Tag Archives: reading

Bad review, bad person?

There is a discussion going on in one of the groups I belong to and my opinion on the subject seems quite different than that of many others participating. I have responded there several times, but I felt that it would be best if I moved my opinion off the group, so I wouldn’t just be keeping the argument going. The topic of discussion is whether or not 1 or 2 star reviews should be posted publicly, especially by other authors.

3-Star review

Many say no, because it is mean and humiliating. Okay, but my question is, if an author doesn’t want people to review their books honestly, should we really be worried about their feelings getting hurt? Of course we should, but there is the whole point that when you put yourself and your work out in the public and ask people what they think, you had better have thick enough skin to accept all the answers. It is unrealistic to think everyone will like your book.

I have been criticized repeatedly over the years for a 1-star review I posted of THE LOVELY BONES. Okay, I posted the review publicly so everyone has a right to point out their agreement or disagreement. So be it. Does it make me a bad person because I did not like this book and said so publicly? I didn’t rag on the author, I was not malicious or hurtful. I was honest in my opinion.

My review of The Lovely Bones

I have to admit to reading this book because of all the fuss. Everyone raved about how wonderful it was and so beautifully written, etc. I was very disappointed.

I found the voice of the main character to be contrived and out of character. I hated hearing the story being told by a child in an adult voice. It took away a lot of the emotional impact for me.

I think this could have been much better.

I think it is quite to the point and professional. No one has to like it, it is my opinion.

2-Star Review

Why would you bother to post a review of a book you read and then not be honest? The point of reviews is to help other readers have a better knowledge of what that book is about and what other readers think of it. What happens to the industry if everyone who reads a book either posts a positive review or no review at all, even if they did not like the book and had solid reasons for the dislike? The industry would become a shallow popularity contest…oh wait, it already has. I am furious when I buy a book that has gotten 25 5-star reviews claiming it to be the best book ever and then when I read it I discover that it is poorly edited, poorly constructed, dipping with multitudes of plotholes, and just plain bad. I feel cheated and mislead by each and every person who failed to point out even one of the problems. Now, I am the first to agree that even a poorly written book can be exciting and engaging, I have read many.  I simply tell fellow readers how much I loved the story, but to be prepared for lots of editorial issues. Honest, not cruel. But I certainly would not give it a 5-star review, even if I knew the author.

Bottom line is, a review is intended to serve a specific purpose, if the reviewers cannot be honest, then why bother, it just makes things icky for the rest of us.

One last note. This is for all you authors out there. If you are not willing to give an honest review and STAND BEHIND IT (this means posting it, whether good or bad) then do us all a favor and don’t review books by friends and other authors you know. This is just my personal request/opinion.

I would love to know what you all think of this, whether you agree with me or not. Please don’t hesitate to share your comments, this is a no judgment zone.

A Sneak Peek

The Meeting

Legs up to there and a smile that could melt the rocks from a glass of Bourbon. That’s what I see when I look at Universal Bureau of Investigation’s officer, Edmund St. John.

The impeccably dressed man strolled across the sidewalk and shoved the gate aside. He stepped around a small dog lying on the ground next to its lunching owner.

Now, I’m no expert on men, but I know what I like, and sister, I like the way the green eyes of this UBI agent simmer when he looks at me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the market for a man, but if I were, he’d be a damn good choice. Not that any of this matters.

The federal bureau went universal somewhere around 2020 and with it came a new breed of investigators. There was no choice when things changed. The crime in America grew at alarming paces after the turn of the new Millennium. Space exploration opened our country, hell our earth, to a new kind of terror. Growing up, we’d watched movies about aliens and space creatures, but no one would have ever imagined that the worst kind of creature would look just like us. There is no way to distinguish between humans and otherwise. I’ve never seen one of the outsiders, but that don’t mean I’m not on my guard all the time. There are some things that a girl can’t help but notice. Which brings me back to St. John.

Now, I make it a point, like everyone else, to notice St. John, but my lifeless long brown hair don’t offer an extraordinary enough view to attract more than a passing glance from him. I keep in good enough shape, but sometimes it’s not enough. Edmund’s eyes hold the same murky shadows of a jungle’s deepest greenery, fierce and dangerous, while mine are slightly darker than my hair. Nothing anyone chooses to gaze into, but I can live with that. With my usual long pants and button down blouses, most men don’t look any further than my smart mouth and knack for trouble. I don’t mind—much, since I don’t’ really need the complications of romance.

Our little neck of the woods doesn’t instill a keen sense of romance in anyone’s heart. Then again, what do you expect from Illinois. However, I’m certain that if I did decide I needed a man, Miller’s Pit would pull something out of its hat for me. Time didn’t change things that much. At the turn of the new Millennium, the United States had slipped quietly into the past, taking Miller’s Pit with it.

Boris Miller was the brilliant man who decided that since he had more money than anyone else did, he’d name the town after himself. The pit part came when his wife died by falling into a pit on his property. But none of that really matters. With my job, I don’t have time for love, or I wouldn’t if I could get a gig, which is why I’m here today. Well not exactly.

Gangsters are on the move and history is hell-bent on repeating itself. Prohibition has reared its ugly head once again and the UBI has its hands full with a ton of small battles destined to roll themselves into a full-scale war. At this rate, the twenty-first century will no doubt prove as thrilling as the last.

St. John sauntered up to my table. He leaned his head to the side and tipped his hat at the slender blonde sitting at the table behind me. I looked at my watch again. Quarter to ten. So much for our nine-thirty meeting. I often wonder if it’s not a G-man’s nature to be late. Maybe they think it will unnerve us and we’ll throw ourselves on the mercy of justice and confess to all our sins. If we had any that is.

As far as I can figure, St John’s biggest flaw is his lack of punctuality. My watch says that this is the fourth time in two weeks that I’ve had to wait for him to join me at The Shoppe. If I didn’t need his help, I’d be on my way to the office for some scintillating conversation with my cousin, Stuart.

“Hi ya, Doll.”

St. John’s voice wrapped around me like a smooth shot of brandy and I forced my mind back to the matter at hand. “If you refuse to call me Miss Gumshue, then I will gladly respond to Gloria, but please refrain from calling me Doll.”

The man has a habit of comparing me to any number of objects. I find the habit somewhat amusing, but to acknowledge this could settle us onto a new level of familiarity and that will not benefit our relationship.

I dab the fine mist of perspiration from my cheek and settle back in my café chair. The soft cotton fabric rustles as I make a show of arranging my skirt around my legs. I slip my feet out to the side and cross my ankles. With a little lean to the left, I offer St. John a healthy look at my legs, covered with sheer black stockings. I need something from him and there are very few ways of loosening his tongue.

This is not my normal attire, mind you, but some situations call for drastic measures. Once I discover what he knows and finish this meeting, I can head to the office and slip back into my slacks. In my line of work, I don’t have time to dawdle along in high heels and snug skirts. Thank you, dear women. I offer my silent gratitude to the dames of nearly a hundred years ago who made long pants the fashion for working girls during wartime. They do not, however, suit my needs at this moment.

St. John glances down and I know he’s noticed my slight shift in posture. He has a reputation for being hard as nails on the job, but a shapely leg supposedly turns him to a simpering charmer. He looks at my legs, whistles, and looks to my face again.

The sharp blast of a Ford horn rings out, but neither of us pays much attention. I’m too busy watching St. John, who is too busy eyeing my gams. He tosses his hat onto the table before carefully laying the jacket he’d been carrying, over the back of his chair. He folds himself into the small seat with an impressive display of masculine elegance. His navy blue trousers, freshly pressed pleats running down the front of decidedly slender legs, hug against his thighs. The pale yellow shirt contrasts sharply with his darkened skin. A brightly decorated tie, splashed with red, yellow, green, and gold sets off his entire ensemble.

That might seem like a strange word to describe a man’s clothing, but St. John is not your average G-man. He has flair. It shows in the way he dresses, each item perfectly coordinated to supply a certain style, and the way he works, meticulous and precise. Everywhere he goes people notice him. Mostly women, I note as a slender red head shimmies past him.

I chose The Shoppe for our meeting because of its very public location. The outside café tables offer a good view of Main Street as well as being close to my office. Being on the job makes my time valuable. Not having to get the car out saved me time. Having long legs has more than one good use, I think, watching St. John who keeps glancing down. I can walk to work in less time than it takes to get the Olds out of the parking garage. Lord knows why the lightweight sports car ever fell to the side of oversized heaps of metal.

Just for effect, I lean to the side, run my hand up the length of my calf, and check the seam of my stocking for straightness. Edmund never takes his eyes off my legs.

“Hmm,” he groans softly.

I look him directly in the eyes as I cross my legs. “When you’re done.”

His head snaps up and for a split second, he looks disoriented. His usual demeanor returns quickly and he slips back to his usual aloofness. “So, Gumshue, what’s got you all fired up today? Cat in a tree? Dog in a well?”

Edmund can’t possibly be so dense, then again G-men aren’t known for their IQ’s.

“St. John, I could take this to anyone, but I thought maybe your career could use a boost.” I take a sip of my joe. “Perhaps you missed that email.”

He snickers and the chase is on. My heart skips a beat at the possibility of going head to head with him and I smile.

“Does the name Eleanor Van Dresden set off any bells for you?”

Edmund pulls out a silver case and leans his arms against the edge of the table as he rolls a smoke.

I find myself enjoying the sweet smell of his imported tobacco as the smoke wafts in my direction. After a long and visually appealing pull on the cigarette he leans back in his chair.

“She’s a classy one,” he noted. “My kid sister claims her fashions are adored all over the world.”

I tap my fingernails against the glass tabletop as he ogles the shapely server tending the next table. The man has no shame. His intensity offers me the opportunity to notice a snag in my thumbnail. Maybe once I get a check for a gig, I’ll get myself a real manicure at one of those fancy salons in the city.

“I’m guessing the precinct boys haven’t clued your office in on the latest.”

St. John’s brow wrinkles as he turned his gaze back to me. “Cut to the chase, Gumshue.”

Ah, so now I have his attention, not that it bothers me, him watching the small brunette lean across a chair. “Van Dresden’s assistant filed a report several days ago. She claims someone has been threatening Dame Van Dresden.”

He shoots forward in his chair, his eyes blazing with a newfound determination. “I don’t get it, Doll. How is it you get the skinny before the Bureau of Investigations?”

His irritation sparks something inside me and I can’t stop myself from gloating. I make a mental note to keep it down to a minimal. “Well, let me think. I might have overheard old lady McGarrity talking about it when I was getting her cat, Milo, down from the tree.” His cheeks turn a pesky shade of pink as he glares in my direction.

“I’ve got better things to do with my time than hang out with a wiseguy in drag.”

“Keep it down, St. John. I’m willing to share what I know if you’d be so kind as to consider a partnership of sorts.”

I find his snort of laughter very unattractive. Downright rude, if you must know. I prefer to work alone, but in this instance the Bureau representative in question, in spite of his annoying tendencies, could offer me a few links I might not otherwise be privy to.

An older woman, with more than a little bustle backing her up, squeezes between Edmund and the chair behind him. The wind picks up and plucks a feather from her overzealous contraption of a hat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much pink and yellow settled on a puffed up bed of orange. While most of the women of the decade are wearing sleek sophisticated haircuts, this gem is boasting a horde of curls unlike any I’ve ever seen.

The feather settles on Edmund’s lap and I swallow past a moment of envy. I’ve never wanted to be a feather before.

“Gloria, I think you’re cracked. Even if I thought you knew something that we don’t—couldn’t find out on our own—why would I partner up with you?”

I signal the server for my check and then gather my purse and hat. I’ve gathered all the info I need and now it’s time to get to work. Oh, I have plans for Edmund St. John, but all in good time. For now, I have to take care of some things at the office so I can join the rest of our sleepy little town at a new kind of shindig.

At seven this evening, I will be sitting in the front row of the Cascade Theatre. Dame Van Dresden has chosen Miller’s Pit—although I can’t get a grip on why—to debut her new fall line of fashions. The town’s folks have been buzzing for weeks about this event and my mother managed to get prime seats for the entire family. Television crews from all over the world will be sending the show via the link, but we will count ourselves among the elite.

Lucille, that’s my mum, has got an in with just about anybody who is anybody in this town and the next three in every direction. She’s a homemaker, mother, and social guru, that’s what my dad calls her, unstoppable. No one ever tells her no. Well almost no one.

It’s taken me almost two years to rebuild our relationship. I told my mother no.

“Gloria, won’t you please stay at home a few more years, at least until you finish nursing school?”

“No, Mother. I know what I want to do and that’s not it.”

So, out I had moved and shortly after that I got my PI license. That’s Private Investigator. Dad was pretty pleased. Mum on the other hand cried for weeks and didn’t speak to me for twice as long. But anyway.

Tonight, we will be living the high life as special guests to the designer. Mum and Eleanor had been school chums at Miss Chatterham’s School of Etiquette for Demure Ladies. I could live without all the hullabaloo, but Mum deserves a night out and if Dad can do it, so can I.

I thank the server when she brings my change and I nod my goodbye to St. John.

“You dragged me all the way across town for this?” he asks, his annoyance clear in his caustic tone.

“I was mistaken that you could be of service to me at this time. I apologize for the inconvenience. See ya around, St. John.”

The slight tick in his jaw kicks up as I make my way around the table. The sensor catches my approach and the door swings open. I watch him from the corner of my eye as I pass by on my way out the side gate.

“One of these days, Doll, I’m not gonna jump when you say so.”

Maybe just not so high. A smile curves my lips. I can’t help liking the control I have over this particular man. He doesn’t know it, but Edmund St. John is as intrigued by me as I by him.

 

 

 

Dear Lendink

 

I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of how this book business works, but I do know that I am offended on your behalf. Recently, your site was shut down because a group of authors decided you were a pirate. I visited your site. I read your FAQ page. I did some research and as far as I could discover you were doing exactly what you said you were doing.

I did NOT see any signs of a wooden leg, a hook where your hand should be, or a skull and crossbones flag hanging anywhere on your site. Nor did I see an eye patch, though you might have looked quite dashing in an eye patch.

I would like to take a moment to say thank you. Perhaps this is too late, perhaps not. I sincerely appreciate what you were trying to do buy leading readers by the virtual hand to the actual buy pages of the books I write and publish. I am constantly looking for new ways to market our books that do not require more time than I have to give. You did that, willingly, and legally, and you were cast out for your efforts.

::hangs head in shame:: I am sorry that not everyone felt the need to give you the benefit of the doubt and to take the time to figure out that you were acting on behalves and in fact doing us a FAVOR.

I would like to let you know that should you get your site back up and running, you have my permission to LEGALLY promote my books on your site. This goes for anyone who wants to LEGALLY introduce readers to the books of Echelon Press. Don’t steal from me, don’t distribute or lend our books without ensuring that the authors and I are being full compensated within our legal rights. But by all means, if you want to post covers and links to where readers can BUY our books LEGALLY, you have my blessing and my supports.

I am certain I am not the only one angered at your mistreatment. You can find another supporter at the blog of April L. Hamilton. http://aprillhamilton.blogspot.com/2012/08/congratulations-you-killed-lendink-and.html

Respectfully,

Karen L. Syed

 

 

 

 

What was Satan Thinking?

 

First, let’s be clear on what I mean when I say POD books. This term has become so misused and misunderstood that it has actually resulted in lost sales for many. This doesn’t need to be the case.

POD stands for PRINT ON DEMAND. You’ll notice the word PRINT. Not publish or promote, PRINT!

POD is the process used by PRINTERS to eliminate the need for excessive runs of print copies. The printer simply waits until there is an order and then prints the specific number of copies ordered, removing the immediate potential for wasted paper.

I’m not sure why POD books have received such a negative reputation, but most booksellers and librarians, and now due to the overwhelming number of authors arguing about it in public forums, readers equate POD with lower quality books. This simply isn’t the case.

For over a decade, a multitude of publishers, both big and small, have been using the POD method for fulfilling orders.

The quality of the written word is determined well before the actual book ever goes to print, thereby eliminating the misconception that POD books are “bad.” It needs to be understood by all that POD, the method of printing does not account for the number of poorly written and edited books being sold in the market.

The biggest problem with the misunderstanding of POD is the ability for companies and authors to market and promote the books. However, with the proper education within the retail (and library) industries, bookseller and acquisition librarians could not only increase their potential sales and titles available, but could increase the variety of stories available to their readers.

Readers crave originality. They are tired of reading the same recycled stories by the same authors. Yet, they are deprived of any freshness in their choices, because the larger and more traditional publishers are reluctant to take any financial risk on the newer and more exciting stories written by unknown or new authors.

I would encourage everyone in the book industry to educate themselves and to recognize the value of POD books and to acknowledge the potential for increased sales. Give new authors a chance to prove that they have writing skill and the ability to tell a good story, no matter how many copies of their book is printed at one time.

Furthermore, consider the environmental impact of POD books. A traditional publisher may print 5000 copies of a paperback novel by a new author, and only sell 1500 of them. This means that the remaining 3500 unsold copies will be put into waste. Had the publisher used the POD process to print those books, they would have simply printed the 1500 copies as the orders came in and eliminated the waste. If you did this for 10,000 books in one year, imagine how much paper would be saved and thus less trees.

Bottom line, POD is not the work of Satan. It is simply a process used to print books in smaller quantities. Sorry, Dude, you don’t get credit for this one.

My final point refers to the availability and returnability of books produced using the POD process. The status of returns is not determined across the industry, it is determined by the specific publisher or author. This means that it is an unfair assumption for a bookstore not to carry a POD book, without first determining its returnability status.

We all have choices, but when we make a choice, that doesn’t give us the right to complain when that choice cause a problem.

I hope that after reading this post, more people who speak ill of the POD process will reconsider their “choices” and give authors a fair chance to sell books and entertain readers.

Will you?

Originally published at ©Life as a Publisher by Karen L. Syed
This can be reproduced in it’s entirety with no additions or corrections.

 

Help! I’m a Writer

So often people describe writing as a solitary endeavor. I have never agreed with this. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If a writer’s life is a solitary one, then it is by choice.

By design, writers are surrounded by others who are not only interested in their work, but eager for it. The world is filled with writers who crave support and encouragement. What they do [write] is for the masses. The stories and books are intended to be read and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of readers.

All that said, as writers, we also tend to let our insecurities get the better of us. We make our existence solitary by sequestering ourselves to avoid the shame of rejection. We are, also by design, a neurotic bunch.

In most cases, this does more harm than good. When we shut ourselves off from our peers, we miss out on many opportunities as well as crucial education that can possibly make us better writers and more successful authors.

We constantly hear about the value and importance of critique groups. Of course they have their place, but what about support. This is a whole different can of beans. Support, in my opinion, is far more important than the critique group, because if you don’t feel good about what you do, you probably can’t do it good…well.

Bottom line, before you tuck yourself away in your office, alcove, or other small hidey hole to become the next great American novel, find a few friendly writers you can spend a little time with and get things off your chest. Make sure that you can all talk shop, talk gardening, talk whatever you want, even bitching about the family.

I firmly believe whining is a necessity in life, as long as it has a specific purpose and is done in a specific environment.  😛

The True Beauty of Me and Ashley Judd

Recently, acclaimed actress, author, and all around cool human being, Ashley Judd responded to accusations about her physical condition. Her op-ed piece (you can read it here) has sparked a bit of outrage, but more than anything it may well have started a revolution. IF you haven’t already done so, you will want to read The Conversation. With everything going on in politics these days regarding women and our bodies, the last thing we need is to worry about what others think when we look a little different.

I will admit that I was furious when I read her piece. What right does anyone have to make public speculation about Ashley Judd or anyone? These people spouting lies and starting rumors call themselves journalists, but let’s be real. They are people who have a knack for spinning the ordinary into something outrageous, hurtful, and generally untrue.

The op-ed piece got me to thinking about my role in all this as an author and a publisher. Do I aggravate the situation by writing/publishing books with perfectly formed and wonderfully beautiful characters? Well, I may publish some, but I certainly don’t write them. I make a point to develop each of my characters as real people. You know the type, people with bad hair days, zits, a little bit of extra junk in their trunks, that kind of thing.

Books, especially fiction, have a tendency to paint pictures of things that are way better than real life. That is awesome, fiction is meant to be an adventure, an escape, if you will. But I think it is time we start looking at the entertainment and media venues with a little more responsibility. We cannot blame anyone’s actions on what they read, watch or listen to, but we can, and should recognize that those things do have a significant influence on the decisions we make.

When I opened my mail program this morning, I found my usual lists of Blogs that I subscribe to and read fairly regularly. At the top of the list was the Red, White, and Grew Blog with Pamela Price (who has an awesome Pinterest site.) Pamela has taken the next step in making her voice heard with regard to this issue. Check out her Blog to see what she has to say.

Now, that you’ve read my Blog, Ashley’s Blog, and Pamela’s Blog, I’d love to know how you feel, and what you might have to say about it on YOUR Blog. Now is your chance to be heard. Post your thoughts and comments on your Blog and then pop back over here and leave us a link so we can all read it. And this isn’t just about the women. How far can we spread this? It really does matter.

It’s All Good!

I said I would work my way through, what I consider to be, the most popular of social networking sites. Today I am going to focus on Good Reads.

Because I know there are so many authors out there who abuse social networking sites for book promotion, I am going to remind you all that these are first, and foremost SOCIAL NETWORKING sites. They were designed to get like-minded people together and socializing–see the connection? In this instance, the topic of conversation is books. Woohoo!

So, with that in mind, Good Reads is the perfect place for us to talk about our books. Notice I did not say promote our books. So what the hell is the point? I know that’s most of you are thinking. The point is to promote our books. Whoa baby, confused? Your head spinning? Promote your books; don’t promote your books. ACK!

This is where you get to show how creative you are. Like any social networking site you should be developing those ever-popular relationships with readers on Good Reads. Don’t just sign up and blast all your new friends with snippets and excerpts on your books.

Here are a few suggestions on how to let readers know about your books.

  • Talk to them.
  • See what they are reading and discuss those books
  • Find readers who read in your genre.
  • Find readers who share your interest in topics.
  • Set up a discussion group for yourself and your books.
  • Set up an author page.

All of these things are quite simple, but totally useless if you don’t follow through on them. Do NOT ask a public question and then never respond to those who answer it. You need to converse with them. Interact. I promise it won’t kill you, despite what the media says to the contrary.

Before I go into the direct options for authors, please note how IMPORTANT the interaction with readers is. Don’t just blast people with your books. Let the programs do the work for you while you talk about books with the other readers.

  • Post the books you are reading.
  • Post your reviews when you finish a book.
  • Add books you’d like to read.
  • Randomly look at other peoples pages and comment on their reviews.

The key to interacting is to communicate with others. I know, we are often solitary creatures, but we alone will not make our books best sellers. We need readers to buy our books.

Good Reads Author Program http://www.goodreads.com/author/program

The first thing you should do if you plan to promote your book is to set up your Good Reads Author page. After you have done that, then you can look into all these other things.

Good Reads eBooks http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks

For those of you who only have eBooks, there is a section where you can upload books for giveaway (use your freebies). You can also use this section to put up excerpts for people to read and get a taste of your style.

Good Reads Giveaways http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

You can also do giveaways on Good Reads. You decide for how many copies and for how long people can sign up. I don’t suggest giving away large quantities, but it is a GREAT way to get attention.

Good Reads Events http://www.goodreads.com/event

This is a good one. I am a HUGE fan of events and I think more authors should find ways and places to do them. We don’t need no steenking bookstores to do events. The more unique, the better. But my point here is that Good Reads has a section specifically for posting your events. How cool is that?

Good Reads Self-Serve Advertising http://www.goodreads.com/advertisers/ad_home

Advertising a book has never been so easy, or inexpensive. I am on my second ad and while it was a not a huge success, I know of four books I sold because of the ad and I spent less than $10.00.

MOST IMPORTANT TIP!

Don’t be an asshat on the social networking sites. Don’t go blasting in with your book promotion and expect everyone to give a hoot. They won’t. Subtly goes a long way and since Good Reads gives us so many opportunities to promote our work, the only thing we really need to do is to get to know the readers so they know to go look for our stuff.

You can set up your account to post an update when you post a article on your Blog. You can also make sure that when you post a review it goes up on Facebook and/or Twitter. This gives you a little extra exposure without having to actually go to Facebook and get sucked into the cute kitty pictures.

Promoting through social networking doesn’t have to be hard and certainly doesn’t need to be a time suck. But like anything in life, you will only get back what you put in. Of this you can be sure.