Listen to Your Critics

free-lemonsWait, what? No I didn’t typo the title of this blog.  I really do plan to talk about reasons you should listen to your critics.  Sure there are countless blogs posts about all the reasons you should ignore your critics.  I have even written one (or two).  There are lots of great posts on how bad reviews and the critics of your work should be ignored.  You can’t please everyone and you can’t win them all.  But, after careful consideration, I am not sure that is really the best tip to provide authors, or any artist for that matter.

Working in the art industry, and we can’t forget that writing is an art, attracts all kinds of people.  You have the people who love just about everything.  You have the people who hate just about everything.  Then you have the people who really don’t know what they like or hate.  And finally you have the ones who know what they like and why they like it (and they usually know why they don’t like something too).  One might argue that you can also attract the jealous artist.  The one who wants to do what you do (and probably could) but they never bothered to really work at it.

In the past two years I have written a ton of book reviews.  I realized that reviewing a book on Amazon and Goodreads really helped authors.  Soon I was writing them for Plasma Frequency, and now I am writing them for my own blog.  And in all those reviews, I used to feel guilty when I wrote something critical about a book.  I felt like maybe I was being a jerk.  And I knew how critical reviews bothered me sometimes.  But I’ve realized that I am only sharing my opinion.  Other readers, and the author, can take it or leave it.  It is just my opinion, and I am but one reader.

But over the past few weeks, especially after all the inspiration I got from WorldCon, I have realized that perhaps I am thinking about reviews the wrong way.  That ignoring the bad ones, and basking in the good ones, was not necessarily the best method.

First, we should get this out of the way.  There is one review that you can always ignore.  That is the review that just bashes your book to bash it.  There is no logic to the reviews.  That would be the “This book sucks because I said it sucks but I won’t tell you why it sucks” kind of review.  Any blog reviewer worth your time won’t publish a review like that.  But on Amazon and Goodreads you will see those from time to time.  When I say you should ignore those reviews, I mean just that.  Don’t bother with it.  Don’t waste your time getting it removed or asking all your friends to vote the review as being not helpful.  I just mean ignore it.  It isn’t worth the time you put into it.

Recently I have seen an explosion in sales and reviews for Dissolution of Peace.  I was lucky to sell five copies each month in the past six months.  And I thought five was a great month.  I also seemed stuck at 12 reviews for a long time.  But now, I find myself looking at my 18th review on Amazon.  And 28 text reviews on Goodreads, which is great in my opinion.  I’ve also sold an average of 1.75 books per day (not counting my free promotion earlier this month).

So things are going well right?  Yes, and no.  There are some critical elements in these reviews.

I’m consistently seeing reviewers that love the story line of my book.  There has been a sprinkle or two suggesting better character development, and another sprinkle or two that love the characters.  There have been a few that hate the ending.  There have been a few that love the ending.  But one critical comment has been consistent.  They don’t like the grammar and spelling.  They seem to find errors that I didn’t catch.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am very self conciseness when it comes to grammar.  So my first step in dealing with this was to follow the advise we see across the blogging world.  I simply ignored it.  In fact, anything critical, I ignored.  Anything that people loved I relished in, I noted it for the sequel.  I even bragged about it.

But that is a disservice.  Not just to the reviewer, who took time to review the book (which we know many readers do not do), but it is also a disservice to yourself.

Every artist can grow.  And listening to your readers is a great way to learn where you might want to focus your growth.  It also tells you what you can fix to increase your sales.  For example, I’ve hired a new editor to review and fix the mistakes in Dissolution of Peace that I simply can’t catch.  Once she fixes those, I’ll update the book with a new version.

But grammar isn’t the only critique I have got.  I am looking into how I develop my characters and the way I end my novels.  I am looking into what it is that people really enjoy about the way I write stories.  I’m listening to my readers, even the critics.  Because that is how I will grow as a writer.  That is how I will become better.  And once you think you can’t get any better, you’ve become to arrogant and your readers will eventually notice there is no progression in your work and you will fade out.

So while critics are everywhere, they are also extremely helpful to the arts.  You, as the artists, may not take all their tips.  I am not saying you have to.  But I am saying you should at least listen.  You will benefit from that. If the majority of readers have a consistent complaint, I would suggest correcting that aspect of your writing.  Either in your current book, or in future works in progress.  For those more 50-50 splits, the choice is yours as an artist.  It could be something to change, or it could be that your style is not their style.

But if you want reviewers, you have to listen to them.  You can’t bash them and ignore them.  You can’t accept only the good.  You have to listen to your critics.

News, Updates, and a Few Favors to Ask

I haven’t done an updates blog in a long time, so I thought I would start August with one.

Dissolution of Peace

ob hall of fame finalistFirst, lets talk Dissolution of Peace.  In late July, I noticed a bunch of new reviews on Goodreads for the book.  Based on what I read from those reviews, it was a Book Club that reviewed my book.  It was very nice to see positive reviews come in mass like that.  I think I know which book club it was, but I am not sure.  Either way, I thank them for selecting my book and reviewing it.  None of the reviews were below four stars so I guess they must have liked it.

The sequel for Dissolution of Peace has been a tough time coming.  I know most who have finished the first book are dying to know what happens next.  When I originally wrote Dissolution of Peace, in its infancy, I wrote a second manuscript to go with it.  This manuscript did not take over right when Dissolution of Peace ended. It took over some time later, and the problem is I thought I’d want to write what happened in that time as the second book.

Dissolution of Peace went through a significant rewrite from the original to the current book.  So now, I feel the time between books might need to be told.  Well, I have sort of stalled on telling that story. And I now find myself wondering if I want to actually start the story in at “some time later” as I had planned all those years ago.  What I think I really need to do is reread Dissolution of Peace and reread the other manuscripts from the past, this way I will find the inspiration of where to go from here.

In other Dissolution of Peace news, and for the first favor: Quality Reads UK Book Club (in partners with Orangeberry) have nominated Dissolution of Peace for their Book Expo Hall of Fame.  They have several categories, and Dissolution of Peace has been named with four other books for the Hall of Fame.  The rest is up to votes.  It seems my book has already traded the lead with another title several times. So if you don’t mind, please head over and give Dissolution of Peace a vote.  You can vote by clicking here.

Volition Agent

Volition Agent - Kindle Cover (Hires jpg)Volition Agent is still trying to pick up some steam.  I am proud of this book, and I am still a bit down about the slow start.  However, we did have a recent giveaway end, and though it didn’t get very many entrants, that will put the book in more readers hands.  I’ve already mailed out the Paperback winners.  And when I am done with this blog, I will be sending out the Kindle winners via email.  I have canceled the photo contest, no one entered or expressed interest in entering. Some marketing ideas just don’t work.

There is still a chance to win a copy of the Volition Agent.  You can do so by entering the Goodreads giveaway.  That runs until the end of this month (if I remember correctly).  So please consider entering and sharing it with your friends.

Current Work in Progress

I do have a work in progress going.  I put a lot of words down quickly on this project (which is still untitled) and I really think it is coming along nicely.  As I get farther along on it, I am realizing that a lot of my heart and soul in going into this work.  There is a lot of my own personal struggles placed in each of these characters.

Once again I find the three characters alternating POV works for me.  There are three main characters in this story: Liam Fisher, the military leader of the City-State of Lagoon Hills.  Talya Brooks, his second in command.  Rachel Tabor who is a person from Liam’s past who he never expected to see again.

The project is my first take at a post apocalyptic story.  I don’t think you can call it a dystopian, the people are rather happy thought the world we know is no longer around. It takes place several years after the government of the United States (and the world) collapsed due to a variety of things including disease, economics, social unrest, and a mass die off of the human race.

Anyway, I am really enjoying writing this book.  Though for the last week time has not permitted me to write as much as I want.

Plasma Frequency

Plasma Frequency recently published Issue 7, our first issue in our second year of publishing.  This is very exciting and we have worked hard to get to this point. We have a lot of plans for our second year.  We plan to switch over to Amazon for our publishing needs, selling both the Kindle and Print issue through them.  This will significantly lower our print costs. We understand that for the amount of fiction we publish, that the $9.99 price point Magcloud forces on us (due to their per page cost) isn’t fair.  We don’t even make money on the print issue.  Amazon will allow us to reduce that significantly and put our price more in line with other print magazines.  We won’t cut ties with Magcloud because of their ability to sell our PDF issue.  I’ve not found another source for that.

I really want to pay authors and artists more. But the current 1 cent per word comes out of my own pockets.  That has made it rough for me, and I can’t even consider paying more unless I have more funds. So after our reader survey, we thought we would try an IndieGoGo campaign.  So far, we are way short of our goal and it doesn’t look like we will be paying anymore in year two.  But that can change if you will help (see another favor).  If everyone who downloaded our issues donated just $25 we’d break our goal in no time flat.  But you don’t have to donate that much.  Even just $5 or $10 helps.

Even if we don’t hit our goal, Plasma Frequency will still be around for many years to come. I just won’t be able to pay anymore just yet.  To donate, or share with others, click here.

So that is what I have going on right now.  Oh, and don’t forget to share (one last favor) the Author Features that I stated on Friday when Jennings Wright came by for an interview. This Friday I have a guest post.  Jump in and get some free publicity.

Dissolution of Peace is on Sale Now!

As of this morning Amazon.com has officially begun selling Dissolution of Peace!  It is one week early, but I am over joyed to see all this hard work finally amount to something. 

I hope people enjoy the book and spread the word about it.  I’m still offering signed paperbacks for only $5.99 for the next week.  You can get that from the BUY BOOKS tab at the top of my blog.

Here are the Amazon.com Links:

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615706851/
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009N3BFIG

Don’t forget to add it to your shelves on Goodreads!

Here is the trailer again, just to get you a psyched up as I am.

Book Review: The Nanotech Murders

Cover art by Deron Douglas

From the Back Cover:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta.  Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere.  As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith.  Decker, a tough, wisecracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

 
The Nanotech Murders by Lee Gimenez (Double Dragon Publishing) was added to my ‘to read’ list because the topic of future police work appeals to me.  I felt it promised to show me another author’s take on the future of police work.

I spent a lot of my college years studying Law Enforcement.  It had been an eventual career goal for me at one point.  So when I read or watch fiction involving police work, I tend to be extra critical.  I tend to notice unbelievable situations, reactions, and characters.

Unlike others I have know, I am able to recognize that police fiction has to be dramatized because in general the job has a lot of very boring moments.  No one would read a book about a cop who pulls over traffic violator for eight hours, maybe handles a domestic quarrel or two, then goes home and goes to bed.

Trust me, I am not down playing the daily duties of our police, they regularly put their lives on the line.  They often have to go from boring to complete terror in seconds.  If fact, that is exactly whey we love Police fiction.  It takes that terror and puts it into a believable scenario so we can watch police officers become the heroes we know them to truly be.

It is 2071 in Atlanta, and the police are dealing with a serial killer.  They have almost nothing to go on and the number of victims are rising.  To make matters worse the Captain is putting a lot of pressure on Detective Jak Decker to solve the case before the media gets wind of it.

Jak’s boss feels he needs a partner and forces Cassandra on him.  As you read this story Jak and Cassandra  find themselves neck deep in a case that may be more then they can handle.  Every time they pull a small thread, their word unravels even more.   They must struggle to solve this case before it destroys everything they have worked for.

Jak is you stereo-typical detective:  A drunk with a troubled marriage, who doesn’t play by the rules and often goes rogue from his orders.  It’s pretty much all thrown at you in the opening scene, and it was a bit troublesome for me to take.  But, Gimenez quickly breaths life in Jak and despite the stereo-types, I quickly found myself drawn in by Jak’s character.  I really wanted to see him succeed.

The character I most identified with was Cassandra Smith, the CS android unit that represents the best android technology has to offer.  Every scene and chapter in her point of view was enjoyable to read.  She is struggling to understand police work beyond the programing she has.  The relationship that Cass and Jak develop through the novel was one of the very enjoyable plot threads of the novel.

Gimenez writes a thoughtful thriller that applies subtle twists and turns to the plot.  It is a fresh take on the thriller with multiple entertaining plot threads that work well to complete an overall story that was fun to read.  I don’t think there was one point in the novel where I thought, I saw that coming.

The action scenes are written well.  They provide you with an intense feeling as if you are actually involved in these scenes yourself.  There are plenty of gun fights in the novel, but they don’t ever become boring or predictable.   Each time a character was involved in something life threatening you got the real sense that they could lose everything trying to solve this crime.

As I mentioned above, I am very quick to spot the mistakes in Police stories, the unrealistic descriptions of events.  This story has some of those.  None of this was distracting to the story.  I never felt like yelling:  Oh come on!  That’s impossible!   

So overall this is a great future cop thriller, that is believable and an entertaining read.  Gimenez does everything right with this one.  He takes believable cops, and shows them to be the heroes we all know them to be.  The Nanotech Murders is a must read for anyone who enjoys Science Fiction, Thrillers, and/or Police fiction.  Gimenez does a great job telling a blockbuster tale here.  One that is fun to read, has believable characters, a strong plot, and is just plain entertaining.  It is easily a four out of five.  I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.  I know I will be adding some other Gimenez titles to my ‘to read’ list.

(You can purchase The Nanotech Murders in paperback or for your Kindle on Amazon.com here.  It is also availble in paperback and Nook at Barnes and Noble here.)