21 February 2012

Learning from Reviews: Is It Possible?

I've had books published since 2005 and have been getting reviews all that time. Not as many as most authors, but enough that I've seen the ups and downs of that aspect of the industry. Here is a compilation of what I have learned from reviews and reader responses, both for my books and other people's books:

1) Don't put a secondary plot in your erotic romance. The focus should be on the couple's relationship and sexxoring.

2) Don't forget to put a secondary plot in your erotic romance that is outside the bedroom. If the focus is only on the sexxoring, the book and characters can come across as shallow and self-centered.

3) Don't write one dimensional villains who exist only to be evil toward the protagonists.

4) Don't focus on your villains so much that the protagonists become bland by comparison. The villian cannot be the most interesting part of the book or it's not a romance.

5) Don't forget to do your research and include it in the book. And be sure to research everything, like whether or not the story takes place in a state where people are allowed to pump their own gas. No details can be left unturned. Otherwise readers will know you don't care about providing a quality product.

6) Don't overwhelm your readers with your research. Otherwise readers will put your book down because it is boring and infodumpy.

7) Don't write any more books about vampires and werewolves...please! They are overdone, and readers long for something new.

8) Please write more books about vampires and werewolves. They are fascinating, and readers long for more exciting stories about character types they love.

9) Don't include too much profanity in your fiction. While it may be accurate in your chosen setting or time period, it gets old, fast, and readers would rather see a varied vocabulary.

10) Don't exclude profanity from your fiction if you're writing characters who would naturally curse. Otherwise it comes off as unrealistic and readers will know you didn't do the research (see #5).

11) Don't write your female characters as passive, childlike or TSTL, and OMG don't describe their hands as "tiny". It's 2012. Females can be...anything. They can be proactive and strong. Probably they can even pee while standing up AND hit the bowl if they work really hard at it. (But, yanno, don't describe THAT.)

12) Don't let your kick-ass female protagonist overshadow your male protagonist(s) or he will come across as weak. If she is strong, he must show that he is strong enough for (or, yanno, stronger than) her or he is not sexy.

13) Don't expound on certain details, like food and drink items. Sure, it's delicious, but that's not what the book is about, is it? Unless you're writing a cookbook.

14) Don't forget to leave in certain details, like the deliciousness of food and drink items. It's realistic, it enhances character POV and really brings a reader into a story world.

15) Don't write any more secret baby plots. It's an irresponsible way for characters to behave.

16) Don't forget to write more secret baby plots. Readers love them; they're so heart-wrenching.

17) Don't include "issues" in romance novels. That isn't why readers like to read romance.

18) Don't forget to include some serious content, even "issues", in some romance novels. There's no reason they can't be about realistic aspects of life and people surviving it and fighting for what they believe.

19) Don't make the female character overweight or plain while the male character is totally gorgeous. That is not believable. Like marries like.

20) Don't make the female character totally gorgeous. Many readers find it hard to relate to her, especially if she doesn't know she's gorgeous ("mouth too wide for beauty"..."bosom too lush for the current fashion"). Or if does know she's gorgeous, because then she's a bitch. I forget which -- maybe both. However, the male character needs to be quite attractive. Otherwise the reader can't fall in love with him too.

21) Don't write in first person. So sick of that!

22) Don't write everything in third person. Books in first person are a great, refreshing change.

23) Don't include epilogues. If it's worth sharing, it goes in the body of the story, and an epilogue is lazy.

24) Don't forget epilogues. Readers love to drop in on the characters down the road, however briefly. It's like an unexpected gift after a story is over.

25) Don't make fun of readers and reviewers, not even with your tongue in your cheek.

Oopsie!

***

I defied item #7 this month because I released a book about werewolves and witches. It's called Pack and Coven, in which the hairy, but not too hairy, hero and the witchy, but not bitchy, heroine have quite the adventure. I'm also running a contest for a $25 gift card on my blog until February 29. All you have to do to enter is violate item #13 and tell me about the deliciousness of some tea-room style food you'd like to eat. http://blog.jodywallace.com/2012/02/pack-and-coven-release-and-contest.html

Jody Wallace
When is an alpha not an alph-ass?
Pack and Coven: http://www.jodywallace.com

PS: I confess. It's possible I took a lot of this from this fun, 4-year thread in the Amazon forums and not actually from reviews! http://www.amazon.com/forum/romance?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxM42D5QN2YZ1D&cdThread=Tx1U9IFOLVQRGXV  So if you like to talk to other readers about your reading preferences -- and you promise not to self promote, should you happen to be a writer in your secret life -- you may like that forum! But don't tell them I sent you, considering what I did re: item #25.
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