innocent is on their hands. All of their hands.”

For what?

Well, there’s obviously some motivation though you may not agree with it. Deep background and an understanding of the characters’ situation, inserted subtly, can give the story more authenticity.

Engage with the rebels? What exactly does Faith mean when she says this? Does she mean negotiate with the rebels for a truce? Is this an example of using the wrong word?

The rebels are capable of engaging in dialogue because if they…?

Who are they and what do they want to engage about? Again, should this read “negotiate”?

Blood of the innocent is on their hands …?

Whose hands – the rebels, the government (and which government is that), political parties around the world, everyone’s?

This story has potential and is well conceived. All it needs is for the author to log her 10,000 hours before writing it.

I received this book free from the author in a giveaway sponsored by BookLikes.

Hi Rod,

Thank you for time reading and reviewing the book (War Kids). As an fellow indie author you understand how difficult it is to get your book in front of people. 

It’s just a shame you didn’t like it, I am very new to the writing world. In fact I’ve hidden away from writing for many years due to my dyslexia. Writing War Kids gave me the confidence to share my work, it may not be the best but I love it. I continue to learn and understand this very alien trade to me. 

Hayley Lawson

Author of WAR KIDS

Dear Hayley,

Being an indie author is frustrating, but writing for me is so much more than getting published – even than getting read.

Ironically, most of what I’ve learned about the craft of writing has come from critiques and bad reviews – not books, not conventions, not online seminars. It can be painful, but when I get past that sometimes there’s something I can use. I always keep in mind it is still only one person’s opinion and, hey, they may not know what they’re talking about, right?

Like you, I simply love to write. I love finding le mot juste, just the right word or phrase, creating a new metaphor other people actually get, and (especially) that magical experience when the story takes off in a direction I had not intended it to and my characters do and say things I never imagined they would. They’re in control, I’m just a conduit.

I also write because it gives me an opportunity to research and learn, as I imagine you did with your book War Kids. I purposely put my characters in emotional and physical situations I know little about. In my novel Not Wonder More my heroine is schizophrenic and also a natural healer. That was a learning curve.

Apparently, we also share the third reason I write – to influence my readers with my view on issues, or as George Orwell put it, “There is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

The last reason I write means I’ve got to put it out there, and the reality is some people (sometimes most) don’t like it. So it’s a good thing I don’t write for money or fame, because I’ll likely have neither.

Nietzsche said, “Art is the proper task in life.” I agree as I hope you do. He also said, “The doer alone learneth.”

Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get. I continue to write and learn and hope you will. Conceiving and creating a book is a great thing. You should be proud of what you achieved.

Rod

PS Thanks for the offer of the book, but it’s not necessary

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My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

foggyLance_0025 copy copyI was about to review The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje when I discovered this work already has 352 reviews on Amazon. Does Michael need another review? Will my comments make a difference to this internationally known, winner of every major literary award, Canadian literary icon?

I know an author that would like to see his novel(s) reviewed – me. Or someone like me. Someone at the beginning of his or her writing career when a review and a starred rating are actually worth something, perhaps in sales and certainly in self-esteem.

So why not read works written by author’s like myself and write a review of their book instead of a book by the Michael Ondaatje’s of this world? There’s certainly lots to choose from and many of these books are free on sites like BookLikes, StoryCartel, even Smashwords and Amazon.

Just a second, that could mean reading a lot of bad writing. Am I up to that kind of sacrifice to help promote new literary voices?

No.

I believe an author should read the same type of books he wants to writes. Why read westerns when you write commercial/literary fiction? Why read amateurs when you want to be a pro?

Nietzsche said, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” If I want to create great art, perhaps I should be a little more gracious. Probably good for my karma as well.

Okay, how about half of what I read will be from new, undiscovered writers and the other half from someone I aspire to write like?

I can’t see any point in writing a dishonest review. There’s likely at least a few on most new writers book pages as it is – family and friends guilted into posting something flattering and hitting five stars. I’m not sure how that helps them and I won’t be doing that.

I’ll write constructive reviews. I think I know enough about this craft to point out what the author is doing right and perhaps suggest how they might improve other areas, though this by no means suggests I don’t make the same mistakes myself – again and again.

I actually get more from well-considered negative reviews of my work (and I’ve had enough) than glowing ones that lack specifics. However, if the review I write is less than three stars I’ll email it to the author to see if they want me to post it. If they don’t, I won’t. They can use it for their edification or send it to their trash file unread.

I hope to make some surprising discoveries and maybe offer some assistance along the way.

P.S. Anyway, I went ahead and reviewed The Cat’s Table. I gave it one star just so you know what you’re in for.

30

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic (now in paperback) are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

BacklitMaple111114_53 copyTo date I have sent approximately 150 personal emails with a file of my book, The Big Picture – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic attached. These are to readers who have received free copies of at least one of my other novels through giveaways on BookLikes and StoryCartel. The last of these emails was sent about a month ago. To date I have received two reviews. At least both of them have been good.

In a desperate effort to get something happening for my new novel I enlisted the services of Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews (RFBR).

Originally, I had posted all four of my novels with them for a free review. After three months and no response I figured my books were not among the 65% of free review requests selected. I opted for the $129 – 3 Express Reviews Package that features:

– Three different reviews and critiques of your book.

– 3 guaranteed reviews by 3 different reviewers completed and posted in 2-3 weeks.

– 3 months of advertising in our Featured Book rotator.

– Reviews posted on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Google+, Twitter & Pinterest.

– Reviews displayed on your Readers’ Favorite review page.

You can also post the review on your Amazon author page in your Editorial Reviews section.

The BIG PICTURE received two five star and one four star review. I was not impressed with the quality of the reviews but they were high marks and made for flattering quotes.

A week later my novel SPIRIT BEAR was reviewed for free and it got three stars. You can draw your own conclusions here, but I’m going to have to assume paid reviews don’t get higher ratings. I mean you got to believe some people associated with this industry have integrity – don’t you?

For more information on Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews go to http://www.readersfavorite.com

To read the reviews on The BIG PICTURE go to

https://www.readersfavorite.com/book-review/39014

RFBR said they’d post my reviews on Google Books so I registered there and, yes indeed, here is another opportunity to list your book. Go to http://www.books.google.com

I continue to Tweet even the most inconsequential developments. Twitter analysis shows this is yet another futile endeavor. Take for example the month of November: on an average my tweets earned 64 impressions a day, but so what? The engagement rate was 1.2%; link clicks 3; retweets 0; favourites 0.

Has any of this – the free books, the paid for positive reviews, the social media, made a difference.

So far, no.

After four and a half months The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic still has zero sales as an e-book despite a few flattering editorial and reader reviews.

Still I persevere. The book format is now in final proofing stages and will soon be released with Amazon’s Createspace.

With the interest in the new genre Environmental Fiction (Eco-Fiction or Eco-Fi), my publisher is now moving ahead and my novel Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients, book three in the stand-alone ECO-WARRIOR SERIES, will soon be available in book form as well.

Likely by the end of the year I’ll have two books available in print.

How do I feel at this point? Here’s a quote attributed to best-selling author, Lee Child, that sums it up:

“It’s a kind of zen question: if you write a book and no one reads it, is it really a book?”

I don’t know, is it?

30

 

My new novel, The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic is now available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00LTXGD58

Read Reviews https://www.readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

Fall on the FraserSelf-publishing has become “free and easy” – the consequence is a plethora of prosaic publications.

Mistakenly, I have agreed to participate in an author review swap on Goodreads.

The mistake came after I agreed, but it was through this participation I realized the nature of the mistake. In that regard, I suppose you might say the review swap wasn’t a mistake, in that it revealed to me one of the misconceptions I’ve had about marketing and promoting my books.

Sound convoluted? I’m not surprised since it has been a circuitous route with many pitfalls fraught with ego and self-delusion.

When I signed on to the genre specific review swap on Goodreads it was with the intention of garnering a few more reviews for my books. Before you start shouting hypocrite, let me say I review all matter of books I read professionally or for enjoyment written by authors I have no acquaintance with whatsoever. If I swap books with another author on the understanding that we’ll post reviews of each other’s work the assumption I make is the reviews will be honest. If you hate my book than say so, and likewise if I find your book a masterpiece that’s the review I’ll write.

For me, this is not only about integrity it’s about becoming a better writer. I learn from bad reviews. No, really, I do. After I’ve picked my ego up from the floor and dusted it off, I try to look objectively at the points made by the reviewer and, if legitimate, and at least some usually are, see where I can improve in the future.

This might not be everyone’s assumption with a review swap so I send my opinion of the book to the author to read and give them the opportunity to let me know if they’d like it posted or not. Evidently, becoming better at the craft is not that high a priority for a lot of writers. What is important apparently, is garnering positive reviews and making another $2.99 sale.

I just finished reading one book I found it so mediocre, the writing so juvenile, the plot so contrived, the characterization so clichéd, and the experience so frustrating that I will never, ever (to infinity) enter into this kind of agreement again.

This book has garnered 15 reviews on Amazon and all have been 5 stars – thus a flawless, 5 star rating. Yet the latest work by Anna Quindlen, Still Life with Breadcrumbs (1656 reviews) ranks only 4 stars, Jean Thompson’s The Year We Left Home, a National Book Award finalist (96 customer reviews) has a 3.5 star ranking, and Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager, the winner of The ScotiaBank Giller Prize (92 customer reviews) rates 4.5 stars.

Reviews on Amazon are no indication whatsoever of the literary value of the book. But everybody already knows that, right? So what?

While simultaneously struggling to fulfill my commitment to the Goodreads group, I’ve been investigating opportunities for self-publishing other than KindleDirect. Smashwords and BookBaby both have excellent sites that offer support, promotion and marketing advice, wide distribution and are relatively easy to navigate through and, will publish your e-book free for a percentage of the sale price.

So where’s the downside?

That’s been my mistake. I assumed there would be a downside to self-publishing a really bad book, but there isn’t.

You’ve written a novel, it has a beginning, middle and end, you are mightily pleased with yourself, your wife loves it, your friends are supportive, at least to your face, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to have it electronically published and listed on Amazon – just like a real author.

And this is why we are drowning in dreck.

Unlike any other creative pursuit, or almost any other endeavor for that matter, everyone thinks they can write a novel without any specific training or practice. It’s tantamount to saying, “hey, I can run (at least a little ways), I think I’ll go in a marathon”.

The floodgates have been opened to mediocrity and it has overwhelmed us.

What makes it worse is an entire industry has sprung to support and make money from this epidemic of self-delusion. The free e-book is just the incentive, the lost leader. The money is made on the graphic cover design, the enhanced distribution network, the marketing programs, the promotional platforms – all these “necessities” that in the short run, and that’s as far as it goes, won’t make a difference (except to their bank account) because the book is garbage.

The review system established by Amazon is designed to support this plethora of prosaic publications and is so flawed as to make it worthless. Well-written books are lumped in with garbage and to distinguish between them is almost an impossible task for the reader.

There must be a better way, but until I figure it out I’ll continue to write, always striving to improve, because it’s what I enjoy most in life. I’ll continue (attempt) to publish, traditionally or on my own to give voice to issues important to me and for the validation, however illusionary, that what I write makes a connection with others.

But I will never again make the mistake of wasting my time reading bad writing in the hopes it can some how benefit mine.

I do this in full knowledge that my latest book, The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic, could sure use a few positive reviews as it has yet to realize it’s first sale and it’s coming up to three months since launch.

SunsetOverAdriennesIMG_0160There’s a restaurant that’s been a client of my newspaper since they opened. It’s family owned and has been in business for over thirty years. In Vancouver, where there are far too many restaurants, to survive under the same ownership for over three decades is really quite amazing.

How did they do it?

Hard, hard work, we’re talking the entire family making sacrifices. Reasonable prices – not cheap but good value for your dine-out dollar. Good food, not great, but consistently good. Friendly, efficient service, they really made you feel at home.

This trilogy – good product, good price, good work ethic are absolutely essential for a business to succeed. Are they are a guarantee of success? Absolutely not.

Competition, rent increases, economic recession, a change in the neighbourhood’s demographics – any one or a combination of all can broadside a business and, if they’re smart, close their doors in six months.

Somehow this restaurant managed to weather most of these obstacles and slowly, very slowly, business grew. As it did, they grew with it – always learning, always incorporating what worked and discarding what didn’t. After a quarter of a century of being in business in the same neighbourhood they were doing okay – a steady clientele and lineups on special days like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

They’d put in their 10,000 hours and then some. They were ready.

The concept of 10,000 was put forward in Outliers, a book by Malcom Gladwell. He postulates that “10,000 hours (ten years) of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything”, and backs it up with research by Daniel Levitin, a neurologist.

Success, according to Gladwell, follows a predictable pattern. It’s not the brightest that succeed, nor is it the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It’s less about talent and more about opportunity, plus accidents of time, birth and place which can matter greatly.

So you’ve put in your 10,000 hours. You’re good, in fact, you’re damn good, but still the kind of success you think you deserve, the kind of success less talented writers are achieving, eludes you.

What’s missing?

The opportunity.

For my restaurant friends it came in the way of a national food show called “You Gotta Eat Here”. Twenty minutes on the Food Channel from coast to coast. The customers came in droves, some as far away as a150 miles. They kept coming, they’re still coming and because the owners had put in their 10,000 hours they can handle it.

Today, the restaurant is more or less full every night with lineups on the weekend. I seldom go there anymore, it’s just too busy, the family members aren’t on the floor, and the food and service has slipped significantly.

Yet the positive reviews just keep piling up. It’s as if no one has the courage to go against the crowd. If they have to wait to get in, wait to be seated, and wait for their order, it must be great, right?

Reminds me of some books I’ve read by bestselling authors. Once great, they now have a reputation that seems to intimidate honest criticism of their current work.

So where would this restaurant be without You Gotta Eat Here featuring them on national television? Likely, still grinding it out one day after another.

Forty years as a journalist and columnist, four novels behind me, three dozen blog posts – I must be coming up on my 10,000 hours.

I think I’m ready.

I’m looking for “the” opportunity and it doesn’t appear to be available through social media or laboriously attempting to cultivate individual relationships with reader’s one email at a time.

30

My new novel, The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic is now available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00LTXGD58

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. Now the three package is only $8.99  http://devinedestinies.com

Read my current work(s) in progress a  http://wattpad.com/RodRaglin

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at  https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/
Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

sandyhill morning copy copyYou spend two years honing a manuscript to publishing-perfect and then you have to pay someone to give it away free. And you say you want to be a novelist?

Three months ago I uploaded my novels Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients, Spirit Bear and Eagleridge Bluffs to the Story Cartel site (all relevant links are posted at the end of the blog).

All books on Story Cartel are completely free for readers to download. The hope is a reader will return this gift from the author by leaving an honest review of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and blogs. The reviews help authors market their books and gives them valuable feedback to improve their writing.

I like this type of concept because you’re judged on the writing not on your ability to sustain artificial on-line relationships. This does not prevent some authors manipulating the process, but that’s not me – ever.

It cost $30 to upload a book, a one time expenditure and not unreasonable. But first I had to convert my Word doc manuscript to e-pub and mobli format. This turned out to be relatively easy with a free program I downloaded called Calibre. Along with the actual book and cover file I provided a log line, book blurb and a bit of a bio.

It took about three weeks before the books went live. Then the covers appeared on the site with a pop-up log-line. More details were available by clicking on the cover. It looked slick. I was guardedly optimistic.

Story Cartel launches last four weeks, three weeks where the book is available on the site and one extra week for readers to leave their reviews.

Story Cartel provides seven launch tips to maximize response:

1. Prepare your audience that your books are going to be free via Story Cartel. Which is odd advice since I don’t have an audience. If I did I wouldn’t be paying to use this site or giving away my books.

2. Share on social media daily. So I put my book on this site and then I have to promote the site so “my audience” will know where to download my book – for free. If I have to do all the marketing I could have offered my books for free from say BookLikes and saved myself $90. Fool me once…

3. Put and announcement on my blog. Ditto my response to points one and two.

4. E-mail my fans. Ditto my response to points one, two and three.

5. Run an ad. It’s not enough I give my books away free, I have to pay for an ad to tell people?

6. Send an email announcing only one day left. I can do that, who do I send it to? Oh yeah, my non-existent audience and fans.

7. Advertise with Story Cartel. For an additional $125 I can get a Newsletter listing, for $225 they’ll do some social media sharing. Okay, now I see where we’re going with this and what I’ve gotten into.

By the end of the giveaway thirty-one people have downloaded fifty-seven copies of my books. During the course of the promotion I sent every one of them a personal email asking them to please post a review. I did the same at the end of the promotion.

In hindsight, my most notable field of vision, it was a mistake to put up all three books at once. I may have had more reviews if I had limited the choice.

I got one response – for Spirit Bear. In a well consider and articulate article, the reviewer trashed the book.

Story Cartel provided me the email of everyone that downloaded my books. I now have a list of thirty-one names, of which only one had the integrity to fulfill the commitment of free book for an honest review. Ironically, she hates my work.

The only positive thing to come out of this experience is the knowledge I gleaned regarding converting a Word manuscript into a digital file. This will come in handy for my next novel, The Big Picture, which will likely be self-publish since no agents or publishers seem to be interested in it.

Will I be offering it free? Initially, yes, but I won’t be adding insult to injury by paying someone to do it for me.

Free – does it equate to no value?

 

Story Cartel  storycartel.com

Calibre   calibre-ebook.com/download

BookLikes  booklikes.com

 

 

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.

http://devinedestinies.com

 

Read my current work(s) in progress at

http://www.wattpad.com/story/10733158-forest-primeval

 

Read ”Bubble” excerpts of my novels at

http://bublish.com/bubble/view/2872/RodRaglin

http://bublish.com/bubble/view/2873/Rod-Raglin

http://bublish.com/bubble/view/2609/Rod-Raglin

 

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

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