Tag Archives: reviews

Seeing Stars on Amazon


I was piddling around between editing bouts last evening reading and commenting on a few blogs I follow. One of my blogger friends and I got into a discussion about my book, “Red Clay and Roses”, which she just read.

It thrills me to no end when someone thinks deeply over the issues presented in the book and engages me in discussion, and we moved from comments to email.

After our discussion, I clicked on a link in her comments to discover that it took me to my paperback page. Now this blogger is one of two people who have bought the paperback online. (Yeah, that’s right, two. I have sold a couple of dozen paperbacks to Central Florida independent bookstores but only two online. And the paperback has special features the digital copy doesn’t have.)

I’ve sold hundreds of digital copies. (Was hoping to hit a thousand by year’s end, but that may not happen with only one more promo planned for this year. Anyway, I digress.)

Amazon defaults to my digital page. I never even visit my own paperback page. I just don’t go there.

But while I was there I noticed it shows not only my written reviews, but also star ratings left when a review wasn’t posted. My digital page doesn’t show those. It just shows the number of written reviews.

Does anybody know why? Most of my sales are on my digital page, so it would be really cool for me if these star ratings showed up there also. Do you have to special request it?

On my digital page reviews show as follows:

24 – 5 star

5 – 4 star

4 – 3 star

1 -2 star

0 – 1 star

On my paperback page it shows:

31 – 5 star

7 – 4 star

6 – 3 star

1 – 2 star

0 – 1 star

I jumped for joy over this. That’s 7 more 5 stars, 2 more 4 stars, and 2 more 3 stars. So, see, it would be in my best interest, I think, to have the starred reviews appear in addition to the written reviews. But I don’t know if it’s just select pages that Amazon posts these stars on or if mine was just overlooked. Should I email them or is this how it is for everybody? I can’t tell by looking at other people’s pages. Some people don’t have paperback books. Is this just a trial thing Amazon is testing on certain pages? Are they looking to see if this helps sell more paperbacks?

Just curious. Drop me a comment if you know anything at all about this. And readers…do write those reviews…even if it’s just a few words. There is no word limit now. (It used to be twenty.)

We authors live and breathe for reviews. We check our pages ten times a day. Maybe you posted something between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and snack. Perhaps you dropped a few lines after dinner, or just before bedtime.

A great review carries us through weeks, even months, of hearing nothing at all. It reinforces our strengths. We smile for hours after reading…like a Cheshire cat…really we do. We even cry happy tears of joy.

And even a critical review gives us a reason for a good cathartic cry. It helps us understand our weaknesses. Also, we can blame you for our bad day, for pulling out our hair, or for our writer’s block and lack of confidence. Justify our need for additional medication.

UPDATE: Well this sucks. I just checked it again and it’s gone. 😦

Sunday Synopsis

This is going to be brief. I got nothing accomplished this week except rewriting one chapter in my WIP.

I completed a couple of interviews, and posted a Goodreads Giveaway that continues through the month of February!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses

by S.K. Nicholls

Giveaway ends March 03, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

My oil didn’t get changed. I still have not scheduled my sensory deprivation experience. My paperback books are waiting to be distributed. This all sounds so terrible. I have a lazy streak these days. I did not even do the laundry. My husband did his own.

I did some serious soul searching this week. Some of you already know this.

To write, not to write.

I decided to write.

I have four five star reviews from Reader’s Favorite and one four star review. I am debating whether or not to use them individually as editorials. Or whether to just pick out a few sentences and make one. I am told either way is acceptable. The girl who wrote about slaves submitted a new one.

I’m iffy about using these, but we paid for them. They refunded my money in full, because of the one book review all about slaves, when there is NOT ONE slave in the book, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the refund, so I had them re-bill me. I would not want to use a service that I did not pay for.

Honey, Daisy and Captain

The picture of the dogs is for cuteness, because I have nothing much else to say, and they look like I feel.

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.

Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde


This book was recommended to my book discussion group, Random Readers, by a college professor.  She is probably a much more intelligent creature than I am about many things.  I have some true favorites in Science Fiction, and this book had a brushstroke or two of Sci-fi.  However, my Sci-Fi favorites don’t present me with quite as many challenges.  For starters, I am chronologically challenged.  Books that jump forward and backward in time without dates or some other sort of marker to keep things straight are really difficult for me to stick with reading.  When I get lost and don’t know where I am, I have anxiety attacks and severe frustration.  It happens sometimes.  Next, the delusional world that I live in requires me to know who is real and who is not.  Fforde’s Thursday Next series is a little odd in that fictional characters can come to life at some point in the future, or was it the past?  I mean think of the horror books you have read.  Would you really desire for this to occur?  There are portals in time that can be traveled by both live fictional literary characters and real people, even tourists.  Ingenious, yes, I know, but confusing.  Also ingenious was the author’s development of a Special Operations Unit, a task force for the literary agency in charge of enforcing all of the rules relative to the above, a sort of F.B.I. that investigates missing manuscripts and alterations or manipulations in the literary works of authors.  There is also an aside romance that has a rather funny ending. If this all sounds fascinating to you then you will most certainly enjoy the book, and probably the entire Thursday Next series.  Thursday Next is the name of the Spec Ops agent that is in charge of maintaining order in this mixed up and somewhat disordered world of Fford’s.  I did stick with the book to the end, even though I was ready to give it up on about page thirty.  I was glad that I did.  I had prepared for this book by reading Jane Eyre again, a book I had not read since a teenager.  I was told that I would need to have that fresh in my mind if I really wanted to get the jokes.  The first joke was on me and started as I was about to give up again in chapter six.  I got upset when a tourist told the tour guide at the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth in Yorkshire that Charlotte Bronte really messed up the ending of Jane Eyre by running off to India with her cousin at the end.  I thought, WTH, the author doesn’t even know how the real Jane Eyre ended!  When I realized that was the whole point to the story, to get the real ending back, I really started getting into the read.  I happen to be one of those people who deeply loves Jane Eyre.  I love Bronte’s lofty descriptions and the depth to which she searches her soul.  It is the perfect book to read in front of a fireplace on cold rainy days.  The Eyre Affair would be the perfect read for someone with an excellent temporal memory who loves Sci-fi and classics.   I would give the book three and a half stars, only because I don’t have an excellent temporal memory.

Another Reason to Publish Traditionally

Here is one for those holding out for traditional publishing.  Marketing, while still a responsibility of the author to a significant degree, is easier.   I requested guidelines for submission at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution and this is the response I received:

“Congratulations on your new novel. There are so many fine books produced by authors from Atlanta and the South, we have to be very selective in what we can cover. For starters, we do not review self-published books or books only available in digital or print-on-demand formats.

If your book is published by a major publishing company, feel free to send me a copy and I’ll be happy to consider it for review.”

Suzanne Van Atten
Features Enterprise Editor
Personal Journey • Books • Arts
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
223 Perimeter Center Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30346

Guess I’ll have to stick with local radio stations and my hometown papers!  At least for now!  It was worth a try….  Notice she says, “…a major publishing company”…and then they consider it for review.

I would go with Kirkus but it is around $500.00 whether they like you or not…even if you can only pick out a few usable words…is it worth it?

Book Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson


I honestly did not realize that this was a non-fiction book when I read it.  I was reading it for a Random Readers book club that I had joined, and it was not until another reader mentioned googling some of the characters in this non-fiction literary work that I knew my mistake.  I laughed all through the book, sometimes side-splitting laughter, but was confused toward the end in that there did not seem to be a cohesive plot.  Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

Ronson, a journalist in real life and within the character of the book, takes the reader through his design to write a book on psychopaths in the corporate world.  THAT book never really gets written.  He presents his interviews and acquaintances in hilarious anecdotes.  His style is stream of consciousness, and it comes off more as a fiction read than a non-fiction read.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are looking for a seriously objective scientific examination of Bob Hare’s Psychopath Checklist in this, “Journey through the madness industry,” as an inside look into criminal profiling.  You won’t find that here.

What you will find is a light-hearted and humorous examination of the debate between Scientology and Psychiatry in anecdotal evidences.  You will find yourself suddenly suspecting your neighbors, even your spouse…not to mention diagnosing your very own neuroses.  You will bond with characters, like Tony, a young man who deliberately feigns insanity to stay out of prison, only to find himself locked up indefinitely in a psych ward.  Some of the characters seem very nasty, even frightening, and others are the guy next door.  There is some redundancy in paragraphs that are repeated and the author seems a bit scattered at times as he attempts to pull his examinations and evidences together.  All in all, I would give him four stars and recommend the read.