Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reviews: How You're Doing It Wrong

TL:DR - You're not. 

The two easiest ways a book buyer can ensure their favourite author keeps writing are: 1. buy their books (not download from pirate sites) and 2. review their book. Authors, particularly indie authors, need reviews. That's a fact. Reviews are vital for some promotional companies and if an author doesn't have enough, they will likely never be able to take advantage of those promos.

Reviews also tell Amazon and iBooks and other booksellers, "Hey, this book is getting attention, you should promote it to other people." They help readers decide whether or not to buy a book. They can help legitimize a book (if someone is thinking of buying a book, human nature dictates they'll be more likely to buy one with 100 reviews over one with 2 or 3 reviews). In short, reviews are awesome.

With that said, I have seen a few people lately talking about reviews. This is natural when I have so many indie authors and awesome supporters on my friends list. Inevitably the talk often turns to things that reviewers shouldn't do, how not to review, or things that should be off limit to criticism. To me, this is dangerous. Why? Because in the current climate, with authors and readers/reviewers more accessible to each other than ever before, it causes tension. I know plenty of readers less likely to leave a review for fear of "doing it wrong." Here's the simple fact: Reviews are opinions. There is no "wrong" (except of course a personal attack against the author, but that's just basic human decency).

These "doing it wrong" posts often boil down to a couple of reasons people "shouldn't" review a book (or shouldn't drop a star from a review). Now, I can't speak for everyone, but if I'm on the fence about a book, I look at the bad reviews first. And if the reviews are, "This book stinks because of this personal opinion I have," and it's a personal opinion I don't share, I'll usually go ahead and grab it. (E.g. "This book stinks because the hero wears a pink tutu at one stage and I don't think the hero should ever wear a pink tutu" would probably have me rushing to buy the book. Why is the hero in a pink tutu? I want to know that story!)

So what are some of the reasons someone "shouldn't" review? I've listed some below, but it's by no means an extensive list of reasons I've heard/been told.

Personal Taste: 
The argument: You shouldn't review if you don't like the genre. (Why are you even reading the genre). Variation: If you don't like the tense/POV style/etc 
My counter-argument: How boring would like be if we all read the same genre constantly? If we didn't try to step out of our comfort zone once in a while, how would we find new books? New authors? New genres that we'd previously had prejudices against for whatever reason. I don't particularly enjoy spy dramas, and yet I loved Dan Brown's books (let the judging commence LOL).

If someone is given a book that their friend is raving about, let's say a paranormal romance, but the first person doesn't like paranormal romance there are a few ways it could go.
1. The new reader might read the book and love it regardless of the elements they don't like.
2. The new reader could discover a new genre they thought they didn't like but really do.
3. The new reader might read the book and think it's okay, but what might have been a 5 star read for a fan becomes a 3 star read for that reader.
4. The new reader might find the book reinforces everything they hate about the genre.

So if the new reader hates it, should they not review just because they don't like the genre? In my opinion, it's their choice. If they want to write a 1 star, scathing review spelling out all of the reasons they hate the genre and why that booked sucked out the butthole... they can and should. That sort of bad review isn't going to affect the sales of the author. Not really. I mean see above, that is my buying habit, and I know I'm not alone in that buying habit. If someone reads something outside of genre and doesn't feel comfortable reviewing it, then they shouldn't. Note: it's totally up to the reader to decide whether or not they feel like they should review.

The argument: Some authors can't afford an editor, so please don't down-rate books for bad grammar.
My counter-argument: Please do. Honestly, please, please do. I am a fussy reader. I don't want to work for my books, I like to sink into a book and just enjoy it from start to finish without having to try to sort out what the author is saying versus what the author meant to say. This is not to say typos won't sneak into the book. They will. Even traditionally published books get errors like that. I'm talking about constant incorrect word usage, constant pronoun confusion, shifting tense, head-hopping, These are all things that I want to know about. If people want to review and knock down a star for this, go for it. If they don't feel comfortable, they don't need to. If they want to contact the author direct instead, then that's a personal choice too.

Didn't finish the book: 
The argument: You can't review a book you haven't finished. 
My counter-argument: I get it. This is a tough one. And highly controversial. In fact, it's probably one of the most hotly debated ones. How do you know you don't like a book if you haven't read the whole thing? Maybe the author turns it all around in the last 10% of the book and that 10% is awesome and the best thing ever. But if you have to fight 90%, are you really going to enjoy the book overall? Can even the best author turn it around that much? If you don't feel comfortable rating a book you didn't read all the way through, don't. But if you want to tell everyone why you couldn't finish...well, that's fine too.

So, how should someone review? 
However they want to. That's how. Even if they don't feel comfortable reviewing at all, that is their right as a book reader.

It's awesome if you review. You keep doing your thing, and do it however the hell you like. Out of courtesy to other readers it's better to avoid (or at least flag) spoilers and say why you (dis)liked the book rather than just repeating the blurb, but I'm not going to say that they are must do's. There is no "must do" when it comes to reviews. Review however you want, with whatever rating system works for you, for whatever reason you choose.

The most important thing is to have fun reading, because reading is awesome.

Tell me, what do you think? Do you usually leave reviews? Is there anything you personally don't like to leave reviews for?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hanging at the end

So, apparently I'm becoming known as a bit of a cliffy queen (laughs maniacally), because of this, I just wanted to take a moment and have a chat about cliff-hangers. 

There is loads of evidence to say that cliffhangers work to draw people back to the next part. Whether it's a book, a TV show episode, a movie (Lord of the Rings, I'm looking at you!), a cliffhanger gives people a reason to return.

I've heard some readers say they hate cliffhangers and won't read a book that has one. Does that mean it's up to the author to warn if a particular book ends on a cliffy (my personal opinion on this is no - if a book is part of a bigger series, I work on the assumption that there'll be *some* degree of cliffy at the end). 

I've heard the argument that if a book is good enough, if the writing is decent and the characters compelling there's no need for a cliffhanger. And yep, 100 percent agree, except . . . well, sometimes resolving the cliffy will kick off the next part of the overall ARC of the story. I know that's certainly the case for the two cliffies I've been blasted over for Declan's series. (Highlight text to reveal minor spoiler.) 

Sometimes, the story is 100 percent resolved, but the cliffy is there more in the reader's mind than on the page purely because they want to know what comes next for the characters. This is the case in Rise from Ash where we leave Evie and Clay at the point we leave them, with that part of the story resolved, but with a lingering threat in the air. 

As a reader, I love cliffhangers. Yes, the wait can be so frustrating--doubly so when it becomes clearer and clearer that the author is likely to never finish the next book--but the thrill of "OMG I have to know what happens next," is so much more intense when it comes at the end of the book than at the end of each chapters. It can leave the characters lingering in your mind long after you put the books down. Whether that's just because of the story ending in a cliffy or because the characters would linger anyway, who knows? I can say some of the more memorable book endings I've read are cliffhangers. A few spring instantly to mind: Lord of the Rings when Frodo was captured by Shelob. The ending of Radicals by Frankie Rose (that was certainly one that had my jaw hanging open).  

Love them or hate them, I do think cliffhangers have a purpose, and for some authors they're here to stay. For me, I won't say all of my books will end on a cliffy, I won't say they won't. It'll come down to the same thing it always comes down to for me. What are the characters saying? What do they want me to . . . 

(To be continued)

(Continued: say. Tell me what you think of cliffhangers in the comments.)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Right This Instant (Love)

I have a pet peeve when I'm reading (okay, I have a few, but today I'm only going to talk about one of them). I know I'm not alone in this, but I am not a fan of instalove in books. At all. If I'm on the fence about my enjoyment of a book, it can be the shove in the direction of put it down and ignore it.

*Cups hand to ear* Is that the sound of pitchforks I hear? I'm sure it is. Whenever a similar thing comes up on posts, and I express my distaste there's always one or two that are quick to leap to the defense of insta-love. A mumble of how someone's uncle met a girl and they were married in a week. The thing is yes, I know it seems like instalove happens in real life, but I don't personally buy that it happens there any more than in books. Bear with me for a second and you'll maybe see why I say that. It can happen in a book too and it can happen believably there too. BUT in my opinion, there is a big difference between instalove and fast love (and if you end this thinking I'm a crack-pot and of course instalove is a thing, that's fine. It's the awesome thing about opinions, we're all entitled to them and entitled to express them. It's the differences in the world that make it interesting).

So before the hoarding masses come for me in their mob with pitchforks and torches, I'll explain a little more. These are just my interpretations and opinions too, so feel free to disagree. In fact, I'd love to chat with you about it in the comments if you do.

Now, before we go any further, I'm going to attempt to define things a little more. At least, my own understanding of it.

Instalove: First glance = "I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in the whole world and ever will love anyone."

Fast love: First glance = "You fascinate me and I want to know more about you." The actual progression to a deeper emotion then starts to occur.

I'm sure you can see the very clear (but very important) difference between the two. In the second one (fast love) the falling in love process might only take a few hours of intense getting to know you before people are offering up engagement rings and planning their gift registry. It might be a day. A week. A month. More. But the "love" at first sight is really nothing more than attraction. I have read more stories than I can mention which have the POV character bandying around the word soulmate after that first glimpse.

The "getting to know you" stage is what makes it believable. It's the difference between between me personally buying into the relationship or not. I love when the first glimpse inspires butterflies. When the POV character is desperate to learn more about this stranger. Add in a few mutual interests, or something for the characters to bond over (shared heartbreak maybe) and I'll be eating that story up any day of the week. Tell me that they're desperately in love before a single word is uttered and the only thing faster than the falling in love will be my eye roll as I lose any connection I might have had to the characters.

And because I have to say it, there are certain stories/genres that get a bit of a bye on this issue. Which stories? Paranormal (especially ones with shifters and some sort of imprinting system like a few real animals do have) and possibly fantasy/sci-fi if there is a justified reason for it (again, whose to say that the Dalgorns from Zargorn six don't have an ESP that auto-detects the love of their existence after all).

What do you think? Do you love instalove? Get bothered by it? Couldn't give a toss either way? Leave a comment below, I'll be back to answer them.  For now, I think I hear a crowd gathering at my door . . .

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Looking back, and forward

It's already the new year, and a few days into the new year already in fact.

2015 was an epic year for me, and I owe so much of it to all the people who follow me, support me, buy my books, and are here.

I attended my first readers conference, Readers and Writers Down Under, in March, and my first Supanova in November.

I released seven books:
Besieged by Rain
All Amity Allows
Rise from Ash
Among the Debris; and

I had my first photo shoot with dedicated models.

I reached the #1 spot in angels on Amazon for a giveaway with Evan.

I hit my first 1,000 subscribers on my newsletter.

There were challenges along the way, but I had so many wonderful people around me who picked me up and kept me going.

As I look forward to 2016, I have so many more exciting things planned. Returning to RWDU in March, and hopefully Supernova in November. My first international signing. New series, new books in existing series.

Already, I have some good goals for my release schedule:
Into the Rain in February
Decipher in March
Declare in May
Court the Fire in June
Phase in August
Igniting the Spark in October.

There should be some other fun surprises along the way too. So thank you all for being with me in 2015, and I look forward to chatting with you all and sharing more of my stories in 2016.