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Riding the Roller Coaster

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Seven months ago, I began a perilous journey when I decided to enter the revolution.

I’ve earned my living as a writer for more than a decade. Now I’m working longer hours, opening myself to the whole world, and earning just enough to pay my overhead.

In these seven months, I’ve started two blogs (Living Lightly Upon this Earth and Writing Tips, Thoughts, and Whims), which are steadily growing followers. I follow dozens of blogs, too. I start each day with my coffee and my blogger friends. I love leaving comments and receiving them in turn.

I’ve gone from twenty twitter followers to almost 1,600 and enjoy tweeting and retweeting my fellow tweeters. I’ve also learned a new language. I’ve grown my Facebook fan page and enjoy all the supportive writer groups.

I published my first ebook on amazon.com in May, and then the roller coaster really took off. I’m learning everyday about promotion and marketing. I learned this week that no one knows what really sells these books. That actually made me feel slightly better – I thought I was just a slow learner.

Between actual sales and promotional days on Amazon, more than 25,000 folks have downloaded Live from the Road. It stands to reason not everyone will be a fan, but I wasn’t really prepared for my first bad review. I reeled for a few days but managed to put it in perspective. Then a discussion ensued on the review when several folks came to the book’s defense. That brought others in and the discussion became less about my book and more an indictment of self-published authors.

None of the critics have read Live from the Road. The reviewer admitted she’d only read a portion (approximately 20 percent based on her comments). While I’m not crazy about the comments being on my Amazon page, I do offer a prayer of gratitude to them.

After hanging my head for a few days, I addressed the criticisms. They said my previous reviews were meaningless because many of them were written by “shills” or “sock puppets.” I said I was learning a new language, remember? There are some 5-star reviews written by folks who know me and have never written any other reviews. When they finished the book and contacted me to tell me they liked it, I said “If you feel like it, leave a review on amazon.” Now I understand that this is a bit like asking your mother to give you a job recommendation. However, even the majority of these were done without my asking so I don’t know how to stop that.

A couple of the reviews come from reviewers who give only 4- or 5-star reviews. Before they read the book, all of them told me the book had to meet their criteria for at least a 4-star review, or they wouldn’t give a review. At the time, I considered it fair and was pleased my book qualified under their criteria. Now I’ve discovered these are meaningless too. The rest of the reviews are from folks I’ve never had any contact with except when the review appeared on my page.

So I’m attempting to educate myself on the review process. I’m researching how to find “legitimate” reviewers who will give an unbiased view of the book and my future books. I’m prepared that not all these reviewers will like the book, but I hope they will at least give constructive criticism that will help me become a better writer. Giving the book a 1-star review without finishing the book doesn’t do much to help me although I appreciate the reviewers attempt to give her honest opinion.

Jade Kerrion, one of my fellow bloggers, wrote an excellent post on “Post-publication Reviews.” Her insight and detailed account of her ebook journey is superb. Another valuable site is Amazon’s top customer reviewers. Then I downloaded The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages ($3.99) on my Kindle. I’m slowly going through all the listings and finding those reviewers who enjoy reading my genre.

I’m still on the roller coaster, but most of the time, I’m managing to enjoy it.

What about you? Any advice or comments on your experience?

 

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18 Comments

  1. Staci Troilo says:

    I’ve purchased your book and haven’t had time to read it yet, but I will tell you this (steel yourself for a platitude): writers need thick skins. You obviously already know that, based on your post. Celebrate your successes; you’ve made some huge life changes and you’re doing great. You’ve married, moved to a new (and wonderful) city, started writing full time and are making a living at it, self-published a book… You’ve got a lot going on. Embrace the wonder that is being a writer. You can’t know how wonderful the five star reviews are unless you have the one star reviews to compare them to. And as for soliciting reviews…I don’t know anything about that. I would suggest sending your book to book review bloggers, particularly ones with whom you network often; maybe they can move you up in their review-queue. Good luck!

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Thanks, Staci. I woke up this morning and went to my amazon page and there was a new review from a stranger. A 4-star with good constructive comments. You are absolutely right about the thick skin, platitude or not. I’ve never had much of one, but that’s been one of the biggest changes to occur in the past few months. Maybe that’s the real revolution. I’ve learned to count on what I know and believe rather than the outside stuff. Amazing how much easier life is this way.

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      • Staci Troilo says:

        It’s hard to hear/read outsiders’ thoughts (especially unflattering ones) about our work. In some ways, our writing is more personal than our children. It doesn’t take two people to create it and it doesn’t have a personality of its own. It truly is all ours, and it can hurt to hear negative things, especially when the reviewer didn’t read the whole thing. Just try to remember that there are nearly seven billion people in this world. You aren’t going to please them all. On the other hand, some of them may have valid points. Grit your teeth and see if the comments have merit. All of us can improve in some way or another. And if it’s a positive comment, believe you deserved it, because you probably did. In the meantime, I think it’s quite healthy that you’re relying on your own beliefs rather than outside influences. After all, it’s much easier to trust your own judgment than a stranger’s.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us, Patricia. Growing a thicker skin is definitely something I’m working on as I move toward publication. The truth is, no matter how brilliant or talented a writer is, there will be some readers who just won’t like it.

    I’m on the mailing list for a few book review sites and I have to tell you, now that my book is being published, my attitude about those reviews is very different. When I read a scathing review the first thing that comes to mind is how the author must be taking it.

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Reese, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree that I look at all reviews differently since I put out my first e-book, although I’ve always thought it unfair for a reviewer to put out a review if they haven’t read the book. That goes both ways – I saw someone give a 5-star to a book and said then wrote “I can’t wait to read this.” Just as meaningless as the 1-star reviewer who doesn’t finish the book. I’ll look forward to seeing your new book.

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  3. […] to be realized. After hanging my head for a few days, I addressed the criticisms.  Excerpt from _Riding the Roller Coaster_ by Patricia […]

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  4. Hi. I am glad to have stumbled on your article this morning over my coffee. I’m really interested in people’s reactions to rejection of their work by publishers and negative commentary. Because my first book is so new, I haven’t received more than a couple reviews, and they fall into the category of reviews from friends and not professional reviewers. The topic interests me as I hope to prepare myself for the first one so that’ll I’ll handle it with the same grace many others have whose experiences I’ve read about. Have a great day. I linked back to your article in my morning article here: https://grineldamarkowitz.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/up_and_down_and_away_we_go/

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Thanks, Grinelda. I tried to write a piece that wouldn’t be a whine, but that might offer others insight into what I’ve learned thus far. I look forward to hearing about your experience as well.

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      • Grinelda Markowitz says:

        i think the personal touch is what made your retelling resonate. by letting the reader know what your thoughts were on the situation and the efforts you expended to validate or otherwise come to a greater understanding of the situation is something another writer can file away for future use.

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  5. Jae says:

    25,000+ that’s pretty impressive! Nicely done! I think you’re going about this the right way too, that you enjoy interacting with other bloggers and Tweeps. There’s too many would-be authors that only spam you with “buy my book” posts and you never see any real interaction. Like I said, sounds like you’re doing it the right way—and that’s probably why you’re seeing success.

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Thanks, Jae. Some days seem more successful than others, but I’m learning to adapt to that. I agree with the spam and buy my book responses. I don’t even interact with those folks. It’s all about developing relationships and that doesn’t do it. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. P.C.! Regardless of all the schmoop (I make up my own words), rejoice in what you have achieved and that’s not just finishing and publishing a novel…it includes the direction and focus of which your life is embracing. Good for you!! I am unpublished and only dream of having these issues to contend with. Go AUTHOR!!!

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Thanks. Yes, this most recent journey is following the trajectory of my life. And you will be published when the timing is right. Your prose is poetry (not schmoop).

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  7. I hope you know, by “schmoop”, I was referring to the negative comments and indictments, not, of course, your writing. Felt the need to clarify that! :0)

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  8. Evie says:

    I have downloaded and read 114 e-books on my Kindle, number of reviews I’ve written = 0. Number of reviews I’ve read to make a determination on whether to purchase a book or not = 0. I’ve always used the look inside feature to get a glimpse of what the book is like and I can usually tell pretty quickly if I’m going to enjoy it or not. We all have opinions that are valid, although mainly to ourselves. Some are blessed with the ability to constructively criticise. I don’t believe I’m one of the blessed in that area. All I can say is I enjoyed your book very much. I was hooked when Meg blew chunks from eating too many hot dogs, an experience we share. I also have made that epic road trip and identified with much in the book.

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    • P. C. Zick says:

      Thanks, Evie. It’s how I feel about reviewing other books as well. It’s interesting to me that someone also would read a book completely out of their usual genre choice and decide they know enough about it to give it a public review. But they do, and it’s their choice. I couldn’t do it, and I hope they also understand what it means to the author. Thanks for stopping by!

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