Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Help a Desperate Author: The Shameless Plea

Okay, I’ll admit it. I haven’t reviewed every book I’ve ever read. The thought of actually doing that makes me break into a cold sweat considering how many books I’ve read in my lifetime. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that book reviews were confined to actual reviewers, or a critic; at least that’s what I thought.

I’ve recently changed my opinion on the subject. Not only can the average book reader complete a review, but in the case of the independent author, I think it’s vital for readers to lend their support with those reviews. Of course, the fact that I’m now a writer desperately seeking reviews has definitely contributed to my change of heart.

There’s a common conception that book reviews help sales. If a writer gets a good review and it’s posted for other readers to see, it’s supposed to encourage people to buy the book. The theory is that it might be worth reading if others say so. The more good reviews a book gets, the more sales are supposed to increase. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.  While all of the books I’ve published have at least one five star review on various websites, and some have even more, my sales aren’t skyrocketing.

Every writer wants their books to sell. Every writer would love to see their name on the New York Times or U.S.A. Today bestseller lists. I’m no exception. I’d love to be a best seller, even once, just so that I could say that I was. I see my peers using this as a means of promotion and think that I’d love to be able to have that luxury. Maybe one day I’ll get there. Maybe I won’t.

Increasing sales and being a best seller, admittedly these go hand in hand, but they aren’t my only motivation for soliciting reviews. The plain and simple truth is that I want to know what my readers think of my characters, storytelling, plot, etc. I want to hear if they loved or hated a character, if they think the story is believable or too over the top and whether or not they want more.

When they’re good, a reader’s opinion validates my work. It reminds me why I like to write and gives me that boost to keep going even though I’m not the best-selling author in the market. When they’re bad, a reader’s opinion can make me a better writer. One of my books once received a two star review on Amazon for being poorly edited. I was appalled but it turned out that review was a blessing. The editing wasn’t the issue with the book. It was the conversion from print to e-book that created an issue. Without that review, I never would have discovered the problem.

The reviews for my latest book, Next Time, have been slowly trickling in. I’ve seen four thus far, but I’d love to see more. In an effort to reach my goal of getting more reviews for Next Time, I am offering readers a free copy of Tough Times, the third book in the Time for Love series, in exchange for their review of the book. And no, I’m not making it a condition of the offer that the review be good. The way I see it, only those people that like this series are likely to take advantage of this offer. I also don’t want to skew my stats. I’d rather know what readers honestly think of my book.

Only time will tell whether or not I become a best seller. Only you can tell me what you think of my work and I’d sure appreciate if you’d help a desperate author. All you have to do is post a review online. It can be on Goodreads or iBooks or Barnes and Noble or any site from which you purchased the book. I’d sure appreciate it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OMG! I'm That Author!

It took some time, no pun intended, but it’s finally here. Next Time, the second book in my four book Time for Love series was released this week. It’s been out a whopping three days and I can’t believe what’s happening.

Every time I release a new book, I hold my breath and wait to see what the readers’ reactions will be. The stakes are higher for the release of Next Time. Not only do I have to live up to the standards readers came to expect after reading the first book, but I’m taking a huge risk in the book. I don’t want to get in to the specifics of that risk since I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you haven’t read it yet, but it’s something that will leave fans reeling by the time the story comes to an end.

Besides worrying about disappointing readers, I also worry that no one is actually going to buy my new book. I don’t have any expectations that it will be a best seller, hopes maybe, but it would be nice if someone bought the book; anyone? Help me out here. One of the reasons I keep my prices so low, which nets me a minimal profit, is because I want to reach more readers. That’s why it’s always scary to offer a ninety-nine cent book and find that no one is reading it.

Needless to say that when Next Time came out on October 13th, I was a nervous wreck. I knew there was a loyal group of readers who had been waiting patiently since May to find out what was next for Justin and Chelsea.

At lunchtime on Monday, I took to my Twitter account to plug my new novel and you won’t believe what I found.  I had one reader tweeting that she had planned for an early night but there was no way she was sleeping now that Next Time was out. Later, she tweeted the following: Honestly, this book exceeded my expectations by miles. I’m probably going to reread it 100 times. So happy.

She’s happy? If she’s happy than consider me ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that not only did someone run out and buy my book on its release day but she proceeded to sit down and read it one sitting.

I had another reader recently tweet she was halfway through and things were intense. Another reader tweeted she was so happy that Next Time had come out while still another reader tweeted she was already on page 205.

After reading all of these tweets, especially that first one about the book exceeding expectations, my first thought was that I’ve made it. Fans made a point of buying and then immediately reading my book as soon as it was available for sale. People are talking about my books on Twitter. People I don’t know. I never thought it would happen, but I’m that author! It’s a realization that’s as humbling as it is exciting and though it brings new fears of being able to keep fans happy I’ll take it.

You know why? Because I’m that author! And I have all of you to thank for that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Time to Let Go, or is It?

For the last several weeks, I’ve been working hard on the release of Next Time, the second book in the Time for Love series. As a result, I’ve come to two very important conclusions. One, I need an editor. Two, I have to let go sooner or later.

Even though I call it work, I love to write. I love creating characters and scenes and bringing stories to life. It’s especially rewarding when readers connect with my story and they share that with me. The part of writing that I’m not so keen on, the part that makes it feel like work to me, is the editing.

Editing is one of those double edged swords to me. I understand and value its importance. I want to be able to give my readers the most polished product I can. I want them to focus on the story without being distracted by errors. As a writer who’s also a reader, which most writers are, I’m often tripped up when I’m reading a book and run across an error. If I really like the book or the author or both then I’m usually willing to let it go. If I’m on the fence about the story, that might be the deal breaker for me. I don’t want to be the deal breaker for my readers. In that respect, I value the editing process and put a lot of pride in getting it right.

Then there’s the other side of the editing coin. No matter how many times I read through a novel, no matter how many different formats or methods I use, I always seem to miss something. Since I don’t want to release the novel until I’m one hundred percent confident its error free, you can see how easy it is for the process to become so labor intensive.

Case in point, I have spent the last month editing Next Time. I’ve read and edited and reread and edited again. It’s like the old hair washing adage of lather, rinse, repeat. That’s what I’ve been doing with my editing process; read, edit, repeat.

I thought I had reached the point where I was ready to let go of Next Time. I did what I thought was that final round of edits and sent the book to be formatted. While publication is the next step after formatting, I always do one last review when I get the file back from the formatter. The theory is that having taken a break from my endless review of this novel, I’m fresh enough to catch anything I might have missed.

Boy did I catch what I missed! And it wasn’t one or even two things. There were a few things I missed. In one scene, I had the character remove his socks and then his shoes. That’s a pretty big sequencing error. In another scene, I had a character locked out of the house because she left her keys somewhere. That was fine until two chapters later when the keys she lost magically appeared to let her into her old apartment. Oops. I also found the standard missing words. I think I counted three, maybe four, missed words that I’ve overlooked all this time.

As you can imagine, these errors sent me into panic mode. I started wondering what else I’d missed. That led to me contemplating pushing back the release of the novel to do another round or two of edits. After much discussion with myself, I’ve come to the following conclusions.

I need an editor. Despite my best efforts, I always miss something. Maybe I’m too emotionally invested. A detached, impartial and experienced editor will be able to zero in on these mistakes and help me fix them the first or second time. Since hiring an editor is far outside of the budget of this indie author, I’ve come to another important conclusion. It’s time to let go. Despite my best efforts, I may have missed something. I hope not, but I can’t keep holding back waiting for a level of perfection that may never come.