Category: reviews

Reviews – How Much Trust Can You Put In them?

Read any good books lately?

I discussed the quandary of book reviews in a previous post awhile back. The bottom line is this. Not everyone is going to like what I, or any other author, has written. There are books that I don’t care for that have lots of positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. The fact that I didn’t like them simply means that we have different tastes in reading material.

I don’t think many readers understand the impact of reviews, however. For some, it just seems like too much bother to write and post a review on Amazon, goodreads, or other places and I’m sure many readers feel like their two cents really won’t make that much difference. Think again. Reviews have a huge impact on both ranking and rating, not to mention the fact that they help other readers choose what to read next. If you are one of the people who have read a good book but have not bothered to write a review, may I implore you to take ten minutes and post one. It doesn’t have to be long, just honest.

Which brings me to another point. Honesty is all important when it comes to reviews so in a way I am glad to have a few less than stellar ones. It shows that I am not paying or otherwise coercing anyone into writing a positive review.

Rather than dwell on the negative, I try to focus on the positive feedback I’ve received. Precious to me are the hand written notes I’ve gotten in the mail from both family and friends, but also from complete strangers. One elderly woman wrote to say she really enjoyed my book AND THE BEAT FOES ON, and although she didn’t know how to write an online review, she wanted me to know how much she felt the story impacted her. She said she was planning to pass it on to others.

Another reader contacted me through facebook and expressed how she loved PLAY IT AGAIN. She said it made her feel like she was back in the 80s and mirrored some of her own experiences. My daughter lent a copy of MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to a colleague and after reading it, she wanted a copy for herself and for her sister-in-law. She said the ‘realism’ of Joleen’s struggles really hit home for her. She felt that her sister-in-law, a non-Christian, might respond well to the message of redemption and grace because of her own checkered past.WIND OVER MARSHDALE has had more than one similar remark from readers, either on facebook, via email, or verbally.

To my knowledge, none of these people bothered to write a review on Amazon, but the fact that they contacted me personally perhaps says even more. I can’t think of the last time I contacted an author to tell them I enjoyed a book, even though I regularly write and post reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Sometimes the personal touch is so much more validating.

In the end, I have decided to leave reader response in God’s hands. There is always a risk – quite a substantial one, I might add – that someone who reads and dislikes a book I’ve written will write a nasty review. It happens. Honesty is the best policy, after all. Knowing that even one person was affected in a positive way is enough for me to want to persevere.

To leave a review visit my Amazon Author page or my goodreads author page

The Dreaded One Star Review

One star reviews. Nobody likes them, least of all an author. When someone – usually a stranger – expresses their less than enthusiastic opinion about something I’ve written, it hurts. I’m not going to lie and pretend that it doesn’t. The good news is, experts say a few less than stellar reviews actually add credibility to one’s author platform, since nobody can appeal to everyone.

I get it when a person just doesn’t like a book. There can be many reasons for this. However, the ones that I find most irritating are those that say something like, “This is just too religious for me.” Duh! Did you read the blurb? Did it mention that this is a work of ‘Christian fiction‘? What about the keywords and tags? If the word faith, Christian, or inspirational is in there, chances are it will have those elements.

Somewhat more problematic, however, are those that are expecting a squeaky clean Christian read and find that my work may be a bit edgier than they had anticipated. A case in point is my NEIGHBOURS Series.  ‘A Contemporary Christian Romance’ is right there in the subtitle, but several readers found it was not Christian enough for their liking.

I have since added a ‘warning’ label to the product description and I’ve made sure to include it on all future descriptions, especially as the sequel to NEIGHBOURS – KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – is currently being released. (Thanks to Beta reader, Violet, for making this suggestion.) Here it is:

NOTE TO READERS: Although this series is categorized as ‘Christian fiction’  and has a strong redemptive message toward the end, there may be events that some Christians find troubling, such as the use of alcohol and references to sexual activity, although this always takes place ‘off camera’.

In the end, I must content myself with the fact that many readers have given me positive feedback about the series, and even asked (repeatedly!) for the sequel. Unfortunately, not all of these readers like leaving reviews on or – the too most sought after places for reviews. Perhaps they don’t understand the huge impact that reviews actually have on a book’s sales. (Even though I’ve mentioned it a time or two!)

Here is my final appeal to any readers out there. If you read a book and like it, take a few minutes to leave a review. It means A LOT – probably more than you realize.

Having said that, if you’ve read any of MY books and liked them – please leave a review. ( I said please!) I would especially appreciate a few more positive reviews to balance the negative ones on the first volume of NEIGHBOURS. Things like ‘This is too short” or “It ended too abruptly. It needs a sequel” kind of missed the point…   (It’s a novella and it’s supposed to end abruptly like a TV episode so that readers come back for the next part.) I could use a few more ‘thumbs up’ to boost its creds. *smile*

New In the Neighbourhood Volume 1
Neighbours Series 1 Complete


Also, don’t forget that the sequel KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS is currently being released in instalments! Here is the line up:

Vol 1 – Neighbourhood Tangle – JED

Vol 2 – Neighbourhood Watch – BO

Vol 3 – Neighbourhood Rebel – REBA

Vol 4 – Neighbourhood Upstart – PIP

Vol 5 – Neighbourhood Freedom – WILL

Vol 6 – Neighbourhood Cupid – ZEB



Step By Step – the Nick Stephenson Way

Screen-Shot-2015-01-12-at-2.49.02-pmOne year ago I took a giant step and signed up for Nick Stephenson’s online marketing course called ‘Your First 10k Readers’. I’d come across Nick’s course through another source, the ‘Self Publishing Podcast with Sean Plett, Johnny B. Truant, and Dave Wright- a sometimes irreverent but highly entertaining and useful podcast on the indie publishing industry. I heard about SPP after reading a book written by the hosts called Write. Publish. Repeat recommended to me, interestingly enough, by Amazon. (See purchase link below. If you can get past the profanity that crops up occasionally, this book is an absolute gold mine.)

As you can see, it was a bit of a rabbit trail that got me from point A to point B which is part of the moral of the story. 😃

Anyway, signing up for Nick’s course was risky. It cost money – real cold hard cash which I had not been earning enough of through my book sales to justify such an expense. Except… I’d come to a crossroads in my writing career. It was time to take the plunge and invest in myself and my writing if I ever wanted to get beyond break-even status.

As I said, that was one year ago. Twelve months later I can safely say it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. (Right up there with learning how to actually use Scrivener to it’s full potential. But that’s a topic for another post.)

It’s not that I’m suddenly rolling in cash or anything (unfortunately) and Nick cautions students right up front that his system takes WORK. It is not a get rich quick scheme or a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants way to fool people into buying your books. What it is, is a really smart and well laid out system for growing your audience while offering value to your readers – all in a step by step format that keeps that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling from taking over.

I voraciously listened to the entire course in the first week or two, but there is so much content and so much detail that there was no way I could implement everything at once. Heck, I’m still taking baby steps compared to many others, but I’ve managed to make some significant inroads this summer.

Part of the delay is that many of Nick’s recommendations are best applied if you have control over your own work. Sure, I contacted my publishers to try and get keywords and categories on Amazon changed, but there is only so much you can do when you don’t have control. I’m happy to report that now that I’ve gotten the rights back for some of my already published work, I am making huge strides forward.

As part of the process, the entire NEIGHBOURS Series has been republished in ebook format and the paperback is in the review process. I’ve learned how to format to multiple platforms, automate my email sequences, create landing pages, plan book events, install, upload, download and cross-load (if that actually was a thing) and so much more. I can’t even begin to express how valuable this training has been. There is still so much more I need to learn, but I finally feel like I’m moving forward instead of just spinning in a void.

Thanks Nick Stephenson and all the other contributors to the 10k course. This is stuff that you will keep coming back to again and again. The investment was minuscule to the benefits. Watch the first couple of videos FREE and even if you don’t buy, you will see what I mean about value. I’m not one to try to push stuff on people, but if it’s something that is actually worth it, then I don’t mind. And this is worth it. Trust me.

Also worth reading: Write. Publish. Repeat. Here is the link:

 So, the moral to all of this is:


Two Million Dollar Reviews

I had some time to do some professional reading while on a plane trip recently. Here are two books from a series that I highly recommend for serious writers. (Part of the Million Dollar Writing Series)

Review of Million Dollar Productivity by Kevin J. Anderson

In a very no nonsense style, Kevin J. Anderson reveals the secrets to being a prolific author. As a New York Times best selling author who has written over 125 books, he might just know a thing or two about the topic. In fact, his methodology isn’t really very mystical. It all boils down to hard work and no excuses – period. He shares his typical writing schedule and explains eleven specific tips to help writers make the most of their time. Most of what he shares is just common sense, although his use of a recording device to record the first draft while hiking sounded intriguing. It is a fairly short book – it took me about an hour to read it through, so I won’t go into more detail here. I did find it very motivational, although his style is far from a fluffy “Rah-rah you can do it,” type of motivation. His tone is more, “Quit being so lazy and just do it!” which is probably more useful and more effective. Some people might feel overwhelmed with his apparent obsession with squeezing writing into every second of his life, but he is unapologetic. If writing is your job, then start acting like it! I recommend this book to any author who feels like they aren’t making progress or to those who are struggling to find the time to write.

Review of Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland 

If you’re looking for simple solutions in the form of templates or systems, this isn’t the book for you. I might even go so far as to say this isn’t a book for newbies or hobby writers. When you’re ready to move past milk and want to sink your teeth into some steak, then read this book. There is a lot of psychology about why people read (or want to be entertained – he uses a lot of movie references as well) and he delves into the deeper emotional responses that readers experience during various phases of a novel. It’s not all philosophy – there are lots of very practical and specific examples of ways to make one’s writing better, but most require more than a skim over. This is ‘strong meat’, to put it into biblical perspective, which needs to be chewed on for a while. It is not an easy ‘do this and you will be successful’ type of book. However, I highly recommend it as a valuable resource for serious writers. By the way, Farland isn’t just some fly by night ‘expert’. He’s coached the likes of Stephanie Meyers, Brandon Mull and James Dashner as well as countless big time Hollywood screenwriters.


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