Monday, 13 March 2017

The Write Stuff with... GJ Minett

Today it's my pleasure to welcome author GJ Minett back to the blog as part of the blog tour celebrating the paperback publication of his second book Lie in Wait with an honest piece all about reviews that I'm sure most authors will be able to relate to.

At a talk I gave to a book group recently, I was asked about reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. “Do you read every one of them?” this lady wanted to know. “Do they really serve a valid purpose?” And implicit in her tone was a third question: “Is your ego so fragile that they matter that much?” I can’t speak for other novelists but if it were down to me I’d have to say the answers in turn would be oh yes, yes indeedy and I’m afraid so – but you’d probably need me to elaborate a little.

To take the first one, I can honestly say I’ve read every review and checked every 1-5* rating on Amazon and Goodreads for both The Hidden Legacy and Lie In Wait within a day or so of them coming in. That’s a combined total of 1409 for the two books on both sites and although some will be duplicated you don’t know that till you’ve checked, do you? I read them first thing in the morning, not just because a 5* review can get the day off to a terrific start but also because I try to comment on all the ones which I feel merit some sort of response. You’d expect me to say thanks to the 5*s and 4*s but sometimes there are things to be learned from the critical ones as well. I have no issue with anyone not liking a book because I’ve discovered already that you’re not going to please every reader all of the time, but it is particularly helpful if someone can highlight a reason without letting fly with both barrels at once. If I can learn from it, it’s worth reading.

Do they serve a purpose? Absolutely. Forget the morale boost – that goes without saying. What a lot of readers may not realise is that the more reviews a book gets, the more it tends to move up the pecking order. Some sites have a policy which rewards books when they reach certain milestones with mentions in emails and newsletters and also with better placements. Ever looked up an author and found books by others on her/his page? Now you know why. And they don’t have to be excellent reviews. Volume of traffic seems to matter as much as anything else. Until I was first published, I hardly ever left a review. I had to have been passionate in my response to the book one way or the other to take the trouble. Now I read between 70-80 books a year and rate every one of them because I know it can make the author more visible. And, as I said earlier, you can pick up very useful advice at times although some is less than helpful. A friend of mine received a 1* review for his novel because it was sent to the wrong address and the packaging was torn. I do think he was right to feel aggrieved.

And is the ego so fragile? I’m afraid so. With those 1409 reviews/ratings, I’ve punched the air 500 times, allowed myself a quiet smile on 481 occasions, given a philosophical shrug 285 times, muttered beneath my breath 94 times and wondered what on earth you have to do to satisfy some people 49 times. The books are selling very well and my friends tell me I must be thrilled and for the most part I am but all it takes is another 1* to bring the doubts flooding back in again. The need to know exactly why they didn’t like it can be overwhelming at times. They’re a difficult lot to please, those authors.

And sometimes it’s no bad thing to be brought back down to earth with a bump. I only need to remember a 1* rating I received a while ago. No review, so no clue as to why. When I clicked on the history of the reviewer, I discovered she/he had given 5* to the handbook of the Vauxhall Corsa.

That’ll do it every time.

A man is dead. A woman is missing. And the police have already found their prime suspect... 

Owen Hall drives into a petrol station to let his passenger use the facilities. She never comes back - and what's more, it seems she never even made it inside.

When Owen raises a fuss, the police are called - and soon identify Owen himself as a possible culprit - not least because they already have him in the frame for another more sinister crime.

Owen's always been a little different, and before long others in the community are baying for his blood. But this is a case where nothing is as it seems - least of all Owen Hall...

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