Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Business of Writing: The Reading and Writing of Helpful Reviews

Reviews are important for every book to meet with success. Good or bad, having a number of reviews helps to create buzz about a book. Every author hopes for glowing reviews. Good reviews not only affirm us as writers, they tell the world to read our books.

Not all reviews are positive of course. In fact, some can be downright negative. 

But here is the key: As much as you may want positive reviews, if you take your writing seriously, you need helpful reviews. Look for reviews that are honest and specific.

Writing Reviews: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Maybe. At least that’s advice my mother handed down to me.

There is some truth in those words when writing a review, but that doesn’t mean you have to be flowery and complimentary about a book you really didn’t like. Be specific. State exactly why you didn’t like the book. The reasons you offer may be the very reason someone else will want to read it. Here is an example: If someone said they didn’t like my book because they like books filled with explicit sex and my was a clean read, people who like clean reads will want my book and people looking for sexually explicit material won’t waste their time.

As a rule of thumb, if I can’t give a book at least three stars I don’t leave a review. If the book is poorly edited or had defects the author could fix, I will message the author with my concerns. That is the professional approach.

Reading Reviews: Don’t look only at the “stars.” Read and re-read those specific reviews.

One reviewer for Breathing on Her Own said the book was well written and had a good story but stated she could only give it three stars. She said the main character was infuriating! The reader lost her patience with Molly and referred to her as “smother mother.” Was that a bad review? Not in my book. If I can evoke that kind of emotion with words, I’ll take it.

Writing Reviews: If you didn’t finish the novel, don’t write a review.

My husband was probably the most honest man I have ever known.  He was so brutally honest he could embarrass me in social situations. (“Sorry, I can’t eat that. It looks like bait!” followed by a very loud, “Becky, why are you kicking me under the table?”)

He shocked me one day when told me about a time when he wasn’t honest with his teacher.

Tom’s fifth grade teacher required a certain number of book reports from each student. She randomly selected students to deliver oral book reports to the class.  One day, Tom was called on to report on a book. He hadn’t finished the book. He had barely started it, choosing to ride his horse and play outside instead of doing his homework.

Instead of owning up to his unpreparedness, Tom stood in front of the class. He recited the title and author of the book. He named a couple of the characters and told something they did. Then he lied. He spoke briefly about an adventure the characters faced (taken straight from the book jacket) then told his fifth grade audience, “I won’t ruin it for you. If you want to find out what happened, you’ll have to read it yourself!”  At least that was a somewhat positive review.

I’ve read a few books that developed slowly, but in the end everything tied together nicely and I was glad I finished the book. That said, I’ve a couple of troubling negative reviews for Breathing on Her Own where the reader didn’t finish the book.

Reading Reviews: I don’t mind a negative review if it helps me grow as a writer, but a review that states, “This wasn’t my kind of story. I kept reading hoping for me, but gave up after 20%.” Really? I understand picking up a book and later discovering it isn’t your cup of tea. I’ve done that myself. But if I didn’t finish the book because it wasn’t my kind of story…I wouldn’t leave a review at all.

Now if the reader had said,  “The back cover copy made me think it was going to be a sci-fi thriller” or something totally goofy like that, I would at least know to go back to the description of the book and see what made the reader think along those lines. That sort of review would be helpful.

Writing Reviews: Check your facts. Remember I said you should be specific? Make sure your facts are correct before you post the review. You don’t want to mislead other readers and you want it to be evident you read the book.

Reading Reviews: “With a grain of salt.” You may receive a review that is negative with no real foundation. Read it and move on. One review I had suggested the main characters tried to hide everything Laney owned to keep it away from another family suing them. Since that wasn’t true, I read it and moved on. [Actually, in light of the fact Laney was likely to lose everything, her parents gave up their retirement fund to make sure she and her family would have a home.]

A few ideas about book reviews for you to mull over. Remember as you publish, reviews are desired. They are powerful. And, if well written, they can be helpful to both readers and writers.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Breathing on Her Own: A Celebration!

This week marks the three-year anniversary of the release of

Yes, I’m excited. How am I celebrating?
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not
celebrating with chocolate.

I’ve talked with my publisher about this occasion. Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas is offering the Kindle version of Breathing on Her Own  FREE for three days starting today!

Already own a copy? That’s okay. Did you know you can “gift” a copy of the book? Go to Amazon as if you were purchasing the book. You will see a section where you can send the book to a friend. Simply fill in the email address of the person you want to receive the book. You can even leave a message! When you “buy” the book your total will come to $0.00!

Now for the real celebration! I decided to relive the book launch for Breathing on Her Own. Thank you Marty Hallo for the pictures.

Although many people today launch their books on Facebook or other social media sources, I chose to host an event. Tom and I were living in Florida at the time. Although the story takes place near Cincinnati, Ohio, there is a definite Florida connection in the book, so the launch there made sense.

I searched for a venue in Tarpon Springs, but ultimately decided to host the launch in our own back yard.

My sweet husband and his brother, Ron, made sure the lawn was properly groomed. Our neighbor, whose yard is truly the tropical version of an English garden, loaned us a few tables and chairs and my guests wandered her property as well as ours.

 Guests arrived by car, by foot, and by boat! What a beautiful day!

People signed in and Tom set up a small television in the carport where the trailer for Breathing on Her Own was shown.

You can view the trailer HERE.

Judy Gregory, a friend from church, offered her collection of Longaberger baskets for food. My whole Florida family pitched in, making the event a day I will always treasure.

And… my precious mother traveled by bus all the way from Ohio to attend! I surprised her in a big way. She had no idea I had dedicated the book to her.

Of course my sweetest memory is how Tom stood by me. He stood by me as I started on this writing journey. He stood by me as I signed the contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He stood by me through hours of writing and rewriting the manuscript. And he stood by me on that sunny day when Breathing on Her Own was openly shared and celebrated.

Where is the book now? Still on Amazon. Still selling copies. Breathing on Her Own has almost 150 reviews of this writing and has earned a 4.7 star rating. I still have people telling me how the book has made them think about their own lives and relationships. My husband is now in heaven. My life has changed, but I’m still celebrating. Celebrating what was and what is to come. Celebrating the gift God offered me in publishing my first novel.

What is next for you?
Share this post.
Download the book for yourself. Click HERE
Gift the book to someone else.
Review the book.
Most importantly: Hug the ones you love.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Catching Up With Our Own "Amish Wanderer"- Laura Hilton

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?

Now are You Ready to Meet Our Own Wanderer, Author Laura Hilton?

  • What do you enjoy doing for relaxation?  My favorite way to relax is to curl up with a really good book – the kind that you pick up and read from start to finish because you cannot put it down. It’s that good.  A bottle of ice water would be good too.
  • What do you enjoy most about writing?   I love the whole thing. Mostly. I love getting to know the characters in my head and finding out what their stories are. I love the thrill of discovery. I love the creation process, and finding out what the faith message is, and watching it all come together at the end.
  • What can your readers expect from you next?   I just turned in a novella for a collection that is coming out in April or May, and I’m working on a proposal for a new series. It’s set in an area I’ve been to, but I want to make sure it is as accurate as possible – especially since no Amish lived there when I was there.

An invitation from Laura: 

visit my blogs:  & 
twitter: @Laura_V_Hilton

Purchase my books: