Wow! So excited to read this amazing review of my new release, SHE LIES ALONE by Once Upon A Time Book Blog. I hope you’ll check it out…
What is Success in Writing?
For so many years, the end goal of my writing was to land an agent, sign with a publisher, and have my fully-legitimized book thrust out into the world with the approval stamp of the publishing house on its spine. After that, I imagined myself throwing confetti in the air and basking in the joy of post-publishing glory. In this idealized vision, publication equaled success. I never thought much about what came after publication. For some reason, the reviews that would follow–both good and bad–didn’t factor into my daydream.
Well, fast-forward a few years. I landed (and fired) my agent. I signed a three-book deal with Bookouture, who recently released Two Widows, the first of three stand-alone suspense novels. My second suspense novel, She Lies Alone, is coming out in less than two weeks. These stories–the ones I spent literally years of my life crafting, writing, and revising–are now out there for people to read and review. It’s exciting, yes. It’s also terrifying.
I’m happy to say that Two Widows has been very well-received by the suspense-reading community. Still, like almost every book, it has garnered occasional one and two-star reviews. As much as the reviews praising my book have injected me with a sense of euphoria (especially the ones that say they would give it MORE than five stars if they could!), the mean reviews hurt equally as much. These critical people do not hesitate to share how much they HATED my book. Some negative reviews are easier to disregard–for example, those written in one extremely long run-on sentence with no punctuation and brimming with misspelled words, or those that state incorrect facts, demonstrating that the reader has zero reading comprehension, or those that are hateful toward gay people and offended that my main character reconciles with her gay son and admits she’d been wrong to blindly follow a few bullies in her small town church. As authors, it is difficult to not be able to respond to these. But we can’t.
The advance Netgalley reviews for She Lies Alone are starting to show up on Goodreads. The first three people who read it left FIVE-STAR reviews. Woo-hoo! (I must have really found the pinnacle of success with this second book.) Then a few four star reviews followed. (I’ll take a four-star review any day.) The last five reviews have been 3 stars. (Can you feel my energy deflating?) Reading some of these new comments about my book being “average” and “predictable” feels like something akin to emotional abuse, to someone berating my child in front of me. I went from having a wonderful day to wanting to jump off the nearest bridge. (Did I mention I’m a highly sensitive person?)
Apparently, some readers are disappointed that the cover doesn’t match the story. I’m wondering why these people didn’t bother to read the back cover blurb. Others are disappointed that my book is not a true “thriller.” That’s correct, She Lies Alone is a novel of psychological suspense, just as it says in the subtitle! Maybe you can see why I’m frustrated…
How to Cope
For my fellow writers who are finding the thrill of publication tarnished by negative reviews, here are some things I’ve found that help:
- Look up a few of your all-time favorite books on Amazon or Goodreads. See how members of the general population left average and bad reviews the book that you so loved. You know they aren’t right. Now apply the same logic to YOUR book.
- Remind yourself (as my editor often reminds me) that no book is going to please everyone. It has literally never been done.
- Look for constructive criticism and use it to make your next book better. As much as I hate to say it, when several people are saying the same thing over and over again, there’s a good chance they might be on to something.
- Don’t read the reviews. Okay, I had to say it, but no one believes that is going to happen.
- Remember why you write. I write because there is a story within me that needs to be told. I write because I enjoy being creative. I write because I’m good at it. This passion of telling mysterious and suspenseful stories is for me, not to please some twenty-two-old woman with a permafrown who lives in a crappy apartment building in the middle of Arkansas and who’s initials are K. M. and who I’ve never met and probably wouldn’t like if I did meet her. (Too specific?)
Don’t Dwell. Keep Writing.
While easier said than done, I’m striving to let negative reviews roll off my back. I’m going to appreciate and gain energy from the positive feedback. My third book has just been sent to my editor to prepare for the line edits, and that is where my focus needs to be, not on books that I’ve already written, re-written, revised, and edited. I’ve already poured my heart and soul into those books and they can’t be changed now. I like my books. Actually, that’s not true. I love my books. And for a writer, maybe that’s the true mark of success.
My First Vlog Interview
I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.
Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”
“It makes me uncomfortable.”
“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”
Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.
My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)
At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.
I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.
A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”
The answer is “YES!”
Several months ago I entered the second book in my YA mystery series, Barn Shadows, into two indie book award competitions. Each had an entry fee somewhere between the $50 and $100 range which seemed a somewhat extravagant price to pay considering how little indie authors are paid.
I debated for a few days, wondering if I should roll the dice…
On the one hand, the entry fees could be a waste of money–funds I could have spent on promotions or a new pair of shoes. On the other hand, what if my book won? It’s always difficult to get people to leave reviews for the second book in a series. Maybe an award would shine a spotlight on my book. Then there’s my need for validation. Friends and family will often tell me my books are great, but I never really know if they’re just being nice. To have independent and unrelated judges choose my book would be a true testament to quality.
Because I’ve had success in the past (my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, was nominated for best First Novel in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards), I decided to make the investment.
Last week, I discovered Barn Shadows has been shortlisted in the Chanticleer Paranormal Book Awards! It was a thrilling boost to learn that my little book made it through the slush pile and onto the shortlist. Even if it doesn’t win first place (the winner will be announced on April 21st), the fact that it made it onto the shortlist of twelve books provided me with much-needed validation. Additionally, letting potential readers know that a book has been nominated gives an author something new to promote and might encourage readers to choose one book over another. With over 2,000,000 books published each year, every advantage counts.
I’m still waiting for the results from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Whether or not Barn Shadows makes the cut, entering these awards was worth it for me. These awards do more than just boost an author’s ego. They provide validation, encouragement, recognition, and differentiation in an industry that is so often full of negativity and rejection. I encourage other indie authors to enter their books in whatever writing competition is appropriate for them. What’s the worst that can happen? Your book doesn’t win? Who cares? No one has to know…unless you win!
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list I put together of few well-known indie book award organizations. (Hint: Make sure you enter your book in the right category!) A quick Google search in your genre of choice will lead you to many more options. Good luck!
I haven’t posted in a while due to my family’s move this summer. Nothing interrupts a writer’s flow quite like selling one house, buying another, and relocating a family of four (plus our dog) and all of our stuff. It was a huge undertaking. Our new house (originally built in 1931) remains a work-in-progress, but we are all unpacked and my home office is set up. We now live in Ann Arbor, MI, where my husband and I both went to school at the University of Michigan. After living in a small town for the last seven years, it has been amazing to return to a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to the arts. Just yesterday, I participated in the Kerrytown Bookfest where I got to mingle with readers and fellow writers while selling and signing my books. Sitting next to me was none other than Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos. So cool! I got to chat with him about writing and publishing, and bought a signed copy of his book for me and my kids to read. Obviously, he was selling way more books than me, but seeing his success and the way readers flocked to his book inspired me to keep going.
Now that we’re all moved in and our kids are back in school, I’m finally getting back to writing. What’s next? The idea for my newest project has been percolating in my brain all summer: an adult suspense/thriller novel involving a woman who lives in a tiny house, her dead husband, a missing hotel worker and lots of secrets. I’ve developed the characters and written a general outline to give me a roadmap to follow. Now all I need to do is write the darn thing! I was going to wait until November (NaNoWriMo), but I may not be able to wait until then. There will be many updates to come…
Speaking of updates, it’s time for me to check in with the results of my Summer Reading List. Here we go…I read 8 of the 12 books on my list (plus two that weren’t on the list):
The Girls by Emma Cline, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman, Showdown by Brittney Joy, and The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster.
The two extras were: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.
Oddly, the last two that weren’t on my list were my favorites, but I also devoured Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I found all of the books I read to be enjoyable. There weren’t any major disappointments, but I didn’t love The Girls by Emma Cline as much as I thought I was going to. While it was beautifully written, the subject was too disturbing for me. As for the four books I didn’t get to yet, I’m still going to read those, too. I ran out of time! For more on what I’m reading, feel to friend or follow me on Goodreads. It’s always fun to see what others are reading.
Until next time, keep reading (and writing). I’ll be checking in a lot more often in the coming months!
When I dreamed of the joys of being a published author, I guess I skimmed over all the parts about book marketing. I’m completely aware that authors are almost always one-hundred percent in charge of their own marketing, I just never stopped to think about what that would mean for me until I was in the thick of it. After the first couple of weeks of promoting Trail of Secrets to everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, newspapers, bookstores, libraries, and around town, I started to wonder if people were getting annoyed with me. Was I too “in your face”? Was I being too braggy? Were people sick of hearing about all the reasons to read my YA thriller? Despite my hesitations, I have to give my introverted-self a pat on the back. I’ve completely stepped out of my comfort-zone in order to do everything in my power to market my book.
Here are a few examples of things that I NEVER thought I would do:
Welcome to my new writing blog, which is dedicated to all things writing, reading, and publishing.
It’s been a little over two weeks since my young adult mystery, Trail of Secrets, was published, and it has been a whirlwind! Things have not always gone as I’d envisioned. (Nope, still not on the Best Seller’s List), but I have learned a ton about book marketing, the publication process, and managing expectations. For all the new authors out there who are preparing for, or stumbling through, their first book release, I thought I’d try to make things easier by sharing a few things I’ve learned:
1. Friends and family can be your biggest supporters, but not all of them will be. On publication day, I kind of thought all of my family and friends would be as excited as I was about my book release–you know, in a “shout-it-from-the-rooftops” kind of way. It is true that a handful of them certainly were. In fact, I can name several people (some who are not even close friends) who went way beyond my expectations when it came to supporting and promoting my book. The thing I realized, though, is that while most people will offer their congratulations to you, they will never be as excited as you are about your book’s release. This was a shocker to me. After all, if one of my friends had a novel published, I would be ALL OVER THAT. I’d buy it, read it, and leave a review all before release day was over. But I’ve realized over the past two weeks that everyone does not view books the way I do. People have busy lives filled with careers and kids and drama. While they may have been sincere at the time they promised to buy a copy and leave a review, it might take them months to get around to it, if it ever happens at all. Maybe they are overwhelmed with other commitments. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they don’t enjoy reading books. Whatever the true reason, don’t take it personally. Thank the people who ARE helping and supporting you. They are invaluable. Most of all, remember that YOU are the biggest champion of your book.