This week’s #FriendDayWednesday promotion is editor, editorial director, and speculative author, David Lee Summers. If you like steampunk, sci-fi, and vampires, check out David’s list of books on Amazon.
David is currently running a giveaway for an ebook copy of his latest steampunk novel, “The Brazen Shark”.
David is also the featured artist today at Padwolf Publishing’s MARCH of AUTHORS event. Pop in and find out more about David, ask him questions, and maybe win some free stuff 🙂
You can stay up-to-date with David via …
Authors spend months (years) crafting a tale, editing and polishing, finding an agent and/or publisher, learning self-publishing options and formatting, dealing with cover art, blurbs, marketing, book tours, interviews … all that before their book is even published. Once their work is out there, authors are vulnerable to critique, rejection, or worse – indifference. After such dedicated bravery, it’s no surprise the biggest complaint I hear from authors is that readers don’t leave a review even when they like the book.
Readers value reviews as a means of gaining insight into the story before spending hard-earned money on a book. Some authors look to their reviews for validation that their hard work has paid off. Others for feedback to help them hone their writing skills. So, what’s the deal? Why don’t readers leave a review?
The Fear Factor
Lack of time or skill to write a review top the list of excuses. But, there is something much more visceral keeping people from leaving reviews: Fear.
What if you didn’t like the story? Or, you liked it, but not enough to give a 4 or 5 star rating? Besides not wanting to hurt or discourage the author, leaving an honest review (even a positive one) can have damaging repercussions.
People can be rude to reviewers who leave a positive review, but
they’re downright abusive if you dare leave a “critical” review (3 star or lower),
no matter how thoughtful and even-handed it is.
When you leave positive reviews, there’s speculation you’re fluffing the ratings either to make your pals look good or to have the favour returned. When you give negative reviews, you’re obviously a no-talent hack taking out your frustrations on others.
Leaving a less-than-stellar review can damage or end relationships with other authors. Sometimes, it’s a simple unfriending on Facebook. Other times, it’s an ugly public “breakup” … and I mean U-G-L-Y.
Public Humiliation and Attack
We’re all adults, right? Professionals who understand not everyone will agree … right? Then, why do so many people mutate into schoolyard bullies when they read a critical review?
In 2014, I made an acquaintance on Facebook via our mutual interest in ancient North American civilizations. He’d written a YA Sci-Fi and the description sounded interesting enough that I bought the ebook. It started out okay, but the more I read, the more upset I got. As a reader and author, I was deeply offended by the sub-standard quality of the writing and complete lack of editing.
It looked like a first draft of a hastily dictated story.
I took 3 days to calm down and another 3 days to write my review. Even though I was giving it a 1-star rating, I was determined to be even-handed and include what the author did well.
The day after I posted my review, I discovered several hostile public posts by the author splashed across multiple social media platforms.
(Note: Yes, he actually believed being an indie author and offering his book for a “cheap” price was a valid excuse for lack of quality.)
Things quickly degenerated as he and his friends swung into a full-on public bashing session: name calling, speculation about my writing skills, and insults about my physical appearance.
Besides public attacks, I’ve faced other forms of retaliation over the years:
- rude comments on my blog and Facebook Fan Page;
- hack attacks on my websites;
- creepy emails and private messages; and
- vicious comments left on reviews I’ve written, like this one on a “classic” written by a long-dead author:
- I get called “wishy-washy” when I outline the positives in a book I don’t like.
- I’m “apologetic” when I point out aspects others may appreciate about a book I’ve rated poorly.
- I’m “confusing” and shouldn’t post reviews, because I give a positive rating to a book I don’t like, but feel was well done and would be enjoyed by others.
Who needs that abuse and stress? It’s not like writing reviews is benefiting me in any way.
Time and Money
Here’s a secret authors may not know:
Writing book reviews to post on sites like Amazon, Smashwords, and GoodReads
is a losing prospect for the reviewer.
It takes hours to write a thoughtful review. And, that’s after you’ve spent several days reading the book in the first place. You need to:
- organize what worked and didn’t work;
- touch on points that may interest other readers;
- and write it in a way that is fair and intelligent.
Then, you need to edit and polish your review so it doesn’t read like a 4th grader wrote it. Any errors will immediately invalidate everything you’ve written and subject you to more public ridicule.
As a freelance writer, I charge between $25 and $75 for content that requires the same amount of time and effort put into the reviews I write. But, I’m not being paid to write reviews and that time could be better served working on my own novels (as my husband frequently points out).
Reviewing books is a “hobby” that costs me time and money. Unlike a hobby, though I can’t recoup losses by selling my products on Esty.
Speaking of loss, it’s hard to be honest about not liking an author’s work when you share the same social circles with them. If they take the review personally, there’s the serious possibility you’ll not only lose the author as a contact, but also their associates.
Mutual friends may shy away from you, either out of loyalty to the author or concern that you’ll give them a bad review also. Even if you don’t know the author, posting an unpopular review can make you an outcast and cost valuable contacts you rely on for networking; people who could help you advance by buying, reading, reviewing, and even promoting your books.
Just another “Stinky Butthole”
In the end, a review is just someone’s opinion. And as the adage goes, “Opinions are like buttholes. We all have one and we all think everyone else’s stink.”
As much as I want my reviews to make a meaningful impact, the harsh truth is they’re often another number that either bolsters someone’s rating or drags it down. The number of times my reviews are voted “unhelpful” (even 4 and 5 star reviews) is higher than the times they’re voted “helpful”.
Based on my personal experience, is it any wonder why readers don’t want to leave reviews? While I try not to take it personally, it’s frustrating. In fact, I nearly gave up writing reviews several times … but then, I get a “thank you” note from an author, a public mention, and even requests from someone who read one of my critical reviews and wants an honest opinion of their work. My reviews may not matter to everyone, but every now and then, they have meaning to the right someone.
So, you’re an author. Cool. You are a master of the written language (with help from various editors). Readers hang on your every word when they read your work, cuz, really – have you tried stopping mid-story? People get seriously ticked and send you nasty emails. But, I digress. Point is, you’re a rock star in the eyes of your audience.
As amazing as that is, if you’re reading this, you have a teeny tiny problem: You need a professional-looking author photo that will grace every book you write for years to come. If you’re bold, you probably want two: One for your books, author site, and social media; and another for blog tours, press releases, and profile photos on sites such as GoodReads, Amazon, and Smashwords. But, how do you get one without dropping serious cash on a professional photographer?
The good news is that you can DIY an author photo you can really be proud of. Here are some simple suggestions to help …
Prep: Use a camera that takes high resolution photos. Show the person who is taking the photos how to use the camera properly. If they are unfamiliar with it and let them experiment for a bit before you start the photo shoot.
We want to avoid any “selfies” with your arm snaking out of frame, so if you’re doing your own photos, use a camera with a timer or remote. You may also want to get yourself a tripod from the dollar store.
Find Your “Best Side”: Take various shots before your “real shoot” to find out if you like the look of your left or right side better. Once you found the side you like, also find the best angle to flatter your features. For example, I have “hooded” or “half-mast” eyelids, so my best photos are taken with the camera slightly above me, looking down. Because I have to look up at the camera, it naturally forces my eyes to open fully without making me look like a majorette on crack.
Lighting: You want to make sure your photo can be effectively used across all media, which means it needs to be well lit. The best option is to use natural lighting, preferably outdoors. If that isn’t an option, find a spot indoors with lots of big windows to let in sunlight.
Avoid directly sunlight, so you don’t end up over-exposing your skin or creating “hot spots”. You want the lighting to be as even as possible, so avoid trees and other overhanging objects that may cast weird shadows across your face.
Keep the sun in front of you, but off to one side. This will prevent any squinting, sun halos, or creepy “shadow face” pictures.
Setting: Use a simple and non-descript background. If your camera has a manual focus or you have some skill with Photoshop, blur your background gently so you remain the center of attention.
Appearance: Just like going for a family photo or job-interview, you want to look your best. Brush your hair and keep it out of your face. Be sure you’re well-groomed; pluck, trim, and shape as necessary. Also, check your teeth for remaining lunch particles.
Make-up is essential, even if you don’t normally wear it. Remember, we’re looking for a professional-looking photo. Keep it natural and if you’re not sure how to properly apply it, search out tutorials online. If you’re a man with an uneven skin tone, you might want to consider using a bit of foundation to give yourself an even appearance.
Wear a flattering neckline, so you don’t end up with a “boobalicious” snapshot. Select a solid colour to help prevent weird warbles across your chest in the photos. Avoid bold yellows, bright greens, or metallic colors which will glare across your throat and chin.
Tone: If you write in multiple genres or need photos for various purposes, try to keep the feel of your photos in sync with its intended use. Keep things bright and cheery for photos to be used in social media and press. Use darker colours and slight shadowing (without obscuring your face) to create more moody pictures for gothic, horror, or mystery genres.
Be Prolific: Take lots of photos in various poses, outfits, and locations so you have plenty of options to choose from. This will also give you options for your branding, author page, social media profiles, interview photos, Christmas cards to the grandparents … etc.
Post-production: Photo touch-up programs are your friend. If you can’t afford a program like Photoshop, there free programs like, GIMP which will help you remove blemishes, adjust contrast, soften the background, or any other changes you’d like to make.
Safety Note: Make sure there is nothing in the photo that will give potential trouble-makers any personal information about you or your loved ones. This includes certificates, mailboxes/house numbers, pictures of your family (especially your children!), and photos with the names of clubs, community identifiers (ie. town water towers), dance schools, youth teams, etc.
Lastly; Have fun! A sparkle in your eye and smirk on the corner of your mouth will attract people to your photo and your work better than a good write up ever will. A picture really is worth a 1,000 words.
This article is featured on The Phoenix Quill website.