I cannot tell you how much it means to find a positive new review for one of your books. The surge of triumph, heartwarming and uplifting… For poets, this feeling may be elusive, but it’s just as powerful, if not more so. It’s why we writers risk rejection so willingly. Because we’re basically junkies for that feeling.
So you can imagine how I felt when I found this review on Amazon:
If you haven’t read UnSong yet, you’re missing out. Reviewers (my fellow poets) had already proclaimed it “wicked-smart” (Dennis Mahagin, author of Grand Mal), “joyful and optimistic” (Alice Osborn, author of Heroes Without Capes), and “a dash of light to repel the darkness” (Sam Love, author of Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival). Now it’s got five stars on Amazon!
This weekend a friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was an article by Adam Stern in The Chicago Tribune entitled “Independent Bookstores are More Than Stores”.
This article gave me a lot of feels.
First, as a reader, I totally agree with him. I remember as a kid haunting local bookstores. I would sometimes spend hours browsing bookstore shelves. That’s how I discovered Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and even Jane Austen. We had a used bookstore in our town called The Book Nook. I would often trade books in there. I’d bring in a stack of dog-eared novels and leave with another. I believe that’s where I first made the acquaintance of Stephen King. There is absolutely nothing like browsing a bookstore’s shelves and taking home a new book by a new author you might never have tried before.
And yes, this experience is slowly dying off.
Second, as an author, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. They make it easy for me to publish my books. It costs me nothing but time to put my book up for sale on Amazon. BUT they make it easy for anyone to publish their books. Forgive me for sounding a little uppity here, but when I decide to publish something, it’s gone through intensive editing. I self-edit, but I am an editor, so I can do it. My books are not the stream-of-consciousness, unedited, full-of-typos books that have given independent/self-publishing a bad name. In fact, I would venture to say that my books are better edited than some bestsellers. But it’s difficult for readers to trust self-published books because anyone can self-publish. Hence, the love/hate relationship.
I cannot hate on Amazon when they provide essential tools for me, though.
Third, as a bookstore owner. Okay, I should hate Amazon, right? Again, there’s mixed feelings here. My store serves a different purpose than Amazon. You will not find the latest Oprah pick (does she still do that?), the newest best seller, the trendiest hot read on my shelves. I have well-loved classics, dog-eared novels, a decent selection of nonfiction, and LOCAL, INDEPENDENTLY-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. So as far as that goes, I don’t have a problem with Amazon. When someone comes in and asks for Nicholas Sparks’s latest or the new book by Barack Obama, I cheerfully refer them to Books-A-Million or Amazon. “But I want to keep my money local and help you,” they say. “So browse the shelves and find something you like from what I have,” I reply.
That’s my problem (and, I guess, Stern’s) with Amazon. But it’s not just Amazon. It’s big publishing in general. And people like Oprah who presume to know what other people should read. They have the influence and resources to push the same authors over and over again. The same ideas get consumed over and over. Just because I can publish my well-edited, pretty damn readable book doesn’t mean it’s going to be discovered by readers who have been conditioned to want to read the latest bestseller, the latest trendy nonfiction, the latest thing Oprah said was good.
So, to those who call me up and ask for the book they heard about on Good Morning America this morning, I say, “If you truly want to help your community and keep your money local, have a look at our local author section. There’s some good stuff in there that you will never know about if you don’t give it a try.”
The first review is in on Hourglass! And it’s good. As an author I can always appreciate when other authors talk about breathing a sigh of relief when they get the first good feedback on their books. I mean, we all know our creation is great. Fantastic, even. Doesn’t even matter what you think.
But we still wait for the reviews.
Well, my first one is in, and it’s five stars. Imagine, if you will, how relieved I was. Graphic novel/comic book is a bit of a stretch for me, a romance writer and poet. Plus, I’m just not sure what to call this thing, either. Too short to be a graphic novel, based on my poetry, not really a comic book… It’s like an illustrated poetry book with a storyline to tie the poems together.
Anyway, my very kind reviewer said this about my baby book: “filled with stunning art, photography, and poetry, and the message is lovely.”
Picture the big grin on my face when I read that! Actually, no need to picture it. Here you go:
I hope you’ll decide to try out Hourglass. Someone called it my “passion project”, and they’re not wrong. I want to be good at this. I want to publish comic books where every page is a work of art. I don’t know if I’m capable of that yet, but I’m gonna keep on trying.
In the meantime, if you read Hourglass, maybe you can give me an idea of how YOU think I should market it. But definitely let me know what you think.
Real reviews mean a lot to authors. Think about that. We actively encourage others to tell us what they really think. And no author I know would ever consider helpful any review that was less than honest, no matter how much it stroked their ego.
With that said, I was thrilled—and relieved—that my first review for Becoming Magic on Amazon was five stars. It comes, full disclosure, from an acquaintance who is a very talented magician and writer, Arjay (R.J.) Lewis. Arjay was the magical consultant on Becoming Magic, and he’s helped me design a magical holiday show for my next book Dickens Magic—plus I’ve read several of his books. So when I read his review of Becoming Magic, it was a little bit like both Stephen and Mac King had combined into one joint force to praise my book. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s the part that meant the most to me:
…Flye boldly takes on a #metoo concept, which not only explains why our heroine is reluctant, but makes understandable the hero’s confusion as to why his advances are being rejected. It was a difficult choice, because in the hands of lesser writer, it could’ve been a cheap and tawdry device. But in Flye’s excellent craftsmanship, it is handled artfully and the reader understands both sides of the conflict.
This book means a lot to me because in a way it marks my own rebirth as a writer. When #metoo came along, I realized I was guilty of perpetuating in my writing what could be seen as dangerous situations for women—in Island Magic, the heroine is actually kidnapped by the hero. Though I’ve never gone for rape fantasies and my only bondage romance (Escape Magic) was actually pretty positive in that the heroine was the escape magician, I’ve sworn off some of the favorite tropes of romances and am striving to rebuild my own corner of the romance genre with more positive heroes, heroines and romantic situations.
Time will be the only thing that will tell if romance readers are willing to accept a new kind of romance. But at least one reviewer thought it worked, and that means a lot.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time worrying about the release of Becoming Magic today, in spite of a glitch at Amazon that has prevented the Kindle version from being available. Oh well, that’s life.
No, instead, I’ve been participating in a Facebook moon photography “contest” hosted by a fellow author, Robert Beatty, author of the fantastic Serafina series. I love taking pictures of the moon, so I chimed in with my Juneau Moon, seen at the left.
Photography got me thinking about some of my other favorite things to photograph. My very favorite thing of all to photograph (besides my kids) are flowers. So, since I happen to have some very pretty roses sitting on my kitchen counter, I snapped a pic of one of those and posted it on Facebook. Because, hey, I’m a romance author, right? Red roses are my thing. I’m calling this one Kitchen Rose. (If you look hard at the bottom right corner, you can see breakfast.)
And of course, no day would be quite complete without taking a picture of my cat. Her name is Calliope, who was the muse of poetry. She posed quite prettily for me with my daughter’s sneakers, but you can tell my floor needs sweeping!
What’s your favorite thing to photograph? Do you have a favorite photo on your phone right now? Would you like to win a print copy of Becoming Magic? Visit my Facebook page here: Michelle Garren Flye, author and post your favorite picture of the moon, a pretty flower or your pet. I’ll choose my favorite and send you a print copy of Becoming Magic.
Sadly, Becoming Magic is NOT up in the Kindle store in spite of everything having been done right by me. I’ve sent them a message and hopefully it’ll be fixed within 24 hours. In the meantime, I’m sending everyone to Smashwords who have a lovely big sale going on in which ALL of my other books have a 100% off coupon (SS100) for the month of July only. And Becoming Magic is only $2.99, so you could catch up on all the Sleight of Hand books for the single price of $2.99—who wouldn’t want to do that? Check it out here: Smashwords Summer Sale!
Time for you to take the wheel. I’m tired and lost. You can find the way out. You have Snapchat and Twitter and the iPhone X—all I have is Goggle. I mean Google. And Amazon. Hey, I can buy us a Garmin. Maybe that would help. You know when I was your age, we had Rand McNally Road Atlases.
I don’t know when we got to this point. You an adult and me old. I remember when I looked at the world the way you can now: like it was mine to take. It’s not mine anymore. I failed. I didn’t do any of the things I meant to do. I didn’t fix the environment or get rid of guns or stop wars or any of the stuff I thought I would do. I don’t know how I got lost. Do you?
Can you see the road? Of course you can. Your eyes are young and your gaze is clear. I bet the way ahead looks straight to you. It gets harder later. Find your way now before your vision is clouded with smog and illusion.
Here goes. Take the wheel. Take the wheel and drive.
Remember your eighth grade dance? We called them sock hops. I say eighth grade because it was late enough in the game so you didn’t go to dances just to run around and play with your friends, but early enough (for most of us) so you weren’t real confident about your appeal to the opposite sex. What was the one thought that haunted you?
What if no one asks me to dance?
Well, here I am a forty-something struggling writer with thirteen novels under my belt and I find myself confronted by the same exact thought. It’s not a sock hop this time, though, and it’s not my sex appeal that worries me. But still…
What if no one asks me to dance?
You see I’m starting an email list intended to promote my books, my poetry, my blog—my art. But what if no one signs up for it? What if my effort is rejected and I become a pretty little wallflower that no one wants to dance with?
And yet, that’s the chance all artists take when they put themselves and their work out there. You might be rejected. You probably will be, actually. If you believe enough, you persevere.
So, to sweeten the deal a bit and make it less likely that I’m left standing in the corner while everyone dances around me, I’m adding a little weight to the scales. Sign up for my email newsletter before January 1 and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner of which will be announced in the first newsletter. If you’ve already signed up, you’re already entered. Here’s the link to my landing page for you to sign up: Email List Signup.
So go ahead, ask me to dance. What have you got to lose?
Review Tour of Movie Magic begins December 14. Watch my blog for details!
As I wait impatiently for more reviews for Movie Magic, I have been reflecting on the nature of the review machine. Authors are constantly asking for reviews. As a reader, maybe you wonder why. Why would we open ourselves up to criticism?
Here’s the thing, though. Reviews—even critical reviews—are not a bad thing for a writer. Sure, we gloat when we get a good review. What writer doesn’t count their five-star reviews on Amazon and feel a little gratified? But it’s the other reviews that truly reveal something to us.
For instance, my book Where the Heart Lies, published by Carina Press in 2012, has 14 reviews and a total of 3.7 stars. This book garnered me my first (though I am sure not last) two-star review on Amazon. It actually has two. Which were kind of “ouch” at the time, but both reviews are chock full of advice that I’ve put into play in my growth as a writer.
I read every review I get and I try to learn something from every review that doesn’t just say “not my cup of tea”. Because, you know, if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t drink it. If you do drink it and feel moved to say something, then say why it’s not your cup of tea. I can’t help it if you picked up the wrong cup of tea, but if I put something in your tea that you didn’t like, definitely tell me!
This is all a rambling way of saying reviews are not just status symbols for writers and we don’t just want you to write a review if you loved the book. Yes, I’d like to see a hundred or more five-star reviews on all my books, but not just because. I want them because I earned them. But if you feel I earned two or three stars instead, tell me why. Then read my next book and see if I paid attention. You might be surprised.
Would you like to review Movie Magic? Contact me for a free copy or sign up here:
Currently Movie Magic has five stars on both Amazon and Smashwords. If you enjoy romance (and possibly even if you don’t), you’ll like Movie Magic. I’m confident about that. It has everything. I realized that when I was coming up with tags for searches on Beaches, small town, Hollywood, contemporary romance, movies, movie making, California…the list goes on. I could even have included “pirates” in it, but I didn’t. What are you waiting for? It’s only $2.99 for an ebook! Here’s an excerpt to help you make the decision to commit to reading Movie Magic:
During a lull in their work, she laid her head on the sofa arm and closed her eyes. The storm raged on outside. She opened her eyes to see Walt sitting beside the sofa, his gaze locked on the fire. He held a beer in one hand, his elbow resting on the knee of one long, denim-clad leg. She smiled a little, watching the dance of the firelight on his beard. “A sandy cowboy and a sexy pirate.” She yawned. “Hollywood really would love you.”
He glanced at her. “I thought you were asleep.”
“Mm. Maybe I will. I bet my dreams will be sweet.”
“Did you have more wine than I thought you did or are your internal censors busted?” He took a sip of the beer.
“Just sleepy and a little high off a job well done.” She reached out to touch the stack of crumpled paper on the coffee table.
He smiled, turning back to the fire. “Get some rest.”
“Where will you sleep?”
Did his smile deepen a little bit? His voice rumbled with amusement when he answered. “Everything you say right now sounds like an invitation, you know.” He took a sip of his beer. “And I’m having a really tough time not replying in the affirmative.”