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Monday, January 3, 2011

How To Scare An Author

I remember Sandra McDonald saying once that she never reads her reviews, good, bad or indifferent. I wish I could do that, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to see what it is people understood, and what they didn't.

True Believers, that redheaded stepchild that I thought no one would 'get' received some wonderful reviews and even fan mail in 2010. As a rule, I don't like to crow about such things because it feels self-serving. On the other hand, I'd like to show some gratitude to those who took the time to read or listen to True Believers and review it.

Just before the year ended, two posts popped up on my Reader from Bitten By Paranormal Romance and ParaJunkies, listing True Believers in their "Best Of" lists. Never in my wildest dreams did I think such a thing could happen. 

Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express included it in her recent post on 'sexually enhanced' aliens. Yes, you have to read it to appreciate it. :grin:

And last week, I received an email out of the blue from a complete stranger. Her name is Kathryn Sommer and she was a development executive who developed scripts for movies like "Total Recall", "12 Monkeys", "Terminator 2 (T2)" and "Stargate".

She listened to True Believers on and loved it, calling it extraordinary and original. Coming from someone with that background, I was justifiably bowled over. That she took the time to write me and tell me so was a profound kindness.

It's a gift when a reader (or listener) writes you about your work. Think about it. Someone took time out of their busy day to share their thoughts with you. It''s nothing short of magnanimous. I save those emails (they always come in emails now) in a special file.

2010 was a good year for me on several levels. There were no 'big' deals, no author parties, or scads of fan mail, but it was nice--good. The kind of year that makes you feel you made a difference.

Reviews are scary, but they're also an impetus to give your all.

Authors, do you dread reading your reviews?
Readers, do you regularly review the books you read, or only the ones that moved you in some way?

In other news, I caught the plague on January 1. And no one has been here to make me soup. Wah! Don't you have days where you just want someone to take care of you?


The Long and the Short of It Reviews said...

If I were closer, I would make you soup.... just imagine the virtual soup I'm sending you. The air is aromatic...chicken, herbs, veggies...mmmmmmm

Get well...

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Judy. Last night, I shivered so hard I thought I was going to break apart.

Dru said...

{{Hugs}} I hope you feel better soon and yes when I'm sick, I would love to have someone take care of me.

I will write an author a note if I enjoyed the book because while I was reading it, the book/story gave me pleasure. I have a blog where I write my thoughts on all books that I've read.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Dru.

Ref: reviews
You're in a league of your own since you read so many books a year. :)

There are only a handful of people who can claim the same track record.

Rula Sinara said...

Get well soon!

Awesome reviews, Maria! I do read reviews of books I've read if I come across them. I can't say that I'm in the habit of seeking out reviews. If I 'know' an author, I'll seek out their book regardless of reviews, and come up with my own opinion. I do get mad if I loved a book and read a negative review on it. I'm a defender of books I like ;).

Liz Fichera said...

Tomato soup and grilled cheese only tasted good when Mom made it. Hope you feel better!

Seriously, that is super-cool news on the fan mail! Lovely!

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: Thanks, hon.

I tend to be philosophical about reviews. The only reviews I take exception with are the poorly written ones--the ones that blast away without any constructive analysis or the ones that come off a little too sugary.

Maria Zannini said...

Liz: Tomato soup sounds good. But I don't think I can swallow grilled cheese yet. My throat feels like it's been scraped by a cheese grater.

I need to get friends who live closer. LOL. Now I'm hungry for tomato soup.

Angelina Rain said...

I’m sorry to hear that you’re sick. (Sending you a virtual bowl of chicken noodle soup.) I don’t usually review (except for this one review site where I’m a reviewer). However, if I read a book that I think is amazing, I do review it. And with many newer authors, if I enjoy their book, I do try to e-mail them. I think when I publish; I will be too scared to read reviews. Maybe I will have someone read them for me and then only make me read the good ones.

Mike Keyton said...

I imagine 'Texan' swine flu is probably bigger and beefier than most. Get well soon, Maria. Mulligatawny soup is good too.

Great news about True Believers and those emails you got.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Can you teach Tank adn Iko to make soup?

Feel better.

Krista D. Ball said...

I don't believe anyone who says that they don't read their reviews. Never, ever ever? Not even when you are posting the tidbits on your website, or when your publisher is posting them as part of your sales page?

Never, ever, ever? Not even a little?

(Now, I'm talking real reviews, not amazon comments from your ex-boyfriend's current stick insect).

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Reviews always make me nervous. I doubt I'll ever get over that. But I don't dwell on them. But personal letters are different. They mean the world to me.

Mike: I don't know if it's the flu, but I hope it takes a hike soon. I have work to do.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: So far they've been good despite the fact I've neglected them terribly these last two days. Fortunately, they are very fond of sleeping--especially if Mommy is sleeping. :)

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: reading reviews
I don't know if it's true. But that's what she wrote once.

I suppose there are people who would rather not know--I'm just not one of them.

Ellie said...

Congratulation on the awesome reviews, especially the script developer!

I'd make you some soup but I've also got the lurgy. Perhaps we could order take-out?

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, Ellie. You're sick too! Take out sounds good, but I live too deep in the boonies. Nobody delivers out here. Still trying to figure out if I can teach the dogs to cook.

Take care, hon.

Melissa McClone said...

Hope you feel better, Maria. I'm sick, too. Not how I wanted to start the new year but making the best of it.

I'll read the reviews of my books that come across google alerts, but I don't seek them out except the RT ones. The reviews I do click on, I can usually tell pretty right away if I want to keep reading or not. If not, I just close the page. Not everyone will like a book or voice, style, etc. No reason to torture myself.

Sherri said...

You know if I was closer I'd be bring you soup for lunch, right?

Reviews...funny you should mention them. I started reviewing books on my blog when I won a huge box of books from Jordan Summers and I kinda figured it was my way of saying thank you by reviewing them. And I made a vow of sorts to myself that I'd review any and all free reads I got. But I fell out of doing that in 2010 partly because I wasn't entering as many blog/website contests where I might win a free read but also because my focus shifted more toward writing in 2010.

Here at the start of 2011, I have one review left that I feel I owe the author, but after that I'm not sure what I may do (or not) with reviews on my blog. That's partly because I'm not sure the majority of people reading my blog (family) care.

On the other hand, if I like a book/author, I'm telling everyone who'll listen to me, LOL

Feel better soon, sweetie.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

yay for your good reviews!
And as a reader i do not review, unless i absolutely LOVE something.
As a writer i haven't made up my mind on whether i will read reviews or not

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: Oh, man. Sorry you're sick too. I hope there's someone nearby taking care of you.

Ref: Not everyone will like a book or voice, style, etc. No reason to torture myself.

This is so true. And a very sensible outlook.

Hope you feel better soon.

Maria Zannini said...

Sheri: I might have to move to Las Vegas. I just know I'd like your cooking. :)

Ref: reviews
I don't review a lot, unless there's something about the book that stays with me. On the same token I am very careful of the words I choose when I do review. I don't make judgment calls. I simply analyze the work and describe what I especially liked.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I don't have to love something to review it, but it does have to make me think on it long after I've closed the book.

♫♥LovLivLife Reviews♥♫ said...

TLC on those much needed days is welcomed!!! i hope you feel better soon!!=)

I must admit that I'm nervous to write reviews. I'm a reader not a writer. I like to review the books that I read. There is one book last year that "ehhh" last year so i didnt review it. Other books whether good or bad I like to review it. Of course it is much easier reviewing books I immensely enjoy.

True Believers was a spectacular read and so no shock from me that bloggers have listed it under Best of. Congrats, btw. It's a wonderful accomplishment to be recognized for your hard work!!=)

Maria Zannini said...

Aw, thanks, Chas!

Readers can't read everything out there so we rely on review sites (like yours) for suggestions and recommendations.

You write excellent reviews, Chas. They're fair and written from the heart. It's an awesome responsibility you've undertaken, but you do it with a lot of grace and fun. --And you make cool book covers too. :o)

Jenny Schwartz said...

Maria, hope you're feeling better. Soup would be cold by the time it arrived from Australia, but good wishes stay warm. Take care.

And on an author I love them. Yup, even the one star review where the reviewer takes time to explain why the story failed for them. Reading my book and taking the time to comment/review is such a huge time commitment in our busy world that I'm hugely appreciative. If it didn't sound so much like a politician I'd tell the complete truth--I'm humbled and honoured to read reviews of my books. And as a reader, I definitely rely on reviews to choose new-to-me authors. So if you're a reviewer reading this--thank you!

J.L. Johnson said...

Oh it's that time of year. I got sick Christmas day. Hit me fast and furious! I'm sending healing energy your way. *hugs*

Very interesting and exciting about the email! Do you think she wants to develop one of your stories???

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: I know what you mean about feeling humbled and honored. It's a huge gift reviewers give us. Some reviewers are better than others in articulating their thoughts and I guess that accounts for their large following.

Maria Zannini said...

JL: Did you finally recover? I got sick fast. I never knew what hit me. Thank you for the healing energy.

Ref: email
I doubt it. She's in animation now. But I was so thrilled because of her background. Any diehard SF addict will tell you it's hard to impress them because they've seen it all. So calling True Believers original just made my day.

Meghan Schuessler said...

Being sick is the worst. I hope you feel better right away. Enjoy all the virtual soup that's been sent your way!

As for reviews, I usually don't comment unless something really effects me, either positively or negatively. I have a goodreads account and I have no problem rating a book between 1 -5 stars, but I'm lazy when it comes to writing out a full review =P

Maria Zannini said...

Meghan: I think all that virtual soup is working because my throat does feel better today. Maybe I've turned the corner--I hope.

Ref: reviews
I'm just the opposite. I prefer to say something as opposed to awarding stars. The stars are too limiting.

Marianne Arkins said...

Are you feeling any better today? As always, I'm a little late... *sigh*

RE: reviews --

As an author, I read them all. Even the negative ones can give you something to take away (if they're well written with constructive crits and not just something like "this story sucked lemons").

As a reviewer (and reviews site owner) I insist that our reviews actually say something. We don't allow what we call "synopsis reviews" ... the type that just tell you what the book is about and end with something like: "I liked it." We want to give the author something meaningful to read, good or bad.

Congrats on your fan mail and reviews. They are warm fuzzies, aren't they?

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: I was feeling better last night. But this morning--not so much. Bla!

Ref: reviews
Reviewers have a huge responsibility. Sometimes I don't think they realize how big it is. Readers count on them. I know I do.

Dear Author is discussing review stats today and I said pretty much the same thing. We need good reviewers who can analyze a book or at least tell us what kind of reader would appreciate it best.

Cathy in AK said...

Wow, what a great letter to get from anyone, but a SF film exec? I'd have been doing back flips : )

Not having a book out, I can't say I've read any reviews of my work ; ) But as reader, I appreciate a review that explains why something did or didn't work for them without going into spoiler land. I've written a few reviews and it's hard to articulate that at times. I do read reviews on books I've read. I know opinions differ, but it's amazing how many times you wonder if the reviewer read the same story : )

Hope you're feeling better!

Maria Zannini said...

Cathy: It's very hard to write a good review. That's why the good reviewers last as long as they do.

Ref: ...opinions differ...
Yup. And that's good. This way every book has its fans and detractors.

Cate Masters said...

Ugh, those shivers sound too familiar. Wish I could send you some virtual chicken soup. Or Pappadeaux's crawfish bisque (yeah, I cheated and read your more recent post, lol)
I agree with those who called it extraordinary and original (if my brain weren't mush too, I'd come up with something more original myself, though I did leave slightly better worded reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!)
Congrats! Toot that author horn!

Maria Zannini said...

I read your review, Cate. Thank You!