Indie Author Hack: Study Your Negative Reviews

Getting negative reviews on your book is a real heart-breaker. How dare they talk about your baby like that? I mean, you are obviously the best writer ever. Getting negative feedback on your book feels like a personal attack.

And not just for Indie Authors, but for all authors.

Sister Souljah got so many negative reviews for her latest release, Life After Death, that she was compelled to address it on Instagram, saying, “Stop crying about the death experience of WINTER SANTIAGA, AND START THINKING. STOP DEBATING and start reading.”

Please refer to this post for a full breakdown of my thoughts on this book.

A Review is Someone’s Opinion

The first part of studying a review is remembering that it is someone’s opinion based on their experience. Even professional reviews are expert opinions. We are not changing our voice or altering our style based on the views of fifty people.

We are only looking to see if this person’s opinion has any value we can learn from.

The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen

“It was a little difficult discerning who exactly was talking or even who was who at the beginning. The scenes seem to always end at a cliffhanger. The premise is interesting, bit the follow through needs work.”

This is a two-star review of my latest novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. The dialogue in my stories is strong, but my tense usage and POV need work. Because I know these are my weaknesses, this review has merit. 

Do I think it is so bad it deserved two stars? Of course not, but that doesn’t make the point invalid.

Use Your Discernment

Once the shock of the negative reviews has worn off, we can use the power of our discernment to see that not all critical feedback is hostile. Our wisdom will show us what part of the review is worth looking into and what part to let be.

While I will work on the point of view, I am not worried about ending scenes with a cliffhanger. I like it because it’s a good way to keep people reading.

In the words of bestselling author James Patterson, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.” This is the reason we are addicted to that TV show. We come back week after week because we are held in suspense. Cliffhanger endings are the hallmark of page-turner fiction or, in this case, binge-worthy shows.

Even Salt Looks Like Sugar: A Novella

“I enjoyed the premise of the story, but sometimes was a little thrown with whose point of view I was reading.”

See that? I cannot ignore this. It comes up repeatedly, which means it is a legitimate issue I need to fix. Now I know what to work on for my next book. I hope to hear fewer complaints about this in the future.

Authenticity

If we change the way we look at it, critical reviews are cause for celebration.

In this fake everything era, where people buy followers, engagement, and body parts, what we might consider a negative review is a good thing. Unless the negative reviews come from a hater who is trolling you, having a good mixture of good and “bad” reviews gives the book authenticity.’

This is so important to understand in the Indie Author community. There are some poorly written and produced books with nothing but five-star reviews.

How Detailed is the Review?

I have learned the more detailed the review is, the more likely there is something there. While “Excellent book” makes us feel good, explaining what made it an excellent book is more helpful.

In the same vein, commenting that a book was “terrible” does nothing for the author. What made it terrible? What are the ways the author can improve? What did not work for you?

“I wish I could get a refund. This will not get read this is a terrible book and she could have kept this.”

– Amazon Customer Review of Life After Death by Sister Souljah

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is not a helpful review and the “she could have kept this” is unnecessary. This is the kind of review you do not have to spend your time trying to dissect. It offers no insight. I am sure Sister Souljah laughed it off.

Renaissance: The Nora White Story Book 1
“I think this author has much more to give. I felt as though she was dancing on the outskirts of the story, just giving the reader a little tease. With the author’s style of writing, I really think this book could be a nice, long novel, really delving into Nora’s life and her families past, followed with nice, long novels in the series.”
 

This reviewer has a good point worth considering. I definitely need to continue Nora’s story. I accept the reader’s thoughts here because they make sense.

Repetition in my writing is something I need to work on, so this reader’s thoughts have merit. Sure, it stings, but it is also true.

“Many of the poems have a good message. Liked the ones with imagination like Sabbath. But to really touch a heart, the thinking and framing should be less self-centered, in my humble opinion.”

My Brain: What?

This is an example of a review I didn’t bother to give much thought.

First, the self-centered part is confusing. Next, the reviewer is a white man who probably couldn’t discern the book is mainly about the collective Black experience more than anything. (He only gave it 3 stars) This one is another example of how you don’t have to worry about the negative reviews that don’t make sense.

But it also brings to my attention something I almost forgot to mention:

A book marketed to the wrong audience increases the likelihood of bad reviews.

If I buy a Historical Fiction novel that turns out to be a Romance, I will more than likely rate it low.

Going back to Life After Death, the book is marketed as urban fiction, but it would be more appropriate for the Paranormal / Sci-Fi or even religious fiction genre.

Unfortunately, the audience that loved The Coldest Winter Ever is not the same audience for Life After Death

This means as a Self-Publisher, identifying your target audience and marketing your books to that audience is critical. I am Soul will rate higher with Black women and Black people than anyone else because I wrote it for them. It doesn’t mean other people can’t read it or won’t read it. It means I increase the likelihood of positive reviews if the people I wrote the book for are reading it. 

All Reviews Matter

You do the author a great disservice when you decide not to review a book because you didn’t like it. You not only rob them of the chance to increase their reviews, but you also rob them of the chance to improve on their writing. And if you are an author and only want positive reviews, you are robbing yourself.

The purpose of reviews for any product or service is not to only talk about how good it is. Positive and negative reviews are helpful, though I use negative loosely here. The reviews that are off the wall and utterly ridiculous are reviews I consider negative. But, the critical thoughts that offer insight on how the author can do better are necessary for growth.

So, what to do the next time someone rates your book low?

First, be grateful. Many great writers have received negative feedback on their books. You are in good company.

Next, study the review itself. Is there something you need to work on? Or is the review not worth stressing over?

Click Here for more Indie Author Basics.

Signs You Are Not Ready to Self-Publish Part 3: You Don’t Read.

I don’t know which new Indie Author needs to hear this, but it shows in your writing if you don’t read.

It is said that writers write, which is true, but writers also read. It is through reading that we learn the basics of how to write. This means that reading and writing are a partnership, and one cannot exist without the other.

This is not to say that someone who was never into reading can’t write a book. They absolutely can, but only if they are willing to start reading. There is no way around this. Aspiring writers need to consume books like aspiring doctors need to go to medical school.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Stephen King

There is no such thing as loving to write but hating to read.

This is one of the biggest issues I see in the Self-Publishing community. It is not the act of Self-Publishing that gives it a bad reputation. It is the audacity of people who never enjoyed reading and writing in the first place who suddenly want to write a book.

“It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King

The first red flag that someone doesn’t read is when I am sent a manuscript so badly formatted that it does not resemble a novel or book or anything. It is just letters on a page with weird spacing and no chapter headings.

This is because the writer isn’t familiar with the story structure, which comes from reading books. They are hoping I can take their scrambled notes and turn them into something legible. They want me to write the book for them. (If you want someone to write the book for you, you’ll have to hire a ghostwriter.) The same issue arises when new authors are choosing genres. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a cookbook or a romance novel.

How the book is published is not the problem, weak writing is.

If you want to publish a book but you’ve never been into reading, that’s an easy fix: Just start reading. The more you read, the more you will write, and the better you will be at it. 

Reading books in the genres you want to write in to familiarize yourself with them is also a good idea. Want to write a poetry book? Read poetry. Memoir? Read memoirs, and understand they are not the same as autobiography. Wanna write historical fiction? Read historical fiction, and so on.

Ready to publish your book but not sure where to start? Click Here.

Check out more Indie Author Basics Here.

Yecheilyah’s Book Review Registry: Early Registration for 2022

My review registry is closed for 2021. I am only reviewing books left in the queue. However, please do consider registering early for 2022 as spots fill up fast, and there’s only one me.

What is a Book Review?

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review, or scholarly review. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to a substantial essay but can also be as short as a single sentence. Book reviews help encourage readers to purchase a book, act as social proof, helps with an author’s Amazon ranking, and increase the book’s visibility.

About Yecheilyah’s Reviews

I have been a professional book reviewer for five years now. Authors who have trusted me with their book babies vary from newly, first-time Self-Publishers to experienced Best Sellers. From Indie Authors to Traditionally Published, I’ve worked with them all. The PBS Blog has been on Reedsy’s list of Best Book Review Blogs since 2017 as one of its vetted catalog of active book blogs and thoughtful, quality book reviews. My reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.

“It’s not just because she reviewed my novelette, All Good Stories, and gave it 5 stars, I’m writing about her because she gives great (and helpful) reviews. In a market so full, it’s hard to choose what to read, isn’t it? We really need reviews these days that go beyond the minimalistic “I liked it” to know what we’re investing our money in. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. Neither do books anymore, for that matter.”

– Linda G. Hill, author, All Good Stories.

How to Apply for Review

1). Email the First 3 Chapters of Your Book. 

Starting January 2022, I will now require authors to submit the first three chapters of their manuscripts for review. Whether your book is chosen depends on how well you can hook me with your first few chapters. Be sure to send the link to your book on Amazon along with your chapters to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com.

2). Approval

I will email you back and let you know if I would like to move forward and review your book. Please allow at least 2-3 business days before you hear back from me for your approval status.

3). Pay the Readers Fee 

If I choose to review the book, there is a reader’s fee. Pay the fee through my site. The reader’s fee does not guarantee a positive review, nor is it payment for an Amazon review, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.

4). Gift Me a Copy of Your book.

If your book is published gift it to me through amazon or the platform of your choice. Do not attach a PDF or Word Document via email.

  • PDF documents are only acceptable if the book is not yet published and you are looking for an early review.

You may ship me a paperback / hard copy but let me know this in our email correspondence. 

Pro. This option will allow me to post a picture of the book on the gram! 

Con. This option is a longer turnaround time on the review since I have to wait for the book in the mail, read it, and then review it. This is a great option for more exposure on social media, but I do not recommend it if you are in a hurry for feedback.

I rate on the scale of 3-5 only on this blog. If your review falls below a 3-star rating, I will privately email you the report and my thoughts.

Please Click Here to Read My Review Policy in Full.

Ready to move forward? Email me and let’s get to it.

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author D.L. Heather

 

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Please help me extend a warm welcome to D.L. Heather.

Welcome to the PBS Blog!


What is your name and where are you from?

Hi, my name is Debra, and I was born in Canada, but I live in Detroit now.

Oh, cool. Detroit in the house. Are you employed outside of writing?

No, writing is my life. Before writing books, I was a contributor and columnist for various magazine outlets.

Awesome! What was your childhood dream?

To walk into a bookstore and see my books on the shelves. As a child, all I wanted was to write. I was never without a pen and a notebook. 

That’s so cool because I have a similar story. Always had me a notebook or journal.

book cover mockup design

Let’s talk about writing. Tell us about publishing your first book. What was that like?

My first book, Metamorphosis, was published in 2018. Indescribable – it’s not a word we writers like to admit to. Surely, there is an adjective or simile for every eventuality, and yet here I am using it to describe the feeling of holding my book for the first time. The writing process is a long journey of transformation, from a single idea to months of writing, innumerable coffees, countless revisions. And now it’s a physical thing I can hold in my hands. Like I said – indescribable.

I love how you described that process!

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Debra, what takes up too much of your time?

I find building my brand on social media platforms the biggest time-consumer. I’d rather be writing, haha.

For sure. What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie? 

My favorite TV show is Sons of Anarchy. Movie, hmm, that’s a tough one, I have many but I would say Training Day is up there at the top of the list.

What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing? 

The most difficult thing about being a writer is the fact that everyone in your life thinks whatever you’re writing is about them (sometimes they’re right but not always). That’s the truth–and as the artist, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Be prepared–before you’ve even finished the story, even, you can see it in their eyes that they are full of wonder. It’s about them, isn’t it. Yes! It is! It has to be! There’s no way it’s not! 

The most exciting thing about being a writer to me is it doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, poem, or a journal entry, writing helps let the demons out. We have to deal with complex emotions and a good way to understand them (in a healthy way) is to have a creative outlet—like, writing, music, or art. Writing is great because you can literally put down on paper how you feel. It’s cathartic at the time, and in my experience, later on when you read it. It’s a reminder of how you felt and what you thought at a point in time and how you dealt with it.

What genre do you write in, why?

Poetry and nonfiction. I’ve used my writing not just for my personal creative gain but in the hopes that maybe I could write something someday that would help people get through tough times. Maybe I could write something that would make a difference in another person’s life.

I knew you were a poet by how you answered that one question!

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In your own words, what is love?

To me, love is just a word and one I don’t use that freely. Because love is scary, it’s basically giving someone a map of all your flaws and imperfections and putting faith in them to not abuse that power. And that can be so beautiful, but it can also be brutal! Love can make you do the hardest thing a human could ever do, be vulnerable.

That is a very interesting way of putting it.

Why is writing important to you?

Writing keeps me whole. Writing keeps me sane. I’m not that great at expressing myself in person. Still, when I write, I feel like I can get all of my ideas down without interruption, without influence from someone’s body language, without fear of what someone will think of me if I stumble over my words while I’m forming a thought (which happens more than I would like to admit). Writing has always been my outlet. My writing is so closely linked to my personal experiences, regardless of what it is that I’m writing. It’s a way for me to process things and understand myself. It’s a way for me to escape the restrictions of my own life (such as grief, heartbreak, and childhood trauma). It allows me to feel free again. 

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Thank you, Debra, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!


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Copyright © D.L. Heather

 

D.L. Heather is the pen name for poet, writer, and former music journalist Debra Heather. She has a B.A. in English and is the author of the inspirational poetry collections Life Interrupted and Metamorphosis.

Writing came into her life in her teens through therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Her writing is motivated by her experiences with childhood trauma, love, loss, healing, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

She prefers to let her work speak for itself, a private person by nature, in the way poetry allows her to. She hopes to inspire others and reinforce the fact that you are not alone.

When she isn’t writing in her studio, she enjoys traveling, reading, movies and gardening. Her book, Petals of Healing, will be available in December 2021. 

Be Sure to Follow D.L. online!

Website: www.dlheatherbooks.net

Instagram: @author.dlheather

Twitter: @AuthorDLHeather

COMING DECEMBER 3, 2021

book cover mockup design


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE.

What Indie Authors Could Learn from the Instagram + Facebook Outage

Today, October 4, 2021 Facebook and Instagram went down in the US.

This is nothing new. Facebook and Instagram have had outages before. I have no doubt everyone will be back online soon.

That linked article said this happened this morning, but I was on Instagram and Facebook, and it was working fine, so the outage is relatively recent. (I noticed it afternoon-ish.)

The interesting thing about all of this is it wasn’t until I sent my fourth quarter email out to my list that I noticed these platforms were down. I got an alert from the news app on my phone just as soon as I pressed send.

“Oh. Okay.”

Short story: I wasn’t panicked.

This message is simple:

It would be best to have other ways of engaging with your readers outside of these two major platforms. Instagram and Facebook might be the most popular, but they are not the only social networking sites available, nor are they the only places authors should look to when engaging an audience.

If anything permanent happened to these social media sites, I’d like people to know they can still visit me online at yecheilyahysrayl.com, contact me using my contact form and sign up to my email list and blog for updates.

Many Indie Authors depend solely on Instagram and Facebook for sharing content. This isn’t even just for Authors. Many new entrepreneurs operate solely by way of Facebook pages and Cash App. 

Not good. 

If Instagram and Facebook were to be down indefinitely, people would lose contact with most of their audience.

How so?

Well, my language is poetry so to quote Najwa Zebian: “The biggest mistake that we make is that we build our homes in other people.”

Indie Authors and new entrepreneurs make a mistake when they build their businesses solely on temporary social media platforms with no means of staying in contact with people beyond that social media site.

Consider:

You have 8,000 Instagram followers, but someone hacks you or Instagram dies. You have 12,000 Facebook followers, but FB’s dead too. Now thousands of potentially eager clients no longer exist. Well, they exist, but they have no idea how to contact you because:

  • You don’t have a website they can visit to support you. 
  • You don’t have an email marketing strategy for them to keep up with you. 
  • You don’t have a blog to continue to share your content. You know, the content you usually share on the Instagram that no longer exists.

Heartbreaking stuff.

Other Ways of Connecting / Interacting with Your Readers Outside of Facebook and Instagram

Every Author Should Have a Website

Not to beat a dead horse here, but you should really have an author website. We’ve talked about this guys. Your website is your home. It is where people can go to learn more about you, buy your books/services, and contact you. This is your main hub, a summary of all things you, the author. Websites demonstrate professionalism, and every professional business has one. Serious Indie Authors should have one too.

Blog

Your blog (which should be easily accessible from your website) is where you provide content. Blogs perform better traffic-wise than static websites because they are updated regularly with new material. I think having a blog and static website is a great balance.

Email

Your email list (which should be easily accessible from your website) is a way of nurturing relationships with new readers who aren’t following your blog but bought your book and providing updates to loyal readers who want to engage with you more deeply. 

Collecting emails to a list is important for Indie Authors because POD services like Amazon’s KDP do not tell you who the people are who bought your book. You see the sale, but not the name or anything else about the customer. This means if I buy your book from Amazon, you won’t know unless I tell you. This makes it challenging to keep track of me as a new reader and build a stronger relationship with me.

This is also why you should be pushing book sales from your author website too because you have a better connection to the people buying your books. Oh, wait, you don’t have a website. See how that works?

Some readers will do you the favor of posting about your book on Facebook and Instagram. But, wait, there is no FB and IG in this scenario.

Other Social Sites

Believe it or not, other social media sites exist. Places like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube for video, and maybe even LinkedIn can be good alternatives to communicate with your audience if the others are gone.

The point is, there are other ways of being visible online outside of Facebook and Instagram.

I hope this outage helps us to rethink our social media strategy and develop ways of moving those loyal Insta-friends over to our own platforms.

Update: All those random emails ya’ll sent out the blue yesterday to people who probably forgot they signed up to your list is like rushing out to the grocery store to buy food during a shortage rather than just stocking up before the shortage happens.

Moral: Just having an email list is not enough if you don’t use it. It can hurt you more than help you.


Meet and Greet Book Signing 11/13

On 11/13, I am hosting my first book signing since Covid. My last signing was in 2019, so I am nervous and excited to be around people again.

Please be advised we are still fighting this virus, so there is very limited space and vaccinated or not, you must wear your mask. I am also not putting in a large order of books, so first come, first served. COME EARLY.

It’s Okay to Talk About Something Other Than Your Books

At its core, businesses are built on the foundation of relationships. This is especially true in the Self-Publishing world, where authors do not always have access to the exposure traditionally published authors receive.

When it comes to social media, it’s about being social and making connections with others, so it’s okay to talk about things outside of your books. It helps people get to know you on a deeper level and feel comfortable shopping with you.

Some basics to start with is sharing a little about you and maybe throwing in your thoughts on current events.

What are some things you like to do when you are not writing? What’s your favorite color? What are you passionate about in life? What do you think about the Covid-19 pandemic and the vax/non vax wars? What about what’s going on in Haiti? When is your birthday? What exciting things did you get into this weekend?

And so on…

I’m going to make this short because the message is pretty straightforward. No one wants to be inundated with “Buy My Book” messages all day, not on social media and not in their inboxes. I know it sounds kinda funny, but people only care about how what you are saying is relatable to their lives. You really do have to care about people, which sometimes means stepping outside your comfort zone and opening up a little about other things that may have nothing to do with your books. The great thing about this is you can still come back around and tie it into your brand.

About That Last Post

Hey Family, 

So, every now and again, I will accidentally publish a post from my phone. This is because the preview and publish buttons are right next to each other in the WordPress app. I always preview my posts at least a thousand times before posting. 

I removed the last post with the title “Why Are People So Hard on Self-Publishers,” because I published it by mistake. I would let it slide, but it’s not even halfway finished. 

I realize these posts are going to your emails, and it can be frustrating to get that error message. If you tried clicking on the link and you received an error message, I apologize for the inconvenience. Those links are broken because I have removed the posts. 

That author post will be ready soon, and I appreciate your patience.