Tag Archives: book reviews

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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Fifty Shades of Grey is Art – Whether You Like It or Not

Before we get to today’s topic please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of an Australian movie critic’s review of the movie adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

critic

Well – this is embarrassing…the review has been taken down because of copyright issues. I’m sorry about that.

In short – she trashed it. According to her there was not a single redeeming quality to be found in the movie. She called it “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” and several other negative things. She even went as far as to say that her husband did not get lucky after the movie because (I’m paraphrasing) it left her anything but in the mood.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t care?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never read any of the Fifty Shades novels, nor have I seen the movie…and barring a frontal lobotomy, I never will.

50 shadesThat being said…let’s talk about taste.

A wise man once said “Opinions are like assholes…everybody has one, and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

I posted the above video (when it could actually be seen) on my facebook page recently and, within minutes, I had a nice little string of comments – some agreeing with the critic and some accusing her of having her head where her opinion is.

I’m not picking on Fifty Shades (even though it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight saga), I chose it specifically because it has an immediate polarizing effect whenever it comes up in conversation, so I figured it would be a good example for my point…

Book(s) or movie…it doesn’t matter…mention Fifty Shades of Grey and you’ll have a debate raging in no time. Not just your garden variety debate either…you’ll have a full-blown free-for-all with one side saying it’s awesome, another side saying it’s trash, the third side will tear it up for the way it objectifies women and there will even be a side complaining that the author didn’t properly research the whole BDSM scene before writing about it.

debate

Men, women, young, old – Fifty Shades gets ‘em hot…and not in a good way.

But is it good?

Is it trash?

Is it a poor excuse for erotica?

Is it a brilliantly played card by the author to cash in on horny housewives?

Relax…those are all trick questions.

The answer is to each one of them is Yes…and No

When it comes to our taste in art there are no right, or wrong, answers. Good taste and bad taste are totally arbitrary concepts. Art appeals to each of us in a different way, for different reasons. The world would be extremely boring if everybody liked the exact same kind of music, movies, paintings and books.

I think we need to amend the list of taboo discussion topics…Religion, Politics, Sex and Art.

Call it what you will…but Fifty Shades is art.

That’s right, I said it. It’s art. art

You couldn’t pay me to read it and I’d rather pour bleach in my eyes than watch the movie…

…but, love it or hate it, it’s art, and the thing that makes it art is the fact that we can’t come to an all-encompassing opinion about its quality (or lack thereof).

It’s the difference between art and science.

If I say “Jaws is the best movie ever made” there will be people who agree with me and people who disagree with me, and with varying degrees of intensity.

Now if I say “The sum of the squares of the two legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” Nobody can disagree with me – because it’s science.

pythagorean theorum

A fact is a fact is a fact…but an opinion is, well, we’ve already covered that.

Whether you’re talking about books, music, movies, paintings or interpretive dance – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The interesting thing, to me anyway, is how defensive some people get.

I’ve seen people defend their favorite artist with more ferocity than they would their own children. I remember once, in high school, when I wanted to pound a classmate six ways from Sunday for having the audacity to say that Kiss was a better band than The Beatles.

beatles

I kid you not…to this day I’m still amazed at the self-restraint I was able to muster in the face of such blasphemy.

But, I digress…

I imagine the first art critic made his debut in a cave in France, and there was probably more than one Neanderthal there with their leopard skin wrap in a twist over his review. Who knows…it may have been the reason for the first war, or at least the first rumble.

critics

Since then there has been no shortage of people standing by to tell us why something is good or bad—and an equally ample supply of folks willing to let everyone know how wrong the dingbats in the first group are.

It’s funny how people will call a reviewer all sorts of names when said reviewer takes an opposing stance on a particular work of art, but those same people, when trying to decide which movie to see, will say “oh, let’s watch that one….they say it’s really good.”

Who says it’s really good?

Probably the same guy you called a moron last week because he panned Fifty Shades.

The impetus for this entire post, believe it or not, was a conversation with a fellow author about book reviews. We authors ask (more like beg) readers to post reviews knowing that it’s only a matter of time until somebody trashes our book.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but you have to take the good with the bad. The trick to dealing with it is to remember that it’s all a matter of taste.

So, the bottom line is, whether you’re an artist or an art aficionado, screw the critics, because art appreciation it is not a matter of black and white…

…it’s all about shades of grey.

face palm

(come on – tell me you didn’t see that coming!!)

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Write a Review — Independent Authors Everywhere Will Thank You

I received the following message from a reader last week;

Hi Tim, Finished Unfinished Business. Wow! It is so different from your other books, but it is a subject that I am very interested in. Loved it!!

Unfinished Business will be released in June, 2013

If you ask any writer they will all tell you the same thing…We absolutely LOVE getting messages like this. Who wouldn’t?

I know it’s a cliché, but this is arguably* why we write (click here for an alternate take on this topic). It’s hard to explain the feeling you get when somebody tells you that they truly enjoyed something you created.

However…

Yes, there is a but – isn’t there ALWAYS a but?

As much as we love to hear from you about how you enjoy our work, there is something you could do for us that is just as good, and in a way even better…

Have you ever been to a business and seen a sign that reads;

“If you don’t like our service, tell us…If you do, tell somebody else.”

It’s the same for Independent Authors…

We don’t have an advertising budget. Very few of us have a public relations manager and you won’t see many of us doing the talk show circuit.

We rely on word of mouth.

YOU are our advertising campaign.

A simple post on facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+ or whatever your social media of choice happens to be would help immensely!

A review on Amazon and/or Goodreads is practically invaluable.

If you have a blog, write about it there and even ask the author for some thoughts, very few of us will decline an interview.

I’ve asked people to put a review on Amazon before and many of them think they have to be Siskel and Ebert – writing long, complicated interpretations of the book.

No. A review like this is more than enough…

LTD review

You see that message at the top of this post? That message would make a great review – except for the “Hi Tim” part….

Anything that will give other readers an idea of what you thought of the book.

And contrary to what some people think – you CAN post a review on Amazon even if you didn’t purchase the book there.

So the next time you enjoy one of my books, or a book written by any Independent Author, take five minutes to share your thoughts with other readers – you’ll be doing them, as well as us a great service.

write a review

As always – thank you for reading

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