Tag Archives: editorial reviews

Pop Culture in Books and Editorial Reviews

This post is two-fold because I have two questions to ask 1) is there a place in literature for pop culture references, and 2) are editorial reviews necessary?

Are pop culture references cheating?

dick_clark_bransonI am being a bit lazy today by putting these two ideas in one post, but, for me personally, they are sort of related. I have a popular culture reference in my current WIP and I don’t want to take it out. American Bandstand and Dick Clark were iconic.

Dick Clark was a legend. He MC’d a popular TV show that started in the 1950s and became a household name. Everybody knew is image, his timeless face. Even after American Bandstand, his image became synonymous with the New Year’s celebration.

American Bandstand was a television show that spirited musicians and the music movements through nearly a half of a century. Teenagers learned the new dance crazes by watching his show and dancing in their living rooms. I did. Everyone knew all the latest music and teen idols by watching his dance and music show. The Top Ten list was a dream goal for most performers.  American Bandstand stayed popular throughout the decades until MTV came along.

I have a reference, more than one actually, to the TV show in my work in progress and I want to keep it there, which brings me to my next topic:

Editorial Reviews: Do they really help sell books?

One thing some big advertisers have told me is that I need more reviews and editorial reviews before they can consider my book on their promotional sites.

So, like many eager authors, I begged for reviews and then I went to the editorial review closet to see what I could find. Even though I have more respect for blogger review recommendations, myself, I know that not all people have access to these. Personally, as a reader, I care more about customer reviews than editorial reviews. What do the readers think? I like to see a variety of reviews on one work I am considering, but there are those who will only read books that have been recommended by their favorite review service. There is a separate space for Editorial Reviews on your Amazon page.

With that in mind, I set out to petition some bigger name and popular review services. One of my issues as a reader is that editorial reviews are posted by the author. They can use excerpts rather than post the review in its entirety, and OF COURSE, they want to shine their book in its brightest light. I would.

Reader’s Favorite gave me four five star reviews and one four star review and I was readily able to pull excerpts to create one very nice Readers Favorite review. I won’t post all five reviews here, but you can read the excerpted review on my Amazon page here.

I was really nervous about the next one, because they are such a big name. I got a decent Kirkus review, which pleased me immensely because they are so well renowned…yes, they were critical about my, “Nearly fatal flaw,” in the full review, but they also had some very kind words to say about my work, so I managed to excerpt plenty to create a an editorial review on my Amazon page.

Then there was another place, which will remain nameless, for several reasons that I won’t get into here, but I will say that they ripped me to shreds. They tore out my heart and then dissected it into little bitty unchewable pieces and spit it out. They basically told me that I needed to rewrite my book as a trilogy, and even offered me helpful services, for a fee. There was only a portion of one sentence that I could bear to repeat, so obviously, I won’t be using theirs.

brady_bunch_onstai-9494One thing that one of the reviewers took issue with was a sentence wherein a pop culture reference was used. I had said, “[The suburban years]…were our “Brady Bunch” and Wonder Years.”  The reference was to growing up in the seventies era.

This reviewer admonished the pop culture reference saying that it destroyed the timelessness of the story and, “Revealed amateurishness.” That stung.

I just recently read a book that referenced the TV show CSI. csicastI thought it was an appropriate reference in context to the story and the character’s personality. AT THE SAME TIME, my husband was reading a John Kellerman, (certainly NOT an amateur) who did the very same thing, twice in his book. He made hilarious references to the CSI teams in his crime novel.

How do you feel about pop culture references? Do they help carry the reader into an appropriate mindset or time period, or do they bother you as amateurish writing?

How do you feel about editorial reviews? Are you influenced to purchase books based on these sorts of reviews? Should advertisers make them conditional for carrying promotions?

Profound Appreciation for Your Time

Time2-150x150First, I would like to offer my most sincere appreciation for all of the people who have taken the time to read and review “Red Clay and Roses”. As busy as life is, to know that these 23 people took time out of their hectic schedules to read the book and write thoughtful reviews warms my heart and highly motivates me to continue to write passionately.

There are 20 five star reviews and 3 four star reviews and I can’t even begin to describe the joy found in pleasing a reader with my literary work. I won’t reprint them here, but you can find them here at Amazon.

I don’t know how Amazon decides what should be on page one, but you can go to the bottom and see Newest First. The most current reviews may reflect better the work effort of the edit and revision made in October, 2013.

On Goodreads, the ratings fall from 4.9 to 4.3 and there are 2 three star reviews with the remaining ones being four and five.

Today; however, two things or three things occurred that were most disappointing, but I am not taking it personal.

1) A reader returned a book. I know that it could have been an accidental purchase or a dissatisfied reader. Either way, I was sad to see it.

2) A Goodreads person left a 1 star review. There were no words, just a rating, so I do not know why this reader was dissatisfied. There are sensitive issues in the book from the very start, so it could have been not to her liking. There may have been issues with the negro speak in the three chapters about Moses Grier, that bothered her, as I have read many reviews on other books that spoke to this as an issue. I am speculating and probably don’t need to go there. I am most grateful, that although she was dissatisfied, she did not trash talk the book and I know that she is most certainly entitled to her opinion. I can appreciate that she was honest. I also don’t know if she was able to read the entire book, and for that, I am sorry. I am also disturbed that she is from my home state, as I thought being a regional piece, it might be better received there. Reflecting a brutal past in that area may have been disconcerting. Still, I am grateful, and feel I have been slightly anointed with the realities of authorship.

3) A couple of weeks ago I was turned down for a promo on BookBub. They would like to see more editorial reviews and more reviews in general.  I have encouraged people who have read the book to write reviews. That is as much as I can do about that. I have eight copies out to people that have indicated that they would like to read the book in exchange for an honest review, so those are coming.

Now, on to editorial reviews. Unless you have an in with a famous author, or traditionally publish and get recognized by a worthy newspaper or periodical, you have to PAY for these editorial reviews.  You do expect for them to be honest and professional. I broke down and submitted to Kirkus, although the expense of doing so appalls me. They do have a stellar reputation and I suppose, even though people have told me that they mostly read the reader reviews not the editorial reviews to make up their minds about purchasing books, this was an inevitable necessity if I want to continue to promote in broad reaching venues.

I also submitted to Awesome Indies: an additional expense. I am concerned about that one in as much as I have read their criteria and knowing that I don’t have a, “Clear and Concise” protagonist, and may not meet other points on their check off list, this list being quite long and IMHO, not necessarily “all telling” about the quality of a read…well, it is a risk to take.

Finally, I submitted to Reader’s Favorite. Less expensive at $200.00 for five reviews. This one really sent me to a place that I did not need to go. The first three that have come back have been five star and one has been a four star. I should be happy and quite satisfied. It was disturbing to read one of the five star reviews though and I will tell you why:

For those of you who have read the book, you know that the beginning is set in 1992-93, and the bulk of the story takes place in the 1950s-60s.

I took extra care to provide citations to dates of historical events that affected the everyday people…both in their personal lives and from the larger historical/political events of the times, and described how those were interrelated. They were a significant part of the plot and storyline. Dates clearly marked dozens of passages.

************Possible SPOILER ALERT************

In the bulk of the story that takes place in the 1950s-60s, which is mentioned in the book description, the effects of WW II and the Korean War were explained. Also, these modern people were riding around in convertibles and fancy automobiles and trucks, listening to record players, radios, watching T.V. and going to skating rinks and drive-in movie theaters, they were reading Playboy, Sybil opens a hair salon, Nathan graduates from medical school, Trent has a pawn, radio, bicycle repair shop. Women were just being introduced to the birth control pill. Sybil goes into a treatment facility for alcohol and depression. Her husband is jailed after an encounter with the FBI and the IRS.

These are hardly things anyone would encounter a hundred years earlier, in the 1850-60s. I am thinking pre-Civil War, horse and buggy days.

But one of the reviewers, whose review I had to question through customer service, wrote the following:

“Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls is a story based on Southern America during the time of slavery.”… and went on to say … “It all takes place during a time when blacks were slaves, the Jim Crow Law was in place, women were often seen as the inferior gender, and racism was very strong.”

The 2 paragraph five star review was very beautiful and eloquently written. When I contacted customer service about the very obvious issues here, they contacted the reviewer, who apologized and said she, “Thought it was about 18*50s-60s”…………………PLEASE…………………….and offered to correct the review. She insists she read the book.

Now I know that people read and put a book down and pick it up again. I know that people are reading with their own experiences and education supporting their thoughts while reading. But there was no mention of slavery, except when Moses was telling of his father’s birth as a free man on the same farm his grandfather had been a slave on. Moses is 86 years old when he is telling this, and there is NOT ONE slave in this book.

The book is about the issues that propelled the Civil Rights Movement, and touched on women’s reproductive rights and responsibilities in the 1960s.

Needless to say, I have lost my faith in editorial reviews. Most of them appeared to be synopses of the book blurb.  Maybe I need to work some more on the book description so editorial reviewers will have a better grasp on what to include in their very flattering reviews. Perhaps NOT ALL editorial reviews are of this nature, but this one was shameful. I do hope the young lady learned something.

And to think,

Advertisers are insisting on these!

I am feeling like I should have just stayed in my comfortable little place of having sold a few hundred books and called it quits on the extensive promo attempts.

They offered to refund me and give me the reviews anyway and I declined.  I was not looking for free, just honest. So I will take her correction, and post the reviews that I feel most positively and accurately reflect the material in the book. GEEZ.

What a journey. Please be aware that I am writing this, not out of spite, but to share my experiences as a writer/author in hopes that my experiences can help others. I am sure other authors have had better experiences with editorial reviews.

Welcome to my bipolar moment.

Perhaps I was just a wee tad overzealous.