Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Author... Are You Smoking Crack? On #GoodReads & #bookreviews

When it comes to GoodReads, I'm easy. (Okay, I'm easy about more than GoodReads, but that's another post.)

via Pinterest
If somebody says, Be My Friend on GoodReads, I generally say yes. Love books, love discussing reading, let's you & me have us a gloriously passionate literary affair. <insert kissy-face noises here>

So earlier this week, I get a GoodReads Friend request.

I accept.

I note, in passing, that this person has collected quite a few friends, but only listed 22 books. So, okay, maybe he's a GoodReads newbie - we all gotta start somewhere, right?

Besides, judging by his posted picture, he's kind of cute.

(Yes, I'm more vulnerable to attractive men. Don't judge.)

Not six hours later, I get this message:

Thanks for adding me. If you get time, I would be honored if you check out my book. I'm a brand new author with no reviews yet. =)
No shit, Sherlock, you got no reviews yet. The info on your books says it was self-published by you, like, yesterday.

You also joined GoodReads, just a few months prior, and prolly friended as many people as would accept you and composed this polite, slightly pitiful message to try to guilt your new Friends into reading and reviewing your book.

You are not even offering free review copies.  *eyeroll*

Clearly, This Newbie Author does Not Understand How Social Media Works.

It's like walking directly up to a woman (or man) in a bar and asking them to come give you a blow job in an alley without offering to buy 'em a drink first.

Or even saying hello. Chatting about something, anything. "How about those <insert sport teams of your choice, here>?" "Hot enough for you?"  "Come here often?"

You and I, Dear Author, have no relationship yet. None, zero, zippo.

For all I know, your book might have Serious Cooties.  As a reader, and especially as a reviewer, I have many, many other choices. Why do I want to be involved with you?

Social Media is about establishing relationships, not advertising at people.

This is where Traditional Publishing has an Advantage over Self-Publishing.

You, the author, probably have zero relationship with 99.9999% of the book-buying public. But your publisher has sales reps and bookstores that trust the general saleability of their merchandise. Even if they have to take a book that howls like a dog from time to time, your publisher throws in enough cash cows to make it worthwhile.

It's like they've already bought rounds for the house.

A book traditionally published will be in trade magazines, will get out to reputable magazines and bloggers that do book reviews. There will be giveaways, promotions, possibly even book readings and signings (although more and more, authors take on quite a bit of the promotion themselves).

If you are a self-pubbed author who has not yet interacted on GoodReads, on Twitter, or in the blogosphere... you'd best prepare yourself to start buying drinks.

Well drinks, with the premium liquor.

I "Get" The Whole Mad Thrill of Finishing a Book

via Jody Hedlund
I do. It is awesome, like fabulous sex, except you feel free to brag about it to your grandma and the cashier in the grocery store. It is exhilarating and intoxicating and sparkly delicious. (I should let/make myself experience the "finishing a book" feeling more often.) So many, many people give lip service to the dream of, "I should write a book someday," so few actually follow through and do it.

You should be proud.  Anybody who finishes a book should be proud of that accomplishment.

And when I finish a book, I know my baby is beautiful, pristine, flawless.

I know that the minute I put it out there, she's going to be the Next Big Thing.

And then I take a step back - a few steps back - and do my best to take off the beer goggles.

If you have experience, or an agent, or good critique partners, or an excellent editor, you will realize - I have realized - that your just-completed manuscript is not all that and a bag of chips.

But some authors are afflicted with Premature Publish Syndrome. 

The numerous rejections they get from agents and publishers are taken as a sign of their incredible genius - wasn't Harry Potter rejected numerous times? They decide to self-publish, letting those foolish agents and publisher eat crow when they are confronted by the wads of cash this book will make.

While I felt crushed and heartbroken by all the rejections I got on early novels, I know now... I was not ready for Prime Time. I feel like I am close, now... but am no longer in such a rush.

I know I will get there, when the time is right. And I am grateful my early efforts aren't "out there," because it would be as embarrassing as putting my middle school paintings up next to a Van Gogh.

That author will probably get some reviews. 

Because many women (and men) cannot say, "No," to a direct request.

And he's semi-cute.

So possibly he will even get some favorable reviews, from people who want to be nice. Hell, I want to be nice. I even cued up a sample chapter on my Kindle, before realizing I would rather spend what little time I have for reading, on work I might enjoy.

But by the blurb itself - you know, that bazillion-times polished gem we put out there to sell our books - I could tell this author is Not Ready for Prime Time.

I've read some terrific blurbs... and then gone on to be horribly disappointed in the work itself. I have never read a poorly written blurb and gone on to be delighted by a book.  And his blurb... was one of the worst I have ever read. Because I am nice, I am not quoting it here.

I could read the book, or the first chapter, but why? It's like expecting a guy who can't kiss to be scream-worthy at oral sex. Sure, it's within the realm of possibility, just like winning the lottery, but what's the likelihood?

The Ratings Racket

via digitalart
at FreeDigitalPhotos
Also? Don't rate your own book as five stars. Obviously you think it's perfect, or you wouldn't have put it out there. Don't rate your own book at all. I always think a little less of an author who rates his/her own book, especially a self-pubbed one. (That said, I did review and rate the anthology I've got a story in, with a disclaimer, because I wanted to give a shout-out to the other authors.) 

Some writers are mature enough to welcome unfavorable ratings and reviews. Let's face it, a book with six five-star reviews looks like only your mother and your besties have reviewed it. Many readers will skip right past the five-star reviews and look for the four-star and lower reviews, as more likely to be honest and not all fan-girly. Controversy over your book - lots of 4/5 star ratings and lots of 1/2 star ratings - can drive sales higher, as many readers will read it for themselves.

As a sidenote, if/when you do get critical reviews or ratings as an author, DO NOT argue, comment, or email the reviewer. (See train wreck, here.) Accept the fact that not every reader will like every book. Millions thought Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the best things since sliced bagels - *I* couldn't get past page 75.

When the stinging wears off, examine honestly if there is merit to the criticism, and do better on your next book. Be aware that some book reviewers report being creeped out by any author attention to their reviews, even a thank you. (I'm not one of them, you can thank me if you like.)  A "Like" to the review is probably as far as you should go. Some reviewers may appreciate your thanks, other reviewers will never, ever, review another book by you.

I Feel Bad for that Author - and a Little Bit Pissed Off, at the Same Time.

He may well come out of this with his dream crushed, with his heart broken. I don't want to see anyone hurt or disappointed.

But at the same time, this author has not done his due diligence or his homework. He feels arrogant to me, and he's not the only one out there with this kind of attitude. I have been working very hard at many aspects of the craft for a couple of decades now. Writing in general, character development, plot, editing, creating a web presence, building support networks, reading agent and publisher blogs and Tweets about what is and isn't good writing, doing workshops, gathering a Twitter family, posting reviews on GoodReads... 

This guy really thinks he's going to self-pub a crappy book and the world will immediately fall at his feet?

Have you been advertised at?
Have a Social Media nightmare to share?
Am I simply being bitchy? Your thoughts?

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