Expectations and a Reviewer’s Rubric

When I first started my website, www.benjamin-m-weilert.com, I knew I wanted it to be a repository of reviews for all the books I’ve read and all the movies I’ve seen. I have some of these reviews scattered across the web, but I wanted a single location where all of them could reside. A single place where I could control these reviews. Now that my website is almost a year-and-a-half old, I have accumulated over 250 reviews on it. These reviews range from nights at the Colorado Springs Philharmonic to audiobooks to movies to books received from authors and/or publishers. As most of my reviews, I provide a “star” rating to help visitors to my site determine if the piece of media is worth their time. Early on, I based most of my ratings on an intuitive “hunch” of what I felt the work deserved. This scale (from 0.0 to 5.0) is mostly subjective and, while this is still largely the case,...
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How to handle a bad review

You can’t please all people all the time. The best you can do is please most people most of the time. This adage is as true in life as it is to writing. Some readers will love your book, others will not. We all love to receive glowing reviews, as they boost our confidence, but what about those readers and reviewers who don’t care for our book? While I’ve received a few bad reviews for my books, as a reviewer of books, I have had to write some bad reviews. If your book is out there for the public to read, you have to expect to receive a bad review eventually. There are two ways to deal with these negative reviews: the right way and the wrong way. How you handle bad reviews says a lot about who you are as an author. My first one-star review was for my first book, First Name Basis. While I was upset that I received this bad...
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What a month of content looks like

Back in June, I wrote a post about what it takes to “do it all” as an independent author. While one of the many tasks of the independent author is marketing, nobody will buy your books if you’re always promoting them on social media. There needs to be a balance of promotion and what’s known as “web content.” Web content doesn’t need to be much, especially for social media, but the fact that you’re continually posting about something shows that you’re actively engaged with people who could potentially become your audience. There are plenty of debates about which social networks to post to, how often to post, and when to post during the day (or during the week), but this post won’t go into the details of that. I still haven’t figured out the “sweet spot” for social media, but I have accumulated a regular schedule of web content that helps me to be active on these platforms. When it comes...
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Dear Young Adult Fans

Calm down. I know you sometimes take it personally when someone doesn’t like a book that you love, but that’s the beauty of life: people are allowed to have differing opinions. When it comes to the Young Adult (YA) genre, I recognize that it’s not written for me, as the demographics of the genre sway more toward women than men. By the same token, I know most women aren’t going to read the science fiction or fantasy books that men seem to enjoy (this has its own problems, which I’ll get to later). With the enormous influx of YA books hitting the marketplace after the success of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, there are plenty of books to choose from . . . and not all of them are well written. Regardless, I still occasionally pick up a YA book that seems to have an interesting premise in the hope that it’s the rare gem in the sea of mediocrity. When I first started...
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What to avoid when asking for reviews

For almost a year now, I’ve been writing reviews of books and posting my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. At first, I began doing this because I started signing up for giveaways on Goodreads. My plan was to read the books, review them, then use them as prizes for the participants of National Novel Writing Month in my region. When I realized it was also easy web content for my website, I dove wholeheartedly into these reviews. After all, I had been writing movie reviews for many years, so 300+ words on a book I just read shouldn’t be too difficult. What I did not expect was that soon people would be contacting me to review their books. When I received my first request to review a book, I was flattered that someone had found my review on Amazon and decided that they liked my review enough to send me their book to review as well. However, I soon realized what...
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What it takes to do it all

There are days I see the benefits of going with the traditional publishing route. When you are signed on with a publisher, they provide some of the hard work it takes to make a manuscript into a polished and publishable product. From editors to formatters to cover artists to distribution, these publishers have the resources to help an author be successful. But what about the self-published author? One of the common misconceptions about being an author (especially a self-published one) is that we only have to write. In reality, a self-published author needs to perform the entirety of the publishing process by themselves. Now, you may be asking yourself, “OK, you have to do it all, but what does that even mean?” Let’s start at the beginning of the process, and I’ll walk you through it. If you want to self-publish, you have many jobs to do. Many of the most famous authors have a research department (or person). These are the people...
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What you need to know about your fandom

I don’t have a fandom like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien (maybe I don’t have enough initials in my pen name). In fact, I don’t really have a fandom at all. However, I am certainly a fan of certain franchises. Sometimes I find myself cringing when these franchises are either rebooted or remade. Sure, there is always some hope that the new material can successfully capture the elements that made the original the hit that it was. However, this is rarely the case. Before we give our fans what they want, we need to understand what it is. For example’s sake, let’s look at two famous sci-fi franchises that have some very die-hard followers: Star Wars and Star Trek. Everyone agrees that these two franchises are similar in that they are both in the science fiction genre, but that’s essentially where the similarities end. In fact, these fandoms are almost so vehemently adamant on the superiority of their source material that you...
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What you should REALLY ask when meeting someone new

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve just been introduced to someone you’ve never met before and, after almost instantaneously forgetting their name, you ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” This question, along with a few other antiquated ones like “Are you married?” or “Have any kids?” don’t really provide any insight into the life of the person you’ve just met. They only touch on the surface of their life, and sometimes that surface may be uncomfortable for them to answer. They may have just been fired from their job, are going on their 6th month of unemployment, are frustrated with being single, have just gotten divorced, or are having fertility issues with their spouse. As you can see, these questions will often receive lies for answers because they can probe a little too deep for a new acquaintance. I’d almost equate them with the three “no-no’s” of small talk: money, religion, and politics. Even if everything is going...
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