Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Monday, June 18, 2012

That Old Chestnut - Reviews!

Dear Amazon, It's only worth half a star... 
Okay, I know I’ve talked about this in the past but it’s a subject of endless interest to writers, if not to readers.  Reviews!  I think we’ve all established that every reader is entitled to his or her opinion and that the purpose of reviews is to enlighten other would-be readers and possibly encourage or warn them off products, books etc. 

To writers, they are manna.  Getting feedback from their readers is crucially important to most authors.  After all, we don’t write for ourselves, we write in the hope that others will receive some enjoyment from our efforts.  And if we can make a living out of pleasing people in that way, the vast majority of writers will describe that being in or very close to heaven.

You hated my book that much, huh?
But there seem to be some reviewers who turn the review process into something similar to hate mail.  They use it to attack, not to inform, explain, enlighten etc.  When it comes to books, there are some readers who think nothing of attacking a writer’s skill because the book didn’t live up to their expectations in the first chapter and therefore they didn’t bother reading any further.  I’ve seen such reviews and can only feel pity for the writer who probably spent the best part of a year writing something for some impatient reader to slander in five minutes.  And I say slander because some negative reviews are exactly that.

But then there is this other category of negativity that helps neither party.  I recently received a review which said, quite simply and succinctly:

“This book sucked and I can't believe I read it all the way through.”

What is anyone to make of that?  Hopefully, like me, potential readers might not believe it either.  Why would someone bother to read 200 pages of a book that “sucked”?  I just want to ask this reviewer what it was that kept them turning the pages.  I’d ask her: What “sucked” but kept you “sucked” into its pages all the way through?  Tell us more, please!

I couldn't get past the first chapter...
If I know a book “sucks”, I abandon it after the first ten or twenty pages and forget all about it.  I don’t waste my time struggling through the next 200 pages for the dubious thrill of writing a one-sentence one-star review on it. 

Recently I saw a 1* review written by someone who hadn’t even bought the book being reviewed (no, not mine, thank goodness) because s/he didn’t like what they saw from the ‘Look inside’ feature.  Next thing we know we’ll be seeing 1* reviews because someone didn’t like the look of the cover.


Some people are so hard to please...
I love hearing from readers.  I certainly don’t expect them all to like my stories and nor do I consider it their responsibility to teach me my craft, but I’m always willing to listen and learn from them.  That way I can hopefully improve and next time write something that will give them greater enjoyment.  I think most writers feel the same way.  Reading and writing is a kind of symbiosis.   It really shouldn’t matter if a book is self-published or the product of a major publishing house.  Its aim is exactly the same – to entertain readers.  And sometimes, just sometimes, those readers should think before they launch their attack.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Win All Three!

I'm talking about inflicting pain on my heroes and heroines at  Just leave a comment to win all three books.


You will also find three new brief extracts to read.

And on Friday, 15 June, author Stacy Eaton is interviewing Nicholas (from The Apple Tree) on her blog: (or .com from the US).  Should be fun to finally hear his voice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On being Kindled

I’ve been Kindled!  I realised this for certain one day last week.  

It happened like this:

The room I rather pretentiously call my office, is stacked high with bookshelves groaning under the weight of loved tomes.  Many, many times I’ve tried to Feng Shui my life and clear my clutter, but my books remain.  Sometimes they become temporarily rehoused into bags and boxes which I tell myself will be donated to the charity shop, but I’m kidding no one.  All that really means is that they come down from their high shelves to reside closer to the floor.
How can I get rid of them when I never know if and when I’ll want to re-read them?  When I lose books from dire necessity (such as moving from one country to another) or because someone has taken the liberty of borrowing them and not returning them, I’m bereft.  I remember books I read many years ago and which I sometimes have a fancy to read again but I no longer have them and they’re long out of print and I feel something nearly like pain.

When I do have an urge to re-read one of my books, I know exactly where to find it and half the pleasure is in the anticipation of reaching up to the shelf and luring it with my fingertips into my hands.  The other day I wanted to look up a passage from Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.  I happen to have a large and incredibly tatty (well it is the most frequently-read book on the shelf) volume of Austen’s works.  I found the passage I was looking for immediately (as well as a collection of pressed four-leaf clovers and cards with long-forgotten scribblings on them) but instead of closing the book, I carried on reading.  One page, two pages and I was hooked.  Again.  I knew I had to sit and re-read the whole story.

Once I thought nothing of carrying that great volume around with me to read on London underground on my way to work; it went to university with me and still bears the scars in the form of pencilled annotations; I read it during coffee breaks or under my desk at work; lying in the garden; curled up on the sofa or snuggled up in bed.  I never considered its size to be an inconvenience.  Until last week.

The problem is, I’ve got so used to the convenience of the Kindle that the book seemed unwieldy; the print was small and the pages, like the spine were growing pale and fragile.  And there on Amazon was a Kindle version for a mere 77 pence.  Within a minute it was sitting on my Kindle.

But it didn’t stop there! 

I’ve  long been intending to re-read John Fowles’ ‘The Magus’ and duly went to my shelf to coax it into my waiting hands.  As a matter of interest, you might want to know that this book is 656 pages long.  Wouldn’t have bothered me in the least a year ago.  But then a year ago I didn’t have a Kindle.  And it only took a minute to do an Amazon search and download it.  I didn’t intend to.  I just looked out of curiosity, but then…

A year ago I quite distinctly remember agreeing with those people who said e-readers would never take over entirely from books.  Never, I agreed loudly.  I love my books – they are part of me…or rather they were.  But so too now is my Kindle.  I doubt I will clear my bookshelves just yet – after all, where would I press my four-leaf clovers - but given a choice between a good old-fashioned hard- or paperback and an e-book version, I’m afraid I’ve already made my choice.  I’ve been converted.  I’ve been Kindled!  Have you?