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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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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Steal From the Best

Steal From the Best

If you have a project and you’re struggling to get started, spend some time looking at other people’s work. You will find unexpected inspiration from this exercise.

Here’s My Aha Moment

When I was redesigning my website, I felt overwhelmed because website design is not my area of expertise. After brainstorming for a couple of hours and getting nowhere, I decided to look at the websites of other coaches to see how they were organized. It was life changing.

First of all, I noticed that no matter what their subject matter most of the websites had some of the same things. There was a common structure that people were using. For example, everyone had a welcome banner with their picture. Everyone talked directly to their audience about how they could help them. Some people had icons to explain their different services.

Suddenly my website made sense to me. I took everything that I had seen and liked and made it my own. The site came together very quickly after that and was up in a few days. A job that I did not feel qualified for became something I was proud of. What a relief! Ever since, I have used this technique when I feel stuck.

Let’s break it down.

The steps for taking inspiration from others’ work are:

  1. Notice what works.
  2. Ask why it works.
  3. Notice the structure.
  4. Ask how can I apply what works to my task/industry/writing.
  5. Use what you have learned and put your own spin on it.

Other Places You Can Steal From the Best

  1. Your bio
  2. Your Linked In profile
  3. Your book cover
  4. Your book blurb
  5. Great writing

Stealing From Great Writing

Break it down. What makes it great? How and why does it grab you?

A personal logline or brand moto that hooks you. Why is it memorable?

An article that teaches you, spurring you to action. How did it motivate you?

A scene in a book or movie that moves you. Are you sad, terrified, awestruck? How did the scene make you feel these emotions?

Always be on the Lookout for Inspiration

The other day I had a flat tire. While I was waiting for my new tire to be installed, I noticed the clever way National Tire & Battery list their services with icons and catchy headlines. I immediately thought how can I use this example to level up my descriptions of who I am and what I do? I liked the service list so much I snapped a picture to keep for reference.

National Tire & Battery’s service list

There is good work everywhere and you can find inspiration in the oddest places. Adopt the practice of noticing, analyzing, dissecting, and copying, to improve your own creative work.

Do you have a favorite technique of stealing from the best? Comment below and let me know.

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The Creative Secret of Writing Longhand

The Creative Secret of Writing Longhand

It seems every time I turn around these days, there is a new app, software, or digital tool to help me manage my creative life. Whether it is a new social media scheduler, writing software, or a to do list app, the tools for us as creatives keep expanding. I’ve tried a lot of different productivity apps and they just don’t work for me. I still do best when I handwrite my to do list. Similarly, I have always brainstormed with pen and paper, refining the ideas into a handwritten outline. Also, I hand edit my own writing and my clients’.

For me, “going analog” and handwriting with my cursive scrawl feeds my creativity and helps my brain organize ideas.

The Handwriting Hack That Changed My Creative Life

The downside of my handwritten notes was that they were scattered across many legal pads with different ones for each project and usually two or three kinds of to do lists. I often couldn’t find a list when I needed it. My life changed a couple years ago when I found the bullet journal method. The bullet journal focuses on the joy and satisfaction of writing things by hand. What made it revolutionary for me is the idea of writing everything in one place from your to do list to projects and brainstorming. The way you find things is simple and brilliant – you number the pages.

The great thing about the bullet journal is that there are no rules. You can adapt the system to whatever works for you. I use a large notebook with wide-spaced lines which easily fit my handwriting. I like to have big pages to fill.

For more information on how to bullet journal go to, read the book, and check out YouTube videos.

In an informal survey, I’ve noticed that a lot of people still like to hand write their to do list. And that led me to ask why use handwriting in an age where we can dictate and type on our phones and computers? With all of these choices and tools, why are people are still writing by hand? The reasons may surprise you.

Handwriting Helps Your Brain

Handwriting has been shown in multiple studies in the last ten years to improve your brain function. Taking notes by hand aids your memory because you have to synthesize and organize the information, which helps you retain it. The sensory experience of writing – feeling the pen in your hand, hearing the pen scratch on the paper – fire off different parts of your brain that help you remember and create.

All of these studies including a recent one out of Norway, show that cursive has such a positive effect on brain development it’s really puzzling why we have chosen to stop teaching it in our school system. If you were born after 1995 and would like to learn cursive, or have children that you would like to learn cursive, check out this free video course.

Handwriting Helps Your Creativity

When you are brainstorming by hand it easy to let the ideas flow. Write everything down as it comes to you and then take the time to separate the good from the bad. Writing by hand forces your brain to slow down. The act of thinking through what you’re writing makes the words come out differently and sometimes better. It is as if during the time it takes for the words and ideas to travel from your brain to your hand to the paper there is self-editing happening without you being aware. It feels almost magical. As an added bonus, when you transcribe your written draft, you edit as you go, often discovering new ideas.

To exercise your brain and jumpstart creativity, write in cursive every day. Something as simple as your grocery list or signature is enough to reap the brain benefits of handwriting. Next time you want to thank someone, instead of firing off a quick text, try writing a thank you note. You’ll make someone’s day and help your brain.

I can’t write poetry on a computer, man.

Quentin Tarantino

A lot of writers innately know the power of handwriting. Here are a few that write their first drafts by hand.

What is Your Writing Process?

Do you ever write in longhand? If not, next time you’re stuck, why not give it a try? Let me know how it goes.

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Does Your E-mail Have Resting Bitch Face?

Does Your E-mail Have Resting Bitch Face?

This week a friend was listening to me dictate a text message. She said, “You use a lot of exclamation marks.” She didn’t mean it as a compliment. Unfazed, I responded “It’s because you cannot tell tone in emails and texts.” In fact, I believe that just like some people suffer from resting bitch face, emails and texts sound naturally bitchy. Without hearing tone of voice and seeing body language, emails read negative. This negative tone is especially problematic in business emails. Hence my love of exclamation marks.

Exclamation marks get a bad rap. And I do agree that using too many of them can make you come across like a 6th grade girl. But I believe judicious use of exclamation marks is important to convey tone in emails.

How to fix Your E-Mail Tone

Don’t try to overcompensate resting bitchy e-mail by writing like a text message. Don’t use emoticons. Don’t use texting abbreviations like LOL or IDK. As parents are fond of saying, use your words.

Keep it short and sweet. When at all possible, emails should only be a few short paragraphs. Do not make people scroll down to continue reading. Often they won’t so they miss vital information. And it will be tempting to reply in an irritated tone.

Before you start writing take a moment to think about what action you want out of this e-mail. Do you want a yes to your request? A new meeting on the schedule? Time off for vacation? Write your e-mail with your end result in mind. Knowing what you want the reader to think and do will help you craft a concise, clear message.

Organize your e-mail. Use bullet points, numbered lists, and bold titles to make the information easy to read and remember.

Before you hit send, read your e-mail three times for typos. One of those times, read it out loud to help catch typos and nasty tone. If you still are not sure of the tone, call a friend and read the e-mail to them to get their feedback. Finally, think about who you’re sending it to and what your relationship is with them. If it’s at all contentious, is there any language that you need to change to sound more congenial? In general, it never hurts to adjust your language and consider throwing in an exclamation point or two.

Never write in all caps. It comes across as SHOUTING. (It always reminds me of the wonderful Discworld books by Terry Pratchett where Death speaks in capital letters.)

Beware of corporate email jargon. For those of us in corporate jobs, there are a lot of common email phrases that have loaded meanings. Here a few:

Sometimes you have to use them (or you just can’t help yourself). Be aware they can covey a negative tone. I suggest avoiding corporate email speak whenever possible.

This e-mail is brought to you by the exclamation mark!

Wading through work emails isn’t fun. But taking the time to review your writing before you hit send can save your lots of headaches and protect your reputation. Remember that email is a kind of conversation and conversations build relationships. You want to make sure that you are not coming across negatively so that people like and trust you, and consequently, like working with you.

Exclamation points are especially handy when conveying excitement or support, which is why, as an enthusiastic person, I use them a lot. When in doubt, when you are trying to shift the tone of your e-mail and are not sure how to do it, use an exclamation mark.

Just For Fun

You may remember the Seinfeld episode (season five episode 4, The Sniffing Accountant) where Elaine breaks up with someone because he is anti-exclamation mark. Lots of people feel strongly about them!

Here is an article on resting bitch face and how to fix it.

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The Heroine’s Journey: The Story Structure You Never Heard Of

The Heroine’s Journey: The Story Structure You Never Heard Of

The Hero’s Journey is the the story structure of the lone hero’s struggle to defeat a great evil and be changed by the adventure. In his classic book The Hero with a Thousand FacesJoseph Campbell noticed this pattern in ancient myths and legends. His premise is that the Hero’s Journey is repeated over and over in stories from Odysseus to our present day summer blockbusters. Many story analysts believe that every story is a Hero’s Journey, following the same basic beats. Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey, took the Hero’s Journey a step further, showing how it works in modern genres from the western to romance. But while the Hero’s Journey continues to be the bones of many stories, there are plenty of stories that do not quite fit the mold.

This is where Gail Carriger and her story structure of The Heroine’s Journey step in. Gail writes comedic steampunk fantasy and is one of my favorite authors. She is also a genius about writing structure, genre, and tropes. In her book, she explains how the Heroine’s Journey differs from the Hero’s Journey and why both perspectives are significant.

Before we get into how the journeys are different, it is important to explain that the Hero and Heroine’s Journeys have nothing to do with the gender of the protagonists. Instead, whether your story is a Hero or Heroine Journey has to do with how your protagonists approach their adventure. In other words, men can go on Heroines’ Journeys and women can go on Heroes’ Journeys.

From the book:

The Hero’s Journey in one pithy sentence:

Increasingly isolated protagonist stomps around prodding evil with pointy bits, eventually fatally prods baddie, gains glory & honor

The Heroine’s Journey in one pithy sentence:

Increasingly networked protagonist strides around with good friends, prodding them and others on to victory, together.

The Heroine’s Journey is different from the Hero’s Journey in five significant ways:

1. Purpose

The hero goes on his journey to defeat an enemy or find a treasure or both.

The heroine is concerned with networking with others and finding a family.

2. Approach

A hero is active in pursuit of his goal.

A heroine is a builder and a general. She sees skills and strengths in others and knows how to use them.

3. Strength

A hero must eventually go it alone. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

A heroine is stronger the more companions she has.

4. Power

When a hero is at his most powerful in his adventure, usually fighting the bad guy, he is alone.

When a heroine has her most powerful moments in her adventure, she is with others.

5. Ending

A hero ends up alone. He has either grown too powerful or changed too much to fit back into the ordinary world.

The heroine gets a happy ending, surrounded by friends and family.

There is a lot to unpack here. In the book there is more detail including the mythic origins of the Heroine’s Journey, contemporary examples of both journeys, and tips on how to write the Heroine’s Journey. I am excited to have this new structure in my story toolbox and I hope you are too!

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