#bookreview guidelines, updated

#bookreview guidelines, updated

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Hi, #Author,

Your book sounds interesting, but I don’t have a lot of time or interest in most reviewing activities and I am very picky. Review the below carefully.

I might be interested in reading and reviewing your novel, if your novel:
— has NO graphic or, if it has violence, it is mostly “offstage” and not often repeated (no serial killing plots)
— there are a minimum of plot-reduction devices (fights, car chases, bomb blasts, etc.)
— the character development and plot devices are good to excellent
— has no raping
— has no torture
— has no BDSM scenes
— has no romanticizing helpless women
— has no gratuitous or abusive (even if “consensual”) sex, strip clubs, boxing, mixed martial arts, car races, motorcycle races, circuses or rodeos or other such settings/activities, for “atmosphere”
— has no human trafficking
— has no mutilation of animals or people
— has no child predators
— has non-plot-advancing violence
— does not have your trying to get “inside” the mind of the villain and writing in his/her “voice”
— has any Middle Eastern, Russian or other stereotyped ethnic villains.

I AM NOT A PRUDE, and not a censor. It’s that I now consider the aforementioned to be boring and lazy writing as well as disrespectful and hate-mongering and /or these elements give me bad dreams.

If your book fits my criteria, then one final note: I cannot read a PDF on my Kindle (I can’t enlarge that document’s font size and it is always about 6-pt, for some reason). The document has to be in a .mobi format.

Finally, I only submit honest reviews. If your book is truly horrible or has severe editing problems, I may email you after reading a few chapters and ask if you want me to continue or not, since that would definitely earn it only 1 or 2 stars, at best. I do not post DNF “reviews” unless the author refuses to respond to that question in an email within 2 weeks.

So, let me know.

Best to you,

Sally

Sally Ember, Ed.D.
http://www.sallyember.com

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How do #authors actually find #readers? I’m stumped.

How do #authors actually find #readers? I’m stumped.

3 paperbacks

So far, since becoming a fiction author in 2013, I have spent time on most popular sites and established a presence on several, I have yet to find a lot of readers. I mostly find: authors (a LOT); those providing services to authors (even more); potential authors (a few); and, trolls (I block, but they do pop up).

I first published my ebooks via Smashwords which then distributed my ebooks for me to iTunes/iBooks, nook (Barnes & Noble), Kobo and many other affiliates globally. I then published to Amazon Kindle. As of last fall, I now have paperback formats available via CreateSpace (where I offer discounts; see below) and Amazon as well.

You may ask: what else have I done, so far? A LOT!…

—I belong to several dozen and am active in several Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ groups/communities and I am less active but do belong to a few groups on Goodreads.
—I have author and book pages pretty much everywhere they’re free to have and manage to update them regularly (I hope).
—I have posted my free ebook (see below) on dozens of sites that allow free books to be posted for free.
—My first Spanners Series ebook, This Changes Everything, is permafree.
—The second volume, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, came out about a year ago and the third one, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, released last December, so I have the supposedly magic number of 3 books out, now.
—All 3 are out since late 2015 in both ebook and paperback formats.
—I offer discount codes for the paperbacks on my own site.
—I participate in occasional sales organized by two Facebook groups (Clean Indie Reads #CR4U and Fantasy and Science-Fiction Network #FSFnet) I am actively involved in (several per year).
—I give free ebooks to reviewers and always follow their guidelines and wait to be invited before sending the ebook to them.
—I have had more than a few reviews for each book, but not up to 50 for any (yet).
—I actively sought readers/reviewers on BuView and got a few but not as many as who accepted my free ebooks.
—I never pay for reviews or participate in review swaps.
—I post interesting, varied non-fiction content (never all about my books or asking others please to buy my books).
—I re-blog.
—I re-share posts.
—I thank others for re-sharing (not always).
—I retweet (but not everything).
—My posts go up on many sites.
—My WordPress blog is cross-posted on Tumblr and on several other sites automatically.
—I re-post my own on Pinterest and StumbleUpon about once a month, to give them another set of views.
—I put most of my Google+ posts into Collections about once/month, which also gives them a boost in views.
—I do occasional reviews, usually outside my own genre (#scifi) and post my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and sometimes my own blog as well.
—I invite and host guest bloggers on my site.
—I guest blog/give interviews on others’ sites regularly.
—I have articles/reviews that have appeared on very popular sites, some of which have paid me for my posts.
—I have buy links, interview and review links and other links on my own site (look right; scroll down).

I am frequently on

Twitter.
Facebook with both an individual and a Spanners Series page.
Google+ with both an individual and a Spanners Series page.
Pinterest, with many Boards and not all related to my books, either.
YouTube (I have my own channel and a video talk show, CHANGES conversations between authors, since 8/2014 and posted book trailers, author readings).
LinkedIn.
—I started a Patreon #crowdfunding campaign over a year ago, but haven’t garnered much dough.

I am also on/use

Authors’ Database
Authors’ Den
New Book Journal
Koobug
Bublish

I am occasionally on

Goodreads.
Library Thing.
Shelfari.
BookLikes.
—and other many other author/book sites.
—I visit and comment on many blogs.
—I have been on and listen to/comment on a few Blog Talk Radio shows’ sites.
—I was on Authonomy (it closed, but I did get some great reviews from posting my WIP on that site) and am still on Wattpad with excerpts.
—I used the Pre-order function, with half-price discounts for all three ebooks, several weeks prior to each book’s release on Smashwords and Amazon and other sites.
—I post excerpts from my books while they’re in Pre-orders on my blog.
—At the end of each book, I post the first Chapter of the next volume in the The Spanners Series.
—I post a CTA (Call To Action) asking for reviews, followers and readers at the end of each book.

Started but stopped…

—I joined and posted for a while on Ask the Expert and Quora, but got too busy to keep doing that.
—I joined Reddit but I hated the way the monitors interacted with posters and the rules are too rigid, so I quit.
—I joined Medium and some other sites (can’t even remember them all) but hardly use them. Apparently I have followers, but unless my blog is cross-posted on a site, I don’t know what they are following.

I’ve learned to do/decided to do these actions and listings because I spent a lot of time researching prior to and since publishing my first ebook. I read and followed the instructions for “how to find readers” from many “experts,” but I still usually encounter the above categories of people. Not to say authors and others aren’t readers, but I’m looking for those who identify as such and not elsewise in the industry.

I want more people to read, review, enjoy and comment on my books: doesn’t everyone?

added TODAY (3/15/16): Share! #Booksales best achieved NOT on #TWITTER, FB, LI or G+! Use #Youtube! http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/the-authors-three-step-test-for-sellability/

How do YOU attract more readers?
How do you know what works among all the things you’re doing to market yourself and your books?

All suggestions and anecdotes welcomed, except forget recommending I go on Instagram. I hate that site.

Thanks!

Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Please comment here: http://www.sallyember.com/blog or email me: sallyember AT yahoo DOT com

New Reviews for Volumes I, II, III in The Spanners Series

New Reviews for Volumes I, II, III in The Spanners Series

from “Aly” on Amazon, 3 Stars for Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, posted 1/1/16
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0996999809
This book has a good storyline but for me it was a little hard to follow. I enjoyed the idea and I think I understood the book in some instances but others lost me. But I think Sci-fi sometimes will do this to me anyway. * I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

from “Allie” on Smashwords and “Aly” on Amazon, 4 Stars for Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series, posted 1/1/16
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969
http://www.amazon.com/This-Want-Things-Change-Spanners/dp/0996999825
“This book helps me to understand book 1 better. I enjoyed this book more. I got introduced to more of Clara’s family in this book. There are many people in this family. I think you should check out this series. * I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*”

final cover print

from “Allie” on Smashwords and “Aly” on Amazon, 4 Stars for Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, The Spanners Series, posted 1/1/16
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/588331
http://www.amazon.com/This-Changes-Family-Forever-Spanners/dp/0996999817
“This series is very interesting to me. It has it ups and its downs. But I think so far I am enjoying the adventure whit the family and there friends. You should check out this series if you like Sci-fi and see what you think. * I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*”

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For more reviews, book trailers, author interviews, all download links (Volume I is free as an ebook) and purchase links, go to http://www.sallyember.com Look right; scroll down.

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All covers and logo art by WillowRaven.

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2016! Update, Stats and more about Posts from 2015 for the site: Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2016! Update, Stats and more about Posts from 2015 for the site: Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Welcome to all my new readers, followers, and returning ones to this year-end review. I am grateful for all of your attention, especially when you reblog, comment, ask questions or poke at my opinions.

I also started inviting my CHANGES guests and a few others to be Guest Bloggers on my site and their posts were very popular! Check them out here: Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame.

Other news this year: I was invited to be “interviewed” or featured and/or was a guest blogger on over two dozen more sites, including one that paid me for my submissions, and a few online radio shows!
Please check my links (on http://www.sallyember.com —look right; scroll down) for each of these posts and go visit, comment, enjoy. Highest-traffic sites, so far, are:
The Story Reading Ape“— http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com
Blog Critics,” for film and TV reviews (and many other types of posts, but those are what I submit)— http://Blogcritics.org and
Buddhist Door,” for which I have submitted a two-part series about my personal journey of becoming a Buddhist as well as one book review (so far)—http://Buddhistdoor.com

Biggest news would be the new release in The Spanners Series and the release of all three of the first Volumes into paperback format as well as ebooks, as of 12/8/15 (see below for details). I ALWAYS post about and link to EVERY review, however, brief or whatever its opinions, as long as it is legitimate (the person actually read my book) and honest.

SO, please do read my books and submit reviews to the usual sites AND send me the URLs, especially if you post it on your own site, so I can drive traffic to your site!

AND, comment here: what do you think of my new business cards (I designed them, so be a bit nice, please)?

2016 Business Cards

Send all inquiries, requests, invitations, submissions and URLs to: sallyember AT yahoo.com

THANK YOU all for being a part of this writer’s blog and other experiences this year!

I hope you continue to visit and offer to guest post. Also, let’s keep re-blogging each other’s posts.

Please do invite me to be an interview guest or be featured and keep exchanging comments!


Quick 2015 Year-in-Review Stats and Info:

  • Sally Ember, Ed.D. blog/site has about 572 total followers:
    506 followers on WordPress and another 67 on Tumblr (which is a reposting site for this one).

    500 follows

  • I posted 300 separate times (not all mine; about 15% are re-blogs) as of 12/28/15.
  • This blog was viewed over 17,000 times with visitors from 139 countries. Most views/visitors: USA (11,200), followed by UK (1,018), then Canada (821), Australia (325), Germany (242), India (235), France (171), Brazil (162), Greece (152), South Africa (139).
  • Most of my “referrers” were Search Engines (6,808), with Facebook a distant “next” (396, but I show over 2350 “friends” and another 1006 following The Spanners Series page), followed by StumbleUpon (192), Google+ (138, despite having over 3000 followers and another 215 following The Spanners Series page), Twitter (134, despite having over 5400 followers), WP Reader (65), Pinterest (62, but showing over 500 followers), my Tumblr reposting site (23, with 67 followers), a few individual webpages, then LinkedIn (at a measly 13, despite having over 700 followers).
    The Story Reading Ape‘s site sent me more visitors than LinkedIn (18)! Thanks, Chris Graham!

  • Nicholas C. Rossis was again my most active commenter: THANKS, Nicholas!
  • Only 47 of the 300 posts garnered any comments at all. But, I passed the 500 LIKES milestone this year!

    500 likes WP-1x

  • Most popular day and time: Sunday, 8 AM (Central USA time)
  • ALEXA ratings, as of 12/29/15, for Sally Ember, Ed.D. are
    2,556,701 out of all websites in the world
    has 102 sites linking in to it (“backlinks”)
    and, is 272,166 out of all websites in the USA

  • Most-viewed day and posts: November 1, 2015, with 247 views:
    “I CONQUERED #CreateSpace! This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series is in Print starting November 13, 2015!” and several others from previous days/months, even 2014, were viewed on this date.

    3 paperbacks

Link to full annual stats report: https://sallyember.com/2015/annual-report/


If you are new-ish to this blog, I am a sci-fi/ romance/ utopian/ multiverse/ paranormal (psi) author who also has a keen interest in many other subjects, most notably: science, social issues/ politics, writing/ publishing/ book marketing/ reviews, and spirituality/meditation. Because of a fall that caused a concussion in April, 2014, I also became engrossed in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI, concussion and its aftermaths, especially as these impact meditation.

In addition to the posts listed, below, I also have Author Interviews (with me as the subject), videos of each of my CHANGES conversations (we’re up to Episode 46, to date), links to my guest blog posts and much more on my website (I’m providing the link here in case you’re reading this elsewhere):
http://www.sallyember.com

This year, after a forced one-year hiatus from fiction writing due to my TBI, I was able to finish Volume III of The Spanners Series, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change! I also put it and Volumes I and II into both ebook AND paperback formats, now on CreateSpace and Amazon, in time for Volume III’s release (12/8/15). (All buy links are on my pages; look right and scroll down.) To accomplish that, I started my own publishing imprint, Timult Books.

logo_1833057_print high rez  transparent

My broad interests are loosely grouped into the categories I’ve tagged and which appear on my page’s “cloud” and are listed, below. If you missed a post, enjoyed a topic but didn’t realize I had more posts in that same area, or want to comment on any of this year’s posts, now’s your chance! Please do comment! I reply to all. And, feel free to share/reblog, curate/use any of my content (giving me credit, please, and excerpting ethically, of course).

I hope your holiday celebrations or whatever activities you have been doing lately have brought you joy. Best to you all!

head shot 2015 summer


TOPICS:

About My Books and Other Science-Fiction

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News, excerpts, links, sales/discount codes, blurbs and more!

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final cover print

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Creativity at Work, Here

Poetry, short stories and other creative writing not related to my Series.

About Science

Re-blogs, summaries, analyses, inquiries, theories. Focus greatly on astro- and quantum physics, astronomy, technology and inventions, medicine. I re-blog on these topics.

About Social Issues and Politics

I am a USA citizen (born and always lived here). I identify as a feminist socialist who votes in EVERY election. I usually register as a Democrat and also vote Green or Independent. I disagree with almost every one of USA’s recent foreign affairs and domestic policies and ALL wars since 1945.
We should have had single-payer health care for all since 1960. Damn Richard Nixon and his cronies in the health care “industry.” I use and advocate for an intelligent mix of “alternative” and “modern” medical methods.
I am a pacifist, Buddhist-raised-Jewish meditator. I am bisexual and an LGBTQQI2-S advocate (if you don’t know what those initials mean, you probably won’t want to read my posts on those topics unless you’d like to become better-educated).
I use science to make decisions, and climate change is real. I am an environmentalist, civil and animal rights activist/advocate who is pro-legalization of Cannabis and Marriage Equality. I work against all oppressions and “isms” actively and despise the cosmetics, “weight loss” and “beauty” industries. I use politically correct speech and in my writing and expect others to do so.
I re-blog on these topics.
I do NOT invite contentiousness or going-nowhere types of arguments. Believe whatever you do but don’t try to invalidate my views, especially on my own site. I do invite dialogue, new information and dissent that is respectful, as well as corrections.
Visit here knowing all that and you’ll be fine!

About my show, CHANGES conversations between authors,

an online, LIVE video talk show on YouTube via Google+ HOA (Hangout On Air)
Seeking guests (see below, in Announcements), and up to Episode 46 already, as of November 1, 2015!
I re-blog my guests’ news and about their new releases.

CHANGES Theme Image_3

About Meditation and Spiritual Practice

I am a devoted, practicing Tibetan Vajrayana Nyingma Buddhist since 1996, and a meditator since 1972. I write about my experiences and re-blog others’ and information about these topics regularly, including book reviews (see above, Buddhist Door.com).

About Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Concussions
I suffered on in April, 2014, and am still recovering. Many posts about this in 2014 and still some in 2015. These get a lot of views, so I guess many are interested in concussions and their aftermaths. I focus a lot on the impact this TBI has had on my ability to speak, write and meditate. I plan to continue. I re-blog on these topics.

About Publishing, Book Marketing, Writing, Writers

I welcome guest posts from Indie and Self-published or “hybrid” authors here. I re-blog a lot of great posts from book marketers, authors and other bloggers/writers.


Announcements:

#Crowdfunding with #Patreon: Sally Ember’s Campaign needs supporters! You can get rewards (from a free ebook for donating $4 or more, to discounts on editing, proofreading and/or writing tutoring services from Sally for larger donations) and support her writing, talk show and creativity by donating on Patreon.com/sallyember.

Seeking authors to be new guests for CHANGES as I resume shows after January 13, 2016. Please visit my page, here, and find out what your steps are for coming on and follow them! https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d/

CHANGES Trailer Image_3

Seeking Guest Bloggers: Wednesdays are my invitation days. If you’d like to guest blog, please visit this page and let me know! Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame.

Seeking collaborators to engage in what I am calling Crowdcreating for both Volumes VIII (young writers and those who write for YA/NA audiences) and IX (adult and senior writers) of The Spanners Series: co-write, contribute ideas, collaborate on sections or entire chapters with me!
Deadline is January 31, 2017.
Details are in the back of each Volume (another good reason to buy and read my books!).

Amazon Reviewing is Dead. OR NOT?

THE ORIGINAL POSTER OF THIS PIECE IS DOING MORE RESEARCH. STAY TUNED!
It looks as if #Amazon just shot itself in the foot, and ebook authors are also injured, because they decided to disallow any book reviews from any reviewer who can’t prove the book was acquired via PURCHASE of said book.

This COULD mean: 1) No library-reading reviews, 2) no free download reviews, 3) no gift book reviews, and, 4) no reviewer-got-a-copy review.

Number 4 is the entire reason for the new policy, but one would imagine a dozen different ways to ameliorate what has become a runaway train of fake and purchased reviews on Amazon before eliminating all opinions and reviews from everyone legitimate who doesn’t “purchase” a book before reading it.

Idiots on Amazon just gave ebook authors and readers another great incentive to use #SMASHWORDS, which offers ebooks in ALL formats!

Get my books on Smashwords! Volume I is permafree and Volume II is only $3.99. All links: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners-2. Look right; scroll down.

Thanks for posting, Ronovan and the LWI team!


LATEST, from Ronovan: “So far the research I am finding supports being able to do the reviews of free Kindle books as long as you have made a monetary purchase of something. It doesn’t say that specifically but that is what I am gathering. You can use family and friends as an Editorial Review but not as an actual Customer Review. But they seem to mean those who are really close to you. I think like a spouse or immediate family member.
“The wording of their policies are in such a way to give them the ability to pick and choose, but so far I am encouraged.”

Part II: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Book #Reviews and #Reviewers

Part II: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Book #Reviews and #Reviewers

This is Letter Two of Four of my “open letter to my earlier self” series that first appeared on The Book Cove, http://www.thebookcove.com/2014/12/author-sally-ember-edd-open-letter-to.html, late November – December, 2014.
Letter One appeared on my site, http://www.sallyember.com/blog, on 3/26/15.
Letters Three and Four post on April 11 and 18, 2015.

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I published my first ebook in December, 2013, and my second in June, 2014. My third just published last month, March, 2015. What I wish I had known before my first ebook went into pre-sales in November, 2013, about book reviews and reviewers could probably fill a book all by itself. I will try to make my life lessons more pithy, here.

Dear Sally,

You undoubtedly feel all excited about your first science-fiction/romance ebook’s publication, as you should. You are eager to read the first reviews, wondering how readers will respond, right?

Part of your preparation has been to read reviews and write reviews yourself on Goodreads. You have mostly been reading books you get from the library from rather well-known authors and writing reviews of those.

Alternatively, you have been reading a few works-in-progress by new and indie authors on http://www.Authonomy.com and http://www.Wattpad.com and leaving comments. Some authors have been commenting on your excerpts, also.

Several authors and bloggers are volunteering to review your first ebook and you are searching sites for other possible reviewers. You have been lucky: several have agreed, so you are able to put some of their choice reviewers’ comments into the final epub version’s front matter of your first Volume of The Spanners Series, This Changes Everything, prior to its actual release!

5 stars and lower

image from http://mandydegeit.wordpress.com

You are feeling great! Many of the reviewers are quite positive, giving the book 5 and 4 stars. Even the 3-star reviews have positive comments amidst the critiques and offer valuable points of view. You are psyched!

Then, the DNF (Did Not Finish) “reviews” start to appear, with 1- or 2-star ratings even though they didn’t read even half (and in some cases, even one-quarter) of your 323-pg book. Now come the lessons.

DNF quote

image from http://authorceo.com

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 1: Do not expect all reviewers actually to read your book or to behave like professional reviewers.

    What? How do non-readers get to call themselves “reviewers”?

    People who only watch a few minutes of a movie or TV show or walk out at intermission for a live performance aren’t entitled to submit a full review much less a rating. Why are these readers doing this? What gives them any right to even comment, much less evaluate your book with so little experience of it? Reviewers are supposed to READ the book, first, aren’t they?

    HA HA HA HA HA! You wish!

    It’s all right. Calm down. Blog about DNFs and move on. Enjoy their snarky comments(some of the are quite witty and even funny), post them right along with the other reviewers’ insightful remarks. What do you care? It’s not as if their DNF opinions matter: they did not read your book! Ignore.

    NO DNF logo

    image from http://frodosco.com

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 2: Not all readers will comment; not all downloads lead to readers.

    Do not expect all readers to leave comments or reviews.

    No comment bubble

    image from http://oscarmini.com

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 3: Reviewers are all volunteers (or mostly) and often do not have the ability to meet stated deadlines.

    Do not expect all reviewers who say they will review your book to do it in a timely fashion or at all. Waiting for reviews? May as well be waiting for Godot. “There is nothing to be done.”

    Waiting for Godot

    image from http://blogs.mprnews.org

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 4: Reviewers will not always respond to requests.

    Do not be surprised when requests for reviews are ignored even when you follow all the reviewers’ guidelines and fill out their forms, even when your book falls within their genre specifications and meets their criteria perfectly, not even when they claim they will respond to all requests.

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 5: Be open to a “swap” or don’t join the clubs.

    When you say that you are not a “review swap” kind of author, explaining that, on the rare occasion you do accept another author’s book to read and review (because you’re very busy writing), that:
    a) you cannot promise to provide their book with a 4- or 5-Star ranking,
    b) you do not know what you will think of their book prior to reading it, and
    c) you can’t promise a “positive” review,
    do not be surprised when some reviewers/authors refuse to review your book at all (and some are quite snarky about it).

    The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) developed a Code of Ethics(#ethicalauthor) http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/ethical-author-campaign/ in November, 2014, that included these statements in the Reviewing and Rating books section, which I like (except for the missing apostrophe on the final use of reader):
    “I do not review or rate my own or another author’s books in any way that misleads or deceives the reader. I am transparent about my relationships with other authors when reviewing their books.

    “I am transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements, and avoid any practices that result in the reader being deceived.”

    Then, they also included this part in Reacting to reviews, which I thoroughly agree with:

    “I do not react to any book review by harassing the reviewer, getting a third party to harass the reviewer, or making any form of intrusive contact with the reviewer. If I’ve been the subject of a personal attack in a review, I respond in a way that is consistent with professional behaviour.”

    Read the entire Ethical Author Code and decide if you, as an author, want to adhere to it, or you as a reader want authors to adhere to it. If you do, download the badge, below, and spread the word! http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/alli-campaigns/ethical-author/

    ALLiEthicalAuthor_Final-Outlines-300x173

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 6: Most reviews and authors’ groups do not accept “negative” reviews.

    Some even have agreements up front that they will not post or give any books lower than a 3-Stars ranking. They consider a 3 (out of 5) to be a “terrible” rating.

    When you are involved with some authors’ groups which require “review swaps” as part of “belonging” to their “club” (which I heartily recommend AGAINST joining for precisely that reason and more besides) and you read the book you have chosen or been assigned and discover that it is a book you have to give a 2-star rating to (and that is being generous, in your opinion), do not be surprised when the club leaders seem supportive but it turns out that they are not.

    Be prepared for the author to tell you that s/he is “too thin-skinned” to talk to you about your responses prior to your posting the review. You do wonder, however, how anyone can publish books, put their writing out in public, expect all their readers to react positively every time and make no emotional preparations for the eventuality of rejection or negative feedback from readers.

    Take it in stride when the leaders refuse to post your review even though it meets all their stated criteria, you warned them in advance that it was not “positive,” and they emailed you that “an honest opinion was all they wanted or expected from their members.” Do not take their lack of integrity personally, even when they cast aspersions on your character and hint that you are “being unfair” and “unkind.” Do not take the bait, even when they keep asking you questions that imply how heartless you are to rate that book so low, such as, “Don’t you know how hard this author worked on that book?”

    We wish everyone realized that rational, negative reviews can be helpful, as blogger Jody Hedlund points out in this great meme:

    Negative reviews can be helpful

    image from http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com

  • Reviews and Reviewers Lesson No. 7: Even the readers who chose to review your book may not like your genre or understand your book, yet will blame you for their lack of enjoyment and comprehension.

    Why, you wonder, would a reader who already knows she doesn’t like science-fiction choose to read, much less claim to want to review, a science-fiction book? There are ALIENS on the cover. There is no mistaking the genre of this book! What is the deal?

    The components of Buddhism and Judaism figure prominently in your books and you make that clear in blurbs and your bio. So, why would a born-again Christian, a devout Muslim or Catholic or any other religious-leaning person who has problems accepting Buddhism or Judaism in fictional characters and plots (or in real life, actually) choose YOUR books to review? What were they imagining would happen?

    You put information right in the first chapters of your books regarding its format (all in the present tense on purpose, for example, and presentations of multiple timelines), yet some reviewers will criticize your writing for these exact components, commenting that you “needed a better editor” since you “obviously don’t know how to use verb tenses,” or complain that “there were too many versions of the same story.”

We authors can’t please everyone, nor should we even try. Write your best book, Sally. Appreciate ALL reviews, even the DNFs. Keep going. By the time you get to Volume III or IV, this “newbie indie author” phase will seem as if it happened in another lifetime.

Meanwhile, support other indie authors. Write and leave reviews, rankings, comments and LIKES.

Support indie authors 2

image from http://alifeboundbybooks.blogspot.com

“Grade Inflation”—the Widespread Awards and Exalting of Effort—are Ruining Writing and Writers

I am hereby and for an undetermined length of time giving low credence to most book reviews, awards, contests and other honors conferred upon books/authors.

Why? I know some of the awardees’ writing. Many are undeserving of any accolades.

“Grade Inflation”—the widespread awards and the exalting of effort—are ruining writing and writers.

inflated A
image from http://www.wrkcapital.com

Why does anyone reward mediocrity and worse? How many “open mikes” have you attended in which EVERYONE, no matter how badly they perform or how horribly they read aloud or recite poetry, gets wild applause or even a standing ovation? Does the audience believe that everyone deserves the same response regardless of the quality of their presentation?

I do not.

How does it help any author/artist grow when no one is honest with them about the areas they need to improve and all they hear are overly exuberant praises? Neither are we helping authors or keeping faith with readers when so many provide undeserved 5-star “reviews” for shoddy writing. We are helping our writers and performers when we honestly and with specificity critique their work.

We are not doing our children any favors to give everyone who participates a “winner” ribbon, unless everyone understands that showing up and participation are what get awarded. However, I contend that, for professionals, the industry should not be labeling greatness on effort alone.

Grading on effort makes greatness lose all significance and confuses us all. When everyone “wins,” no one does. For evaluations and competitions to matter, the creation being evaluated of any top-ranking writer or other artist must be excellent by objective standards to have earned that award.

When all are given “A”s, or 5 Stars, or First Place, the rankings become meaningless. Participants can’t begin to discern their actual place among their peers or the value of their work in the world when reviewers and judges do not provide accurate, meaningful, thoughtful critiques and feedback, in the form of awards to the deserving.

participation trophy
image from http://cutemonster.com

At the end of a sports event, such as a foot race or team game, the winners and losers are indisputable. Those that swim are racing each other and the clock, which are immutably obvious regarding who swam the fastest for that race and for all recorded events of that type.

Art assessments should not merely be based on the creator’s intention or your affection for the creator.

Exceptions: if the artist is a child or disabled in some way, then that participation alone is sufficient to earn an award. Obstacles that participant has already overcome just to be involved in that competition or performance do deserve to be honored. THOSE types of contests, in which “everyone wins,” I wholeheartedly honor, e.g., the Special Olympics.

BTW: I strongly believe in and promote cooperative games, the postponement of competition, and an “everybody wins” concept for most activities for children and youth. I wish more youth sports and other harshly competitive games would be permanently removed from options so that everyone could play, learn and grow without that pressure.

This post is not to remove those cooperative and noncompetitive games or friendly, networking-type of awards passed around for fun and support. We all need encouragement.

However, when the competition is on a supposedly “level playing field” (more or less: let’s not get into gender, socio-economic class, age, racial and ethnic biases that unfairly prejudice judging and preclude fairness; that’s another subject), I strenuously object to fairly set competitors’ receiving awards, praises, great reviews or any other merit when the subject of the assessment is insufficiently unscrutinized.

I know some awards are merely a matter of “taste” or “current trends,” and that what anyone “likes” is always subjective.

Fine. Let those competitions be labeled clearly as having someone’s personal preferences, not accepted standards of excellence, as the main criteria for winning.

I’m talking about competitions that adults, professionals, and mostly, writers enter that supposedly have criteria that winners have to meet or exceed, in which the “best” is supposed to be honored the most. I wish that all of these competitions would be judged by obvious and agreed-upon standards of excellence and not determine winners based on effort, affection or popularity, or worse, payment of entry fees.

Also, I’m not talking about what people “like.” I’m asking for awards based on what is excellent, as objectively measured as possible.

Maybe it’s easier to talk about what is NOT excellent. I believe these components, below, are not purely subjective measures and therefore can be evaluated fairly and “blindly.”

FYI: For professional writers, grammar matters. Spelling counts. Syntax is significant. Context is not everything.

grammar shit
image from http://the-modern-housewife.blogspot.com

Here are my “what not to award” components for all types of fiction, whatever length.

[NOTE: I do not believe these need any explanations, but comment here or wherever you see this or email me if you are not sure what I mean, below.]

  • Poorly plotted stories
  • Superficially drawn or insufficiently motivated characters
  • Illogical, incomplete or inconsistent world-building
  • Triteness in storyline, characterization or setting
  • Not credible settings and/or situations
  • Poorly edited, insufficiently copyedited, badly spelled and/or incorrectly written sentences, paragraphs, entire works
  • Repetitious language, situations, characters and plots across one or more works by the same author
  • Sexism, racism, ageism, classism, ethnocentrism and other oppressive biases as expressed through one’s characters and plots/situations

The next time I hear a writer “won” an award, I hope s/he deserved it. I really do.

In case you need a reminder of what quality is and how deserving some authors are…

Ursula--Le-Guin-and-Neil--010
Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman at the National Book Awards, 2014, in New York.
image from http://www.theguardian.com Photograph: Robin Marchant/Getty

P.S. I find Gaiman unreadable (personal preference) and adore Le Guin, but I recognize the similar greatness in their writing.