Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Reviews (and how they help the aspiring author)

Good morning friends and writers!

I hope you're all doing well. My whole family has been down with a rotten cold since my wife, grandsons, and I went to my friend's cabin last weekend for our (cough, cough) "vacation." We should've just stayed home! And to think, I PAID for the weekend from hell. (More on that another time!) Anyway, the darned thing has been wreaking havoc with my concentration. I need to finish the final edits for Healey's Cave (the debut novel of the Green Marble paranormal mystery series) so it can be ready for a March 2009 release, but I just can't seem to focus. Hopefully it will resolve soon. Anyway, I hope you've been successful at avoiding the first cold of the season, and if so, that you continue to stay healthy!

There was one bright spot, though - the new book trailer for Tremolo: cry of the loon came in! I think Red Lotus Productions did a wonderful job. If you haven't already, would you mind hopping over to take a look? As always, I value your feedback.

Now let's talk writing!

Today's piece is for writers who either have a book to promote, or dream of publishing some day, or for readers who simply love books and want to review them.

Most of this seems rather obvious in hindsight now, but it wasn't always that way, so I thought it might be useful to jot it down.

Book Reviews (and how they can help the aspiring author)

If you're a writer, posting book reviews can be a unique way to gain name recognition and open up a whole new world of contacts. When I was asked to write my first review, I balked. Sure, I loved the book. Matter of fact, I adored it. But who would want to hear what I had to say?

I'd never ventured into this arena, but I gave it a try. In the end, folks seemed to enjoy the review of The Margaret Ellen by R.C. Burdick. And guess what? I met writers who became valued colleagues and critique partners, was fortunate to become friends with readers who enjoyed the same genres as I, and was offered reviews of my books as an unexpected side benefit.

This first review turned into a few dozen as time rolled on, and opened up gateways for my own books that I'd never envisioned. I became a reviewer for Midwest Book Reviews, Compulsive Reader, In the Library Reviews, and more. I still consider myself first and foremost a novelist, but when I can squeeze them in, I pen a few reviews each year.

So - if you have time - consider writing a review for a special book. First of all, as testimony to the work itself. And secondly, as a possible venue to expand your marketing field in the future.

Here are a few tips I've gathered along the way:

1) Only review books you feel are well written, in the genre(s) you enjoy, and that have something worthwhile between the covers. There's no point to accepting a poorly written or edited book for a review.

2) Read the first page or chapter or so to see if the book suits you. You don't want to accept a book that you'll have to slog through. There are too many great books out there to waste a moment on a slow or tedious read.

3) Read up on some guidelines for reviewers, such as can be found in The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards. You'll also find hundreds of places to post your reviews in books like this.

4) Follow the review with a brief bio of yourself, with links to your work. If the reader enjoys your review, they may also enjoy your books.

5) Don't take on more than you can handle. If it starts to impact your writing time, cut back. It's hard to say "no," to a writer, but sometimes you just have to do it. Be kind, but be firm. (It took me forever to learn how to do that without being besieged with guilt. And I'M STILL SO SORRY TO EVERYONE WHOSE BOOKS I COULDN'T FIT IN!)

6) Add a page on your website with "Recommended Reading." I've done so on my LeGarde Mysteries site, with the book covers, links to purchase sites, and links to my own reviews.

7) Post your review in as many places as possible. Do a search for bookstores where the book is being sold, review sites, social networking sites, and more. The more exposure your review has, the more copies of the reviewed book will be sold, and the more name recognition you'll gain.

8) Be sure to always include the pertinent book info as I've listed below - publisher, ISBN, website for purchase, price, genre, etc. etc.

Here's a sample review that I just wrote and published this week. The book was just released on November 3rd, so if you want a copy, be sure to hustle over to Amazon. They're going fast!

Author: Marta Stephens

Reviewer: Aaron Paul Lazar
Publisher: BeWrite Books
Publisher's Address: 32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancaster, WN4 8QR
ISBN number: 978-1-905202-86-7
Price: $15.99
Publisher phone number and/or website address:

Looking for a deliciously convoluted tale that will twist its way through your brain and keep you up late into the night? Look no further, for Marta Stephens has just released the second book in the Sam Harper crime mystery series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT.

Stephens’ debut novel, SILENCED CRY, was addictive, propelling readers into the action from page one and corkscrewing through a wild ride of corruption and abuse. Unlike many “seconds” in a series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT does not disappoint, and expands Detective Sam Harper’s world from the fictitious seaside town of Chandler, Massachusetts to the steamy jungles of Columbia and through shocking revelations in the Vatican itself.

A dark history precedes the bitter tale of a cursed black pearl ring, whose protectors and seekers have killed to keep its secrets for centuries. Now, just months before the planets align in what is believed to be the sign of a long awaited prophecy, the ring lands in Harper’s back yard, triggering villainy and murder. Murders, that is. Four boys wash ashore the icy Chandler beaches, and Harper’s up to his eyeballs in corpses with few leads and increasing pressure from his captain and the press.

As if multiple seaside murders aren’t enough to drive an already sleep-deprived police force to the brink of exhaustion, a sleazy pawnshop owner and elderly history professor are found dead within days. Is spunky local journalist, Jennie Blake, tied to these murders? If so, what’s she trying to hide? And why can’t Sam stop thinking about the gorgeous brunette in spite of his best intentions?

Stephens has skillfully detailed police procedures in a realistic fashion, a task not easy for one who hasn’t worked a real life police investigation. But on top of this, the author has woven intriguing subplots with a love entanglement that thrusts the story forward to its climatic end. The sexual tension between Harper and reporter Jennie Blake is natural and sublime – adding icing to this already delectable confection of supernatural elements, grisly murders, and the stoic talent and courage of one very likeable cop. Don’t take my word for it – buy it and read it today.

Stephen’s has hinted at a third in the Sam Harper series. We’ll wait with bated breath, in anticipation of her next taut thriller.


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at and and watch for the fourth book in the LeGarde series, MAZURKA, coming in fall 2008 from Twilight Times Books.

DOUBLE FORTE is the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in November, 2004. UPSTAGED followed in October, 2005. His third, TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON, was released via Twilight Times Books in November 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his thirteenth book, THE AVIARY. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in early 2008, along with Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at,, or stop by his websites at and


Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for plugging my book, Aaron! I hope you get better from that cold soon!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

You're most welcome, Mayra. I know it's a great book that is getting rave reviews, so it was a natural extension of this piece!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Mayra's book is a must for anyone doing reviews, although I think there is some leeway on the actual format of reviews these days. I do agree, however, it opens up a whole new set of doors and networks once you start to review books.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The trailer was awesome, Aaron. Very intriguing. Your article hit a cord. I've be debating the book review issue, and now I'm ready to give it a try. As for your review of Marta's book, excellent.

Thanks for always giving me something to think about.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, 'Avid,' thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment!

Joylene, you're always so gracious. Glad you're going to give it a try! Be sure to alert us so we can check out your reviews when they're ready. ;o)

Kim Smith said...

A- I have that cold too, and I had to fly today on a business trip that will keep me up here in 29 degree weather and snow predicted. I am not writing either and it is making me MAD. hugs!

Marta Stephens said...

Great advice (as usual), Aaron. Writing reviews not only helps promote the person who wrote the book, but they also help promote the peron who wrote the review.

Thanks so much for your wonderful review of "The Devil Can Wait." Really appreciate it! :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Kim, I hope your cold goes away quickly and that your flight isn't awful because of it! Good luck!

Marta, thanks. Of course it was easy to write such a glowing review of your book. It's a real keeper.