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What's Your Biggest Challenge with Your Book?

I'd be interested to learn what authors/publishers on this network think their biggest challenges are with their book. I wonder if there's any common, pervasive challenge we all face.

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Susan -

I’ve thought on it for a long while (before now) and am just satisfied to know the reality of the publishing world. From what I’ve seen I do not think I could begin to change any part of it. For me it just ate up too much of my creative time going round and round with Amazon on titles and trying to talk to the reviewer who took money to review my story and then passed it on to another less experienced person and on and on. To answer your question in a phrase - I think there are "too many big boys and girls" in the publishing business.

I sometimes wonder if a some of the reviewers are actually authors. The reason I say this is because I have a problem when reading a (let's say) thriller because I find myself offering ways in my mind where the author could have done something differently. I was asked to review a draft for an on-line colleague of mine last year. Frankly the 'thriller' wasn't very good at all, and I pointed out several areas where I belived he had made big mistakes. I made several suggestions as to how he could improve the narrative etc. and believed I had done him a great favour. He wasn't very happy with my 'review' and went ahead and published anyway. I realised then that I should never review books (I don't as a rule), and have refused a couple of requests to do so since then. I have also promised myself that I will only ever make a 'comment' on a book if I think it's the right thing to do, to help the author. So perhaps a lot of these reviewers are 'wannabe' writers who believe they are better at the job than the writers they are criticising.

A writer has to know how to take constructive criticism without his ego getting in the way. We'd all like to have someone tell us how wonderful our book is, but if someone has taken the time to read out work and come up with some ideas of how the story might be more effective, we need to listen. That doesn't mean we need to make the actual changes, but it does mean we need to consider the comments and thank the reviewer. Beryl

Beryl, I agree with you as long as there are specific criticisms. But when a reviewer makes only general vague remarks and offers no suggestions about what might improve the book, to my mind this is worthless.

Happily, I recently got a nice review from a reader who did point out a mistake in one of my books. I commented on the review, thanking her for the observation, and said I would correct it. She commented back and said she loved all my novels. So I asked if she'd like me to add her to my fan-email list. She immediately sent me a private email and I added her to the list. 

I've had similar experiences, Michael (agreeing to read/review other author's books) and I too have resolved not to do this anymore. When I'm reading along and start editing the writing in my head, I just stop. It's not worth my time. I too sent a fairly detailed critique to a couple of authors. One took it well. The other didn't. So I just turn down read/review requests.

Susan,

I couldn't leave without one last comment:

In responding to “A Review” of a book or article, I haven’t seen any standards for “reviewing” stories. Maybe I missed that on the internet somewhere, which is possible. All I’ve seen were people raving a lot or disliking even more in their evaluations. Although it requires time and energy to read carefully and to follow-up with an able finding of the narrative, there is nothing mysterious about what a writer wants – a fair and level evaluation. Also there are boundaries that are being crossed in the publishing world and I can identify one right away: someone with a romance novel background evaluating a veteran’s memoir story. They might point out “too much violence.” I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done. I’m saying the slant of the review would be entirely different if someone with a journalistic background wrote about it (the review.) For me it’s all about checking a reviewer’s background: what have they done before and so on. How long have they been in the industry? What kind of education do they have? Yeah, good luck with those questions because I have not had any. In fact, I got no where. The publishing industry have their own rules and codes, and you as an unknown reader will have to develop your own or don’t expect too much.  

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I doubt there is anything at all we can do from the point of view of altering the ways in which Amazon, Trip Advisor and so on run things.  Their aim is to get as many reviews as possible (certainly when it comes to holiday/hotel reviews) because that is their business.  They are all about reviews and nothing else, and they need as big an audience as possible so that other businesses advertise on their sites, which is how they make their money.

In the case of Slow Travel and my friend in Cyprus, they made is obvious that not only did they not care at all about how upset she was but that they didn't care whether or not the report/review was true.  They just want the reports.

What we can do is try to "educate" the public about how damaging an unwarranted review can be.  Even if (using Susan Fleet's example) the review-writer has genuinely stayed in the hotel, there is really no need to write a nasty review just because they didn't happen to like it.

Likewise, just because somebody didn't like a book, there is no need to say so.  You need to read my own blogs on this subject, for I haven't got room here, but there is a WAY or writing a critical, valuable & worthwhile review, good or bad.  THAT is what we need people to start doing.

All this depends on whether or not the book is published, doesn't it ?   If the book is already out there we cannot alter it in any way without re-publishing.  

Furthermore, what may seem like a good idea for the plot to one person is not so for another.  

Certainly, we need to be able to cope with reviews, good or bad.  My point, however, is that the general public - if they don't like the book (hotel, restaurant) for whatever reason - should not be allowed to get away with being quite simply NASTY.

Anyway, that's me done on this subject!

There is an opportunity to build up a vote about Amazon's approach to 'reviews'. This is on http://www.acclaimedbooks.com/news.php where you can read the proposal. Why not pop over there and vote?

My book I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? is published at Westbow Press. I paid for an editorial package. The first (and final) round of editing contained so many missed mistakes I asked them to do a second round free. They were kind enough to do so. However with a second round, my wife found more than 25 missed mistakes. They would not do a third round.  If I were asked to give the Editorial Department a grade, it would be an F.

Based on my experience I think I would have been better off with an independent editorial service. Though who knows, maybe bad editing is an issue with authors who self publish.

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