Category Archives: Publishing and Promotion

WHAT’S IN A REVIEW? WORDS! WORDS! WORDS! (and stars…)

“Words! Words! Words! I am so sick of words! I get words all day through…Never do I ever want to hear another word. There isn’t one word I haven’t heard…Say one more word and I’ll scream.”

Audrey Hepburn in MY FAIR LADY

Well, not really, but I can understand what Eliza felt and what Alan Jay Lerner had her sing in MY FAIR LADY. Writers spend long hours, days and years putting forth words. In their heads, on paper,  in print, and in the ether. Then, it is the readers and the critics who pour over those strenuously wrought words to offer review, critique, criticism, praise, doubt, confusion, benevolence or, possibly, total rejection.

How often do you write reviews of the books you read? Is it your job? Your hobby? A courtesy to a writer friend? Or only when you can offer a four or five star rating? Are you of the breed that loves to hack away with stingy one or two star reviews? Holds to stringent rules, measurements or other ways to quantify a book’s worth?

Personally, I’d love to do away with the stars. Too subjective for my taste and with too many variables and meanings. If your words can’t convey your thoughts about the pacing, plotting, characterization, themes, research or lyricism of the writer, how can the stars say it?

So, I decided to take a look at the reviews I’ve written on Amazon to analyze my own process and see what I could make of it.  In the last six years I have ponied up forty reviews. I gave 37  five stars and to three, I gave four stars.  What does it mean, if anything?

I recently had an email discussion with an eminent western writer who reserves her “5’s” for books of significant value that are likely to stand the test of time. I used to do that, too, and only wrote reviews of such books. More recently, I’ve switched gears and have given many “5’s” for work that might not reach those earlier standards but were very good books. With most of these I tried to describe their impact on me to get across my sense of their value. I have not given lower numbers in instances where friendship got in the way of my ability to do so; I still don’t feel good about those books (think fraudulent) for it misleads anyone who might look to the review in making their decision to buy and/or read them. On three occasions I gave “4’s” where I felt very clear about their ranking.

Increasingly, I read nearly exclusively what I write: historical fiction, mostly about the American West.  In the past, I read much more in crime and thriller series, general historical (including romances,) bestsellers, and non-fiction. My interest would be peaked by San Francisco Chronicle or NY Times reviews (now the same thing,) the “new books” shelved at the library or booksellers recommendations. Now, I look to the resources and writers of organizations I belong to: Women Writing the West, the Historical Novel Society, Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Redwood Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club.

I took a look at the stats from those 40 reviews to see where they came from: 17 were by WWW writers, 7 by RW authors, 5 from HNS, 10 from other sources and 0 specifically from Squaw.  I think I read about 60 books a year so this sampling of 40 books in 6 years is miniscule compared to what I actually read.

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Vincent van Gogh   “WOMAN READING”

The result of all this self-analysis: I need to write more reviews and improve my star designation by being more honest when I find myself between a rock and a hardplace.

Have you anguished over reviewing a friend’s book?

How did you handle it?

Were you “too busy?” Say you didn’t feel comfortable, couldn’t rank it high?

Do something else?

 

P.S.  HUACHUCA  WOMAN  has received 10  “5’s” and 1  “4.”  Thank you!

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Filed under Historical Fiction, HUACHUCA WOMAN, Publishing and Promotion, Reflection

1792, COLUMBUS SAILED…oh, no he didn’t.

Do you like giving presents? Is it a chore to figure out what to give? Do you wander around the mall trying to decide and then go home and order a gift off the internet? Last week, HUACHUCA WOMAN was a gift to 1792 folks who ordered it from Amazon’s Kindle Store.

I have never ever given anything to so many people. Not in my charitable donations, not among family and friends or even of myself to others in loyalty, caring or loving, or in refuge or laughter. I mean, who knows 1792 people up close and personal? I don’t, plain and simple…at least I don’t think I do. I’ve probably known this many and more in the course of my life but not so well as to give presents, right?

I don’t have names, addresses or occupations of my giftees. I just picture them, with the book in hand, on a couch, under a tree or in bed (reading the Sex-on-the-beach scene to their partner.) Some may struggle with the accents or the political positions of my characters. (They tend to be a bit iconoclastic.) Some fact checkers may find something to set me “right” about and I’ll welcome them. Some will ride the land with Josephine of an early morning and watch the sun rise in glory. Others may seek answers from John Reed, Geronimo or Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. I hope all will laugh, cry and sympathize in the course of using their gift.

By 1792, Columbus’ discovery of the new world was 300 years past. New countries were born, Native Americans died of infectious diseases, slaves were bought and sold, new crops and industries started, and fights for independence were getting underway. Columbus’ impact was carried into our present and little could he guess the outcome.

So, my 1792 versions of HUACHUCA WOMAN may be flying in cyberspace and cause a tiny hic-cup in the universe.  Hopefully, she will entertain, amuse or even annoy or anger some folks. She’ll thrive on that kind of reaction and cause others to talk about her, pass her on and even get them to post comments on Amazon, hitting the Author Page “like” as their return gift.

Meantime, I’m busy getting ready to launch BY GRACE, the second book in the HUACHUCA TRILOGY, come September. We only spend two action packed, even amazing years with Grace as she searches for her place in the world.  More to come….

Have you had a similar experience?

What’s a reasonable number of gifts to give this way?

Have you received such a gift?

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Filed under Arizona Territory, Historical Fiction, Publishing and Promotion

HUACHUCA WOMAN sees the light of day!

In the last month wondrous things have happened as HUACHUCA WOMAN emerged from the darkness of my computer to the Kindle, onto Amazon’s paperback racks and into the hands, hearts and minds of readers.

I have graduated to the rank of published novelist and I couldn’t be happier.

Photo by Kent Sorensen

Please go to Amazon.com to  “LOOK INSIDE.” Hit on my name to visit my Author Page; hit the “Like” button if inclined. My new blog is up at www.arlettadawdy.com with lead-ins to story poems, blog and bio. There’s more to construct there and I’m moving as fast as I can…to catch up to Goodreads, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

I’m on a learning curve and often feel myself slipping off, only to catch my breath and hold on again as tightly as I can. It is all about marketing, almost every writer’s least favorite part of the book industry. It has increasingly fallen on the writer’s shoulders to “get out the vote” as it were. Whether self-published or with a big press, the author carries most of the responsibility for promotion of her work unless, of course, she is a best-seller.

So, I read everything I can in the how to arena: how to build a platform, a following, a blog, a website, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization.)  Then, there are the lists: 49 things to do and sites to contact before putting the book up for free on Kindle; 12 reasons why you (who, me?) should be on Twitter, Pinterest, and all that is to come in social media; and 5-20 reasons to do readings, place your books in odd and unusual places, attend conferences, sell (or NOT) out of your car’s trunk, lead tutorials.

What have I done with those lists?  Gotten overwhelmed, listened to writer friends, attended workshops on reading in public (outstanding with Amanda McTigue), given readings, signed on with a local book distributor (thanks, Jeane Slone)…and run out of steam.

Meanwhile, a certain relative skipped over the “Love on the beach scene”—unable to forget who wrote it. I’ve given copies to my closest supporters. HUACHUCA WOMAN has found her way into charitable giveaways.Plans are firming up for a road trip to the Women Writing the West conference in Albuquerque in October that will find me coming home by way of Cochise County Arizona where the book is set and doing what?  More readings, giveaways, places to see and people to meet.

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Filed under Arizona Territory, Historical Fiction, Publishing and Promotion, Reflection