Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
Succubus Heart (Succubus Sirens Book Two) by Lina Jubilee
Beneath the Assassin’s Touch by Katherine Hastings
It’s happened to every reader. You have the weekend off. Rain is pouring down. The coffee pot is sputtering, and those tantalizing smells seduce you to crawl under a blanket and pick out your next great read. So, you hop online, go to your favorite bookstore and start scanning those covers. One calls out to you, so you click, excited to see what it’s about. The blurb looks exciting, you’re ready to buy, but you decide to glance at all those reviews just a short scroll away. Five stars. Not bad! You read a few sentences in and… gasp! They just revealed the plot twist! Ruined the ending! Stole the joy you would have gotten from uncovering it yourself. The horror! Now that the plot is revealed before you even opened the first page, you back out and buy another book.
As a reader, I’m infuriated when someone’s spoiler review appears without warning. As a writer, I’m sad for the author who will no longer get the sale of that book from me, and perhaps more books if I enjoyed it and sought out the rest. All because a reviewer didn’t realize they had broken proper book reviewing etiquette.
Last night I was on a message forum where a well-known author came on and she was devastated a reviewer put the who-dun-it in the first review of her new release. Ouch. Not only is that devastating for an author who worked hard to craft a story and unveil information to you piece by piece, it’s sad for the readers who will no longer get to enjoy the surprise that one reviewer got to experience. On that post, author after author, and reader after reader came forward with similar sob stories. And as a reader who won’t read a book that’s been spoiled, I felt awful knowing authors will inevitably lose sales because of it. And the saddest part? Most of these were five-star, raving reviews. Reviewers who enjoyed the book and wanted to support the author by taking the time to write a review had accidentally cost them sales and caused them heartache as well as ruined the experience for those who would read it after them. It was then I realized, maybe people just don’t understand book review etiquette. Maybe we just need to spread the word! So, after polling authors and readers, we have compiled the list of things you should and shouldn’t do when you review your next read.
1) Review that book
This is a post about etiquette, yes. But it’s important to remind people just how much your reviews help support authors. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We want your opinion and your feedback. Your reviews boost book sales and help rank. If you enjoyed a book, give the author the biggest gift you can… your review. But when you do, just be mindful of other eager readers who want to enjoy the surprises.
2) A Book Review is not A Book Report
No one is quite sure how this came to be, but when writing a review, people don’t want a play-by-play of the book. They want to know your overall thoughts on story, craft, and characters. Let them learn the play-by-play as it’s intended… by reading it. A review that reads like Cliff’s Notes is most definitely laced with spoilers and the bottom line is no reader wants to know that stuff before they read a book. Do you?
I’m going to put two reviews below as an example.
When a handsome swordsman comes to Camelot, he discovers the one thing he can’t battle away… his feelings for the beautiful Guinevere. Their growing passion for one another could destroy them both, and they must each choose between their loyalty to their King or loyalty to their hearts. But when Arthur’s old enemy returns with a vengeance, it’s up to Lancelot to put aside his feelings and fight beside his king to defend not only Queen Guinevere, but all of Camelot.
Wow! This book has all the feels. It’s a gripping historical romance novel filled with action, adventure, and romance. The writing is beautiful. I practically felt like I was back in Camelot. The characters were wonderfully crafted, and I rooted for them every step of the way. The pacing was perfect, and I had trouble putting it down. I loved this book and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get on an emotional roller coaster and never get off!
This book starts in Camelot and Guinevere is betrothed to the King. She really seems to love him, but then she meets Lancelot, his newest knight. After she’s kidnapped by King Arthur’s enemy, Arthur sends Lancelot to find her and they end up succumbing to their love. She cheats on her husband with Lancelot and when he finds out he’s devastated. Eventually she chooses her husband over Lancelot and he’s banished, but when Arthur dies at the end she gets to be with Lancelot after all. It was a great story and I highly recommend it.
Can you see the difference? One reads like a book report while the other tells us nothing to spoil the story but tells us how the reader FELT about the book. And that’s the most important part! Did you like the story? Too fast? Too slow? Could you identify with the characters? These are all very safe things to address, and they are actually helpful to potential readers. But let’s leave those book reports back in High School.
3) If it’s not in the blurb, don’t put it in the review
This is the safest way to make sure you don’t ruin a book for anyone else. Blurbs are carefully crafted to give away just enough info to make a book enticing, but not too much to take away the fun of discovery a reader gets to enjoy when they read a new book. When writing a review, I’m careful to never disclose anything specific the blurb hasn’t already told us. I don’t add in plot twists, endings, who-dun-it’s, or anything you wouldn’t have gotten from the blurb.
In the two reviews above, you’ll see in the first one no spoilers were leaked but you still got an idea of my feelings on the book, as well as an idea of what it’s about. It’s action, adventure and romance. Emotional. Hard to put down. In the second one, I told you exactly what happens! As a new reader, when you open that book you already know many of the major conflicts AND you even know how it ends. As a reader, if I read that first review, I would put that book in my cart. If I read the second review, I would shout curses at that reviewer for ruining a book it sounds like I would have loved. I would back out without buying it and go find another book. So, when you review, if it’s not in the blurb, find a way to get your point across without revealing any additional information.
4) Write the review you would want to read
Having a hard time coming up with a review that isn’t a book report? Try to think about what you wish you would have known before you started it. Without giving away too much, try to help the next readers decide if this is the right book for them. Do you hate cliffhangers, and it ended in one? Tell us that! Don’t tell us what the cliffhanger was but tell us you were disappointed it requires you to purchase book two in order to get the ending. Do you love sex scenes and this writer did a fantastic job? That’s a great thing to add and can help readers decide if they want a book with steamy sex scenes or not. Was it too violent for you? Say that. Readers who like violence in books will purchase it, and it will steer away those who don’t have a taste for it. These are all things that can help you write a book review that actually helps guide buyers and doesn’t ruin the book for the people who read it.
5) Use Spoiler Alerts
If you decide you absolutely must write a review that includes info not already in the blurb, please PLEASE write in all caps at the very top of your review *SPOILER ALERT!* This gives any readers who like to be surprised plenty of warning to flip past your review and not have a book experience ruined.
That’s it! Those are the five simple rules to writing a review that will have both authors and readers singing your praises instead of cursing your screen name. Your reviews are SO IMPORTANT and we want to encourage you to come forward with how you felt about our books. But just be mindful when doing so and let the readers who come after you share in all the joy of discovering a story the way an author intended. Let them share in your surprise.
by: Katherine Hastings
Katherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite pastimes. When she’s not on an adventure with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days… going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures… that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.
As the new year begins, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. One of the toughest things about becoming a writer is discipline. We all know a book doesn’t write itself and no matter how much praying we do, the words don’t always come. I have been writing a long time…well, sort of. I spent the first five years of my writing career talking about writing, researching, taking classes, attending conferences, perfecting my first three chapters and a synopsis, but I never finished a book.
I used to blame my lack of productivity on my day job, my family, my dog, the neighbor’s dog, anyone and anything, instead of myself. Slowly, but surely all the writers in my critique group became published authors, while I kept on pretending that someday I would write a great book. Even after publishing seven books and having others manuscripts looking for a publisher, I still struggle with sitting down to write.
Often what keeps me back from writing is fear of failure. I’m a sensitive sort and every time someone gives me a bad review or a rejection letter lands in my inbox, I crawl in my closet (literally) with my favorite candy (right now it’s peanut M & M’s), but the key is: I always crawl back out. And that’s the answer.
God says in the Bible we should not fear anything. (I write Christian fiction, so yeah, you’re going to get some God from me.) Not everybody is going to love me or embrace what I write, but that’s okay. If you put yourself out there you will be rewarded. Maybe it’s becoming a contest finalist, an email from a fan, a publishing contract or a hug from your hubby or the kids. Whatever it is, remember your talent is a gift. So use it!
Tips on how to finish a book:
So stop reading this post and go write!
P.S. I’d love to hear your favorite writing strategy, email me at Oliviarae.firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Rae is an award-winning author of historical and contemporary inspirational romance. She spent her school days dreaming of knights, princesses and far away kingdoms; it made those long, boring days in the classroom go by much faster. Nobody was more shocked than her when she decided to become a teacher. Besides getting her Master’s degree, marrying her own prince, and raising a couple of kids, Olivia decided to breathe a little more life into her childhood stories by adding in what she’s learned as an adult living in a small town on the edge of a big city. When not writing, she loves to travel, dragging her family to old castles and forts all across the world.
Olivia is the winner of the New England Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Quill Award, and the American Fiction Awards. She has also been a finalist in many other writing contests, including the National Readers’ Choice Awards and the National Excellence in Romance.
From the prominent New York Times Best Selling author to the newbie who’s just begun their writing career, one of the scariest things you can tell a writer is that someone is going to judge their work. Sometimes just telling a writer that their work is going to be read sends them into conniption fits.
However, writing contests should be considered in a completely different light. Writing contests are an excellent way to receive constructive feedback on your WIP and (in many instances) get your work in front of industry professionals without having to write a query!
When I finally could dedicate time to writing again, I noticed that I felt more insecure about my writing than I ever had before. I was scared to write the stories I wanted to write. I was scared to put any words on the paper, for fear that they would suck. I almost considered giving writing up as a whole. And then I read a blog post about the pros of entering writing contests. I began researching all the writing contests I could potentially enter. Ultimately, I ended up submitting two entries into the Fab Five Contest and it was one of the best decisions I made. I took the entire process as an opportunity to grow as a writer. I wanted to know what people thought of my work when they didn’t know it was mine. It was terrifying, but absolutely necessary.
Let me tell you why:
Each final judge reads all five finalist entries. They issue their own feedback form which includes a section for material requests. Essentially, you can get a partial or full request from an agent or an editor without having to write a query and wait months checking and rechecking your inbox. Now, am I saying that entering a contest should completely replace good old-fashioned querying? No. Not at all. Querying is an important process for a writer who wants to publish traditionally, but that’s a blog post for another time. I’m talking about entering contests, specifically the Fab Five contest opening on January 1st of 2019.
For all the benefits discussed, one may suspect that entry fees would break your budget. That is not the case. At $25 for WisRWA members and $30 for non-members, the Fab Five prices continue to be some of the most economical among similar contests. So, for a relatively small fee, you can get expert feedback from published authors and the chance to get your work seen (and maybe requested by) industry professionals. I can say from firsthand experience, entering the Fab Five Contest is worth the price and worth facing the fear of judgement. It just may change your life.
As an unpublished author with no critique partners, joining the Fabulous Five contest proved vital to my journey as a writer. In 2015 I took some time off of writing to completely change careers, go back to school, and get my master’s degree. During those years, I felt well…backed up. I wanted to write my own stories, but time and guilt restrained me. I had papers to write, tests to take, and a thesis to research. How could I take an hour or two to outline a romance novel, when I was barely even sleeping? I couldn’t. There was no time. As such, my mood plummeted, my anxiety spiked, and I was miserable.
My number one reason for entering the Fab Five contest was for the feedback, especially because I don’t really have critique partners. Most authors continue the same patterns from beginning to the end of the book and from WIP to WIP. Chances are the mistakes you’re making in chapter one, are the same ones you’re making in chapter twenty. The opportunity to get detailed and constructive feedback on the beginning of your WIP is invaluable. The Fab Five contest has some seriously qualified first round judges looking at all of the things a potential editor or agent would look for: a catchy opening, believable characters, a conflict driven plot, natural dialogue and active narrative, a sense rich setting, and a unique style. Say you are like me and don’t even realize that you have no dialogue in your WIP until about page five… Don’t worry, the judges will figure it out relatively quickly and tell you in their feedback. Perhaps you are a bit lacking in setting. The judges will let you know. Maybe your work is absolutely fantastic, but only requires some grammatical tweaks. The judges will let you know that too. The Fab Five first round judges try their very best to give detailed and useful feedback on every entry they read, but even then they don’t always agree. Every judge is different and so are their opinions, which is why the lowest score is always dropped when calculating placement in the category (unless there’s a tie) That info is available in the official rules here: 2019 Fab Five Rules Once scores are complied, five finalists are selected in each category and sent to an agent and an editor for final judging.
This leads me to the second reason for entering: the opportunity to get one’s work in front of industry professionals without having to query first. If you’re anything like me, just the thought of writing a query letter, that may or may not lead to a request, sends you into cold sweats. It’s extremely intimidating to think that a few paragraphs can determine whether or not someone decides how interesting and worthy the project (you spent years trying to perfect) is. Entering the Fab Five contest and being a finalist means that both an agent and an editor are going to read the first 2,500 words of your manuscript! There are no queries or even a synopsis needed to enter, so the judging comes directly from that small snippet of your work. I know that last sentence will freak some people out, but consider this: if an entry finals, it has gone through three other judges who considered it worthy of potentially winning. That means those first few pages are filled with some seriously good writing. That alone is a huge confidence boosting compliment.
by: Natalie Caña