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#Reviews: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

REVIEWS: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Your opinion counts—especially with Independent Authors AKA #IndieAuthors—those of us who choose to write and to publish our own work. I read every review I receive, and I take them seriously. What the reader says matters to me.
What is even more important for the reader to understand is that reviews and word-of-mouth can make or break an Indie book. We swim, or drown, in an ocean of books. creeping fog on ocean
Between 600,000 and 1 million new books are published every year. With limited advertising budgets and no large house to create “buzz” for us, we have to depend on rankings, especially rankings on Amazon, to have our books placed far enough toward the top of the queue that readers who are randomly searching–say ‘mystery’–will happen upon our books. Two ways to get good rankings on Amazon is to either sell a lot of books every day and/or amass at least twenty-five 4 and 5 star reviews.
Unfortunately, Indie authors also face the terrible monsters of the deep. Beneath the choppy waters of the ocean of books lurk Review Trolls. Here is a rare photo of a Review Troll, note the wide open mouth getting ready to gobble up a Indie Author: Sea Monster Yawning
Review trolls are people who purchase a book, keep it a day or two and then return the book without reading it. That person can now post an Amazon VERIFIED purchase review. The reviews that trolls publish are always meant to wreck an author’s ratings. Like black hat hackers, review trolls are about unnecessary destruction. Their ratings, however, will pull down the ranking of the book that they attack unless that book has enough 4 and 5 star ratings to successfully counterbalance the trolls’ attacks.
With the challenges involved in getting very busy people to write and post reviews and fending off troll attacks, Indie authors face advertisers who won’t even consider their book for their publications and email blasts unless the book has at least ten 4 and 5 star reviews on AMAZON! They don’t count Barnes and Noble or Smashwords reviews. Everyone knows that advertising is one way to get your book in front of a larger audience. Classic chicken and egg situation. Advertising could result in more reviews, but you can’t advertise with the really good advertisers without ten reviews.
You see, a reader’s opinion really does matter, especially to an Indie author. The next time you finish a book, please consider zipping over to Amazon and quickly posting an honest review.
For me, and for many Indie authors who put in incredibly long hours, we thank you!
AMAZON REVIEW EXCERPTS FROM READERS:
STREET HARVEST (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, SECOND BOOK. ALL BOOKS IN THIS SERIES CAN BE READ OUT OF SEQUENCE) Pat Rummenie says:
Everyone with a social conscience who also loves a good mystery should read this well written book.
OLD WOMAN GONE (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, THIRD BOOK) Amazon Customer says:
The mixture of police procedures and Native American spiritualism are needed to solve the crime and rescue the two women. The author knows the setting well and uses it to enhance the story.
BACKLASH! (SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM, FOURTH BOOK) Coppercreek says:
I love crime novels, and this really hit the spot.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONG MYSTERY/THRILLER) KtHack8 says:
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a story about life and finding the will to overcome adversity.
RUN OR DIE (STAND-ALONE MYSTERY/THRILLER) Denise Gayl says:
Thought provoking about the injustices of bigotry and racism, and the ray of sunshine that there are people “out there” willing to accept, love, and help others even though their lifestyles are unlike their own. Well done.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) pwindsinspirations says:
This story brought out emotions in me I had hidden away. I, too, was abused and afraid to tell anyone for fear of only making it worse for myself….. I liked how it took me from despair to triumph and the way the writer brought that about.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) Denise Gayl says:
A very good read. As a mother of 2 girls, the subject matter is a bit difficult at times. But, in the end, it shows that young women pitted against adversity through no fault of their own can come back strong and live good lives. Is thought provoking and makes me realize there is much that needs to be done in this society to help young people thrive.
THIS is why I write! Thank you, Readers! YOU are my inspiration!
katrina leavereview

SKETCH OF A MURDER, Special Crimes Team, is FREE. Run over and grab your copy! http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

To view my other titles go to: http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK

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LIMITED TIME: FREE EBOOK!

STREET HARVEST, BOOK 2, SPECIAL CRIMES TEAM WILL BE FREE ON AMAZON UNTIL DECEMBER 7TH! GRAB YOUR COPY NOW!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KVREDIC
Human traffickers abduct children to feed a 35 BILLION DOLLAR PER YEAR industry. Children are raped, sodomized, tortured, murdered.
IN the United States, a child goes missing every 40 SECONDS. STREET HARVEST is their story.
What do the bodies of two young children have in common with the murders of two adult men?
Eleanor Hasting, a black bookstore owner and child advocate, knows these killings are linked. She must convince Lieutenant Michael Williams, head of the Special Crimes Team.
Psychic Jaimie Wolfwalker, is prepared to do whatever it takes to locate and rescue the missing street children. The law be damned. Jaimie’s attitude and methods place her on a collision course with Sergeant Nita Slowater, second-in-command of the Special Crimes Team.
Four dedicated people struggle to come to terms with each other in their desperate search for clues. Every day brings more missing children, more young bodies. Can they stop the monsters before another child disappears?

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#READERS HOLD THE KEY

isisrunning(1)
In this brave new world of literature, all the old rules have been tossed aside. #Ebooks have been blamed for this phenomenon, but the ebook revolution is only guilty in that it allowed more books to reach the public. According to Bowker, a respected name in publishing industry, over 3500 books are published each DAY! Currently,there are literally millions of books available.Competition for reader attention is fierce.
So, authors are reinventing the novel. A novel used to be defined as a complete story –with a distinct beginning, middle and end–consisting of seventy thousand words, more or less. In today’s world, novels may have as few as fifty thousand words or they may have over a hundred thousand words; the reader might reach the end of the book only to discover that the last page is a cliff-hanger and the second book–which may not yet be available yet–must be purchased to continue the story without any guarantees that book two will provide a satisfying climax and ending. This type of book is usually not labeled as a ‘cliff-hanger’.
Personally, this is when I am sorely tempted to fling the book at the wall then stomp it for good measure! (Unfortunately, I read a lot of e-books and reading devices do not like being bounced off of walls!)
Serial novels are another device designed to hook a reader. These books have an ending, but the main storyline has not ended–much like a television serial. These books are sometimes labeled as a ‘series’, or less often they are labeled as a ‘serial’.
Book series–not to be confused with books that actually belong to a serial story–are frequently written. With some series–like Kay Hooper’s earlier books in the Bishop series–the individual books can be read as stand-alone novels and/or read out of sequence without compromising enjoyment of the individual or of the series.
As a reader, I enjoy the flexibility this offers. This is reflected in the fact that as a writer my Special Crimes Team series (found at http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar) follows this model–the books can be read out of sequence.
Length and endings are not the only things rapidly changing. Gone are the days when romance novels stop the action at the bedroom doorway and mystery novels hint at the blood and gore, yet leave the details to the reader’s imagination. Scenes containing sex and violence have become increasingly graphic and prolific.
At a romance writer’s conference that I attended this summer, one publisher stated that readers not only wanted more graphic sex scenes, but that they were bored with plain vanilla sex. At one time, writers would have regarded such a statement as bordering on the demand for pornography. Today it is more along the lines of ‘business as usual’.
I read one of a well-known writer’s recent works in which I finally defaulted to skimming pages of the novel because various graphic sex scenes were endlessly repeated with a variety of partners. I never did find an actual storyline, unless the sex was it.
Then there are the novels that grossed a huge profit in very recent times, but have been called by some people in the BDSM community a bad example of true BDSM, but a good example of the glorification of domestic violence. (Actually, the Fifty Shades of Gray series follows the warning signs for the entire cycle of domestic violence. In my other life as a counselor, I referred young women like that to psychologists or therapists who specialized in treating victims of domestic violence.)
As a reader, I find graphic sex and violence that is not intimately tied to furthering the storyline boring, at best. On the other hand, as an author I write novels in which graphic sex and violence occur; however, I work diligently to be sure that those scenes are necessary for the development and movement of the storyline. As a reader, I enjoy novels that adhere to this general rule.
Another striking difference in novels of bygone years and novels of today is the level of profanity. In the past a writer who used “crap!” was considered racy. Nowadays, books contain a large variety of words considered to be profanity.
Again, as a reader, I look for novels where the word types used are congruent with the characters speaking. A rough and tumble detective in a hardcore mystery or crime novel might very well curse while an amateur detective in a cozy mystery might be skating the line by murmuring, “Oh, poo!”
Even in the face of changes that they do not like, readers frequently feel that they have little to no influence on what is written and published. In reality, readers are the key element in a novel’s success.
The reader’s input is mainly measured in four ways: 1. Sales numbers 2. Reader reviews 3. Personal feedback from beta readers and from the general public 4. Word of mouth recommendations.
Of those four methods that measure the reading public’s reactions to a novel, reader reviews and word of mouth recommendations are the most important ones. People browsing to find another book to read will often look for “social proof” that the book is worth their time. Reader reviews and word of mouth recommendations are that “social proof”. Unlike word of mouth recommendations, reader reviews can be directly linked to sales increases. An increase in positive reader reviews will increase the sales of a book.
Because readers,like everyone else in our busy society, have a large number of demands on their time, reviews are sometimes difficult to obtain. As a reader, I will often end my day by sitting down to read for a while before I go to bed. As a voracious reader, it is not unusual for me to read anywhere from five to ten books per week.
Each review requires approximately five minutes to write and post on Amazon or Goodreads–the sites most widely used to find new books. Five minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time to invest in such a worthy cause, but when time to relax is at a premium it can feel like ‘one more chore’.
In order to combat this feeling, while supporting authors whose work I enjoy, I keep a pad of paper and a pen handy. While I read I jot down notes on the points I liked best about the book. Authors love long, detailed reviews, but a two-sentence review that summarizes what a reader enjoyed most–one reader’s review focused on her enjoyment of the character Grandma Greene in the novel Old Woman Gone(http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Gone-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00OICBEV0). In Backlash (http://www.amazon.com/Backlash-Special-Crimes-Team-Book-ebook/dp/B00W7UJAWA), a woman identified with the struggles faced by several supporting characters–is deeply appreciated (especially if the star rating is four or five! As an author, those reviews make the long hours of writing, editing and rewriting worth every minute spent).
There you have it–with a few minutes of your time you, the reader, decide whether a novel succeeds or fails. In so doing, you ultimately choose everything from the length of future novels to the amount of profanity used to how graphic the scenes containing sex and violence will be written. You are the future of literature.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Do you enjoy:
1. Short novels of less than 200 pages?
2. Do you feel short-changed by a novel that does not contain over two hundred pages?
3. Do you like cliff-hanger endings?
4. Do you buy serial novels, with serials defined much the way television serials–such as Special Victims Unit–are defined?
5. Would you rather have a series of novels connected by the characters, but still able to be read out of sequence as a stand-alone novel?
6. Are you comfortable with graphic sex scenes used in romantic situations during which sex would be a natural progression?
8. Do you feel violence should be depicted graphically in the more hardcore crime and mystery novels, if it is a natural occurrence within the storyline?
9. Are you comfortable with the use of profanity by characters depicted as people who would likely use such language?
10. What would you like to see different in the development of novels?

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4 IMPORTANT LESSONS

Three days ago, last Saturday, I participated in Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue’s Holiday Bazaar. I planned to dash off a quick blog post about the experience as soon as I could access my computer at home. After some thought, I decided I wanted to take time to think about the bazaar and to write something real about the experience. Today I sat down at my computer and wrote.

As a local author, I had rented vendor space and a table from Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue for their Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, October 25th. Since my wife, Deva, and I didn’t want to make the long trip from Darrington, Washington to Tenino, Washington on the day of the bazaar, we stayed overnight at the Motel 6 in Tumwater that allowed pets. Nothing fancy, but the young lady at the front desk was friendly and the room clean.

Our older German Shepherd dog, Katrina, has been afflicted with Sundowner’s–a symptom of dementia–for some months now which is why she couldn’t be boarded like our other three GSDs. The change in routine and being so near the freeway, kept her awake and anxious most of the night; Deva graciously took care of the dog while I slept. Pixie and Mindy slept well, except when Katrina’s panting woke them.

Saturday dawned with scattered clouds. After feeding the dogs, Deva and I loaded Mindy, Pixie and Katrina into the backseat of the truck and headed to Tenino for the CCR Holiday Bazaar. On the way, we looked for a restaurant for breakfast. Nothing turned up until we hit Tenino and found Scotty’s ‘50’s style diner. Holiday bazaar 007 The coffee was hot and plentiful, the water glasses stayed full and the food tasted great. Replete we made the last couple of miles to Cross Creek.

Weeks earlier, we had been involved in an alpaca rescue operation initiated by my 76-year-old sister, Lois. loisDeva had found CCR and Shari Bond and Jackie Glover had trailered to the rescue of 48 alpacas whose 84-year-old owner had died. Now, as we drove in we spied one of the alpacas, Leonardo, in the front paddock. The older male had been so starved down and loaded with parasites by the time Lois became involved in their care, that there had been talk of having to put him down. Shari and Jackie had worked a miracle. The poor old guy was walking without stiffness or pain; had put on a few pounds and seemed quite content. The four elderly female alpacas, Lady Jane among them, had settled into their forever home with CCR. They looked so content standing in the field with the other “girls”.

We parked and unloaded books and flyers. I set up my table–situated between Detricks’ Farm and Chicken Coop display of delicious and unique jams, jellies and pickles, Holiday bazaar 012and a table of beautiful handmade jewelry–while Deva made sure our dogs were comfortable.

A little later on, four spinners arrived, set up and began a spinning demonstration turning alpaca fiber into yarn. Holiday bazaar 015The wonderful smell of citrus and apples and cinnamon drifted through the building from the cider set to warming on the back table.

Throughout the day, people wandered in and meandered from table to table. I met and chatted with many readers. We talked about different authors, the different styles of writing and books we loved.

Dorothy Royce, a 90-year-old from California, visited with me for quite a while. What an interesting woman! When I learned she’d had a recent birthday, I autographed and gave her a copy of Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, of my Special Crimes Team series. Since she’d never had a Kindle, I fired mine up and showed her how to make the text bigger and some of the other features. The device was so lightweight that she had no problem holding it–she sometimes had trouble holding larger books while she read–and the built-in stand of my Kindle cover delighted her.

All day long, folks came by and talked for a while, tossed their name and addresses in the Giveaway jar for a chance to win my latest mystery, Run or Die, and purchased books.     Holiday bazaar 023  (Tracy Redmon and Aya)

Holiday bazaar 009  (Christine Rose and Aya)

About halfway through the day, Deva brought out our Papillons, Mindy and Pixie, who immediately became people-magnets, charming everyone who glanced their way.

It was nearly closing time for the bazaar when Diane Vasarkovy stopped to chat. We talked murder mysteries for a while then we segued into talking about her own writing project: the story of Wolf Haven International. Here is part of the introduction to the work-in-progress:  “We think it’s important to show how ordinary people, with a passion, even without knowledge or resources, can make a tremendous difference in the world.  Magic can happen to people who follow their inner knowing…..Canis Lupus (the wolf) and other wild canines are in crisis in North American wild lands. In competition for habitat with human encroachment, they are unfortunately still seen as vermin by resource hungry people who can’t see the larger picture of our total eco-system. We now have proof that wolves change eco-systems for the better….”

Diane left with the first two books of the Special Crimes Team series, and I was left with a deep respect for her project.

At the end of the day, we packed up the remaining books and flyers and put the dogs back in the truck. A light rain fell as we left CCR. For the next few days, I thought about what I had learned during the bazaar.

  1. I learned that readers are delighted to share ideas about the books they read and love; and it gave me new perspectives on books that I’d read.

  2. I learned that connecting with readers recharged my “creative batteries” and renewed my determination to write the very best books possible; to honor the unwritten contract between reader and author: to write an entertaining story.

  3. I learned how very interesting these readers are; how many are involved in important projects such as alpaca rescue and writing the history of Wolf Haven, International.

  4. I learned, once again, how honored I am that readers invite me into their homes, into their lives. When readers open my novels and enter the fictional worlds that I create, they give me the most precious thing they have: their time.

I have designated November as my Attitude of Gratitude Month to My Readers. Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team, EBOOK is FREE on AMAZON from NOVEMBER 1 through NOVEMBER 5.

Grab your free ebook copy of Sketch of a Murder. Go to: http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

Or use the Short link: amzn.to/1tBgqhx

Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014

For my listeners, the first ten fans who agree to write reviews on Amazon and Audible will receive a FREE download of the audiobook Sketch of a Murder DURING the month of NOVEMBER. Get your coupon code now! Email Aya at ayawalksfar@gmail.com In the subject line write “Will review audiobook for free download”

ALL of my books are available as print books. http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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FIVE THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS AN AUTHOR

As an author, I have learned many things. Here are five of them:

  1. The Reader is the most important person in a book’s life.woman reading

  2. Next to readers, the most important people in the creation of a novel are Beta Readers. chefThey cut out all the parts that need to be trimmed.

  3. Characters backtalk and talk back.

ExecutionerAnd sometimes, get a little rowdy if they think I’m not listening!

  1. There is a good use for sleepless nights!

  2. I now have an excuse for excessive reading.

 

Photos are courtesy of these fine photographers: Woman Reading a Book: David Castillo Dominici; Executioner Superhero with Axe: Vectorolie ; Smiling Chef Holding a Knife: imagerymajestic

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NEW BOOK RATING SYSTEM–BETTER THAN 5 STARS

AYA’S BOOK RATING SYSTEM (1 to 10 Stars with 1 Star the highest rating–so busy reading can’t take time to hit more than one star!)

  1. ( no response to a four-alarm fire in the trash can next to reader)
  2. (distracted, barely mumbles) Hmm? Did you say something? Okay, whatever, now go away
  3. (picks up head, blankly stares at interruptor then resumes reading with a wave) Go away. You’re disturbing my reading
  4. (picks up head, momentary alertness in eyes that says reader is in the present) Did you say Godiva chocolate and a venti mocha? I’ll take some. (promptly returns to book)
  5. (shuts book with a bookmark to hold place and sets it next to favorite chair before going into the kitchen to fix cup of coffee and retrieve chocolate. Returns and resumes reading)
  6. (shuts book, tosses it on the couch, goes out to have supper at Italian Restaurant. Resumes reading late that night)
  7. (tosses book on end table, resumes reading a couple of days later)
  8. (Looks at book, leafs through it) Yeah, I’ll read this when I run out of other books.
  9. (picks up book and opens it to read. Sighs) Guess it beats reading the back of a cereal box
  10. Pass me the cereal box
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THE TEN THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY #READERS

Had a wonderful gathering with some pretty interesting folks on Saturday. It was originally to be a writing seminar and book signing, but it turned out to be so much more! We all settled in at Reader’s Choice Bookstore and had a nice long chat. The one hour time limit stretched to one and a half hours before I even thought to look at a watch!

What I learned from these wonderful readers:

–short chapters are better than long chapters. It means if a reader is in a hurry they can still get a “book fix”; and sometimes, after reading a short chapter they are enticed to go ahead and read another chapter.

–hooks have to happen, hopefully, within the first few pages, and surely no further into the book than page 30.

–readers DO look at how well a book is put together: editing, spelling, timeline, dialogue, character consistency and so forth. They also get quite perturbed if somehow during printing or formatting a section of the book gets LEFT OUT! What makes them even madder is if no one responds to their complaint.

–one of the reasons they read a series is to watch the characters grow and develop. However, they appreciate it when the book can be read out of order, as a standalone story.

–a series that uses the same theme over and over can become boring to the reader. Make sure each book of the series is exciting and feels like a ‘brand new story’ and not just a rerun of a previous story.

HERE ARE SOME MORE GREAT THINGS I LEARNED:

–readers are fun to chat with!

–they appreciate it when an #author will talk, not just sign the book and go away.

–they have a lot of insights for an author who listens.

–they enjoy connecting with the authors they read

–they value author book recommendations

–OH, AND DID I TELL YOU THEY ARE FUN TO CHAT WITH?

Had a great time! Thanks to all of you who came to the Reader’s Choice Bookstore for our event and book signing.

Would love to hear what you want in the books you read! Leave a comment.

Visit Aya’s Amazon author page to learn more about her books:  http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

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