Claire King

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Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Does Amazon block reviews from Twitter/Facebook followers?

Posted on: December 17th, 2015 by Claire - 3 Comments

Several authors have had complaints from readers recently that they have tried to leave reviews on amazon and not been allowed to do so.

The belief is that amazon is changing its review policy and if amazon can see (by authors/readers connecting their social media accounts such as facebook and twitter to their amazon account) that you are somehow connected, they will view the reviews as biased and will delete them.

Of course this seems like a crazy policy: readers like to connect to authors on social media and authors like to connect to them. Readers like to leave book reviews and authors LOVE that. Reviews help other people find our books. (Thank you readers).

And yet, many authors seem to have resolved their readers’ review issues by disconnecting their social media accounts from their amazon accounts.

I wrote to amazon to get clarity on their policy.

Here is their reply in full:

Mixed Reviews

Posted on: May 29th, 2014 by Claire - 6 Comments

As I’m sure you’ll be aware, the extraordinary, inspirational woman, Maya Angelou, died yesterday.

She had an astonishingly rich life, starting right at the bottom of the pile and ending her life as a teacher, a role model, a treasure and an inspiration to millions.

Maya Angelou

I came to know of her first through her poetry. The first poem I read of hers was Still I Rise, which is one of my favourite poems to this day. I re-read it often and it still makes me cry and it still makes me feel stronger. You can find it on YouTube being read by Maya herself.

Yet when Wikipedia, and some obituaries out today, mention Maya Angelou’s poetry they say it ‘received mixed reviews’.

I’ve seen this phrase before and I don’t like it. It often seems to be used as a euphemism for ‘Wasn’t particularly special.’ But I think poetry should receive mixed reviews. I think poetry, and all forms of writing should aim to speak powerfully, but not to every reader and not to every reviewer. Books that are unanimously feted and glorified make me suspicious, and might in fact disappoint readers if, as is sometimes the case, it turns out to be a matter of The Emperors New Clothes. Only by reading widely do you find the words that reach into you.

Nor should writers worry about the prospect of ‘mixed reviews’. Trying to please everybody can only make your writing weaker, because it can no longer come from the heart.

Maya Angelou herself said “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou Walking Along Beach

 

The photos in this post are taken from Maya Angelou’s biography on achievement.org

A Year on the Shelf

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Claire - 22 Comments

It’s one whole year since The Night Rainbow was first published. The UK hardback and ebook were released on February 14th 2013 and the paperback six months later. So to celebrate my ‘Year on the Shelf’ (it’s Valentine’s Day, see what I did there?), here are five things I’ve learned over the course of the last twelve months:

Books coming off the printing press

Hot off the press.

(1) You don’t publish and tell 

There are quite a few things that will surprise a new author as they take this journey for the first time, and you won’t have seen them blogged about or discussed on twitter. I’m not going to talk about them either. Why? It’s the same reason why people who are already parents don’t sit their pregnant friends down and say, “Right, well let us tell you what’s about to happen to you.”  Sometimes it’s better to let people wait and see.

However, what you will need are some people who have been through it before to be there for you once you are finally living that dream. So, when it’s your turn, make sure you find author friends and mentors who will give you the lowdown if you ask.

The gorgeous window

The gorgeous window – Little Ripon Bookshop

(2) Authors are great

Other authors are generally lovely and generous and want you to succeed. Many will encourage and support you, even if they have never heard of you before. It’s a lovely group to be part of. Pass it on.

Jodi_tweet

 

(3) You will be busier than ever

Remember how you managed to squeeze writing a novel – an actual novel! – into your already full life? Well now that novel now needs taking to parties, to readings and events. And people will ask you to write about your book, and write about writing your book. For your own sanity, remember you don’t have to do everything. Decide, along with your publisher, what you want to commit to and learn to say no to the rest.

Also people will immediately start asking you when the next book is due out. It isn’t going to write itself, you know.

Marie-Claire

I was reviewed in Marie-Claire!

(4) We are not the same

Chances are that you will have highs and you will have lows, but your experience will be different from mine. It will depend on your agent, your publisher, your book, timings, the market, luck and so many other variables that there is no way to know how things will pan out for you. All you can do is get an idea of if you are falling somewhere within the spectrum of ‘normal’ –  see (1) – and hope for the best.

Will your book win prizes? Get reviewed in the New York Times? Sell foreign rights? Will Oprah pick it? Will it even get into bookshops so people can buy it? Getting into retail is harder than you think. Once your book is out there in the world, frankly it’s anybody’s guess how it will fare no matter how hard people are championing it on your behalf.

It might be that your book doesn’t get as much recognition as those you have decided to benchmark it against. On the other hand it may do better than other books that you have read and think deserve to win every prize going. You need to stop comparing. Remember you’re at the start of a long road and you need to conserve your energy.

As for sales – everything you have heard is true. Right now the prognosis is pretty shocking. But your publishers have faith, or they wouldn’t have taken your book. If you go off with a bang at launch, brilliant, congratulations! But if sales in the launch period are ‘quieter’ than you’d hoped, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is going to die a lonely death. If readers like it, they will spread the word, slowly but surely. Sometimes you need a bit of critical mass and that can take time for a new author. Think about how long it takes you between hearing about a book and actually buying it, and then actually reading it. For me it’s months.

Euston Station

Euston Station, August 2013

(5) Readers above all else

It is so wonderfully rewarding when people you’ve never met take the time to look you up and write to you, just to tell you that they loved your book. That you have given them something special, a story they won’t forget. That, for me, is what writing is all about.

Of course sometimes readers don’t write to you personally, but instead take the time to write a review (thank you, reviewers!). Reviews do matter, but try not to get obsessed by them as they are completely out of your control and will not always make you happy.

Sometimes they will say things like this:

***** “Officially my Book of 2013. Wow… Read it!”

and

***** “This book resonated with me. I will carry Pea with me for a very long time.”

but sometimes they will say this:

** “Ideal for nature lovers seeking a blow-by-blow description of the French countryside without the distraction of a plot line.”

And that’s all OK. Remember that all sorts of people are now reading your book (HURRAY!) and they can’t all be expected to like it.

Also, there will be reviewers who write spoilers, sometimes in the very first line of their write up. Even in national newspapers. But hey, girl, your book got reviewed in a national newspaper.

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

If you’re about to head out on the same journey, good luck to you! And for those of you who have played a part in this marvellous, exciting year of mine, a huge thank you from me.

 

Bonus Tip: Social Media

Nothing has changed. Even now you are published, Social Media is not the boss of you.

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow – the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  – who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. “It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell – Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells – Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs – The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson – “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury – “…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch – “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake – Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

What I wrote & what you read.

Posted on: December 29th, 2012 by Claire - 7 Comments

I wrote a blog post a while ago about the intention in what we write – how we choose the palette for our story, the setting and the small details to send messages for the reader to pick up on.

But intention is a funny thing, because things are sometimes not interpreted the way we intended. This is the source of a lot of arguments. Any of these phrases seem familiar?

“That’s not what I meant!

“You are inferring that from what I said.”

“You were implying that when you said…”

“I could see by your expression that…”

“It’s not what you said, it’s the way that you said it!”

Well, anyway, in November Waterstones ran a draw for people to receive review copies of The Night Rainbow, and December the books went out. So although there’s still a month until it starts shipping ‘for real’, reviews are now coming in, and I get to see if what I intended to say came across to *actual* readers in the way I hoped. Or not.

This, in a way, is the end of one writing journey that started back in 2009 and which I’ve been blogging about for almost 3 years. So I thought I’d share my first thoughts on being read, and reviewed.

I’d thought about book reviews before in terms of the rating, the number of stars. What does a one star review mean? How would I feel the first time I got one? It’s easy to say that rationally there is going to be some kind of bell curve. You can’t please all the people all the time. And a five star review is the flip side of the coin. You really hit a nerve with a reader, but it doesn’t mean you’re a literary genius.

Actually, now I’ve started to read the reviews, what matters much more is the words. Readers have taken the time to write at some length about how they experienced the story, how it made them feel as they read it, and their conclusions at the end. It’s such a privilege to read these insights, and to see if what I hoped I wrote matched up with what people actually read. It seems so far, so good!

I’m going to try not to get obsessed with reading reviews (seriously, I am!), mostly because I have written a new book that I am revising now and I have to turn the internet off most of the time to do that. But the appearance of these reviews is a timely reminder that I am writing for readers, and that I have to get it right. That ‘good enough’ isn’t really good enough, unless I want to face ‘good enough’ reviews on my next novel in 2 years time. And that’s not my intention.

So to the book reviewers out there who are taking the time to write these considered, detailed reviews – A Big Thank You!

And I wish all readers of this blog a very happy new year. Good health, peace and happiness to you and yours in 2013.

Whatever You Love, or feel vaguely ambivalent towards…

Posted on: April 26th, 2011 by Claire - 16 Comments

I’ve just finished reading Louise Doughty’s novel, Whatever You Love. It was amongst my Christmas presents (oh, I’m not even half-way through that To Be Read pile yet) and came on the recommendation of my lovely agent.

Well, what a recommendation. As I’ve mentioned before, what with small children and writing my own novel, my reading time has been spare and this was the first book of Louise Doughty’s that I’ve read. I truly loved it. I galloped through it in a way that is rare for me and all along the way saying ‘Wow!’ and ‘Yes!’ The kind of book where i go out and buy the entire back catalogue. *THAT* kind of book.

Honestly, I loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend you buy it.

I try to write reviews on Amazon for any book that really rings my bell. (I don’t write negative reviews because I rarely feel passionate enough about a book that just didn’t quite do it for me). Of course I read the other reviews up there while I’m on it, and was quite shocked by the polarity of the comments. As an author on the brink of receiving my own reviews, this sort of reception, especially for a book I would rate so highly, terrifies me. I’m sure I would take it to heart. What do you make of it all?

Amazon 1/2 star reviews:

“absolutely HATED this book”

“The story is drawn out unnecessarily”

“Faber & Faber, get your act together and use some decent copyeditors and proofreaders. The book was littered with spelling mistakes and typos”

“…she was waffling”

“…this novel unfortunately failed to reach me, as the grief the protagonist felt over the loss of her daughter seemed one-dimensional and failed to encourage any sympathy.”

i’m aghast; each to their own and all that, but I just can’t even begin to see where these comments came from. The book was tight and meticulous…wow. If I had been on the receiving end of these I would be reaching for…what? My husband probably. But then look at these:

Amazon 4/5 star reviews:

“I found these scenes almost unbearably moving in their honesty.”

“Wow. I didn’t expect this! This book is so powerful and insightful. I was blown away to be honest”

” compulsive reading! I could not put it down”

“simply one of the best novels I have read in a long time”

“a genuinely captivating read”

“A book that tugs at the heart, draws tears and still manages to surprise right to the end.”

“…I could not put it down…”

“300 pages of insightful and expertly-crafted story-telling.”

Yes! Yes to all of these comments.

So what is it about a novel that can divide readers this way, and how are we, as writers, supposed to digest this kind of reception to our work?

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