Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 13, 2014 - 7:57am

I was reading a piece by some author recently that made me realize how much online customer reviews (mainly of books, but the same applies to many products) have really affected our lives. Most of my hardcore reading has taken place in the internet era, so I hadn't thought much about this before. Of course I was aware of the evolving relationships between authors and readers, and how accessible it's become for some, having participated in and benefitted from both ends of that. It used to be that you published a book and some newspapers or zines might review it professionally, and that's all the feedback the author (and potential readers) would get, aside from personal conversations and whatnot. You birth it out into the world and that's the end of it.

Now, some total stranger from New Zealand can share their thoughts with the world, not just on the seller's site, but in their social networks as well. Benefitting curious readers as much as its author. Which can be either a beautiful or maddening thing, maybe even have some impact on future work. I used to think that if only the right person of influence would read one of my books and broadcast kind things about it, that would be the key to success. But the reality is probably more grassroots than that.

All that said, if you've ever read my stuff, I would sincerely appreciate any thoughts posted to those channels. My ratio of reviewers to readers is shockingly low, and every little bit helps. I think. 

Goodreads  |  Amazon

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 13, 2014 - 8:06am

Also, we can get into a bit about personas, I suppose (even though there've been threads about that before). I like to say I can "love the art, not the artist," but increasingly this is becoming harder to separate. I see tweets and postings by misanthropic authors, and it makes me not want to read them. Or I'm annoyed by their social media strategies (whether it's the frequency or tone). This is more true of authors I haven't yet read. If they're established, and I've enjoyed their work before learning what an asshole they are, I have a tendency to overlook such things.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon January 13, 2014 - 5:39pm

Your 2nd post there - I agree with every word. And it sucks becuase sometimes it's just the author's excitement about their hardwork finally seeing the world. But you know what they say about first impressions.

And I already gave you a review G! When I finally get around to Major Inversions, I'll hook that one up too.

Alan H Jordan's picture
Alan H Jordan from Reno, Nevada is reading "The Whisper Jar" and "The World Beneath" January 16, 2014 - 6:56pm

I reviewed Submission Windows. I'd be happy to start a discussion on Amazon, if you wish.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 17, 2014 - 7:20am

Thanks again for that. As for discussions, I rarely see any on Amazon, even for popular books, so I don't know if anyone would bite (but I certainly would not stop you). Sometimes discussions work on Goodreads, because people there are thinking more socially in general. Maybe someday the two sites will merge their review systems.

Tim Johnson's picture
Tim Johnson from Rockville, MD is reading Notes From a Necrophobe by T.C. Armstrong January 20, 2014 - 10:51am

Amazon bought Goodreads last year, so I'm waiting to see the functionality merge.

Also, I agree with your second post, Gordon. Nowadays, writers are way more in the public eye. They have to be. And jerk authors could turn readers off. Or really, any behavior could turn a reader off. Likeability is probably a factor in success, much moreso than it used to be.

Oh, and I discovered NetGalley the other day. Basically, you pay to make your book available to their readers and they contribute unbiased reviews. I'm not sure how I feel about the practice myself, but for someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to gain readership, it might be worth looking into.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 20, 2014 - 11:29am

I'd been hearing about people having picked up books from NetGalley for a while now, but never looked into it because I assumed it was either a service for agents to submit to publishers, or for publishers to post up ARCs for the media. A lot of industry doors are closed to self-publishers (espcially when it comes to awards, which, while I'd appreciate the recognition, mostly turn me off because such things have to be applied and/or campaigned for, which defeats the purpose to me). Anyway, looking at it now, they do offer services for individuals, but it's pretty expensive for no guarantee of results. I do like the idea of it, though, and thanks for the reminder. I've always been happy to send books to reviewers with established platforms, but to have them seek me out instead would be nice.

As for assholic authors, I haven't read an Ellis book since I've been aware of his Twitter. Though I've always known his persona was like that, the daily tweets were such a persistent reminder (I admit it took me way longer than it should've to unfollow, though). And even offline, I remember seeing a TV interview with Foer once that completely turned me off from reading anything he might write. Those guys are big fish, but there are far more examples in authors on my own level. Hell, even I'm bound to offend some folks with my quips.

I've also noticed that ever since I began tweeting, my fiction has contained less humor, probably because whenever I think of something funny I now have an immediate outlet for it instead of stockpiling them in notebooks like I used to. My first novel was gold in that regard, just years of witticisms lying in wait.

Tim Johnson's picture
Tim Johnson from Rockville, MD is reading Notes From a Necrophobe by T.C. Armstrong January 20, 2014 - 12:45pm

I presume you bring up Ellis (as in Bret Easton Ellis) because I'm reading American Psycho? I have no personal experience with his Twitter persona, but I could see him being a douche. What's worse is I'm hating the crap out of this book. Might put it down.

I wonder if there's a way we could organize a "here are novels people who call LitReactor home have published, so check them out and contribute reviews" list.

*puts Flashover and Major Inversions on wishlist

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 20, 2014 - 1:41pm

Ha, no, Ellis is the just first author that comes to mind for douchey personas. I'm pretty sure there's been a thread or two about his/their antics in the past.

That's a great idea for a LitReactor feature. We've done that on other writing forums in the past, dunno why not here yet (I think there was article or something in the early days of the site*, but my brain's failing me). There's the Whoring Thread, of course, but that gets unwieldy after a while and is mostly short story pubs. Maybe some kind of sidebar widget or special tab or something.

And thank you for your future patronage!

*EDIT: Found it. There's an Alumni page. No idea how to navigate manually to it, and the info's a couple years old, but it was still a nice touch.

Alan H Jordan's picture
Alan H Jordan from Reno, Nevada is reading "The Whisper Jar" and "The World Beneath" January 26, 2014 - 6:04pm

I've made a post under your Submission Windows thread. I'll be glad to start a discussion, but I think it would much more effective with the alternative title that I've suggested.

Of course, if you want to stay with this title, I'll still be delighted to start the discussion.

Alan

Dmcleod's picture
Dmcleod from Florida is reading Molloy January 26, 2014 - 7:02pm

I would consider myself kind, which might be my saving grace, because I also consider myself misanthropic. Most misanthopy stems from self hate, I believe, and so it can be "cured" with some inner healing.

A popular writer that shoots himself in the foot (Ellis) with social media, is an author that wouldn't have had that avenue a coupla moons ago. The world has always been filled with brilliant (not talking about Ellis) writers that would be considered bad people. These days, I think the smarter ones would not have such an online presence. Will Christopher Baer might be satan himself (I hear he's a nice guy), but he doesn't spread his feces all over the digital spectrum like many others. So we are left with his work to speak for him.

I value my many bad traits in ways that I wouldn't want to quell online. I think they add to my writing. Which is why I don't have a Twitter. I drunk text way too much to defile myself in that giant fish bowl.

I think a lot of authors used to aspire to offend. These days, it seems, too many bow to popular opinion. I don't read anybody's tweets, and if I did, it wouldn't be artist's I respect. I would rather have the art speak for itself. If I am a huge fan of someones fiction, and that someone turns out to be the next Hitler, I would rather be left in the dark about his opinions and personal habits.

Also, I never plan on getting rich off of my fiction, so the social media aspect doesn't matter as much. I am just happy that there is a place like this, where I can get good feedback from great authors, and hopefully give some as well.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 26, 2014 - 8:47pm

Hell's Half Acre is one of my favorite novels (this statement will make no sense out of context a few days from now …). Baer's mystique works in his favor, at least in a cult fandom sense. He's definitely publicity-shy; I mean, the guy was embarrassed (modestly, not shamefully) by the fact there existed a community dedicated in part to discussing his writing. I was one of its admins, and miss those early days when he was active. Then again, someone like him I think could benefit greatly from resuming his online presence—any online presence, please, for the love of god—assuming he ever publishes another book. As it stands, I can understand him being unmotivated to simply promoting a backlist.

Dmcleod's picture
Dmcleod from Florida is reading Molloy January 26, 2014 - 9:08pm

Hell's Half Acre should be in my mailbox tomorrow. I too wish he was online in some way, just to hear his opinions on things. His insights into writing, if he cared to share them. But I am fine with him not having twitter or being on forums all the time, as it might diminish that mystique, and it would take time away from Godspeed, assuming that is ever going to happen. I found screenshots from "The Velvet" and that looks like it was a great forum, I wish I had found out about him sooner.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 26, 2014 - 11:49pm

The Velvet was a great community. It dated back to '04, I think, and I came on board first thing in '06. That was our little online neighborhood bar, and since its members shared taste in those three authors' work, that translated to other commonalities, too. Eventually the conversation dwindled, we had trouble with some bots and hacking, and that was that. And while we appreciated the interest, we also got sick of every new member popping in merely to ask where Godspeed was, instead of reading the info posted about it. Who knows when or if that thing'll ever come out; it's been reported as "done" or "being rewritten" probably more times than I can count on a hand. I read some rough chapters long ago, but there's no telling how much it evolved since then. It also wouldn't surprise me if WCB struggled with the current publishing landscape, maybe in wanting to find the right publisher or agent to make it worth his while. Just because a segment of readers adores someone's work doesn't mean they necessarily have it any easier than the rest of us.

TKnite's picture
TKnite from the US is reading Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne January 29, 2014 - 1:40pm

I get books to review through NetGalley, but I've never considered using their services because they's so expensive. I don't have those kinds of funds sitting around to sink into something that might not pay off. Personally, paying for reviews doesn't sit right with me, especially when I don't even know I'm going to get any reviews out of all that money...

In terms of social media, I think, like most things, it's a double-edged sword. Authors are now more visible than ever, and they can communicate with readers in ways impossible until very recently. This has not only created new venues for promotion and advertising but has fundamentally altered the ways readers and authors view each other. You can chat up bestselling authors on Twitter these days, hear their thoughts, get their opinions...it's very different. And it's opened up a lot of new channels for, say, self-publishers to gain a following. 

On the downside, it can get pretty annoying. Some authors and publishers fall into 100% promo mode on their social media, and it's nothing but meaningless "buy my stuff" posts over and over and over. There's got to be a balance, I think, between showing off your personality and promoting your work. If you do it right, both of those things work toward the same end. If you do it wrong...you can easily turn people off. 

Finally, to get back around to the main topic: reviews. Again, double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can get a wealth of feedback on your work that can convince other potential readers to buy. On the other hand, since there's no longer a review gatekeeper, you can get stuck with tons of unhelpful reviews, one-star trolls...Amazon and Goodreads have a lot of good review content, but there's also a lot of stuff on there that just wouldn't have passed the bar before the advent of "easy reviewing."

It really all comes down, I think, for a small-time author or self-publisher, to buliding a good support network, gaining a following, and successfully prompting that following to give you feedback through reviews. I think on many levels it's a good thing that the individual can have a substantial impact on book reviews. But, like all things, there are certain drawbacks. 

Alan H Jordan's picture
Alan H Jordan from Reno, Nevada is reading "The Whisper Jar" and "The World Beneath" February 2, 2014 - 9:10am

I'd like to suggest that you visit the Amazon page for Brothers and Bones, by James Hankins.  And take a look at his Facebook page too.

James is not a well known author, yet. But his three books get reviews, especially this one.

There are over a thousand reviews for Brothers and Bones I remember when I read it, I truly wanted to write a review because the book moved me deeply.

The questions is, "Why are so many people moved to write a review?"  Now, part of it may be because James priced this book economically, and people wanted to share it. I know James.  We met at Thrillerfest VIII, and that may be one of the reasons that I wanted to write a review. It might also be because people are motivated by his Facebook page which helps people to view him as a person.

Perhaps reviewing the reviews will help you to glean insights into how to gain reviews. Looking forward to your thoughts.