Should you get New Cover Art?

Posted by on Mar 18, 2018 in advice, Cover Art, e-publishing, new writers, Uncategorized | 0 comments

SPAbookShould you or shouldn’t you purchase a new cover? That is the question. A good cover isn’t cheap.

Here’s how to determine the answer:

  1. Does it portray your genre?
  2. Is it working? Is it bringing readers to your book?
  3. Do your reviews reflect that?

A hard-edged thriller cover should be a stark as the content. A fantasy cover should let the reader know whether it’s epic/mythic (landscapes, castles, swords), urban (edgy, usually dark, street views), heroic/tolkienesque/arthurian (pastoral, swords, magicians), historical, or a combination thereof. (Two of my favorite authors write a mix of heroic and urban fantasy, quite successfully). Mysteries should convey whether they’re ‘cozy’ (small town, armchair, teapot) or hard-boiled, noir, or police procedural (dark and edgy).

Many books convey some or many of these elements, but they aren’t the main focus.

For example, one of my books is a mystery with thriller elements and an edge. There is a romance in it but as part of the story, not the primary plot. Unfortunately, while the cover was dark-edged, at the center was a couple. To many readers, it came off as a romance with a touch of mystery, rather than a hard-boiled mystery with a little romance.

And it showed in the reviews. The comments weren’t direct – unless you viewed them from the viewpoint of romance readers expecting something lighter.

So here’s my suggestion…covers aren’t cheap, so shop around. Look at what the cover artist has to offer. If 99% of their samples are fantasy or romance, they may not be a good fit for your book. A cozy mystery about a chef won’t work well with a cover that features a couple in a torrid embrace. Try a good pre-made cover. Most pre-mades are the cover artist trying out different things or promotion for their work. Some are really good. They’re not free but they are cheaper than custom made. That will allow you to publish your book while you search for another, better one, and save the money to purchase it.

Or, you may find that pre-made cover works perfectly.

 

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Being Right or Being Kind

Posted by on Mar 18, 2018 in advice, e-publishing, new writers, Uncategorized, writers | 0 comments

being-kind-and-being-rightWhen did manners become a bad word? When did behaving well turn into a bad thing? When did political correctness become a pejorative? Has the general negative attitude of this country permeated to all levels? When did it become more right to be cruel than to be kind?
There has been a ‘debate’, and I use that word very loosely, about a certain situation on Facebook that degenerated into name calling, unkindness, and worse. Bullying. The person involved was ganged up on by a large number of people. Even worse, since it was semi-public, a comment indicated it confirmed for some that Indies are the undisciplined writers so many assume us to be.

Now, you have to understand that I was in a similar situation. I paid a great deal for work to be done from a good, reputable site, and was shocked when it was brought to my attention that someone else had the exact same cover, created after mine was. Did I bad mouth them on Facebook, send nasty messages, etc.? No. I’m a professional. I contacted them in private, and they offered me a new cover at a discounted price. (And it’s an even better cover!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know most artists work from stock art, but I also know a number of those artists have a competition to use a single image to show off their skill at making their covers look different. It’s amazing how different they are. So, it can be done.

I’m a moderator of a 14,000 member informational writer’s group. We have two rules that result in instant banning – no promotion and absolutely no bullying, bad-mouthing, rude or unkind behavior. You’re professionals. Act like it.

Dalai Lama Help Don't Hurt

What the person did was wrong – no question – so how do you behave?

Don’t recommend them.
Warn others – in private – about them.
If you see a duplicate, warn the author, and they can deal with it.

 

But for heaven’s sake, it’s cover art, it’s not life and death. This is not an episode of Mean Girls, it’s real. Anyone who advocates that another do themselves harm is not a nice person. Call them on it. Tell the moderators of the site, have them delete the comment. It’s not worth someone’s life. Covers can be replaced, sometimes with something better. People can’t. Let them, and you, live and learn.

 

 

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Publishers – Writer Beware

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in new writers, writers | 0 comments

“Publishers are just middlemen. That’s all. If artists could remember that more often, they’d save themselves a lot of aggravation. ” – Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative

Ah, the lure of the publisher, the allure of the printed book sitting there in your hands, beckoning to you. Isn’t that the stuff of every author’s dreams? An e-book is great but don’t we all long to hold a book in our hands with our name below the title? I know I did. There’s also the sense of security and the idea that maybe we won’t have to work quite as hard, that they’ll pick up some of the load of marketing.
It also seems as if there are so many new choices these days – not just the Big Six, independent, e-presses and small presses, but all kinds of hybrids, include publishing groups and co-ops (where the responsibility for creating a book is shared). And not all of them are truly looking out for your best interests. A number of writers have found themselves contracted to a publisher with no easy way out. I did.
So how do you avoid the pitfalls?
(For our purposes, we’ll leave out the Big Six, the pros and cons there are known – advances (now much smaller), a huge pool of talent in which your book can get lost, gatekeepers with a narrow eye, six months to respond, a year to two years to reach print.)
First, do your homework. Google the company name. If you find that they’re listed on Preditors and Editors or Writers Write, run away. Are there complaints against/about them? Do they sound valid, consistent? Go to their website, find a book that looks and sounds interesting to you. Does the cover look professional? Are there spelling and grammar errors in the blurb (the back cover information)? Where can you buy it? Only from their website? Those are huge red flags. You want your book to look as good as possible and to be available to a wide audience through established booksellers like Amazon.com, B&N and iTunes. If there’s a feature like Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book”, use it. Are there a bunch of basic grammar errors? Is that the kind of book with which you want to be associated?
So, it all sounds good and looks good. Too good to be true? Then it probably is. How’s your gut? Getting some trippy vibes? It’s time to start asking questions…
1. There’s a standard rule in publishing that money flows from the publisher to the writer, NOT the other way around. Anyone who tells you different is blowing smoke. I don’t care what name they call it. If you’re paying them a percentage of your book that percentage is supposed to cover what they’re supposed to do for you – editing, cover art and marketing at the very least. By its very definition in a co-operative environment each writer donates their time and skills to the group as a whole, each contributing to the success of all. But the first rule still applies. If you’re paying any percentage to the publisher, those ‘fees’ should come out of their pocket, not yours. Otherwise, what are you paying them for? Their name? Make up your own.
2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay for your galley or proof copies. No reputable publisher will ask you to do this. That’s the cost of doing business. You’re providing them with their commodity, books. Without you, they wouldn’t exist. To ask you to pay for your own proof copies, even at a discount, is wrong. If they don’t believe enough in your book to invest in it, they shouldn’t have bought it. No reputable publisher will insist that you buy your books in bulk, either, even for a book signing. On those occasions they should provide them – unsold books should then be returned to the publisher or used for subsequent book signings.
3. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay for services you can do yourself. See below.
4. Editing. Read the excerpts. Is that your style? Is it overly simplistic, too Dick and Jane? Or too dark? (I submitted one book to a publisher like that but I had a pretty good idea it would be rejected. And it was.) Are the stories remarkably similar, too generic? Is the quality good? Are you seeing those grammar errors? In a recent post I commented on a reader who was surprised to find an erotica book so literate. (I don’t just write erotica, I’m actually more of a fantasy writer, but that is where I’m published traditionally.) Is most of their work adult, but you write YA? Make sure that publisher is a good fit for you.
5. Are they making a huge fuss about numbers, rankings and so on? Is the fuss legitimate? If you’re #4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Kitchen Appliances, is that a valid ranking for your contemporary romance, Cooking Class? Not really. Outside of the kitchen appliances listing, notice that it says Nonfiction. Yes, you want to market where people share the same interests as your book but if your book is the only fiction book in ten listings… being #4 isn’t all that great.
6. If they’re offering to put your book in print, who is doing the printing? I honestly never considered asking that question. I didn’t think I had to, after all, they were a publisher, right? So therefore they had a printer. To my surprise, one company was using CreateSpace to do their printing. (See Rule 3) I already had two books in print through CreateSpace on my own but that publisher made it sound as if he had a local printing company. Never assume. You know what happens when you do.
7. Ask what their pay schedule is and what your percentage is for e-books or print. Is it different if you do book signings? WHEN do you get paid? Smashwords pays quarterly, most regular publishers pay monthly, but both will provide you with a regular accounting of how much money you can expect to receive. The same should be true of any publisher. You have a right to know when your first paycheck will arrive. After all, you have bills just like they do. If they can’t give you that information, if they waffle about how they can’t give you accurate figures, that they have to account for returns, etc., RUN. At absolute worse they could simply deduct a return from your next check but a reputable publisher wouldn’t – returns should be few and they accept that as a loss, as the cost of doing business. (If returns are excessive, someone needs to look at the book.)
8. What is their marketing plan? How do they market their authors? (Again, see Rule 3) Is it largely through Facebook, Twitter and blogs? What else do they do? You want a concrete marketing plan that will take you beyond what you can do yourself. Does it mainly consist of book signings which you have to arrange, not them? Then you’re in the wrong place.
And if you hear pie in the sky promises – I can get you on Leno, for example – ask yourself how many authors Jay Leno has on his program? None. It’s all smoke. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.
9. Check out their Facebook pages. Is there chaos and drama around them? Do you want chaos and drama in your life? If not, then walk away.
Indie publishing is hard enough without people making it more difficult, or outright ripping you off. I have yet to see the money from my book and I have a pretty good guess I never will. Despite it being a legitimate Amazon best seller. It regularly floats in the Amazon Top 100. I haven’t given up entirely but that’s the price you pay for not doing your ‘due diligence’ – your research.
There are people out there more than willing to prey on our hopes and dreams and many authors will pay almost anything to realize those dreams. I know one writer who put thousands of dollars of his own money into a print version of his books. I don’t know how many are still in boxes. Print books are much more difficult to sell. Getting bookstores to take a chance on giving precious shelf space to an unknown, independent writer is difficult. So many authors do that and their garages are filled with broken dreams. Many walk away, their hopes dashed.
For a while I struggled, trying to fit myself into a round hole when I was a square peg. I put my hopes of seeing my books in print under a publisher’s name…until I learned all the lessons above. Now I’m experiencing the delicious freedom of being able to write my books the way I want to write them. If I’m going to do print, I’ll do them myself. And I won’t have to share a penny. No one will make money from them besides me…in tandem with Amazon and CreateSpace, or B&N, Smashwords, etc., of course.
That’s not to say that the traditional way is wrong, but unless what a publisher offers you makes your life easier, what do you need a middleman for?

* * * * *

This blog was originally posted at http://www.indiesunlimited.com on February 1st, 2012.

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How to Write a Killer Blurb

Posted by on Aug 24, 2011 in new writers, writers | 0 comments

A blurb is the book description you find on the back of a book or online to describe a book’s contents. After your cover, blurbs are the second most important selling tool you have for your book, so you want it to grab the reader’s attention. The blurb is the essence of the book, a distillation of the characters, tone and conflict of your story that should, if it’s effective, lure a reader into wanting to read more.

Most run at least two paragraphs, but some are longer, roughly a minimum of 100 words to a maximum of 250. How can you condense all that important information? 

Here are some examples from some classic novels:
“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow…. When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.” To Kill A Mockingbird

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning … along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames… never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.” Fahrenheit 451

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
The Help

There are a number of commonly accepted elements to creating a good blurb:

The Hook
The story element that grabs the reader’s attention, something unique, a fresh twist, or just the emotional core of the book.

Conflict
Both external – world is coming to an end – and internal – the H/H isn’t sure they can do what needs to be done.  (H/H – hero, heroine)

Emotion
What drives the H/H, the tone of the book. The driving force – love, vengeance, retribution. The tone can be light, a romp, or a dark fantasy.

Risk
Emotion, physical, societal or whatever. Something important to them can be lost.

Characterization
The essence of the main character(s)

Setting
Both geographic and emotional – lost in a harsh desert, fighting through a lush jungle, romance in a small town

Goals
What are they trying to accomplish? Just surviving? Winning the day? Clearing their name? This is an important element.

Motivation
Why are they doing it? Particularly, why for your characters? Why does Frodo keep struggling to reach Mordor? To save his people? Or to live up to Sam’s view of him?

What’s stopping them?
Who’s the bad guy? Or is it a massive earthquake with the attendant destruction?

Will they succeed?
You don’t actually have to answer this, but you must introduce the element of doubt or leave the question open. Too much information is a blurb’s worst enemy.

In each of the examples, you have a piece of all of these individual elements, sometimes in a single sentence. There’s obviously conflict, risk and characterization in the first– how did Jem get his arm broken? (those of us who’ve read that novel know, of course) ‘enable us to look back on them’ – there’s the emotion. The voice of the blurb sets the tone, setting and characterization, and the goal is to make Boo Radley come out. Nothing, though, is said of the central conflict of the book.

Notice, too, that the first two are considerably shorter, but The Help was a more complicated novel.

Keep in mind that genre matters, too. If you’re writing a terse thriller, you want to keep your blurb terse, too.

From Barry Eisler – The Detachment
When legendary black ops veteran Colonel Scott “Hort” Horton tracks Rain down in Tokyo, Rain can’t resist the offer: a multi-million dollar payday for the “natural causes” demise of three ultra-high-profile targets who are dangerously close to launching a coup in America.
 But the opposition on this job is going to be too much for even Rain to pull it off alone. He’ll need a detachment of other deniable irregulars: his partner, the former Marine sniper, Dox. Ben Treven, a covert operator with ambivalent motives and conflicted loyalties. And Larison, a man with a hair trigger and a secret he’ll kill to protect.
 From the shadowy backstreets of Tokyo and Vienna, to the deceptive glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and finally to a Washington, D.C. in a permanent state of war, these four lone wolf killers will have to survive presidential hit teams, secret CIA prisons, and a national security state as obsessed with guarding its own secrets as it is with invading the privacy of the populace.
 But first, they’ll have to survive each other.

An epic fantasy may require more information or you can just set the scene…
G.R.R. Martin – A Game of Thrones

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Here’s one of my own, part of my epic fantasy series, and one of my bestselling books – Not Magic Enough
For Delae, a lonely landholder on the edge of the Kingdoms, a frantic knock at the door on a stormy winter’s night brings more than a cry for help. After centuries of war Elves have little contact with the men, but Dorovan can’t bring himself to ride past those so obviously in need. And so begins a tale of love, honor, duty and determination…

Very short but it’s a novella and all the elements are still there.

And for one of my romances – Director’s Cut – the emotional content needs to be emphasized in romances:
Once the golden boy in Hollywood, Jack Tyler’s life and career are on the skids. Struggling to find some direction, a visit to an old friend brings him to Millersburg, and the community theater group there. He’s fighting his demons, hoping to rediscover his roots and his love of theater, through them.
He also discovers schoolteacher Molly Brighton.
Molly, though, wants no part of the sexy new director. He’s too handsome, too charming, too dangerous to her heart.
The attraction is difficult to ignore, especially when aided by Jack’s old friend, an unrepentant matchmaker with his own reasons for bringing them together.

Last and finally, the purpose of a blurb is to get the reader to want more, to open that book up and answer the questions each blurb asked. 

How did Jem’s arm get broken and why was it so difficult to talk about? Guy Montag was burning books, why? What will happen to the three women when they cross those defining lines? Will Rain and his team of irregulars succeed in their mission – and who is it they’re supposed to kill? What happens to the Starks? Or when Dorovan meets Delae? Will Jack overcome his demons or will Molly walk away?

And that’s what a good blurb should do…

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A little word on the Indie Author/Editor self-editing conundrum

Posted by on Aug 15, 2011 in #writing, new writers, writers | 6 comments

Lately I’ve found myself on the wrong end of several sticks on this subject – oddly being perceived as being anti-editing, which I’m not. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Finally, though, I did. It’s me. Or at least, maybe it’s reality.

So… Now I’m about to burst some bubbles.

For those who think editing doesn’t matter, but especially for those who think being an Indie writer is a short cut to the kind of success Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath and a few others have had switching to traditional publishers…

It’s not.

And most especially for those who think your prospective agent/editor/publishing house will do your editing/polishing for you.

You’re about to have a VERY rude awakening.

Think editing is supposed to be collaborative? Interactive, a polite interaction between professionals? Pardon my bluntness, but… grow up, you’ve been watching too much TV.

Here, courtesy of Jessica Faust from BookEnds LLC – a well known literary agency – from her Submissions 101 blog entry:

Before getting started, before even writing a query, you need to make sure your book has been written, rewritten, edited and polished, and, as you have heard from me before, I even suggest you’ve already started writing your next book so you have something to focus on besides just the query process. Fiction and narrative nonfiction (i.e., memoir) writers will need to have completed the full manuscript.


I didn’t even submit my first manuscript until the second was complete.
That’s a submission folks, not a completed manuscript. In the traditional publishing world you not only have to be a good self-editor, you have to be a really good one! If that manuscript isn’t polished to a fare thee well, it will end up in the circular file beside their desk with a form rejection letter back to you for your troubles. They don’t have time to ‘fix’ your work and to them it says volumes about your commitment to your writing. Or rather, the lack thereof.
A multitude of errors says the same thing to your readers – that you just don’t care enough about your craft to do it right! Get enough comments about mistakes and they will stop reading your books. Amanda Hocking hired a good editor as soon as she made enough money to afford one. Konrath was a pro already but there’s no doubt he had someone editing for him. What makes you think you’re so hot that you don’t need to do the same? Or at least a beta reader or three – preferably ones for whom English was a subject they did well with in school.
A good editor doesn’t have the time – or to be honest the patience – to mollycoddle your sensitive feelings.  Even, or (that word again) especially, editors for small presses or for Indie writers. It’s a job. It’s how they make their living and they make their living by doing a lot of editing for a lot of people. And they may do it in addition to their day job, just like you. (Same thing for reviewers, BTW)

A good editor will send back your manuscript with corrections and notes. In the non-Indie world these are NOT suggestions and can come off as downright rude. After all their job isn’t to do your work for you, that’s YOUR job, and you should have done it right in the first place. A small press editor in this new world doesn’t have time to waste. Think they won’t ask you to change your manuscript to suit them or what the publisher wants? Think again. Their job is to get a marketable product out. Fast. I know of one author who was dumped by both agent and major publishing house simply because she took too long and it was taking too much effort. And it showed.

Even so, even with all the care I took, my first professional edit was a shock. Believe me, they weren’t sensitive to my feelings. Every edit, though, taught me something else. I learned how to look at my work honestly, to see where perhaps this sentence, phrase or paragraph might work better someplace else and that I have a problem repeating myself. Which is why I need my beta readers so much. (God bless you Erin, Angela, Andy and Mateo, et al.) 

So I learned, and learned fast, to be a very good self-editor. It never occurred to me to do anything less. How could you possibly consider yourself a writer if you didn’t? Was I really so arrogant as to believe I had written the Great American Novel  in one try? (Heck even Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, wrote multiple drafts.) No. My books were and are edited and re-edited every time I find a new pet peeve on a blog somewhere. Even so I still go back to do another polishing draft, just to be absolutely sure, before I post a single book anywhere.(I’m on tenterhooks waiting for feedback on the latest.) That’s why I’d get so frustrated to find myself in the middle of this argument. I thought every Indie author wanted the same, to be as professional as they could be. I still get anxious every time someone contacts me to say they caught a mistake. 
And if you’re a good writer, a professional writer, you should, too.
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Reviews and Reviewers – Learning curves

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in #writing, books, new writers, novels | 2 comments

After all, one knows one’s weak points so well, that it’s rather bewildering to have a reviewer overlook them and invent others. – Edith Wharton (paraphrased)
Asking a working writer what he thinks about reviewers is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs – Christopher Hampton (paraphrased) 
The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews – William Faulkner
And, of course, it all depends on the review, and the reviewer. We’re talking professional reviewers at the moment, personal reviews will come shortly. 
So, what brought this up, you ask? Well, several things. One was a review I received yesterday, another was a request by a reviewer and the third was a dialogue about differences in  a particular genre. As with everything we all bring our own preferences and prejudices, from both sides of the situation.
Reviews are critical in the writing business. At their most basic level they can help a reader decide if this is a book they want to read, at their highest they can help lift a book from obscurity. So every writer looks at them with both dread and anticipation. I know I do. (I’m not a reviewer although I have reviewed, but I won’t speak from that side of it.)  I also view them as a learning experience and yesterday’s review was a wonderful example of that. 
With my little heart going pitter-pat, I opened it and began to read, my heart rising with the compliments, then *thwock* wincing as the knife went in. *grin* And, being who I am, I took those criticisms severely to heart – as I should. Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, but as a writer every review is an opportunity to grow, to learn your craft. 
So, was she right that I can sometimes be repetitious? *grudgingly* Yeah, sometimes. Do I head-hop – that is, change points of view among the characters, particularly secondary characters? In this case, and in the case of many of my series books, yes. I like to have my readers get inside the heads of my primary characters so they know, for example, that John is a little judgmental of other cultures. That can be a matter of taste, too. Some people like it, some don’t. None of my ten or so beta readers complained about it. Even so I went back and took another look, particularly in the beginning and took out some of both. (The benefit of an Indie writer, that I can adjust my writing on the fly, so future readers can benefit from what I’ve learned.) For those people that don’t like it, though, this review will either forewarn them or steer them away. Which is fine in either case. 
She objected to the romantic elements in the book, she didn’t think it advanced the story. Again, this can be a matter of taste. Like the difference between hard and ‘soft’ sci-fi.  Hard is more science-edged and tends to have little interpersonal interaction while soft tends to add some interpersonal and romantic elements. Although many tend to think of that as a male/female thing, the best sci-fi has elements of both. Asimov was a romantic.
For me, though, a book is somewhat incomplete without that soft side, the interpersonal side. Friendship, love and sex are a part of life. In all my books I want my readers to share the feelings my characters have for each other, whether it’s the strong friendship between Elon and Colath in The Coming Storm or the growing attraction between Kyriay, the Queen of the Fairy, and Morgan in Song of the Fairy Queen. Or Ky and Raissa in Heart of the Gods. Now I could have written the story as a straight action/adventure but I didn’t. It’s actually part of a series, the prequel of which will be released soon. When I wrote both books, I wrote them with the intent that they would be the first in a series and that strong relationship would be at the heart. Still, I had to ask.
A poll of my beta readers about the question, though, came up with an outcry against changing it – particularly and oddly, from my MALE beta readers, which surprised me.
And this is where those personal reviews come in. Now to other readers there’s no doubt some of those personal reviews come from friends and family. And some do. Because of that I cringed when an unsolicited review – quite wonderful otherwise – referred to me as Valerie rather than Ms. Douglas or some such. On the other hand, the writer knows when it’s friends or family, and when it’s not. I was thrilled to see a wonderful review on my novella Not Magic Enough – a fantasy that’s unabashedly romantic- and delighted to discover the reviewer, again, was male. So my perception that if there’s a strong romantic element to some of my stories it would keep men away is wrong. Hurray!
She also mentioned a disappearing character and the instant it was mentioned I knew who she was talking about – or at least I think I do. I thought I’d handled it, more or less. Sometimes people do just disappear, especially since he’d been taken away by the bad guy. You don’t always know what happened. The fact that she mentioned it, though, brought up that little niggling voice inside me. And I knew I had to fix it, or at least resolve it. So I did. (One of the blessing of Indie writing.)
Oh, and I forgot to mention a few important details. One, that she gave me a 3.5 out of five – slightly better than average. Would I have rather gotten a four? Absolutely. But some reviewers very rarely give out a five and I suspect from the review that she’s one of them. So, knowing that might be unachievable, it wasn’t bad. 
The other details? 
This quote – “…the recipe for a spellbinding story. This one makes a good attempt at achieving this, with a plot that kept me hooked and characters that carried the story forward strongly. There were a few twists that left me pleasantly surprised. The author clearly took care to do her research, and was able to artfully weave the finer details into the story without taking away from the narrative at all.” (paraphrased)
And this – “The story held my attention to the last page by riding on a fantastic concept and strong characters and a brilliantly quick pace. The solid ending has made me interested in seeing whatever she has in store for the team on their next adventure.” (paraphrased)
Above anything else those two comments are what are most important. Because a spellbinding story with a fantastic concept, strong characters that leave the reader wanting more is what it’s all about. 
Those are the judgments a writer has to make – to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (reviews)… or to do as Faulkner does. And perhaps miss becoming a better writer and giving readers a better book.


To see the review – http://theviewfrommykindle.com/ebook-reviews/review-heart-gods-valerie-douglas/
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