Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reviews: Whose Opinion Really Matters?

Months ago, I submitted my manuscript of The Awakened to several online companies that offer reviews/critiques. These were not the big players, like Kirkus Reviews or the New York Times. Nevertheless, conventional wisdom says that a publicized review from an objective viewpoint, especially a review company with a reputation, can lend credibility to your work.

Well, I have a counter-conventional idea I’d like to share.

I wonder if the whole Review concept, like so many other things in the publishing world, is an artifact of the traditional publishing industry. I also wonder if it will end up going to the same place…the grave.

During the publishing process for The Awakened, I had to prioritize my time carefully. Between choosing a printing house, starting a publishing company, doing my own graphic artwork, editing my manuscript, and setting up this blog, I had way too many things to occupy my already limited free time. On top of it all, every time I read indie author blog posts about self-promotion, I ran across the concept of the highly-esteemed Review.

I researched websites of the big companies first, and quickly became discouraged by the variety of ways in which they essentially said, “If your book isn’t being published by a major publishing company, don’t even bother wasting our time by submitting it!”

I’m paraphrasing, of course.

So, for the sake of time-management, I followed their advice. I didn’t bother. And I’m glad I didn’t! Because a few weeks after publishing on Amazon for the Kindle, I began to get reviews from people whose opinions really matter—readers.

It took me a while to wake up and change my thinking, but eventually I asked myself, Am I writing to win awards? Am I writing to gain credibility from critics? As an indie author, do I care about any of that? Isn’t it most important that my writing finds support from people who are reading for pleasure? After all, if my writing is going to survive, it will have to be from word-of-mouth.

That’s when I realized, instead of putting quotes in the front matter like this:

“One of the best blah blah blah blah blah.”
—Somebody no one’s heard of, Some Newspaper

…indie authors should be publicizing what readers are saying. Once I came to this realization, I jumped on it. You may have noticed that the quotes I now have on my blog are from Amazon reviewers. Many people have said some very nice things about The Awakened. None of them were obligated to do so. They chose to. And in so doing, their opinions actually influenced others to read the series, as well.

How different this is from the traditional Review concept!

This is real. This is honest. And these are the opinions that really matter!

Oh yeah. I finally heard back from one of the review companies I mentioned above. While their review was mostly positive, I only received one blog hit via their website. Hardly the impact I expected. Which leaves me thinking, how is this better than a reader review?

The answer—it’s not.

18 comments:

Amanda said...

Just to say, I totally agree. I pick up your book from the kindle website whilst browsing for something new to read. When I choose a new book, I always check out the reviews. I value the opinions of my fellows readers, people with busy lives and who get no pay for writing a few lines, people who thought a book was so good, they took the time to write about it.

It very rarely fails me, and hasn't this time either. I'm eagerly awaiting the continuation of Kael's story, but am also excited to read Wandering Stars. Thank you for an awesome book, and for not limiting yourself to genres tags. It makes for a much more interesting read.

Kate DeAmour said...

First, I have to say, I started reading Book One of The Awakened last night and it is fantastic. I will be buying books two and three. As an author myself, you give me hope that the new system, e-readers and self-publishing apposed to big publishing companies and bookstores, still holds hope that a well written book can be found.

I honestly have been worried, but you are the proof that what people really want is a good book written well, and they will find it.

Thank you.

On a side note, to go along with the post here, twitter is also a great place for real people to spread the word. The first thing I did when I realized I found such a good book on my Kindle was tweet it... and look for you to follow. You should get a twitter account. In my opinion. :) Good stuff spreads like fire there.

Sincerely,
Kate

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Kate. The new publishing system does indeed work for those who have a passion to write and can find an audience.

I've also been thinking about twitter lately and, now that you mention it, I might just sign up soon.

-Jason Tesar

James said...

Jason,

Having read book one and two, and currently reading book three, I see you are onto an absolute winner here. Your writing style, while still new, is worlds apart from the majority of Indie's I read through the kindle.

You have engineered a page turning style, and the plots have (so far) not been predictable. I thought I knew where you were going in the final quarter of book 2, but the story surprised me!

Book 2 was despatched in 3 days whilst away on business. The last time I devoted that much time to a book was with Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series (such an ending....made me feel like I lost 6 months of my life!!).

So, two requests.

The first is pretty much "sunk" as you have already written the book, but I really hope that the ending is not disappointing at the end of the previously mentioned series.

The second? Keep on writing. I cannot see you being an indie for much longer. What you are writing is of a quality that rivals, if not surpasses the "established" writers in your genre.

Keep up the good work.

James

Jason Tesar said...

Wow! James, thank you so much for your kind words.

I'm really pleased that you are enjoying the series, but I can't help but be a bit nervous about you reading the ending of Book Three.
When I think of the ultimate ending, I immediately think of the movie-version of Shawshank Redemption. Everyone gets what is coming to them, and you learn all the little details that were left out during the story--completely satisfying.

Because I originally wrote Book One, Two, and Three as a single novel, the cliffhanger endings were only meant to keep readers turning the pages. But when I split it into three eBooks, I started noticing a trend among responses from readers. It turns out that a lot of people have a difficult time with unresolved story elements. This, of course, points to people's natural tendency to seek resolution as a way to make sense of the world.

All this to say, The Awakened is the START of a series. So, while I'm seeking that ULTIMATE ending for the whole series, the end of Book Three isn't it. I don't want to give away any details, but I will say that the ending reflects my philosophy on sequential stories--resolve all of the immediate issues, but leave a few dangling items to lead people where the story is going next.

This series is so vast that it couldn't possibly be contained within one book. I'm working now on four prequels, and there will likely be an equal number of sequels. But every time I sit down to write, every time I design a city, create a culture, or develop a backstory for a character, I see how much more there is to tell. For the sake of readers, after these four prequels I will pursue Kael's story to the end before fleshing out any additional storylines. But eventually, I envision a whole world that encapsulates many stories, much like Tolkien's Middle Earth. ...not that my writing is anywhere near his brilliance!

So, I do indeed plan to 'keep writing.' Thank you so much for starting this journey with me. Hopefully, I'll have something else for you to read soon!

-Jason

James said...

Jason, I have just finished book three..........

I loved it! The style was like the previous two ebooks, and worked perfectly.

I am very impressed with the transition from the emotional viewpoints you write about the characters, and the all out war writing that has elements of Simon Scarrow or Conn Iggulden (both writers of historical fact based fiction). I mention these as you were looking at 1000 year old weaponary and tactics, so had to mention this.

As for the ending of the book, I was slightly dasappointed until I read your blog entry about the future plans for the awakened. It seems that my desire for closure will be sated with another series of sequels, for that I am grateful and also impatient!

I also picked up a few proof reading errors in the third book, but they were trifling compass based things! If you want details let me know. Although they do not detract from the main, they were enough for me to pan back 20 pages in the kindle to check. That says more about me.........

Keep it up mate, I will start on the prequels now!

Take care, and keep turning these out.

James

Jason Tesar said...

Hi James,

I would be interested in details on the proofreading errors. I plan to periodically update the electronic files anyway, so I could always use the info.

-Jason

Toby said...

An amazing read so far... bought the awakened as the single book. Well worth it and very impatient for more!

Writing style and attention to detail coupled with the descriptive methods made this a very enjoyable read. As mentioned above has hints of Conn Iggulden with the research behind the details whilst having a David Gemmell feel to tge narrative.

Keep it up!

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Toby. I'm glad you're enjoying it! Even though I'm writing in the fantasy genre, I'm striving for the realism that you might experience in the historical or military fiction genres. So, I'm honored that you and James (above) compared my writing to authors in those genres.

-Jason

Anonymous said...

Jason,

I completely agree with you. I often skip the "official review" when deciding o whether to purchase a book and go to the reader comments.

After spending the last year immersed in the "Wheel of Time" series on audiobook, I have ventured out into Kindle as a way to augment my reading. I suffered a detached retina several years ago and it is a struggle sometimes to read, but your stories are well worth the effort. You do an excellent job of telling the story and I like the way your words flow. I just finished the third book of "Awakened" today and I am looking forward to reading more.

Steve

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Steve! I'm honored that you would go through the trouble to read something of mine.
-Jason

Christie said...

I found you on smashwords and just finished reviewing your book on my website, amazon, smashwords, facebook, and goodreads. GREAT STUFF! Keep 'em coming!
Here's a link in case you're interested. http://hagermans.blogspot.com/2000/02/awakened-books-1-3-by-jason-tesar.html

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Christie,

Thank you so much for posting your reviews in multiple places! That's the kind of support I need to spread the word.

-Jason

Electrifyn said...

I think it was really rather ingenious of you to scrub the traditional reviews of someone who is on somebody elses payroll, and may have hidden agendas that don't really pertain to you, your writing, or your story. It tells me that you have a true passion for your story and have a healthy attitude towards your fans! Again I thank you, your wife, and family for loaning us your time and energy. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Oran Walker said...

Your narrative is rich, complex, and rewarding to any reader of myth. It's trite to say so I know, but I can't put your books down. I respectfully submit that you do, however, need a copy editor, mainly for misspellings and word omissions--your grammar is fine. That being said, I look forward to reading more of your work(s).

Jason Tesar said...

Thank you Oran. I couldn't afford a copyeditor at the time. Instead, I opted to have multiple people read through my manuscript to catch the problems. I do have an editor lined up for my next novel and will likely involve an editor if/when I revise the Awakened books.

Thanks for your support,

Jason

yogacowgirls said...

will there be a book 4? i want to see kael and adair reunite.

Jason Tesar said...

yogacowgirls,

There will definitely be a Book 4, probably a total of 7 books to finish the series. And yes, you'll see Kael and Adair reunite.

-Jason