Saturday, August 31, 2013

Become an author advocate.

We have gotten to a point where traditional critics--those well-paid pundits that write for New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, etc.--don't have the sway they used to have. Instead, most of us would rather pay attention to the opinions of our peers. And these opinions are not hard to find. Look at any major book distributor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and the like, and you'll find reviews from the community at large--people with no stake in saying what they feel. If they like something, they are lavish in their praise (or in the number of stars they confer), if they don't like it, they don't mind trashing it, although hopefully, they will do this in a tasteful way.

The thing is, every one of us has the exact same ability to approve of or disapprove of a book. The trouble starts when someone downloads a book--probably a free promo--and finds that there is something in it that pushes the hate button, such as a negative description of Halibuirton, a non-christian (or pro-christian) point of view, a gay or lesbian character. These type of readers tend to read a few pages--just until they reach the disapproved-of part--then proceed to give a bad review or give such a small amount of stars as not to even illuminate a corner of the author's writing space, which is small enough to begin with. One of my own books was dismissed as non-LGBT because the reader simply didn't read far enough (and she didn't really have to read all that far). So that, essentially I was bashed by someone in my own "family" because the juicy parts didn't show up quickly enough. Another reader took that person to task and I am grateful, but that doesn't negate the bad rating I received. On the flip side, another--this time an anti-gay--reader wrote, "Lesbian sex, ewww!" when the story was distinctly tagged LGBT. Bad reviews can not only kill a book, but damage the author's psyche along with it. And one or two-star reviews are wicked hard to overcome.

One way to counter these counterproductive readers and their reviews is to become an author advocate.

Okay, what's an author advocate? Well, it's a term that has surfaced recently to describe those prescient readers who discover a new talent and want to tell the world what they have found. And there are ways to do this. I have done the same for new Indie authors I have discovered in my meanderings through the Smashwords new releases and the Goodreads chat rooms. Here are a couple of possibilities you can explore if you find an author you think is worthy of a wide readership..

1. Give the book a good review and five stars. As much as I hate to say it, four stars don't do enough to counter the bad reviews that the prejudiced readers have no qualms about dropping on you like birdshit from above on an otherwise sunny spring afternoon. At the very least, rate the book on Smashwords or whichever of the e-book retailers you downloaded the book from, free or not. Then to go Goodreads and rate it there; that is, give it five stars. Most of these venues do not require a written review--although a detailed written review does far more good than a short one or none at all.

2, Go to Amazon and review it there as well. Amazon does not require you to buy the book (either in paper or e-book form), but they do require you to write at least 20 words of a review. This should not be difficult even for the shyest reader/reviewer. And as I said above, if a review is better than no review, then more words are  better than less. This is your chance to tell other readers exactly why you like this book or this author and why they should spend their time and money reading this instead of something else.

3. Goodreads has an interesting option involving lists of books in certain categories. The best YA Fantasy Books, for instance. Go  back to Goodreads and put the book you are advocating for on whatever lists are appropriate. Here's an example. My book, The News in Small Towns, features a newspaper reporter in a small Florida town that manages to solve a number of quirky mysteries that come her way while trying to train her horses, keep her archery skills from deteriorating, and coming to terms with the fact that, despite spending her first 35 years in traditional heterosexual relationships, she is now in love with a woman--a very Southern singer/songwriter. If you go to Goodreads and click on The News in Small Towns, you will find, after the first reviews, the words "Lists with this Book." And just underneath that, "More lists with this book." Included are the following lists:
Best books set in or about Florida
Horse books/novels
Best lesbian mysteries
Lesbian mystery/detective series
Fiction involving music
Best LGTBQIA literature
Women who solve crimes.
Someone has voted for The News in Small Towns or its sequel, Madness in Small Towns, in each of these lists. In fact, as I write, it holds down the top place in a couple of these lists. It does not require you to write a review or even give as rating; just vote for it.

Here's a step-by-step direction of how to accomplish this.
1. SIgn into Goodreads. If you have not joined, do so. It's easy.
2. Type in the name of the books (The News in Small Towns and Madness in Small Towns).
3. Click on the title of the correct book (Several will probably be shown).
4. Scroll down past the Friends Reviews and you will see "Lists with This Book."
5. Click on each list and find the title you are looking for (it's there, you may just have to scroll down to find it).
6. Click on the button that says "Vote for This Book."
7. Do the rest for the other lists, including those listed under "More lists with this book . . . "
That's it. That's all there is to it.

A lot of people look at these lists. I look at them often to find new and exciting books or series of books to read. Your vote on any of these lists--or on any other lists you might think that the book fits in--can be a wonderful help.  This is the very tip of the Goodreads iceberg and whatever votes I can get will serve me well down the road when many more people look at them than do now.

In other words, if you like something--if you think you have discovered something special--be proactive in promoting it. Rate the book. Review it. Vote for it on the Goodreads lists. Give it as a gift to friends for Xmas or birthdays or just in friendship. Not only will the author be eternally grateful, but you will have done a service to anyone who reads your opinion and takes your advice.