The three R’s: Writing, Reading, Reviewing

My arithmetic skills having long since withered, my third R these days is reviewing, which I don’t do enough of. That’s partly because I don’t do enough reading, in fact, so I ought to reduce the first R to get more time for the other two. But if I did that, I’d be unhappy, so for the moment it’s staying as it is. Nonetheless, as I look ever deeper into self-publishing, the importance of reviewing becomes more obvious. A sizeable batch of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads helps to attract more reviews – it’s a snowball effect. Fewer than thirty, and you’re unlikely to make much of an impact – readers tend to dismiss them as the usual 5-star hype by friends and family. More than fifty reviews, though, and people start to take notice.

I’ve only been on Goodreads a short while, but one thing you see straightaway is that the books with the most reviews are the ones that need them least. The first book I rated (5 stars) was Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. I didn’t write a review, though, because it already had 15,248, and I said to myself that I’d rather write reviews which could actually make a difference. So I wrote one (4 stars) for The Attic Piranhas by Marlin Williams, which currently has six reviews on Goodreads and 13 on Amazon.

Nonetheless, despite my writing commitments, I’m trying to make time for the other two R’s. I was recently a beta reader for William Chasterson’s intriguing Metaphysical Man, and I’ve just posted a couple of reviews on Goodreads. One for Clara Wiggins’s very well-written Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, the other for Casting Shadows Everywhere by L.T. Vargus. This, then, is the modest start to my Help Other Authors campaign, which others, such as The Story Reading Ape, have taken to admirable heights. And here’s a quote from Sally Cronin at smorgasbord which gives it a concrete basis: We are always hearing about the overwhelming number of Indie authors and the number of books we are competing with in the market place. However, instead of being overwhelmed, take a look at your circle of author contacts and instead of trying to make a difference to all Indie authors, how about as a group making a difference to twenty or thirty. If we all did that we would be supporting thousands within a very short space of time.

Sound advice indeed, and I’ll be posting more about the three R’s in future. Meanwhile, Amazon is asking me to rate the first issue of The World Unknown Review, volume 1. I bought it a month ago because it has a story by Book Country writer D.J. Lutz, but I haven’t started it yet. Give me a chance, guys – gotta do some writing myself!

OGB update + poll


A perfectly timed 201 assignment today! Allows me to (i) give a brief update on One Green Bottle and (ii) collect your thoughts. What more could I ask for?

(i) OGB is now one of the editor’s picks on Book Country. Not entirely sure what that means but it can only be good! Meanwhile, after scouring query shark, I realised my own query letter sucks. So I’ve done it again and soon it’ll be off to more agents.

(ii) The survey below is really quick and easy. Just a few yes/no questions, but your answers will be much appreciated!

Novel Update: Which way in?


It was a long street, lined with brightly lit houses on either side. Dusk was falling and a cold wind was blowing from the north. Though the curtains were drawn and the windows shut, he heard the sound of music and laughter at every house he passed. He paused and listened: scraps of surplus revelry tossed to a tramp.

After a while, he plucked up the courage to knock on one of the doors. A butler cautiously opened it, peering through the gap. Not unfriendly, but not hospitable either. ‘Do you have an invitation? In that case, I’m sorry. I suggest you try elsewhere.’

But everywhere, the answers were the same. ‘I’m afraid not…’ ‘Don’t be disheartened…’ ‘Perhaps further down the road…’ Some didn’t bother to come to the door.

Cold and hungry, he stood on the pavement, brooding. He was about to leave when someone tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Why don’t you go round the back? Here, follow me.’

They walked together down a narrow path, pushed open a creaky door, and found themselves in a long, dingy corridor. It was packed with shadowy figures, some leaning against the wall, others sprawled on the floor. There was barely enough room to move.

‘It’s not great, I know,’ his new friend said. ‘But it’s better than outside. At least there’s a bit of warmth. And sometimes we get a few crumbs. Why don’t you find a space, make yourself comfy? I know it’s not what you wanted, but you’ll get used to it…’

My question now: stripped of the fancy metaphor, is that a fair description of the writer’s dilemma? Either you trudge from door to door, getting turned away by agents and publishers, or else you go through the self-publishing back door and huddle in the dark with thousands of others. To Amazon it’s all the same: a single author selling 5 million copies or a million authors each selling five.

I don’t know. I’m reading contradictory reports. It is possible, apparently, with enough hard work and marketing savvy, for self-published authors to emerge, if only a little, from the obscurity. But how many do? And those that don’t – do they regret taking that option?

So far I’ve knocked on 13 doors with One Green Bottle. 8 refusals, 5 no answers. It’s not a lot, I know. Some people try a hundred or more. So I guess I’ll keep on knocking, displaying the same hopeful smile to every butler I see. But at the same time, maybe it’s worth taking a peek round the back to get genned up on the alternative.

I’m still at the start of my journey. So I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who’s ventured further than me 🙂