Can you explain why book reviewers have this prejudice?

First off, I want to say how much I appreciate every single person who’s taken the time to read The Brevity of Roses. And those who went the extra mile by rating or reviewing it, get a second gold star in my book. Most of you paid for the book, and I’m honored. Actually, that you parted with real legal tender to read my writing totally freaks me out!

First off, I want to say how much I appreciate every single person who’s taken the time to read The Brevity of Roses. And those who went the extra mile by rating or reviewing it, get a second gold star in my book. Most of you paid for the book, and I’m honored. Actually, that you parted with real legal tender to read my writing totally freaks me out!

But today’s post is about seeking reviews from those with a wider reach, a greater influence. As a self-published author, without a publicist, it’s my responsibility to seek reviews of my book. Public reviews act as a sort of official word of mouth, so of course the more popular the reviewer the better.

Unfortunately, all review policies are not equal. I won’t name names, mostly because I’ve checked out so many book review sites since April that I’ve twisted them all up in my brain like a rubberband ball.

Some I eliminated as soon as I saw mention of a reading fee because, right now, I couldn’t pay for a review even if I wanted to. Some ask for two, or more, print copies, ditto on the reason for eliminating them or, at least, moving them to the bottom of my list. Some only review certain genres, usually not mine.

But what’s the biggest reason for crossing them off my list? They don’t review self-published books. That’s their prerogative, of course, but I’m not sure I understand their reasoning. Sure many self-published books are badly written, or badly edited, or both. But not every book published traditionally is excellent on all counts either. Plus, if the reviewer doesn’t like the book, or the quality of the book, they can pass, right?

So, I think I’m missing something. I think I must not understand why people review books for the public. Can anyone explain to me why some reviewers shun self-published books as a policy?

Should I have turned up the heat in my novel?

Recently, I had a discussion with a hairstylist who read my novel, The Brevity of Roses, and recommended it to many of his clients. His opinion, shared by some of his clients, is that I should have written more explicit love scenes. “Sex sells,” he said.

Recently, I had a discussion with a hairstylist who read my novel, The Brevity of Roses, and recommended it to many of his clients. His opinion, shared by some of his clients, is that I should have written more explicit love scenes. “Sex sells,” he said.

I don’t deny that’s true. In the advertising world, sex sells everything from toothpaste to tennis shoes. It also sells certain genres of fiction. In my lifetime, I’ve read (and written) fiction rated from XXX to lily white chaste. I’ve concluded I prefer reading books that allow me to imagine the love scenes—designed precisely to my tastes, not the author’s.

Cathy Yardley of the Rock Your Writing blog, recently used my novel as an example when she wrote a 3-part series on how to profile your target reader and create a 10-step novel promotion strategy. She admitted mine was a difficult case because Brevity is a cross-genre novel. Cathy described it as a “women’s fiction/commercial lit fic novel”.

I appreciated her effort and expertise, and I’m implementing as many of her suggestions as I can. However, her next post after my case study spoke about the difficulty of marketing genre blends. Hmmm.

I’m not sure that Brevity qualifies as a true genre blend, but if so, I’ve certainly got a hard task ahead of me in marketing a “broccoli brownie”. As literary fiction, I don’t think readers necessarily expect explicit sex. As women’s fiction or commercial fiction, I’m not sure.

Now, I’m curious. If you’ve read The Brevity of Roses, would you have liked a little more steam in the love scenes? If you haven’t read the book, but have read the description, would you expect R-rated scenes?

What’s your most memorable scene?

I need a little break from work today, so I’d like to start a book discussion. Kayla Olson recently blogged about loving the last scene in her novel. She asked her readers if they had such a scene in their writing. I replied that I did, but those scenes might not be favorites with my readers.

Her question started me thinking about memorable scenes in the novels I’ve read. Some, of course, are pivotal scenes, ones destined to become famous, but not all. Some resonate with me on a level not shared by everyone. As we’ve discussed before, reading is subjective. We each filter what we read through our thoughts, feelings, and memories, and it’s with that criteria we choose our favorites.

It need not be the whole scene that grabs us. Sometimes it’s just a paragraph or two, often descriptive. One such passage for me appears in the first chapter of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In one paragraph, she creates the book’s world for me.

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first new it. In rainy weather, the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

Please share a memorable passage from a book you love or, if you’re feeling contrary, maybe you’d like to share an illustration why you didn’t care for a particular book. I doubt we’ll all agree on either, but the discussion should be interesting. We might even discover new books to add to our To Read shelves.

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Classically Ignorant

Do you need a laugh today? Have one on me. The other day, for no reason I could discern, I thought of a book I read long ago. I couldn’t remember the title or names of any characters. I couldn’t even remember many details of the story. I could picture the entry hall and main staircase, and a room or two on the upper floors. I saw a young woman in 19th-century dress. The book was not illustrated; these images were only what I imagined.

I had no exact recall how I felt reading the book, but I thought maybe I enjoyed it. Not remembering anything more, I pushed it out of mind. A few days later, during a conversation with my son Daniel, who will soon defend his dissertation for a PhD in literature (Victorian emphasis), it occurred to me he might recognize the book. I told him what I remembered: a young woman is hired as governess by a man who keeps his insane wife secretly locked in his home … and I think a fire figures into it.

Are you laughing now?

My son’s initial reaction was silence. I’m sure he hoped I was joking. After a moment, he said, “Uh … Mom … that’s Jane Eyre.”

Oh, my yes. I am ignorant of the classics. Or possibly, just ignorant of having read them. Maybe I’ve read all the classics, but don’t remember.

Be kind, please. Look away. I’m going to go slink back into my cave, but I’ll understand if you want to pretend you don’t know such a lowbrow.

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