Short Stories

What to Expect from the Beta Review Process

What to Expect from the Beta Review Process

On June 6th, I shared that I had come to the end of the review process for my paranormal murder mystery, The Moreau WitchesAfter providing a copy of the first draft to thirteen readers, only five people finished the book. Some of the others did provide feedback as they made their way through the story, while the rest did not get back to me at all. A few didn’t even start it.

Even before this dismal end, the review process was quite an experience. What one reader praised, annoyed another. What one reader wanted removed, two more were ready to raise hell if it should ever be altered or deleted. I also noticed a big divide in how readers perceived and engaged with various aspects of the book based on their race, culture, and even geographical location.

If you are a new writer, or have just never seen the point of a beta review process, you are likely wondering if this is normal. The unfortunate answer is yes. Until you build a loyal and reliable group of beta readers, this is likely to be your Fate. Take it from me.

Even though I never published until recently, at 29 years old, I have written nearly forty novels since 2002. I put a dozen or so of them through the review process in one form or another. I still have a lot to learn, but here are a few things I have come to expect from the beta review process.

Many Readers Won’t Finish

As I mentioned before, of thirteen readers, only five ultimately finished the novel. In other words, only 38 per cent of my beta readers actually read the whole story.

Based on prior experience, I had a sneaking suspicion that this would happen and took extra measures to reduce the likelihood. As I knew some of my readers were students and teachers, I picked a month where most of them were on break. I also gave an entire 30 days to finish a book that once took my British editor just two days to read. This all made little difference.

I share this to illustrate that no matter what you do, until you build up a reliable set of beta readers you can count on this time and time again: even many of the people who begged to have your book, won’t get around to it. In other words, don’t take it personally.

Some Readers Misinterpret their Role

Often, you will have at least one beta reviewer who decides to go through the book and do a line-by-line edit. The problem is that line edits are useless on a first draft, since whole characters, scenes, and chapters may be removed or changed—as was the case with my draft. To add to this, finding the feedback you need means working your way through a pile of line edits, first. This. Takes. Forever.

The other extreme is the reviewer who doesn’t believe they have the authority to suggest changes to your novel. These reviewers will be silent if they dislike something, but will praise what they like. Unfortunately, while ego-stroking improves an author’s confidence, this doesn’t always improve our writing. In fact, it may make it worse.

Thankfully, most of my reviewers fell somewhere in the middle, providing sound, detailed feedback and making themselves available for further discussions regarding that feedback later on. These reviewers were the most helpful, and I rewarded my best three with gifts from my store for their hard work.

Differences of Opinion

As authors, we often have a love-hate relationship with our work. We may love our characters and the plot and the idea that first inspired us. However, we may suffer doubts about how well we presented this. Even so, we may feel strongly that our characters or certain scenes will definitely be viewed a certain way, since we left so many hints and painted it so obviously. This idea is false.

Though only five beta readers finished the whole book, there were an additional four who gave me feedback based on what they did read. Of this nine, no more than three agreed on any one thing—and that happened only once or twice. There was no such consensus on anything else.

For me, it was interesting to see how different people perceived different characters, and interpreted the same cues, differently. Had they seen each other’s opposing feedback, I might have sparked World War III.

As I combed through the differing opinions of my beta reviewers on various topics, I began to notice that my readers could be grouped demographically according to their responses and perceptions. This, perhaps more than anything else, was absolutely fascinating to me.

To remedy this, I picked one reviewer to work through some of the feedback and help me decide how best they may help or hurt the story. I then wrote a glossary of terms at the back of the book to explain all the terms, words, and phrases that some readers struggled with.

Standing Your Ground

The point of a beta review is not just to hear feedback, but also to apply it. You must be prepared to have your feelings potentially hurt, and to make necessary changes where possible. However, it’s also important to find a way to stand your ground in the process.

To do this, you must know what you absolutely most hold on to in your novel, and what things you may be willing to part with. One of the things I refused to change in my novel was writing 100 percent in Victorian English, not as historical fiction authors write it now, but as it was written back in the 1800s. This was an ambitious goal, to say the very least.

One beta reader proceeded to make line edits that attempted to change my book to a more modern English formula, and even worse, to American English. But, most of my beta readers enjoyed the antiquarian English. One editor called it very niche and unique; another called it brilliant.

Back to the Drawing Board

For many authors, the thought of giving a group of thirteen people the right to find fault with their novel is scary. Thus, it can be tempting to believe that a beta review that leads to no changes in your novel is a successful one. However, if you complete a beta review and change nothing, you have failed.

There is no way your beta draft is so perfect that nothing should be changed. I love my beta draft and think it would be a reasonably good final draft. However, the actual final draft of my novel put the beta draft to shame. Those who have read both remind me of this time and time again. They are also proud to see bits and pieces of their feedback put to work.

In the rewriting process, I fleshed out two characters that were barely mentioned before and made them central to the plot. I moved half the epilogue of the beta draft to a few chapters back, and deleted the second half of it. At least two of my characters had their names changed, and one that did not have a name at all suddenly had one.

All of these were due to suggestions made from the beta review, and some of them took me some time to warm up to. But, the end result was well worth the initial discomfort.

So what’s my final verdict of the beta review process? With all these challenges and potential discomforts to deal with, is it worth the headache? My answer is an unequivocal yes. I don’t believe I would ever submit a book to the public without first completing a beta review process. 

Many authors argue that they don’t think they can handle having their work criticised. Well, here’s my thought on that. Someone is going to hate that book no matter how good it is. I would rather hear that at the time I ask for it, and either make amends in the book, or prepare to stand my ground when the public reiterates that same critique.

Have you ever used the beta review process for your book? Did you have similar experiences to me? How did you handle the challenges that arose?

About the Author

Alexis Chateau Option C Curved

Alexis Chateau is a Jamaican author of mystery, paranormal, and crime fiction. Follow her non-fictional tales of trials and triumphs at www.alexischateau.com.

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“The Way the World Ends” by Ben Waters

“The Way the World Ends” by Ben Waters

They caught up to us on my twelfth birthday. Their guns sounded strange, even though I should have been used to it. Every shot was like the branch of a metal tree snapping. A sharp Twang that made my hair stand on end. They killed three of the group before we even knew where they were. Twang mixed in with the blood-curdling cries of the dying.

“Everybody, take cover!”  Hannah sent indiscriminate shots into the forest behind us. I dropped into a low spot, pressing my body as flat as I could. I rolled over, shotgun on my chest. I peeked up just enough to see the opposite hill with trees gripping the earth to keep from plummeting into the sky. A blue flash accompanied the chilling Twang just underneath a massive tree, another one a couple of feet up the hill sent a fistful of dirt into the air, peppering me with the warm soil. The flashes were so quick I would have missed them if I hadn’t been looking right where they came from.

“Side of the hill, just underneath that big oak!”  I shouted as loudly as I could. I could see the lanky bodies, their silhouettes darting for cover as Hannah dropped one. The Crack from her rifle a welcome reprieve from the killing enemy fire. Sid and Ricky took cover behind the same massive pine a little behind, and to the right of Hannah, shooting from each side. Within a couple of seconds, the tree was smoldering from return fire.

“They’re trying to flank us! Riley, watch the left.” Sam called out, sending a handful of hot brass into my hole as he tried to stop their advance. I ripped my eyes from the opposite hill just in time to see them coming through the underbrush. I slapped one in the face with a buck shot, the heavy recoil making my shoulder hurt. They dove for cover, but I caught another one in the leg adding his guttural cry to the chaos. Only six of us still alive—no, make that five as Sam caught an enemy shot with his face. The two remaining aliens to our left had returned fire after recovering from our attack. I sent five more shells into the brush, silencing them for good. Sulfur, ash, blood, sh*t, and dirt permeated the air, making my nose run and eyes burn.

Hannah emptied her magazine into the hill-side. “Dammit, one got away. We can expect re-enforcement, soon.” She dropped her pack and started handing out boxes of ammunition. “Ammo check and empty the packs of the dead; we move in ten minutes. Ricky, watch that hill in case they’re trying to dupe us.” My ears were humming with a high-pitched whine, but I reloaded as quickly as I could.

Hannah was the last of the Marines alive from our group, so she was our default leader. Tall, thin and fit. I wondered if she would be pretty with a shower to wash off the grime and blood. It was strange to think of her like that, and I frowned a little. She kept looking at Sam: one eye was open, staring in our direction, the other one, in pieces. He had called Hannah by her last name. They had taken turns sleeping at night, one of them always walking around. I slept well, knowing they were watching out for me.

“He was a good Marine.” Sid whispered it to Hannah; I thought she might cry. She took the metal necklace he always wore and put it in her pocket.

She nodded. “I’ll miss him, but Marines don’t die.”

Sid was retired Navy, from Alabama. He had led the civilian resistance to the initial landings in his home town, until they were overwhelmed and forced north. He wore an old camo jacket and ripped blue jeans. His left shoe was missing the toe, ripped off by razor-wire during the escape. He had a full beard and tanned skin. The wrinkles around his eyes said he smiled a lot. That was before, though.

Allan’s hands were shaking too bad for him to reload, so I moved in to help, since I was done with my shotgun. One of the lenses on his glasses had a new crack through the middle and he had some wooden chips sticking to a bloody scrape on his temple. He pulled out the map and smoothed it out, his hands still shaking, but he was able to get our position.

“We’re only about twenty miles from The Facility. We should be able to beat them there.”

Ricky stood off on his own. He had met up with our group a couple of days after we escaped the attack. Alone and wounded, but he had plenty of ammunition and food. Originally, he just wanted to trade for the medicine he needed to fight infection and continue on his own, but Sam talked him into joining our group.

“Hey, Ricky, you wanna think about actually doing some shooting next time they show up? It’ll take more than a half-dozen shots from us to send them packing.” Sid had finished two of his mags and was loading the last.

“If you were a better shot, it would only take a half dozen,” Ricky replied. “I’m going ahead to try and scout some terrain, and maybe a good spot to lay an ambush or two.” He gave Sid a dirty look as he walked off. I looked to Sid, but it seemed he either didn’t see the look, or didn’t care.

Sid leans against a thin tree, thinking, putting a cigarette in his mouth he won’t smoke. Sid walks over and slaps my shoulder.

“You did good kid. I thought they had us with that tricky shit.” I nodded and tried a smile.

With the action behind us, I took stock of my surroundings. The clear morning sunlight brought out the green in the trees and bushes. The occasional bird-song broke the now pleasant stillness. Life went on, despite the world being torn apart. I wonder if the whole world will be broken or if some areas like this one would escape the devastation.

BOOM! Deep and low, a sonic boom stilled the life and shook the forest; some loose stones tumbled down the face of the hill.

“Riley, cover, now!”  I dove into the bushes, slamming my already sore shoulder into the ground.

The massive ship screamed overhead, too fast to make out any details through the branches. I noted the smoke trail was thinning; it was landing, soon. Despite being larger than a football stadium, the ship disappeared into the mountains, miles away, in only a few seconds.

Sid broke the spell of shock. “More of them? Whelp, we are indeed up sh*t creek in desperate need of a paddle at this point. Let’s double time it.” He started off at a trot. I followed the rest of the group, my pack bouncing with every step.

I liked Sid from the very start of our time together. He took me under his wing early on and showed me how to shoot. The heavy hunks of metal were rough on my arms, and I earned more than a handful of bruises from the shotgun. But, over time I was getting the hang of it.

“What the hell kind of facility is going to keep them out? You remember how quick they cut through the battalion of Marines last month?  There were only five or six of them this time and they killed half of our group. Even if we can make it to your facility, they’ll just cut us down there.” Ricky’s voice bounced as we ran. Allan, was a little more out of breath than the rest of us, but he was able to work out his reply.

“Well, uh, Ricky. The facility is powered by photosynthetic converters. The water supply comes from the underground water table that couldn’t be poisoned or fouled for a decade—and only even then if they knew where we were. The entrance has a chamber that will fill with toxic gas if an alien steps inside it and tries to open the inner doors, which are made from a combination of hardened steel composites, and blast resistant materials. It would take months of un-harassed work to break it down. The defenses are all automated and capable of being withdrawn and repaired. There is enough food to feed a million people for a year, and systems that farm in underground fields.”

“Dang, Doc. Sounds like you’ve got something to prove here.” I wasn’t quite sure why everyone called Allan ‘Doc.’

“Yes, I do. I helped design the facility.” We ran through the rest of the day, stopping only long enough to drink bottles of water and eat a light lunch.

We caught up to Ricky. He seemed just as disappointed about our arrival as we were he hadn’t found anything. A tall, thin tree jutted above the tree-line where we were.

“Looks too thin for all my heft. You wanna take a look, Riley?”  Hannah was always nice to me. She never treated me like a kid and always asked for my help with stuff.

“Sure.” I slip my pack off my shoulders and start the climb. It’s easy at first; the branches are just thick enough for me to grab. The tree starts to thin out and my climb slows. The farther up I get, the more the tree sways with the wind, but my twelve-year-old frame doesn’t weigh enough to break any of these branches even though they are thin. It’s a little unerring at first but I get used to it. About fifty feet off the ground, the view opens up. It only takes a few seconds to see through the serene landscape to the terrifying truth.

Gently sloping hills covered in evergreens. A thick black plume scars the evening sky. Snow-capped mountains in the distance, hemming in the valley on the western side. The faint sound of heavy machinery drifts across the lazy forest. Birds streak across the view, and the sun is sitting on the edge of one of the mountains, taking one last look over the valley before resting for the night. The trees to the south shake. The sweet smell of a lake to the northwest. The mist from a waterfall behind it. It’s gorgeous. One of the tall ones falls, the direction it falls tells me there is something big, right behind us, coming this way.

I climb down; there’s no time to lose.

“We have to go, they’re right behind us. Some sort of big machine is headed this way. It’s taking out trees tall enough for me to see it miles back.” No one complains, no one questions. Everyone moves. A little faster than before, but not wanting to run ourselves ragged in the event we have to turn and fight. Ricky starts to drift ahead of the group.

Dark starts to set in, making our passage slower. Doc checks his map one last time in the dying light.

“We’re right on top of it, just over this next hill and we should be able to find one of the entrances. If there’s anyone inside, they’ve likely already picked us up on the seismographs, but they’re also getting that machine back there, and they won’t want to take the chance we’re some advance search party and reveal themselves. We’ll have to get into the chamber so they can see we’re human.”

Thankfully it doesn’t take Doc long to get us into the entrance chamber.

The chamber was large, large enough for a pair of crawlers side by side. We stood on the western wall, moving in to the massive space like rats to a trap. Red lights came on, giving us enough of a glow to make out the shapes of those around us, the doorway we entered snapped shut. I could hear the faint hum of machinery, so low it was more of a feeling than a sound. Doc moved to the wall, he pressed a hidden catch and a portion of the stone face slid up without a sound. A little computer screen and keyboard in the hiding spot. He typed into the keyboard, the technology looked ancient. Analog input.

“Sh*t.” Doc stared at the screen. The outer doors started to slide closed.

“What’s going on?” Sid walked over to him. I followed, wanting to know what happened. Ricky moved to the inner doors, using his flashlight to examine the construction.

“We’ve got a big problem. They won’t open the doors.”

“The hell you mean they won’t open the doors? Don’t they know there’s aliens coming?”

“That’s just it, Sid.” Doc had a look on his face I didn’t understand. “The aliens are already here.”

Silence.

I could see Sid thinking. His shoulders hunched a little and his eyes flicked around the room.

Hannah clicked her safety off and looked at Ricky. He was far enough away he might have been out of ear-shot.

“Like here in this room?” I started to shake. Edging closer to the comfort of Sid and Doc.

Sid put his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry, kiddo.”

“They say that the sensors can’t determine who, but that there is definitely an alien in this room. They say.. Oh shi..” Doc’s eyes are sliding across the screen as fast as the words are appearing. “We’ve got five minutes before they pump the room full of gas and kill us all.”

“Now, wait just one God-d*mned minute. They can’t just kill five people.”

“They can and they will if they think there’s an alien in this room.” Doc looked at each of us in the red light, our faces nothing but planes and angles. “If even one of them gets through that door, it could mean compromising of the entire facility.”

I started to cry. I didn’t mean to; it just sort of happened. “Maybe their scanner thingy is broken, or it’s just confused because that machine is so close.” I hated how little I sounded, my sobs breaking up my words, but I couldn’t help it. “This isn’t fair!”  

Ricky walked over, his rifle’s safety also off. I clicked mine off when Sid and Doc did.

Three minutes left.

Doc was typing on the computer, but whoever was on the other end stopped replying. Sid fingered his rifle. Our packs were piled up against the wall, We stood in a loose circle, un-easy glances the only conversation.

“Got it!” Sid walked back to Doc. “Tell them to open the outer door up, we’ll walk out, one by one, whenever their alarm thingy clears we’ll know who it is. If it doesn’t, which is what I’d bet on, we’ll know it’s broke.”

“Sid, the only way those doors open, is if that warning light clears. They want to dissect one of them to see what we’re dealing with. We can detect them, we know some of them can make themselves look like humans, but we don’t know how they work. A dead alien is more valuable than the four other lives.

One minute.

“Then they can dissect the alien when we kill it!”  Sid was worked up. Ricky and Hannah had locked eyes, neither one moving an inch.

A line of text flashed on the screen.

“They don’t trust us to kill it.” Doc relayed the message to us all.

Tears continued to stream. I started to sob

“Then I’ll kill it now.” Ricky said it and he shoved Doc into the wall. The rifle barked and Doc fell to the floor with a hole in his chest. The red light stayed on. Hannah moved in front of me and started shooting. Ricky caught one shot in the shoulder, but he killed Sid with his next shot. The red light stayed on. Hannah’s rifle went wide, but Ricky’s third dropped her. Something wet and sticky covered me. The red light stayed on. I blasted my shotgun without thinking to aim, pumping shell after shell in Ricky’s direction, peppering Ricky in the chest, throat and face, slamming him into the wall. He gasped for breath and his chest made a sucking noise.

Thirty seconds.

A line of text came across the screen.

-It’s still alive.-

Ten seconds

Ricky looked at me through hazy eyes. The accusation, the hatred, the anger, were all palpable.

A line of text came across the screen.

-It’s still alive.-

“I’m out!” tears fell from my face, Ricky’s eyes bugged out staring at me. He was alive, but barely. It looked like gallons of blood on the floor. He was getting weaker. “Please open the door!”  I fell down sobbing. “I don’t want to die!”

It had been twenty seconds. No hiss, no coughing. A line of white straight up and down in front of me. It grew wider every second.

The doors were opening. A squad of men dressed in full battle gear with masks on came in, assault rifles at the ready. One of them grabbed me and brought me into the facility.

I left the room at the exact second Ricky’s heart stopped beating. The red light went out.

The facility fell two weeks later.

The aliens got in through one of the ventilation ducts, impossible to find except from the inside. No humans inside survived.

No one, that is, except for me, and my fellow Aliens.

About the Author

Ben Waters.jpg

Ben Waters is a new writer, building his stack of rejections, and enjoying himself trying out different styles and genres. He operates a blog, pentenacity.com, is a part time student, full time father, and active duty US Navy.

The Method (Is There a Method??) Behind the Blog (And, a Free Promotion)

Eye-Dancers

Time flies.

It’s a cliche, I know, but sometimes the tried-and-true aphorisms say it succinctly and well, and this particular one is spot-on.  Take The Eye-Dancers blog, for instance.  I began this blog, clueless as to how to proceed with it, back in the summer of 2012.  It’s hard to believe six years have come and gone.  But this brings to mind the completion of the “time flies” truism:  Time flies when you’re having fun.  And this blog has been a joy because of all of you.

Don’t get the wrong idea.  The way that last paragraph reads, it almost sounds like I’m about to announce the termination of The Eye-Dancers blog.  Not at all!  As long as you want to continue perusing these flights of fancy of mine, I will stick around.  The WordPress community is a special place, and I intend to remain a part of it for…

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How to Fight Your Way Out of a Writing Slump

How to Fight Your Way Out of a Writing Slump

Writers’ block is every author’s worst nightmare, especially when there is a deadline looming overhead. It’s frightening to stare at a blank screen only to have it stare right back at you, with no words. After all, if you don’t feel thrilled about writing your own novel, why should your readers feel thrilled about reading it?

But while all writers have experienced this, do any of us know how to cure it? Probably not. But I am no ordinary writer; I am a cat, and therefore know all the things. Here’s my #kittywisdom on how to fight your way out of a writing slump and kick writers’ block in the you-know-where!

Watch a Related Show

Stuck on an action scene? Watch an action movie. Having a hard time picturing Victorian-Era Britain? Watch a British Victorian show. Trying to pick up some new details on an old revolution as research for your book? Watch a related documentary. It’s amazing how much easier it is to write about what you see, as opposed to only what you have heard, read, or imagined.

Read a Related Book

Watching TV isn’t for everyone, and doesn’t solve every problem. Sometimes you need the kind of research you can highlight and copy and paste pieces from for future reference. And sometimes, especially if you’re writing in another era or a new genre, it’s good to read related books to see how the experts have done it in the past and better decide how you can do it in the present.

Do Some Research

Whether by movies, books, or surveys, a little research goes a long way; thorough research will take your book even further. Don’t skimp on the fact-checking. Ask the experts. Follow up on their recommendations. The more familiar you are with a topic, and the more you know it inside out, the easier it is to write about it.

Tackle Some Editing

Few humans like to edit—until they’re procrastinating about writing. It is often much easier to revise something already written than it is to draw new words out of thin air. While it’s important not to get stuck in the editing cycle, if you can’t add new words, reviewing the old ones isn’t a bad idea.

Write Something Else

Writers’ block is often on a per-project basis. For instance, a writer could struggle with a novel for three weeks, but churn out ten articles for clients on an unrelated subject, and then three blog posts lamenting their current standstill. If one project won’t budge, find another. Just take care not to become that author who starts a thousand books, but finishes none.

Join a Writers’ Group

Writers’ groups exist online and off. My favorite online is #turtlewriters on Twitter, which is dedicated to slower writers, though speedy wordsmiths—like my mistress—are also more than welcome! Nothing beats meeting up in person though, and there are plenty of writing groups offering this opportunity, if you’re willing to give it a shot. Looking for somewhere to start? Try MeetUp!

For more tips on staying productive with your creative work, check out my human’s blog post, How to Stay Inspired & Keep on Creating.

Black Catastrophy

About the Author

Shadow the PR Cat

Shadow the PR Cat is the Goodwill Ambassador at Alexis Chateau PRand head of the firm’s indie author division. His job includes tweeting, taking selfies, rolling in catnip, and advocating for animal rights and social equality. Follow his kitty adventures on Twitter as @ShadowThePRcat.

How to Keep Your Cat Busy So You Can Write Undisturbed

How to Keep Your Cat Busy So You Can Write Undisturbed

Cats are adorable. Everyone knows this. Whether you’re allergic, or want to praise Sparky’s loyalty from here to Zion, you have likely slipped into that black hole of cats on the internet at some point in your adult life. Admit it. What can I say? We’re pretty darn amusing!

Unfortunately, our author fur parents are not always amused by our comic relief, when they’re trying to focus on writing their novel. How can they, when we want to sit on the keyboard? Head-butt their hands when they use the mouse? Or knock the whole monitor off the desk, as my sister once did?

The good news is, there are a few tricks you can use to keep us busy while you write. Here are a few to help you get that manuscript finished without putting Mr. Whiskers up for adoption!

Match Feeding Time with Writing Time

Cats are not as easily swayed by food as dogs are, but if you know you’re going to write, it’s probably a good time to take that food bowl away a few hours before you sit down at your desk.

Cruel as this is, we will be happy when you return it with fresh food later on. Dry food is unlikely to do the trick, so if you’re wise, you’ll have the fishiest bit of wet food waiting for us before you start writing.

Keep Treats Handy

Like I said, cats are usually not as easily swayed by food as our canine companions. This is partially because we are used to having access to dry food all day anyway, but also because we know full well we can hunt for our own food if it comes to it. However, if you know your cat, you know there are some things we cannot resist. For me, that’s catnip, tuna, and shrimp!

The bad news is though, food can only keep us busy for so long before we come back to sit in front of the monitor and take a bath while you try to see between a raised leg, and a jelly belly. Oops?

Lock the Door

In times like these, there is only one thing to do, lock the door. If your office does not have a door you can lock, this might be a really good time to consider getting a laptop, so you can write from the bedroom. Just saying.

Well, did I mention that chances are, we are going to meow ’til kingdom come outside that door? I have also learned the uncanny trick of turning the door knob! Even if it doesn’t open the door, it always gets the human’s attention. And if I have her attention, then The Moreau Witches sure don’t. So guess who just has to open the door again?

You Can’t. Sorry, Not Sorry

By now, you’ve probably realized you have no choice but to give in and rub our tummy, scratch our ears, and whip out the laser. Surely, it can’t be so bad that we want your attention and love?

You can always get back to your writing once we fall asleep in your lap ten minutes later. But whatever you do, don’t get up — or we’re starting this mess all over again.

You’re welcome!

About the Author

Shadow the PR Cat is the Goodwill Ambassador at Alexis Chateau PRand head of the firm’s indie author division. His job includes tweeting, taking selfies, rolling in catnip, and advocating for animal rights and social equality. Follow his kitty adventures on Twitter as @ShadowThePRcat.

Cover Reveal For My Latest Release

Author Don Massenzio

I’m very excited about my upcoming release, Extra Innings. It is a bit of a departure for me as I’ve written mostly detective and mystery novels.

This book started as a memory from childhood of the old minor league baseball stadium in my home town. I spent many summer days there. I remember exciting games that often competed with the volatile Upstate New York weather. I even remember the field having to be plowed so there wouldn’t be snow to interrupt opening day.

The book then twists in the direction of the supernatural. The underlying theme comes from the age old conundrum, if you could go back and change anything in your life, would you?

Here is the blurb I’ve been trying out:

Joe McLean hated his life. He was middle-aged, divorce and living in a small apartment. The only bright spot in his life was cheering on his…

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How to Handle Bad Press When Someone HATES your Book

How to Handle Bad Press When Someone HATES your Book

Being the author of a published book is a lot like being a customer service rep, at a place of business. No one wants to think of it that way at first. After all, what kid ever dreamed of being a customer service rep when they grew up?

But as the face of the brand, when someone hates your book (and someone always will!), you’ll likely be the first person they come to about it. So what do you do when this happens to ensure it doesn’t blow up into something ten times worse than what it started as?

There is no one-size fits all approach to the situation. Readers and reviewers are all different, and will go about their dissatisfaction in different ways. Whatever route they choose, here are a few of the ways you can help to fix the situation.

Be Easy to Reach

Some people will hate your book, roll their eyes and toss it into a forgotten pile. Those are not the readers you need to be worried about. Art is subjective, and not everyone will love what you have to say.

The reader you want to watch out for is the one who will want you to know, in no uncertain terms, how they feel. The easier you are to reach, so they can unleash their wrath directly, the less likely they are to write an entire blog post about how much they hate the book.

No one wants to receive messages about how much someone hates something they poured their heart and soul into. But this is a much better option than having an entire 500 – 2500 blog post about it online.

Ensure your readers have a direct line of contact to you via your website, an email address, or social media. Do not make your social media accounts private. If you must have a private account, then create another for the public. Facebook and Twitter are your two best options.

Respond Promptly

When it comes to unpleasantness online, many people will tell you the mature answer is to mute, block, and/or ignore. This is great advice, until it comes to your book. Why? Because if the person doesn’t get the frustration out of their system from speaking directly to you, then they will move on to larger forums out of spite.

The longer you let them boil and simmer, the more likely they are to spit deadly fire in the direction of your book. If the book is recently released, or you are an indie author with very few reviews, having 1-star ratings pop up on Amazon, Goodreads, and several blogs is not an easy thing to deal with. But it is easy for them to do.

While you are under no obligation to pander to a troll, acknowledge their dissatisfaction. Do not ignore them. Besides, as many writers will tell you, some of the worst critique they ever received of their work, contained some of the best advice for their improvement.

A standard response that is likely to keep the peace?

I am sorry you did not enjoy my book, but do thank you for bringing it to my attention. I will take all you have said into consideration, as I continue to work on future projects. Thanks again.

Act on Your Persona

While pacifying the dissatisfied reader is often the best approach, it is not the best approach for everyone. If you are a writer of controversial topics and sassy characters, a bit of sass may serve you well. However, keep in mind that this can backfire and is a tactic best left to the witty, quick thinkers.

Many authors have mastered the art of shaming trolls who attempt to drag them through the mud, and often have the support of their readers when they do so. They may choose to out trolls, shine the light on their nefarious activities, and silence them by besting them in public.

My human, Alex, for instance, though mostly amused and rarely offended by terrible critiques, generally chooses that route over pacifying when it comes to her personal blog and her fiction. Think of her as the author version of Wendy’s.

It works for her, because any other response would be out of character. Her writing covers a lot of controversial topics in fact and fiction, which are always written under the influence of her quick wit and fluent sass. That is not the work of a pacifier, but the work of an outspoken activist.

Keep in mind, however, that this puts you at risk of being blasted online. If you are not prepared to suffer the consequences and risks of taking on trolls and truly dissatisfied readers, stick to pacifying.

Offer a Refund

One of the great things about online shopping is how quick online stores usually are to issue a full or partial refund if you are unsatisfied with the product. Obviously, many people abuse this system; claiming dissatisfaction with a product they loved, just so they can get their money back. But, it has its virtues.

If a reader is truly dissatisfied with your book, especially to the point that they didn’t finish it, offer them a refund if possible. This is unlikely to be something you can do every time someone makes a complaint, so you will have to look at each individual case and save this remedy for the worst of the worst ie the people most likely to stir trouble online if not appeased.

Hire a Community Manager

Whether the particular situation requires a partial refund, a dose of sass, or extra doses of patience, you may not want to deal with these instances as an author. Some people are more sensitive than others, or would just rather spend their time actually working on their novel, than managing the PR behind it.

If this is you, then your best bet is to hire a community manager. A community manager checks your reviews online, your social media mentions, and mentions of your book, to ensure that all is well. If all is not well, then they are responsible for resolving those issues on your behalf, as best as they can.

Meanwhile, you get to focus on what you do best. Writing. Do you need a community manager to speak with a few dissatisfied readers, or deflect a few trolls? I’d be happy to help! Just shoot me an email to get started.

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About the Author

Shadow the PR Cat

Shadow the PR Cat is the Goodwill Ambassador at Alexis Chateau PRand head of the firm’s indie author division. His job includes tweeting, taking selfies, rolling in catnip, and advocating for animal rights and social equality. Follow his kitty adventures on Twitter as @ShadowThePRcat.