Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Five Things Authors Want from Book Reviews

Has this ever happened to you? You are asked to read and review a book written by a friend or acquaintance or relative.  When you finish, you think, “Oh, no. What will I write about this book? I barely got through it. And my friend/acquaintance/relative wrote it.”

It can feel uncomfortable giving a negative review even to a stranger. But when it’s someone you know, it is even harder. You know the author worked hard and thinks it good enough to share with the world. But you know better. Maybe the plot is too thin or too thick. Maybe the dialogue is stilted or inappropriate. Perhaps you didn’t care about the characters you were supposed to relate to.

But all authors need to seek honest reviews of their work. And there are ways to phrase your review criticisms that make it easier to hear so authors can use the suggestions to improve future works. Whether they know it or not, authors are seeking usable, honest feedback.

Hard as it might be to hear, ultimately we improve more from well-crafted negative comments than from the rosy, glowing, “this book is perfect” reviews. The exception to that is if the “perfect” book reviews explain why it’s perfect. We want to repeat what we do well in addition to fixing our flaws.

And the number of reviews we get counts as well as the average rating for the book. There are big time, legitimate reviewing sites that won’t consider reviewing a book until it has a certain number of reviews with a certain minimum average rating. Getting reviewed by sites with tens of thousands of readers is huge for authors. That’s one reason we seek out reviews as soon as a book is published.

Here is my list of the five things authors expect from reviews:
1. If you accept a book for review purposes, review it.
I can’t tell you how many books I “gifted” to people asking only that they give an unbiased review in return. I am running about 50% for follow-through. I wonder why they don’t review it. Did they hate it and don’t want to hurt my feelings? Did they lose it? Did they flat out forget?

2. We don’t expect or need long reviews, but we do like specifics.
A book review doesn’t need to and probably shouldn’t get into too much detail about plot points. But, hey, if you’re going to give away something, put SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of your review so others will be warned.

That said, the review can be a short paragraph or few sentences, but don’t be too general. Give specifics. Instead of “great character interactions”, you might say “the relationship of the hero and heroine was complicated by lack of communication”. That is a specific that helps other readers. And it tells the author that part of the story was effectively communicated.

3. Don’t diss the book for the wrong reasons.
If the book didn’t arrive on time or the cover was damaged in transit, contact the seller. The author has no control over such issues. We get that you’re frustrated and want to vent, but a book review isn’t the place to do that. The author can do nothing about it.

Likewise, don’t be so critical if the book didn’t meet your expectations in certain ways. For example, I use various pen names for branding purposes. I do not want someone who likes my cozy culinary mysteries to pick up Streetwalker and start looking for the recipes. But if the book blurb signals the type of book and you didn’t bother to read it, don’t take it out on the book or author if it didn’t meet genre expectations.

That said, if the book didn’t meet your expectations because you know cozy mysteries are supposed to keep violence to a minimum and “off-stage” and this book had gory details like in police procedurals, then, yeah, take the author to task for violating expectations. Or if you expected the main characters to be people you can care about (per cozy mystery expectations), and everybody is a jerk, then the author violated expectations and should be called out.

4. Give a rating number that reflects your comments.
I admit to being puzzled by the three-star reviews that only say positive things. Okay. I get it that you reserve five stars for a very few books. But why isn’t it a four-star book? What do I need to do to bump it up to the next level? When you don’t give me specifics (going back to #2), I can’t always figure out how to move my writing up to a level you’d enjoy more.

5. Help the author of a book you liked by dealing with trolls and inappropriate or inaccurate reviews.
We all get them. The holier-than-thou folks who never met a book they liked. Or, sadly, there are authors who trash other authors’ books to cut down the competition. Or there are people who just didn’t get the book and write scathing but inaccurate reviews.

Please consider responding to those reviews in defense of the book. We like it when dialogue ensues among our readers and people chime in on the topic. As people argue for and against the book, we learn a lot about what is important to our readers and about how well we delineated our premise.

So there you have it. Authors want to hear from you. They want to know what kinds of books resonate with you. They want to get better. Help them do that.

Check out these tips about how authors can respond to book reviews.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Guest Post: "TYPE" by Karen Chilton Wilder

I regularly read and enjoy Karen Chilton Wilder's blog, "Girl on a Wire", and so I was delighted when she agreed to appear on "Romance Righter". "Type" was originally posted on her blog and was very popular, so we thought you would enjoy it, too! Welcome, Karen!
What could the dating experiences of little old me - a 40-something, recently divorced mom - possibly have in common with those of a 23 year old gay man?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

In fact, as it turns out, gay men and straight men may have far more in common with one another than either group might like to admit.  A recent chat with my friend Kyle had us both in stitches over the “types” we’ve discovered in the course of our (mis)adventures in dating.

A sampling:

·       The Pretty Boy.  I can’t go out with this guy because his hair always looks better than mine.  Ditto for Kyle (and really, this is a crime, because Kyle has fabulous hair).  Ladies and gents, if it walks like a Ken doll, talks like a Ken doll, and never met a mirror it wasn’t ready to make love to, it’s likely The Pretty Boy you’re dealing with.  Nice arm candy, but be warned: he’s only got enough love for himself.

·       The Clooney.  This is a tough one.  Dashingly handsome, but with serious talent and substance to boot.  Has avoided commitment thus far, but causes everyone he comes into contact with to swoon in hopes of being ‘The One.’  But let’s get real, kids.  How many of us are truly in a class with Amal?  Keep your head on straight.  Your skivvies, too.

·       The Pious One.  Maybe he’s an actual pillar of his particular religious community.  Maybe he’s just religious in his devotion to yoga, meditation, or his vegan diet.  But this is the man who gets you singing ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ in the shower and has you swearing you’ll convert.  You know - right up until the religious exclamations at romantic moments throw a wet blanket over your desire.  Put down the Kool Aid.  You know he’s gonna dump you for a blonde with family money anyway.

·       The Trust Fund Brat.  Speaking of family money…  This is that delightfully soft, sweet guy - the one with wild stories, sparkling eyes, and a prep school past.  He’s the one you fall for immediately.  And it’s mutual.  The problem?  He comes with more strings attached than a marionette, and at the end of each is a family member so horrific only monarchies are creepier.  Give it a whirl - but keep scissors and running shoes handy.

·       The Life of the Party.  This is the guy whose dating site profile lists him as “fun loving” and features an adult beverage in every photo.  It’s also sort of silly that he even has a dating site profile at all, since Tinder is more his style.  If you’re looking to wake up bruised, hung-over and naked on a yacht you don’t remember boarding, this is the guy for you.  Otherwise?  Not so much.

·       The Strong & Silent.  Oh, this one’s a doozy.  He’s handsome.  Mysterious.  Says more with a glance than he ever does with those sultry lips of his.  And you know what?  It’s because he’s got nothin’.  There’s either not a whole lot going on between those lovely ears, or he has some terrible, soul-deep scars that prevent him from expressing himself.  You’d do better dating the Dos Equis guy.  At least he comes with a script.

·       The Momma’s Boy.  This man-child starts out looking great (He’s so good to his mother!  So respectful!  So deferent!  What’s not to like?), but eventually he makes Norman Bates seem rational.  His mommy’s got him convinced that he’s Special…and no one is good enough for her boy.  Are you deluded enough to think you are?  She’ll spare no effort in slowly, painfully proving you wrong.  And your Prince Charming?  Don’t wait for him to come to your rescue.  There isn’t even a problem.  There couldn’t be.  His momma can do no wrong.  Advice?  Run.  Just run.  For fuck’s sake, run now

We identified a couple of notable others (God’s GiftThe Wandering Penis), but as these types seemed to overlap a bit with those detailed above, I’ll leave them to your imagination.

As for me and Kyle, we have no idea why we’re still single.
After all, we’re perfectly pleasant in every way…  ;)

k.c. wilder is the author of the Amazon bestselling chick lit novel Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband, the Heather Hollow series of YA paranormal fiction, the novella Seattle Postmark, and the short fiction trio Wrecks.   She also proudly contributed the short story 'The Mermaid' to Merry Chick Lit, a compilation with all proceeds benefiting breast cancer nonprofit Rocking the Road for a Cure.  Her short story 'Lady in Red' appeared in A Kind of Mad Courage, with all proceeds benefiting The Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation.  Her work has appeared in The Providence Journal, Grace: A Magazine for Women, EspressoFiction, and Glimmer Train.

Buy link for Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband: 

Buy link for Seattle Postmark:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dating and "Women of a Certain Age"

There seem to have been two times in my life when I have or have had large numbers of women friends who were unattached. When I was in the beginning of my post-high school education and early career, most of my friends were unmarried, some unattached even, as we prepared for and established our professional lives.

I was not a monogamous dater as some of my friends were. I loved juggling a bunch of guys, probably a power trip on my part, but whatever. Some friends were serial daters and that was okay, too. We were young and loved being in love but backed off if things got too serious. Until THE ONE, of course. My ONE came along much later than others’, but that was okay, too.

Now, in my “third chapter”, as Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (TheThird Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years after 50) refers to it, I find, yet again, that I have large numbers of unattached women friends. Odd, isn’t it, this cycle of life?     

At this stage, most of my unattached friends are either divorced, widowed, or both rather than still seeking the first commitment. It’s strange to find myself in the same, yet different place. It feels like the same stream in many ways, yet is not. Not really.

Conversations, as in earlier years, often cycle around to whom one is seeing and how that’s working out. Only it’s different now. Now the talk might be of how difficult it is to find someone just to go to movies and sports events with. Guys of “a certain age” appear to be more interested in hook-ups than hanging out. Whereas, my women friends are more interested in companionship than in cohabiting. They want a friend to spend time with, to snuggle with (or perhaps more), but they want the relationship in that order. Not a quick hook-up with no later dates.

Ha! But maybe that was always the case. Maybe women evolved, but men didn’t? Maybe men are still in the “notches on the belt” stage? That sounds harsh, but I’m just reporting what I hear.

If you’re a woman “of a certain age”, what do you want out of a relationship at this stage of life?

Next week, Karen Chilton Wilder will be here sharing about types of guys she's dated. Nice companion piece, eh? Please come by next Tuesday.