Help Your Favorite Writer: Write an Amazon Review

Help Your Favorite Writer: Write an Amazon Review

As a writer and a story geek, I love consuming people’s content. I also love supporting other writers. To get our work in front of and build an audience we often work for free. Screenwriters and novelists write projects on spec. Bloggers and podcasters make content free before they monetize it. So I look for ways to support creators’ work I like. I’m a Patreon of my favorite podcast and I subscribe to online magazines like the Atavist. One of the easiest ways to help authors is to write a review of their book on Amazon. Amazon is a giant search engine. And the more reviews and sales a book has, the higher to the top of the page it pops up when a reader puts in search terms.

How to Write an Amazon Review

Some people are intimidated at the thought of writing a review. A review doesn’t need to be long or complicated. Two to five sentences are all you need. Write what you liked about the book as if you were recommending it to a friend. Remember this is not a book report so you do not need to summarize the book. Just include the details that help you explain what you liked about it.

  • What was your favorite thing about the book?
  • Who was your favorite character and why?
  • Did you have a favorite scene?

Use juicy adjectives:

  • Rollicking
  • Laugh out loud
  • Gripping
  • Moving
  • Compelling
  • Charming

The Headline: I like to write my review first and then pick one of the sentences to use as my headline. When I choose my headline, I think about what will motivate a reader to choose the book.

End on a high note: If the book is part of a series, I always like to end with “can’t wait to read the next one!”

5 Stars: And finally, always use five stars. Five star reviews are weighted much heavier than four-star reviews. So if there’s something that you didn’t like about the book which is why you want to rate it under five stars, understand that it will ding the author’s rating which may not be your intention. (By the way this weighted system works in everything from rating your Uber driver to your pharmacy tech.)

Be Positive: My goal in reviewing a book is to help readers find a story I enjoyed and support great writing. If I don’t like a book, then I don’t write a review.

How to Post a Review

It can be a bit tricky for some people to find the review spot on Amazon (keep scrolling down!) so I made this quick video.

Free Books Need Reviews Too

A permafree book is one that the author has set the price as free permanently. These books are usually the first in a series. It is a sales tactic to get you hooked on the series and buy more books. If I like the first one, I always review it and buy the series. I am a binge reader and I enjoy reading a series in order back to back.

One More Way to Help Authors

Buy books direct from your favorite authors on their websites. This way they get a bit more money because of affiliate links. Even if you don’t buy a book from Amazon, you can still review it there. As the biggest bookstore in the world, authors make a substantial part of their income from Amazon. So help them out!

Other Places to Post a Review

For Authors

Make it as easy as possible for your fans to review your books. When you have a new book coming out, send an email to your list on how to write a review and/or video with links to your books on the different sites. This video from Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz, teaches you how to send a link of the Amazon review site of your book. Feel free to use my explanation of how to write a review above and the video about posting on Amazon.

If you don’t write an author’s newsletter, it’s time to start! I use ConvertKit to write & send my newsletter. I am a ConvertKit affiliate and get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my link to sign up. I love ConvertKit because it is easy to use and focused on creators. Get started today for free!


Legal Follow Up

Last week we talked about why creatives need contracts. This article about how a YouTube foursome became a YouTube threesome has a great interview with an intellectual attorney discussing agreements.


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Sometimes Creatives Need a Lawyer

Sometimes Creatives Need a Lawyer

I am a judge’s daughter. I was raised to respect the law, revere the Constitution, and look forward to jury duty. Not everybody loves lawyers. Lots of people do whatever they can to avoid them, often trying to DIY the legal aspects of their business. As a creative, there are a lot of things you can do yourself including protecting your material with copyrights and trademarks. Sometimes you need a lawyer to negotiate deals and write contracts. I know lawyers are expensive, but the headaches a solid contract will save you are worth it.

**The following is not intended to be legal advice. I am not an attorney.** See, judge’s daughter, covering myself. 😊

A contract’s job is to protect you.

Protect you from:

  • Being sued
  • Taken advantage of
  • Having your idea stolen

Contracts also protect relationships.

It’s show business not show friends.

Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) in Jerry Maguire

Even if you are working with friends and family, it is important to have a contract. This way their can be no misunderstandings, because everyone knows what is expected of them and what the payout will be.

Contracts are even more important if you are working with someone new to the entertainment business. Newbies don’t know what they don’t know and often make outrageous demands or have outsized expectations. When everything is spelled out clearly in a contract, the partners have a blueprint to move forward.

Your Deal Points

Attorneys charge by the hour. Save time and money by having deal points in mind the first time you speak. Follow up your appointment with an email recapping the conversation and what you want in your contract. In addition, to your pay, here are some other things to consider:

  • Due dates of material
  • Turnaround time for story notes. You don’t want the executive to take months to give you feedback.
  • What rights you retain. If you are a novelist, do you have the audiobook rights, the film rights etc.?
  • Can you get your material back if it is inactive for a certain amount of time?
  • Screen credit

Read Before You Sign

Contracts are long, boring, and in tiny print, but it is important that you read every word before you sign. Proofread carefully. Contracts can be full of typos and mistakes. Once you sign them, they are very difficult to change. Be sure that everything you agreed to is there before you sign.

Takeaways

  • Sometimes you need a lawyer.
  • Contracts protect you, your work, & relationships.
  • To save money, have a deal in mind when you talk to a lawyer.
  • Always read everything before you sign anything.

Last week we talked about how it is never too late. In this week’s Publisher Weekly, there is an article about 7 YA authors making their debuts after 50.

Vanessa Torres’s (The Turning Pointe) advice to aspiring authors who think time has passed them by: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re too old to write. You have a lifetime of experience to draw from and that is priceless.”

Just start! Whatever you are dreaming of creating, start today.


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2 Things About the Creator Mindset

2 Things About the Creator Mindset

I have been sick for two weeks and my foggy brain and the forced rest has made philosophical. For me there are two things I always relearn from listening to other creative people. From established writers, to newbies, my clients, and myself, it seems like these are universal struggles.

1. Don’t judge yourself by other people’s careers or other people’s work. There are no overnight successes. You don’t know how hard someone worked to get where they are. You don’t know if they have 25 unsold screenplays in their drawer before they’re suddenly the hot screenwriter. You don’t know if someone wrote their novel 15 minutes at a time over five years or in 5 weeks. Just keep your head down and keep creating. The more you do, the better you’ll get, and the bigger your body of work will get. There is no I should be where she is or I should have done X by now. Everybody’s life unfolds at their own pace. Which lead me to…

2. It is never too late. Some people have been creators their whole life, making movies in their basement when they were seven. Some people start writing at 25; some people start writing at 55. You can be a YouTube star at 25 or you can be a YouTube star at 75. Just start.


One final bit of advice, as a creator, always be consuming the kind of content you want to create.

Read at the level at which you want to write. Reading is the nourishment that feeds the kind of writing you want to do.

Jennifer Egan, novelist

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Procrastination can be good!

Procrastination can be good!

Creative people are known procrastinators. We will spend three hours on the Internet researching, walk the dog, and organize our desk drawer all before we start working. Interestingly, that procrastination often serves a purpose. While we are doing other things, our brains are working on our creative problems. So when we finally sit down to work, the solutions appear like magic. This process is called creative procrastination.

The Shower Principle

Activities where you can let your mind wander like driving, walking, or showing work best. So many people get ideas when they take a shower that it is a real psychological phenomenon called the shower principle. Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist and coauthor of Wired to Create, did a study that showed 72% of people get creative ideas in the shower. I know one writer who keeps a white board marker in his shower so that he can jot his ideas on the tile. Another writer friend of mine made a sale pitching over the phone an idea straight from the shower with soap still in his hair. For me, I get my ideas walking my dog or in the shower. Bestselling novelist Tess Gerritsen goes for a long boring drive whenever she gets stuck in a story. (She calls being stuck plot blocked, which is my new favorite story term.)

When you are stuck on a creative problem, the best thing to do is to get up from your computer. By focusing on something else you let your subconscious mind work on the problem. This is often when our greatest ideas come to us.

You call it procrastination. I call it thinking.

Aaron Sorkin

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright dodged a client for nine months, until the man drove 140 miles to confront him about his missed deadlines. Knowing his patron was on his way, Wright sketched his masterpiece Fallingwater in two hours.

Sleep On It

Just like mindless tasks help your unconscious brain solve problems, sleep can do the same thing. The phrase let’s sleep on it, exists for a reason; it really works. Thomas Edison was a famous napper. He would often take a nap during the day and wake up with a solution for whatever project he was working on. Early on in my career, I figured out that this is one of the ways my creative brain likes to solve problems. When I am reacting to written material, I read it once, make notes, sleep on it, and come up with more solutions. In fact, I ask my clients to turn in their projects for feedback 48 hours in advance of our meetings so that I can sleep on it.

A Caveat

Both the shower principal and sleeping on it only work if you have given some conscious thought and conscious work to your project. You need to have wrestled with the problem a bit before you disconnect. In other words, you have given your unconscious brain direction about what to think about when you’re not thinking about it. If I am really struggling with a story problem, I will tell myself to think about it right before I go to sleep. I almost always wake up with a solution.

Non-procrastination

Ironically, not practicing creative procrastination can be a problem. People that compulsively finish things early are called precrastinators. And while being organized is wonderful, never allowing things to percolate means you’re missing a big step of the creative process. I encourage you when you finish projects, whether you are a precrastinator or a procrastinator, to let them lie fallow. Put them in a drawer for a little while and come back and look at them with fresh eyes. If you can take a couple of weeks, that’s ideal. But even a couple of hours can be helpful. It’s just another way to let your unconscious brain work its magic.

What is your favorite way to creatively procrastinate? Comment and let me know.


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In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

In these days of being connected to work 24 hours a day with email and texts, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and behind. A while ago I accepted that I would always be behind. It was just a matter of how behind I was and what I was behind on that really mattered.

The zero inbox is a myth; as is the zero to do list. As soon as we answer one e-mail, another one comes in. As soon as we cross something off our to do list, another task occurs to us. Instead of trying to catch up, each day and each week I prioritize the projects I need to be working on.

Emergency!

Everyone and everything is fine now, but the last two weeks I was in the midst of a serious family emergency. It was my complete focus even though I had a full plate of client meetings, getting out two issues of this newsletter, and the two hour workshop last Thursday.

In the midst of the chaos I had to remind myself of my philosophy and really focus on what I had to get done and what I could do. I am sharing my coping strategy with you because unfortunately, we all have to deal with the unexpected. Whether tragedy with a loved one, being a little sick, or being really sick, real life intrudes on our work life.

Here’s how I handled it:

Decide Your Non-Negotiables

What are the things that absolutely have to get done? Are there ways you can make doing your non-negotiables easier temporarily? Any shortcuts you can take just this once? My non-negotiables were my newsletter and the workshop. I put off everything else.

Put Systems in Place

My Newsletter – Ironically, one of my projects next year is to become more systematic about how I produce content. Right now I do not write my newsletter ahead of time. I do have a long list of topics and ideas, some with rough outlines and reference materials. For the first newsletter I didn’t use any of them because I had gone to the ballet on Sunday and wanted to write about Peter Pan. I already had a rough outline. I researched the history of Peter Pan to distract myself while I was waiting for a phone call and wrote the article late at night when I couldn’t sleep. For the second newsletter, I used a list of movies about writing I had in my idea file.

Why didn’t I skip the newsletter once or twice? I made a commitment to myself that I would send out a newsletter once a week for 52 weeks. I’ve really been enjoying writing it and the conversations with all of you. I knew that skipping it would make me feel worse when I was already feeling badly. I also knew that an emergency may come up again and I wanted to know that I can still produce in hard circumstances.

The Workshop – Because September was such a busy month for me, luckily I had already outlined my workshop and finished 3/4 of my slide deck. What was left was the marketing side of things. Posting the link was an easy task. For each workshop I create handouts and a landing page where people go to download them. That took a little bit of time, but because I had done it so often before, I wasn’t having to learn any new skills so it wasn’t stressful.

I’m happy to report that the workshop was a big success. Thank you to those who came. I’ve gotten great feedback from the attendees and it went half an hour over because there were so many questions. I love teaching and I’m grateful I could have such a positive experience after a rough couple of weeks.

Communication

I rescheduled all of my clients letting them know then I had an emergency and I would be back with them in a week or so. I also told the workshop leader what was going on. She let me know that if something came up and I couldn’t make it, she had materials she could go over that night and I could speak the next month.

When you are upset and your life is in chaos, it is tempting just to disappear. As a professional, you must let your clients and coworkers know a little bit of what is happening so they can be understanding. You don’t have to explain in detail. Just tell everyone you will be back with them when you can. If I owe you an e-mail I apologize. I’m still getting caught up.

Recognition of Recovery

Once the emergency has passed and the adrenaline has dissipated, you’re going to be tired. It may take a while before you get your energy up and feel back on track. Be kind with yourself and recognize that you are in recovery. Again, communication is key. Let your coworkers know you still may not be operating at full speed. Include rest time in your schedule. For me I was already in the midst of a healing journey so this recovery is one more aspect of rebuilding. In fact, this situation has made me realize we may always be in some phase of recovery from something. And that is okay, as long as we still move forward in our life and creative goals.

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

While the advice to look for the good in the bad experience can be incredibly annoying when you are suffering, there is truth there. I have decided to write about what happened to me and my family. I’m actually feeling excited about writing the story. It will be a while before I can share it with you because there is an ongoing investigation and I want to be able to talk about it from beginning to end. I might be becoming a true crime writer! Life is very strange.

I hope you never need an emergency plan for your work life, but I suggest that you put systems in place. They will help your workflow either way. And never be afraid to reach out and ask for help when things get tough.


This week’s newsletter is brought to you by my newest cartoon coffee cup.


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