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May 30, 2015

Rick's Thoughts on Writing Reviews - a guide for the rest of us

I've seen a lot of blog posts out there by authors regarding books reviews.  These can be both positive odes to how awesome people are for leaving them as well as negative rants on the big meanie bullies of the world who dare tell them their precious works of timeless art suck donkey balls. I've hopefully made my thoughts fairly clear on these matters in the past. Today I wanted to touch upon another type of post - those helpful guides out there telling people how they should and shouldn't write a book review.

Sadly, I'm here to tell you that I've read quite a few of them and found most to be a bit lacking. My advice would be to ignore the vast majority.

"But wait?" you might ask. "How should I know what to write about a product if the product maker doesn't tell me what to say?" Fear not!  For I am here to offer what I hope to be the comprehensive guide to these things.

Step 1) You need to decide where to leave your review. Often times this will be the website from which you purchased the book. However, you might choose instead to do so at a dedicated book site such as Goodreads, on a Facebook group, or even your own blog.

In the case of the former, though, most shop websites have fairly easy to find buttons next to the reviews others have left.  One need merely click upon it, log in  if required, and then proceed to the entry form.

Some websites will let you get away with simply filling in a star rating and then going upon your merry way.  This is all fine and well, but you're here to learn about writing an actual review, dammit!  So let's get cracking already.

Step 2) Write whatever you feel like saying for however long you feel like saying it. Some websites have a minimum of required words for a review, so in those cases you'll need to reach that before you can hit the submit button.  If necessary, feel free to elaborate a bit on your thoughts, or don't. You can always post the ubiquitous "here's a bunch of words so that I get to Amazon's limit on reviews and can hit the damned button already." at the end of it.

Step 3) Hit submit

Step 4) Rejoice! You're finished!



To help you with any further questions on this topic, I leave you this handy dandy
Reviewing FAQ:

Q) Wait, that's it?  Aren't you supposed to tell me to only leave positive or constructive reviews?

A) Nope.

Q)  What about that thing you mother used to say about only saying something if you have something nice to say?

A) Yeah, well, my mom wasn't really into that crap.  Besides, I look at it this way - have you ever read any of those articles in the news about restaurants threatening customers who leave them lousy Yelp reviews or the apartment owners trying to put clauses into their leases stating no negative reviews are allowed?

Did you enjoy those articles?

I know I don't.  I am a firm a believer that once I have paid for a product, service, or meal then I am free to have whatever opinion of it that I please and I am likewise also free to share whatever that opinion is - be it positive or dripping with enough acid to dissolve a queen Alien.

Q) But shouldn't I take into account the author's "feelings"?

A) Hell no!  You paid for a book, not a guilt trip. If you loved that book, great.  If you hated that book then I don't see any reason why you should worry about someone else's feelings.  Publishing is a business, not a group hug.  If that business disappointed you, you should feel no qualms about telling the world.

Q) But what if the author leaves a nasty comment / sends their fans to leave nasty comments / tracks me down and sends me a threatening email / does anything else that only an asshole would do?

A) Depending on the severity, I'd say anything from getting an idea what kind of person they are and never again giving them your business all the way to calling the authorities.  You're a customer.  You're spending your hard earned money on a product. You shouldn't have to tolerate anything from the marker of that product that you feel is hurtful, harassing, or just plain unprofessional.

Q) Cool! Oh hey, by the way that is a thumb you're holding up, right, because it kinda looks like a...

A) Yes that is a thumb!  Why the hell would I show off my...you know what? I don't want to know. Let's just agree to never discuss it again. Sound good?

May 25, 2015

Riding on the coattails of those who have come before

Some authors will swear that one must be their own person and blaze new trails through the jungles of this wild industry.  Others will go out of their way to shove down your throat the notion that their latest masterpiece is every bit as good as the chart-toppers of the day.

Personally, I feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  That's what I explore in this latest edition, the 20th video to date, of Tales of a Midlist Author.

As usual, I hope any prospective and/or novice writers out there find this useful.




May 7, 2015

A New Look and Feel for The Tome of Bill

Hey everyone.  It's time to share the reason I've been a bit quiet as of late.  It's not because I've quit, died, or run off to enjoy tropical drinks on some island somewhere (although I reserve the right to follow through on that last one at some unspecified point in the future).  No, it's because I've been busy working with my cover artist Mallory Rock to completely rebrand The Tome of Bill series.



Yes, Bill The Vampire and all of the numbered books in the series have a new look and feel as you can see by the above. Now I know that some people were quite fond of the old covers (and, to be fair, some folks hated them too), so the question you have might be "Why change a good thing?"

The answer is simple: while I too was quite fond of seeing Bill's bespectacled self on the original cover, the problem was the series as a whole lacked cohesion.  Looking at random covers from the series side by side one couldn't easily tell they went together.  As standalone covers they were pretty darn awesome, but as far as a series goes they fell a bit short of my expectations.

Part of this is my fault.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but let's face facts, there are very few authors who start off in this industry having anything even remotely close to a clue. I can't say I was any different. I used to look at each book as no greater than the sum of its pages, a standalone entity. The problem is, you do that with a book and maybe its sequel and that's fine.  Once you reach three or more books in a series, it starts to be a stretch - especially if people are celebrating the storyline of that series.

A series is more than just the stories that make them up. It's a whole identity from top to bottom...and it was time for me to make that identity whole.

Now in all fairness, I did have some external issues too that led me to this point. I lost my original cover artist after The Mourning Woods.  Rather than pick that time to start fresh, I made the mistake of asking the new cover artists I was trying out to try to match his style. Cover artists are a unique bunch and, while some have similar styles, more often than not they're going to shine best when you allow them to play to their individual styles and strengths.

Tis a lesson that took me a while to learn, but learn I did. At the same time I've been studying the market in much greater detail, learning my comparative strengths and weaknesses in the Urban Fantasy space.  Finally, I felt it was time to move on this and bring The Tome of Bill under one cohesive umbrella.

All that being said, I am pleased to move forward with Bill's new look and feel.  I for one love the way they look together.  I hope you do too.




Bonus: for any authors reading this, I also decided to use this opportunity to broach this subject on another Tales of a Midlist Author.  I hope you find it useful. 

May 1, 2015

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson

Hey everyone! Sorry if this blog has been a wee bit empty lately. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not dead. I've just been busy with a multitude of projects including: writing The Wicked Dead, rebranding The Tome of Bill, launching a new pen name, and putting together several new episodes of Tales of a Midlist Author.

However, even the most crazed workaholic needs to come up for air every once in a while, and thankfully my fellow Westmarch author Melissa F. Olson popped by to give me a good reason.  Not only is she a talented writer and purveyor of witty repartee (seriously, check her out on Twitter if you don't believe me), but her new book has been absolutely tearing up the charts over on Amazon.

I'm happy to host her as she launches Boundary Crossed in two new formats and offers up some cool swag in the process.  Take it away, Melissa!



Thank you so much to Rick Gualtieri for being part of this multi-webpage blog blast. If you’ve already heard of me and my books, you can scroll down to go straight to the contest entry. Otherwise, please let me introduce myself.

My name is Melissa F. Olson, and I mostly write urban fantasy novels, which are stories about the intersection of two worlds: the real one that we live in and a world that involves something supernatural: fairies, vampires, werewolves, mutant killer hedgehogs, or all of the above. My new novel Boundary Crossed is about a young woman, Lex, trying to protect her baby niece from bad guys who have discovered that the baby has serious value on the supernatural black market. Lex is determined to keep her safe, but unfortunately she dies at the end of the first chapter.

No, seriously. She dies. But then she gets better, because it turns out that there’s more to Lex than she ever knew. She needs to figure out why she’s still alive and what the bad guys want with her niece, and she’s going to need a lot of help to do it.

The book has been available all month as a Kindle First deal on Amazon, but it comes out in paperback and audiobook for the first time today. To celebrate this release, I’m giving away signed books, a $20 Amazon gift card, and some killer swag. (That’s a metaphor; the swag will not hurt you.) To enter, just click on the link below to go to my website and enter up to four times for the four prizes. Thanks for reading!

Click for Rafflecopter giveaway



Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master's degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at www.MelissaFOlson.com.