Scary author tasks: Asking for reviews


“Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Asking a book blogger to review your novel is a little like approaching a stranger on the street and saying: “Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Okay. Maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like to me. And it’s that time again: book review request time.

Every couple of months, I sit down with a spreadsheet and a copy of the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s too early in the day to start drinking, and start writing emails.

When I put it like that, it  doesn’t sound that difficult, but it is. It’s one of my most demanding tasks as an author, both physically and emotionally.

Physically demanding, because I like to send out several requests in a day, but the requests can never be one mass request. That would be disrespectful.
Every blogger has her own review guidelines, and those review guidelines have to be respected. So if I’m sending out 12 emails to 12 bloggers, I’m typing an individualized email to each, trying to follow their instructors to the letter. (Sometimes bloggers will slip something crazy into their guidelines, like a math problem, or a random phrase, just to make sure authors are paying attention and following directions.) Then there are typos. I worry about typos, and when I fret about them, I create more of them, so each email takes a while.

Emotionally demanding, because basically, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to very politely ask a stranger to give me what could be a horrible review.
Asking people for opinions is a gamble. It’s hard to say “Here, I wrote this thing. Please, tell everyone on the Internet what you think of it.”
Part of the reason it’s so difficult is because I start writing the bad review I expect to get in my head as I’m writing my request to the reviewer. I have to be careful to not write disclaimers or apologizes for the work into the request. I also have to be careful to avoid false bravado.

It’s not my favorite task, but my fears are often unjustified. Many of the reviewers who have responded to my requests have been kind (the insane review guidelines are just so that they are not overwhelmed by authors who mass email them) and have given me wonderful reviews.

But here’s the thing: word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book that doesn’t have the publicity of say, Go Set A Watchman. And on the Internet, book blogs are word of mouth. So if you want to be read, requesting reviews from people with an audience in your genres, you must ask for reviews.

And sometimes, you will get punched in the face. (And remember, you gave that person permission to punch you in the face, so don’t complain about it!) But sometimes, the book blogger will turn around and tell everyone within earshot that you are awesome.

 photo credit: 40+117 Sucka Punch! via photopin (license)

Calling all readers! What are you reading and why: a survey

Recently, a piece was written on about the bleak state of American fiction. This generated some discussion online among writers about whether, in fact, things are bleak for American fiction.

It’s not a new argument. A debate constantly rages in the writers’ community about the state of reading among adults in our society. Is the future of books dim or do we have to wear shades? What are people reading, and how much, and how often?

But here’s the thing: talking to other writers about writing isn’t always the most productive conversation to have when you’re trying to understand the state of American fiction. You know who we should talk to instead? Readers.

Below is a link to an 8-question survey I put together aimed at book-lovers. I’m not the only person to have put together a survey for readers, but I am curious about certain specifics. So please take this survey, share it and encourage others to do the same. It’s anonymous, so there’s no judgment at all. Be as honest as you can, and thank you. I want to know what you’re reading and why. In fact, every writer on the planet does.

Bring me to the survey.

Books & Boos is a really cool independent bookstore

indie bookstore, books and boos, colchester, ct

Books and Boos in winter.

If you live in New London County in Connecticut, you might be aware of a really cool little bookstore in your backyard. Or, you might not, in which case, you should definitely look into Books & Boos, a store in Colchester owned by two of the founding members of the New England Horror Association.

The shop is a treasure trove of used books, local crafts and books from local authors.

I love used book stores. I can spend hours in them. But I really love this bookstore, because even though it’s far from Bridgeport and I can’t browse there regularly, the owners have been kind to me. They’ve agreed to carry both my books. They had me at the shop for a reading one weekend, and despite the fact that I didn’t bring in hordes of fans, alá Stephen King, they’ve agreed to have me back on Sept. 8 anyhow.

 I’d like to return that favor by flooding the store with people on Sunday, Sept. 8. I want people to see what the store is like and get to know the owners. I want people to see the crochet Cthulus (yes, these exist) and the Edgar Allen Poe paintings and the handcrafted bookmarks and the piles and piles of books.

If you’re in New London County or Middletown and haven’t yet been to Books & Boos, come down at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8 and get to know the store and the owners. Used bookstores are becoming rare. Awesome used bookstores are even more so.

LAST MINUTE UPDATE: Books & Boos is looking for help! They want to move to a better location in downtown Colchester – and they’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the money they’ll need for that move. (Click on the link to get a tour of the store.)

Interview over at The Write Connexion

A quick note: Gabi Coatsworth, the author behind our locally-based writing blog, The Write Connexion, did an interview with me last week and it’s live right now. I had a great time answering her questions  — Gabi knows how to write a good question — so head over to the Write Connexion and check it out.

While you’re over there, poke around. Gabi collects information that is useful for both readers and writers. If you live in my area of the world (Connecticut), the blog can be quite a resource.

Also, I’m kind of geeking out because the creator of Authorgraph (the service that allows authors to autograph e-books) left a comment, and mentioned a new Authorgraph app, which would be very helpful for me during book signings when someone buys a book through his or her phone or reader. Oh Authorgraph, I love that service. I’d I could sign more books through it (hint hint people with my e-book.

When everyone decided to read aloud.

trenchcoat party. Just a quick note: I had so much fun at the trench coat party at Made in Bridgeport last night. (Want more photos? Check my author page on Facebook.)

Despite the heat, people did actually arrive in trench coats (and my mother showed up, dressed like this photo of Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote. QUALITY.)

There was even a party game in which a noir stereotype was taped to everyone’s back and people had to figure out who they were by asking each other yes or no questions.

I came up with the list of stereotypes, with the help of the folks on my Twitter feed, so I take full responsibility for this:


Sorry about this.

My favorite part of the evening came during the reading. It was a small crowd (thanks, heatwave!) so someone suggested that instead of me doing the reading, we should all take turns reading a paragraph from The Eagle & The Arrow.

Now, when I read, I get self-conscious. All sorts of things go through my head: Did I just skip a word? Does it work better with the skipped word than it does on the page? Did I mean to use the passive voice there? I wonder if I’m boring them. I wonder if my publisher would let me re-write that bit. Maybe I’ll just skip it. I can’t wait to get away from this stool/table/podium. I’m thirsty; I need water. No. I need wine. NO. I need whiskey. Is it ten minutes yet? Did my voice just crack?

Because I know I will do this, I choose short readings. But as a group? We went through the whole first chapter, (some of us using funny voices.) It might have been the first time I’ve ever heard someone else (10 other someones, actually) reading my work aloud, and it was amazing. I could hear my own story, being read to me. Suddenly, I was no longer self conscious, and, actually, a little emotional.

Anyways, it was a great event. I have a couple more scheduled this summer (one tomorrow in Mystic, CT and one I’m confirming for next month.) But none of them will match this one, unless the whole audience decides to pick up a copy of the book and read aloud with me.

It’s hard to rock a trench in a heatwave, but I’m doing it for fiction!

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

First, an apology to anyone who follows me on Twitter. I’m sorry for clogging your feed with #trenchcoatparty hashtags. I’m just irrationally excited for tonight’s event at Made in Bridgeport. Thanks to Robin Gilmore, owner of MIB, it’s the first book event I’ve ever had that wasn’t more or less just a reading and a signing.

It’s a 1940s noir-themed costume party, first and foremost (I know my book isn’t set in the ’40s, but hey, it’s noir.) I’m a sucker for costume parties. I’ve been torn between wearing a ’40s dress and hat and my trenchcoat/pseudo-fedora tonight. I still haven’t decided. It’s going to be tough to rock a trench on the hottest day of a heatwave, but I never was blessed with an abundance of good sense. And also, that’s why the good lord made air conditioning.

Anyhow, there’s also a mystery that needs solving (I have no idea what it is, but you have to look for clues in the MIB store window) and a game to be played, which involves different stereotypes from noir films (you know, like the dirty cop and the stool pigeon) and a cocktail party (I’ve got the wine downstairs, ready to go.)

This is at a store in the Bridgeport Arcade Mall, which is gorgeous, although finding it for the first time is like solving a mystery in itself. From the front you see a continuation of city block, but go through the right set of doors and you end up in this Victorian confection of a two story building with a beautiful glass dome on the top.

While we’re doing that, a concert’s going to be happening down the block at McLevy Green, part of Bridgeport’s Downtown Thursdays program. Tonight a band called Amy Lynn & The Gun Show is playing, which makes me sort of want to sneak out for a few minutes to see what they’re all about.

Here are the details if you want to come: 5-8 p.m. at Made in Bridgeport in the Arcade Mall. Wear a 1940s noir costume or a trenchcoat, and there will probably have to be a reading, but I will make it short. Promise. We’ve got mysteries to solve.