The right way to ask for reviews

It’s weird to think that I’ve written more than 600 reviews since I started my website back in 2016. Of course, as I cross-post these reviews to various sites like IMDb, Goodreads, and Amazon, I started receiving requests for reviews relatively soon after I started gaining some traction from my posts (my reviewer ranking is above 23,000). I’ll ignore the requests clearly from Chinese sellers trying to manipulate their Amazon rankings, but I do have a soft spot for authors. Unfortunately, (as I've written about before) most authors don’t know how to interact with reviewers—especially when sending a request via e-mail. They all understand the value of reviews, but they don’t take the time to ensure they’re making the best first impression. After all, reviewers are people and sending a review request is much like pitching an agent: you want to show you’ve done your homework. As a result, most reviewers will ignore these requests or send them to their spam...
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Why self-publishing isn’t “free”

I have always said that one of the main benefits of self-publishing is that there is no financial barrier to entry. Anyone can write a book and have it published without paying a cent to anyone. Granted, this is also the reason why many people look down on self-publishing. With the costs of self-publishing being non-existent, there are no quality checks to ensure the content being published is good enough for readers to spend their money to buy it. Sometimes, this can result in backlash with angry readers leaving negative reviews. Often, not investing in a written work doesn't produce the sales an author would like to make (and is the main reason I don't make a living with my writing). Over the years, I've learned that self-publishing isn't just writing a book. Instead, self-publishing is editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, and any number of other tasks that combine to create a polished product. Depending on an author's skill level, some...
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Traditional Publishing is Bizarre

The dream of many writers is to be traditionally published. There is a certain amount of clout that comes with having a manuscript printed by a company that is in the business of publishing books. There is a validation when an author’s book is distributed to brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes and Noble. I understand the appeal, but the more I learn about modern traditional publishing, the more I find it antiquated and bizarre. Is traditional publishing behind the times? For personal reasons, I have decided to exclusively pursue self-publishing as my venue for distributing my stories. While this is in part due to my realization that I can’t make a living off my writing—and thus why I pursue it as a hobby—I’ve dipped my toe in enough of the process and discussed it with other lesser-known authors who have successfully done it to realize that it’s somewhat stuck in the past. Here are three things about traditional publishing that I...
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An Author’s Online Presence [PART 2/2]

Last month, I wrote about how an author should have some form of an online presence. Engaging with the writing community and potential readers is easy to do when starting out. Social media helps connect people online, so it should be the first place to start when developing a writer brand. Even if a writer hasn’t published anything yet, these profiles help legitimize what they’re trying to do in the off-chance that they do decide to proceed into publication (either self or traditional). And while social media is somewhat “unofficial” in the sense that anyone can sign up and participate in it, there are plenty of self-published authors who are missing out on some “official” portals of information that they can control. These are the places where customers are likely to come to search for information on a particular book or author, so it’s essential to ensure that they look like they’ve been set up instead of having default data displayed. Just...
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An Author’s Online Presence [PART 1/2]

While writing is a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be in a vacuum. Just like any creative pursuit, there is inevitably a community that develops around it. Fortunately, the barriers to entering the writing community are slim to none. Do you write? Then you’re a part of that community. Even if your local area has a writing group that meets in person, it benefits most writers to connect with an online community. Additionally, if you’re an author trying to communicate with potential readers, your reach will be much broader if you’re involved in the most significant online resource: social media. I understand social media is this huge, terrifying monster for those who either aren’t used to it or are addicted to it. Unfortunately, as an author, a social media presence is vital for connecting with fellow writers and potential readers (some of which are the same people). When it comes down to it, regularly posting content and engaging with the...
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My Love/Hate Relationship with Amazon

As a self-published author, one of the most frequent questions I get is, “Are your books on Amazon?” While some other questions like, “Is it an audiobook?” or, “Can I buy it at my local Barnes and Noble?” are increasing in frequency, the basic fact of the matter is that Amazon rules the online retail platform. Look, I get that people want to get free shipping on a copy of my book and I can’t offer that via any other sales avenue. I understand there’s an amount of trust that goes into buying books on Amazon. After all, that’s how they got their start: selling books. Unfortunately, because Amazon is the ubiquitous place to buy practically everything, some people won’t bother to head to other retailers or online sites to buy a book by a self-published author. For those independent authors who only want to do print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks and/or Kindle eBooks, this is great! I’ll admit that I can purchase...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 3/3]

Over the last few months, I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to some of the neat tricks you can use to help publish your book using the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Word is an obvious choice for writing, and Microsoft Excel can also be useful to manage lists and other planning information, but did you know there’s one more program that can help you publish your book as well? Up until now, the programs I’ve suggested are ones that you’d likely use anyway if you were trying to organize your work or polish your manuscript. The key was merely using the lesser-known tools within these programs to make your life as a writer easier. This month, I’d like to suggest something that might shock you and will require you to use a program in a slightly different manner than it’s usually used. That program is: MICROSOFT POWERPOINT Most people associate PowerPoint with corporations, presentations, and goofy animations. While these are the typical uses for the...
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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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