July 20, 2017, 09:31:39 PM

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Re: Indie Book Reviewers (paid reviews) Not sure if you're still looking for feedback on this, but I can try and clarify some things, having dipped my toes into one or two sites that "sell" reviews (Kirkus and SelfPublishing Review). Ultimately, you need to know what you're paying for and how these reviews work.

First, why paid reviews? It's because of the sheer number of self-published authors now seeking book reviews. Multiply the number of books from big presses by like 50 (and not all books from big presses get reviews) and you'll have some idea how many self-published authors are seeking book reviews.

Here's the problem. Most review sites won't review self-published books, at all, and most bloggers that offer to do so are quick snowed under by the huge amount of requests. Simply put, there aren't enough reviewers to meet demand, or enough time in any reviewer's day to review 100+ books.

So if you self-published (or went through a small press that isn't on the radar) how do you get a book review? You pay a reviewer to review your book, and they will either like it, not like it, or fall somewhere in the middle. The fact is, however, that without the pay sites, most self-published authors couldn't get their books reviewed, ever.

Requiring a self-published author to pay a fee to have a reviewer read their book does two things:

1) It motivates reviewers who might otherwise not slog through endless self-published books to look for gems.

2) It narrows the number of authors requesting reviews, because those reviews cost money, and ensures only authors who take their book seriously enough to pay for a review are requesting one.

Now, here's the thing to understand. You are not paying for a good review. You are paying for someone to review your book. That's different. They may dislike it or call out flaws, and your review may be negative. Praise is not guaranteed. Your book will need to earn praise through its own merits.

As a safety net for new authors, many paid review sites offer you to the chance to not have your review published if it ends up negative. The reasoning for this is that they don't want to sink a new author who just wasn't ready to publish their first book (but maybe their next one is good) and, more honestly, it's a safety net for folks who otherwise wouldn't request a review. So you could almost think of these sites as offering a paid advance read (with feedback) that, if it's positive, you have the option of using as a review.

This isn't an ideal system, but unfortunately, until we get 100s of bloggers volunteering to read 1000s of self-published books (most of which may be relatively poor quality) this is the way things will continue to be. I haven't come across any paid review sites that offer a positive review. They just offer the chance to not have your review published if it's negative, and the money is used to run the site and pay the reviewer.

Anyway, I hope that helps!

July 03, 2015, 05:56:19 PM
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Re: -ly and Needless Word: Word Macros. Experience?
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When you say "walked slowly", there's a split second between reading "walked" and reading "slowly", and the reader's mental image of the action has to change mid-stride. The word "strolled" encapsulates the action you're trying to portray, so the mental image is clearer and more immediate.

I think Raptori said this best. -ly words aren't terrible, but there's often better ways to write it. And you get a better visual image for your reader.

Also, consider giving us descriptions of how people are talking/acting as well, rather than an adverb. Sometimes you get more mileage out of showing us what a character is doing, rather than telling us how they feel.

Instead of writing "I don't know what you mean," he said nervously, write instead His voice trembled. "I don't know what you mean."

Instead of writing "Can you help me or not?" he said impatiently write instead He huffed. "Can you help me or not?"

Instead of writing "I'm going to kill you!" she said angrily write instead Her hands curled into fists. "I'm going to kill you!"

July 03, 2015, 06:30:11 PM
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Re: Indie Book Reviewers (paid reviews) Just as an FYI, I recently came across this site (Reader's Favorite) which will do *free* book reviews of any book, including those self-published. They do request a small fee for reviews while reading books for their writing contest (as with other sites, it's the only way to keep up with the avalanche) but if you wait for the months where they aren't doing their writing contest, they will review your book for free.

https://readersfavorite.com/

July 09, 2015, 03:15:24 PM
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Re: Shannara Chronicles Trailer! So far, visually, it looks great. I love the Ellcrys, in particular. It looks higher budget than past fantasy shows on TV, and though I'm not completely sold on the actors (I pictured them differently) I'm sure they'll do a fine job.

Ultimately, I think how much I enjoy the final product will depend on how well they stick with the themes of the book. Elfstones of Shannara is my favorite of the first three Shannara books (and one of my favorite Shannara books of all time) due to how dark it was overall, the Reaper (it's like a Terminator is running around in a fantasy series) and the ending. Ah, the ending.

I'm cautiously optimistic.

July 11, 2015, 10:21:14 PM
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Re: To Describe or Not To Describe
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So what's your take?  Do the basics: quick and dirty location and set up the character a tiny bit and leave it to the reader's imagination?  Or set the scene in intricate detail and describe your characters physical appearance with precision?

Man, I hate to give you this answer, but I don't think you will ever please everyone. Some readers really enjoy detailed explanations of your world and everything in it, while others (sadly, I'm often among them) just want to get back to the action and dialogue as quickly as possible. It's *really* tough to find a balance, and something I constantly struggle with.

For my two cents, here's my advice in a few rules:

1) If the reader knows what is is, don't describe it. A reader knows what a sword looks like. Unless it's a glowing sword (in which case, say that!) cut any description of basic objects that readers have visuals for already.
2) Give readers descriptions of new or unfamiliar objects, but find the BEST details and ONLY those details.
3) Limit descriptions of anything to a single paragraph (three sentences) - rule of thumb.
4) Use all the senses - don't double up (e.g. give a visual, and a smell, and a touch, not three visuals)
5) If you have to break Rule 3, use dialogue and action to space out your descriptions, and *only* give each description when it's pertinent. E.g. describe a door's exterior when the POV character approaches, have them say something, then describe the unusual handle when they touch it. Split it up.

 I think the key to describing things in ways that don't bore action-oriented readers but satisfy readers who really want to see the world is to use sparse but memorable details and spread them out. And give those details at the absolute last moment the reader needs them to visualize the scene.

(Very rough) example below. This is probably terrible, but it demonstrates what I'm suggesting. :)


The corporate time machine was a tall gray cylinder with an oval window looking into its hollow center. Its steady thrum rose and felt like a heartbeat. When Joe grabbed the handle, it was cold to the touch.

"We're really not supposed to use this without authorization," Joe said, glancing back at Bob and his serious frown, "but hell. If it's for science..."

"Not science." Bob hurried forward and peered through the oval window. "We're going to stop a murder. We'll be heroes, won't we?"

"That, or in jail."

Joe turned the handle and freezing air burst from the manifolds attached to the top of the cylinder. Fresh ice crackled along the long black power hose wired into the ceiling. Joe felt goosebumps on his arms.


So, just some things to call out:
The first description of the time machine uses a visual, a sound, and a touch. Rather than three visual details.

I could have gone on to describe the vents on top, black pipe, and power converter immediately after, but I put some action/story advancement between both paragraphs of details, only describing the steam manifolds when they're actually doing something (shooting steam).

Like I said, very rough example, but hopefully this gives you some food for thought?




July 13, 2015, 07:59:39 PM
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Re: To Describe or Not To Describe
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I personally enjoy a fair amount of non-described things, even though they're new. I like to drop in hints, let the reader picture it the way they want, now that they know the use of it, or worse barely hint at what the thing used to do, but drop how critical it was and what it vaguely looks like...
This can work really well.. Not always, but I generally like keeping things a bit odd and mysterious. People who read SF/F have a good imagination.

You're right, @Nora, this can actually work really well, especially when it's done in a way that's tantalizing, rather than confusing.

I find it works especially well in sci-fi (and cyberpunk) when a writer just casually mentions this super cool technology or gadget (or lets the reader see a glimpse of it) and the story moves right on. As a reader, you're left thinking "Wait? What was that thing? Go back to that thing!" and the writer will continue to tease out more details about it (some writers also call this the "iceberg" method) where you basically only see the tip of some awesome concept hidden beneath the ocean.

When you do this type of description right, you're using your descriptions of the world just like you'd use dialogue or action, building them up over time and keeping the reader reading to find out what happens next (or what next detail is revealed). So it's a good technique to mention.

July 14, 2015, 07:07:24 PM
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Re: Indie Book Reviewers (paid reviews)
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As far as I know paid reviews are against the terms of service of Amazon and probably other online booksellers.

Just wanted to clarify. Amazon actually does have a section for professional reviews, if you have a book on their site. Their "Editorial Reviews" section is where authors or publishers can post reviews from professional sources, including those services (like Kirkus) who require a fee for small press/self-pub. A number of professional review sites do now offer reviews for a fee to keep up with the huge demand for reviews from outside traditional press.

July 19, 2015, 10:22:39 PM
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Re: Just how do you get reviews?
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I didn't want false reviews (friends, family or exchanges on fb) so I don't have many reviews

I don't know if it's the advice you're looking for, but I'm not sure what you're concerned about when you say "false reviews". There's actually nothing wrong with offering to review another author's work in exchange for reviewing yours, so long as you both understand that there's no obligation to give it a *good* review. You're a reader - so are they.

Exchanging a review with someone who also happens to be an author is no different from asking a reader you meet at a convention (or someone to whom you sell a book) to give you an honest review when they finish your book. Authors are readers too! And their time, like yours, is limited.

As discouraging as it is, no review sites will review small-press/self-pubbed books... that's just how it is, because there are literally thousands of small press/self-pubbed books out there. Authors and readers, like you, have limited time to read books. As you meet other authors in the same boat as you, you can help each other out by setting out time to review each other's books, and as long as you do it honestly (no "Five star me if I'll five star you!") there's nothing wrong with that. You may even make a new friend!

I published my book through small press originally (and self-pubbed my first book after I got my rights back) and one of the first things I learned is how hard it is to get reviews - unless you're with the big 5, you simply can't get reviewers to look at you. It's nothing you're doing wrong. You're simply competing without thousands of other authors from small press/self-pub, and professional review sites don't have the manpower to dig into that (and so to be fair, they don't review small-press/self-pub books at all).

If you plan to go it alone as an author, without a big press marketing apparatus behind you, networking with fellow authors is almost mandatory these days, and you shouldn't rule out reviewing the work of other authors (as a reader providing an honest, unbiased review), just as they shouldn't rule out reviewing yours.

Anyway, I might have rambled a bit, but hopefully this will offer some food for thought?

July 19, 2015, 10:41:19 PM
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Re: Ant-Man!
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I am incredibly jealous you have a drive-in cinema to go to! Always seems like great fun.

We're very lucky to live about 30 minutes from one of the better drive-in experiences in Maryland. :) The screen is large and super clear, the venue is really nice, and the (junk) food is far more reasonably priced than a theater. Since the wife and I had our little one (now nine months!) a drive-in is really the only way we *can* go see a movie without a babysitter.

July 20, 2015, 04:02:58 PM
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Re: Violence in fantasy
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Second, show it to someone whose judgment you trust who is either also a writer or is at least an avid reader in your genre. Pay attention when this person reacts, and ask them to be specific with their reactions. (Ex: I showed one friend a scene I was having trouble with. Because it was him,  since *he* said one character reacted too violently for the situation, I scaled it back. )

Yeah, this is excellent advice. Run it by your target audience (ideally, multiple folks within that group) and see what they say about it.

I recently finished a military sci-fi novel, and in it, my POV character gets captured by a despicable crime lord and tortured in a pretty brutal manner (probably on par with what you'd see on 24, or a bit worse). The scene was only a page long, but it was brutal enough that it really bothered about 80% of my advance readers (I was lucky enough to have 10 or 11 opinions). Since 8 out of 11 people told me the scene made them want to put the book down, I scaled it back.

Ultimately, I wanted to keep the book accessible, and that scene limited my audience. After I sat back and looked at the book as a whole, it wasn't really necessary to move the plot forward. I was able to do everything I wanted in a different way while keeping the book palatable to a larger audience.

Also, sometimes it's not the violence that's the problem, but the type of violence. Certain topics will bother certain people more than others. For example (spoiler for Prince of Thorns):

[spoiler]
In the first chapter, the POV character placates his grumpy crew (who aren't finding the loot they wanted in a village they've just slaughtered) by saying something like "Sorry there's no treasure. But hey, there's some underage girls hiding in that barn. So if you're bored, go rape them a few times and then burn them alive when you're done."

The POV character is intended to be a total bastard, but man, I couldn't get past my disgust for him after that scene. It might be because I have a good friend who's been raped, or just because I find the subject distasteful, but that tanked the book for me. And the majority of violence doesn't bother me at all!
[/spoiler]

I wish you luck with figuring it out. Also, another good topic might be measuring the violence (and types of violence) in your book to other books to which you'd like it compared. If you're about even with those, you're probably okay.

July 20, 2015, 04:37:04 PM
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