Writer Promotion: Reviews

Blog 88 ImageI’ve been posting about how self-published writers can promote their books. In my first post, I said, “Readers will buy a self-published writer’s book if they believe they’ll be entertained or get some other benefit. This means they have to know about the book and likely what other readers think of it.”

User-generated reviews offer some of the best promotion of a self-published writer’s book. As with any product or service, if a book’s reviews are independent and overall positive, there’s a chance potential buyers’ eyes will be caught.

Traditional publishers have long supplied copies of books to periodicals for reviews. However, periodicals generally don’t review self-published books. So what can self-pubs do to get reviews?

Write a Good Book. It always seems to come back to this. If readers like a book, some will be encouraged to rate and review it. This in turn builds an average rating and collection of reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads which other readers use in their purchase decisions.

Ask for Objective Reviews. There’s nothing wrong with a self-pub asking readers to review his book. So, in situations where the writer is selling or giving away copies of his book in person, he should add that any review would be appreciated. Some self-pub writers also include a review request at the back of their books. Because reviews can be so helpful, writers may be tempted to ask people he knows to read and review the book. It’s essential that the writer be clear that he expects objective reviews.

As long as they are unbiased, people whom a writer could ask to review his book include friends and acquaintances, beta readers, blurb writers and Amazon’s Top Reviewers/Hall of Fame Reviewers. Also, there are many bloggers who review copies of books given to them, but my experience is that it’s very difficult for a writer to have his book selected.

Reduce the Book Price. A writer can reduce the price of his book to encourage sales and hopefully reviews. Kindle Select allows books to be given away or sold at a discount if certain conditions are met.

A vast array of services has developed around publicizing the giveaways and discounts. Given the large number of self-pub books, services charging money should be viewed with scepticism. One service I’ve heard positive anecdotes about is Bookbub. It charges writers to promote price reductions of well-reviewed books to a database of email subscribers. The charges are significant and vary according to genre, so writers must assess whether they’ll be justified by increased sales.

Purchase a Review. Various organizations provide professional reviews for a fee. I’ve blogged about Kirkus Reviews here and other services here (and there are still more).

As long as the reviews are objective, I don’t see any issue with purchasing these services. But as with buying any promotional service, the question is what value the writer gets. I found validation in reviews I purchased for The Case for Killing (here) and False Guilt (here and here), which for me was important. However, my reviews compete with thousands of others and I’m unclear whether they had a material impact on sales of my books.

Lastly, believe it or not, there are “services” that will guarantee five-star reviews. Avoid.

Copyright © 2016 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

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I’m a Member of TWUC

Blog 68 ImageA very short blog today to say that my application for membership in the The Writer’s Union of Canada has been accepted based on my book, False Guilt.

The Writers’ Union of Canada is a national organization of professional writers of books. It has about 2,000 members and was founded more than 40 years ago to work with governments, publishers, booksellers and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers.

Not long ago, membership eligibility was expanded to those who have self-published a book that successfully demonstrates commercial intent and professionalism. Among other things, this required that I submit False Guilt to the Union for review.

I’m delighted to be a TWUC member and I look forward to contributing!

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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False Guilt: At the Funeral

I think of what follows as a short “sequel-prequel” to my book, False Guilt, because it fits between the first and second parts.

Blog 59 ImageBetween the minister’s sombre sentences, one of the wooden doors of Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church thumped shut. Paul turned to look from the front pew and caught his breath. Grace had appeared, five minutes late for the funeral service. She slunk into a back row and sat alone.

An hour later, Paul had helped carry the casket to the hearse and his duties were done. The burial was for family only. He stood on the front steps of the church and pushed a hand through his hair. He wondered if he was doing the right thing waiting for her.

It didn’t take long to find out. Her tall, slim body was one of the last to exit the church. As soon as she saw him, Grace stopped under the arch. Caution, not pleasure, crossed her face.

A surge of May air cleared some strands of black hair. “Hello,” she said.

“I saw you,” he said, clearing his throat. “From the front row. I just wanted to say hello.”

“I just beat you to it,” she said, testing a smile. “How have you been?”

“Oh, busy. With law school and stuff. But second year’s finished now.”

“How did it go?” she asked.

He shrugged. “They still haven’t told me yet. You been busy, too?”

“Very, yes. With dance and work and stuff.” She paused. “I was going to call you back. But I knew you had exams.”

“Of course,” Paul said. “That was very considerate of you.” He felt his face flushing red.

“This is all so tragic,” Grace continued, glancing for a second beyond the front lawn at traffic. “And you knew him a lot better than me.”

“I guess. This whole thing is like a bad movie that won’t stop. And for a guy who always made things work for him. At least until recently.”

“I just hope they find out who did it, really soon.”

“Me, too.” He looked down and pawed the step he stood on. “So, I was wondering, you know, now that I’m done with school, if I could see you again. I enjoyed the time we had coffee.”

“I did, too,” she said. “But I might have some travel plans.”

“Oh, I see, sure,” he said, pawing again. “Well, let me come right out and ask, because, to be honest, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.” He cleared his throat again. “Do you—do you have any interest in me?”

He wanted to say more. That he’d yearned for her since their coffee and intimacy six weeks earlier. That he was sure there could be a connection. That even the menace of the past several days hadn’t changed those feelings.

But her eyes held pity.

“I really did have a nice time with you, Paul,” she said. “It’s just not the right time for me now.”

She began to walk down the steps. He touched one of her forearms. “Are you sure?” he asked.

A hint of impatience joined the pity. She sighed and bit her lower lip. “And I just don’t feel the passion,” she added.

Gutted, his hand fell to his side. He was certain he would never see her again.

But fifteen years later, at the funeral of another friend, he would.

And she would feel differently.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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A Story in Trastevere

Rome 060One of the key locations of my second book, False Guilt, is Trastevere, Rome. Why?

As I shared in an earlier post, a few years ago I was in Rome for the first time. About five days in, I had the idea for a book about two Canadians becoming lovers there, only to begin suspecting one another of the long unsolved murder of a friend.

At patio dinners on warm evenings, I fleshed out the idea. With three days left in my trip, I’d progressed to imagining some dramatic events at the female character’s Roman apartment. But I needed a neighborhood. Something with winding streets, some history and good restaurants, I thought.

Of course, that was like saying I wanted an office tower on Wall Street or a Toronto condominium near Lake Ontario as a location. I had a lot of choice. And, also, little time.

I walked and took many taxi and subway rides on the hunt for the right Roman neighborhood. My feet and lower back became sore. Despite many great spots such as the one pictured, I couldn’t find what I wanted. I started thinking I’d move the idea to North America.

Then serendipity struck. At lunchtime on the second last day, I spoke with an English couple with a poodle. They mentioned that her father, “a wealthy bloke”, had bought an apartment in Trastevere years before, which they were renting for a few months. Trastevere, they went on, was a rione across the Tiber and less busy than the center. It had been working class once but now it was “quite buzzy”.

I headed there right away and spent the afternoon. The area of Trastevere I was in had the right feel for my story: busy, cramped, colorful and edgy. Getting up the next day, I knew I had to return and take some video.

The best part of that process was that I stumbled across a small square, which, in False Guilt, became a little piazza. I took a 360-degree video that included a two-level orange house with green shutters. In an apartment in that house, Grace and Paul cope with peculiar neighbors, difficult pasts and mutual suspicions.

That’s a serendipity that should happen more often in writing.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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False Guilt and Robert Street

Blog 51 Image 2Writing the first draft of False Guilt, I needed a street close to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto where five students shared a house in the early 1990s and hid secrets.

I chose Robert Street, partly because I remember student housing there, partly because my second son shares the first name and partly because I think it’s quite charming.

Robert Street is west of the downtown campus parallel to Spadina Avenue, running north from College Street to Bloor Street. The street was laid out in 1873 by Robert Baldwin.

Robert Baldwin’s great-grandfather, another Robert Baldwin, and grandfather, William Baldwin, came to Toronto from Ireland in 1798. William Baldwin became a prominent doctor, lawyer and politician supporting responsible government. He is the namesake for Baldwin Street in Toronto and laid out Spadina Avenue in 1836. William’s son, the father of the Robert Baldwin who laid out Robert Street, was also named Robert. He too was an important politician who made contributions to the development of democracy and responsible government in Canada. (All this courtesy of Toronto Street Names – An Illustrated Guide to their Origins by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould.)

The Harbord Village Residents’ Association is doing a lot of great work to preserve the history of Harbord Village, of which Robert Street forms part. From their website, I learned that Harbord Village was once considered a poor neighbourhood and that residents would typically only live there until they had saved enough money to move elsewhere. Anglo-centric in the 1920s, over the next decades, the area become home for various other communities. Houses were divided into multiple units until gentrification began reversing the trend in the 1980s.

In the late 1960s, Toronto held a huge debate about making Spadina Avenue and Road into an expressway to downtown. Linked to this were discussions about demolishing area houses, including on north Robert Street, for high-rises and parks. Today, it is hard to imagine the effect of the expressway and those planning changes on Harbord Village.

And I would have been looking for another street for False Guilt.

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

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False Guilt: A Short Prequel

FalseGuilt_FrontCover_Blog 44“Take her nice and slow,” their grandfather said, stroking the white stubble on his chin.

David tightened the recoil pad against his shoulder and drew his face alongside the stock. He pressed one eye shut, squinted through the front sight with the other and took a deep breath.

“Nice and steady,” Granddad added.

Paul stood ten yards back, fingers plugging ears, watching and anticipating.

A second later, a boom echoed through the Northern Ontario forest and the shotgun kicked high in the air. In the distance, a target pinned against a tree stump took it hard in the centre. Paul envied his older brother’s shot.

“Maybe you still got it,” Granddad said to David. “Despite everything.”

“What about me?” Paul asked, walking toward them.

“We had enough for today,” Granddad said. He intercepted Paul with an arm around the shoulder and lowered his voice. “I got to talk to your brother. Hang back a bit, okay?”

Granddad emptied the handgun and two shotguns of ammunition. He gave the handgun to Paul to carry, and David and he each took a shotgun. They began the trek along the worn path to Granddad’s truck.

At first, Paul respected the request and stayed back ten yards. But curiosity drew him closer.

“What are you, twenty now?” Granddad asked.

“Ah-huh,” David said.

“Well, don’t you think it’s time to act responsibly? Hell, when I was your age, I was lookin’ to get married already.”

“Different times, I guess.”

Paul knew where Granddad was heading.

“Not so different, son. The drugs and that crap are different, though. Why are you involved with that stuff?”

“I’m not really,” David said.

“According to your mother you are. And I can see it in how you hold the guns.”

David grunted. “I nailed that last shot.”

“You were miles wide with the others.” Granddad sighed. “You need to take your well-being seriously. What you do affects people.” Granddad snapped his head back toward Paul. “Especially him.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“You do that.” Granddad paused. “And one other thing.”

“What?”

“You can talk to me if you want to. I don’t think your mother’s any good at that. Too excitable.”

In his mind, Paul agreed. Then he imagined, and dismissed, telling Granddad the secrets David had shared with him.

“I’ll try to remember that, too,” David said. He slapped the back of his neck. “Man, there are a lot of mosquitoes out today.”

“I’m immune,” Granddad said.

The path opened to the end of a dirt road. As he opened the doors to his pickup, Granddad held his head low, worry crimping the lines across his face.

Paul scrambled into the middle of the truck’s bench seat. “Can I have this one day?” he asked, looking at the handgun. David slammed the passenger door shut, his broad shoulders crowding Paul. He hunched in sullenness, looking back at the forest.

As he started the truck, Granddad gave a low, growly laugh. “You wish. Put that thing in the glove compartment. I don’t want nobody to see it.” The pickup crept forward, tires crunching gravel. “How do I know you’ll be careful with it?” he added.

“Cause I will,” Paul said. “You know me.”

“I suppose I do,” Granddad said. “You think your mother would allow it?”

“Yup. I do.”

“You’re wrong there. But I’ll think about it.”

“Great,” Paul said, his legs starting to bounce.

“But only when I die,” Granddad said. “And that’s not somethin’ I’m planning for a long while yet.”

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

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False Guilt Is Out! What I Learned.

Blog 47 Image At last! I’ve self-published False Guilt.

The eBook is broadly available on Amazon (here for Canada, U.S., U.K.). Use a Kindle or the free Kindle app on your tablet. The print version is also available in the U.S. and U.K. and coming to Canada shortly.

Here’s the blurb.

“Paul Tews, a rising Toronto mergers and acquisitions lawyer, is on a leave of absence for anxiety. An invitation to Rome from a woman with whom he’d once had a close encounter seems like a perfect remedy. Instead he finds that all things captivating have an ugly side. Friends confess baffling secrets. An art collector leads a double life. Passion deceives.

Paul must save himself from it all—and his past involvement with murder.”

And here are the key things I learned from writing False Guilt.

Sometimes, it’s not all about the murder. There’s a murder mystery in False Guilt. But I was just as drawn to the effect of the murder on a close-knit group of friends that includes the protagonist.

Group dynamics take a lot of thought. Individual characters were important, but so were the dynamics between all the friends, especially in relation to the protagonist. I had good editorial help there.

Flawed characters are interesting. Content characters make me drowsy. Those fighting battles don’t.

So are characters seeking redemption. The search to overcome past misdeeds never gets old.

Using two settings is fun. False Guilt takes place in Toronto and Rome. Two settings added dimension even if it was more work.

Research never stops. Among other things, I researched police procedure, art theft and Roman food. As the story deepened, so did the research.

Sex. My theory is that sex is worth considering in a crime thriller if it advances character development. Those scenes are the hardest to write though.

Character names. If enough pre-release readers tell you a character’s last name sounds like an insect, you change it.

Thanks to all prospective readers!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.