What Should We Call Me?

After many months and more rounds of edits than probably healthy, cover reveal day is finally here for my forthcoming fantasy novel Off Book. A rather meta-humor story (where the characters in it are well aware that they’re characters in a book) I think the title suits it.

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Of course… that wasn’t always the title. Just like the several edits the overall story went through between initial writing and now, the book’s title has gone through no less than four iterations (after being discussed in multiple marketing meeting). And so it seemed to be the perfect day to discuss just what makes a good title.

1. Don’t feel like you need a title right away.

Some authors come up with their titles before ever putting pen to paper, some are still looking for a good one as they get a query ready to send. Personally, I find coming up with titles feels more difficult than actually writing a full novel half the time and so I often have “working titles” while writing a book that will likely change three or four times before I’ve reached “the end” There is absolutely no problem with not having a title while you’re working on a book. Just make sure that you can always find your file if you work on a computer by having a “working title” that is distinct enough (for example, title it after your main character rather than just “Story” or “Untitled”)

2. Look for strong themes

Either while planning (if you like to title before writing a book), writing (if you like to title while in process), or editing (if you like to title after) keep an eye out for strong themes you could build a title around. Is your character dealing with a certain emotion? Look for words that embody that. Does your character have a distinct name? Try to figure out if there is a way use that (one of the early titles of Off Book was Ashes to Ashes because of the character’s last name, for example, though more on that later). Once you have some focus, it will become easier to narrow down title options.

3. Consider if this is part of a series.

If you are writing a series, take into consideration if there are any title patterns you will want to use. Many series try to use similar sounds for their books. For example George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords…), Traci Borum’s Chilton Crosse Series (Painting the Moon, Finding the Rainbow…), or even my own Broken Line Series (The Copper Witch, The Porcelain Child, The Paper Masque) Each book has a unique title, but follows the same pattern (A ____ of ____. ___ing the ____. The ____ ____) If you are coming up with the title for a later book of a series, try to find a way to tie it to the previous books. If you are titling the first book of a series, try to come up with something that will allow for similar follow-up titles.

4. Do some market research.

This is where things can get a little bit trickier, for while titles can be just as creative as the books inside the cover, titles are largely about marketing. You want to find something that catches the reader’s eye, fits the feel/genre of the book, and (where many people get tripped up) doesn’t get lost in search results. It is not possible to copyright a title so just because someone has used a certain title before doesn’t mean you can’t. Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean you should. While one of my working titles was Ashes to Ashes, going with that would have likely been a bit of a marketing nightmare. Enough books (and TV shows) have used that title that it was likely my book would get lost far down the search results. Another possibility (Between the Lines) while considered ended up bringing up a number of Romance novels when researched. You don’t necessarily need to go for entirely unique, but you don’t likely want to end up with your book being the 5000th of the same name or immediately assumed to be a different genre than it is because you pick a name associated with a number of [other genre] books. A quick search at the Amazon Kindle Store or otherwise online will help you get an idea if you are on the right track with what you’ve come up with so far.

5. Let your publisher help you.

If you are self publishing, it is up to you to come up with something you can market well, but if you are working with a traditional publisher, listen to their marketing team. You can fight for a title you’ve come up with if you want, but publishers generally have a good reason for asking for title changes (most often having to do with how they intend to market your book) so being willing to work with them will help you down the road. Always consider a title a “working title” until your book hits the shelf.

Off Book: Coming soon from REUTS Publications. Read more about it here, request to be part of the blog tour here, or find it on Goodreads

Twenty-year-old Eloise has learned all she can from the School, where characters live until joining their novels. No one knows genre and plot structure better than her, but despite her knowledge, she’s yet to be assigned to her own story. All her friends are off starting their lives with their authors—and if Eloise doesn’t get assigned soon, she’ll fade away, forgotten by all.

When she is suddenly offered a job at the Recording Office, she takes the chance to write her own future. Suddenly living among the post-storied, Eloise meets Barnaby Fitzwilliam, a former romance novel hero who hasn’t lost any of his in-story charm. But just as their relationship begins to get serious, everything Eloise has been taught gets turned upside down when she’s sucked into a novel she was never meant to be part of.

Now, caught where the only rules are made by the authors and truly anything is possible, Eloise must find her way back home—or else her life might end before she ever gets the chance to live it.

Set in a world dictated by Authors, OFF BOOK explores the story beneath the stories we all know and love, taking readers and characters alike on an adventure just waiting to be written.

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Hate Storms and Self-Publishing

(Note: Having written this post a few days ago, I have spent a fair deal of time debating whether or not this should be posted as I do not especially like the idea of spreading things that end up quite so hateful and dramatic through this blog. As this situation has showcased an important point about self-publishing, however, I have decided to hit “publish”. Should anyone have any comments, I only ask you attempt to remain respectful. Unnecessarily rude comments will be deleted).

Last week, a blog post for a woman named Quin Woodward Pu went viral detailing her response to what otherwise seemed like a pretty benign “I’m not feeling it” text message. While I do personally agree with the bulk of commentators that her text back to this unnamed man seems, well, crazy, one thing got me thinking. In passing in Pu’s text she mentions that she is “a 25 year old with two published books and a condo” as evidence for why she won’t be affected by him not being interested (I think?) With that detail out there, it didn’t take long for one commentator (what can I say, I sometimes like reading angry responses to things on the internet, it’s a guilty pleasure)  to find her book on Amazon and bring it into the hate storm as fair game.

As of me typing this blog post, both books have been brought down to below two stars based on an influx of one-star reviews that, more likely than not, are tied to her blog post (some directly mention the blog post in the reviews). Now, I never support writing mean reviews for books that are focused on the author rather than the book itself (just recently Goodreads cracked down on reviewers after an author pulled the release of her book from being attacked with one-star reviews before anyone could even read her book because of asking what people thought was a “stupid” question on a site forum) but the ones who read either the book or the free excerpt on amazon and thought the writing was bad quickly pointed out something else–both of Pu’s books are self-published (Amazon lists the publishers of books on their listings and “Createspace” [Amazon’s self-publishing platform] is the one listed for Pu).

Now, there are several very good self-published books out there. For authors who want to maintain complete control over their books, or are just sick and tired of the traditional publishing model, it’s a great option. But while the self-publishing stigma is slowly starting to dissipate as more authors start putting out quality books through such outlets, the reaction to Pu’s books shows that stigma is far from gone.

The problem, you see, is that by passing the power to publish from publishers to authors, you lose the gatekeepers (and the support systems) publishing was once use to. In some ways this is good. As I’ve stated before, publishers buy books they think will sell. If they don’t think a great book will come off the shelf, they will pass on it. Self-publishing allows a great book to attempt standing on its own merit. It does mean, however, that anyone can put out anything in any state. The people employed to find good stories and writing (acquisitions editors, slush pile readers, [and to be honest] publishing interns) aren’t controlling the publishing platform anymore. If someone wants to publish a book that is barely legible from typos and entirely nonsensical, they can put it out there and point to being a “published author”. Without the support system publishers offer as well (content editors, copy editors, cover designers, etc.) it is entirely on the author to make sure they are turning out a professional product (either by being multi-talented artists who can also do graphic design or putting up the money to hire freelancers/editing firms before going to print). And the fact is, many self-published authors just don’t take the time to do so.

I did read the free sample of one of Pu’s books before writing this post, and did I, personally, think that sample at least shows good writing? Not especially. Even the first few pages have typos that should have been picked up and as an editor I would have had several notes for her to work on before going to press. Do some of the people who have taken the time to read a bit–rather than simply attacking her as a person–truly believe that that’s what the book deserves for a rating? Very possibly (unless the book gets much better further on, I’m not sure it would have gotten much better marks from me). Does she deserve her books ending up in the hate storm that’s becoming attached to her name? That’s where it gets difficult.

Like I said before, I never support rating a book that’s available off an author’s personal life/their beliefs/anything that isn’t the book’s own merit. It is a nasty thing to do, period. With Pu’s seemingly self-important attitude about being “published” as a talking point, though, it nearly seems as though she purposefully threw the books into the line of fire.

Who knows? There’s the old adage about any publicity being good publicity. Perhaps people will start buying her books just to see/to hate read them, in which case, good for her, royalties are going to go through the roof. Personally, I think what this example really says, though, is that one needs to be careful when self-publishing. Using a platform like Createspace or Lulu shouldn’t be a mark of shame on any author, but when you’re bypassing the gatekeeping method so long used in publishing for your own path, you are opening yourself up to the full brunt of critiques to your book. There is no “idiot publisher” people will point to whose fault it is for letting a bad book out in such a state. It automatically becomes some “idiot author” who thinks “they’re good enough to sully the name of books” with their opus. Your book suddenly has to carry the entire weight of proof that it is a good book. Otherwise, it’s simple for the great internet droves to dismiss as some nobody who just wants to see their name on a cover without being a “real” author.

And so, if there’s anything to take away from all of this as an author (other than don’t post inflammatory things on the internet without purposefully hoping to get a stir) it is to be thorough when planning to self-publish. As your own publisher, it’s up to you to make sure that your work is the best it can be before being sent off into the world. Nobody else is going to. Hire an editor (hopefully a good one) if you can. Get tons and tons of beta readers and an English teacher to copy-edit (at the least) if you can’t. You are taking a road to publishing that has its benefits, but also many, many pitfalls to watch for. Don’t make it easy for people to dismiss you with a pat on the head.

As to people attacking you as a person, not your book, in a review? Ignore them. Seriously. They’re jerks.

(For those who wish to see the blog post that sparked the hate storm, you can find it here [assuming Pu doesn’t feel the need to remove it at some point]. Fair warning though, of all the comments I’ve found around the internet about this story, the ones on her blog are by far the worst,  devolving to mean comments about her race, appearance, and weight rather than any comments about the post/her actions).

Googled Questions: Part II

Every once in a while, I like to take a look at what search terms bring people to my blog. Helpful as it is, it’s also fun to see how people stumble upon the site. Sometimes, however, it seems there are questions that are never really answered that still end up with people on the blog. It’s for these people that I like to do a quick Q&A to hopefully answer more thoroughly what they were originally trying to Google (read the my first Q&A post here).

1. Is “shut the light” grammatically correct?

Yes, grammatically it’s fine. As to common…”shut the light” as a phrase is regional–mainly used in Brooklyn/the New York area from my understanding. More commonly you will hear “turn off the light” in common parlance. If your character is from Brooklyn, however, it is grammatically correct and a great way to show some regional differences in speech patterns.

2. What is the DSM diagnosis is for the movie Silver Linings Playbook?

Touched on briefly in this post, Silver Linings Playbook depicts Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat, having Bipolar Disorder (seemingly Type 1). I’m not sure if Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Tiffany, is ever diagnosed, but she seems to admit to suffering from some form of Clinical Depression (Major Depressive Disorder [MDD] in the DSM) and Hypersexuality (currently labeled as Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified [Sexual Disorder NOS] in the DSM, with a push to have Hypersexual Disorder added in the appendix), perhaps caused and/or exacerbated by her husband’s recent death.

3.  Should I accept to be a ghost writer on commission?

Probably originally directed to this article, my advice would be a resounding “no”. If you are looking for a little more experience and don’t especially care about how much you get paid for your work, you can. Unless best sellers, however, books tend to make very little in royalties to start with. If you don’t have Obama offering commission on his next memoir, you’re not likely to see much, if anything, for your work.

4. What is bad about Black Wyrm Publishing’s contract?

Not having any experience with Black Wyrm myself, I turned to Preditors and Editors and Absolute Write Water Cooler to see what other authors have to say (both good sites to look at when you’re looking at publishing with someone who isn’t a “big  name”). Preditors and Editors states “Poor Contract. Not recommended.” and Absolute Write Water Cooler has little about them in general. Their name pops up a few more places as not recommended, but I can not find much other than the fact that something seems to be off about their contracts. Their site, however, does state, “Our typical contract stipulates that BlackWyrm provides the editing, cover design, money for printing, promotion, and ebook conversion. BlackWyrm keeps the revenue until the book breaks even, then splits the money evenly with the author thereafter.” While this sometimes happens in the event of an advance (where the publisher pays X amount of dollars as a down payment to the author to then be made up in royalties) it is not common/accepted if there is no advance to an author. It is the publisher’s duty, as a publisher, to put up money for all they have stated/pay for it out of their share of the royalties. If they have not already given any money, it’s a poor contract to allow them to take all money made from the book until they “break even” (a term that sounds very easy to exploit). I imagine this is the clause to which Preditors and Editors is referring.

5. Is SBPRA (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency) a scam?

Taking a look at Preditors and Editors once again we find “Poor contract. Strongly not recommended.” along with  “Currently being sued by Florida State Attorney General.” for fraud including showing books which they have not actually published as their “success stories”. So, at best, they are a vanity press (one that charges you to publish your book: read more about those here) and, at worse, a scam. I would recommend staying far away.

6. Why is the Time Turner a plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

Time travel is a wishy-washy, trip yourself up sort of thing. While it can be done well, and is rather popular for the time being, it also leaves you open to a bunch of possible plot holes along the lines of, “If X happened, then Y happens, but Z happened…so how did X happen?” For Harry Potter specifically, the main plot hole which the Time Turner introduces is, if time travel is readily accessible for the wizards in the Harry Potter universe, why didn’t anyone just go back in time and stop Voldemort at any point along the way? And why do they never use it again after Prisoner? It could come in handy, no doubt.  Good as a plot device for the events in the third book, it opens up a can of worms for the integrity for the rest of the novels.

Wishlists and Trends

Last week, agents (and publishers) from all over posted to Twitter with types of stories they were currently looking for using the hashtag “#MSWL” (Manuscript Wishlist). A great (and very helpful) idea to help authors try to connect with agents/publishers who might be interested in the type of story they had written, it also turned out to be rather disheartening for authors who scrolled through not finding a single agent looking anything like their novels. Some accounts even went so far as to post things along the lines of, “I’m swamped with X, NO MORE STORIES WITH X.”

Pretty much there’s no way to react to that other than, “Ouch, harsh.”

So what do you do if you’re grouped in with the great “X” no agent seems to want? Scrap the novel you spent however long on and start on something it seems agents actually want? No and no.

The first thing all authors have to remember is publishing is a business. Our novels are our babies. Something creative that we see (most of the time) as great/worthy of being read. Publishers, sadly, don’t look at manuscripts with an eye towards what they think the world should read, they look at manuscripts trying to find something that will make them money. If that means thirty-thousand vampire novels or the same generic love story over and over again, that’s what they are going to pick up. Since agents only get paid when they sell your story to a publisher (or at least should only get paid when they sell your manuscript, if not get a new agent) they need to look for things they think publishers will think are going to sell. This is not to say publishers are some faceless, greedy, corrupt organizations–most people get into publishing because they love books–it’s simply if they can’t sell what they publish, everyone’s paycheck is going to bounce and they’ll soon be out of a job.

And so agents/publishers often end up buying on trends. A couple years back vampires were hot. Judging on new books I know are coming out/what many agents seemed to mention in #MSWL, time travel is the next thing on the rise (as far as fantasy goes).  Obviously these aren’t the only kind of stories that will be published during the life of the trend, but if they are what publishers are finding sell, they’re going to be easier to get published.

So you should set your other novel aside and get to work on a time travel novel, right?

Again…no. The tricky thing with trends is that they’re fleeting. They don’t all last the same amount of time, but each one always hits a point where it starts dying off and publishers stop buying them as much (if at all, depending on how saturated the market gets). And publishing takes time. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit it. Then you have to make sure it’s polished. Then you have to submit it. An agent might take a couple of months to get back to you and ask for a full manuscript. Then they might take another month to let you know if they decide to take it. Then they may want to work with you to polish it even more. Even if you get through all of this and get to start shopping your manuscript while still at the height of a trend…you’re already too late. It’s taken you several months at this point after however long it took you to write the darn book in the first place, and it will take at least another year for it to come out (the publisher will send it through several rounds of edits, it has to go to layout, a cover has to be designed, you have to pre-market…publishing is a slow, slow beast). If publishers only start looking at your manuscript at the peak of the trend, they will probably assume the trend will be dying by the time your book gets out, and will be just as likely to pass on it as any other book at that point. Following the trend hasn’t given you quite the edge you were looking for.

So the only way to capitalize on a trend is to already have a completed book ready to shop when a trend hits. And since there’s no way to know when a trend is going to hit, what good does that do you? It just seems like dumb luck whether or not you have written a book that ends up being “on trend”.

And yes, yes it is. Like much else in publishing, hitting a trend or not is mostly just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

So why even bring this up? Just to be more depressing?

No, to make the simple point: Don’t force yourself to write a story just because it fits whatever’s big at the moment. Maybe you want to write a time travel story. Great, then go for it. If it’s a plot that interests you, you might do something amazing with it. If you’re only trying to capitalize on a trend, however, you’re likely to be disappointed. You forced yourself to write something you only sort of wanted just because it would sell–and now no one wants it because you’re too late to the party. Trying to find an agent and publisher can be frustrating enough as it is. No need to add to that frustration by making yourself miserable during the fun part (actually writing the thing).

And so, I think a tip @KMWeiland posted earlier today on Twitter fits the moral of the story perfectly:

“Don’t worry about what the world considers the perfect novel. Write your perfect novel, and let the world come to you.”

Who knows? Maybe by the time you’re finished, you just might catch the next trend.

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How -Not- to Take a Review

Recently I posted about how to take a critique, since I know all to well how hard it can be to see your work red-lined after an edit or sit there listening to someone tell you all the problems they had with your work. It’s hard, but very helpful in making your writing the best it can be, be the critique from a friend, writers’ group, professional editor, or your publisher.

Coincidentally (I’m doing my best not to use “ironically” incorrectly, so coincidentally it is) not too long after I posted that article, I got an irate email from an author I recently wrote a review for (as I am a reviewer over at ePublish a Book) demanding the review be removed.

*Before continuing, I would like to say here that this article is in no way meant as an attack against said author. There will be no mention of the author’s name, her book, or links to the review in question. Instead, as with most of my blog posts, I am attempting to use personal experiences to give advice and clear up misconceptions about writing, editing, publishing, and reviewing. All of the following is meant to help those with misconceptions about how the review process works, and I am more than happy to answer additional questions left as comments, tweeted, or emailed to me.*

Now to start, I fully admit I can be a critical reviewer. I do my best to never be unfair, rude, or mean, but I am completely honest in what I think about the books I have read. If you get a good review from me, you have fully earned it. Still, even if I didn’t like a book, I do my best to point out what the author has done well. Unless there is absolutely nothing redeeming about a book, you will not see a review that is only disparaging either.

As that’s my goal as a reviewer–not lampooning ok books and only gushing about great books–I tend to write many mixed reviews: reviews along the lines of “I liked the story, but the prose was needlessly flowery” or “The characters were amazingly realistic, unfortunately the plot didn’t live up to their well-constructed depth” (Neither of those are from actual reviews, but you get the idea). The review in question was likewise mixed.

Obviously the author wasn’t pleased with the critical parts of the review, as not long after it posted I received an email along the lines of:

Take it down. If you are going to punish an effort, at least tell people first.”

Now, I won’t post the rest of the emails back and forth (there were quite a few with me telling her I wasn’t going to take it down and how reviews generally worked) since that would make for a needlessly long blog post and I don’t think it’s entirely professional to divulge the entirety of private correspondences when they aren’t exactly flattering, but I would like to hit on a few points for anyone who might have some misconceptions about requesting reviews.

1. Unless you are paying for a review, you have no control over what the reviewer writes about your book. As much as I might like to, as it says on my reviews and editing services page, I accept “no money or gifts from authors seeking reviews.” Now, the reason I don’t accept money or gifts is not because I hate gifts nor because I believe reviewing is a job that no one should get paid for. It’s because it’s a conflict of interest. There are some “reviewers” out there that you can send money and they’ll give you nice blurbs to put on your front cover, but I am not one of them. If it were possible to buy a good review from me it would  undermine my credibility as a reviewer. How would people know if I actually thought the book I’m reviewing is a good book or a book I hated but was paid to say good things about it? If I think it’s a good book I’ll say so, if it’s an ok book, that too. If I think it’s a bad book, well, sorry, you’re getting a bad review. Since you aren’t paying me, you don’t get to decide what I say.

2. No control means you do not get to edit the review nor determine whether or not the review is posted. Going back to the “at least tell people first” part of that first email, later emails made clear that–in the event that the review was not glowing–the author expected to get a copy of the review before it was posted to edit (or at least approve) it. While I’m not inherently opposed to the idea of giving an author a copy of what will be posted (though I’ve never heard of that happening outside of the aforementioned reviews-for-hire) it would not give the author the power to pull the article or edit it (e.g. “I don’t like what you say here about my book, can you make it nicer?”) so mostly that would just give the author time to see the review the day before everyone else does.

3. This fact (the author not getting to edit or having to approve a review) is, as far as I know, an industry standard. I can’t say I’ve talked to the entire industry, but no one I have talked to (reviewers/editors I know) has ever given someone asking for a review a copy of the review before hand, nor have they allowed edits. As an author you give them your book and wait until it’s posted. Assuming that you are going to get some say over the review shows either you have no idea how reviewing works or you have only ever paid for reviews/asked for people to give you good blurbs for the dust jacket. Basically, if you act as though you get a say, it makes you look unprofessional.

4. By asking for a review, you are taking the chance of getting a bad review. Going along with the fact that you don’t get a say in what is said in a review if you don’t pay for it, you have to accept that it is possible you won’t get a good review. If you’re extremely worried, try reading other reviews the reviewer you’re contacting has written. Anyone who reads my reviews will see that I don’t often gush about how wonderful a book is, and will point out anything I especially don’t like even in books that I generally like. If you want a review that’s 100 percent amazing you can cut and post to your website, you should either hope your book is completely brilliant or find a reviewer who writes more 100 percent positive reviews. I aim for totally honest reviews as a matter of principle.

5. If you absolutely will only accept a glowing review, ask upfront if the reviewer will refrain from posting a bad review. Now, first off, I DO NOT SUGGEST YOU DO THIS. It again comes off as unprofessional, but if you are absolutely insistent on not having any bad reviews up anywhere of your book, ask up front about it (otherwise it probably won’t cross the reviewer’s mind [see: not industry standard]). Personally, if someone asked that, I’d pass on reading their book entirely. Perhaps there’s someone who’d agree to it, but I’m certainly not one of them. It’s your choice over whether or not you’ll accept a bad review, but you have to accept you’re also passing up a possible good review in your quest to have nothing bad ever written about your book.

6. There’s no such things as bad publicity. Ok, so there is technically (say it comes out that you’re a serial killer or that your book causes brain aneurysms), but in general the old adage is true. So you got a critical review. So what? Not everyone is going to love your book. Ask someone what their favorite book is. They could gush, it could be critically acclaimed, and… there will still be people out there who slam it. Part of being a writer is accepting that fact. If you have a thin skin, you don’t have to look at anything posted about it, but it’s going to happen. Anyway, it’s better to have a so-so review on a heavily trafficked site to get your name out there than it is to only have a couple glowing reviews somewhere no one’s ever going to see them. Who knows, perhaps someone will like the sound of your book, no matter the review, and buy it. They aren’t going to if they’ve never heard of it, even if you have some people gushing about it.

7. A bad review isn’t punishment. Going back to the first email, I’m not sure what effort the author was talking about (requesting the review or publishing a book) but as it isn’t hard to request a review (just send an email) I’m going to assume “punishing an effort” refers to the book. First, as an author you unfortunately don’t get any points for effort. It would be sort of awesome if you did, honestly, but your work is going to sink or swim based on its own merit. If a book you wrote in a week is great, you’re more than likely going to get a great review, if a book you spent three decades working on and edited fifty times is bad, you’re still going to get a bad review. Second, a bad review–like a harsh critique–isn’t personal. The reviewer isn’t trying to punish you, discredit the work you put into the book, or attack you as a writer. They’re just honestly giving their opinion of the book they’ve read.

8. If you disagree with a review, it’s ok to say so, but ranting won’t help you. So you’ve decided to go ahead and ask for a review, and it unfortunately is overwhelmingly negative. FIRST, take a couple of hours, an afternoon, a day, however long it takes until you can think about it rationally. Bad reviews sting, I understand, perhaps even more so than critiques. However, it is not the end of the world. One bad review isn’t going to stop people from buying your book or make people think you’re obviously an awful writer.

Now, it’s hard to get any part of reviews changed (they’re opinions, so there generally aren’t factual errors to dispute and if the reviewer didn’t “get it” you at least have to take partial blame for not writing clearly enough for them to understand) but if there’s something you strongly disagree with, go ahead and contact them about it. You’ll likely get a “sorry, that’s how it is” email back, but it’s possible your reviewer will at least talk to you about why they felt a certain way, if you’re nice. Sending several angry emails and making demands will not get you anywhere. We get it, many reviewers are writers too, we know how you’re feeling. That doesn’t change the fact that our reviews need to hold up to certain standards, otherwise it undermines our credibility.

If you feel a review is unnecessarily rude or unfair, you can likewise email the writer’s editor and nicely try to make your points. As they posted it, it’s likely they too will support their writers (if they thought it was awful, they wouldn’t have put it on their site) but most will at least be willing to explain their decision, and if you’re lucky they may be sympathetic. Ranting at them about how awful and unreasonable a reviewer is being about a review they chose to post isn’t going to endear you.

And so, I hope that helps anyone who is unclear about the reviewing process. Like authors who want a pat on the head while editing, authors who want a pat on the head from a reviewer (and assume they’re going to get one) just makes for unhappy authors and unhappy reviewers. Never a good thing.