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.
The WisRWA Chapter Service Award is an award that WisRWA gives out to members who have shown exemplary service to our organization often going above and beyond the call of duty for WisRWA. Members are nominated and sent to the Chapter Service Award chair or chairs who will read through the nominations and choose the winning recipient or recipients. The committee received many nominations and were quite pleased to see all the ways our members are serving the chapter.
To serve is to give above and beyond what is expected. This year, WisRWA chose Lisa Romdenne, Past President of WisRWA.
Here is what the nominating individuals had to say about her:
When she was a relative newcomer to WisRWA Lisa Romdenne stepped in to run for president of our chapter at a time we were once again facing the very real possibility of folding. She caught on fast, and in the last two years she’s done a fantastic job. Lisa has handled board meetings efficiently, followed through on chapter commitments, has listened to all sides of an issue, and has shown immense patience and a knack for detail. She has made it easier for the rest of us to do our jobs. While president of the chapter, Lisa continued to be an active, helpful member of the Greater Green Bay Area.
Like the leader she is, Lisa has been willing to help with any project and takes an interest in questions about the chapter raised by individual members. Lisa has done an exemplary job of representing WisRWA as a unique and long-standing chapter of RWA, and has done so with great good humor. She always shows us the best of her outgoing personality.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
Forgetting the Scot by Jennifer Trethewey
Salt & Venom by Amy McNulty
The Dance Hall Wife by CiCi Cordelia
Meant for Me by Lyn Cote
Had to Be You by Lyn Cote
Forever Knight by Barbara Raffin
Melonie Johnson‘s exclusive cover reveals for Smitten by the Brit and Dared by the Bad Boy, books 2 and 3 in her Sometimes in Love series will take place on October 24th on the USA Today’s Happily Ever After page.
Barbara Raffin will be presenting a program at the Kress Family Library in DePere, WI on October 20, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The presentation will be a hands-on workshop on utilizing the lesser-used senses in your writing. Book signing to follow.
Recently, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Nashville. If you are hoping to publish in Christian fiction, this conference gives an overview of the inspirational market. The Christian fiction market is growing due to its loyal readership and the hope these novels bring to a chaotic world.
Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense remain strong genres in the Christian market. Contemporary Realism is trending due to the news of the day (bombings, school shootings, suicide) seeping into novels. Legal thrillers are on the rise as well.
Unfortunately, my genre of Biblical fiction barely received a mention at the conference. Librarians and readers love Bible stories, but publishers are still shy in pursuing this genre. The cry for more Christian YA still goes unheeded by publishers. Where do your teens shop for books? In the small religious section?
Retailers are seeing more time slips and “sister” stories in the market. Diversity is increasing, but at a slow pace. A call was put out for more diversity not only in race, but also in religion. Retailers would like to see stories with older characters, characters that struggle with weight, and more Middle Grade stories for boys.
Shorter series are getting hotter. It is difficult for reviewers to comment on books in a series if they haven’t read previous installments. The term “duology” was new to me. Readers are preferring shorter, two-book series. And, more indie-published books are making it into the “Top 10” in categories on Amazon.
I attended a panel on whether an author should only write in the genre in which they are published. A couple of authors said you shouldn’t jump ship. Another author said she writes the stories God places on her heart regardless of genre. I like to think there is some wiggle room especially with the use of pen names. Some genres are similar in nature and have reader overlap. What do you think? Is your path wide or defined?
While authors are working on their novels, they should mind their social media followers. One agent liked pre-published authors to have an aggregate of 5,000 followers among their social media platforms. Instagram seems to be the hottest media at the moment. Non-fiction authors should shoot for a total of 10-20,000 followers or have a special tie-in to their story that might bring credibility and endorsements.
The job demands of being an author are increasing. We should never forget to enjoy the creative process and find joy in our writing journey. What’s hot or trending this year in Christian fiction may be on the back burner next year. Embrace your characters and your story. Only you can bring your novel to life.
Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb brings little known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. She is a former board member of WisRWA, and a member of RWA, SCBWI, and ACFW. You can find out about Barb’s books on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Writing is a personal profession. We write what we know, use experiences in our lives to add the spices and emotions. If you take pleasure sitting in front of your computer and bringing your characters to life, then you will succeed in your profession. It takes a lot to learn all of the ins and outs. I’ve found that once I know who my characters are, I let them give me their ideas on what is right for the path I put them on. Usually, when I’m not working my scenes right, they stop talking. I listen to the silence and rework the scene until we are all happy.
When obligations take me away, I actually miss my characters. When my muse does go silent, I put on my Phantom of the Opera (Gerry Butler style) CD and it doesn’t take long before the characters start talking again. I’m not sure if it’s because they are tired of hearing the music or it’s because they considered it a treat.
I joined RWA almost nineteen years ago. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I suggest that anyone who is serious about writing romance should join this great organization and attend as many of the national conferences as they can. My mentor gave me this advice when she told me about Romance Writers of America, and I listened. I’ve lost track of how many RWA conferences I’ve attended, but would guess ten. Beside learning about writing, I’ve loved being able to spend time in so many different towns around our country.
I have found that writers are the best kind of friends. They know emotions and when I needed someone to lean on, it was the writing community that pulled me through the worst time in my life. Over the years, I have found the greatest, and most supportive friends possible.
A bunch of us started The Playground. We are authors scattered across the country, and one in England. Being able to meet up at conferences became one of the reasons why we would attend. We cheered when one of us won an award and hugged when a book was rejected. Support is like a crutch when you’re an author. There are so many emotions you go through writing stories. If you find people you trust and who will be honest with you about your manuscript, I would suggest you join them. The Playground group consisted of twelve of us. We had different strengths and weaknesses. I mostly had weaknesses because I was fairly new and needed a lot of guidance. We all received a precious teddy bear that resembled our hero in the book that was a first sale. I have a Scottish cowboy bear from when I sold Night Angel. He sits by my desk and listens to my idea for plot lines.
When I sold that first book six and a half years ago, a gift came with the contract. I have a writing partner. He has the most marvelous imagination, lots of experiences in writing his 24 books, and we both worked for the same publishing house. We’ve not met in person yet because of those 1,500 miles between our homes. I live in Wisconsin and he lives in Louisiana. Because we can stay in contact by messenger, working together has become the best part of my education. He does not waiver on letting me know he does not like a scene or praises me when he thinks a scene is perfect. I trust his judgement and he trusts mine. We both write romance, but with different styles. He also has polished what I write. I edit his work as an author and I proofed his college work while he studied for his Master’s Degree in Education. I’m mentioning this, because it’s made writing enjoyable for me and could be for you, too. Look for that perfect partner and learn how to communicate as you work toward a perfect story. I practiced writing for twenty-two years, and it’s been the last six and a half where I’ve learned the most. I suppose it comes down to trust.
by: Marlene Urso
A RWA member for almost nineteen years and WisRWA member for four, Marlene Urso is published in historical romance. She lives in Lincoln County with her husband. She served as event coordinate for Sacramento Valley Chapter for thirteen years, which included setting up monthly meetings and welcoming members to the meetings. She has been a member of several online chapters, including From the Heart where she’s been membership chair for the last fifteen years. She is getting acquainted with the Wausau area chapter members and enjoys the monthly meetings. Marlene has always enjoyed doing volunteer work because it gives her a chance to give back to the industry that helped her to achieve her dream of being a published author.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass by Christine DeSmet
Red River Crossing by Maxine Douglas