Today’s Writing Tip

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Continuing with our list of reasons why a novel didn’t receive a 5-star review, here is #3 on the list of reader pet peeves. This one involves overuse of a character’s name. I remember one book in particular where this was so glaring I was yelling at my Kindle, saying “I know who you’re talking about, dumbass! He’s totally alone in the wilderness talking to himself!”

Within a single paragraph, the author must have used the protagonist’s name a dozen time. This, my friends, is what pronouns are for.¬†Clearly, this person did not engage the services of an editor, at least a competent one. This was really quite sad because the author’s premise was quite clever, yet it was so poorly written I barely got through it. To his credit, he did build enough suspense for me to want to know how it ended. But I’ll certainly never pick up another book by that person again and you can bet my review was not even close to 5-stars.

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“How to Crush Social Media in 2-Minutes a Day” –Yeah, right.

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I generously gave this book two stars when I reviewed it on Amazon, only because the author does demonstrate knowledge of the subject. While she has numerous good ideas in this book, I did not find any advice on how to “crush social media in only 2 minutes a day.” While the advice given for the different social media apps is probably sound, it would take considerable effort and, in many cases, a steep learning curve to implement.

Face it, there is no way to do as the title promises unless you hand it all over to a promoter or admin assistant.  Being able to deal with your social media promo nightmare in a few minutes a day is nothing more than a pipe dream unless you dump it on someone else. MAYBE if you spent six months or a year, laboriously implementing all her ideas and putting them on auto-pilot, if even possible, you could make progress. But the way I understand time in the real world, that is a far cry from two-minutes a day.

Thus, I find the title entirely deceptive because it does not deliver on the hope that drove me to read it. Okay, believing such a thing was even possible showed incredible naivety on my part, right up there with people who expect to solve their financial owes by winning the lotto. But that is only part of why I was so irritated. On top of being a big fat lie, it appears that the author is not a native English speaker. The grammar is atrocious and often makes it even more difficult to understand what is being said. Intensive editing by someone more familiar with the language is definitely called for.

Looking at the ranking of this book on Amazon, clearly this author does know how to play the social media game. For example, including this book in the “finite mathematics” category is ridiculous. I suppose if nothing else, it’s an example of the low standards people maintain these days for honesty and proper delivery on a promise. The lesson here is the way to get a best-selling book on a hot topic is to promise something everyone wants but can’t have, then not even bother to polish the prose. Then you categorize it in obscure, remote niches where it can obtain a high rank. Nice.

Then there’s the matter if this book were made into an audio book as it’s written–it would be hilarious.

If the first book in this series is anything like this one, I have no idea how it got so many 4 and 5 star reviews, other than to say those people either didn’t read it, were semi-illiterate, or were friends of the author.

I will admit, the advice is sound. However, good luck putting it all in place. I suspect this book is part of the author’s MBA and does show research and knowledge. It would probably work if you got through it all. But to me, I find the title so irritating along with its contrived rankings that I consider it an example of an indie snake oil salesman. It does demonstrate, however, that you can sell anything if you know how to promote it. The inherent dishonesty, however, as you can probably tell, really pisses me off.

If you feel inclined to wade through the fractured English, you can find a copy on Amazon here.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Next on the list after typos for reasons why a story didn’t receive a 5-star review was too many “he said/she saids”. It’s obviously not necessarily to include who said what with every piece of dialog. Again, balance is the key. When it’s a clear “dialog” with one person speaking, then the other, you can go on for a while, as long as it’s reasonably apparent who’s speaking. Nonetheless, an occasional reminder is good, too. If a conversation goes on for a couple of pages, it never hurts to insert either a “s/he said” or perhaps some action, such as a facial expression or gesture, to indicate who’s speaking.

When readers have to go back and figure out who’s speaking, it interrupts the story flow and throws them out of the story, which is something a diligent author should avoid at all costs.

Today’s Writing Tip

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A saw a blog a while back that addressed reasons why novels received reviews below 5 stars. This should be of interest to all writers since we all crave those lovely, ego-boosting, 5-star reviews. We should all realize that reviews are subjective, but there are a few things readers often grumble about. I’m going to go over them the next few days, so get ready to be as objective as possible as you decide if you’re guilty.

The first one, which drives me crazy as well, is spelling errors. Seriously people, how hard is it to run the spellchecker? If I see a review that mentions typos, I will not buy that book. Some will slip past a spellchecker, but those I can forgive, at least a few of them. However, there is no greater pleasure than reading a book where your engagement with the story is never interrupted by a misspelled word or grammatical error. Some readers may not notice or even mind, but anyone who takes their craft seriously will.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Using generic book covers offered by KDP labels your book as amateur and unprofessional. If your intent is only to sell it to friends and relatives that’s fine, but if you want to compete in a commercial market, it’s not going to fly. A generic or poorly designed cover sends the message you don’t care enough about your work as an author to package it correctly. Furthermore, the cover is a potential reader’s first introduction to your story. If it doesn’t catch their eye, it’s doubtful they’ll have any interest in reading it.

I’ve read some books that were horrible in that they desperately needed editing, yet had luscious covers, showing the opposite can also be true. If you want to be viewed as a professional, the quality of both should be top-notch. There’s a lot of competition out there and you don’t want to give people an excuse to pass you by.

Review of “The Contract Between Heaven and Earth” by Gwen Plano and John Howell

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I really enjoyed the original premise of this fast-moving thriller. I must admit that it is the first book in quite a while that I stayed up into the wee-hours of the night to finish. The characters were well-developed and engaging. I also appreciated the fact that it was nicely edited, thus lacking any typos or other issues that tripped up my engagement with the characters and plot.

It was truly cross-genre, not only of two, i.e. thriller and romance, but also a paranormal/spiritual element as well, all of which were nicely intertwined in a non-contrived manner. I have only two criticisms, one of which is I would have liked to have seen a bit more plot complexity for something that supposedly had the potential to destroy the world. Exactly who, how, and why were never satisfactorily revealed. My other criticism is that there was at least one major loose end dangling at the end, which was another thing that I found slightly disappointing.

These are minor issues with what is otherwise a well-written story and I hope that perhaps the authors plan to deal with them in the sequel. As with all reviews, this one is subjective. I’m a detail-oriented person who loves a meatier plot (think Tom Clancy) and saw so many ways this could have been a more expansive story. However, for those who like a straight-line, predictable plot, it’s a smooth, enjoyable read.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Today’s Writing Tip

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There are pros and cons to designing your own book covers. First of all, they need to look professional. It’s not that difficult with stock photos and Create Space and Ingram Spark provide templates for print books which you don’t need if your book is only available as an ebook.

Granted, you can save money and have the satisfaction of seeing your own graphic vision of your story in print, but in most cases a skilled artist can come up with cool ideas you’d never think of. It’s also fun and sometimes enlightening to see your work through another person’s eyes. There are just about as many cover designers these days as there are authors, so it’s not hard to find one. In fact, I’m one of them, so if you need a book cover feel free to contact me. You can see my creations on KalliopeRisingPress.com.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Creative people can often branch out into other media. This comes in handy if your advertising budget is tight. Designing your own promotional material is fun and another creative outlet that comes in handy between book projects or when you have writer’s block.

I find messing around with Photoshop or creating book trailer videos relaxing and fun. If I’m doing it for someone else, there’s a bit more pressure, but it’s a pleasant way to see my stories in a slightly different light.

If you’ve never tried any other means for your creative expression, give it some thought. If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of classes out there. Some free graphics programs are Canva, Picmonkey, Piktochart, and Pixlr. Check them out!

Today’s Writing Tip

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Knowing where to find fans for your particular genre can be challenging when it doesn’t fit neatly into a certain category. If you’re writing what’s popular, this isn’t so much of a problem, except then there’s more competition. Nonetheless, finding readers may not be as difficult.

However, if what you write is unique, that’s great for not having as much competition, but chances are not that many people will be interested, either. This is something to think about if your sales are slow regardless of consistent promoting. You may not even know how to categorize it, which is the first step! There are numerous cross-genres out there, but how do you find the readers who will eat it up?

I don’t have any easy answers, since this has been one my biggest challenges as a writer. Even once you identify a potential demographic, finding those individuals can be a challenge. Expect it to take some trial and error before you know your best target and then you’ll have to adjust your promotional plan accordingly.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Beginning writers can usually benefit greatly by joining a local writer’s group. You may eventually outgrow it and move on, but it’s a great way to make friends, find beta readers, and learn local outlets. LinkedIn offers a similar advantage when you’re starting out, but nothing beats personalized contact.

I don’t know what percentage of people out there are writers, but chances are you’re the only one on your block. Chatting, commiserating, learning, and interacting with other writers builds your confidence and can provide tidbits of information you won’t find anywhere else.