Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Hire a Virtual Tour Service by Christine Amsden

copyright 2013, Christine Amsden

Why should I plan a virtual book tour for my book?

I’ll start with the easiest question to answer… You should plan a virtual book tour for your book because the Internet is how books are sold. Even if people end up going to a brick and mortar store (and most don’t bother), they find out about books online. Readers are on social media. They’re on Goodreads. They visit their favorite review blogs.
In-person appearances have their place, but they tend to be more effective once you’ve developed a name and reputation. Or if you have some kind of expertise that makes you attractive to those seeking public speakers. The most effective in-person events are only peripherally about your book. Book signings, unless you have a following, are more of a direct public appeal to whoever happens to be in the bookstore that day. Maybe you’re a good salesman and you even manage to sell a few copies. I sold an average of six books every time I did a two-hour book signing event during a high-traffic time. The trouble was, each of those sales was stand-alone. It didn’t grow my brand or the book’s brand.
Books are most commonly sold by word of mouth. The key is to get the right words into the right mouths. Random customer in a bookstore may buy your book, but is unlikely to be the person to influence twenty other sales. So who is?
Thanks to the Internet, anyone can review books these days and many of them do. I’m a book reviewer myself, currently in the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads. I have hundreds of followers so when I recommend a book, I usually see at least a few people clicking “to read.” And it is just as easy as that on sites like Goodreads – that looks good, I’ll list it “to read.” Getting them to actually buy the book is the next step. Often people need to see the same book from several different sources before they take the real plunge.
Big reviewers such as the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly still have a solid place in the book world, but mainly that place is to establish credibility. With millions of self-published books coming out every year, there are more books released in a day than many will read in a lifetime. The fact that a “big name” reviewer gave a book the time of day lends some legitimacy to it that can definitely help. It helped me a ton to get a Publisher’s Weekly review for Cassie Scot, which is why I proudly quote it on the front page of my website. But Publisher’s Weekly was only the first step. And thanks to a widespread network of reviewers on the Internet, if that step had never come about, it wouldn’t have been game over.
The Internet sells books. Social media sells books. Book bloggers sell books.
So why should you plan a virtual book tour? Because you want to sell books.
Can’t I just plan a tour myself?
I don’t know, can you? You can certainly try. It never hurts to approach bloggers personally, especially if you have any kind of relationship with that blogger.
But let’s face it: You’re a busy author. You’ve got sequels to write, probably a day job to pay the actual bills, and you can’t spend 24 hours a day on the Internet forming personal relationships with everyone who might help you sell your book. And heck, even if you did it might not work. Where’s your “in?” After you’ve done a few tours and have a running list of reviewers who have left glowing reviews or your book, you may be able to do things differently. But for now…
You have to invest something in your book. It is not free to publish a book, whatever you’ve been led to believe. And I’m not just talking to self-published authors here. Traditional publishing advice often quotes the “money flows to the author” line. The advice makes sense to a point. You certainly don’t pay your publisher to publish a book or else you’ve stumbled upon a vanity press. But if you think your publisher is going to handle all the marketing for you while you sit back and write your next book, you’re in for a rude awakening.
However you publish a book, you have to promote it. Bottom line. The biggest monetary advantage you get by going big press is a small (for first-time authors a few thousand dollars) advance that you can reinvest in your marketing campaign.
There are some ways to use time in lieu of money as an investment tool, but personally I think you need both. There isn’t a 1:1 exchange rate between time and money. There are some aspects of marketing that money can’t buy – personal interaction with fans, for instance. And there are some aspects of marketing that time cannot buy – connections to top-tier bloggers, for example. (At least, not unless you’re living in an alternate dimension with more hours in a day than the typical human living in this dimension has available. If you’ve got a TARDIS, this article isn’t for you.)
I’ve spent countless hours on the Internet trying to personally contact bloggers. This was largely how I handled the marketing for my second novel, The Immortality Virus. (Touch of Fate, my first book, was my brick and mortar store lesson.) I sent e-mails to hundreds of bloggers requesting reviews and interviews. I created my own blog and updated it regularly. I got active on social media.
I’ll give the approach this much – it worked better than the brick and mortar store angle. But for every 100 bloggers I contacted directly, maybe 5 got back to me. I worked with a publicist early on to get me 20 reviews and interviews, which helped. If I had been starting from scratch, I’m not sure I would have goten as much response as I did. I have no idea how many hundreds of reviewers I contacted directly. I had a bit of luck on a social networking site called “Book Bloggers” but this site has since been overrun by self-published authors trying to get attention for their work and the real reviewers have gone elsewhere. It’s a predictable pattern, but it makes it difficult for authors trying to get that free publicity. You have to stay ahead of the social media trends. This requires dedication, persistence, and intuition. I can’t tell you which sites to visit. Next month or next year, all the information will be out of date.
So why should you hire a service to help you with a virtual book tour? Because those services have access to bloggers that you don’t have and that no amount of time or effort will get you.
Millions of new books each year. No exaggeration. If you want in that game you’ve got to be a serious player. The good news is that most of those millions of new books, largely put out by self-published authors, aren’t serious at all. That give syou an edge.
How much money are we talking about here?
How much you got? You can spend as much money as you can imagine. You can pay for publicists and advertising as well as virtual tours. You can buy more expensive tours or cheaper tours.
Parting with money is tough and I’m not trying to scam you out of anything. I’ve got nothing invested in you or your money. I’m not running a PR service! I’m telling you that I think if you’re serious, you may want to hire a PR service. Today I’m telling you why. Next week I’m going to start seriously reviewing some of the many virtual tour services I’ve personally done business with. I have no relationship with any of them other than as a customer and I’m planning to write reviews because I see a genuine need for such information. I will be as fair and thorough as possible in my reviews.
Whatever you do, don’t invest more money than you can afford!!!!!
Your family comes first. The odds of you turning a profit on your book, even with the right marketing approach, are extremely slim. You’ll be lucky to break even. So make sure your priorities are straight. Feed your family. Don’t go into debt for this. Don’t mortgage your house. Don’t run up your credit card bill. (Please don’t run up your credit card bill! Talk about an insane fiscal decision.)
If that means you don’t have any money to invest in your book then so be it. This is a business. You have to treat it like a business. If you don’t have the money then you’ve got to figure out how to get it. Historically, the arts have often been supported by wealthy sponsors. These days we call those wealthy sponsors publishers and you can still approach them with your manuscripts. The top publishers even offer advances you can use to invest in your brand.
I’m not suggesting you do that. This article isn’t about traditional vs. self-publishing. I’m just covering bases here and urging you to understand one simple truth: Publishing isn’t free. Someone has to pay for it, whether that person is you or someone else. If you’ve accepted this truth, then you won’t publish a book unless you have the money.
I used a small traditional press without the resources to pay advances, although I do earn generous royalties on every book I sell. (And I don’t pay any up-front publishing costs.) To earn money for my marketing campaigns, I’ve started doing freelance editing work so I don’t have to dip into the family budget to cover my business expenses. That’s just one approach, but it has worked for me. I’ve earned several thousand dollars from my editing work that I have been able to re-invest into marketing, largely in the form of book tours. This is how I can bring you reviews of so many different services.
Next time: A review of Pump Up Your Book

Author bio:

Award-winning author Christine Amsden has written stories since she was eight, always with a touch of the strange or unusual. She became a “serious” writer in 2003, after attending a boot camp with Orson Scott Card. She finished Touch of Fate shortly afterward, then penned The Immortality Virus, which won two awards. Expect many more titles by this up-and-coming author.

Check out Christine's newest release here:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Indie Experience (So Far...) by Elle Bright

copyright 2013, Elle Bright

I am a new, independently published author. My first book, FALL OF DARKNESS, was released in e-book format via Kindle Direct Publishing earlier this month. The paperback will be available in the near future on Amazon and Createspace, as well as other distributors. I am often asked why I chose independent publishing over traditional. Though I remain unsure whether it was the right decision for me, there were several reasons why I pursued the independent route.

First, I wanted complete control over my book. It’s my story and I wanted to tell it my way, without interference from a third party. I wanted to break the rules and take chances. Second, my other writing friends were doing it, with remarkable results. They made it sound so easy. Well, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. Third, honestly, I was terrified of rejection. I’d heard the horror stories regarding the pursuit of a traditional publisher and I wanted no part of it. I thought I could buffer myself against the pain of rejection, if I put my work out there for the right audience to find it. Little did I know, the greatest challenge would be actually getting people to read it.

So, what do I know now that I wish I’d known then? The answer is, a lot. First off, independent publishing sounds easy. Go ahead and write a book, load it up, and send it out to the waiting masses. Yeah, right. If only it worked that way.  Here in the real world, self publishing is a lot of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. As with exercise, if it’s not hard, you’re probably not doing it right.

First off, formatting is a beast. I still haven’t mastered the format for the digital copy of my first e-book. There’s a steep learning curve, but there’s also a wonderful support system in the online forums. I will conquer the e-book. Once you’ve managed the e-book format, you have to create a separate one for the physical copy. Gutters are my worst nightmare. Even if you follow the instructions given, you will probably go through several proofs before your book is print-ready. Sure, you can pay someone else to format it for you, but most of us who are just starting out don’t have the budget.

I really enjoyed creating my cover. I have a basic knowledge of Photoshop and already had a specific design in mind. What I didn’t enjoy was the constant revamping and tweaking that followed. A word of advice, just because it looks gorgeous on your screen, doesn’t mean it will look good everywhere else. Color and light vary from screen to screen and can appear totally different in print. Get a physical copy before you publish.

Editing is one of the challenges that most writers tend to underestimate. I know I did. I have read my book so many times that I’m sick of it. I have edited and edited the thing to death. Yet, when I handed it over to my reviewers, it was still far from perfect. I made another round of edits based on their feedback, but my copy editor friend still found several corrections. All too often, we put our work out there without giving it proper review. Polish your words until they shine, then get more eyes to look at them. Readers often lose patience with a poorly edited story.

Marketing is another major hurdle for independent authors. I assumed that if I wrote a good story, people would find it and buy it. Little did I know, marketing requires quite a bit of time and effort. I used to consider Facebook a guilty pleasure and a major waste of time, now I consider it the marketing time vortex. I can sit in front of my computer for hours, interacting with readers and other writers, all the while promoting my work. There are so many amazing people in the writing community. I have reaped many benefits from the virtual support system and the wealth of knowledge out there. My marketing plan is still in progress, but I have noticed one particularly useful tool. Bloggers.

Make friends with bloggers who follow your genre. Guest posts, reviews, and promos on multiple blogs help to spread your reach over a larger readership, granting more exposure. Provide your bloggers with advanced reader copies (ARC’s) in exchange for honest reviews. It’s a great way to get your name out there. Reviews sell books. The more objective reviews you have, the more desirable your book will appear. Personally, I selected people I didn’t know to read and review my ARC’s, because I feared my family and friends might struggle with remaining objective. I feel this lends more credibility to my reviews. Words can’t express how amazing it feels to hear back from a perfect stranger who loved your work. They have no reason to sugar-coat it, so their praise is all the more valuable.

The independent publishing route is not for everyone. There are those who have found success, but many have not. I’m anxious to see which direction my writing takes. Regardless, I am proud to have my work out there. I have held a book that I wrote in my hands. I’ve basked in the warmth of glowing reviews. For me, there is no greater reward. Best of luck and warm regards.

- Elle Bright

Born and raised in Utah, Elle has since moved around with her husband's military career. She currently lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, three children, and their part human border collie.

She received her BSN from Grand Canyon University in Arizona. As a practicing Registered Nurse, she specializes in Pediatrics, Neonatal Intensive Care, and Emergency Medicine. When not working, writing, or parenting, she enjoys reading, running, singing, dancing, traveling, shopping, photography, Zumba, and digital scrapbooking. She is a proud member of the Romance Writers of America.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Four Reasons Why Reading Is My Best Summer Escape, by Dora Machada

Okay, folks! Today's the day to help rocket our talented author friend Dora Machado to the top of the charts! If you were considering buying The Curse Giver, come over and click on the left sidebar here to get your eBook version. It has just gone on sale for $3.99!

Four Reasons Why Reading Is My Best Summer Escape
Dora Machado

1) Reading is stress free: There are no traffic hassles, rigid schedules, cars packed to the brim, siblings breathing each other’s air in the back seat, kids asking "Are we there yet?", long lines, crowded attractions, heat waves, summer storms, lost tourists, packed hotels, stagnant pools and stale all-you-can eat buffets. You also get to avoid the long check-in lines at the congested airports, the intrusive security screens, the late planes, the sullen flight attendants and the psycho pilots. It’s just you and your book.
2) Reading is safe: You don’t need helmets, kneepads, safety glasses, spare paddles, lifejackets, lifelines, first-aid kits, mole skin, tetanus shots, oxygen tanks, water purification tablets, safety harnesses, emergency beacons, medivac insurance, shark repellent or bear spray. Seriously, I’ve owned, worn or used all of these at some point in my vacations. In hindsight, I don't know what the heck I was thinking. Your risks of contracting the Norovirus, the Hantavirus or the SARS Coronavirus are dramatically reduced when you stay home. Same goes for Malaria, Yellow Fever and Dengue. The way I see it, I don't need a GPS to locate my favorite reading corner. My cats double as wildlife without the need for a high-end Swarovski scope. And I’m a lot less likely to activate my SPOT (personal satellite emergency tracker) while parked on the couch.
3) Reading is exciting: Experience adrenaline’s thrill without suffering the consequences for your actions. It’s like distance trekking in Spain without the blisters or Colorado mountain biking minus the Rockies’ steep hills. Expeditions, explorations, adventure, intrigue, mystery, hardship, elation, failure, redemption, lust, love, high-stake gambles: You get to live through it all without losing your camera, sunglasses, wallet or ATM card. Yep, I’ve lost of all those. To top it all, you get to dangle at the cliffhanger without breaking any bones or dramatically increasing your chances for developing some serious osteoarthritis down the line.
4) Best of all, reading is the greatest bargain around: A bunch of great books are free on Kindle and Nook. Libraries also offer great variety at no cost. You can get a great read for $0.99. The Curse Giver, my latest novel, is out on e-book, and all of the Stonewiser novels are on sale this summer. Digital or print, a book is the season’s most fashionable accessory. Compared with overpriced airline fares, luggage fees, unpredictable gas prices, seedy hotel rooms and unexpected hospitality taxes, reading is the best deal out there and by far my favorite summer escape.


 Click on the image to buy the book at!

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at  
Subscribe to her blog at sign up for her at newsletter at, Description: and Description:

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Story Behind THE CURSE GIVER by Dora Machado

Hi, folks. 

As I mentioned Friday, we are going to feature several articles by the very talented Dora Machado, whose new Twilight Times Book, The Curse Giver, is being released today. Here's the second piece. 

If the story intrigues you, we encourage you to download it on Wednesday, the 17th, as part of our support for Ms. Machado! 

Please help me welcome her back to Murderby4 today! Welcome, back Dora!

Aaron Lazar

The Story Behind The Curse Giver
Dora Machado

The Curse Giver was an accident, a professional indiscretion, if you will, conceived during one of my little escapades, and born out of unchecked passion. Yep, I might as well come clean. Even the most disciplined writer can be unfaithful to her projects, and no matter how thoroughly taken one is with one's current novel, the danger for a tangent is always there when venturing into the world of research.

So there I was, researching one book, working hard to finalize the Stonewiser series, when I came across this insidious concept that kept disrupting my train of thought.

Now, to understand the story behind The Curse Giver, you must understand me and my writing habits. I'm not easily distracted. When I'm writing a novel, my brain goes into hyper mode. I'm disciplined, motivated and focused to the point of obsession, which is why The Curse Giver was such a surprise to me.

The subject of curses has always fascinated me, not only because curses are such a vital part of magic and fantasy, but also because they are so prevalent to the human experience. To be honest, I had always been intrigued by the subject, but didn't delve into it, until one very late night—or was it very early morning?—when the wind rattled my window as a coastal storm blew in from the sea.

The clay tablets that popped up on my screen dated from 600 BC and were part of the library of Nineveh, also known as the library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest surviving library of cuneiform tablets. This is the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. Visually, the tablets weren't much to look at, chicken scratches on clay. But the translated words had an impact on me.

"May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dog’s mouth.”

I know, hardly an inspiration for most. Me? I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia in The Curse Giver.

From there on, the curses flowed before my eyes, mysterious ones from ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and the Far East; thin lead tablets dating from the Greco-Roman world, judicial prayers, secret invocations, warnings and love spells that streamed into my consciousness. I knew I should get back to my original research, and yet I was smitten with the subject.

There were curses quoted from the Bible, medieval curses, real and forgeries, Viking, Celtic, Germanic, Visigoth, Mayan, Incan, Hopi, you name it. There were ancient curses but also modern curses, some associated with Santeria, voodoo and the 21 Divisions, religions that are common in the Dominican Republic where I grew up.

Who would cast these curses and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powers? What would motivate a person to curse another one? As I explored these questions, a character profile began to emerge in my mind, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.

Sorting through the research, I could see that some curses had practical applications to make sure people did what they were told. They served as alternate forms of law enforcement in lawless societies. Some were obviously malicious. They were meant to frighten and intimidate. Some were more like venting or wishful thinking. It turns out that mankind has been casting curses since the beginning of time and will probably continue for as long as we have the imagination and faith to do so.

A new question formed in my mind. Once cursed, what could a person do to defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of hearts and bodies, someone who didn't realize the scope of her own power until it began to transform her life.

Eventually, I wrestled myself out of the trance. I had a book to write and a series to complete. I had deadlines. But my little detour had made an impact. The concepts were at work in my subconscious, coalescing into a new novel, fashioning these powerful characters who demanded their own story. My encounter with curses had been but a slight detour from my research plan, a tiny deviation, an indiscretion to my schedule, but the seed had been planted and The Curse Giver thrived, even if I didn't know it yet.

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books, July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at

You can subscribe to her blog at, sign up for her newsletter at, and follow her on Description: and Description: For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, go to

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Fantasy Meets Reality and Reality Enhances Fantasy, by Dora Machado

Hi, folks. 

I hope this finds you all well! As part of a book blast coming up next week, we are going to feature several articles by the very talented Dora Machado, whose new Twilight Times Book, The Curse Giver, is being released on July 15th. We'd love to encourage you to download it on Wednesday, the 17th, as part of our support for Ms. Machado.  

Please help me welcome her back to Murderby4 today! Welcome, Dora!

- Aaron Lazar

How Fantasy Meets Reality and Reality Enhances Fantasy, by Dora Machado

copyright 2013, Dora Machado
Fantasy is a subversive genre, requiring the mind to bend and the imagination to flex. I love the genre's creative freedom, the opportunity to rethink, redesign and reinterpret the human experience in fresh and diverse settings, and the mysteries that magic brings to the human equation. But above all, I love realism in fantasy—the idea that even the most powerful magic is grounded to our sense of self, fueled by the choices we make, and rooted in the people we are. To me, a dose of gritty realism authenticates a story, validates my characters, and makes my worlds "real."

This is exactly what I've tried to do in my books, and my latest novel, The Curse Giver from Twilight Times Books, is no exception. The Curse Giver is about an innocent healer named Lusielle, who is betrayed and condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit. When she's about to be executed, Lusielle is rescued from the pyre by an embittered lord, doomed by a mysterious curse. You might think that Bren, Lord of Laonia, is Lusielle's savior, but he isn't. On the contrary, Bren is pledged to kill Lusielle himself, because her murder is his people's only chance at salvation. Stalked by intrigue and confounded by forbidden passion, predator and prey must band together to defeat not only the vile curse obliterating their lives, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
I know what you're thinking: How can a classic fantasy like The Curse Giver bring a sense of realism to the reader?
I can think of many ways, but I'll limit my discussion here to three very specific ways in which reality enhances a fantasy story.

First, the quickest and most effective way of establishing a link between fantasy and reality is by connecting the story's main themes to humanity's enduring themes. The Curse Giver, for example, is inspired by our ancient, deeply rooted belief in the power of curses. You can find curses in every culture on earth. It's one of those concepts that transcends background and ethnicity and binds us to our common original ancestors. It's primordial to the human experience.
The curse that inspired me to write The Curse Giver was a tangible object, ancient words inscribed on clay tablets dating back to 600 BC, a desperate attempt at protection, a warning and a promise of punishment. Curses are familiar to all of us and whether we believe in them or not, they are an intriguing part of our history, an irresistible taunt, a "real" mystery that none of us can resist. I think that realism filters up through the story from the inspiration source. We can anchor our fantasy worlds to reality by connecting them to our history and beliefs.
In more concrete ways, reality betters fantasy when it comes through pure and simple in the details. Settings provide great opportunities for realism. For example, The Curse Giver's river-centered world is inspired by the great American waterways: the Colorado River, which I have rafted often; the Mississippi River, which I've had the opportunity to explore; and the Amazon River, which has always intrigued me. Setting and landscapes offer some great opportunities for realism in fantasy and so does geography, especially when the details are vivid, concrete and deeply woven into the heart of the story.
But ultimately, real characters make real worlds. Realism achieves its maximum expression through the human experience as characters tackle the story. For example, in The Curse Giver, Bren, the Lord of Laonia, is a warrior. To be real, the concrete details associated with his trade have to be right. Research is fundamental. I relied on medieval primary sources to make Bren real. From his weapons to his fighting moves, to how he thinks to how he acts—
everything about him has to be consistent and make sense, even if he exists in a fantasy world.
The same is true about my heroine, Lusielle. By trade, she is a remedy mixer, an ancient occupation to the human experience. I spent a lot of time researching medieval medicine, herbalism and the use of ingredients for healing in human history. Lusielle's potions and ingredients—the concrete elements of her practice—make her more real to the reader, more credible and therefore more compelling as a character.
Realism is important even when tackling the villainous and the mysterious. The curse giver stalking Bren and Lusielle wields some potent magic. But is magic really the defining element that makes the curse giver powerful? Evil as the curse giver is, as the story develops, the reader has to ask the hard questions: What's this creature's real nature? What is her motivation? What is the "real" source of her power?

I won't spoil the story's twists just to make a point, but trust me: Fantasy explores some very "real" themes, such as the tenuous boundaries between love and hate, virtue and vice, magic and belief, justice and revenge. These questions, which are at the heart of any good and complex plot, also contribute to realism in fantasy.
But beyond the details, what makes these characters real is their willingness to make choices, fail, cope, learn, adapt and change; to establish emotional connections and engage in each other's quests; to suffer loss, grief and love, just like we do in the real world.  Magic is a powerful element in fantasy. No doubt about it. And yet ultimately, what matters most is the strength within. Because in the end, realism in fantasy is all about connecting with the powerful reality of our own humanity.


Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books, July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit

Subscribe to her blog at, sign up for her at newsletter at,

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Write Yourself a Bad Review, by KM Weiland

Hi, folks!

Please help me welcome the acclaimed KM Weiland to Murderby4. In addition to mentoring authors and producing a number of books (see below), she's also written a delightful article that I am absolutely positive our authors will enjoy!

Best wishes to all, 


Write Yourself a Bad Review
copyright 2013, KM Weiland

We all hate the critic in our heads. You know the one—talks with a nasal British accent, uses words like “deluded numbskull” and “insufferable incompetent,” and never fails to announce that your latest story is tripe. This critic of ours never seems to have a good word to say and is always running us down. So, naturally, we try to block him out as much as possible. But what if we were to actually give him permission to speak every now and then? What if his grumblings and mumblings had something of benefit to offer us?

Think about it. We’re used to gritting out teeth, shutting out the soul-battering harangues of our infernal internal editor, and writing the best stories we can. Then we send our poor shivering darlings out into the world to face something even worse than our inner critics (cue thunder and scary music duhn-duhn-duh-DUH)—the outer critics of critique partners, agents, editors, and, perhaps worst of all, readers.

How much better would it have been had we listened to our inner critic’s helpful, if admittedly snarky, advice before we submitted ourselves to the censure of the writing world at large? One of the best and easiest ways to harness the inner critic’s laser-like perception of your writing’s weak points is to write yourself a bad review. Why would you want submit yourself to that kind of depressing degradation? Quite simply, because as painful as it may be, acknowledging your faults is the best way to overcome them.

So sit yourself down at your computer, pretend you’ve just read your story for the first time, put on your best nasally British accent, and start writing your review from the perspective of someone who noticed your story’s every single flaw.

  • Have fun with it. Since you have to face your faults, you might as well do it with aplomb. Turn up the snob level, write hyperbolically, and just generally give yourself permission to make this onerous assignment as snarky and witty as possible.
  • Be instinctive. Your inner story sense knows more about what’s wrong with your writing than your conscious brain does. In your first pass over the story, don’t think too hard about what you’re writing. If something bugs you—even if you’re not quite sure why—write it down.
  • Be specific. Once you’ve got your instinctive list of problems out of the way, go back and flesh them out. Where you wrote “weak plot,” dig a little deeper to identify why it’s weak. The more specific you are, the better your chances of understanding how to fix the problem.
  • Be thorough. Review the entire plot. Analyze every character. Skim through the manuscript, page by page, to make certain you’re remembering everything that’s wrong with the story. This is where your ruthless side needs to take the lead. Don’t let yourself get away with so much as a single weak chapter ending.
  • Analyze objectively. Once you’ve finished your snarky, snobby, nitpicking review, go back over it with an objective eye. Make certain everything you’ve written down really is a problem—and not just an overreaction from that part of you that wants to believe nothing you write is any good. Depending on how hard you usually are on yourself and how objective you are about your failings, you may want to take a couple days to recover before looking over the list.
  • Create a plan of action. Finally, and most importantly, decide what you’re going to do to fix all these problems. If your critic’s disparagements were legion, try dividing them into categories: plot, characters, pacing, etc. Then make a chronological list if everything that needs fixing—and what you can do to improve them.
Writing a bad review can be rough business. But don’t let it dampen your self-esteem. Use it as a building block to face your writing weaknesses and rise above your mistakes. Then, after you’ve finished your rewrite, give a try to writing the “perfect” review.

K.M. Weiland is the author of the historical western A Man Called Outlaw and the medieval epic Behold the Dawn. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, her book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, and her instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.
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