Hello, Goodbye: A Recap of My First and Last Pi-Con

so-long-9pi-smallerAs many of you know, this past weekend I attended my first fantasy/sci-fi/fandom convention in over a decade.  Yes, it has been that long since a bunch of my high school friends piled into someone’s car and drove out to Stony Book University for I-CON, a much bigger event with a much different flavor.

Despite sharing most of the same letters in their names, Pi-Con was a very different experience for me, mostly because I got take on a dual role as both attendee and panelist.

I spent the weekend running back and forth between meeting rooms, listening to fellow authors and experts, talk about magic and marketing, fighting and food, publishing and perseverance when everything seems to be heading down the tubes.

I spoke about my enduring love of Tolkien and the importance of developing robust cultures and economies while constructing the details of one’s own worlds.  I moderated a lively roundtable discussion about what a book is really worth to a reader, and took turns telling silly, improvised stories with a group of smart and funny colleagues.

I suffered through this ignoble defeat during my scheduled reading from Dark the Night Descending:

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And this while attending the afternoon Steampunk Tea:

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And I even won a couple of costuming prizes for this (shown during a previous outing last year because I didn’t take that many selfies over the weekend):

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And I only sold one book.

It was a long and kind of exhausting event, if only because I had to do so much talking that my throat was getting raw by the end of it, but I’m very glad I went.  I met a lot of new people (some of whom, I have to confess, operated somewhat outside of my comfort zone), and heard any number of vigorously defended opinions, both popular and otherwise.

Everyone was friendly and engaging and willing to talk.  Everyone listened when I had something to say (usually).  Everyone wanted to be there, and everyone saw the opportunity to indulge in their passions during a safe and communal celebration of the fact that we’re all kind of really weird.

That’s the main reason people go to conventions and fandom events and whatnot, and I think that’s great.  Even for someone with a relatively significant degree of social anxiety, which definitely started to drag on me by the third day, I never really felt out of place, unwelcome, or not geeky enough to take part in something.  The atmosphere was very comfortable, and while I’m not sure how much con-going I’ll be doing in the future, I’m glad I got to experience this one.

ribbonI’m doubly glad to have been invited this year because this was the last Pi-Con.  After nine years, the event’s organizers have decided to go their separate ways, and the sense of finality and nostalgia was everywhere.  Even though I only attended this one event, it made me keenly aware of just how much effort goes into planning and executing these local gatherings, and I’m very pleased to have been able to help fill out the impressive program in whatever small way I could.

So thank you, 9Pi-Con, for giving me an invaluable experience to remember.  It was a great weekend, and you should all be proud of yourselves for a poignant send off to what was clearly a very successful near-decade in bringing people together.

And because I came back with a whole big box of unsold novels, I’m going to be doing a few Goodreads giveaways over the next couple of weeks leading up to the launch of Dark the Dreamer’s Shadow.  Stay tuned for more details!

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A happy Oliver welcomes me home

The Lightbulb Moment

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Stop pulling.  It was a striking thought, and one that sounded simple enough, though maybe it was a bit of a strange epiphany when it comes to archery.  After all, that’s the basic notion, isn’t it?  Pull back and let go.  To stop doing that seemed like it might be counterproductive.

But archery, like writing, is about taking the “basic notion” and turning it into something entirely different.  Archery is an art that requires a very fine balance between pushing and pulling and not doing anything at all, and sometimes you’re not entirely sure when to do what in order to achieve the optimal effect.

When I told myself to stop pulling, I wasn’t saying that it was time to pack up and go home after an hour and a half of sending arrows into the corners of the target.  It wasn’t.  It was just time to stop moving the string past my anchor point as I tried to bring my elbow around in line with my shoulder (an action that would actually be sort of necessary if I was using a clicker, but I’m not).

The pull made me shoot wild, varying my draw length and causing my fingers to roll sideways off the string as I tried to control the extra bit of unreliable power I was inadvertently giving my arrows.  I wasn’t relaxed.  I wasn’t consistent.

It wasn’t my grip, or my stance, or my fletchings; it wasn’t my aiming or my shoulders or a smudge on my glasses or any of the other thousands of things I tried to change and perfect for that first deeply frustrating hour and a half.  I was tinkering with everything other than the real problem, making it all worse for myself, and I could not for the life of me figure out what was going wrong.

Then I told myself to stop pulling.  I don’t know why it suddenly came to me, but it did.  And while I was immensely relieved to see my arrows heading back into the gold, I also felt like a total idiot for not realizing what I was doing wrong a little bit sooner.

I never know whether to laugh with joy or blush with shame when the lightbulb goes off, but I think I usually do both.  I treasure those moments very dearly, whether they appear during archery practice or when I’m plotting a new novel, and I feel lucky to be able to experience them.  But they also make me feel like a fool.  I should have seen the impossible, I tell myself.  It all seems so easy now.  Why wasn’t it easy before?

Because it couldn’t be, of course.  Lightbulb moments are like optical illusions.  It’s not a failing of character or intelligence if you can’t see the hidden picture until you do.  It’s just a trick of the brain: a strangely synchronized firing of synapses that happens when you least expect it, and the outline of the old woman’s face becomes clear.

Sometimes you have to tilt the paper or step back a little bit, but other times there’s no discernable reason why your eyes decided to refocus at just such a moment in just such a way, creating some nebulous, imperceptible change that illuminates something new in your world.

It’s one of those wonderful mysteries of life and learning, and it’s one of the reasons I keep doing what I do.  I think it’s rare to be able to pinpoint the exact moment when “can’t” turns into “can.”

I wish I could remember the first instant during my childhood that squiggly lines on a page became letters that conveyed meaning.  I wish I could quantify what happens when a plot device clicks into place and a new path of possibility swings into view, opening the gate to a long road of adventure.  I wish I could bottle it and share it with people whose ideas sidle up to them more gradually, so that everyone knows how great it feels.

If you’ve ever had a lightbulb moment, I hope you treasure it, especially when you’re running up against the wall of impossibility again and again.  Remember how it feels the instant after you’ve solved a problem.  Be patient and be persistent as you work towards the answer, because it’s going to come, eventually, in a flash of brightness that’s going to make you feel silly and amazing and brilliant and dumb.  I honestly can’t think of a better sensation.

Are you a lightbulb person, or do you get your answers in a different way?  I’m interested to hear if this is a more or less universal experience, or if none of you have any idea what I’m actually talking about.  Let me know in the comments!

Come to 9Pi-Con!

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Do you like fantasy, sci-fi, gaming, and costuming?  Do you like Connecticut?  Have you always wanted to watch me talk about things while looking slightly dazed as a room full of strangers stare at me?  If so, I think you should come to 9Pi-Con in Windsor Locks between July 31 and August 2nd!

This little conference promises to be a whole lot of fun, and there’s a lot of innovative and interesting programming (I am already planning to bring multiple costumes for the Time Traveler’s Ball and the Steampunk Tea).

I will be moderating a panel on world building during Friday’s Writer’s Workshop, and participating in several events throughout the weekend, including a Tolkien discussion and a round-robin improv storytelling group.

Friday night, I’ll be holding a reading of Dark the Night Descending – and if you’re a blog reader who shows up with a copy of Dark the Night in hand, you MIGHT just get an advance copy of something you’ve all been waiting for.

So if you’re in the area or want to spring for the hotel, I would really suggest that you come on down.  I will have books to sign and sell, and plenty of time to sit down and chat about books or writing or what-have-you with anyone who can be persuaded to sit still for long enough.

If you can’t make it, I will probably be doing a lot of tweeting while I’m there, so you can always follow me to get the latest scoop.  I’m really excited about participating in my first ever con, and I think it’ll be a great experience.  I’d love to see you there!

How to Make a Linked Table of Contents for Kindle eBooks

Note: The Kindle edition of Dark the Dreamer’s Shadow is now available for pre-order!  Paperbacks can be had on August 17.  Keep an eye out for fun, exclusive Launch Day stuff by liking my page on Facebook!


In this golden age of digital self-publishing, there’s only one thing harder than writing a good book: selling it.  Whether you’re going it alone or delegating some of the buzz-building to a paid PR team, marketing a self-published novel is a tough gig.  A lot of authors make it even harder by failing to develop their product to its fullest potential before sending it out into the world.

An attractive cover is a good place to start, and targeting your audience appropriately can get the right eyeballs onto your work.  But eBooks have additional mechanics that can make or break a reader’s good opinion.

While Amazon KDP, Smashwords, and other self-publishing platforms have started to do a lot of the formatting work automatically when authors upload their content, there are a few things that still have to be done manually.

One of the most important is the table of contents (TOC).  Most eBook apps will hold a user’s place between sessions, but the absence of page numbers can make it very difficult for readers to flip back and forth between chapters without tabbing endlessly through the parts they’ve already read.

It’s easy to see why that’s a problem for non-fiction books that cover distinct subject matter in each chapter, but it can also be an issue for readers who want to review or clarify a convoluted family history or new technology that you introduced three hundred pages ago.

Creating a linked table of contents is not as complicated as it seems.  If you have access to pretty much any version of Microsoft Word, the process can take just a few minutes.  Here is a simple step-by-step guide to formatting your TOC in both Word 2003 and 2013, because some of us haven’t actually updated our software in the past decade and oh boy do I really need a new computer.

Make a table of contents page

The best thing to do is keep your eBook TOC pages pretty simple.  A lot of fancy text formatting gets stripped out of your document when you upload it, so don’t worry too much about having all your chapter names or page numbers perfectly aligned or using a long string of ellipses for spacing or anything like that.  Every electronic device will render it differently, and it’ll be very frustrating to the reader.  Just do something like this:

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This page is going to be the first thing that your readers see when they flip past the title page and front matter, so you want it to be clean and easy to navigate.  Make sure you include every point that you want a reader to be able to find easily.  If you have fifteen chapters divided into three parts, be sure to include the “Part 1, 2, and 3” divisions so readers don’t have to guess which chapters fall under which acts.

Bookmark your chapter headings

There are two main technical tasks for creating a table of contents.  The first is to bookmark your chapter headings.

Step one: go to Chapter One in your manuscript and highlight the words that you want to use as your navigation point.

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Next, in both old and new versions of Word, you must navigate to the “insert” tab or menu.  In Word 2003, you will see a “bookmarks” option towards the bottom of the drop-down.  In Word 2013, you will also have to click on the “links” tab and choose “bookmarks” from the little pull-out menu.

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That will open a dialogue box that looks very similar in both versions of Word:

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Name your bookmark something really creative like “ChapterOne”.  It will have to be a single word with no spaces, but I believe underscores are okay.

Scroll through the rest of your document and repeat the same process for each navigation point.

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Be sure to highlight the right section of text as you move through!

Link the bookmarks to the TOC page

When you have a nice long list of bookmarks, one for each chapter or text division, you can go back to your TOC page.

I’m sure you’ve all added hyperlinks to something at some point in your lives, so this isn’t going to be that complicated.  To link Chapter One to its bookmark in the text, highlight “Chapter One” in your table of contents:

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Right click and choose “hyperlink” from the menu (or use whatever shortcut gets you to the hyperlink menu).  Here’s where things get different depending on what version of software you’re using.  Let’s do Word 2003 first.

The hyperlink dialogue looks like this:

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Instead of the “web page” tab in the middle there, move over to “document”

On the bottom, where it says “anchor,” you’re going to hit “locate,” which won’t be grayed out like that.  Trust me.

That’s going to bring up this new box:

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Just choose the corresponding bookmark and hit OK.  The text on the table of contents page will turn blue and underlined, just like any other hyperlink you’ve ever seen.  Job done!  Repeat for the rest of your navigation points.

In newer versions of Word, the process is pretty much the same, but it just looks a little different.

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Highlight the appropriate text and go to the hyperlink menu.  Instead of the “existing file or webpage” tab on the left-hand side, move down to the “place in this document” option.  Choose your bookmark and hit OK.  Now you’re done, too!

Profit!

You can test out your handiwork by clicking the links on the TOC page.  You should jump right to the proper chapter heading or other navigation point.  This formatting will carry over through the scraping and squishing process that most eBook uploaders use, so you shouldn’t have a problem with weird broken markup or anything like that.

Other fun things to do with this technique?  Create a choose-your-own-adventure novel!  Link unique or confusing terms to a glossary!  Create a jump to a footnote (that then links back to the place where the reader left off)!  I think you can probably even link to external webpages, but don’t quote me on that!

The possibilities for increased reader engagement and interactivity are endless, and using this simple trick can add a new dimension of polish and professionalism to your work.  Readers are starting to expect this kind of pizazz, so it’s a good skill to master.  Try it out in your next eBook and see what happens!

World Building 101: Four Steps for Designing the Fantasy Landscape

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Whether you’re self-published, traditionally published, or just writing for yourself, all fantasy authors have one big thing in common: we all love being the omnipotent rulers of our own little worlds.  There is something immensely satisfying about imagining our brave adventurers hiking through treacherous mountains or galloping towards the enemy on the field of battle, stirring passions in our readers as we fling fictional men and women into deadly conflict, hopelessly tangled in a complex web of fears, loves, hatred, and desires as they risk their lives for some noble (or ignoble) cause.

The bulk of any fantasy should be driven by these characters and the decisions that they make.  But the bones of every good story will be rooted in the earth.  I’m talking world building in its most literal sense: the way the landscape shapes cultures, inhibits movements, presents perils, and contours the personality of its inhabitants.

If you tend to think of geography as nothing more than that easy class you took sophomore year of college, you might want to reconsider its place in your writing repertoire.   Here are four important steps to take when integrating the landscape into your basic story development.

Draw a world map

In my opinion this is the most critical (and most fun) part of the world building process.  It doesn’t matter if you have artistic talent or not: you have to have a visual overview of what you’re trying to achieve.  Whether you’re working in a pre-industrial landscape where the majority of people are still tied to the villages where they were born or a steampunk metropolis with rapid transit opportunities, you’ll never know where your characters are going until you can see it for yourself.

Where are the farmlands?  Where are your cities?  Where are the trade routes, and who has control of them?  How long will it take for people to travel from the capital city to the Haunted Cave of the Magic Thing?  What’s going to get in their way?  How will your giant armies maintain their supply lines through rough terrain perfect for hiding rebellious partisans?  How will a colder or warmer climate change a battle plan?

Sketching out the mountain ranges, lakes, oceans, islands, and rivers, as well as the boarders between countries and the major routes of travel, can be a quick and simple way to get a better idea of how your world is going to shake out.  It doesn’t have to be publication quality, but it should at least be a solid guide for your own edification.

Look at some real maps to get an idea of how land masses are formed.  Mountains don’t just stick up in the middle of nowhere, and rivers don’t just spring up for the heck of it and flow any which way they want.  Get a handle on the basic relation of geographical features if you want to add a rich, realistic dimension to your landscape.

And don’t forget to draw things to scale!  Journeys are big deal in fantasy writing, and if you have multiple plot threads with people moving across the landscape, you want to make sure they aren’t crossing entire continents at an improbably rate of speed.

Adapt and tailor your cultures

It’s easy for fantasy authors to take the pick-and-mix approach to cultural development, and say, “Well, I want an Arab-based culture here, and a Mongolian-type tribe over there, and a Spanish Conquistador-esque arrangement on the next continent over.”  We all do it to some extent, because it’s really hard not to draw from what we know when we try to think about how people behave.

I’m totally fine with that – as long as you put your cultures somewhere that makes sense.  What made the Mongols so effective at being a ravening horde?  Their wide open grassland habitat and subsequent mastery of horses.  So don’t put them on a tropical island chain and expect anyone to believe they can be successful nomadic herders.

Do make sure that the people on those islands do island-related things like eat a lot of fish and build good boats.  They might intermarry at a higher-than-average rate if they’re isolated from other cultures.  That might make their family alliances stronger – or it might fuel an ancient feud inflamed by outside exploration.

This might seem like basic stuff, but it’s important to really think about how being near a major river will affect a culture’s development differently than being next to the sea, or how a character raised on rich farmland will have a different perspective on the gods and fates of your universe than one who has lived with drought and famine because a city upstream is diverting water or hogging all the grain.

Environmental stressors make great conflict-builders, but you need to understand the mechanics behind them if you want your world to feel realistic.

Build tension through history

My love of history has always informed my love of fantasy, because they are largely the same thing.  Sure, there are fewer (provable) elves in Dark Ages Europe than there are in Middle Earth, but that’s just semantics.  The way people have interacted with each other throughout our real history – the way they trade goods and exchange ideas and explore strange religions – has always driven how the fantasy genre unfolds, and that history is a breeding ground for plot points that can engross your readers in your story.

It’s all about resources.  It always has been.  It’s why people conquer their neighbors and why cities fall to sieges.  Grain, meat, water, minerals, metals, and wood are what empires are built on, and the back-and-forth of armies and politicians crossing physical and social boundaries to grasp at them is why history and fantasy are both so fascinating.

Old wars and old wounds are sometimes even more interesting than new ones, and they can add a richness and depth to your characters’ allegiances.  Did someone kill someone else’s ancestor in the battle over a strategic bridge?  Did a legion starve to death in the mountains because a storm took out the ships promised by the king?  Did someone seize a village or a mine that they ought to have left alone and made your hero an orphan?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to create conflict through the things that are important to people who don’t have grocery stores and mega marts to shop in.  For agrarian societies, the land is life, and the land is death, and the land is where you can spark some of the most interesting struggles your world is going to see.

Stay consistent as the action unfolds

Above all, be sure that when you make a decision, you stick with it.  You might want to write a world where rivers really do flow upside down, cargo dragons make mountains irrelevant, and everything is grown hydroponically underground.  That’s great!  Be creative, but be consistent.

No matter how your world operates, figure out what can go wrong with the system and crack that sucker open as widely as you can.  It doesn’t take much to make a delicately balanced universe come tumbling to its knees, but it has to be believable.

Ensuring continuity and consistency with world building takes a little bit of background work, to be sure, but I can’t imagine any situation where it wouldn’t pay off.  This doesn’t mean that you need to devote 12,000 pages to talking about alluvial deposits and glacial erratics and drainage ditches, but a spoonful of detail can make a world of difference (pardon the pun) to readers looking for an immersive and engaging escape.

Target Practice

 

Hello, readers!  I hope you all had a lovely long weekend (or at least a tolerable one, for those of you condemned to work), and had a chance to enjoy some of the wonderful weather we’ve been having here in the Northeast.  After the hideous winter we just endured, it’s nice to have a good, long taste of sunshine and greenery.

I’m going to tell you all about my springtime adventures – but first, I want to assure you that I haven’t been sparse with the blogging due to excessive frolicking or anything like that.  I have been working very hard on getting Dark the Dreamer’s Shadow into shape for publication, and I’m happy to say that I will be ordering my very first printed proof copy in just a few days.

I like to use the paperback for my last few major editing tasks (including my always-unsuccessful attempt at total typo extermination), which means that general release is imminent.

How imminent?  Well, it’s going to be a bit of a busy summer for me, so I’m going to tentatively say that launch day will be sometime in early-to-mid August.  It depends, right now, on how much work I still have left to do in regards to design and formatting and whatnot.

I will certainly be sharing more of the details and reveals and fun pre-launch activities as I zero in on a realistic release date.

In the meantime, how about some pictures?

I was here this weekend:

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That’s one of the overlooks at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, a really beautiful spot to take in some flowers.

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You can also walk a few miles of forest trails, and meet local residents like this little fellow…

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…and this vigilant winged friend.

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It’s a good thing they’re both on the lookout for danger, because I’ve been working on my archery lately, and took to the woods (in a completely different part of the state) for the first time ever to snag me some tasty Styrofoam.

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Don’t worry, hunting real animals is not on my agenda.  This is called 3D shooting, which lets you practice some of the same skills you might use (unmarked distances, variable targets, uneven footing, branches and brush in the way) without actually hurting anything.

It’s especially difficult if you’re like me and shoot a recurve without any sights, stabilizers, or extra fancy equipment, because every shot is essentially a guess.  That’s actually a pretty good group of arrows, under the circumstances, even if they’re not directly on the orange spot.  And I didn’t lose any in the woods, which is even better.

For someone who has only ever shot indoors at a single distance without the interference of the sun or wind or anything else, it was really a whole lot of fun to challenge myself, especially since I am admittedly not really an outdoorsy person.  For a very short period of time, in a very safe and controlled environment where the only threat to life and limb is a bit of poison ivy and a few stray sticks, I get to feel a bit like one of my characters – and I get to understand exactly how quickly I would collapse and die in any of the situations I put them in.  Let’s hope I don’t get magically transported back in time until I’ve been able to improve my woodcraft a bit more.

So that’s been the deal at Jen Central for the past few weeks.  Editing, archery, more editing, more archery.  It’s not always easy for me to hit my targets with either of them, but I have been working hard, and things are starting to pay off.  I hope you are all seeing similar fruits of your labors, whatever they may be, as the summer rolls around.

Stay tuned to Inkless for more information about Dark the Dreamer’s Shadow in the coming weeks.  I assure you, it’ll be worth the wait.

Goodreads Ratings and the Curse of the One-Star Review

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For those returning visitors who may be finding yourselves a bit disoriented, welcome to the new Inkless, fresh from a facelift and chemical peel.  Feel free to poke around and explore!

Book reviews.  Authors love to have them.  Perspective buyers love to peruse them.  Readers can sometimes be successfully cajoled into leaving them if there is some kind of valuable bribe involved.  Those five little stars are so critically important to making sales and hitting goals that authors will bludgeon all their friends, acquaintances, Twitter followers, and blog browsers into leaving just a few kind words and a rating that might push them an inch or two higher up the best-sellers list.  We agonize over every criticism and nod our heads in agreement at every minor piece of praise, soaking up admiration like particularly snooty sponges each time a reader sees it our way.

A good review is one of the best things that can happen to a writer whose self-esteem hangs by a thread, and getting panned can sting so badly that it wipes out weeks of potential productivity as wounds are nursed and fragile egos rebuilt with the aid of cookies, kitty cuddles, and hard drugs.

But what’s worse than a bad review from a reader who didn’t like a character or felt cheated by an ending?  An unintentionally bad review, left completely by accident, that is still displayed prominently and drags down a book’s average rating.

Anyone who has browsed Goodreads has probably come across this painful phenomenon.  Books that haven’t been released yet have user ratings down in the two-and-a-halfs, or novels that have received nearly universal acclaim still have a smattering of one-star reviews next to random readers’ names.  These one-star users never leave a comment explaining their decision.  They may give four and five stars to everything else on their book list.  They appear callous, heartless, and careless: the enemy of all that is good about exchanging opinions with fellow readers; the bane of authors everywhere.

Why do they do this?  Because, most of the time, they have absolutely no idea that they are causing the author so much unwarranted angst.

In my experience, one-star reviews on Goodreads are nearly always the product of mistaken identity.  The user hasn’t the faintest recollection of having rated the book.

Before Dark the Night Descending was available for purchase, I had at least three one-star reviews on my record, and the first impression was terrible.  I was tearing my hair out.  How could anyone hate something so much when they hadn’t even read it?  No one was going to take a chance on the first book of a new, self-published series if it was already being condemned by the all-important stars.  It wasn’t fair, and it spurred me to action.

I messaged each of the users.   “It was just a stray click.  I was trying to add it to my reading list,” one said. “I had no idea – I’m so sorry,” said the others.  They were looking for an excerpt, or trying to click away, or perform some other harmless action that tripped them up.  All of the users involved retracted their reviews immediately and promised they would review my book again after they had actually read it.  Everyone was very nice, and I thanked them all profusely, but the experience wasn’t just embarrassing for both sides of the equation.  It should be totally unnecessary.

Readers trust Goodreads for advice from their peers about what to pick up during their next trip to the bookstore, and authors count on Goodreads for the publicity that keeps everyone in business.  So why is it so easy for readers to accidently mislead their fellows, hurting authors and the reputation of Goodreads in the process?  Why do we have to experience so much grief over something that seems so easy to fix?

One solution would be to require, as Amazon does, a minimum amount of text before posting a review.  But I can see why Goodreads wouldn’t want to change their dual-review system quite that much.  I like the fact that you can just leave a star without thinking of some pithy comment to put with it.  Leaving a star is easy, and encourages readers to rate more books more quickly, which is generally a good thing.

Another solution would be to ask a reader, “Are you sure you meant to leave one star?” before allowing them to submit the entry.  I suppose that might run the risk of artificially inflating the rankings of books that really are total stinkers – a snap review is often a more honest one, and I think that usually works in everyone’s favor.  You don’t want someone second-guessing themselves if they actually did hate something.

So here’s my answer: just make the reader aware of what they did.  Add a little pop-up to the review process that says, “You just gave a one-star rating to Dark the Night Descending.”  If they meant to do it, they’ll ignore the prompt.  If they didn’t mean it, maybe they’ll go back and change their mistake.  Everyone wins.  Authors won’t suffer, readers won’t be unduly inconvenienced, and the integrity of the Goodreads empire will remain whole.

Readers, does that sound fair?  Authors, wouldn’t you like to see a little more quality control?  Let’s make sure that what we’re doing matters, and that our opinions are properly counted.  That seems like a five-star idea to me.