The great thing about independent publishing is that there’s an opportunity for anyone to publish a book. But with so many new books getting published all the time, it’s hard for indie authors to get our books to stand out. The first step is to make sure that our books are as good as we can possibly make them, spending months or even years polishing every sentence. But once that wonderful book is out in the world, how do we get anyone to notice it?
The best way is old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Someone reads our book and they enjoy it, so they tell a friend, who gets interested and decides to read the book, too. With the Internet, this can happen even faster, because you can recommend a book and have a lot of people all around the world see that recommendation. Book distributors like Amazon and social sites like Goodreads have made this process even easier by offering simple tools for anyone to rate and review books. Now, it’s not just critics who have a platform for voicing their opinions about the latest novels. You can read reviews written by readers just like you to help find books that you could enjoy. But it’s been estimated that only 1-5% of all readers write any reviews.
When you write a review, you help the author by drawing attention to their book. You also help other readers find the book and figure out if it’s for them. If you say, for example, “I loved how the cat helped solved the mystery!”, then cat-lovers will know to pick the the book up–and people who don’t like cats may realize that it’s not for them. Reviews are subjective, but they still help describe the book and inform potential readers.
There are guides out there about how to write a good review, but you don’t need to be an expert on anything to write a good review. Just describe what you liked or didn’t like in the story that you read. Often the most helpful reviews are a mix of both positive and negative comments. Remember to add details. Don’t just say “I loved it!” or “I hated it!”, describe why you had that reaction.
Sometimes, you may not love the book you just read. It’s okay to say so. (It’s not okay to attack the author personally, but you’re allowed to be honest about the book itself.) Some people don’t feel comfortable posting negative reviews, and that’s okay, too. But as authors, it’s our job to accept some criticism, and if we listen to all our feedback (good or bad), that can help us to grow in our storytelling abilities. And don’t be scared off by horror stories of authors who lashed out at a negative review–it has happened, but it’s rare (and you should report any author who harasses you).
In the end, our books succeed because of the readers who love them. Writing a review is a nice way to thank the author for the hard work they did so you would enjoy the story. Reviews have been compared to giving a hug to an author, and that’s how I feel about them, too. I love to write for myself, but I publish my stories because I know people are entertained by them. And every review I get reminds me that somewhere out there, I made someone smile.
Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty, author of the Wizard’s End Series available below!
There are as many ways to create original fantasy creatures as there are creatures to be created. I still love my dragons and elves, and other familiar fantasy creatures, but it’s always good to add an original flair to your fantasy stories, something that has the potential to make readers sit back and think, wow, that’s cool!
There are no hard and fast rules to restrict your imagination, but here are some tips if you aren’t sure where to start:
Use existing creatures – fantasy or real life – and add fresh attributes. How much you alter the existing creature/being is entirely up to you. You could take the attributes of a lion or dragon, for example, and create a new physical appearance that looks nothing like the original creature/being. In my Legends of Origin sci-fi fantasy series, the magical ryokin’s physical appearance comes largely from the extinct sabre-tooth tiger – except the ryokin has golden fur with no stripes, and massive wings that enable it to fly. It’s also an intelligent, telepathic being despite its animal appearance. In the short story, Ereolon’s Day of Demons (part of the Sorcery & Subterfuge anthology), the main character is a winged elf – with ogre genes and the ability to bend others’ minds to his will.
Create something solely from your imagination. This can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it if you do it right. You don’t need to add too many details either, if what you’re creating is a common animal that’s minor to your story. For example, I created a few animals for Wizard of Ends. There are gabbertok, which are dangerous night creatures with slanted yellow eyes that usually live in the woods. The females are protective over their young, but the males will eat their own offspring if the mother is not around. I also created ferocious hound monkeys, which have the bodies of hounds and torsos of monkeys, with sharp, curved teeth and deadly claws. They stand man height on all fours and travel in packs of ten. Each of these has a few more attributes, but nothing too detailed, because they are only there to add flavour to the story.
Visualise the creature or being you’re describing. It might sound okay as you write, but that doesn’t mean it won’t look ridiculous. Unless your story is humorous, you probably don’t want the visuals you give readers to make them laugh.
Consider how common fantasy creatures might evolve over a few million years and create the evolved version. You can use any creature/being from dragons and elves to ogres and unicorns, and everything in between.
When creating your fantasy creature or being, consider some of the following:
* Is it weak or strong? If it’s weak, how does its species survive? If it’s strong, does it dominate the region and, if not, why?
* What temperament does it have?
* Does it have any special abilities?
* What colour are its eyes and skin?
* What texture is its skin?
* Does it have hair? If it has hair, what colour is it, and is it soft or coarse?
* Is its kind social or solitary?
* How does it reproduce? Eggs? Live birth? Other?
* Where does it usually make its home?
* What does it eat?
* What do its teeth look like?
Also, when naming your creature or being, try to keep the name simple and easy to say. There’s nothing worse than reading a fantasy story only to be constantly interrupted as you battle to ‘say’ the name in your mind each time you read it in the book.
I hope this post helps some fellow fantasy authors. Happy writing!
Thanks Vanessa, good advice to get started! Vanessa Finaughty’s new series, “The Wizard of Ends” is out this month and you can get them through the links provided here.
A powerful sorceress wants the Queen of Ends dead, hoping her demise will render the king unable to defend his crown. Only the wizard Lashlor Leaflin is in a position to protect Queen Narraki Dragonsbane, but he avoids using magic – at almost any cost. With creatures of darkness hunting the queen, however, he may be left with little choice but to call on the power he holds within.
The Queen of Ends has been cursed into a rabid creature of darkness. Only Lashlor’s old flame, Rune Arcana, might be able to remove the curse. Lashlor believes he can find Rune in the Mountains of Eclador. The only trouble is – Rune now despises him, and, in all of recorded history, no one has ever returned from these mountains. Fearing the Wizard of Ends will not be able to bring help, the king goes against Lashlor’s advice by enlisting the aid of other magic users.
Vanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.
Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.
Wizard of Ends, Book 1: 9 October 2014
Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature: 23 October 2014