Review for Sale

I am doing marketing research as part of my preparation for publishing. In my travels I stumbled across something very interesting. A site that boasted giving “honest” reviews, of four or five stars.

I stopped, staring at the page. How can a review be honest if it guarantees either a four or five star rating? Furthermore how can the reviewer be credible if the only reviews being given are of four or five stars? Even good books have readers who don’t like the work, this particular reviewer has to read something that s/he wouldn’t give four or five stars without cold hard cash jingling in the pocket.

To make matters more interesting I was recently contacted to join a review crew for an author I am following. I think the idea is a good one: get an advanced copy of the book in exchange for reviews. Makes sense to me. Sure, these are readers who are already likely to enjoy the story and want to give a good review. But it seems a little more authentic than saying “for $50 you, too, can get five stars!”

Either way, at the end of the day, reviews are not an honest endeavor. Anywhere, not just for books. Take a few minutes to look up anything and read the reviews. Normally they range from raves to completely ripping apart the product. The truth usually lies somewhere in between.

I read reviews. I don’t take the words at face value though. I read between the lines. If the review is a low one I see why that person didn’t like the novel or product. Usually they give enough information that I can tell whether I would agree or disagree.

I do hope to get reviews for my novel. I hope to come by them honestly. I wouldn’t mind giving out free copies in exchange for reviews. But I’m not seeing the benefit in paying for stars. My work will generate a positive or negative following based on its own merit.

I can see paying someone to read the work and give an honest review of any star rating, especially as a new/unknown author looking to generate attention. I just won’t be paying someone to give me five stars. I fully plan on asking my friends and followers for reviews. Honest reviews. Give me five stars if you loved it. Give me two stars if you didn’t. Bottom line: don’t lie. That helps no one. If my novel doesn’t deserve five stars any fake review will not help me.

What are your thoughts on paying for positive reviews? Authors, what are your tips and tricks for generating honest reviews? Readers, what would make you give a book a review?

Quiet on the Writing and Social Media Front

I have been quiet the past few weeks with my writing and interaction in the wonderful land of social media. It’s be a two prong attack: one, I caught my husband’s nasty virus that still has me feeling loopy. Two, my son’s birthday is in November and I turn into Super Mom to plan his party.

Or, in reality, I turn into Crazy Mom pretending to be Super Mom.

I enjoy being crafty, though my writing is much better than my art skills. Each year I make decorations for my son and turn my home into party central. For his first birthday I created a banner with his name and age on it, and each year I make a new number to update.

This year my son wanted a Paw Patrol party. If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry. It’s a new show on Nick, involving dogs coming to the rescue. It’s so new that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, commercial I could purchase for the party.

Now, this doesn’t bother me too much, I enjoy making my own party items. The problem is that it is time consuming to make my own. Nick has a great website with multiple different printable options to help make a party special. I designed my own invitation and cupcake toppers. I printed a pin the badge on the dog game, masks, and stickers. Then I had to cut out each and every item.

My hands are still sore.

Add this to the nasty virus both my husband and I were consumed with and it was a fight to the finish line, my first guests helped us blow up the balloons!

But, at the end of the day, I have a very happy child, who loved his birthday party. My writer friends may be working on their 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge, but I made my son’s day special for him.

And I really wish NaNoWriMo was a different month than November.

Now it’s time to switch out of my Mommy hat and put back on my Writing hat.

I think I’ll sit back, drink some tea, and read a few books first.

Story Endings—Quick or Drawn Out?

There seems to be two different types of endings on a story. One is the quick tie up and resolution. Speeding the reader so fast toward the end that if you blink you missed it and are staring at a blank page. The other is an epilogue that goes on for pages and pages. More than that it seems readers prefer either one or the other: quick and easy, hot on the heals of the climax, or filled with more tidbits of the characters lives.

I am part of the latter club. I often find myself wanting more when a book ends. I’m not done with the story, not done with the characters. Sometimes there is so much more that could go on and happen. The writer in me plays with the characters, ponders what they do next.

Perhaps I’m a sucker for Happily Ever After. I want to see the characters happy, see how they deal with that calming period after resolution. See what happens when the next conflicts surfaces. Because, let’s face it, even the happiest couple alive has some rough patches. There are obstacles in the road. In a romance the main characters have usually not known each other that long, so there is still a learning curve in the relationship.

To me it’s intriguing. Even if it’s just a brief glimpse into what comes next I’m wanting it. Especially on novels that end too quickly and I’m left feeling thrown off a cliff.

Yet many people hate those extended bits. The epilogues. I will be honest; I have yet to write something that doesn’t have an epilogue or epilogue type scene. I love what comes next too much not to give that to my readers. I have even gone so far as to write multiple scenes on what comes next. Not publishable scenes. But scenes I needed to write down to get out of my head. These are my characters and even though their story is done, I’m not ready to part with them just yet.

How much do you like to read after the resolution? Do you prefer to keep the future wide open to any possibility? Or do you like to see a little bit into the next phase of the characters lives?

Update on Book One – New title and a sneak peek!

The countdown to publication is on! That’s right, my first novel is nearing her final steps before her grand debut. She’s been waxed and polished to a shiny consistency. Her legs might be a little shaky but she’s ready to walk out on the red carpet and greet the world.

She’s gone through three titles since her conception. The third one will be her last. The new title for my first book: Lila’s Choice.

Lila’s Choice is waiting on her cover design to be completed. My paperback and ebook are formatted and ready to go. I am officially in those final stages.

And I am freaking out. This is all brand new territory for me. I’m biting my nails, triple checking every detail. Terrified that I will do something wrong. Fortunately I have also been baking in preparation for my son’s birthday, so there has been plenty of sweets to soothe my nerves.

Now that Lila’s Choice is almost ready to roll, why not have a sneak peek? Here is the first few pages. Enjoy.

Lila’s Choice

Lila Erickson watched with sluggish eyes while her margarita glass was refilled. Again. By her math this was her fifth cup. Maybe her sixth with the way the tan carpet rolled in shallow waves at her feet. She put a hand on the wooden coffee table. It kept floating, bringing her arm along for the ride. She placed her other hand on her head. The rolling stopped. Drats, it was her, not the apartment.

Her good friend and roommate, Ette, hummed as she filled two glasses. She ignored Lila’s hand plastered to her head and pushed the drink closer. “So…” she took a sip of her own margarita. “Bryce is coming for a visit?”

Lila groaned and pushed the cup away. This wasn’t a Saturday night drinking binge. This wasn’t helping Ette get over her latest fling. This was “get the counselor drunk so she’d spill her guts.” Lila wasn’t biting. Yet.

Desperate for a distraction, she became lost in the scene outside their apartment window. The yellow light of the parking lot illuminated a lone tree. The autumn leaves swayed in the light breeze—waves of green, yellow, and red, the latter reminiscent of Bryce’s hair. Her heart skipped a beat. She darted her eyes to the floor, choking on newfound desire. Like all things uncomfortable, she wanted to keep the meaning hidden deep inside. Thanks to Ette, the alcohol had already called her bluff. A shiver raced down her spine as she eyed her friend. Ette grinned over her glass.

Lila grabbed a pillow and thrust her head in. Bryce was her childhood friend, nothing more. They had been friends since kindergarten and stayed in touch after he moved away when they were ten.

“The cute redhead in the flesh, this should be good,” Ette drooled, already planning on her next conquest.

Lila dug her nails into the pillow.

Ette sensed Lila’s capitulation. “Why is this bad? I thought he was one of your best friends?”

“Oh, he is. But he was always just that—a friend. Now the door that leads to ‘other’ has opened and I can’t find the key.” Clutching onto the pillow, Lila’s nails dug into the fabric, threatening to poke holes.

“Sounds like someone has a crush on their childhood friend.”

“Yes.” Lila clasped a hand over her mouth, disbelieving her voice. “And that’s wrong.”

“Oh for God sakes. What’s so wrong about it? So you’ll flirt a little as you talk about days long past. Maybe he’ll flirt too?” Ette leaned forward in anticipation of the chase.

“I thought we were supposed to be helping you?”

Ette rolled over and ran a hand through her long blond hair. “It’s the same-old, same-old. Dating a week and the temperature ran cold. I’m out the door. I’ll drink,” she eyed her empty glass, “which it looks like I’m already up to. From here I’ll sulk in my room for a few days and then get all dolled up and go flirt shamelessly with some unsuspecting stranger.” She licked her lips in anticipation of yet another anonymous sexual encounter.

“Sounds like you’re going to be fine.”

Ette placed an arm around Lila. “Look, you love Bryce, he’s one in a million, and a friend of twenty years is hard to come by. You also know each other quite well. If the feelings are mutual, you can discover where this new path will take you. If not, you’ll still enjoy his weekly e-mails.”

Lila’s eyes drifted away from Ette. She couldn’t put twenty years on the line. She couldn’t risk ruining a friendship, no matter how good looking the pudgy boy had become.

Ette swirled the liquid around, watching her friend. “Do me a favor. Don’t turn into Nate on me.”

Lila stopped cold. She turned sharply to her friend. “What does that mean?”

“Seek out the opportunity in Bryce, don’t hide behind some shadow like Nate.”

“Nate isn’t hiding behind a shadow.” Lila blinked as Nate’s blue eyes came to mind. She shook her head. Great, now she was hallucinating eye colors. “He’s been hurt by a loved one.”

Ette stood up. “Here we go, defending Nate when I was proving a point.”

Lila sat dumbfounded, unable to wrap her head around what had happened.