Why You Should Never Pay an Editor or Book Cover Designer Upfront

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I should have titled this post “Folks Behaving Badly Online, Part 3.”

Maybe I’ve been hanging out in the wrong places, but I’ve seen several instances lately of folks behaving badly online; from harassing book reviewers for posting a negative book review to asking strangers for 5* reviews, folks really seem to be in their feelings lately and, as my grandmother would say, showing their natural behinds.

I’m not a psychologist (although, I used to want to be one. A rapping psychologist actually, but please don’t ask me about that) so I can’t tell you why folks are running around showing their behinds. I can only assume that they all drank a big ole cup of crazy, made another batch, and then passed it around to their friends.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked about authors behaving badly, but today I’m going to talk about industry “professionals.”

Here’s some background:

An author was unsatisfied with an editor’s work. Long story short: she paid the editor beforehand, but when the editor got the manuscript and started reading it she realized that the book wasn’t her cup of tea. So of course, the editor tallied up the amount of hours for work already done and refunded the rest of the author’s money, right?


She kept the money. Now, during the online slugfest (more on that later), the editor responded, saying that she had already explained her actions to the author in a private message and would not stoop so low and ruin her already starting to be ruined brand by elaborating further. Now, I’m no psychic, but I’m assuming that the private message went something like this:

Dear Dude:

I’m truly sorry but I couldn’t get through this novel. I didn’t realize it at the time (even though your blurb is pretty much an encapsulation of, like, the entire novel) that the novel was about puppets. And I have to tell you: I hate puppets. So to mitigate your damages (please note: I use the word “mitigate” very loosely here), I am returning your manuscript. I won’t be refunding your money, however, because I am using it for a good psychotherapist to help me deal with my puppet issues. I will say this: I totally dug the part where the protagonist faces her stage fright. I do love a strong-willed heroine! Anyway, as I’m sure you already know, editing is a very subjective business, and I can’t, even after accepting full payment, take on every client. Anyway, if you ever have any stories about cats, please do send them my way.

Looking forward to working with you again!


A very shitty editor

Dear friends: what do you think happened after that? Well, the author went online and lambasted the editor from here to Tchoupitoulas. She went to a very popular social media outlet and posted several scathing reviews (and called the editor out by name). And honey chile, let me tell you: it was NOT pretty. What resulted was a public back and forth between author and editor that got so crazy that others eventually chimed in and told them to quit it because they were both starting to look a little woo-woo.

My two cents? If the editor really behaved that way, she won’t be in business for long. But I understand the author’s frustrations because I went through something similar with a no-good cover designer who shall remain nameless. Did I go online and trash him? I wanted to. But instead,  I cut my losses and added him to my “never again, not even if there are icicles in hell” list of vendors.

Moral of the story: never pay anyone up front (not even your cousin Frank). Half before the service, and if all goes well, half later. That way, if you’re ever unsatisfied with the work you can at least walk away with some of your money. But if you happen to read this post too late and fall victim to a shady vendor, please don’t go on a week long bad mouthing tour, because as bad as the vendor will look for his/her shady behavior, you’ll look just as bad.

What about others? Any editor/cover designer/industry professional horror stories? Industry professionals: have you ever dealt with any nightmare clients?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How (Not) to Respond to a Negative Book Review

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I recently heard of an author who got a less than stellar book review and went ham, cheese, and bologna on the reviewer (for my readers who may not know: to “go ham” is slang for acting  a complete and utter fool). I won’t post any links (Mama ain’t raised no fool. I don’t want folks coming after me here on my precious blog, trolling me and what not) and I won’t name names but I will say this: nobody likes negative reviews. Everyone wants to believe that their book is so spectacular that it will end up on all the best sellers lists and that Hollywood will come a-knocking, begging to buy the movie rights.

But Linda. Honey, listen: not everyone is going to like your book. If you’re lucky, after you publish a book, you might get some reviews. Some will be good, some will be bad but keep this in mind: it is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up (that’s what your family is for). If someone has an opinion about your novel that is contrary to how you view your masterpiece, then guess what? That’s okay! It’s just an opinion. And if you can’t handle negative reviews don’t read them. Or, if you can’t stop yourself from reading them and then going out and attacking folk all willy-nilly, then chile, maybe you should stick to knitting cause ain’t nobody got time for that maybe this book publishing thing just ain’t for you.

And if you get the desire to respond to a negative review: don’t. What’s that you say? You’ve already written your scathing rebuttal letting the reviewer know how stupid they are and how they just don’t get your masterpiece because everyone, including your Grandma Fran, has been going on about how rad you are? And your hand is on the send button and it would be too much trouble to lift it? Hit delete. Immediately. Now back away from the computer and keep your hands where I can see them. Slowly. Slowly. Now that’s a good author.

*Update: the author somehow got ahold of the computer  when my back was turned and hit “send” anyway. What resulted was a good ol’ fashioned Twitter dragging and slugfest on Goodreads between author and reviewer, and now the author’s reputation is ruined. People are reviewing their book negatively on purpose now to “teach them a lesson.” They are receiving one star reviews and people are putting their book on the “Not even if the author paid me a million dollars” shelf on Goodreads and also the “Not even if the Lord came down from heaven and demanded that I read this mess” shelf.  The author has since moved to Bermuda and has adopted seven cats. She has quit writing and has taken up knitting.*

If you happen to get a less than stellar book review, here’s what you should do: nothing. “But Quanie!” you say, “What if people don’t buy my book based on some idiot one-starring it and saying how no one, not even Socrates, could decode that 70,000 word mess masquerading as a novel?”

Do nothing. Even if you have to sit on your hands: do nothing. Readers aren’t stupid. If your cover, blurb, and first few pages reel them in, they will more than likely still read your novel, despite the negative reviews. But whether or not other readers are going to like it and leave a stellar review…well, you’ll just have to see.

Bottom line: if you get a bad review it’s okay to feel bad about it, but for the love of God, please don’t respond publicly because word of a bad reputation travels fast in this industry and things on the internet live forever. Instead, focus on building your support system of writers but most importantly, honing your craft and writing your next book.

What about others? Do you respond to reviews? Have you seen instances of authors behaving badly online?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!





Book Review Query Etiquette

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I was on Twitter last week when this caught my eye: “Writer sends messages to strangers on FB asking for 5* reviews.”

Of course, I clicked on the link (how could I not? I had to know who this person was, going around the internets asking folk for 5* reviews and to see if this method was working so that I could maybe employ this strategy for myself )and discovered author Terry Tyler’s blog. Her post had me in stitches. Sidenote: I am having a lot of trouble spelling “stitches” this morning and my spell-check is going haywire. But I digress.

Anyhoo, in the post, Terry talks about the brilliance the nerve of this author trying to solicit reviews from people who may not have even read their novel. You can read the post in its entirety here, but here’s what had me in stitches:

I have a HUGE but important favor to ask PLEASE!!! If you haven’t already: Could you PLEASE do a 5 Star review of ***name of book**** and maybe corral a few others? During this year I’m going to seek an agent to help me land the elusive book deal. I’m really trying to bump up the current 4.6 Amazon stars to 4.8! Thus I’m shamelessly networking for 5* reviews with a minium of 20 words from you and anyone else who has an Amazon account.


Folks, I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I thought “Is this how the kids are doing it nowadays?” Forget forging meaningful relationships with other bloggers who might read your book and recommend it to their friends or worse (gasp!) querying bloggers based on the genres they like and politely requesting a book review. Is this what’s going on nowadays?

Of course, this got me thinking about plain ole etiquette. I was contacted recently by a stranger on Goodreads who asked me to send out a message recommending his/her book to all of my friends. And someone else recently sent me an unsolicited email (not a personalized email, mind you) with (I’m not making this up), an attachment full of promotional material for their book. The person thanked me in advance for helping to “make this upcoming release a success!” What I wanted to say: “Excuse me, honey, but the last time I checked my name was not Boo Boo the Fool.” What I actually said? Nothing. I deleted the message.

We are all pursuing the same dream. I want reviews and promo for my novel just as much as the next gal, but do you see me going around all willy-nilly, asking folk for 5* reviews, or for them to recommend my novel to their friends, or sending you, my dear blogger friends, unsolicited attachments with my author photo, book cover, and blurb with the expectation that you’ll promote the novel for me because you’re too afraid or nice to say no? No, ma’am! (But I can if you want me to…)

I think that if you’re going to query people for reviews you don’t necessarily have to grovel (unless it’s specified in the blogger’s review policy). All you have to do is be professional and courteous.

Here are a few simple guidelines:

1. Address the blogger by name. Dear “You” or “Hey there” just won’t cut it.

2. Know the genre(s) the blogger reviews! This takes some time and research but if someone specifically states “no horror” please don’t send it.

3. Be nice! Even if someone doesn’t review your book after one query doesn’t mean that they won’t review another book of yours down the line. And if you were a real a-hole to them during your correspondence, consider that a bridge burned.

Here’s a sample, no-frills book review query letter:

Dear (insert blogger’s name),

I recently found your blog on ___________________ and see that you are currently accepting book review requests. Would you be interested in reviewing my novel, _________________?

Here is the blurb (copy and paste blurb).

If interested, I’d be happy to send the novel as (insert format: mobi, epub, PDF, print copy, etc).

Thank you for your time,

Your name.

Helpful tip: don’t attach anything to the email unless the reviewer specifically asks you to do so in their review policy.

Also: make sure you check if the reviewer is closed to book review requests. No sense wasting your time sending a letter if they aren’t actively seeking books to review. They normally state this in the review policy section of their blog. Another thing that might help: if the reviewer has a blog, check to see when their last post was. If they haven’t posted since 2012, there’s a good chance that they are no longer maintaining their blog.

Sound easy enough, right? What about others? Has anybody else gotten any crazy review or promo requests? How do you go about querying for 5* reviews, I mean um, book reviews?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*There are MANY review groups on Goodreads where authors can post book review requests. Some are peer review groups and others have forums where you can post your request and people who are interested respond. Some of the groups are even genre specific. This is a great way to get reviews!*





The Truth in Fiction

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I took a creative nonfiction course in college. At the time, I wasn’t ready to share personal (or even slightly personal) details about my life. As a result of that, my essays turned out to be sorry attempts at humor that only explored areas of my life that I felt safe enough to share. Truthfully? They were all vapid.

But lately, I’ve found myself wanting to write about more personal things; particularly, I’d like to explore certain real life issues, but through fiction, and I’m wondering about how “truthful” I should be.

There’s a movie called The Best Man where friends get together for a wedding many years after college. The main character has just written a novel based on him and his friends and a secret is revealed: in college, the main character slept with his best friend’s girlfriend. The friends read the novel and start to piece together which character is which, and before long, the groom-to-be gets his hands on the novel, realizes that it’s based on real life, and discovers before his wedding that his best man and wife-to-be were once intimate. As you can imagine, chaos ensues.

I recently found myself writing a character who was eerily similar to someone I know. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that this person is probably the most self-absorbed person I’ve ever come across. So much so, that if I put him/her on the page as they are, it’s very likely that no one would find the character believable. I find myself wanting to write about this individual to explore possible reasons for their behavior. To make sense of it on the page in a way that I can’t do in real life. To right wrongs, even if I can’t do that in life. Even, perhaps, so that this person may experience some sort of poetic justice, even if only in a fictional world. There are other situations that I would love to put on the page but I find myself hesitating because I fear a “Best Man” scenario where everything is revealed and as a result of that, relationships are ruined.

We all write for various reasons: to entertain, to make people laugh, to explore things that happen in our lives and make sense of it, to get through pain, to sort out our feelings. Sometimes characters are reflections of the people in our lives but once characters are on the page, they take on a life of their own and the truths they reveal  may not end up mirroring the truth of our actual lives. But what happens when they do?

Does anyone else find themselves hesitating to put certain characters on the page because they resemble people that you know? Has anyone ever experienced a “Best Man” scenario as a result of writing things that are close to home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!