And they cost the reader nothing but a few minutes.
If you’ve never done it before, or it’s been a while, that first one seems, uh, hard.
Often the best time to write one is when you have just finished a book, and can’t wait to share.
But many people are shy, tell themselves they’ll write one later, and never end up doing it.
So: to make it easier, save either the link to this post, or to Rosie’s, and be ready the next time you’re bursting to say something, to extend your time in the book’s universe just a little bit longer.
Rosie Amber’s Review Templates
Rosie Amber has a lovely set of templates that will get you going on your review. Fill in whichever of the prompts you like (not necessary to write more than about twenty words), and voilà, review!
Want to write something longer? Keep typing and wax eloquent. Tell other potential readers why you like a book.
Create in your wordprocessor of choice and copy/paste, OR write directly into Amazon’s prompts for a review. The templates are SO much more encouraging and helpful than facing a blank page or review form. Thanks, Rosie!
While at Rosie‘s, check around – there are so many wonderful reviews. There’s an easy sign-up to have the blog come to your inbox.
Can you tell I’m getting ready to ask you to read and review a book?
The traditional answer to this is, believe it or not, NOTHING.
Because a reader’s review is as much their opinion as your book is yours.
And you are grateful to have a reader who was moved to take up keyboard and leave you feedback.
And because you cannot please everyone.
And, most importantly, because have negative reviews is a rite of passage for writers, and now you’ve had yours.
And here you thought having all 5* reviews was a mark of a good writer, and now your stellar reputation is trampled forever.
Is acceptance your only option, then?
The first instinct may be to send out destroyer missiles, but that may not actually remove the stain on your reputation.
The review stays.
But I came across a very creative way to use and benefit from that bad review on a blog post of Tahani Nelson, a fantasy writer. She turned a negative review (a reader got almost to the end of the book quite happily until she realized, oh dear, the warrior princess was gay!) into a great ad for her book. I won’t spoil her thunder – she deserves people to go read her post. Or at least scroll down to her ad. It’s gorgeous. Go ahead – I’ll wait.
So, I thought – YOU have some 1* and 2* reviews
What creative use are you going to make of them?
First, two of the ads (maybe written by the same person?) have the same error: ‘It is 545 pages long.’ Um, no. The book is 485 pages long.
The reviewer accused me of writing tedious descriptions about everything. Um, no. If anything, I am extremely parsimonious in the description department for a peculiar reason: Pride’s Children is written in very deep close multiple third person point of view, and I only use descriptions a character would actually THINK at the moment, which eliminates most descriptions (characters don’t do more than noticing a detail or two most of the time). Whether they’re tedious or not, that I’ll leave up to the individual reader, but I try to think of something obvious but fresh or relevant.
One reviewer must have thought the first paragraph of the prologue – a short excerpt from a faux New Yorker article that is my link between books, and the ‘outside’ view of the story from a magazine writer’s perspective years later – was actually the first paragraph of the book – and called it a run-on sentence. The paragraph is 79 words, a complex sentence but not a run on. The prologue is labeled Prothalamion – in honor of Dorothy L. Sayers who used one brilliantly in Busman’s Honeymoon.
The actual first sentence in Chapter 1 is 11 short sentences in 93 words. With periods or ellipses between them – clearly delimited.
I was accused of needing to prove I have an immense vocabulary. Why, thanks, I do know a lot of words, but all I try to do is use the words the characters would use. Which sometimes is very constraining.
The missing clues to my bad reviews (so far)
Several pieces in the negative reviews clued me in to the problem, and it’s a different one than I originally thought.
“I read Pride’s Children because of my daughter’s suggestion. I am not a fan of romance novels”
“the book was much too long. It could have been easily condensed to 2/3 the length”
“The number of quotations before each chapter was overkill – for the most part they only made sense to me after the chapter had been read.“
And these pieces from positive reviews give different clues:
“These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well. And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!)”
“I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.”
There are MANY Romance readers and writers in the world – and they do extremely well by each other.
But they have styles and tropes and limitations and expectations, among others:
only two characters in the relationship (excepting the exceptions for subgenres)
a point of view that goes back and forth at certain times between the two lovers-to-be – in the same scene
a particular style of covers
a happy ending (HEA – happily ever after) or (HFN – happy for now)
And somehow or other, even when the cover, description, and ad copy try to convey that Pride’s Children is NOT a Romance which follows what the readers expect, some readers picked it up, read, noticed things were not what they expected – but kept going all the way to the end (skimming, I’m assuming, in some places) – and still decided they were not happy, and left a review. An unhappy one. A 1* or 2* review.
I think that may mean I need to work on my ad copy. I don’t know how to say ‘mainstream love story’ as opposed to ‘Romance’ – because it sounds horribly condescending somehow, but wouldn’t you want to know there were supernatural beings or zombies in a book before you chose it to read, given your preferences either way?
If you read, or even prefer, mainstream love stories, and haven’t signed up to be notified about mine, please hop over to the Pride’s Children blog, and follow so you will be informed when they come out. Not frequently – I’m dreadfully slow – but they’re big fat complicated stories when they do.
I’m planning to revise the prideschildren.com site, and one of the things I’m mulling over is how does a fiction writer provide value for a visitor to her books’ site?
My personal blog here is all over the map, by design – the readers I hope to attract to buy and read Pride’s Children PURGATORY (Book 1), the prequel short story, and, as they are available, Books 2 and 3, NETHERWORLD and…? are not necessarily interested in my opinions and experiences as an recent inhabitant of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
What do I hope for from readers of my fiction who get to the other site, say, from the link in the back of Book 1, or from a recommendation from a friend?
Without answering these questions, I have no hope of supplying these readers with something they value, preferably something they NEED.
What do my readers NOT need?
I decided to visit the Amazon reviews of several novels that could realistically be called ‘comps’ – books that by their general complexity, genre (contemporary mainstream), style (reasonably realistic), length (big fat books), and language (literary) are similar to Pride’s Children.
There I’m going to check out the negative reviews, and found what made readers unhappy. I’ll ignore the reviews which are too general, and look for specific buzz-killers.
And then I’ll pull some quotes from my own reviews (many fewer, of course) that point out I don’t commit these sins. If true.
Here’s the list, paraphrased for conciseness:
unbelievable due insufficient character development
The sentences, paragraphs, passages… all just SO incredibly long
I got halfway through and I felt as if nothing happened
There was not a single character that I cared about
The dishonesty of most characters was so out of my comfort level
two of the least interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in literature
digs in to all the nasty-ness entailed in living a life of degrading self abuse via abuse of various substances
I made it to page 354 and then skipped, skipped, skipped
a blow-by-blow, second-by-second rendering of the narrator’s life
I thought it would never end
I simply didn’t enjoy the story enough to appreciate the pages and pages about the meaning of life.
Lacks: an interesting narrative, a plot, a satisfying ending
pretentious, long winded, tiresome, tepid novel
unedited and rambling and somehow that’s supposed to make it literary
why did it take [almost 800] pages to tell that story
filled with so many ludicrous plot holes that it’s just not something I can stomach
a descent into a bottomless well of self-pity, gloom, and urban angst
the punctuation and structure of sentences is horrid to the point that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to follow the thought process of the author
there are missing words, wrong words and misspelled words throughout the book
goes on about [X or Y topics] too long
… talks about how precarious [character’s] finances are and yet they live in a [very fancy place], take cabs everywhere and seem to eat out all the time.
…why wasn’t author consistent?
The character’s conversations were completely unbelievable. He’s supposed to be a X, give him the voice, thoughts and mannerisms of X!
Author seemed to be grandstanding about how much she knows about Z.
I find the reference … overly coy. Just name it, or make up a name.
[Plot point] was excruciatingly long (not in a you-are-there way; in a boring and overly-lengthy way) and repetitive. Author could have accomplished so much more with so much less.
Author overused words that tend to jump out at the reader like “loitering” and “grappling.” Does author not own a Thesaurus? It would be so easy to substitute synonyms…
From my reviewers (completely unprompted – I didn’t know these readers when I wrote PC):
I just read PC in 10 hours straight, and I am speechless.
…you have managed the best instance of “the story is not finished, but this segment of it feels finished” that I have ever encountered.
just wanted to say its VERY GOOD, and what an ironic and sharp eye you have for le mot juste, and the silence pregnant. Very enjoyable, no sign of the damaged mind but I resonate strongly with your main character
I had meant to read up on it ages ago and just never did, so I glommed everything last week. Now i’m like, damn it, i have to WAIT for more?! Noooooooooooooooo So just keep it up. No pressure of adoring fans or anything.
Very character-driven, very slow burn, very subtle. I loved it. The characters are rich and real. The scenes build upon one another with clear purpose. The writing is exquisitely careful.
I read chapter 1 out of curiosity, chapter 2 out of interest; the rest of the story will keep me up all night. Beautiful.
I put it off because it didn’t really seem like my kind of story. But I loved it. You did a great job.
Your writing puts me in mind of the classics only in modern era. Those are the stories that will live forever. They scream for detail and need the long way around.
Pride’s Children has helped me to look inside myself and see many things I need to see and deal with. I have never read a work of fiction that has touched me so powerfully! I love it and will be rereading many times. You did not cause any pain . You gave me increased awareness of myself.
Just finished reading and posted a review on Amazon. I loved it! I’m impressed by the infinite care that you put into it, the choice of words (so sensitive!) and the absolute lack of typos, that’s something of a record!
Is tooting your own horn a good or a bad thing?
In the indie writer world, if the author doesn’t do it, it doesn’t happen.
I didn’t write the words in the section above – I somehow inspired them. I have permission from their authors to use them any way I want.
It still feels like something my mother would disapprove of, as she reared me to be a proper woman so many years ago, in Mexico, in the 60s – with a style and morality more like the US in the 40s.
Modesty is a virtue, but women have come a long way from that upbringing.
In any case, I plan to use both my reviewers words and my own published and pre-published words to reach the readers I want to attract.
It is my hope that if I can get the right readers to try – a few words, a few pages, a few chapters – that they will stick, and they will like what I have written for them.
Because I love having this effect on another human being.
Please join in with your pet peeve about writers or books – I’d love to read them!