June 30, 2013

Reviews: Good Bad and Otherwise @cynnara #RLFblog

Love Games 
As the Reviews Come--the Good, the Hope and the Returns
By Cynnara Tregarth
Reviews can be a controversial topic on reader boards as well as writer boards. What's interesting is that there are many places where both overlap--a need to thank those who give reviews and figuring out ways to share the review without violating copyright of review site policies and the like. These days, there are a lot of hoops to jump and honestly, authors want to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, it's not always possible, which is a shame. Yet, there are many ways in which to thank those people who give out reviews, shout out about the reviews, and give honest thanks to our readers--because without them--published authors are writing to empty space.
Let's talk first about thanking those who review us. Whether they work for a review site, independently review us, or offer to review us--authors always need to thank that person. It's not an easy job reviewing a book. I know, I used to be a reviewer. In fact, I still do reviews from time to time, but not under my own name. There's a balance that reviewers must take, even with authors they love- they must tell the truth about the quality of the story, how it made them feel, and if they recommend the book to others to read. Often times, you'll see reviews where it's from "Anonymous." Most authors skip those reviews because many of them either love or hate the book and don't explain why. Plus, they're wary of anyone who won't sign their name or even their reviewer name to a review. I can't blame them, so if you want an author to respond to you--sign your review. It's that important. If you don't, you can't expect them to realize you're taking your job seriously.
Authors, you need to make sure you take the time once a week to go over any reviews you receive and to thank the reviewers. It's damn good policy, and if you're a newly published author, it's the best way to get your name in the door with established review sites. It's also good to respond on places such as Amazon, B&N, ARe, and the like whenever possible. Sometimes, I'll see a review and if there's an email addy, I might write the person to thank them for a review. Even if I think the review wasn't the best I ever had, it might point out something I can learn from it. That alone is worth thanking the reader.
How do you share the joy of great reviews? I think this is where most authors look at each other and shrug. It's hard sometimes to know how to effectively use reviews and the best places to use them. When I thank the reviewers, I ask if it's okay to blurb pieces of it for promotion. If it's a review from a review site, I know I can as long as I give credit and I don't use the whole thing. Pick two or three of the best sentences, make sure you include the reviewer's name, the review site and then include it on your emails, put it on your website, and you might even want to post it on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Why? Because showing that you're getting great reviews for your book will encourage people to buy the book and it'll help spread by word of mouth that people like the book, not just you and other authors.
Let me say one thing about Facebook and reviews. I've seen bunches of them over the past year or so. Some are fantastic because they're not the same old "Look at what So-n-So said about my book!" Personally, those get boring fast and people will scroll over them without looking. But if couch the review in such a way like '"Harley was one of the most exciting characters I've ever fallen for in a romance!" – says So-n-So from XXY Reviews Can you believe that she loved my character in ABC Romance? Check out how much she loved it!' Then you manage to both showcase the review and allow the person to go see more of the review. In turn, you know there will be a link to buy the book. It might result in a sale for the author or it can grow a readership for the review site as well. This is a nice thing for both author and reviewer. So please, mix it up out there with announcing new reviews for books. It's important to really pump it up so the reviewer's review is showcased, not just the book itself. I can't say that enough. Yes, we authors want to sell books, but we need the reviews to help us do that. Without them, we're basically selling on our own and we need their help to do more.
Sometimes authors get fan mail. It's exciting. It's fun, and occasionally, it can be scary. I think we have all heard the stories both good and bad throughout the years. In fact, visions of Stephen King's book, Misery, go through my head when I get fan mail at times. Authors love corresponding with readers by and large. Sometimes though, we're not sure what to say to some of the questions we get asked. I write erotic romance and once I was asked, "Do you practice all the positions you write about in your books? If so can you send me detailed descriptions on how to do them, so I can practice with my boyfriend?"
It took me a couple of days to figure out how to respond to that email. First, I had to get over the shock, then I had to decide how to answer the question without hurting the reader's feelings. This is a big thing to most of us authors. We're readers too. We wouldn't want the authors we enjoy to be rude or curt when writing us back. But at the same time, there are moments when we're very surprised by what we're asked behind closed emails. Authors try their hardest to be honest, yet kind to readers who email them, but occasionally, you have to cut off contact or tell the person not to write to them again, because they're delving into an area they don't belong. It's not often, but it does happen. It's sad, because it makes an author afraid to reach out to the next reader to emails them. So, let me apologize now, in advance on behalf of all authors who've had this happen to them. We don't mean to be slow in replying and hesitant in some answers, but please understand, sometimes there's a fine line between our author side and the private side our lives.
Occasionally, authors and readers email each other and from that, a great friendship grows. Over the years, I've been fangirl to many authors. I've been lucky to talk to them online, on the phone and in person at various conferences. It's something that many readers dream about. In fact, even authors have other authors they dream about wanting to meet and become friends with over time. My list grows exponentially over the years, I think. One of my greatest treasured meets was when I met Mercedes Lackey in person before I was published. She is one of the biggest reasons I write. When I met her, I burst into tears, because before me sat the one woman who I knew made it huge in the fantasy market and made a living in it. She was my dream made manifest. Over the years, she and I have emailed, I've talked to her husband (come to find out we went to the same high school, just missing each other by a year!), and she's always encouraged my writing path, telling me that I can do it, that the only thing I'm missing is believing in myself to take that step into submitting my fantasy work to one of her publishers. (She knows me well.) I think it's the penultimate of what an author and reader can share together.
Reviews are a way for reader and author to meet and talk about an author's work. It's a chance for an author to thank the reader for taking the time to read them and discussing what they liked and didn't like about the story itself. Don't forget that it's also good to let people know that you've gotten this review from this great reader. It shows that you care about the reader and it gives you a chance to show others just how much readers like the story and what their saying about it. Remember too, sometimes that contact between reader and author can go from review thanks to a possible long term friendship. It's happened to many people. Just as reviews come in--they show the good, the hope in us all, and the returns of many more to come.

Love Games

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