10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

This is a fun and brilliant post about what I’ve been saying (not on the blog, but in “real” life) about book reviews. Tara crushes this post, and it’s just the kind of thing I wanted to read at 1 a.m.

Number 2 and 10 on this list is spot on. It also takes a number 2 on some of the “high society” views on swearing, smut, and general tomfoolery. Seriously folks, write the book you want to read and people will give you a shot.

Tara Sparling writes

Look at my face. Seriously. Take a good long look at this face. It’s blue. And why is that? Why is my face the colour of childish summer skies, frozen computer screens, and musical moons?

It’s because I’m BLUE IN THE FACE telling you that 5-star reviews do not sell books. Stand-alone 5* reviews (rather than bunched together in aggregate, which I admit wield pens of power and therefore refuse to deal with here) are as much of an incentive to readers to buy a book as broccoli yoghurt is to naughty children to behave. They are meaningless: often vapid: frequently regarded as fake, and I have blogged about them so many times that my fingers are weary and my face is blue.

You know what can sell your books, though? A bad review, that’s what. And why is that? Because bad reviews contain 97.5% more useful information than good reviews, that’s why.

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales This…

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The Art of Character: Book, Blurb & Collage

The Art of Character

A collection of phrases and quotes from the book, The Art of Character, written by David Corbett. Image created by me and free to share.

 

During my transition to the new state over the last month or so, I’ve continued hitting the books and eating my greens. The Art of Character, by David Corbett was a delight to read. Honestly, I’ve burned through so many bloody books about writing characters and examining archetypes that it was starting to get repetitive — this book caught me by surprise.

art-of-character-200.jpg

Image linked to Goodreads.

Corbett offers some fresh perspective about understanding how to craft and build believable characters. Unlike many of books I’ve read, he emphasizes the importance of shaping the character before your build the book. In my experience working with other authors, many go the opposite direction: starting with the story or general plot, then populating it with characters.

The issue, and I’ve seen it happen, is the characters are custom fitted to the story and one dimensional when you plot the story then begin to craft the characters afterwards. They say, “I want a scene where he/she commandeers a pirate vessel then builds a robot out of Pixy Stix, duct tape, and bubble gum…oh, they must be able to knit kitten sweaters too! I better make sure the character has X, Y, and Z traits.”

The book is separated into four main parts: Conceiving the Character, Developing the Character, Roles, and Technique. Each section builds on the previous and provides instruction on how to weave characters into the tapestry of your story. This is bolstered by countless examples from a smattering of different genres.

Speaking of examples, one thing I like to do when I read books on the craft of writing is glance at the bibliography at the back of the book. Corbett’s bibliography is three pages long with about fifty cited sources. That’s a goldmine!

When it comes to character studies, this book has quickly jumped to the top of my go-to pile. I can see it being one I refer to clients and friends alike. If your Amazon trigger finger is itchy, give it a go!

question markThat’s it for today. If you are curious about some of the other writing books I’ve read you can check out a listing of them I made by clicking right here (going to have to update this beast soon), or jump to my Reads section. I’m constantly eating my greens, and I encourage you to do the same. What writing books are you reading? I’d love to hear about it. I’m always looking for more books to devour. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Non-Fiction Writing Books: Suggestions?

libraryMonday is the day I usually share a book about writing with all of you. You can find examples of this in my reads category.  While I still have plenty of books to talk about on the page, I recently finished reading the last one I have in my possession. Instead of trusting Amazon or Goodreads, I thought I would take a day to see if any of you would be kind enough to offer me some suggestions.

To avoid replication, a while back I posted the last twenty books I had read that examined some aspect of writing. Since then, I’ve added a few to the list:

Editors on Editing, by Gerald C. Gross
Cryptozoology A to Z, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark
Developmental Editing, by Scott Norton
Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales, by Marie-Louise von Franz

question-markSeeing all of this, what am I missing out on? I’d love to snag some more great books. If I’m not doing self-study in my limited downtime, I’m usually doing something less than productive. Help ol’ QE out! [Note: If you’ve suggested a book in a comment to me, I’ve likely ordered it already and am waiting for it arrive.] Until our quills clash again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Writing Tools: Book, Blurb & Collage

Writing Tools Collage.jpg

A collection of phrases and quotes from the book, Writing Tools, written by Roy Peter Clark. A great tool for any writer looking to hone their craft.  High-res version of the image is right here.

 

Another book read, another set of shiny pencils to toss into the toolbox.   Writing Tools, written by Roy Peter Clark, is a book I would highly recommend.  The book provides you with, 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (which is emblazoned on the cover).

writing tool book.jpgEach strategy is a chapter/section of its own, and I found them to be very easy to read and understand.  Clark uses examples from published works to emphasize points and support his writing.  The quotes I placed in the photo are some of the one-liners he provides at the opening of his chapters.

Additionally, this book offers some really interesting tools and tips to work through common issues writers face.  I have referenced his work in past blog posts—most notably his strategy for busting up clichés (located here).

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is the sheer amount of well-written content.  Many of the non-fiction writing books I own have twenty chapters or so.  Some of those books stretch out concepts to fill space (at least that’s how it feels to me sometimes).  This book is very concise with information because it tackles fifty topics.

Topics range wildly but are organized into four main parts.  Starting with the basics of grammar, punctuation, syntax, style, and usage, the author then begins to build on those basics.  Showing you how to achieve effects with these rules and make them work with you.  The idea is you need know the rules so you can manipulate them.  I love this kind of thinking.

[Editor’s Note]

This book continues to be a staple for me both as a writer and an editor.  When I work with clients, especially when they are working with a new manuscript, I like to address issues with potential solutions.  This book is handy because the material is condensed and easy to share.  I’ve used the contents within this book more than once during video and phone conversations with clients to help them understand why certain things they are doing go against the grain.  I’ve also used it to illustrate stylistic opportunities they could take advantage of to enhance their story.  It seems easier for folks to accept advice when the viewpoint is reinforced by other professionals.

question-markThat’s it for today.  If you are curious about some of the other writing books I have read you can check out a listing of them I made by clicking right here.  I’m constantly eating my greens, and I encourage you to do the same.  If you have a book recommendation, I would love to hear about it!  I’m always looking for more books to devour.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Zen in the Art of Writing: Book, Blurb & Collage

Zen in the Art of Writing.jpg

A collection of phrases and quotes from the book, Zen in the Art of Writing, written by Ray Bradbury. Clicking the image will take you to a higher-res version on my Flickr page.  This collage was created by me and is free to share.   

 

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is one of the most enjoyable call-to-action type books I’ve flipped through.  I know, I say that a lot.  But heck, it feels like Bradbury is slapping you on the back while you read this and whispering, “you got this,” from the grave. Before I get into the meat of the book, you can give it a glance on [Amazon] or [goodreads] if you would like.

A quick aside.  I purchased this book on Amazon, but purchased a used version.  It came to me from some small bookstore.  When I flipped it open…jackpot!  There was a message written on the inside cover.  I don’t know about all of you, but I love stuff like this.  Here is the message:

Erin,

Bradbury shares well, and with wit, the timeless creative spirit, objective and true. This work reminds me of the eternity I see in your eyes, in you. May it find and inspire your creative self well.

Joe

Joe, if you are reading this, I’m sorry man.  It looks like Erin was not impressed by Bradbury and sold the book despite your inspiring words.  I enjoyed the book though.

zen in the art of writing.jpgErin, if you accidentally misplaced this book, shoot me a message and I’ll get it back to you.  I hope you did find your creative self.  If you did sell this book, I hope you fall off your bike and knock out your two front teeth!  Okay, I hope nothing that bad happens, but sheesh, have a heart.

*Corey considers deleting the previous insanity then shrugs his shoulders instead*

Back to the book!  Bradbury’s book was very different than most call-to-action type books I’ve read.  There is a surge of energy behind his words and a contagious optimism.  Yes, he is realistic about some of the challenges, but there is still an undertone of positive lightning.

Bradbury offers a ton of takeaways and recommendations.  Some of them seem insane, and some of them make a lot of sense to me.  I’ve listed a spattering of them below.  They have been ordered from least insane to most.

  1. Write every day.
    I like it.  Doesn’t have to be a WIP, but at least keep your fingers moving.  I even count these blog posts as part of my writing regiment.
  2. Read every day.
    Right on Ray!  You’ve got to eat your greens and gorge on desserts every now and then.
  3. Get out in the world and experience life to enrich your writing.
    As a hermit, this is hard to digest.  But I wasn’t always a hermit.  There was a time I sailed the oceans, traveled the world, spied on terrorists, and chased criminals.  I wrote a post a while back about how Herman Melville’s style and voice changed after he signed up to be a crew member on a whaling boat. It worked out well for him when he wrote Moby Dick.
  4. Utilize word association to generate interesting ideas.
    This is my kid of weird, literary science.  Bradbury has a list of crazy words and phrases he used to help generate fun ideas and concepts. He encourages the writer to choose things that resonate with them on some level and play with the concepts.
  5. A Refined ListActivate the readers senses.
    This is great advice.  It could have populated any of these first spots on this list.
  6. Make the skeletons in your childhood closet dance.
    This is probably great advice for some, but I had an awesome childhood.  Growing up on a farm and playing in the woods.  For me, this is a well with no water to pull out. But for some of you, this might be an exploding geyser.
  7. Write a short story every week for at least five years.
    For some of you, this is no sweat (I’m looking at you, Andrew and SDS).  For me, this seems a little intimidating, but hey, I can’t argue that it wouldn’t be effective.
  8. Play with story ideas for years before you bother trying to write them.
    This one is a bit harder for me.  Bradbury talks about twenty to thirty years being an okay amount of time to let a story marinate in your brain.  I guess because I write post-apocalyptic fiction I assume the world will have ended by then…
  9. Write like a man/woman possessed by the gods.
    At first I thought, heck yeah Ray—write the words, all of them!  Then he talked about how he would write the first draft on a Monday, the second on a Tuesday, and so on until the story was ready to mail out on Saturday.  While this was likely regarding short stories, and not full-length novels, this is still a tremendous pace.  I’m not sure I will ever be confident/skilled enough to pull this off even for a short story.

I know I almost always say, “This is a great book,” but this has become one of my favorites.  Between Ray’s shout-outs to his cats, to his infectiously positive prose, it’s hard to not find yourself giving him high-fives from beyond the grave while you flip through it.  If I am feeling cynical and need a boost, I’ll read On Writing, Bird by Bird, or Writing Past Dark.  If I’m feeling good, but want a couple extra jolts of inspiration—this is the book.

question-markThat’s it for today.  If you are curious about some of the other writing books I have read you can check out a listing of them I made by clicking right here.  I’m constantly eating my greens, and I encourage you to do the same.  If you have a book recommendation, I would love to hear about it!  I’m always looking for more books to devour.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Takeaways

on writing.jpgI finished Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft last night while sprawled out on my living room couch.  It was overdue as a number of people had recommended it to me over the years saying things like, “This book was my call to action,” and, “This book really changed the way I work.”  I will let you refer to Good Reads, or Amazon, or whatever for reviews of the book and blow-by-blow evaluations.  What I will provide are some areas where this book impacted me, and how it helped clarify my vision of what a writer is.

A writer is resilient. First off, you should understand the first half of this book is a memoir.  This should seem obvious because it’s in the title, but I was a little surprised when looking at reviews to see how many rated it poorly because it wasn’t simply a, “How To,” book.  The memoir reveals the long path King took to achieve success.  From endless rejection slips, to working various jobs to support his family, King’s path wasn’t easy.  Yes, he did manage to make it – but it didn’t just fall into his lap.

A writer misses every opportunity he/she doesn’t take.  How many times are you willing to fail and keep going?  For King, there wasn’t a limit.  Are you willing to put yourself out there and face constant rejection?  For King, the answer was absolutely.  Knock on enough doors enough times and someone will answer.

locked drawer.jpgA writer knows when to open the door and when to shut it.  While I won’t go into specifics from the book, I will say King explains that he writes the entire first draft without anyone’s input.  Then he puts it away for six weeks and starts the next book.  In those six weeks he has his wife Tabby read it, but not give much in the way in feedback until the end of the six weeks.  I think one of the challenges for new writers in this day and age is not showing your cards too soon, keeping your work under lock and key until the right time.  With blogs like this one, and countless other instant methods, a writer can submit their work before it’s ready.  And that leads straight to the next point.

kitten on the keyboard.jpgA writer is needy.  It’s true, at least it is for me.  I want instant gratification.  When I slave away for three hours, I want to grab someone and say, “Look at this!  Isn’t this amazing!  See what I did there?”  The issue with submitting work that’s not finished is we start writing for those few people who are commenting on it. Suddenly we aren’t writing our story anymore, we are writing with those few people in mind and the story becomes someone else’s.  This neediness is largely due to the fact that..

…A writer needs support.  For King support came in the form of his wife Tabby.  To do this writing thing seriously, parts and pieces of our lives have to be sacrificed to the writing gods.  It makes it much easier to do this when you have the support of someone or something.  While not all of us have a significant other, (I have my awesome wife Heather) support can come in many forms.  It can be a family member, friend, colleague, or even a blog like this.  It’s nice to know when you are in the dumps someone is there to help you shovel the proverbial shit.

reading mem.jpgA writer reads.  According to King, a writer learns what to do and what not to do by reading.  The badly written books remind us of what not to, and the good ones provide us something to aspire towards.  The emotions we internalize when we read translate into what we strive to accomplish when we write.  King provides a few lengthy lists of recommended readings at the end of the book.  I applauded myself for having read a few of them already.

A writer writes.  You don’t say?  It seems simple and we hear endlessly, “just write,” and it will happen for you.  This book, for me, showed how long the path can truly be.  King had been writing since he was a just a little kid and never stopped.  With serious attempts at publication happening very early in his life.  It didn’t just happen overnight, it didn’t just happen over a few years, it took years and years of writing, failing, and writing some more to get to where he was.

This writer now needs to write.  Those are my biggest takeaways from the book.  There is a wealth of information within it I’m not going to even touch.  It ranges from the nuts and bolts of writing (the how-to stuff) to Kings writing and creative processes and how they work for him.  All in all, I’m happy to have read this book and will likely refer to it as I move forward with my own.  If you have read it and feel I missed (or even misrepresented) something, feel free to add your two cents.  As always, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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