This review for The Painted Darknessmight be my favorite one star review I’ve ever received, and I seriously mean that:
How great is that? These are all lines I’d love to see in any review for my darker stuff:
* It was weird & VERY creepy…
* …bordered on the Stephen King – type insanity.
* …might very well cause nightmares!
Clearly, this is a case of the book being completely wrong for the reader’s tastes, which happens and isn’t something you worry about, but the reason I love this review is because there will definitely be readers who click on the one star reviews for The Painted Darkness, read this one, and think: “Wow, that sounds just like something I’d love to read!”
In case this book does sound like something you’d love to read, here are some links to consider:
A collector on the Cemetery Dance forum asked: “Do reviews impact/affect you differently between your CD gig and your author gig? Or do you just shrug these off for both?”
I basically have two rules when it comes to reading reviews of my own work:
1) If the review is good, don’t pat yourself on the back; the reviewer was probably just feeling generous.
2) If the review is bad, for the love of God, DO NOT RESPOND unless your response is NOT going to make things worse.
Guess what? When it comes to rule #2, if you’re a writer and you feel the need to “defend” your work, you’re probably just going to make things worse.
But when it comes to reviews and comments about my work or what we do at Cemetery Dance, I try to evaluate what has been said for validity and valuable/useful information because you can always, always get better.
When someone critiques the books we publish at Cemetery Dance, I ask myself:
Is there something we overlooked or could do differently/better on future projects?
Is this note from someone who always complains about everything we do, to the point it seems to be the person’s hobby? (We have a few of those.)
Is this note simply from someone who doesn’t know how the small press works? For example, this was a real email I woke up to the other day: “Why didn’t you have Stephen King sign 10,000 copies!?! then everyone could have one!?!”
For my writing, again, I look at the source and I try to learn anything I can that will make the next story better if there is something to be learned.
If the person says, “There should have been more vampires!” in a story that wasn’t about vampires, you just kind of ignore that.
If the person says, “the middle was a little slow” or “the ending happened too fast” or “I didn’t understand character X’s motivations” — those are notes you can mentally file away for consideration. The reader may not be right, it could just be their personal tastes at play, but if more readers say the same thing, you can keep those points in mind for future projects. (Or even a future revision of the same work, which I’ve heard is all the rage.)
For bad customer reviews on Amazon, I consider whether the review is well-written (“this suxs!” vs a thoughtful dissection of what didn’t work) and I look at what else the person has reviewed. My genre? Different genres? Are they all bad reviews? What does the reader actually like?
Maybe my book just wasn’t a good fit for their reading tastes or maybe I dropped the ball in some fundamental way. You can learn a lot from a well-written one star review. In fact, that’s where I go first when evaluating other books.
You’re never going to please every reader. Books aren’t supposed to please every reader. Everyone has different tastes. Sometimes it’s just a swing and a miss, you know?
So how about you? Do you read your reviews? How do you approach them?
I keep hearing from people who ask why Cemetery Dance Publications even bothers publishing anthologies and collections (or even the magazine!) these days. After all, isn’t the short story dead?
Well, if it is, I guess I didn’t get that memo.
Yes, obviously the heyday of short stories in print has passed. None of us are selling short stories to the Evening News or Saturday Evening Post or even the paperback original anthologies that crowded the bookstores in the ’80s and early ’90s — and those markets aren’t coming back.
But I don’t think the lack of markets means the short story is dead. As long as authors want to write short stories and there are readers who still want to read them, the form will live on. In my experience, there’s definitely still readers who want to read short fiction. Not as many as there once was, but I think there could be more on the way — if only we help younger readers discover the thrill of the short story again.
After all, at least when I was a kid, most of the books I read in middle school and younger were essentially long short stories. You read those little paperbacks until you graduated onto “adult” books.
These days, it seems like all of the emphasis is on writing your big series of novels for younger readers — three books is okay, seven books is great. I keep hearing from authors that their younger readers don’t even KNOW what a short story is, and these readers find it confusing when they stumble across a piece of short fiction.
This confuses me. Have they completely dropped English classes from the curriculum? I know it was fourteen years ago that I last stepped foot into a high school classroom, and in the age of the Internet that’s approximately 1 billion years ago, but I remember having an entire book full of short stories as part of my English class each year.
But even if young readers aren’t being properly introduced to the short story, maybe we can still win them over. Time is in short supply for everyone these days and short stories can be a convenient break from reality for a busy person. You can finish off a short story in less than an hour in most cases. Sometimes ten minutes is all you need. Sometimes a story will take you five minutes to read and yet you’ll still be thinking about it days or months later if the author did his or her job right.
That means you can read a short story on the bus to work. You can read a short story over your lunch break, if you’re not too busy playing Angry Birds. You could even read a short story between classes while walking across your college campus, if you were so inclined.
If the people around you don’t think books are cool, you have nothing to worry about thanks to the rise of eBooks. You can be staring at your cell phone and everyone will think you’re just stumped by the letters you have on Words With Friends. No one has to know you’re actually reading a story. (Although, seriously, if the people you hang out with aren’t into reading, maybe it’s time to expand your horizons a bit and find some additional friends. Try your local library or bookstore while they’re still around.)
I hope short stories will find a way to flourish in the world of eBooks. Some of my short stories are already on Amazon.com right now from a marketing experiment I tried a few years back and I’m pleasantly surprised to see a few of them selling several hundred copies a year with absolutely no promotion at all. That tells me there are still readers for short fiction out there.
What are your thoughts on the short story? Is it a dying form? Or will eBooks bring them back to life?
I don’t know if Christina Peaden thought of herself as a “writer” one month ago, but she certainly took advantage of a huge opportunity to make a name for herself with her first published project: Triumph over Calamity.
When Christina finally got home, she decided to self-publish her journal as an eBook on Amazon to give one person’s account of what happened. The Houston Chronicle claims “at least 850 people have already purchased it,” although they don’t state where that number comes from. I would assume from the author since Amazon.com doesn’t really release sales information.
So, assuming Christina picked the 70% royalty rate (and why wouldn’t she have?) and assuming those sales numbers are true, she’s made $1,768 in sales in the first seven days. Not bad for a 80 page journal she had been writing anyway.
I have no idea how well the book is written and edited. I’m also not sure why she used the clunky and hard-to-remember pen name C.A. Peaden. She’s giving her real name to the media and it’s a perfectly good name for an author. Maybe she feels her publishing name needs to be gender neutral, but that’s more of a “genre problem” so that doesn’t really explain it.
Christina’s marketing angle for her book is that faith in God will help you triumph over any circumstances. Whether or not you believe what she believes, I’m sure you can recognize there is a HUGE market for books promoting that view. There are also ample opportunities for speaking tours, etc. What I’m saying is, she has a chance here to launch a serious career if she makes the right moves.
I have no idea who Christina Peaden is. I don’t know if she’s charismatic or if she speaks well on camera, but I do know she saw she could be the “first to market” with a first-hand account of what happened during a major news event that recently consumed the American public’s attention. If she has the right internal make-up and she plays her cards right, she should be able to use this as the launch to something bigger.
By “internal make-up,” I mean, does she have a natural instinct for self-promotion and marketing and a natural drive to build on this opportunity, or did she essentially just get lucky by thinking, “Hey, I should publish my journal for other people to read!”
Author Joe Konrath, for example, has a natural drive to self-promote that is part of every decision he makes for his career. Most authors don’t know how to market their work the way Joe does on a very instinctual level. He’s always thinking of new ways to promote himself. Selling his work just comes naturally to him.
The difference between Christina Peaden being a one day story and Christina Peaden being a well-known inspirational writer for years to come might hinge on her ability to “make something” of this first publication while there’s still time. Strike while the iron is hot.
Ultimately, what Christina probably needs right now is a high level publicist who can prep her properly and make some media events happen fast while there’s still interest in this story. (And for all I know, maybe she already has a publicity team hard at work on her behalf.)
So what do you think? Will the publishing world be talking about Christina Peaden a year from now? Or will she fail to capitalize on this huge opportunity?
(P.S. If you have the time, go and read all of the customer reviews of her eBook on Amazon. It seems her view of the cruise isn’t universal and some of the other passengers are writing their own rebuttals via their reviews/comments, which are just as interesting to read in many cases. For extra credit, check out how many of the reviews are written by people who have never reviewed anything else on Amazon. It’s almost as if there’s a PR battle being waged in the review section for this book.)
Wow… That’s all I can say in response to the free eBook of Seven Stories.
As of this morning, the eBook is the #1 bestselling free eBook short story collection on Amazon in the US, UK, Germany, and France, plus #2 in Spain and and Italy thanks to your support! (Plus it’s in the Top 5 and Top 10 in several other categories in the stores.)
There have been thousands and thousands of downloads, tons of emails and Tweets and messages on Facebook.
The strong interest in this eBook only happened thanks to everyone who has been posting links and promoting the free download, and I truly appreciate the support you have shown this project.
There are a few more days left in the free promotional window, so please keep telling anyone who might be interested if you can. It would be awesome to keep up this level of excitement for the book!
If you’ve already downloaded Seven Stories, I hope you have a chance to read the stories and I hope you like them. These stories are going into my new collections later this year, so you could consider this a free preview of those books to see if you like my style.
And if you do like the Seven Stories eBook, I would really appreciate any positive customer reviews you might have time to post on Amazon so other readers will see your feedback in the future.
Here are the links again if you want to grab your copy before time runs out:
If you have a Kindle, or the Kindle App, or even if you just want to try out the Kindle Cloud for the first time, now is a great time to grab a copy of the collection before it goes back up to the regular retail price on Friday.
(Also: because these stories are going to appear in new collections down the road, the eBook will probably disappear from Amazon later this year, but those who download the eBook now will have it for as long as you want, of course!)
So please go ahead and download the eBook for free this week if you’re at all interested in my short fiction. What do you have to lose, after all? I hope you enjoy the stories.
Also, if you can, please help me spread the word about this FREE giveaway by posting the news and that link on your websites, blogs, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Any help in promoting this would be greatly appreciated since I don’t have a lot of time to let readers know.
UPDATE: Seven Stories in now the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s “Free Anthologies” categories in the US, the UK, and Germany thanks to everyone who downloaded today!