Tag Archives: book review

One Bad Review Don’t Spoil the Whole Bunch

Any independent author will tell you how important reviews are.

Word of mouth is great – we love it when you tell your friends and family that you enjoyed our books, but an on-line review is forever.

One written review is worth a hundred verbal recommendations, because many people will forget the part of the conversation you had at the party about the last book you read – but once you put that praise in writing on a site like Amazon it’ll be there long after the party is forgotten.

So it’s no surprise that independent authors often (shamelessly) beg people for reviews.

I, personally, have written a few blog posts asking people to write reviews, (here’s one) even offering to name reviewers in my books…often to no avail.

Of course, there is a downside to getting reviews…

The Bad Review  

Whether you’ve written one poem or 20 novels…there will be somebody out there who finds fault with it.

The first critical assessment of your work is tough to swallow, but before long you learn to roll with it. If you don’t learn to, you’ll waste a lot of time stressing about it. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with it often, but, you will have to deal with it at some point, as sure as the world is round (it is round, you know).

As much as I want everybody to enjoy my work, I’m realistic enough to understand that it just ain’t gonna happen. So, whenever one of my books gets panned by a self-anointed expert, I take it in stride. If the reviewer was kind enough to give specific reasons for not liking the book (poor character development, lack of structure, etc.) I make it a point to work on those areas in my next book. If it’s simply a general bashing (This guy sucks and I hated this book) I laugh and walk away…

…most of the time.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to respond to negative criticism of your work. It usually has no result other than increasing your stress level and giving the critic the satisfaction of knowing they got to you.

But sometimes I just can’t resist.

Allow me to share an example…

My novel Backseat to Justice recently got its first ‘one-star review’. Prior to that it had 14 five-star reviews, 11 four-star, and 3 three-star (see for yourself here).

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

So, given the fact that only 1 out of 29 reviews was a total bashing, I thought a response was in order.

The reviewer, code named Dog Mom, had essentially only one complaint. She downloaded a free copy of the book on her kindle, and for some reason—known only to the internet gods—the book’s formatting was completely missing from the download. It came through on her device as, in her words, “one long paragraph.” She suggested I take a writing class to learn the proper way to write a story.

Now, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t benefit from a writing class…but I do have to ask myself one question;

Of all the other 28 reviews, why had nobody else had this problem?

I have the book on my kindle – I immediately checked the formatting…no problems at all.

So, I am forced to conclude that her download must have gotten tangled in the interweb, thus resulting in the poor layout.

Regardless, I still felt she deserved a reply for taking the time to point out my blatant inadequacies.

 

After reading her comments, I decided to check out her other reviews. Lo and behold, about 4 out of every 5 reviews she has written have been one-star tear-downs. This made me chuckle…she’s a serial trasher! (check it out…it’s kind of funny)

I decided to have some fun with Dog Mom so I responded thusly;

I wonder if it’s possible that there was an issue with your download since you are the only person who has ever mentioned this problem. That being said – I will begin looking into some writing classes. Can you recommend the one you took before you wrote all of your novels?

Sometimes I can be a real jerk!

 

As always  thank you for reading (and reviewing!)

 

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Advance Praise for 24 Minutes

My first novel, Living the Dream, was released in August, 2009 – since then I have released at least one novel each year along with a couple of novellas, a collection of short stories and a co-written collection of motorcycle memoirs, bringing my total number of releases to fourteen in eight-and-a-half years.

Some people find that impressive, I just look at it as doing what I do.

Regardless…the streak has been broken.

I didn’t release a book in 2017 – even though I fully intended to. And naturally the reason for my apparent slacking comes with a story. I’m not making excuses, mind you…I’m just keeping you in the loop.

After Blood in the Water was released in late 2016 I was ready to begin work on my next novel. It was going to be another story set in Flagler Beach, involving Ike and some poor, innocent guy or girl being victimized by a less-than-scrupulous ne’er-do-well.

I had barely begun writing it when, as part of my day job (do you believe I still have to work?) I had to take a class called “Active Shooter Training.”  It was four hours of training on what to do, and what not to do, in the event a gunman should come into the building with a grudge.

It’s a very sad commentary on our society that this class was necessary, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

So there I am…sitting in the class learning the best ways to increase my chances of surviving an unimaginable event when the instructor said something that caught the attention of the writer in me.

He said that the average duration of a mass shooting situation was about fifteen minutes – with many lasting seven minutes or less.

The first thought through my mind was Wow! Those have got to be the longest fifteen minutes imaginable.

Sometime before the class ended I decided that this would be the subject of my next book, and that it would take place entirely within that fifteen minute time span.

Shortly after I began writing I realized that it would be nearly impossible to fill an entire novel with fifteen minutes worth of story…so I increased the time span to twenty-four minutes. I also thought “24 Minutes” had a catchy ring to it as the title of the story.

Work began in December of 2016, but progress was very slow – partly due to the holidays and partly due to my own lack of confidence in the story. I was concerned that the whole idea was ill-conceived…that the subject matter was inappropriate, and that it was taking the art-imitates-life concept a bit too far.

Nevertheless I continued writing.

Then in April I had a major setback…I was involved in a motorcycle accident (read the two part story on that here and here if you’d like) and I was unable to write for two full months.

Once I was fully mended I got back to work on the story, but it took me a while to get back in the groove. Then, just when I was getting up to speed again my girlfriend and I bought a house – which, thanks to some needed cosmetic renovations, consumed every free minute of my time for a couple more months.

Finally, somewhere in the beginning of August I had a finished first draft.

From there it went to my beta readers and, after some revisions, was sent to my editor in the beginning of December.

I have gotten the first round of editor’s comments back and have been going through the story again. The way things are going I am very confident that release should be in the middle of February.

In the meantime I shared some advance copies to a few trusted colleagues for review.

It is with great pride – and lots of relief – that I share some of their comments. They have dispelled my concerns about releasing it.

Here are portions (without spoilers!) of what they had to say

Author Susan M. Toy had this to Say:

In a departure from his popular “Ike” novels, Tim Baker has proven himself to be a multi-faceted and talented writer by handily taking on the very important, serious, and timely topic of what happens when someone who believes himself to have been wronged takes his revenge. I found 24 Minutes to be riveting reading that I could not put down. Baker’s characters are individuals, each of them very human, and just like those people we know as neighbors, co-workers, friends, family—which makes this tragic story all too believable, and heart-wrenchingly personal. Excellent writing, an engaging story, and an all-too-real situation – a story that needed to be told, from an author who I know is getting better with every novel he writes!

Author Rebecca Heishman wrote:

The ‘Ike books’ are wonderful entertaining, fun, and great reads. This book has the potential of becoming important to people because of the honesty, the vulnerability, and by Tim’s putting it all out there for readers to see. It was a little bit breathtaking for me. It’s a chunk of blatant reality playing out. It’s powerful. The reader can feel the passion that went into writing it.

From Author Susan Nicholls:

The tension throughout the book was incredible.

The multi-layered stories of each character drew me in and made me care, yet I sensed a tragedy unfolding. All of the characters were interesting in their own right, and I became emotionally bound to them whether I liked them or not. The writing was superb.

Throughout the book, (Tim’s) characteristic subtle, yet wicked, humor colored the pages. I was really glad to see that. It made for a great read. It’s the sort of thing that draws me in and keeps me reading because it gives me a light breathing moment to break the tension.

Author/book reviewer Kaye Lynne Booth:

Tim Baker addresses social issues which are prominent in our society today, offering an inside view illustrating the many sides of human nature which reveal themselves under pressure. A fast paced slowed to a readable tempo for maximum enjoyment. (Kaye’s entire review can be read here)

Author/book reviewer Carolann Padgett:  

How much could 24 Minutes mean in the course of our lives? Could events take place that change the trajectories of those who hold us dear? In the amount of time it takes to watch a network sitcom lives are lost, found, and forever changed. 

Through masterful characterization techniques, readers are introduced to highly unlikeable individuals including the bigot, the miser, the convict, and the shrew. Kind, thoughtful, and polite characters are presented, as well. 

As the tale unfolds the theme “perception is not necessarily reality” is repeatedly visited. Are the characters solely good or evil? In the midst of crisis do true natures rise to the top? In life or death gambles is survival of the fittest the status quo? Or are sacrifices made for the good of others? 

 

Now it’s time to get back to doing what I do…

I’ll be sending the book back to the editor this weekend for round two. I am hopeful that work should be complete in the next week or two so it can be released before the end of February – and who knows…maybe I’ll get another book out this year to make up for missing a year!

As always – thank you for reading

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Can I Put Your Name In My Books?

I want to put your name in my books.

I know what you’re thinking…

suspicious dog

“what’s the catch?”

Well, of course there’s a catch…but it’s not like you have to donate a kidney or something.

In fact, if you’ve read my books, you’re already halfway there.

Lemmee ‘splain…

One of the biggest challenges facing authors these days is getting readers to post reviews on Amazon.

My personal opinion is that the vast majority of readers don’t realize how important reviews are, or they feel that they aren’t qualified to write one.

Let me tell you…reviews are extremely important.

I don’t know the specifics of Amazon’s algorithms, but I do know that there is a direct correlation between the number of reviews on a book and the way Amazon promotes said book. In other words, the more reviews a book has the more likely Amazon will be to recommend that book to other shoppers.

As for being qualified to write a review – if you have read the book and can sum up your thoughts about it in two or three sentences – you are qualified (read more on that here). Writing a review can be as simple as this…

review

…or even simpler if you prefer to make a long story short.

Independent authors everywhere spend quite a bit of time asking (pleading, begging) readers to post reviews…often to no avail.

For the record…there are plenty of places we could get reviews of our books for a fee…I for one refuse to pay for a review. Potential readers are skeptical of paid reviews, for good reason…most paid reviewers are disinclined to be completely honest. It’s like an unwritten rule – if they are being paid for a review they feel obligated to be as favorable as possible.

With all that being said I think I have a win-win proposal – the Ike Fan Club (IFC for short).

Henceforth – in the back of every book I write I will include a list of the members of the IFC with my sincere thanks for their support. I will also (eventually) have the list added to the books already in print.

How does one become a member of the IFC?

That’s where the win-win part comes in…

The only membership requirement is to write and post reviews of at least five of my books on Amazon.

Easy-peazy.

Once you post five reviews – or if you’ve already posted five – just send me an email (blindoggbooks@gmail.com) and tell me which books you reviewed – remember to include the user name under which the review is posted.

If you’ve posed reviews but don’t want to be on the list – that’s fine too. I will only include the people who email me.

But WAIT! There’s more…

theres more

In every novel I am always looking for names for characters…so I will be selecting some random names from the IFC for my characters too!

If the need arises I may even create a Top Tier Level of the IFC for those who review ten books – and I’ll come up with a cool perk for those folks too.

That’s my proposal…

like me

If you’d like to have your name listed in my books and be immortalized in print…all you have to do is review five books on Amazon.

Win-Win.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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When Is A Book Like A Building?

In the writing world there is an ongoing debate over HOW a book should be written. It separates writers into two distinct camps…

Planners – those who outline their entire book, down to the smallest detail, before they start writing

Pantsers – those who pretty much make it up as they go along (as in “flying by the seat of their pants”)

plan v pants

If I had to pick which category I fall into – I would call myself a plantser… I have a bit of a plan, and I try to follow it, but sometimes I go a little off course.

Plantser

I have no formal training in writing, unless you count a high school journalism class and a semester of creative writing in college, so when I started writing my first novel, Living the Dream, I did it the way that felt natural to me.

Living the DreamI had no idea of where the story was going.
I knew that the bad guy, Kurt, was going to go through a lot of crap, which would hopefully teach him a valuable life lesson. The same for the other three main characters, Vicky, Jimmy and Leslie – I knew that they, too, would learn important lessons, but I didn’t know how those lessons would be taught.
In fact, when I started writing it, Leslie wasn’t even part of the story. She was created about a third of the way through the book because I realized there was a void in the story. It wasn’t until I finished the first draft that I realized what else needed to be changed…and again after the second draft.

The way I usually sum up my writing style is by using the analogy of a cross-country road trip.
I get in the car at Point A – knowing that I want to end up at Point B – but I have no specific route in mind. I just head off in the general direction of my destination and enjoy the trip.

road trip
When I tell this to people, they sometimes think, mistakenly, that I am endorsing my particular method over another.
I’m not.
I don’t consider myself qualified to tell anybody how they should write a book. I believe that every author, or potential author, should use the method they feel most comfortable with.

I don’t believe there is any right method – or wrong one.

Let’s look at it using a different analogy, the construction of a building.
The construction of a building is a complicated process which begins long before work-boots hit the ground. Naturally, one of the most important elements in the process is the drawing of plans (blueprints, if you will, even though it’s technically an incorrect term).

floor plan
After spending more than twenty years drawing plans for buildings of every conceivable size and type, I can tell you this…unless the plans are a complete train wreck – the building will get built regardless of how much effort was put into them.

Like writers, Architects’ styles vary…no two are alike.
There are Architects out there who try to anticipate every potential problem that could arise during construction, and take measures to avoid them by including pages and pages of details in their plans.

bldg 1Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.

Then there are those who include only the barest essentials when it comes to details using the attitude “It’ll be worked out in the field.”
Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.

architectureNeither method can guarantee the quality of the finished product. Buildings are built everyday using one method or the other. When John Q. Public enters a newly constructed shopping mall he doesn’t know what the plans looked like or how many times the original concept was changed, or why
He only sees the building. He might like it…he might hate it…but his opinion of the finished product will have little, if anything, to do with the plans used to build it.
The same can be said about novels. You can write a forty page outline before you start, or just start writing without a clue as to where your story will go…the book buying public will never know which method you used.
If you read enough blogs and how-to posts you may feel like you have to pick one method or another.
Don’t believe it. Do it the way you feel most comfortable.
Your readers will only know the finished product.
So, regardless of your method…give them the best damn book you can.

review
They might like it…they might hate it – but if it’s your best effort you did all you can do.

As always – thank you for reading

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