Reviews Got You Down?

thumbs upIn a word. Yes.

Whiskey Delta has been racking up its share of reviews lately. Unfortunately for me, the majority of them have been rather punitive of late. Despite the release of the 2nd edition, a thoroughly cleansed and updated version of the story, the book continues to get slammed because of what I can only assume are the weaknesses to be found in the first edition.

In total, six people have added their reviews of the book in recent weeks, and four of those six gave it two stars out of five. And, as usual, three of those four had the same things to say, just worded differently:

Good story, bad editing.

You ever hear something so many times it lost all meaning to you? Or so many times that you swore the next person who said it would receive a thorough thrashing? Well, that’s kind of how I feel about these. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what they had to say:

Proofread!:
There is actually a decent story here, but it gets lost due to a strong need of proofreading. Needs more than just computer spell checking.

William Boyles

Good story, awful editing:
This is a solid zombie story – the story gets 3 or 4 stars – but give us a break with the sloppy editing. At least pretend to care about the finished product. The punctuation mistakes, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes make parts of the book unreadable and confusing. You have seen this complaint several times in the reviews – how hard is it to go through the book, clean it up, and re-post it? The author and publisher should be embarrassed by the condition of the editing. It is the worst I have ever seen in a purchased work.

Justins Are Cool

Good story, horrible editing:
The story itself is good enough to keep you engaged but the editing made it a chore to finish. Misspelled words, missing words, bad grammar all through out took so much away from this book.

Jackie L. Willis Jr. “waterboyjlw”

Ah, and check out this gem. This is the only thoroughly bad review Whiskey Delta has picked up since it was published. And for some reason, this person gave it the same rating as all those above who thought the story was good but the editing was bad. That seem right to you?

boring:
boring and poorly written. Story didn’t flow and there was no cohesive story line. I guess what can I expect for a couple bucks.

Gil L Nicholas

In truth, this wouldn’t bother me so much if these rating weren’t hurting sales, or if these early reviews weren’t weighing down the overall rating. As much as I wanted to believe that the publication of the 2nd Edition might be a fresh start, every review contributes to the overall rating. And now, the book’s overall review now stands at a middling 3.1 stars out of 5. At this rate, I’ll need at least half a dozen five star reviews just to bring it back up to something respectable.

Luckily for me, there’s been some light at the end of this tunnel. In the same stretch of time, two 4 star reviews came in. There was this one, which I can only assume was for the 1st edition, and from a person who didn’t choose to knock me a whole bunch of stars over editing issues:

good book
Great story with interesting people. Spell check was poorly done and many editing issues were present. Would like a sequel

-Light

And then there was this one, which actually sounded like it might be from the 2nd edition since editing didn’t even come up in the review. In fact, this person chose to focus on matters pertaining to the plot and story, God bless their hearts!

good read but…..
Interesting story, but how do they have so many new guys in their unit? Where are they getting the replacements??
Pro’s- The military isn’t completely useless, a strong female character, interesting story
Con’s- The story starts somewhere in the middle and ends before the story seems done.

-DawnG

So that’s where things stand for this book right now. More good news, an advance proof of Papa Zulu arrived the other day and I’m getting down to editing it. By the time it is spruced up, say in a month or so, I hope to deliver on a sequel that is clean and proper coming out of the gate!

Maybe then this bad mojo will dissipate and I can get to entertaining fantasies of becoming a successful author and writer, the kind that has money, power, and access to the depths of sleaze that these things provide! Well… I’ll settle for money and power, thank you very much! Until next time…

zombie_keepcalm

New Cover Selected!

Pappa_Zulu2Well the votes are in, and by a margin of six to two, the third cover for Papa Zulu has beaten out all other contenders. And while I waiting, I managed to updated it a little, placing a few excerpts from the positive reviews the first book got on the back cover of the jacket. And so, when the second book hits the bookshelves in a few weeks, it will look like what you see above.

I also took the time to update the Whiskey Delta page over on the left there to show the book’s info. Now, whenever a new book is added, the publication date and a link will be added so people will know when it came out and where to buy it. As for those that are still in progress, there will be a projected publication date so people know when to expect it. Obviously, everything after the first two is still TBD for the time being, but give it time…

Oh, and I also came up with names and themes for the other books in the series. After Whiskey Delta and Papa Zulu, there’s Alpha Mike, which is already in production. Then there’s Hotel Tango, the proposed fourth installment which will be followed by the fifth and final book in the series, Zulu Alpha.

Stay tuned for updates! I’m not done with this zombie craze yet. And speaking of which, I got some new characters to announce. Stay tuned for the latest additions to the Zombie Warrior challenge as well…

Whiskey Delta, 2nd Edition!

zombie-wallpaperWell let me start by saying that Whiskey Delta continues to do well. And though the sales appear to be slowing down a bit, the overall number has just passed 900 copies! Good news, but in truth, I am concerned that interest is waning and I can’t help but wonder if the mixed reviews are to blame. After a total of ten, the overall rating is now at a 3.4 out of 5 stars, which puts it in the good, but not great section.

So here’s what some of the latest reviewers have had to say on the subject of the 1st edition. As you can see, it was more of the same:

J. York (3.0 out of 5 stars):
As others have said, i enjoyed the story itself but stumbled a lot in the reading due to the editing. It didn’t read smoothly as there were so many words misspelled and put in the wrong part of a sentence. As i said, I totally liked the plot but found the flow of it hard to read.

Bob Gawler (3.0 out of 5 stars):
The plot and story were actually pretty good, but the edititing let the store down. Too many grammatical and spelling errors.

Can’t help but notice some typos in these comments, glaring ones too. I know, I need to stop mocking commenters who are just being honest. But the irony, man, the irony! Ah, but then there was this one, which was the second five star review this book earned:

Rosie Reader (5.0 out of 5 stars):
This is a really gripping read; awesome story, great characters. Yes, there were typos, but the story kept the pages turning quickly. Great work Matthew S. Williams!
I’m looking forward to the next one.

That makes for a grand total of two 5 star reviews, three 4 star reviews, 2 three star reviews, and 2 two star reviews; which as I said, averages out to a total of 3.4 stars out of 5. Like I said, good, but not great.

Luckily, as the title suggests, my wife and I finally finished work on the 2nd edition of Whiskey Delta, the one that doesn’t have so many typos and errors. Yes, after a few short weeks of tinkering, the process of creating a novel that I can truly be proud of is finally complete. Good thing too, because I can’t take another comment about how my “story is good but it desperately needs editing”!

And of course, now that the 2nd edition is complete, I will be getting to work on turning Papa Zulu, the second installment in the series, into an typo=free, error-proof manuscript. Then I will be making it available on Amazon-Kindle for all to see. May it receive a greater reception than the first…

Even More News!

Good_News_EveryoneWhiskey Delta, my zombie apocalypse-themed indie novel, has just sold over 750 copies! What’s more, another good review has come in, once again pushing the overall rating up a bit. And of course, they hit on the usual points:

Good Book (4.0 out of 5 stars)
Great story with interesting people. Spell was poorly done and many editing issues were present. Would like a sequel

Rest assured, Pappa Zulu, the sequel to Whiskey Delta, will be coming in just a few short months. Obviously, I need to finish my work on WD’s second edition, and then give the next installment a full and thorough edit. And if there’s time left over, I hope to have Alpha Mike finished before 2014 begins. Fast times!

Oh, and I do hope the good news continues. As it adds up, you can expect to see less of these constant updates!

Big News!

zombie-attackGood news from the my small corner of the indie publishing world. My latest book, Whiskey Delta has just sold over 500 copies, including ebooks and paperback! Yaaaaay! And what excites me about this is the fact the vast majority of those sales happened since the 21st of April. That means that over 400 books were moved in the last two weeks. I can only assume that this means the popularity of it is growing.

And to add to the good news ball, I got another four-star review, which in addition to being nice, put the book’s overall rating back to 3 and a half stars. Once again, the reviewer was sure to mention quality of story combined with poor editing. I’ll let him tell you:

FINALLY! A zombie story where the US Military is not hopelessly inept, but is instead taking the war to the enemy and doing a damn good job. I choose to look past the vast amount of editing needed… and instead focus on a kick-butt military adventure during a zombie apocalypse. Fun, exciting, great action, and characters that you get to know and even care about–what more can I say? Buy it, enjoy it, ignore the typos and other errors and just get into one of the better examples of military adventure/zombie apocalypse cross-overs out there.

Now that was exactly the kind of review I was looking for! And rest assured, sir, the editing is being done! I’ve managed to clean up three chapters so far and noticed that the most glaring mistakes seemed to be in the first chapter itself. Not good! Not good at all… But rest assured, the 2nd edition will be clean, and the second book immaculate! I’m taking steps right now to procure a professional editor so the quality of my books won’t be left in my (incapable) hands!

Dealing with Mixed Reviews

thumbs upEvery writer knows that bad reviews are a part of the trade. But what do you do when the bad is mixed in with the good? Aren’t mixed messages kind of worse than consistently bad ones? Well, that’s what I’m wondering as I peruse some collected reviews of my books, as posted on Amazon. Some of them only came to my attention by accident, as I happened to be cruising by not long ago, and I must have turned my prompts off.

In any case, here are some of the reviews, good and bad, that came in with regards to Source, my first indie-published work. As you can see, the first one wasn’t so good, ranking the book at a mediocre three out five stars. The second is from Katy “Obsessive bibliophile” Sozaeva, a pro reader/reviewer who specializes in evaluating indie works, which was posted over a year ago. Compare if you will:

Source_2

Inventive and Imaginative, but Scientifically Flawed. I read this with some enjoyment, I admit. But that pleasure was diminished somewhat by the nagging voice that kept saying, “That wasn’t necessary/easiest/realistic.” It happened in just too many places for it to be assuaged by simply pushing the “I believe” button.

Entertaining and enlightening sci-fi story. The Earth and its colonies are running out of water. The government, left with no options, decides to hedge its bets by creating a colony ship and sending off the best and brightest to colonize the stars, while at home strict rationing and a lottery system to decide who should live and who should die will be instituted. Millions will die, either of thirst or through…

Not exactly consistent is it? And consider this: the first review seemed to have far more of an impact than the second. When Katy reviewed my work and looked on it kindly, I honestly filed it in the “Oh, she’s nice” category. On the other hand, the semi-negative review hit me where I live. It actually made me consider pulling it from the shelf and putting a stop on its sequels.

Eyes

And then consider this review from one of the short stories in my Legacies series, otherwise known as Eyes in the Dark. This story I began years back and completed for NaNoWriMo 2011. Some initial opinions I got on it were quite good, all from my writer’s group, but I was happy to see a positive review posted on a professional site:

I liked the story. It had a convincing science fiction scenario and an intriguing dilemma at the core of the plot. I liked the characters, which always helps. I’d recommend this book and read any others Matthew’s written.

I liked that review, especially the last line since it might actually lead to a rise in sales! But I have to admit, I was surprised by it seeing as how I felt the entire thing was a bit rushed and hurriedly written. As it’s writer, I am abundantly aware of its flaws and I keep waiting for someone to say the same bad things that I fear they will notice.

LiabilityOh, and I should also mention the one review which haunts me to this day. It had to do with this oldie, a short known as Liability which I wrote back in 2005. Since I merged it with another short, I can no longer find the review on Amazon anymore. However, I do seem to remember the general nature of it, which ought to tell you something!

The story is nothing special. The ending is a fairy tale of course and is totally unrealistic, but if you’re looking for a cheap read, it’s worth the price.

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Harsh huh? And the worst part of it is, I took it seriously. And even though that review was one of five that were quite favorable, I still seem to put more stock in it than the others. Here’s what these other people said, just to be inclusive:

Grabs your attention immediately. Is well written IMHO.

It’s a well conceived and beautifully delivered novel. I wish it has more pages for a more lasting reading.

Good story. Gets you wrapped up in the action right away and doesn’t stop till the end.

Don’t look behind you when you read this novel, they may be watching you. thoroughly enjoyable reading.

And I can imagine what seem people would say, since I’ve said it enough time myself to know it word for word. “Hey, [insert your name here], you can’t please everybody. And there’s always going to be idiots and haters. You can’t take what they say seriously.” Yeah, but when it’s me, I say the words, but I don’t feel it. Somehow, the bad reviews always see to make more sense and leave the lasting mark.

So I put it to all the other indie writers, artists and authors out there. What is it about negative feedback that we find just so believable? Why do we treat positive reviews (I’m assuming it’s not just me) as if they are obligatory or motivated by the desire to not hurt our feelings? Are good reviews only meaningful if they come from people who are usually cruel and hard to impress?

I don’t know… All I know is, I want to get better. And the appearance of a single bad review makes me want to work harder and convince them of my worth as a writer. Funny, considering that if it were a friend of mine being poorly reviewed, I’d be telling them they rock, and telling the haters: “Screw you, with some sexual harassment on top!”

Anybody else got mixed reviews to share? This experience feels somehow cathartic and I recommend it highly. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your bottom line. Hardly anybody reads this site anyway 😉

Ray Bradbury Gives Writing Advice

I recently came across this article, which seems to have been one of many I found when researching the life and works of sci-fi great Ray Bradbury. The source is Open Culture, an online magazine dealing with cultural and educational media. And like many other publications, they chose to honor the passing of Bradbury by publishing a series of articles which dealt with the man’s monumental influence on science fiction and writing in general.

This particular one deals with his 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea, where he treated audiences to the benefit of his accumulated wisdom by boiling it down into 12 tips. As a newbie writer, I can tell you that many of these spoke to me as if they were written with me in mind! That’s the true mark of a great and relatable writer though, isn’t it? Their words somehow seem to transcend the page and all distance between you and get you right at your core.

And even if you’re not an aspiring writer, or an established one, I recommend reading through this list and digesting some of these nuggets. Their value goes beyond mere writing, I tells ya! But don’t take my word for it, read them yourself:

  1. Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  2. You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum.
  3. Examine “quality” short stories. He suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut, since he finds that their stories have “no metaphor.”
  4. Stuff your head. To accumulate the intellectual building blocks of these metaphors, he suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern “crap”), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. “At the end of a thousand nights,” so he sums it up, “Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!”
  5. Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.
  6. Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.
  7. Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.
  8. Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.
  9. Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).
  10. List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.
  11. Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”
  12. Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.” Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”

Rules one and two are especially important to me right now. I began trying to write novels and found the process overwhelming. Today, full-length novels constitute the majority of my unfinished works, cluttering up my inbox folder and making me feel like I’m a slow writer. Bah! Who needs that? Rule two is like gospel; though you may have writer’s you wish to emulate, do not try to be better than them. It will only lead to unfair comparisons and rob your work of originality. It put’s me in mind of what the poet Basho Mastsuo said: “Do not follow in the footsteps of the masters, but seek what they sought”. That’s right, I read a poem, try not to faint!

The rest all blend together for me in that they all ring true. If they could be boiled down into one simple rule, I’d say it would be “do what you love, and screw the rest!” Best advice I ever got, from J.M. Straczynski of all people (creator of Babylon 5). As long as you’re doing that, you can do no wrong, and your natural passion and dedication will yield results, sooner or later. And if it doesn’t, who cares? For in the end, its about you and not what others think, right? Thought money, fame and recognition are kind of sweet…

Until next time, RIP Mr. Bradbury and here’s hoping myself and my colleagues can acheive a small iota of the respect and recognition you did in your lifetime. I promise that we will stick to short stories for the time being, and that we won’t try to beat you, even if we do try to emulate you 😉