Requesting a Review

Ok, so you’ve sweated over writing your story, gone through the torture of edits, navigated the tricky shoals of formatting and finally have a published story.  Now to let the world know that it exists and find folks who will sing your masterpiece’s praises.  Simple, right?  Definitely NOT!
Consider that a reviewer commits at least 1-2 hours, often more like 3-4, to read and review a particular story.  Combine this with the explosion of published and self-published titles and it is no wonder that so many great titles are lacking thoughtful reviews.  A reviewer who takes the time to give a thoughtful evaluation (more than…”I liked it” or “this story was awful”) is quickly overwhelmed by requests and sadly, the joy of having a new tale to read does not necessarily compensate for the need to actually get recompensed for one’s time.

Start by reaching out to folks who have written to you praising your work.  Politely ask whether they would be willing to write a review for you AND possibly even cross-post it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, the publisher’s site, etc.  You might also want to ask if you can quote it elsewhere in the event that you really like some of the things they say.  Some reviewers have their own blogs and are hospitable for authors to come by and visit, others charge to host or advertise.  Don’t forget to mention (particularly if you are participating in a blog tour that features reviews) that you have no issues with the reviewer writing a less than glowing review but would appreciate the opportunity to be notified if the reviewer considers the story to be less than ‘good’.  Diplomatic requests to simply feature the title itself and post the less than complimentary review later should be considered if you are participating in a tour that is directing readers to that reviewer’s site.

In exchange, don’t forget to go by and visit those blogs that are featuring your work.  Leave a comment (or several throughout the day if possible). Vote ‘this review was helpful’ on Amazon, ‘like’ it on Goodreads or Barnes and Noble’s site and ask some of your friends or family to also vote.  That’s an easy way to thank someone for their time and hard work.

Cross-posting can be pretty frustrating…logging into sites, dealing with the eccentricities of each one, fighting off (or at least learning to ignore) the trolls that sometimes appear, so be grateful when a reviewer is willing to cross-post a review.  Don’t forget to ask if they can put it on the publisher’s website as well (if applicable).  A thank-you note is always appreciated…and it is even more thrilling if the review is quoted somewhere…in your newsletter, on your blog…or…in/on your book itself.  Reviewers are thrilled to see their words being shared (you’re an author, you know how good it feels when someone likes what you have written!) and once you have found someone who obviously likes your work, try to keep the lines of communication open so that you can ask that person about subsequent titles.  Please remember that this is a time commitment and try to give a reviewer a copy of the title well in advance of when you want the review posted and then send a polite reminder a week or two in advance of the preferred date.

Remember not to get into arguments with those who write critical or hurtful reviews, better to take the high road and either thank them for their opinion or ignore it completely but by all means, make sure you thank those who are willing to write a review with constructive criticism as well as those who are positive and supportive.  Above all, remember that every person has a different opinion so don’t obsess over what is being written.  If there is something to learn, go ahead and do so, but if somebody is being malicious, ignore it, remember that there are plenty of nutty folks in the world!

And please, if you are an author who is exchanging reviews with a colleague, don’t forget to return the favor by writing a nicely considered review as well.

 

The Care and Feeding of Street Teams

Street Teams:

Ok, what is a street team?  Literally, it is a team that takes word to the streets…a publicity technique that has been used very effectively in other venues such as the music industry.  E.g.  http://concertpromousa.com/STREET_TEAM_MARKETING.pdf
(be forewarned, it is an advertisement for this particular product but it does have some information on the concept).

Authors are learning how to utilize this tool but should be aware that, just like any other of those dreaded publicity techniques, it takes time, but the investment may be well worth your efforts!

Typing ‘street team’ into a search engine will cause many different articles to appear, such as:

http://writingnovelsthatsell.com/book-marketing-for-savvy-networkers-create-street-teams/2013/12/

http://www.mipa.org/march-news/133-using-street-teams-to-launch-your-books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563100-street-team-smarts

and I invite you to peruse some of these.  I am actually a participant on probably 10 or more street teams myself and offer observations from my own experiences.

What does a street team do?

All kinds of things, whether putting your book on their ‘shelves’ at Goodreads or starting a discussion thread there or on Amazon, writing a review, having a Facebook or Twitter conversation about your book(s), passing out trading cards or bookmarks or other swag to their local libraries, booksellers or other gatherings, posting comments on your blog tours, asking Amazon to price-match (especially useful when they are being stubborn about offering titles for lower prices), hosting ‘book parties’, the list can be long and creative.  I ask that you be careful about what you ask your team to do as I am not a fan of blitzing (and thankfully am not subjected to a lot of it since I don’t use FB or Twitter or most of the other social media) but that technique can become quite irritating although some authors are quite successful at utilizing it.  Please use caution when asking your team members to vote down low reviews because you do NOT want them to get into flame wars on your behalf and sometimes team members get a little too  enthusiastic in their quest to support/protect you.  Please also realize that your requests reflect on you as a person, so asking people to join a particular forum JUST to garner votes for your title is not only frowned upon but actually forbidden in some venues and may reflect badly upon your integrity.

How do you find a street team?

First decide how large a team you can handle.  Are you a hands-on person or not?  Will it drive you nuts to have e-mails flooding your box asking you how you want to handle things?  Do you want to set up an e-mail account just for the street team members?  You may wish to choose one of your team members to be your liaison to everyone else.  Decide how you want to handle communication to everyone.  Some teams have private Facebook sites, some use yahoo loops, some use a password-protected area on their website or blog, some communicate just through e-mails.  Just remember that if you only use one venue, you may be excluding some of your most ardent fans.  Most of you who are just beginning would probably be advised to have 10 members or fewer to work out the kinks.  You can post a message on your blog or Facebook page and ask for members, if you are in a chat you can mention it or if you do signings or go to some of the conferences where you interact with readers, you can pass out a little card with your website or contact e-mail.  Please use caution because there may be some who join only for the ‘freebies’ so you have to decide what is the most comfortable way for you to decide who is appropriate for you.

What’s in it for the street team members?

First, you should decide what you can afford in terms of time and expense.  It does you no good to plow all of your hard-earned profit back into a street team and have nothing to show for it.  Be creative, often the most thrilling reward for these fans of yours is having access to you…to hear what you are writing about or other aspects of your life, to be involved in naming a character in your book or helping with a title or choosing a path for your hero or heroine to follow.  Some authors send out autographed or handmade items, or ARCs or sneak peeks that are only given to a chosen few, others pass out t-shirts that loudly promote their most recent title (and offer prizes for pictures that show the t-shirt is being worn in public).  Naturally, you have to use care because unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks everywhere but it has been my experience that some long-lasting friendships and mutually beneficial relationships can arise and the synergy is uplifting.  Some authors find beta-readers who are willing to help catch errors and critique or folks who will write reviews just for the privilege of receiving an early copy.  Other authors offer prizes…e.g. all those who send a link to a review or a blogpost/Tweet/FB posting about your title get an entry into a contest for some particular prize.

The possibilities are endless…and those readers who are your fans and join your street team can offer wonderful inspiration and enthusiasm when they are able to share in your life.  You may need to consider an extra special gift or some kind of reward to those who go above and beyond for you, especially if they become a virtual assistant for you.  Just remember, the goal is to get your title out there in front of people and encourage them to become life-long fans so make sure you present yourself in the best possible light by always being respectful of others, having a nicely edited product (ha, my bias is showing) and displaying honesty and integrity.

Apostrophes and how to use them correctly

For some reason, there seems to be a prevailing desire to use apostrophes to indicate a plural form of words.  There are very few times this is accurate, the most significant one being making letters of the alphabet plural.  Of course, this is logical since there is a large difference between a’s and as or i’s and is, lol.

Generally, an ‘s indicates possessive, as in “the dog’s ball” (which, of course leads to the conundrum of how to make “dogs” possessive, i.e. the two dogs’ ball).

Apostrophes are also used for contractions, to represent missing letters, as in can’t (where the ‘ indicates the missing “no” in can not/cannot) or isn’t (‘ indicating the missing space and “o”).

 

(Then there is the whole single quote vs double quote issue but that’s an entirely different subject!)

 

The dreaded head-hopping

A frequent problem is the tendency to change points of view (POVs) within a  scene.  Ideally, there should be one point of view per chapter. If that is not possible, then there should be a significant amount of action told from one character’s viewpoint before the reader is switched to another character’s perspective.  If we know what one character is feeling/experiencing/seeing then we can only surmise the other characters’ points of view from their actions or their dialogue.  This is where the ability to ‘show not tell’ becomes particularly important to allow the action to flow smoothly.

e.g.  Character A comes home and is exhausted and suffering from a headache, Character B is anxiously awaiting the arrival of A because they are supposed to be going out to dinner.

A knew that there was no way he was going to be able to tolerate a noisy restaurant tonight and dreaded the coming confrontation.  B saw A walk through the door and thought, “here we go again, another excuse for why we can’t go out”.  (2 different viewpoints)

vs.

A dragged through the door, squinting and rubbing his temples.  He immediately walked to the radio and turned it off.

“Hey, why did you do that?”  B just knew that her plans for a fun evening were going to be ruined again.

***********************

There are many sites that elucidate this principle far better than I could ever do so, here are a few places to start:

http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/09/10/head-hopping-gives-readers-whiplash/
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/headhop.shtml

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/guest-blogger-jodie-renner-pov-102-how-to-avoid-head-hopping/

http://awesomeindies.net/2012/09/30/head-hopping-was-is-it-and-whats-wrong-with-it/

Common errors

There are certain phrases that are commonly misspelled or misused.  A brief list includes:

Your (possessive) vs. You’re (contraction of you are)

To (direction or part of infinitive verb) vs. Too (also)

Complement (something that adds to or completes) vs. Compliment (admiring comment)

Mantel (on a fireplace) vs. Mantle (cloak)

Aureole (halo) vs. Areola (area on nipple)  (NB:  plural of areola is areolae or areolas)

Timber (wood) vs. Timbre (quality of sound–as in voice)

Fiance (male) vs. Fiancee (female)

Blond (male or female) vs. Blonde (female only)

Tenant (occupant) vs Tenet (doctrine)

Adrenalin (brand name) vs Adrenaline (hormone)

Carpal tunnel (not carpel) is a condition of the wrist that causes entrapment of the median nerve

Author services

I primarily perform editing services but can also assist with blurbs, advice for obtaining reviews and some resource recommendations.  I warn you that I am very honest in my opinions (although I do try to be diplomatic) and I have a sometimes odd sense of humor but I am very efficient, self-motivated and discreet (and have been entrusted with countless manuscripts over the past several years).

I pride myself on keeping my commitments and turning my work in on time but I ask that you remember that this is a collaboration so that we both have to work together.  My goal is to present your work in the best light possible and deliver a polished and enjoyable product.

 

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