New Modifications on Amazon to Look Out For

It’s a good time to be independent. That’s part of the reason this site exists: to make sure authors know that it’s a good time to be independent and we’re here to help you make the most of it. And it’s about to get better: recent announcements from Amazon about modifications to ongoing programs are bound to benefit authors, especially of the independent variety.

The first announcement is a coming change to the KDP Select program and deals with how authors are paid. Currently, authors whose books are available through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Lending Library are paid based on how many times those books are “borrowed” through these services. Starting July 1st though, Amazon will start paying authors based on how many pages a customer reads the first time they read the book. If a page is on the screen long enough to be registered, it’ll add to how much the author is paid.

According to Amazon, authors who write longer works and feel short-changed by the current pay-by-the-rent format can stand to earn more if they can write long stories that are exciting and keep the reader involved. At the same time an author who writes a 100-page thriller novel is encouraged to maybe see if they can extend the story a little bit longer.

Of course, one shouldn’t write a book based on this sort of formula (or possibly on any formula(, but it might give some authors encouragement to try a few new things while giving other authors who already write longer books hope for a little extra income through KU and KLL.

The other announcement deals with changes to reviews and rating. You ever get that low review where someone just takes offense at something on your cover art or a typo in your author bio on Amazon or just to say “I did not like this book. It was totally stupid?” Sometimes they don’t even buy the book? Had my first of those recently, brought down my rating a little. Thankfully, with this little change these sort of not reviews will matter less in the grand scheme of things.

Currently, Amazon rates its books by averaging customer reviews. If you have a book with eight reviews, for example, and you have five four-star reviews, two five-star reviews, and one three-star review, your book’s rating will be 4.1 out of 5. Under the new system though, which they are already testing, reviews that are recent, have been written by a customer who bought the product, and are found helpful by other customers will be given more emphasis than other reviews. So if you have a five star review that’s been found helpful by twenty people and it was written last month by someone who bought the paperback, it’ll be given more weight in the rating than other reviews.

This is a huge change in the review and rating system, and has a number of positive benefits for both Amazon and people who sell their work through Amazon. It’ll not only prevent those fake reviews intentionally posted to bring down ratings, it’ll stop false reviews meant to pump up reviews (Amazon has had a heck of a time trying to stop these reviews, even suing companies that provide positive reviews to authors for a price). And if products have a few flaws around release, once the updates are done and people start reviewing the updated product, the reviews dealing with the product flaws will be less prominent and matter less in the long run.

Right now they’re still experimenting with the new system, and it’s only covering a small group of products, but once Amazon starts using it for all their products, it’ll change everything about the reviewing system! And it can only benefit. Assuming an author writes a very good book, customers looking at the reviews will get access to the most helpful reviews first and foremost.

Like I said, it’s a very good time to be an independent author. And it’s going to get even better. With more chances to get paid for writing the stories you love and not having to worry about length, and a new ratings configuration that keeps bad reviews from totally ruining your rating, authors stand to prosper more from doing what they love and do best. And I cannot wait for these programs to become available for all.

What are some modifications you’d like to see done to Amazon or other book distribution sites?

What are you looking forward to with these new changes?

Writing Reviews

I enjoy writing reviews on my personal blog. Whether it be for a book, movie, or TV show, writing reviews allows me to give my own opinion on a particular work to a wider audience, as well as helping me to seem more like an authority on the subject when the work in question happens to be in my main genre (namely horror). And there’s an added benefit to writing reviews: by identifying what works or what doesn’t work in a movie/TV show/book, you can learn from these examples and incorporate them into your own fiction to make your stories better.

I’ve been writing reviews on my blog almost as long as I’ve been blogging (for examples, click here), and I think knowing how to do it and doing it as often as possible actually works in your favor as an author. Below I’ve written down some tips to writing reviews, based on my own experience and things I’ve picked up from reading the reviews of others (especially those in Entertainment Weekly):

Review both good and bad works. Sometimes it’s tempting to only review the good stuff. After wasting perhaps several hours on a work that proved to be well below the bar, the last thing you want is to spend any more time on it. However, writing a review on something you disliked not only does a lot of much-needed venting on how you wasted money getting that ticket or buying that paperback, but it may help someone decide whether or not to check out said work, and perhaps avoid several hours of trying to get through a book that fails to please.

Opening, summary, thoughts, final rating, closing. This is the structure I usually use for my reviews. I give a little opening that gives my impressions of the movie, positive or negative. Then I give a short, hopefully spoiler-free summary of what the film is about, followed by a paragraph or two about what worked and what didn’t work. Finally I give a final rating (more on that below), and I write a final piece, usually something relating to any possible sequels or how this book was one of the best I’d read in a long time or some other third thing (you guys get the idea).

Use a rating system. You don’t have to use a rating system, but I find them helpful. Something simple, such as on a scale of 1-10, 1-5, out of 5 stars, a grade between A+ and F (though I wonder, if you’re a schoolteacher during your day job, is using that rating system too much like work?). I prefer using 1-5 with decimals. The last review I gave was a 2.6 out of 5, if I remember correctly. It’s simple and easy to understand, which is what I hope everyone thinks my reviews are.

Make sure to name all relevant people. Include the names of the author, or the name of the writer, director, and actors if this is a TV show or movie. Also, if you feel themake-up artists producers, and composers or anyone else should have their names mentioned, do it. Just make sure you explain why these names are mentioned.

Unless your blog is dedicated to reviews, don’t do them too often. It’s that whole thing about staying true to the theme of your blog and not wanting to deviate too much from that. Sure, a review every now and then is good, but don’t do it too much that you forget why you’re writing your blog in the first place.

If you want to find out more about reviews and writing them, you can check out mine through the link above (though you’ll also find reviews of my own books among them and a few other things, so you might have to wade through all that). You can also check out blogs dedicated to reviewing different movies/books/music/TV shows (too numerous to list here, I’m sure), any pop culture or entertainment magazines (People and Entertainment Weekly) and review aggregator sites (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc.).

And readers, we want to hear from you. Do you write reviews? What do you get out of it? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you.

And if we get enough tips, I might post an article with your suggestions listed. So don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on reviews and reviewing. You might see them posted for all to see in a future article.

Can And Should You Ask For Reviews?

Lately it came up in a writer’s discussion group I belong to on Facebook about whether or not it was considered acceptable to ask friends and family for reviews. One author, who was new to the group, had written a novelette and published it on Amazon, but he hadn’t received any reviews for it yet. He was considering asking for reviews from people he knew, but he was afraid it would come off as tacky or as rude to ask for a review.
The consensus of the group seemed to be that asking for reviews wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, several of us had already done so and had received reviews that way. What mattered, we believed, was how you went about asking for a review. Asking in a nice manner, such as saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, after you’ve finished reading my book would you write a review for it?” is perfectly acceptable and is much more likely to garner a positive response for both you and possibly your book than if you said something like “Give me a review or I won’t ever do anything nice for you!” Remember, people are taking time out of their hectic schedules to read your book, which they are under no obligation to read even if they know you. In a way, they are doing you a favor, and the review is like an extension of that.

However, if you’re still uncomfortable with asking people for reviews, try reviewing the works of authors you are friendly with. If you read their work and you write a review of it, positive or negative, they may want to reciprocate by reading your work and then writing a review of their own. I know a few authors who have received reviews or the promises of reviews that way.

And if you are still uncomfortable, think about it this way: most publishing houses actually pay magazines and newspapers to have their critics read their books and write a review of them. Compared to having to gather up the fees to pay a critic to read and review your work in even a small circulation magazine, asking for a review from some friends or family isn’t too difficult, is it?

Battling over Book Reviews, Should it happen?

I want to start out by thanking those who have questions for using the SPAL question form to ask those questions. You guys have some really good questions and I have fun looking up the answers for the questions I don’t know and sharing the information I do know and don’t think to share because I take it for granted. It also makes it so much easier for us to tailor our posts to your guys needs.

While on vacation I received a question in my inbox and was going to write this big long post about it. Then I looked at the 200+ emails sitting in my inbox that I have left to go through and answer, plus a few book cover designs that I need to do and finish for clients, some websites I need to update and complete the construction of, a story to finish, a 60 Day Writing Challenge that starts Monday, a sick kid to cuddle with, and a house that is starting to looking like a poster child for Hoaders and realized that I really don’t have the time.

So rather than try to write the post, I’m going to cheat and post the question:

I’ve seen authors and reviewers fighting over book reviews. Is there a time when the author should reply to a review?

Joleene asked people to weigh in on the topic and some of you did.

My answer to the question is: No.

Battling over a book review is stupid and childish. I’d put my kids on time out for such behavior. Readers will put you on the do not read list. Even some of the loyal ones. Replying to book reviews is equally suicidal.

I don’t care if the review is good. Don’t thank them. Most reviewers don’t appreciate it and most readers find a lurking writer creepy.

I don’t care if the review is bad. Write a scathing letter you never plan to send. Rant to your best friend about the unfairness of it all. Cry over a few shots of Whiskey or a half-gallon of ice cream. Just don’t respond to them. If you want to wait until after you calm down to complain on your blog about your greatness and how mean the reviewer was, just remember they have Google Alerts and followers too.

They only review you should ever respond to is the one you ask for. Good or bad, thank the reviewer for taking the time to review it for you.

I can hear the “But Stephannie” right now. No, buts.

Writing is a Business, unless you are doing it for a hobby. If writing is your hobby and you have no intentions of making it a business, by all means reply to the reviews. Just don’t expect people to be happy about it. People will attack you for it. If this is your business, then playing by the rules is a must. This doesn’t mean allowing people to walk over you, but pick your battles and reviews are not a battle you can win.

  1. Reviews are people’s opinions and reading is tastes are subjective. What one person loves, another may not. I also don’t see the point of picking a fight with someone over their opinion. It’s pointless and it’s not going to change anyone’s mind. Trying makes you look like a crazed, maniac author that will find themselves talked about on Facebook and Twitter while they may watch their books sail off the shelves for a time, others are disgusted by the display and potential readers are lost.
  2. Good reviews can sometimes look like a bad review. An objective reviewer will balance the good and the bad. They will show the author their weaknesses and their strengths. They aren’t looking to be a smart ass or a megalomaniac. They are writing the review for the reader. As writers, all we see is the negative and want to scream “You didn’t understand my vision!”
  3. People are mean and reviews can sometimes be ugly. As a reader, these types of reviews from set my teeth on edge. I discount them for the heartless, cruelty of a reviewer with a personal vendetta against the writer. They are no better than the school bully that uses the geek kid as a punching bag only to have the teacher ignore it because she didn’t see it happen. They are the ones that take great lengths to publicly flog the author, rake their flaws through the coals, have little to nothing nice to say, and attack the author personally.

My best advice is to never look at your reviews. Don’t read them and don’t let people tell you about them. You’ll be happier for it. Why? Because there is too many negative critics who aren’t helpful in their reviews. There are too many hookey reviewers that make me wonder what they got for writing the review. There are too many gushy reviewers that go on and on about the greatness of the author to the point that I start to think “stalker.” And then there is the reviewer that write a review that attacks the writing and writer in a way that screams “personal vendetta.” You don’t want to get mixed up in that scene. It will kill your career.

Now that I wrote a post about 700 words longer than I planned, what do you think? Should the battle of book reviewer and author be happening? What do you think when you hear about such things? Should writer’s reply to reviews?

My 7 Tips for Book Reviews and Book Endorsements by Anita

I’m a book reviewer. My name isn’t Anita. It’s a pseudonym, so don’t start looking for me. I’m doing Steph a favor and nothing more. She asked me to write a post on author’s asking for book reviews and endorsements so they look more professional and less like an amateur hacks. My words, not hers. 😀

Asking for Book Reviews

Most authors who approach me are unknown to me and in many cases I’m not interested in helping. It’s not that I want to be mean. I review specific types of books. I have submission guidelines. I accept emails.

I’ve had several authors who send me books that I’ve never been interested in. How would they know? My Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, Shelfari and LibraryThing history. My blog. I review books on there, stating what I like and what I don’t.

I don’t like it when authors don’t research the type books I like to review. When they don’t follow my submission guidelines or even email me to ask what they are. I don’t like it when authors use a standard, form email.

You’re writers. Be creative. Think of this email as a query letter. I’m getting a dozen emails a day, what is going to make me want to take time out of my very busy schedule to read and review your book instead of another author’s book.

Other types of emails I get that drive me crazy are the ones where “I saw you liked so and so’s book.  Here’s mine to read.” Then when I check it out, that book is NOTHING like the book I liked.

Another one? “Can you give me a glowing review? I’m a new author and could really use one.” If you ask for a review, you need an honest one, not a shill one. So if you’re going to solicit someone for a review, I suggest the following:

1.  Do your homework.  Know what they like and don’t like.

2.  Follow their submission guidelines if they have them. Email them if they don’t.

3.  Don’t ask for a glowing reviews. Ask for an honest one, and if the person doesn’t like your book, thank them. Do NOT behave like a kid with a temper tantrum and retaliate like what I and others have had to endure.

4.  Accept “No” as an answer.  The person might be too busy, have a ton of books in the TBR pile, have their own books to write, etc.  There’s a ton of reasons why someone can’t. Imagine if you were flooded with a book review requests, wrote your own books, had to work a job, take care of your family, and go through the books already in your TBR pile.

We all live busy lives. Accept it.

Asking for Book Endorsements

I’ve also been asked to endorse books. I have accepted several requests to look over the book. A couple of times, I said yes and endorsed it.

There was one time I said no. The book preached on things I’m opposed to. It was obvious the person hadn’t done their homework or else they would have known this. I said no and sited why (didn’t agree with the material in the book).

The response? I received a guilt trip about how hard it is to get an endorsement. When that didn’t work, I got the “Author X doesn’t agree with everything in the book but is endorsing it.” My response, “Glad it wasn’t so hard to get that endorsement after all.”

So if you are going to ask for an endorsement, I suggest:

1. Do your homework.  Does this person like books you are writing?

2.  Ask an author friend/acquaintance who writes in a genre similar to yours. You want to reach the same target audience, or at least I assume you do.  Otherwise, the endorsement will have no clout with readers.  A thriller author who endorses a fantasy book won’t have the same impact with potential readers as an fantasy author who endorses the fantasy book.

3.  Accept a “no” answer gracious.  No guilt tripping, no whining, no “well so and so is doing it”, etc.  Be mature enough to say “thank you” and move on.


In my opinion, the best reviews and endorsements (read: “word of mouth”) comes from fans who don’t know you. It takes time to get reviews, but the best people to review your books are actual readers who have nothing to gain or lose by reviewing them.

As for endorsement, nothing is more powerful than word of mouth from a fan who tells everyone how great your book is to their fellow readers. Yes, it takes time, but it’s the most satisfying way to get them.

Guest Post: Obtaining Reviews by Reena Jacobs

Guest Post by Reena Jacobs


I come across quite a few indie authors with low sales. Let’s face it, low sales are the norm; big success is the rarity. In the end, majority of us remain in dismal obscurity. Even so, there are low cost methods authors can use to give their books a little publicity – reviews being one of them.

One of the first things I tend to notice when I hit an author with low sales are the lack of reviews. I’ve yet to find a book with an abundance of reviews and doing poorly. Some might say, of course high selling books have lots of reviews; they’re selling books like crazy. No book sales, no reviews. No reviews, no books sales.

People! This is not a catch-22 situation. You don’t have to have book sales to obtain reviews. In fact, your work doesn’t even have to be available to the public in order to start earning those reviews.

Ever hear of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs)?

ARCs are not just for authors who go the traditional route. I started distributing ARCs for my latest release (I Loved You First) about a week before publication. Why an ARC and not the final version?

Here’s the thing about ARCs. They don’t have to be perfect. Now I’m not talking about sending your first draft. The ARC I sent had received outside editing and a read through by me. However, I knew it needed at least one more read through, plus I had a few copyright issues in the air which needed to be settled before releasing it to the public. For the most part, the ARC was pretty solid.

If you’re confident in the quality of your work, but aren’t quite ready for publication, I highly recommend sending ARCs to reviewers. But remember, don’t send crap. Reviewers will still call you on your typos, poor grammar, misused words, and other errors.

So, you’ve got an ARC or final version.

Now What?

Well, you can continue to wait for folks to find your works and review them. This method might work for established authors, but I doubt it’ll work for many debut authors or those with negligible fan bases. If you want those reviews, you’re going to have to go and get them, my friend. And I don’t mean sitting behind your blog asking folks, “if you’re interested in reviewing my work, send me an email.” You can try that (I certainly have), but that’s not enough.

Remember your querying days? Researching agents, following submission guidelines, and sending out letters. Welcome back to the grind. Great thing about sending queries to reviewers is the success rate is far greater than seeking representation from an agent.

A few notes. Don’t send queries arbitrarily or in a mass email. Use the same care in picking out reviewers as you would an agent. Just as agents only represent certain genres, reviewers only read certain genres.

Research is beneficial

I came across more than a few dormant review sites. It doesn’t make sense to put together a review packet for an individual who isn’t serious about reviewing your work. Some of the things I look for:

  • Review Policy – Starting here is a given. Not all reviewers have them. I’ll be honest, if I don’t find a review policy or verbiage giving me a clue to their likes and dislikes, I’ll often bypass the review site.
  • Number of followers – It’s great to get a reviewer with a huge following. After all, the point of a review is to get some publicity. However, reviewers with smaller followings have pros also. For one, their reading lists may be shorter, which means they may be more willing to commit to a review and do one sooner than later. When you’re looking at the number of followers, don’t discount the little gals (or guys), especially when taking the next point into account.
  • Where they post their reviews – Their blog only? Goodreads? Retail sites? The more places, the more publicity. For me, this is huge, particularly if the review is posted on a retail site. If I hit a blog with few followers, but the review policy indicates the review gets posted in places other than just the blog/website, I tend to be more favorable to putting a review packet together.
  • Post consistency – This goes along with dormant sites. If the site is dead (most recent post is a month or so ago), I move to the next blog. How often a blogger posts is important also. Large gaps between posts gives me the impression the blogger isn’t serious about blogging. And if the blogger isn’t serious, chances are, folks aren’t serious about checking in either.
  • Accepted formats – I prefer to send out digital copies due to the costs associated with print. And with so many reviewers accepting eCopies and even preferring them in some cases, digital is the way to go (at least for me and my purse).
  • Excludes indie authors – Some reviewers don’t accept self-published works. Simple response to that is to move on to the next reviewer. Trust me; there is no shortage of indie reviewers, so don’t sweat it.
  • ARC versus Final – Can I send out an ARC? Some reviewers will take into account the ARC isn’t the final version. Others won’t. Make sure whichever version you send is the one you’re comfortable with them reviewing. Don’t be surprised if a reviewer rips your work apart because you sent a less than satisfactory version.
  • Time line – Many reviewers have reading lists a mile long. A 3-4 month wait isn’t unusual. If you know your release date, consider making arrangements early. Don’t dismiss the reviewers who take a bit longer. Early reviews are great, but latter reviews can act like a revival.
  • Other Features – Does the reviewer participate in blog tours, interviews, giveaways, or other events? If so, make your availability known at the time of submission. If your work is accepted for review, be sure to put in a reminder in your response.

Where the heck are the reviewers?

I hit two spots when it comes to reviews. First, because I’m an indie author, is Simon Royle’s list of indie reviewers. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great start. All the individuals on the list review indie work for free. However, some on the list have guidelines so strict, it’s difficult for an indie author to get a yes. For example, some only review indie works they’ve previously reviewed/read in the past. So that’s something to keep in mind.

My second stop is the Book Blogger Directory. I love this place. The bloggers are categorized, and the database is HUGE. Indie authors do have to pick through since there are no indicators as to whether a blogger accepts indie work or not, at least not at the time of this post.

As a side note, Alex at Electrifying Reviews started an awesome campaign for indie authors. Definitely keep an eye out for the button. The comments could serve as a nice starting point.

The bottom line

Using the methods above, I found plenty of reviewers willing to take a peek at I Loved You First, enough that I managed to fill a month and a 1/2 long blog tour. I’m not going to pretend like my sales are all that grand, because they’re not (at least not yet <wink> <wink>). And if we get to the truth of it, I’m not all that great at marketing either. But I will tell you, reviewers are out there waiting to pounce on a good read. If you don’t tell them your book is available, who will?

About Reena:

Reena Jacobs is just your typical writer who loves to see her words in print. As an avid reader, she’s known to hoard books and begs her husband regularly for “just one more purchase.” Her home life is filled with days chasing her preschooler and nights harassing her husband. Between it all, she squeezes in time for writing and growling at the dog. You can find Reena on Ramblings of an Amateur Writer, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobles, and Smashwords.

When to Reply to Reviews

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a pretty established rule in the world that you shouldn’t respond to negative reviews, but as Lauralynn Elliott asked, what about good reviews? Should you thank the reviewer?

I was curios what everyone else thought about this. I think if it’s a review site, or someone you asked specifically to review your book, then you should drop by and thank them even if the review isn’t great because they took the time to read and write at your request.

But what if it’s a random review somewhere else? Have you ever looked someone up to thank them or offer them a coupon for another book? Or have you just commented back? If so how did it go? Inquiring minds want to know.

How NOT to React to a Bad Review

There have been many posts about how to deal with a bad review, how to pick up and move past it. But what, oh what do you do after you’ve gone off the deep end?

The review is not a great one, (as in not great for the book) the backbone of the argument is that she uploaded the wrong copy, one with typos and errors, and then reuploaded the correct one and that the reviewer, Al, did not redownload the new version.

Whether he did or not, the author’s conduct is absolutely ludicrous! From comments like “The book is out there doing well without your comments. My first book is great! and I intend to promote now without your ball…I want this review removed or its just considered abuse.” to “You are a big rat and a snake with poisenous venom.” and the most eloquent “%$#@ off”, I think Jacqueline Howett has demonstrated a definite what NOT to do when you get a bad review!

I have to say, this is one book I won’t be reading, not based on the review, but on her conduct. Ye-ouch.

Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of Pen by Jenna Glatzer

Buy at


Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1592281249
ISBN-13: 978-1592281244

“If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the blank page all day, or cleaning out the refrigerator for the fifth time in a week just to avoid seeing that taunting, blinking cursor, then you’ve experienced writer’s block.

Outwitting Writer’s Block will help any writer break through the dreaded block and become a more creative and better writer than before. Filled with exercises designed to jump-start creativity and encouraging tips from fellow writers and instructors, this book is like Drano for clogged creative pipes.” ~From the Back Cover

My Review of the Book

A few years back I bought this book, not because I was having the dreaded writer’s block, but because the small blurb in the book catalog mentioned that the book had “tips and tricks” to make me a more productive writer and that was just what I was looking for. So I bought the book, read it in a day, took notes, and have kept it as a reference book at my desk ever since.

I’ve employed some of the techniques she mentioned, such as the messy notebook, writing down ideas and start drafting them instead of letting them sit in my brain until I forgot them, weekly objectives, treating writing like a job, thinking like a writer, and having a mascot to inspire me. I loved her chapter on kicking the Critic of his pedestal and those that address the most common causes of Writer’s block.

 But there is so much more to the book. She teaches writers to let go of the guilt and burdens of writing myths that they have placed on themselves, or let others place on them. She talks about relaxing techniques to overcome the anxiety of writing and “not being good enough.” She talks about knowing when an idea isn’t going to work as opposed to just needing a new approach, or changing the genre. The book is filled with exercises designed to jump-start creativity and encouraging tips from writers and instructors. She provides tools for analyzing the causes and cures for the nefarious Blank Page syndrome, such as stress, lifestyle changes, depression, etc.

I loved this book and highly recommended it to everyone. Jenna Glatzer’s writing style is entertaining, encouraging, and informative. She offers a wide array of methods to stave off Writer’s Block and other problems of pen, which makes it useful to everyone, because when one method doesn’t work for you there are others that you can try. There is something there for every one.