Why Book Reviews Aren´t What They Should Be

I think it’s safe to say that alot of people know what book reviews are, so no use to give a deeper explanation for that term.

But what is a review for?

Well, to keep this simple- reviews are there for indecisive people who search for a good book to read( and to help authors with sales ).Or, sometimes not help them ( depending on the reviews content). Either way- reviews are important. ( read 5 Reasons Why Book Reviews Are Important )

But, did you know reviews can also be corrupt? Oh, yes. Quite so.

There are 2 major types of reviews.

1 )reviews

2 ) do-me-a-favor-reviews / help-me-climb-the-ladder-to-success-reviews

Confusing? It shouldn’t be. An author usually has a goal, and that is to make a living off of writing and that’s perfectly fine. If it were up to me I’d wish everyone the success they want. Unfortunately, the road to that success can be a rocky one. There’s so much to do to get „out there”. Writing a book and hoping for a miracle to happen doesn’t cut it anymore.

 Writing a book and hoping for a miracle to happen doesn't cut it anymore

Authors/ writers depend on one major thing- positive feedback. The more positive feedback they get the better their chances are for more exposure. Word can spread really fast and that helps loads.

(Uugh…this is boring……* head against table * )

I like to say I’m a skilled book ninja. I have my eyes and ears all over the place, especially in the indie-author community. When blogging I keep an eye on all sorts of stuff, such as: new book releases, blog tours, author streetteams, yada yada yada, AND reviews. Yes. I read reviews, too. And due to my ninja observation skills I know who’s besties with who and who’s fan #1. If you take a closer look I’m sure you’ll notice, too. 

Can anyone remember the shitstorm Amazon caused with their taking down reviews from certain books? Yes. That was a thing and it pissed so many people off. I would know. I witnessed it, first hand. Amazon never took any of my reviews down ( Thank God ) but they did with other bloggers and fans. And guess what? Bravo! It was about time. Not that I´m pointing fingers at anyone in particular. I´m sure many deleted Amazon reviews were wrongly accused of diabolical review-washing. But the majority? Serves them right. 

I’m positive that won’t win me any plus points. But I don’t really care. When I hunt for books I’m just an ordinary reader. And when I notice someone is just doing an author a favor my blood pressure rises. How am I to trust these people who devote their lives to these authors? Their judgement is clouded in so many ways that their reviews aren’t trustworthy anymore.

Sure, I’m all for supporting my favorite authors. But stay realistic. Stay professional.

I’ve seen people befriend authors ( mainly through Facebook ) and get really REALLY tight with them ( again…that’s fine. Anything that floats their boats). And then I’ve seen those authors publish book after book after book and each book got the same LOVE as the ones before, by the same people. An author can write 12 books ( each with different stories ) in a year and still, they’d get 12 outstanding reviews from the same blogs who are oh-so-tight with them. Something is totally fishy there. There is no way a person will LOVE everything an author writes. No-ho! 

It’s impossible. There always a slower book in-between great books. A story that, in truth, deserved 3 stars because it was, in fact, slower, or a bit more softer, or just not someone´s cup of tea. Any normal thinking person would rate the slower book with 3 stars ( or less) because that’s how they actually felt about the story, no matter how much they loved the authors other books. But, nooooooo.Some bloggers / fans feel so much loyalty towards an author that they feel compelled to give the slower book 5 stars.

Why does that happen? Do readers/ bloggers think their friendship will go down the drain if they’re honest? Or does it have anything to do with stupidity? I. Don’t. Know! You tell me. But something is definitely not right there.

I’m not sure if that can be considered as healthy behavior.

Would you like to know what helps me pick a book? I skip all the 5 star reviews and jumped right to the 3 or fewer ones. I’m not saying that all high rated reviews are full of shit, but can you blame me for doubting them? Reading a 3 star review will not convince me NOT to buy a book because tastes are different. It’s as simple as that.

I know I shouldn’t waste my time breaking my little head over the review matter, because it’s really not worth it. Reviews are… subjective. I’ve wasted so much energy trying to figure out why bloggers aren’t fully honest with their thoughts regarding a book * sigh *. But you’ve got to see my point of view, here- I want to read a book and the only way not to dive blind into a story is to read reviews and see how others judged a book. And people who do authors those stupid favors ( because they want recognition or what not) aren’t helping me, or any other book nerd out there.

That’s basically why I was happy about the Amazon clean-out.

The book universe is sometimes a dark place. Bloggers doing authors favors because they’re afraid to jeopardize their friendship is not okay. 

There was a time, way back in the early blogging days, when bloggers helped authors get reviews by doing so called blog tours for their favorite writers. Blog tours are nothing other than a virtual book promotion where often free copies of a story were/are offered. The only thing wrong with those blog tours were / are… a reviewer CANNOT publish a review with less than 3 stars, depsite what their true thoughts of said book were/are. Anything to avoid a bad review. So, a reviewer either lies or they don´t review at all and risk a potential shout out from the blog tour hosts. I call that…. corrupt. And wrong.
Another observation I made:
Authors releasing new books and bluntly asking for 5 star reviews. Because a 4 star review isn´t going to make sales. * holding breath * The same authors then wonder why hardly any people leave reviews.  That screams desperate.

This is also the main reason why I believe honesty is the best policy. State your real opinions instead of doing favors. 

And for the authors who are hungry for fame….. The big shot writers often have alot of negative reviews along with the 5 stars. That´s definitely something to think about.

It´s amazing to watch authors and their devoted fans go to such extremes. But it´s less amazing when you spot the lie.

I feel cheated on. Ripped off.

Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Part One

To self publish or not to self publish.

That´s something I never had to ask myself because I´m not a writer, but many others have undoubtedly asked themselves if they should dive into self publishing or not.

Writers from all literature corners have, at some point, thought of the idea of publishing their own work, whether through traditional publishing or through self-publishing.

Both routes are fully acceptable these days, but before any writer choses a path to take they should definitely have a closer look at the pro´s and con´s of both traditional publishing and self publishing. Let´s do a quick breakdown to show the differences between the two and include pros and cons for both traditional publishing and self publishing:

Pros for Traditional Publishing

  • Marketing
  • Reach a wide audience, more exposure
  • Publishing houses often offer a financial advance
  • Publishing houses take care of edits, covers, etc.

Cons for Traditional Publishing

  • A writer hardly ( if at all, depending on the publisher) has a say ( in all areas)
  • Marketing runs at a snail’s pace
  • Royalty rates suck
  • It´s hard to get out of a contract

So basically, a writer´s hands are bound.

 

Pros for Self Publishing

  • You call the shots. You´re your own boss.
  • Publication is almost instantly
  • Royalty rates are higher
  • No rejections ( other than maybe from readers)

Cons for Self Publishing

  • No professional book polish ( no editing, no suitable cover image)
  • You have to do major self marketing
  • Potential for publishing a shitty book
  • Literally, anyone can self publish

It all comes down to having all the freedom in the world but also investing an outrageous amount of time doing self promotion because.. since you´re your own boss you have to do every stinking thing yourself.

If I was in a writer´s position I would definitely go with the traditional route. But that´s just me. Since I´m not a writer it´s not important what I would do, right?

A simple fact is: It´s hard getting a deal with a publishing house and it´s easy as hell to self publish.

Doing business with hundreds of self published writers did reveal an awful lot, but what the years of observation have shown was that many self published authors struggle.

And the struggle is real.

Some authors don´t know how to market themselves or they find it extremely difficult.

Why is that?

Well, for one… most writers who go into self publishing and want to make a name for themselves know that they´re going to have to deal with marketing but they don´t know how hard it is.

Imagine you wrote a book and you set your mind of self publishing. Great. But what steps need to be done?

Is your book edited? If not, it should be. You don´t want to sell crap and no one wants to spend money on crap. A harsh truth alot of self published author´s don´t want to hear.

Is the book cover image eye-catchy and is the quality of the image good? If not, you might want to invest some money and get something that´ll make a reader want to buy your book. Many readers judge a book by it´s cover. ( read my article on book covers )

Once your book is properly looked over and the cover ( incl. the quality) is ready you still need readers.

Do you have fans? Without fans you have little to no sales. And without fans you have no one but yourself and maybe your mother to spread the word about your book.

Your book can be a genius piece of written art or a possible world-wide bestseller but that´s worth crap if you don´t have any readers.

You need a plan. A large one.

From what I´ve been able to learn was that self published authors NEED to interact with people. There´s no way around it. Writers must use the tools they´re given and start interacting with all sorts of people in order to get the marketing ball rolling.

Social media is the best place for that. Millions of book lovers hang around Facebook, Twitter & Co. and are dying to get their hands on a new book. Befriending authors is also a step in the right direction because other, more accomplished self published authors have the know-how and can help with fulfilling a dream of becoming a known writer. Contacting book blogs is another way. Us foot folk know how to spread the word in an effective way.

It sounds so easy. But then again- everything seems easy in theory. Contacting strangers is not always easy. It´s acutally awkward.

„Hey, we don´t know each other but I have a book and ( after a full-blown social media investigation) I know you like to read… So, do you wanna read my book?“

Yes. That´s awkward but with a little more tact there is a high chance of gaining potential readers that way.

When a writer has to do their own marketing that means nothing other than having to sell their own product. In this case, it´s their book. Selling a product involves having to interact with people.

A nightmare for introverts or moody artists.

Another thing most self published authors forget is that self marketing never stops. It´s a constant, never-ending cycle. Once the self marketing slows down or stops then that´s it. Everything else stops too.

It also doesn´t stop at the interacting, either. There´s a whole lot more to self marketing than a writer´s eye can meet. Writers need to become creative and find ways to keep the ball rolling. This can be done with simple posts of teasers from their book or maybe a graphic quote or possibly through another author promoting a new writer. Something that engages other people. There are ways to make self marketing fun and slightly easier but the key is: interaction.

It also can´t hurt to mention how much time self published writers need to invest on self marketing. Yes. Many writers would appreciate a day with more than 24 hours.

The reality of self publishing is completely different from what people might think. It´s not just going on some self publishing platform and uploading a story with over 60.000 words and calling it a day.

Of course, writers who chose the traditional path and get taken under the wings of a publishing house have it bit easier. They don´t have to worry about self marketing because that´s included in their package. All the fun( insert sarcasm) with having to deal with emotional stress, interacting with strangers and working on spreading the word falls in the hands of competent people who know how to work the book mill. It might not always be what the writer had planned but it´s one less thing to worry about.

Self publishing is hard work and we´ve only just scratched the surface of how hard and frustrating self publishing can really be. The only advice I can give to writers who are unsure of which publishing path to take is: Collect as much info as possible and weigh your options. See what works best.

Because if we´re honest- not everyone is capable of marketing themselves or their work. Not everyone is a social bunny. But if a writer wants to self publish then there´s no way around having to do some self marketing. But when someone is good at marketing themselves then self publishing can be a joy and fun all around.

Coming next: Self Published Authors, Part Two: Book Pricing

Review- RARE ´17 Berlin Book Signing Event

There are different types of book signing events. There are the ones we all know from back in the days, where authors had a table at a bookstore and signed tons of books for their fans.(Good thing  is – those signings still exist. They´re rare…but every now and again published authors pop into a bookstore and do a signing. * YAY *)

In this Era, book signing events have become more interesting, to say the least. Due to the massive amount of self-publishers ( and their wildly growing fan-bases ) alot of author events have turned into something bizarre ( and that´s putting it mildly ).

Book signings are said to be a great way to meet your favorite author ( maybe even hold a chitchat with them for 2 minutes ) and get your books, kindle covers, boobs and scrapbooks signed. Some signing events also offer full weekends of drinks, parties, meet & greets, and other fun stuff for readers and bloggers. Which is like- the ultimate thing for any book nerd!

Of course, those events aren´t for free. The prices for tickets can be from $10 – $400 , depending on which signing event a visitor decides to go to. In my opinion… I´d rather buy books worth 400 smackers than go to an event that costs that much, plus paying for a hotel room and traveling has to be taken under consideration, too- Unless you´re up for snoozing in your car. BUT…I was told that those highly expensive events were totally worth the money ( I shall never find out ).

I´ve been to quite a few book signings in my life but none have left such impressions as the last 2 I´ve visited. That is why I´ll focus on the last 2 bigger book signing events, here, and I´ll compare them.

I´m generally a happy person. I love to laugh and all that. And I´m also ALWAYS under alot of stress ( work, family, household, bla bla bla). When I´m at a signing I like to think I´m treating myself. Taking a break from being a highly responsible adult and having some Morgana-time without my babies actually helps me recharge enegery. I don´t need a 2 week vacation away from the family. A day or even a few hours can also work wonders.

But when I´m surrounded by madness it´s hard to think I´m treating myself in any way. It´s also impossible to enjoy my Morgana-time away from the family when I´m in a room surrounded by nearly 500 women who run around like headless chicks ( who also sporadically scream from the top of their lungs from excitement) That´s not book heaven. It´s definitely not my idea of having a good time.

And that´s exactly what happened at my first romance book event a few years back in London. Crazed women rushing from author table to author table in hopes of spending endless minutes with their favorite authors. It felt like I was in the Mean Girls movie with 100 Regina George clones.

After that unholy event I swore to never attend a romance book signing event ever again. I valued my sanity far too much to deal with another day of chaotic book women.

Years have passed and the nightmare from the past event eventually faded until I spotted an ad for another romance author event. RARE ´17 Berlin.Rare

Berlin? My heart melted. There was a romance book signing in the country I live in! I didn´t have to leave the country to visit a book signing and I could get a hotel room and I could….. Then it hit me. No. I swore I´d never put myself through another round of disappointment. But the author lineup for the RARE ´17 Berlin event was AWESOME! There was no way I could stay away.

After a week of back and forth I decided to give romance book signings another try. Why not, right? It´s been a few years since the last one. Readers / fans change. ( or, I hoped they did ). I wasn´t 100% convinced but I kept thinking happy thoughts. Everything was going to be alright.

After all- who would want to miss out on meeting Jodi Ellen Malpas, Monica James, Lesley Jones, Kandi Steiner, etc, etc? No me.

After a gruesome 5 hour drive from Frankfurt a.M. To Berlin I finally arrived. My hair looked like squirrels tried to braid it ( driving with an open window cannot be recommended) but I didn´t care. I was on a book mission, not trying to win a beauty contest. As long as no one noticed the chocolate stains in the crotch area I was good to go and halfway presentable. ( I do not recommend eating a chocolate croissant while driving on the Autobahn, either )

Needless to say- I arrived looking like a crazed forest witch, ready to spend time and money.

3 hours, 10 signed books and 6000 spoken words later I reached my limit and decided it was time to go home ( because I totally forgot to book a hotel room ). I wanted to spend some quality time with my newest reads!

And guess what? My fear was…gone. I was confronted with peaceful, nice people. The authors were wonderful. Everyone was smiling, chatting and just having a good time. I was shocked beyond belief! Hof was this possible? The last book signing event was a nightmare. Rare ´17 wasn´t. RARE ´17 Berlin was civilized, organized and just a great place to be.

Was I happy? Definitely. The event was a total success for me. Would I visit another RARE book signing?

Yes. I would.

Ticket price 36.87 Euros

Location – Hotel Estrel in Berlin

Author count – Roughly around 60 ( give or take)

Atmosphere-  Friendly

The authors- The ones I was able to meet were such sweethearts.

My biggest regret- Forgetting my hair brush at home. Forgetting to take pics with all the authors I talked to.

My mood from beginning to end-  Excited to happily exhausted.

All in all a wonderful event filled with awesomeness! Until next time, RARE!

And now – let´s take a look at what the forest witch looked like with the awesome authors! Have fun!

Event Monica

Left: Monica James. Author of the `I Surrender` , `Something Like Normal` & the `Hard Love Romance` books. Make sure to stalk her on Social Media!

Event Ashley

 

Right: Katie Ashley. Author of the `Proposition` & `Runaway Train` books.

 

Event Halle

Right: Karina Halle. Author of `The Pact` and `Dirty Angels`books.

 

Event steiner

Left: Kandi Steiner. Author of `Weightless` & `A Love Letter To Whiskey`.

 

Event Malpas

Right: Jodi Ellen Malpas. Author of the `This Man`& `One Night`books.