Reviewers – An Author’s BFF

Honey Lemon and one of my favorite fans – Daniela

Whenever you meet authors at conferences or conventions, what is one thing we always say, besides the heart-felt THANK YOU? I think it goes something like this:

“I hope you love it. And here’s my card and information, so you can follow what I’m doing. If you can, write a review. I’d love to know what you think.”

I like to take time and thank those who invest in me as an author. I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation for choosing my series over the sea of other authors – and I mean every word. As crazy as this sounds, I didn’t start in this business to sell books, but to create art and find readers and keep them coming back. However, selling is the inevitability, or authors will cease to exist. Books are art, a creative expression and collaboration, but they are also a business, and artists like myself are losing.

There is a price with selling, and not just the cost of the book. I’ve said many times that authors are the worst at selling their books. Unless they have a knock-out elevator pitch, they frankly know too much about the story. Where should we start? What would grab their attention? What part would they like most? I think they’d like all the parts. And like Tommy Boy, we inevitably, kill the sale.

So, when I have someone interested, and I know they will absolutely love it, and YES, they bought a book – it’s a celebration. I have a new best friend, a fan, and they are so precious to me.

Many of my readers I meet at cons or author events, where I’m present to sign their books and talk with the readers one-on-one. Many are teens and aspiring writers. I love that interaction. I’d never trade it.

12039499_10101364253906231_2632341432076338814_nBut, here is the problem that I have, it doesn’t translate to sales on Amazon.

Amazon is a juggernaut, driving sales of our products and controlling a lot of what we can do as authors. The truth is we have to play the Amazon game in order to show PROOF we are a validated author. The main way on Amazon to prove our validity is through reviews. If someone buys my book on Amazon, an email will be generated and asks for a customer review. If you buy an ebook, it’s an easy click to review and you’re done.

So, as much as I love meeting and talking with readers, it doesn’t turn my rating on Amazon.

Amazon is so big that a small fish like me is not going to matter that much to them. I am in the invisible bottom-feeding ocean, along with the other creative creatures that flounder, making their own way to survive. I’ve been swimming in the ratings around hundreds of thousands for a while, until I learned a few secrets. There is a magic number of reviews, if you didn’t know, that needs to be met in order for Amazon to pay attention to you. Once you hit that number Amazon is like, “Hey, this might make us money. Let’s pair it with this and see if we can get more hits?” Do you get those emails or bottom scrolls that show you this? It’s a game of numbers. As an author, I have zero control over this. It’s completely in reviewers’ hands.

Goodreads, owned by Amazon, has become a good friend. Readers love networking with other readers and authors- it’s a symbiotic relationship existing in an internet realm all about books. Several of my readers are a part of this world as well and celebrate their thoughts in this cyber-community. But, I’m having the same kind of breakdown with my readers, not because of the cultivation, but because of the age – several of my readers are not on Goodreads or Amazon, because, candidly, they are not old enough.

Isn’t that a funny conundrum?

There are other ways to break the Amazon code, but several I don’t have control over. Sell a lot in one day, Amazon pays attention. Kindle-Unlimited is an amazing tool if you have control of your books. Setting up a FREE book through them could spike your rating to INFINITY, but being with a small press, I don’t have that freedom or control either. There are so many circumstantial variations to this game, what works for some, doesn’t always work for others. Nothing is going to work the same for everyone, so please don’t hurry and run out and sign up for these programs thinking you’ll be an overnight success. But what I am coming to understand is my limitations with control when it comes to Amazon – you have to play or you drown.

So, I’ve come up with a plan…

As a reward for finishing the hardest book I’ve ever written, my third and concluding novel to my series, EVERSTAR, I thought about rewarding myself. I wanted an art piece, something I could frame and display in my home, a reminder of this staggering accomplishment. I contacted Khai Vinh of Ghost Illustrations.com and commissioned a painting of my world. What he came up with is beyond stunning. He drew for me Southwick, the southern most point and the capital in my world of Parbraven. He captured it at the most pivotal point in the series, simply put – at the end. The artwork is full of secrets only a fan would notice and I decided that this couldn’t be just for me, this needs to be shared.

And this is where all of you come in.

I’m giving a print of this beautiful painting exclusively to those who place a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It seriously is something I’m so proud of and special to me. To share it with you makes me all warm inside. I had a parent post for her son, who loved my books, but didn’t have an amazon account, so it’s still possible if you want your kids to have some wall art in their room.

Click here: WRITE A REVIEW

This link will take you to my page where you can fill out your name, email, and where you posted. I’ll follow up and send you one of these posters FREE! I’ll even sign it if you like. I’m looking for honest reviews, of course. Fives stars are wonderful, but I know that my book is not everyone’s taste. Readers needs to know if this book is for them. This is my THANK YOU for taking your time and sharing your thoughts on my art.

Authors need you. Regardless of where you bought the book, reviews are IMPORTANT. They are an essential part of a delicate author ecosystem, like algae to coral reef, a sustainable resource that can keep us creating, producing, and gifted back to you. The only way we survive in such a huge ocean is with a little help from our friends – you, our readers.

Book Review – Fangirl

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell hit dangerously close to my fanatica. I understood Cath’s character TOO well, as many fangirls would. This was a lot of fun to read, an escape from my normal adrenaline fueled YA fantasy. I was surprised at at the real story – a heart-aching family drama, the first taste of college, a delicate romance, and the different threads that makes us who we are.

It was a fun read, a little young for me, but still fun. Cather is a writer of fan fiction, playing in a world of Simon Snow magical mage extraordinaire. I could feel the author Rainbow Rowell’s fan love drip in nearly every mention of the orphan boy with magical gifts. This part was extremely enjoyable for me, a borderline spastic HP geekgirl. The voicing of both the book from “Gemma T. Lesley” and “Magicath” we different enough I could tell when I was reading the real books and Cather’s fan fiction creation. I think that is tremendously tricky and commend the author for it. The excerpts from the books were fun and my inner nerd wanted these books to be real, a fun tidbit that helped the book move.

I gave it four stars, not because the writing a characters weren’t awesome, just because it typically was not my kind of read and I don’t have much to compare it to.

(For my conservative friends, there is language, but harmless in every other respect.)

Book Review – Mistborn: The Final Empire

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I gave this five stars for a few reasons…

First, this book tricked me. If an author can trick me, where I can’t predict what was about to happen, then I love you. You are what I wish to be.

Second, sheer charm. I thought it was funny and the characters were well crafted. I enjoyed each character and felt they had their own story and individuality. Also, the story was so well-crafted that it wouldn’t be complete without all the characters. Each had a role and a decision.

And speaking of story-craft, this is impeccably-designed storytelling – a lost art. Starting with flawless world building all the way to the ingenious magic system, this book had everything I look for in books. The magic system was so concise, so well-planned, so individualized that I can vision it, feel it, smell it. THAT’S what a magic system should do – make you feel that it’s real.

Sanderson’s writing is easy to conceive and visualize. This world is painful and deep with heart-wrenching realism. It’s complicated and perplexing, but yet so freely expressed that anyone could understand it. For an author, this is not easy to teach, this is talent.

I weep with jealousy. Good job!

View all my reviews

Book Review – On the Isle of Sound and Wonder

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder

Alyson Grauer 

I will admit Steampunk intimidates me. I’m afraid of gadgetry and mechanization that is, basically, over my head. My imagination is so fanciful I need magic in my stories. So, I was slightly intimidated when I picked up On the Isle of Sound and Wonder. But I’m a sucker for covers and LOOK AT THE COVER!! I’m in AWE!

My fears quickly vanished. Grauer marries both magic and mechanics into an intelligent, well-crafted, seamless retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I was immediately drawn into a vivid world of mysterious voodoo magic, flying airships, and intellectual automatons, who if I can say this, reminding me a lot of adorable Baymax.

In comparing the Shakespearean work, Grauer’s love and understanding of the original text shines through with her careful crafting and storytelling. There is more intensity with both relationships, depth of characters, and heightened danger among the island that cannot be translated to the stage. As a novel, the back stories of several characters can come to light, which I really enjoyed and kept the action and story moving. She didn’t veer so far from the play that you wouldn’t recognize it, but highlighted its potential, pleasing the Shakespearean connoisseur in me.

Grauer’s clever play with names, places, and features complement the original text. Mira (modern Miranda) proved a strong interpretation of a growing young woman facing the harsh island life, and is a valiant example of a sacrificial heroine any girl could aspire to.

I had the delightful pleasure of meeting Alyson Grauer at Salt City Steamfest last July and she is just as colorful and lively as her book. I loved… LOVED this book!

Book Review – The Night Circus

Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern

It was, in no other expression, delicious!

As an author I admire the craft and wordplay used throughout, swelled with its own music and harmonies, and so visual and sensual, that I could feel the silk fabric, or smell the sweet popcorn. The characters were rich, lively, complicated – and oh… the romance, forbidden and delightful, a perfect balance.

But there are two interesting details that I specifically loved, and something I have to commend…

Bravo Double Day!! for how the book was organized. I loved the NO CHAPTERS, instead filling it with dates and situations, jumping back and forth in time, made me an active participant. I had to pay attention to little details. Smart, clever details are peppers throughout, each a symbol or clue of the deep romance cloaked in the Night Circus. And you, yes YOU, participate as a character, experiencing the circus cleverly placed between the splendorous romance and enchantment. I felt that I lived it… that I was there experiencing it, and loved it as they did.

Bravo Morgenstern! for creating the Night Circus as a character. This is SO important when world building and a detail that many writers forget – to include your world, its history and mythology, and make a living vessel propelled by its own momentum. It was the heartbeat of the story. The ever-present notion placed in every dialogue or situation that the Night Circus was still in motion, hidden in the backdrop. Nothing made me more curious than the Night Circus itself, and that mystical force bound me to the book, much like the binding of Marco and Celia.

Milk and honey… I loved this book!!!