Categories
Career changing Publishing

Editing Tips

Editing Tips

Some editing tips and tricks for you, me, and all the writers we know! And don’t know, too ….

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Editing Tips
 

Because if you did NaNoWriMo this year, then now is right about the time you might start to thinking about attacking the editing beast. Or maybe you just don’t want to look at it yet. And that’s perfectly fine. However, you need to edit it eventually. Since professional editors cost money, it will pay for you to do some of the work early. Furthermore, if you have beta readers (and every writer should!), then you owe it to them to not waste their time reading an unpolished manuscript. Of course they should expect some issues as that is why you’re turning to them in the first place. However, a big garbage can full of word salad does no one any good.

Preliminaries

So first of all, before you do anything else, run spell check. While that sounds simple and obvious, I have beta read for people who didn’t do that first. Second, check your dialogue tags. So, what are dialogue tags? Dialogue should run one of three ways:

  1. She said, “I’m hungry.” Notice the comma before the first quotation mark, and then the period before the second? The first two words are the dialogue tag. The comma is mandatory in this case. And it’s the same thing if you move the dialogue tag to the end. So in that case, you would write: “I’m hungry,” she said.
  2. She patted her belly. “I’m hungry.” Notice there’s no comma this time? That’s because the initial sentence is an action; it’s not a dialogue tag at all.
  3. She growled, “I’m hungry!” The comma is back! And Grammar Girl (as usual) says it best: “Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.”

So make sure your dialogue tags are correct and your dialogue makes sense. And third, get into your scenes and anything (or anyone) else you need to describe. Too much description can bog down the action. And too little can leave your readers guessing. So here is where a knowledge of films can help. Current movies rarely show little transitional scenes like walking down a hall or driving unless something else is going on. And you should do the same. If your character starts off at school and then comes home, don’t show the character on the school bus unless that particular scene matters.

Takeaways

Do some basic editing, at the absolute minimum, before anyone else looks at your work. Respect others’ time and they’ll keep helping you.

Categories
Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (metrics and timing)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (metrics and timing)

Metrics and timing. When you tweet may not seem to matter too much. In particular, if you don’t tweet too terribly often, your tweets will still be out there, so why bother to even care about timing?

metrics and timing

Not so fast.

Patterns

According to The Science of Retweets, Twitter users tend to follow some recognizable patterns. First thing Monday morning is prime time for retweeting; so is five o’clock on a Friday afternoon. And that makes sense, as tweeters are either settling into the work week or are just about to start the weekend. Weekend tweeting is another animal as well. Noon is another good time for retweeting — people are at lunch or are about to go.

Plus there’s also the matter of accounts (often for job sites) that pump out a good dozen tweets, one right after another. These have little individual impact and seem only to be useful for later searching.

Timed tweeting seems almost counterintuitive. But for a business to use Twitter effectively, the tweets should be planned anyway. Why not plan not only their content but also their timing?

Scheduling Software

Here’s where services like Tweet DeckSocial Oomph (formerly Tweet Later) and HootSuite can provide some assistance. By scheduling the most important tweets for the very start and end (and middle) of each business day, you can add to their impact. Separating out your tweets can also get them all out there while simultaneously preventing a flood of tweets which many users are generally just going to ignore.

Another positive upshot to spacing out your tweets is giving you content that can be used later. For Social Media platforms, it’s easy to initially attack them with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and then taper off or even fizzle out entirely. If you regularly spit out twenty tweets per day, you’ll be tweeting 100 times during any given work week. Even your most dedicated followers are probably not going to read every single one. Plus, you’re setting yourself up for burnout.

Time Zone Scheduling

Instead, how about scheduling only two tweets per day (say, at 9:00 and 5:00 PM in the time zone where you have the greatest market share)? That way, you’ll have more people reading and no one will feel overwhelmed. Plus your 100 tweets will work for a little over a month or even two, if you are judicious and don’t tweet on the weekends.

So long as your tweets aren’t intimately tied to a specific time (e. g. announcements of an upcoming event), it shouldn’t matter. And, if they are, you might want to consider splitting them over several Twitter accounts. Perhaps open up one for just events in Seattle, for example.

Now, what about metrics?

URLs

Unfortunately, Twitter itself doesn’t do much, so you’ll have to cobble things together yourself and use off-Twitter resources. One idea is to use a URL-shortening service that tracks basic metrics, such as Social Oomph or Idek. You may not get much more data from them than click count, but it’s still something. Hoot Suite provides .owly link metrics, with two free reports.

Another idea is to use a unique URL for the site URL in your profile, say, http://yoursite.com/twitter. If you’ve got Google Analytics set up, you can track when that page is used for landings to your site, and its bounce rate. For commercial ventures, you might even make up a coupon code and tweet about it, or use your Twitter landing page as a means of communicating certain special offers available only to Twitter users.

Follower/Following Ratio

Your number of followers, and the ratio of followers to who youfollow, is all well and good, but it’s hard to say what you’re measuring. On Twitter, as on much of the web, popularity tends to breed even more popularity. And, it doesn’t really mean much if you have a number of purely spammy sites following you. They aren’t reading your tweets, anyway, so what’s the point?

This dilutes any idea of what these numbers might provide regarding influence, but if for some reason you really want to be followed by a bunch of spammers, just place the term weight loss into your profile and never block the spammers. In fact, follow them back, and you can get even more of them.

It hardly seems a worthwhile trophy to be followed by the biggest-ever village of spammers, eh?

Some Metrics

Some sites, such as Audiense, show number of followers and their influence and activity. You can see which inactive people you follow (so you can drop them), which famous people follow you, etc. Some of these are admittedly vanity metrics, but they are helpful.

Tweet Stats demonstrates, among other things, a graph of daily aggregate tweets. And it also contains your most popular hours to tweet and who you retweet. Twitter Reach reveals exposure and reach. E. g. this means impressions and mentions of any topic, be it a word, a phrase, a userid or a hashtag.

In conclusion, keep up with Twitter, but don’t overwhelm your followers with floods of content, and measure your influence as well as you can, both using your own and external tools. If you can adjust your tweets to better serve your followers, your true influence will surely rise.

Categories
Career changing Promotions

Demystifying Facebook

Demystifying Facebook

How can demystifying Facebook help you, the independent writer?

Reviews

It’s not just for Candy Crush anymore.

Demystifying Facebook for Independent Writers

Like other small business persons (for that is what an indie author is, right?), you have two separate lives on any social network. One is as an individual. You have friends, you have opinions. You might play games or write about politics. Or you might post memes or videos. You have fun, you express support or sympathy. And, let’s face it, you give and receive attention.

Your other life is as a writer. A writer who might need help marketing. Maybe a writer who might to bounce ideas off other authors. A writer who might need some help with a plot, or at least a sympathetic ear. You might want to talk to others who have been where you are. Plus you might want to connect with people who can help you improve your craft. Those are beta readers, cover artists, and editors. They might be writers you admire, or even publishing houses which interest you.

Demystifying Facebook and Socializing

As a writer, there is no reason for you to stop socializing online. On Facebook in particular, hanging out with other writers is a great idea.

But Why?

Because writing is, by definition, a solitary pursuit. Even collaborators and co-authors don’t trade the article for the noun for the verb for the adjective for another noun, or sentence for sentence or paragraph for paragraph. Instead, collaborators will generally write their own portion of a work and then give it to their partner, as the partner does the same. They beta read for each other and combine the pieces, whether those are chapters or sections or the like. The details may differ, but it’s pretty inefficient to hang out together for the actual writing process (although they may get together to discuss plot).

Hangouts for Indie Writers

For independent writers, you have a few places on Facebook where you can hang out.

  • NaNoWriMo group online – if you compete to write 50,000 words in November or April, then this is your scene. The group is large and generally friendly, although there are sometimes stretches of people stepping on toes. It’s best to hang back at the start and see how things go before you plunge in. There are also groups for local NaNo groups.
  • Wattpad – if you belong to Wattpad, check them out on Facebook. While this is a games page, you can still get a handle on who is who. Befriend fellow Wattpadders? Why not?
  • Queer Sci-Fi and other specialty genre groups – do some research; these can have varying activity levels.
  • Services trading groups – your mileage will vary. Some are more active than others. And some might be more spammy than others.
  • Advertising groups – these tend to be bottom-feeding. If they are just a bunch of ads, and no one is liking or replying to the ads, then you know how effective they are.

Have I missed any groups? Add them in the Comments section!

Of course there is a lot more to demystifying Facebook. I’ll get to it soon. Stay tuned!

Categories
LinkedIn

The Conquest of LinkedIn — Last Little Bits

The Conquest of LinkedIn — Last Little Bits

Last Little Bits. Now, there’s more to LinkedIn than what I’ve already covered. And, truth be told, the number and diversity of add-ons and features is only going to keep growing. As with any other truly viable online business, LinkedIn keeps adding new bells and whistles, and constantly A/B testing. It is already a far different site from the one I joined a few years ago. And, by the way, I have never gone Premium. I think it’s a waste of money, particularly for job seekers who are often watching every dime.

The Conquest of LinkedIn -- Last Little Bits
LinkedIn pen (Photo credit: TheSeafarer)

However, there is an appreciable difference between making and keeping your page lively and interesting, versus making it too busy. I don’t think that you need everything. Really. I think a bit of restraint is in order.

Connections List

Your connections list is not as granular as it once was, possibly a function of LinkedIn getting larger. After all, at the end of 2015, LinkedIn had a good 414 million registered users. Hence the demands of data, and server speed and size, mean that they aren’t going to give you as many opportunities to add metadata about your connections.

Instead, the site offers groups. Create a group, and invite likely people to join it. Your High School’s graduating class, or your sorority chapter might be good choices, as your High School is probably already represented and your sorority might be as well. But these groups provide more specificity. Of course, not everyone you invite will join one of these groups, but it’s worth a shot. Still, LinkedIn is no longer trying to be like a CRM system. That’s, I feel, for the better, as it gives the site more focus as a networking platform.

Events

Another tool that is gone is events. A pity, in some ways. But again, the site is looking to focus itself better. That includes eliminating some of the fat.

Following a Company

LinkedIn provides the ability to follow a company. If you are in charge of your company’s LinkedIn profile, you can help to stimulate this information stream by listing comings and goings, promotions and transfers. Got an event going on, with an interesting or attractive look to it? Take a picture and post it!

Profile Page Shortcut

The shortcut to your profile page is an easy way to make yourself stand out a bit more. Just select a reasonable shortcut for yourself. Mine is my last name, because it’s unique.

Interests

The Interests section (found under your Profile) is useful for adding not only keywords but also some personality to your profile. Do you play the violin? Do you like to cook? Safe, positive information is good here, so long as it’s not extensive (you don’t want this section to overwhelm everything else). It’s probably not the best place to mention, for example, your extensive action figures collection.

Personal Information

The Personal Information section is what you make of it. I keep in my birth date (because it generates a status update on the day in question) but not the year. And I list my town but not my full home address. Although that is easy enough to find elsewhere online. Furthermore, I list myself as married, but you certainly don’t have to. I keep my phone number off as I don’t want to perhaps have LinkedIn become a vehicle for calls I don’t wish to receive – if someone wants my phone number that badly, they can connect to me and ask.

You Profile Photograph

The last, and perhaps most important bit is your profile picture. To add, or not to add? I say, add it. It’s not like you’re going to hide your race, your age or your gender if you meet someone. So you may as well come forward so that, if you meet in person, they can recognize you. Use a recent, clear headshot, and for God’s sake, smile! Mine is of me wearing a dress with a blazer. Look professional and try to keep it current. That reminds me; I should update mine.

Conclusion

There will undoubtedly be more changes  and last little bits as LinkedIn dreams up new ways to connect business persons. Perhaps video demos, or real-time conferencing, are in its future. Stay tuned – I may blog more about LinkedIn and its last little bits as it continues to reinvent and improve itself.

Categories
LinkedIn

Giving Your LinkedIn Profile A Facelift

Giving Your LinkedIn Profile A Facelift

Dahling, you need a facelift! This post is a riff on 6 Tips for giving your LinkedIn profile a facelift.

I liked this article and recognize that it was designed to be a straightforward beginner’s set of tips, but there is more that could be done. There usually is.

Use a Profile Photograph

Linkedin Profile Facelift
Linkedin Chocolates (Photo credit: nan palmero)

I absolutely agree. I realize there are people who are shy or who feel that they don’t photograph well. But the truth is, most of us on LinkedIn don’t care. Unless you are looking for a modeling or an acting gig, your appearance does not and should not matter, so long as you are neat and presentable, and are in business attire. Head shots and  images up to about the middle of your chest are best. You don’t need a full-length body shot.

I also think that keeping a picture off your profile because you don’t want to reveal your race, gender or age is somewhat wrongheaded. After all, what are you going to do if you actually get an interview with a company (and not necessarily directly through LinkedIn)? Send a proxy in your stead, a la Cyrano de Bergerac? That’s kinda silly, dontcha think?

As for me, people online are going to figure out that I am female, they will get a pretty good handle on my age and my religion and if they look a bit, they’ll even see pictures of me when I weighed nearly 350 pounds. And I embrace those things and don’t try to hide them. Your ideas may differ, but I don’t, personally, see the value in hiding such things. And if an employer is going to pass me by because I’m no longer 21, or not Asian, or too short or whatever, then I don’t want to work for that employer, anyway.

Use a Vanity URL

On LinkedIn, you can get them to make you a specific URL for your profile, rather than just accept the computer-generated one. Not surprisingly, I think this is a great idea. This happens to be mine. You can get a bit of an SEO bounce if you use a vanity URL. It is easy and it is free, and it is considerably more memorable. Plus, if you wish, it’s a good thing to put on a business card or a resume, or even into a signature line in email.

Use a Headline

Personally, I find these weird, but that may be just me. For me, just my job title seems to be fine, as it evokes (currently) not only what I do but the industry I am in right now. I’ve always, personally, found that titles like Terrific Social Media Manager or Experienced Fry Cook just seem odd. But that may be me. Try it – but I’d recommend doing so as a more or less controlled experiment. If it’s not working after, say, six months, I recommend rethinking it.

Update Your Email Settings

If you’re open to receiving job openings, make sure that you’re set up that way. And if not, make sure that’s properly reflected as well. People won’t necessarily follow your requirements in this area, but some will. And it can serve as an indirect means of indicating you might be interested in making a move if the timing and the circumstances were right.

Make Your Profile Public

Personally, I think that the only time your profile should be private is in the first five seconds after you’ve created it. Then again, I have had an online persona since 1997, and find it easy to share a lot of things.

Of course not everyone feels this way, but it seems to be kind of useless to have a LinkedIn profile if you don’t want to share it with anyone. Networking, which is what LinkedIn is all about, is, in part, about going outside your comfort zone and meeting new people. This is not like Facebook where, potentially, the pictures of you drinking in 1963 could come back to haunt you. This is a gathering of professionals. Any employer upset if you have an online presence on LinkedIn is not only not with the times. They are being thoroughly unrealistic. Employees look for better opportunities all the time. Wise employers recognize and accept that. Denying someone access to LinkedIn, or being upset by an employee’s presence therein, is misplaced.

So go out there and fix your profile! And give it a facelift!

Categories
Facebook Social Media

… And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page, Part II

… And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page, Part II

Your Profile Page, Part II.

First of all, Facebook members have seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times – your Profile Page.

... And Facebook for All -- Your Profile Page, Part II

Let’s talk some more about your Profile. Here’s mine.

In addition to the basic tabs at the top, it also contains:

  • A space for your profile picture
  • Information on any mutual friends you might share with anyone peeking at your profile
  • A small subgroup of your friends
  • Your Likes
  • and Your Photos
  • Your Links
  • A share button, and,
  • On the right side, there are advertisements

NOTE: Facebook continually A/B tests, and so buttons and features move, change, are resized, added, or can disappear altogether. Your neighbor can sometimes see a rather different version of Facebook versus yours. And this is normal.

Let’s look at these in order.

A space for your profile picture

No one is stopping you from putting up a picture that is not, actually, of you. And I’ve seen dogs on Facebook, scenery, people’s children and cartoon characters. Hence it’s a place to be somewhat expressive. However, recognize that, if you’re using Facebook at all for your business (or if you’re simply looking for work), you’ll need to tone this down. If you want to go fairly conservative (which I personally think is best but opinions differ), go with a headshot or a head and shoulders shot that’s fairly recent. And, do make sure you’re smiling.

Mutual Friends

If someone surfs in and finds your Profile Page, they’ll probably be drawn to whether you’re really the person they’re looking for, and whether you have any acquaintances in common. If you’ve got a somewhat common name (e. g. Gregory Cole), then it’s really going to help out people if they see anyone who you know is in common with whoever they know.

One way I’ve used this information has been in locating High School friends, as we tend to have the same mutual friends. If I see that Jane Smith is also friends with John Jones and Dave Brown (names are made up, of course), then I realize, aha! Chances are good that Jane and I attended High School together. However, sometimes it just means that Jane is a local (if John and Dave stayed in the area after graduation). Or it might mean she’s a younger or older sibling of my classmates. Hence it’s an imperfect system.

A small subgroup of friends

So this is six friends (fewer, if you have fewer than six friends, of course). And it used to be you had control over this, but apparently not anymore.

Your Likes

Whenever you click “Like” on a group or page, it can show up here. A few show up at a time, and they rotate. To take something out of rotation, un-“Like” it. Much older and inactive pages and groups show up less, as Facebook follows social signals in this area, too. E. g. pages and groups that appear inactive or even downright abandoned will lose precious visibility time and space to groups and pages that are up to date and lively.

Your Photos

So note here is where your profile picture shows up in all its glory, and bigger than on your Home Page. Therefore, make sure it looks good here as well as on your Home Page. If you’re going to use Facebook for business (or if you’re looking for work), make sure this is a flattering photograph that clearly shows your face. It need not be full-length (and, if it is, it’ll be smaller on the Home Page, but here it’s all visible) and, for God’s sake, smile!

Plus, photographs also show up on your wall if you upload them and agree to publish them to your wall.

And Your Links

So put a link in your status, or post it to your wall, and it will convert to something clickable. And if it comes from Youtube, it’ll even embed the video. And like most things on Facebook, any link can get comments or “Likes”.

A Share Button

Actually, there are several of these. Pretty much everything on Facebook can be shared in one manner or another, and even off Facebook.

Bottom line: your Profile Page is your face to the world. It is clickable, shareable and somewhat searchable. Don’t want people to know something about you? Don’t put it on your Profile Page.

Next: Your Home Page

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Bad Reviews

Bad Reviews

Reviewing – Bad Reviews – lousy reviews are tough to write! However, you need to write the occasional less than wonderful review in order to establish and maintain credibility. Not every novel is a stellar one. Not every effort is perfect and pristine.

This blog post is about reviewing badly-written works. But if a work is out and out plagiarized, then have at it. That’s just plain wrong, and it may be copyright infringement.

Soothing Hurt Feelings and Maintaining the Relationship

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Bad Reviews
Cry tears of joy even when writing bad reviews? It can be done …

Let’s face it. A less than glowing review is going to engender some hurt feelings. Plus there is every possibility a friendship will end over it. That’s not someone being a prima donna (at least, that isn’t necessarily the case). Rather, it’s that you just told someone their baby was ugly.

Yeah. It’s like that.

So, what do you do?

I believe one reasonable response is to essentially perform a cost-benefit analysis. Not everyone is a critic of any sort. Consider how hard it is to get your own work reviewed at all. It’s work! And people like to be pleasant, plus they want very much to be liked. They may be a part of the community and hoping for positive feedback in return. Or they might be friends or family. Hence we are all essentially graded on a curve. Know that going in.

One thing you can do is, delay and defer. Maybe that’s weasel behavior. But it will soften the blow if the negative review is not the first one anyone sees when researching a book. If someone already has 100 reviews, then it won’t be quite so noticeable. Of course, lots of indie writers never get that many reviews. But you might be able to delay a bit.

Another idea is to go fast. Detail and length are not your friends here, so make it quick.

Consider the Audience

I suggested this for middling reviews. But it holds true here as well. Who is likely to read your review? If the writers asks you to review on Amazon, then you are going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you are being asked to review on an obscure book blog read by sixteen people, then the impact will not be as great. Plus you can initially post your negative review only on the obscure book blog. Once the writer sees the review, I doubt he or she will push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Providing Constructive Criticism

While this is a good idea in theory, it’s not really what someone is looking for when they request a book review. Instead, rather than hearing that they should learn dialogue tags by checking out this Grammar Girl link, they want to read about how their book moved you.

However, you still might be able to slip in some constructive criticisms, and write things like I would love to see this book with shorter chapters; it might benefit from another round of edits or some strategic splitting. Or I was hoping for a less challenging mystery. This one was hard. You’re not damning with faint praise but you’re also not putting lipstick on things.

A Few Escape Hatches

Preface a bad review with some escape hatches which will help the writer. After all, you’re not there to trash them, right? Here are a few ideas:

  • I am not the intended audience for this work or genre. – If you’re over 50 and asked to review YA, you probably aren’t in the intended audience. Maybe younger folks would be big fans.
  • The work is unique. – Unless it’s plagiarized, this is honest and accurate.
  • It is a good freshman effort. – This is straying into the realm of damning with faint praise. But it’s not a horrible thing to write about a work. Most people are not going to do well with their first novel. And that’s okay.
  • I really liked this one thing and think you should have written a lot more of it. – Liked one of the supporting characters? Enchanted by the setting? Think the plot was a good idea but poorly realized? Then this is for you. Of course you are not rewriting the piece for the writer. But your suggestions might just become helpful plot bunnies for them for later. Maybe they really will write a sequel or prequel, or revisit the scene, or rework the plot in another piece.

Salvaging the Relationship by Privately Reviewing

You might be able to save things by privately telling someone – you don’t want me to post this review. There are review sites which will do this, and will often give the writer a choice. If a writer really wants reviews, they might be okay with a less than wonderful one.

You are presumably friendly or at least cordial with the writer. Give them a break and give them the option.

By the way, negative reviews can often help a new writer. Not only do they give the writer what could end up being really valuable feedback, they can even boost sales. For consumers considering taking a chance on a new, unknown author, a rash of 5-star super-perfect reviews can seem suspect. But a few poor reviews can give the whole thing more credibility,

How about Bad Reviews for Famous People?

If you only write 4- and 5-star reviews, then you are probably selling everyone short. Just like bad reviews can give a writer more credibility, they can also give the reviewer more credibility.

But if you don’t want to hurt your friends’ feelings, what do you do?

One idea is to review all sorts of books. Review classics where the writer is long dead. Or review popular works with hundreds or thousands of reviews where no one will notice your review much, anyway. Did you hate reading The Scarlet Letter? Then go ahead and trash it on any review site you can find.

It’s not like Nathaniel Hawthorne is going to rise from the grave and complain, right?

Er, right?

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Middling Reviews

Middling Reviews

Reviewing – Middling Reviews – fair to middling reviews are harder to write. Because there is definitely a skill involved. But you are probably going to write more of them than any other type of review. Why? Because truly superlative works are uncommon.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Middling Reviews
This is what happens when you have to write middling reviews.

As always, kindness should be your guide. The work isn’t out and out awful. It just needs some help. Mid-level reviews can be extremely helpful. They can provide valuable feedback for a new author. Because it is sweetened with praise and other positives, it is more palatable.

Consider the Audience

But who is most likely to read your review? If you review on Amazon, then anything you write is going to rather directly affect someone’s sales and potential sales. If you review on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. So what happens if you post your middle of the road review only on the obscure book blog? Once the writer sees the review, he or she might not want to push for you to share it on Amazon, GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. Or maybe the author will want to see your review spread all over the internet. It’s hard to say. Your mid-level review may be the best one they get.

The value of middle of the line reviews

For a new author, potential buyers are often suspicious of 100% stellar reviews. Hence if the 5-star reviews are peppered with some 3-stars, then potential buyers tend to feel more comfortable that they are seeing accurate reviews that were not bought and paid for. Furthermore, if the author has enough reviews (the number seems to be ten or more), Amazon will sort them by most helpful positive and most helpful negative. If your middle of the road review is the most helpful negative review, that can actually help the writer.

So, how do you get started?

The Shit Sandwich

Yeah, you read that right. Since this is not going to be a wholly negative review, you can split it into thirds. This makes it feel less unremittingly negative. The first third should be the smallest or smaller positive thing you have to say. In the middle is the negative thing you need to say. Finally, end with your strongest positive.

But why am I suggesting this particular order? Let’s look at some examples.

Consider these examples

  1. The Cowardly Lion character was fantastic and very credible. The Tin Woodsman was dull. Dorothy was okay.
  2. The Dorothy character was all right but could have used some work. The Tin Woodsman was hard to take at times. My favorite character was the Cowardly Lion.
  3. The Tin Woodsman was terrible. Dorothy was passable. The Cowardly Lion was amazing.

In the first example, you might think it’s a purely positive review. It’s easy to forget the negative in the middle when the positive starts off so strongly. In the third example, the writer is put on the defensive nearly immediately. The review feels negative, even though the end is positive.

Further, in the second instance, the first part is generally positive albeit with constructive criticism. The middle part is negative. But it gives a specific reason for the reviewer’s negative reaction. This is also something the writer could potentially build on and fix in later works. And the final part adds a positive personal touch.

Of course you would never write such a simplistic review. Plus you are reading this blog but you are not the author of The Wizard of Oz, so these quickie reviews are not personal to you. So substitute your own work, and consider how each review would make you feel.

Length

Because this is not a negative review, you can add some length to it. But because it’s not unremittingly positive, it does not have to be lengthy. The ideal length is about 50 to 100 words. If you want to say more, contact the writer in private. For self-published works, editing and republishing are usually pretty easy. Hence if you find a glaring translation error, the writer can fix it. You can save the day with your review.

Ending on a High Note

End with a positive. Seriously. Don’t lie, but there is no reason to be nasty. Be encouraging; so many indies suffer self-doubt. This is your opportunity to be kind. After all, next time, you may be in the hot seat.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Reviewing – Positive Reviews

Positive Reviews

Reviewing – Positive Reviews – these are the lifeblood of any independent author. We live for them! But how can you make them even better?

Caveats

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Positive Reviews
Positive reviews should melt your heart – and the writer’s!

Don’t provide a positive review in exchange for a positive one you just got. And don’t provide one in the hopes that you’ll get one in return. Personally, I very rarely give out five stars. A book has to truly leave me sock-free. I can enjoy a book immensely but still not give it five stars. However, I give out a lot of 3- and 4-star reviews, particularly to indie authors. And if my review is a positive one, I spread it to as many places as I can.

Length

Just saying you loved a piece is not enough. It’s better than nothing, of course. But you, too, are a writer. You can do better than that! While you don’t have to hit an actual word count, it is more helpful if you give the review some time and attention. Naturally, if you are pressed for time or you have to do a lot of reviews, then you will not get into things like you would if your time was more open. Plus it does not have to be a novel. A 50 – 150 word review should do nicely, unless it is a blog post. In that case, best practices for blog posts is 300 or more words. So adjust accordingly.

Specificity

Writers often get crippling self-doubt. Imposter syndrome is common. Generalized reviews don’t help much. Be clear about what you loved.

Scarlet O’Hara was a strong female character in a man’s world. What is most impressive about her is the fact that she was written in 1936. Hence Margaret Mitchell was almost revolutionary in writing her. While today we might scoff at some of Scarlet’s machinations, she still manages to be a memorable and memorably flawed character. Her motivations are clear and logical. Her endgame is satisfying.

While the author is no longer alive to read my praise, the paragraph still gets across my admiration for the work (I do, for real, like the book, although it’s not one of my absolute favorites). This is also a meatier review than just “It’s great!” The review does not just make the writer feel good; it also provides vital information for potential readers.

Spoiler-Free

Please don’t give away the ending! My above review snippet about Gone With the Wind does not give away the ending. In fact, it gives away just about none of the plot at all. I would write a longer review (the above bit is really just a part of it) where I would probably mention the US Civil War and Rhett Butler. I might get into Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, particularly if I were writing a blog post and needed to make word count.

Spread the Love

There are several online places which take reviews.

Amazon reviews most directly affect a writer’s sales and potential sales. If you provide positive reviews on an obscure book blog read by only a few people, then the impact will not be as great. You can also review on other countries’ versions of Amazon (UK, Canada, etc.), GoodReads, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Call to Action to Read the Author’s Other Works

A call to action is anything from ‘click here’ to ‘buy this’. It is a statement online whereby you are asking someone to do something. It does not have to feel like a hard sell. Instead, you can write things like:

  • This book was fun and I can’t wait to see what else the writer has written.
  • I hear there is a sequel and I can’t wait.
  • I checked out the writer’s Amazon page (provide the link) and they are blogging there. I’m excited to read what they have to say.

Above all, you are really doing someone a solid.