Miko Johnston is the author of Petals in the Wind.
She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon.
FOR WRITERS AND THOSE WHO LOVE THEM
I plead guilty. Let me explain.
Writers may work alone, but we’re part of a community. In March I wrote a post about critique groups, which I consider a great way for writers to find the encouragement and support they need. But there’s an even better way for us to help each other that is being virtually ignored. I call it THE THREE ‘R’s:
READ: One of the best ways we can support our fellow writers is to purchase their books. Why not devote a bookshelf to their work. I put my colleagues’ books in a guestroom so visitors can be introduced to their writing and it’s worked brilliantly. If you worry about the cost or where you’ll put all those paperbacks, invest in an e-reader. A basic model is modestly priced and you’ll recoup the cost fairly quickly since electronic versions of books are often less expensive than print copies. You’ll also be able to buy books that are only available in electronic format. Then think of a clever way to get your friends to ‘sign’ your copy. If you’re in a writers group, suggest a book swap and trade a copy of your book for theirs. A signed copy of a book makes a great gift as well, so buy a few from the author for those last-minute occasions and offer to do the same for them.
REVIEW: “Readers always tell me they like my books, but why don’t they write a review?” Sound familiar? And it’s more baffling when the readers are other writers.
Reviews are the lifeblood of book sales and marketing. There is no better way for writers to support each other than by reading and reviewing each other’s work. We writers all know this, and yet…. How many reviews do you have from other writers, and have you posted reviews of their books?
Non-writers may not realize the importance of online reviews, perhaps more important than purchasing the book. Ask everyone you know who’s read your published work to leave a review on Amazon (also suggest Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Smashwords). Then check to make sure the review is posted; Amazon removes comments for reasons other than ‘inappropriate’.
Do tell your reviewers to be truthful; while anything less than three stars counts negatively on Amazon, their algorithms are based on an average score, so a few low ones won’t hurt if you get enough good reviews. The key is to get enoughreviews. No one cares if you get five star evaluations if you only get a few; they’re meaningless because readers assume it’s your mom and BFFs writing them. You must be honest as well. If you feel you can’t praise someone’s book, and that happens, then at least tell that to the author – I wouldn’t want to post anything less than three stars for a writer I know. And keep in mind the generation gap when it comes to technology. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this on Anne R. Allen’s blog –
One sweet woman in her seventies had been devastated to find out that giving a book “a gold star” wasn’t letting people know she liked the book. She thought one star was a good thing.
If Grandma is uncomfortable posting a review, have her express what she wants to say and let her ten-year-old grandkid post it for her.
RECOMMEND: We tend to recommend books we enjoy, but we don’t always include those by authors we personally know. Recommending is perfect for those who feel uncomfortable writing or posting reviews online, or who want to do more to help your writing career.
If they liked your book, ask your family and friends to recommend it to their family and friends, as well as their neighbors, fellow worshippers, volunteer groups, clubs, and co-workers (especially the ones who always ask them to buy the cards/wrapping paper/candy their kids have to sell for school!). If they have a blog or Facebook page, ask if they’d mention your book and include a link to your author home page. Suggest they buy additional copies, which you’ll graciously sign, for last-minute gifts. And advise them to recommend your book only to people who’d enjoy it – if cousin Flora’s idea of the great outdoors is a parking lot without lines, she probably won’t be interested in your camping memoir.
People outside our writing community who want to help need to be shown how. And if we truly want to encourage and support each other, we all must make the effort to do it, in the most effective way. If we do, then ultimately we’ll all benefit. Isn’t that what a community is all about?
I confess to some failings – on how many counts do you plead ‘Guilty’?
4 thoughts on “The Three R’s for Writers and Those Who Love Them by Miko Johnston”
I've tried everything from putting it on my calendar as a task to trying to do a review every time I'm on Amazon, and still I forget to review the books I've read. It's madness! Thanks for the reminders that we are a community that needs to support each other.
I have two bookcases full of books written by people I either know or those I got to know while being the Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters-in-Crime/Los Angeles.
For many years I have written reviews of these books. I usually write up a paragraph or two right after I finish the book. I write it like a TV Guide blurb for a movie. I want to hit the highlights and have a catchy phrase that I hope entices other readers to read the book.
I usually give a 5 Star review, not that every book is Gone with the Wind, but I do believe the book is pretty darn good for its genre. I don't compare one author against another author. I just say that I personally liked this particular book on its own.
If I don't review a book, I usually mean the author has a bit farther to go. Then they should do the Three Es: Edit, Edit, Edit.
Miko, you were the first to post a review (a very lovely review) of “Mending Dreams” on Amazon, and it still means the world to me. I confess I read it sometimes when I'm feeling down on my writing, just to boost my spirits.
Since I know how important reviews are, I try to put one up on every book I read, and I try to sandwich any criticism between positive comments. On the rare occasion when I have been unable to find anything praise-worthy about a book by someone I didn't know well, I skipped the review and the rating. And I have also posted a few negative reviews of books by authors I did not know–I find it very cathartic to do that, and if they bother to read it, maybe it will be useful.
And speaking of ratings, on the advice of a marketing guru friend, I almost never give a book a five-star review because I think it lends credibility both to my reviews and to the author's reviews to save that for really really really special books. It's tough to hold back when I know (and like) the author, but I think it's a good practice.
As the self-designated World's Slowest Reader, I find it challenging to complete all the books I want to read, which makes it difficult for me to post reviews in a timely manner. I've also noticed that a certain site (rhymes with Bamazon) has taken down reviews on occasion or refused to post them if the book wasn't purchased through them.
As for the star rating, a writing colleague received a one star rating for her historical novel because, according to the miffed reader, the author chose to “cut away from the sexual scene” once the characters married. If anything, that review helped her sales.
There are many other ways we can support each other, which is why I wrote this post.