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.


Want more content like this? Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

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.


Want more content like this? Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

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.


Want more content like this? Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

Make Feedback Your Friend

Make Feedback Your Friend

The best way to quickly improve is to get feedback. Businesses know this. Everybody from Amazon to Walgreens uses customer insights. I even got a survey from the Astros after I went to a game. But lots of people feel that getting feedback on yourself and your projects about as fun as a trip to the dentist.

What if you made feedback your friend and got excited about it, instead of dreading it? That’s my philosophy. I always want to be improving for my clients, my audience (you guys), and myself.

When you are a creator, feedback is important because it gives you perspective. You have lived with your (story, painting computer program) for so long that you can’t see the forest for the trees. A good critique can help you see the trees and even the spaces between them. It can point out weak spots that need to be improved. Feedback is the best way to find out what is working and what isn’t in your project.

Without feedback you can stagnate or get worse. Look at Empire Strikes Back versus The Phantom Menace. George Lucas collaborated with Lawrence Kasdan, who ended up writing the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back. It is many fans’ favorite Star Wars movie. Years later he showed the script of The Phantom Menace to no one. He wasn’t interested in getting story notes. As a result, the movie is terrible. I wonder what kind of film he would have made if he had had his old feedback crew of Lawrence Kasdan, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stephen Spielberg read the script? So next time you’re balking at having somebody read your stuff, ask yourself do I want to write the next Empire Strikes Back or the next Phantom Menace?

There are two kinds of feedback:

  • Constructive criticism that helps you improve and succeed.
  • Destructive criticism designed to disempower, destabilize, and destroy you.

How to take Constructive Feedback

Go in with a positive attitude. Be excited to hear what they have to say. Have an open mind.

Put your emotions aside and be present. I hate the advice not to take things personally because when it’s happening to you it is personal. Instead, make a conscious decision not to react emotionally while you’re getting the feedback. Save that reaction for when you are alone or decompressing with a good friend. If you’re too emotional in the moment, you may not hear some good advice.

Don’t be defensive. It’s okay to explain what you mean or give more information. But don’t dig in your heels and argue your point of view. Listening to the critique, does not mean that you are agreeing to it.

Be gracious. Practice having grace under fire. Even if you are getting way more negative suggestions then you were expecting, have a smile on your face and an open mind. Someone once told me I take feedback like a champ and I consider that a high compliment. Be a champ.

Ask a lot of questions. Use questions to clarify your critiquer’s points and get them to expand on their thinking.

Always end the meeting or phone call with a thank you. When appropriate, follow up and let them know what you implemented and how it’s going.

Which feedback do you try?

  • If you see that it will immediately bring improvement.
  • If it will clarify something that was confusing.
  • If you hear it more than once from different sources.

Which feedback do you ignore?

  • If it will change the intent and feel of a story.
  • If it doesn’t resonate with you.
  • If it doesn’t make sense.

I hope these tips make your next performance review or story meeting a more pleasant experience.


Thank you for reading! If you would like more content like this, subscribe to my newsletter.

Your Missing Link – Linked In for Creatives

Your Missing Link – Linked In for Creatives

If you are a creative, you may think that Linked In is not for you. You may see it as boring, stuffy, and corporate-oriented. But there is more to Linked In than meets the eye.

Be Easy to Find

If you are a writer or any kind of content creator, you need to be easy to find. What that means is you should be as many places as possible. If someone Googles you, information on who you are and how to reach you should easily pop up. Your Linked In public profile is one of the first things that people see when they search for you on Google. Also, lots of people when they are looking to hire or contact someone, skip Google and go straight to Linked In.

Linked In is one of the biggest search engines in the world. It is the first place many people go, when they are searching for new hires, open jobs, or researching new industries and ideas. You need to maximize your searchability by using the keywords that are standard in your industry. How do you find the best keywords to use? Look at people’s profiles who have your current job and the job you want. Notice which words and descriptions you see the most. These are the words to use in your profile to make it searchable.

Linked In also has a robust social media aspect of people sharing open jobs, job wins, and longer content in the form of articles and newsletters. When you get a new job, have a show airing, or a new book coming out, don’t forget to post on Linked In in addition to your other social media channels.

Here are five things to overhaul to make your Linked In profile stand out:

  • Your Profile Picture
  • Your Banner
  • Your Headline
  • Your About
  • Your Contact Information

Your Profile Picture

For your profile to seem genuine and professional, you need a profile picture. When I get a Linked In request from someone I don’t know without a picture, I immediately disregard them. No picture means they haven’t done the most basic work on their profile. Your picture should be a simple headshot. Even though you’re a funky creative, don’t have a silly shot from Comic Con in costume, or with your dog, or on vacation. Linked In is a professional social media site so put your best face forward. You don’t need a fancy headshot, just a picture that is in focus with good lighting. Either take a selfie or have a friend take your picture up against a plain background. Don’t forget to smile! Extra points if your shirt or background matches your brand colors like this woman.

Your Banner

A blank banner makes your profile seem unfinished. Your banner and picture are the first things people see when they land on your profile. Make them snazzy! If you have a logo or brand colors, use them. This is another opportunity to creatively tell your Linked In audience about yourself.

Here are five suggestions to try:

Use your personal logline that explains who you are and what you do. The formula is: I help (kind of people) do ___ which helps them do ______. Here is where you get to show off your creative brand. If you are a writer, what kinds of things do you write? Start with your primary format (books, TV, film). Add your genre and some catchy adjectives. I am a novelist who writes psychological thrillers that keep you up at night. If you are a visual artist, what medium do you work in? Hint: When using a logline, make sure your background is simple so the words are easy to read.

Make your banner a mini portfolio or credits list. Show pictures of projects you’ve worked on and things you created. Everything from visual art pieces, to shots from a movie, and book covers. You can use an image from one project or have a whole collection.

Use a cool photo that ties in with what you do. For example, if you are an artist, you could use this.

Use a cool photo of where you work. I love this picture of Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Use an action photo showing you at work. Maybe you are behind the camera directing or speaking to an audience like this picture of me talking about romantic comedies.

How do you make these wonderful banners? With my favorite graphic design tool, Canva. You can get started there for free. The Pro version at $12.95 a month is well worth it. They have thousands of Linked In banner templates that you can customize, or you can start from scratch. The templates are wonderful because they are the exact size you need for your banner with layout and color suggestions. Also, it has thousands of stock photos and graphics to choose from to make your banner look amazing. Check out this video I made for a quick how to make your banner with Canva.

Your Headline

Your headline is much more than your current position. It is prime searchable space. So be sure to describe yourself using both key and common words. Do not call yourself something strange and clever like artist wrangler or animation guru. People are not going to be searching for those positions. Instead, put the words that describe not only what you’re currently doing, but what you did in the past, and what you want to do in the future. Think of this as another way to write your logline except you don’t have to use complete sentences. The more words you use here, the more you help the search engine. You have 220 characters. Use them all.

Your About

Your about section is where you can let a little bit of your personality come across. Maybe you can include your it all started with from your personal cocktail pitch. This is a great place to include your accomplishments – what you did and the results you got, especially if you have great stats. Be sure to mention any awards or places your work has been featured like film festivals or magazines. Have you been a guest on any podcasts or TV shows? Have you worked with big clients? What’s your favorite thing you’re currently working on? Tell your story. You have 2,600 characters here which works out to between 400 – 600 words. Don’t be afraid to write a lot. Use this space to showcase your talents, what you have done, and what you have to offer.

Your Contact Information

You would be surprised to learn that most people ignore the contact info part of their Linked In profile. This is as important as everything else we’ve talked about. Because you want to be easily found, you want a way for people to contact you besides just messaging you on Linked In. Not everyone likes to chat on there, and more importantly, lots of people are terrible about checking their Linked In messages. Put your e-mail address in your contact info section. If you have a website, showcase it here. Your website is another tool that sells you and whoever is looking for you on Linked In should be able to easily click to it.

Recap

Linked In is a search engine and you need to have lots of information there to make you searchable. You want to be found.

Make it easy for people to find you by:

  • Using all of your Linked In profile sections.
  • Using arresting images and keywords.
  • Being interesting and authentic.

Here is my Linked In profile. I would love to hear what you think!

Thank you for reading! If you would like more content like this, subscribe to my newsletter.

Track Your Wins and Make More Money

Track Your Wins and Make More Money

Everyone wants to make more money.  Traditionally, to win raises and promotions we work hard and hope somebody notices.  But to stand out from the crowd, you have to be your own advocate, highlighting what you are doing.  The simplest place to start is something most people miss, tracking what they’re working on and who they’re working with. You may think, why do I need to write down what I’m doing?  I’m putting my blood, sweat, and tears into this assignment.  I’m always going to remember this project. Well, the reality is five years from now, you’ll be putting your blood, sweat, and tears into something else and you won’t even remember the name of that thing and the people you did it with. Tracking you wins gives you momentum to keep winning. 

Your Accomplishments List

When I started my career, my dad told me to write down my accomplishments and I have been doing it ever since. I began with everything that I had done at my summer job while it was still fresh in my mind.  Then I added new projects and successes as they happened.   I am so grateful that I developed this habit because years later there is no way I could remember everything I worked on, if I hadn’t written it down.   

The other important thing to keep track of is who you’re working with. To this day I always write down everybody I worked with on every every project from assistants, executives, and creatives to agents and lawyers.    As an added organizational tip, I also put this information in the notes section of my contacts.  If I haven’t talked to somebody in a while, I have a reminder of when we were colleagues. 

For creatives:  Be sure to include, assistants and junior executives and nurture those relationships as their careers grow. 

For corporate workers:  Be sure to include the people inside your company you are working with, especially if they are in other departments. 

Let’s Start Making Your List!

The first step, if you are starting your accomplishments list from scratch, is to write down every place you worked and everything you did there. Don’t try to think of things in order and don’t worry about getting people’s names or spelling right.  Just write it all down free form as it comes to you.  You can use your resume and your LinkedIn profile for reference.  You may have to call some former colleagues to ask them details that you don’t remember. This is a wonderful reason to reach out to someone that you haven’t talked to you in a while.

Spend a few days brainstorming a few minutes at a time, instead of trying to do it all at once. When you feel like you have written everything down that you can think of, go back and put the information in chronological order, organizing it with any system you like. I am not a spreadsheet person I really do not like working with them, but lots of people do. I prefer lists written in Word.   I suggest copying your list and organizing a second copy by category. 

For creatives:  In your second copy, list all your films, then books, etc.

For corporate workers:  In your second copy, group projects by type, client, or maybe location, etc. 

I think this a fun exercise.   You will remember things you did that that you loved and haven’t thought about in a long time.  You will remember people you really enjoyed working with that you haven’t talked to in a long time.  And once you finish your list, you will realize you have done a bunch of cool stuff! 

Bonus:  Reach out to someone you have not spoken to in while and book a lunch. 

Make It Measurable – Your Stats

The easiest way to boil down your accomplishments is to talk in numbers.   Some professions rely on numbers more than others. For example, salespeople often have their yearly sales figures in their Linked In profile.  People in finance can quote the billions of dollars of accounts they work on.  These numbers tell the story of their accomplishments. But even if you’re not working in an industry that focuses on numbers, numbers are important part of what you do.

For creatives:  How many movies have you worked on?  Screenplays written?  Projects produced?  How many books have you sold?

For corporate workers:  Look at each project on your list.  Is there a way you can quantify your contribution?   Did you bring in X dollars of new business?  Did you increase revenue?  What are your sales figures?

My stats

If you are a student or just getting started in your career, don’t be discouraged by this exercise.   People will not expect you to have a long list.  But you have done more than you think.  If you are having trouble brainstorming, ask friends and family members for suggestions. 

Make It Real – Your Results

Now go through your list and look at each accomplishment.  What were the results from each thing on your list?  Most importantly, how did you exceed expectations?  As we talked about above, are there numbers you can mention?   Did you come up with a new idea or process?  Did you bring in a big new account? 

Make It Pop – Your Kudos

What praise have you gotten from your clients, your colleagues, and your industry?  Have you won any awards or been nominated for any?  For some reason, people always downplay their awards.  Don’t! 

Next, start a kudos file in your email.  Anytime a co-worker or a client compliments you or thanks you, file in in your kudos file.  If someone compliments you verbally, write it down with the date.  Your kudos file serves two important purposes.  First, if you are having a bad day, read through your file.  It will shift your mood instantly.  Second, think of your kudos as your personal Yelp.  You now have the social proof that good reviews provide.  In job searches and interviews, your kudos are wonderful recommendations.  

For creatives:  You can use your kudos as testimonials on your website. Don’t forget to mention if your work has been in film festivals or if your book is a bestseller. 

For corporate workers: Kudos are wonderful positive ammunition to use in performance reviews and in asking for a raise. 

Hint:  Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials from clients and co-workers.  I suggest asking for one to five sentences about their experience working with you on a particular project. 

My testimonials

What to do With Your Killer Accomplishments?

You can use all or some of your list in a variety of ways:

  • In your personal cocktail pitch
  • In your written bio
  • In your resume
  • In your Linked In bio
  • In you Linked in profile
  • In your performance review
  • To ask for a raise

Make It Sizzle – Presenting Your Accomplishments

Your accomplishments list helps you win clients, raises, and promotions because it succinctly communicates what you have been doing and how well you have been doing it.  The traditional way to present this information is in an email/memo.  Don’t rely on just a conversation to get across your accomplishments.  Leave your manager or client with a piece of paper they can refer to. If you are working in more creative industry, you can be a little bit more unusual. Maybe you use an infographic or a PowerPoint presentation. Maybe you do something fun like make up a fake testimonial page.  As always, when you are talking about yourself, you want to make the information interesting and memorable.

The Accomplishment Formula

What you Did + the Results backed up by your Stats + Kudos


Thank you for reading! If you would like more content like this, subscribe to my newsletter.