A Writer's Journey

September 24, 2012

Reviews, Authors and Publicity

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s hard to be an author today. That’s why I go to grad school for something else because while I love to imagine making a good living off my writing, I know it’s not realistic. But that’s now what this post is about.

Last year, I began looking up literary agents even though I was only in the first few chapters of “The Wedding Game” and stuck on “Through the Mists.” Early, yes, but I now have an excel sheet of literary agents to query hopefully after this round of revisions on “The Wedding Game.” But while looking into literary agents, there were articles about what a potential may ask you and what you should ask the agent. One question an agent may ask regarded publicity and what you the author would do to promote your book.

This may surprise you as it did me. But the truth is the traditional publishing houses are facing money problems like the rest of us. So they are cutting costs. Unless you are James Patterson or J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer famous, don’t expect much help publicity-wise. You are on your own.

And most authors don’t come with the skills necessary to promote themselves. I have a few skills having worked publicity for my college theater group and interning in the promotions department of a radio station. But that doesn’t make me an expert. And none of us have the money to hire our own publicist. Authors are left on their own and, sometimes, do really stupid things.

This is a post I wrote many months ago regarding behavior exhibited by some authors on Goodreads. I then decided to join the site, a decision I still do not regret. A community of readers and writers reviewing books was right up my alley. And when you get down to it, there’s an author’s best publicity. Look at E.L. James. What brought her books to the forefront of the public’s mind? Word of mouth—both positive and negative.

So a writer relies on reviews. I know I’ve always meant to review more. One of my original plans for My Little Corner was to include book reviews. Unfortunately, that never materialized. The site became more pop culture based, what with my recaps. My last post regarding anything book-related was my Nostalgia Nook on The Animorphs. But I’m improving—writing reviews for both Goodreads and Amazon.

Why are reviews so important? Think about it: When was the last time you wanted to see a movie since the trailer came out months before but changed your mind because the reviews weren’t great? Or pass by a hole-in-the-wall but decide to try it after an amazing write up? And never underestimate the power our friends have. That’s what online reviewing is—opinions from your friends. We naturally gravitate toward people with similar opinions and tastes. So we learn whose reviews to value over others. And it can encourage us to buy a book or stay away.

That’s why authors hunger for good reviews, besides the obvious fact that we don’t want people to dislike our babies. But some authors go a little too far. People have seen it on Goodreads and Amazon. Authors who argue with people who give them a low rating. Try to make them change their minds or “explain” what the person missed about the book. Authors, that’s our job in our book. And there’s another thing to consider. We all bring our own life experiences and worldviews to everything we encounter. So how you envision one thing is different from how I envision something. Just look at my analysis on books I’ve read.

Engaging the fans is a good thing—as long as it’s done properly. And there is a way to use a review to open a conversation with the fan. Ask them to explain their viewpoint more. Or begin a healthy debate. But the minute you tell someone their opinion is wrong, then it’s not a healthy debate. And you are self-sabotaging. It may not appear so, not at first. Because your fans probably circled the wagons and feel they need to “defend” you. Which doesn’t help either. For every fan supporting you, there is someone turned off from buying your book.

The truth is you may have done more damage than the negative review. The negative review may have worked in your favor. Someone may have read and wondered if your book was really that bad. And they may like your book. They may even buy more of your books. You now have a new fan thanks to the negative review. And by not getting involved, there’s nothing on your part to turn off said new fan. Win-win!

Here’s a message to those who challenge the people who give low reviews. In the Western world, in a democracy, the free exchange of ideas is paramount. You can express your opinion, just as I can express mine. But you can’t then try to terrorize me into changing my opinion or staying quiet. If all reviewers are worried about repercussions, this will die and so will authors’ major form of publicity. So let’s all treat each other with respect, no matter what we say in our reviews.



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