The Unbearable Pressure of Reviews

An author acquaintance of mine vented a little on Facebook this week regarding reader reviews, and why it is that so many people read her books without ever leaving a review… or even so much as a star rating on Amazon and other platforms. This post was then rebutted by whom I’m assuming was one of her readers.

To summarize the rebuttal: we authors should stop treating reviews as an expectation, something of a command performance leveled upon our readers. Readers owe us nothing. To continually badger readers for reviews only hurts our image and generates an air of entitlement among ebook authors…particularly those with small or indie presses, or self-pubbed.

Well, now…let’s unpack this a touch. There’s some value to both sentiments here. Whereas one may be reluctant to put off readers by annoying them, there is another side to this. A side the average ebook reader may not understand.

And that’s the tremendous pressure indie authors face when it comes to reviews.

By and large…this isn’t the reader’s problem. But if you are a fan of an indie author, and you’re wondering why we solicit your reviews so often, you may want to hear about it.

First, indie authors have to be creative with our marketing. We don’t have access to the same marketing machine that the top sellers among the Big 5 enjoy. We rely on the force of the street team, the motivated fan base that spreads the gospel of our latest release. Building up a fan base is a slow, painful effort…one which requires a delicate balancing act between being a “real person” online, versus creating a personal “brand”. As most indie authors are, by virtue of our professional demographics, introverted…this can be murder. Building a fan base is all about exposure.

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Are reviews really the life blood for indie authors?

Discoverability, is the word bandied about. It’s a hellish word. A nightmare for most. It’s the holy grail, the philosopher’s stone, the lightning in the bottle that we all need in order to make a living at this craft.

Since we’re unable to negotiate fronting with Barnes & Noble or Waterstones, will not command great audiences at major conventions, and can’t afford major print ads or airport shelf space…indie authors must vie for the new generation of marketing efforts in order to get our titles in front of new eyes. Usually this means we have to play Amazon’s algorithm game. It also means we have to court the major online discovery sites such as BookBub.

In order for Amazon to pop our covers up on Kindles or search pages, we have to satisfy Besos’s eldritch geometry. The High Holy Algorithm, guarded with the kind of secrecy that makes the Bilderberg Meetings such a splash, requires that several parameters are met. One of these parameters, it is postulated, is review counts. Get X number reviews, your title pops up on X number pageviews. None of this is confirmable, but the anecdotal evidence is routinely paraded around the Internet. Hence, the need pressure for reviews.

Then there are BookBub’s requirements for acceptance. They’re not quantified, but they are *ahem* heavily recommended, per this snapshot from BoobBub’s insights page:

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Reviews matter to the gatekeepers.

So, you can see how not just the quality but the sheer quantity of reviews appears to be a vital metric toward discoverability. And the onus is entirely upon the author to somehow generate these reviews. Small presses may have marketing departments that do their best to put their authors in touch with sites like BookBub…but the truth of the matter is that they can’t “create” reviews out of thin air. They, and we as authors, are at the mercy of the reader.

That said, authors absolutely should not consider reviews to be “owed them.” The contract between author and reader is insubstantial. The most we can expect a reader to do is to not steal our books. Outside of that…if a reader buys your book, they may read it. They may not. They may finish it, they may not. They may like it, they may hate it. They may even choose to leave a review.

They may not.

It is out of our hands…and the sentiment behind the original poster’s rebuttal was that authors who promulgate the notion that readers owe us reviews are damaging the overall relationship between authors and the reading public.

That may be the case…but it doesn’t change the fact that at this point in publishing history, in the current Amazon-dominated biosphere of indie books… we need those reviews. The best we can do is to gently make our case, and remind ourselves that the readers are in the driver’s seat. Always have been…always will be.

 

Warping Young Minds one Powerpoint Slide at a Time…

I have a few things to say this week. Let’s get the bad out of the way, first.

My hometown of Baton Rouge is experiencing a disaster that can best be described as “Biblical.” Intense rain from a tropical wave stalled out over the Florida Parishes and dropped an obscene amount of rain over the entire area. Over the past few days I’ve scrambled to get in contact with my father and my brother’s family in Baton Rouge, who have literally lost everything to the floods.

It’s an enormous area that’s been completely engulfed in flood waters. Happily, the death count is low…very low for an event of this magnitude. But the suffering is incalculable. The house I grew up in is underwater. Every neighborhood I bicycled through, played ball in, or took a bus through is flooded. The economy of the area may recover some day…

…and this whole event is triggering savage memories of Katrina. I’ve been through this before. The memories are still fresh, it seems. So it’s been a hell of a weekend for yours truly. If you have the means and the compunction, please consider extending a hand.

In happier news, my wife and I co-hosted a panel at the Hub City Teen Writer’s Conference in Hagerstown, MD. Our panel was titled “Mastering the Modern Myth: Elements of Folkore in Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.” I knew going in that this would be a great panel… but I had no idea exactly HOW FREAKING AWESOME it would turn out. We ran a gamut from Werewolves to Fairies to Vampires to Zombies… exploring their folkloric histories and how the implicit meanings have evolved during modern times, and what that means to our society today.

We had a great crowd of teens who soaked it in like a freakin’ sponge. It was a fantastic natural high! So, I extend my thanks to the coordinators for having us, and am eager to package this sucker up and do it again somewhere else very soon!

In other news, I’ll be joining my wife and a heaping handful of other talented authors TONIGHT in an online live broadcast. Come watch me blather away on Yea Though I Walk, and chat with me on the Facebook event page. I’ll pregame with just enough whiskey to keep myself cogent and entertaining.

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(just kidding…I’ve already started)

Yea Though I Walk Book Launch & Upcoming Events

Happy Friday, all you Fistful Faithful!

Well, this was the week…the launch of my latest novel, YEA THOUGH I WALK. I decided to return to my roots and hold the book launch party at the same location as my very first book launch ever. And so we descended upon Barley & Hops Restaurant and Grill in Frederick, MD, set up a table on their patio, and proceeded to rock and roll.

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The weather was great, which is always a plus! I sipped on a Belgian Rye IPA while seeing some old faces and new. It was two hours of non-stop signing and chatting. A success by any standard.

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Meanwhile on the ‘Zon, I got news that YtIW had reached #6 in Westerns|Horror subcategory, and it stayed on the front page all week! That’s just the Kindle edition. The paperback edition has yet to hit Amazon, but I’m expecting that any day now, so keep your eyes open if you’re holding out!

I want to extend a personal thank you to everyone who bought the book this week. You gave it a solid boost. If you bought it, read it (or possibly re-read it once you hit that ending), consider leaving a review for me on Amazon. Those reviews are the life-blood for small press authors.

So, what’s next? I’ll tell you what’s next! The Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writer’s Institute Annual Conference, is what’s next. I’ll be co-hosting a panel called “Mastering the Modern Myth” with my wife, author Courtney Sloan. We’ll be dissecting common elements of modern Urban Fantasy and Paranormal genres, tracing their DNA to folklore in literature, and discussing how they’ve evolved and what that says about our society. It’ll be a hoot…and the conference is a gem! I highly recommend if you’re in striking distance of Hagerstown, MD, signing up and coming to soak in all the panels. Access with the writers is high, lots of time for questions, lots of smiling faces and a beautiful campus.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for Book 3 of the Dark Choir series, THE CURSE MANDATE, this December. A cover reveal will be forthcoming soon. I’m currently drafting Book 4, THE DARK INTEREST…and am more than half-way done with the first draft.

Stay cool out there, Faithful, and I’ll see you in Hagerstown on August 13th!

Somethings Actually Happening, Reg!

It has been a long, long time since I’ve had anything to post up here at the Fistful. That’s entirely my fault, mind you, but there are reasons. The primary reason is that there was a tremendous space between the publishing of my last book, The Curse Servant…and the next book. This speaks to a key error I made early in my writing career.

I stopped writing.

When I popped both manuscripts over to the lovely souls at Curiosity Quills for consideration, I had this lingering pause, this hiatus of questioning “will this ever amount to anything?”

Turns out, it did. Which was the good news. The bad news was that hiatus translated into the production queue a year down the line. Here I was, with Servant out on Amazon, and my next manuscript was suddenly scheduled… thirteen months later!

It was a shock at first, but it all makes sense. It takes work, you guys. Work to get a book to print! So, not knowing how important it was to keep banging out words, even if I had something on submittal, that was why I’ve been so silent. I honestly couldn’t find a way to bore you tender folks outside of my writing career.

I haven’t been idle, mind you. Part of the last few months have been devoted to my beer blog. You might have heard of it..

Beyond that, I do have some exciting news.

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It goes a little something like this…

The release date for YEA THOUGH I WALK is fast approaching! July 11th, for the record. I have a launch party all lined up, and in the spirit of renewing the spirit of my very first book launch, I’m returning to Barley & Hops Restaurant and Brewery for my very first signings. But for the rest of you, I’d LOVE to have a big opening day. Spread the word!!!

In other news, I’ll be returning to the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writer’s Institute Conference in August. This time, I’ll be co-hosting a panel with my wife, Courtney Sloan. We’ll be deconstructing modern mythologies in the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal genres, tracing their roots to ancient folklore, and exploring what it says about our modern society.

And if that wasn’t enough… come December I have yet another title ready to release. THE CURSE MANDATE, the long-awaited third installment of the Dark Choir series hits the ‘Zon on December 19th…just in time for Christmas gifts!

So, enough business… what have I been up to? Between shooting vids for The Beer Atlantic, I’ve been writing book 4 of the Dark Choir series, so that you won’t have quite the wait next time around!

Soon, I’ll be switching my work schedule in order to devote more time to my writing…which should help to up my productivity. I’m dying to get the rest of the Dark Choir series into the hands of the publisher, and for the first time since I signed my first book, I feel I have a chance to devote “for reals” time to being a writer. Which is a big deal to me. It’s for you, dear readers. I want to get more words into your hands, and keep doing it until it doesn’t make sense to do anything else!

So, if you’re in the Frederick area come July 11th, come grab a pint with me. If you’re in the Hagerstown area come early August, come check out my panel at the MAFWI conference. And wherever you may be, consider grabbing one or three of my books, reading them, and reviewing them.

Until next time, be good… or good at it!

Cover Reveal – YEA THOUGH I WALK

Hello, all you Fistful Faithful!

I have something quite sexy to show you today… as many of you know, I have two novels coming out in 2016. THE CURSE MANDATE, the third book in the Dark Choir series will release this December, but first, something darker…

I spent half of last year writing what I felt was a more personal book. It was deeper, more ambitious, and tested my storytelling abilities. It was a long, hard slog, but I’m absolutely obsessed with this book. I think it came out just right, personally, and come July 11th, you will too!

And today, I’m happy to reveal the cover for YEA THOUGH I WALK…

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Here’s the cover copy:

“Never leave a devil without puttin’ it in the dirt.”
~ First Law of the Godpistols.

Gunning down the heathen monsters of the untamed West is the calling of the Godpistols, and may be Linthicum Odell’s only path to redemption. A Union Army deserter, Odell figures he has plenty of sin to atone for. As he has yet to earn the Godpistols’ trust, they send Odell on a thankless errand to Gold Vein, a mining town with two afflictions: a corrupt local justice named Lars Richterman, and a horde of cannibal wendigo in the surrounding hills.

Half-dead from a wendigo attack, Odell is nursed back to life by Denton Folger, a righteous press man from the East Coast. Intent on settling debts, Odell takes up Folger’s cause against Richterman and his schemes on the land surrounding Gold Vein. Odell soon realizes that Richterman and the wendigo in the hills are not the only monsters threatening the town. His greatest ally comes in the form of Folger’s ferociously capable wife, Katherina, who holds the secrets to the intrigues of this valley. To save Gold Vein, Odell must pry loose these secrets, though her dark allure may prove too much for Odell’s loyalties… both to his Godpistol dogma and to Folger.

When Odell discovers the truth of what brought him to this valley, and why Katherina keeps this truth buried, will his virtue fail? Or will a bag of silver bullets be enough to survive this war between devils, virtue be damned?

Keep your eyes open this summer for this horror-western, and spread the word!

Double Cover Reveal – Of Scions and Men & Gyre

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Today’s the day for a dual cover reveal: OF SCIONS AND MEN by Courtney Sloan and GYRE by Jessica Gunn! Both books are in the New Adult category and are being published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Here’s a bit about each book:

OF SCIONS AND MEN by Courtney Sloan (February 22nd, 2016)

Geopolitical babysitting while arresting preternatural killers, it’s just the daily grind for Scion Rowan Brady. Brash and sarcastic, Rowan has sold her life, her career and her very blood to the controlling paranormal ruling class of America, all to make sure her kid brother can eat. Now she uses her powers as a scion to kick the ass of any preternatural creature idiotic enough to break the rules and prey upon humanity without a license. All it costs her is her freedom and a pint or two per week to her new Master.

But juggling her job and duties becomes even tougher when she is tasked with keeping a contingency of diplomats from Canada from getting gnawed on. However, negotiations for an International Blood Exchange are interrupted when bodies start showing up.

Now Rowan must rely on her talent and wit to defend the society she despises to save the lives she’s sworn to protect. But as she stumbles into the truth, she chances becoming a target of not only these killers, but of her own government. With shifters, ghosts, vampires and psychics all watching her, can she stop the killings before she is silenced?

ADD OF SCIONS AND MEN TO GOODREADS HERE

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GYRE by Jessica Gunn (February 1st, 2016)

Trevor couldn’t believe his eyes when Chelsea teleported onto SeaSatellite5. The miracle is Trevor’s absolute worst nightmare. Chelsea is Atlantean, which would be fine if Trevor’s family weren’t Lemurian—enemies of Atlantis.

Then SeaSatellite5 uncovers Atlantean ruins and stumbles into the crosshairs of an ancient war. The Lemurians want the artifacts inside the ruins, and Trevor’s the only one onboard who recognizes the relics for what they really are: Link Pieces, tools used by ancient civilizations to wage their time-travel war.

Chelsea and Trevor must brave the gyre of lies surrounding them. If they can’t, Atlantis will be destroyed forever.

ADD GYRE TO GOODREADS HERE

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Are you ready to see the covers?

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Here we go!

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GYRE & OSAM Covers

PRE-ORDER GYRE HERE!

PRE-ORDER OF SCIONS AND MEN HERE!

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ABOUT COURTNEY SLOAN

Courtney SloanA New Orleans native, Courtney Sloan relocated to the hills of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. There she lives with her husband and fellow author, J.P. Sloan, their son and their crazy German Shepherd pup. Adding to her writing life, Courtney is also a professor at the local college and enjoys learning a world of new ideas from her students as she teaches them about writing and communicating. Courtney’s New Orleans upbringing has left her with a love for the macabre and a flare for the next to normal. She writes speculative fiction with a variety of horror and sass mixed in for flavor.

She loves taking the world of politics that haunts us now, and adding the supernatural to create a gumbo of thrills to keep you up at night. A self-proclaimed lover of way too many fandoms, Courtney also loves crafting. From blankets to jams to stories, it’s always better homemade.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

ABOUT JESSICA GUNN

Jessica GunnJessica Gunn is a New Adult author and avid science-fiction and fantasy fan. Her favorite stories are those that transport the reader to other, more exciting worlds. When not working or writing, she can be found binge-watching Firefly and Stargate, or feeding her fascination of the ancient world’s many mysteries. Jessica also holds a degree in Anthropology.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Website

Freefalling into Fall – More News from Sloan Acres

Crumbs, it’s been a while since I’ve updated Ye Olde Blogge. And there’s been stuff, man.

First of all, Summer is officially over, and I have zero clue where the Hell it went! I blinked and missed it, basically. Alas. I’ve kept busy this summer with several things including:

  • starting karate classes with the family
  • a merger at my day job, which came with a new office
  • coordinating the homebrew competition at the local county fair
  • lots and lots of writing

One of the highlights of my summer was attending the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writer’s Institute Conference in Hagerstown, MD.

A wild Sloan appears...

A wild Sloan appears…

What a gem of a conference this was! I sat on two panels and co-hosted a seminar on Paranormal and Urban Fantasy. The keynote speaker was the estimable Tess Gerritsen. The panels were lively and diverse, and the signing event afterwards was the best I’ve ever experienced! I actually sold out all my copies of The Curse Merchant.

Speaking of signing events, I had the pleasure of joining Jen Estes at the Winchester Book Gallery for a book signing in the lovely burg of Winchester, VA.

A wild Estes appears...

A wild Estes appears…

What a lovely book store it was, too! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend taking a few hours to walk the streets of Winchester.

Okay, so, writing news!

Last time I emerged from the salt mines, I announced that my horror/western YEA THOUGH I WALK was signed with Curiosity Quills Press. I wrote that novel in the back-half of 2014. Since that time, I haven’t been idle! I’m happy to report that THE CURSE MANDATE, book 3 of the Dark Choir series, is now complete, and in the hands of beta-readers for a good shaking-down. It’s… well, it’s a big book. Many of my readers have been asking for more world-building in the Dark Choir series, and they will receive that in SPADES! It’s twisty, it’s turny, it’s full of ups and downs and more than one oblique slant directly into the Byzantine world of hermetic turf wars. Add to it some Brad Meltzer-esque conspiracy theory, and you’ll be ready for Curse Mandate.

Having wrapped up that project, I have an opportunity to dust off one of the projects in my bullpen. I’ve chosen to pick up one of my independent projects, an upmarket science fiction novel with the working title HINDSIGHT. Not knowing how the flow into a completely new genre would work, I’m happy to find that I’ve hammered out 6600 words in two days. I think this one’s gonna take, you guys!

That’s enough from me for now. Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements regarding a short story submission of mine, a book festival I’ll have to drive a day-and-a-half to attend, and an online Fantasy Con which requires significantly less travel…