What is that you ask?
It all started at the Willamette Writer’s Conference this summer in Portland, Oregon, which just happens to be where my book Benjamin takes place. Not at the conference, but in Portland – at least until the book shifts to Rome. Technically, it starts out on the Rogue River, but most of the book does take place in the same city as the Willamette Writers Conference.
This is not really a coincidence. My husband and I lived in Portland before moving to Northern California. It’s a beautiful city and a great setting for anything, but especially a book. However, I am digressing from my almost Amazon review angst. This new obsessive/compulsive goal for gathering reviews can be added to my repertoire of obsessive/compulsive author activities that keep my head spinning in general a bit like – well if you’ve seen the Exorcist, yes- like that.
It’s really John Ellis’s fault. For three days I sat in his workshops and diligently took notes on how to help my publisher market the book. If I counted how many times he mentioned that Amazon is the board game I want to excel at, it would show his own compulsion for pushing Amazon as the new brick and mortar we better build a brand in if we want solid returns for our writing exploits.
It’s a little harder than you might expect. Almost on a daily basis I get what I have come to realize is fan mail, although the term is a stretch in my case as a little known author of a few published short stories and one debut novel. But since I don’t know these readers personally and they are contacting me through my website in the back of the book, what else can I call them except God’s angels pulling me from my bedlam of typical author depression to instant heights of temporary glory?
These readers (bless you!) who connected to Benjamin keep me going on those less than stellar days – like when some caring citizen of another sort (usually an editor friend) emails you about yet another typo in what you thought was perfect print.
So why aren’t all these fans running to Amazon at my humble and sometimes tearful request to write a review? Usually it’s because they don’t have an Amazon account. If I wanted to do a poll on reader preferences I can pretty much tell you before starting the riveting report that most people who like to read edgy little literary works with a headstrong heroine (not unlike Scarlet O’Hara for hair raising attitudinal issues) do not download on a Kindle.
They want book-in-hand complete with the sound of page turning and the smell of ink to accompany their love triangle that has been intertwined with less than typical complications, including a very dark villain that haunts the hollows of your mind on a sleepless night.
And they buy their books at bookstores. Not online.
Those who do have an active Amazon account typically have less hours in a day than activities to fill them. They promise me every time I talk to them (or we email) that it’s next on their to-do list but the truth is that it’s a bother and I don’t blame them for moving the reviewing of Benjamin to the next day’s agenda, continually. I’ve considered blackmailing them (and some I actually could) or paying them in wine, gifts, dinner… but somehow bribery is beneath my pride… so far.
And then there is category 3- those readers who barely speak to people not imaginary between pages and only muster up the courage to write to me because they were so moved by the book, which is very flattering, but equally frustrating when they tell me they are not comfortable with their literary skills for review writing.
If John Ellis hadn’t suggested the sea would part and the heavens would open at my 50th review, causing my book to be the next ascension into stardom on the sales chart I would not be harassing my friends, neighbors and fans (okay- and the check-out girl at Safeway) to pleeeeease review it on A.m.a.z.o.n.
However, he has a point when he says they base their positioning and rating of books by the reviews, which when added to sales (and that’s a catch 22 by the way) is what makes or breaks an author with a debut novel.
Makes or breaks! Can you feel my pain? If you are one of my 1500 FB writer/author friends you can, or perhaps you have suddenly felt a dull ache in your chest even if you are the other 50 people I call family, REAL friends and neighbors…
In any event, if you enjoyed Benjamin, please review it on Amazon. Be sure to let me know and I will take you out to dinner, with wine….
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