Book Review – The Girl in the Spider’s Web

This book is the continuation of the Stieg Larsson series. While Larsson’s series was wrapped in the world of finance and banking, technology takes more of a prominent role in Lagercrantz’s entry in the series.

For a book with ‘The Girl’ in the title, the interesting title character, Lisbeth Salander, doesn’t make an appearance in the book until nearly 40% in. When she is featured, it is for short bursts. The book doesn’t feature this multi-dimensional character nearly enough. If this series is to continue, it needs to go back to what brought it to prominence.

This story, instead of focusing on corporate and economic intrigue like those in the triology, focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and the ramifications of it progressing in an unregulated fashion. A brilliant scientist in this field is murdered and the protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, has been contacted to unravel the situation. The story has ties to United States intelligence that are distracting to the plot.
Then there is the matter of the underuse of Lisbeth Salander’s character. She flits in and out of the story, but is also not as integral to the plot as she was in the original trilology.
I’m always torn when characters belonging to an author that is deceased are continued on by other authors. I was disappointed by the Godfather books by Mark Winegardner. I know that he was selected by Mario Puzo’s family to continue the series, but these books were sub-par. I found the same disappointment reading Kyle Mills effort to continue the late Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series in The Survivor.
Overall, I gave this book three out of five pizzas.
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Book Review – The Altar Girl by Orest Stelmach

Last June, I finally took the plunge and joined Kindle Unlimited. I also decided to branch out and read work from authors that might not be as well known (because the well known authors don’t typically participate in Kindle Unlimited). This led me to “The Altar Girl”, the prequel the Nadia Tesla series by Orest Stelmach.

Synopsis

The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

My Take

From the very beginning, I was intrigued. The world that his protagonist, Nadia Tesla, exists in is a small, but influential community of Ukranian emigres that live in Hartford, Connecticut. His story revolves around the death of Nadia’s godfather and her investigation into the circumstances.

Stelmach does a very good job of telling the story from a female protagonist perspective without trying too hard like many other more famous authors. He also does a very good job of alternating the current story thread with a thread from Nadia’s childhood as she goes through survival training.

I look forward to reading more of Stelmach’s work and I’m grateful that joining Kindle Unlimited led me to his books.

This book was well-written and led me to read the other three books in the Nadia Tesla series. I was struck by how the Ukranian culture is very similar to my own Italian culture in terms of family values.

There were some instances in the book where the plot meandered into unexpected directions, but it was mostly a tight plot.

Overall, I give this book four out of five pizzas

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About the Author

Orest Stelmach is the author of the Nadia Tesla series, which is being translated into five languages. The first of the four books, The Boy from Reactor 4, is currently being developed as a feature film, with the author attached as screenwriter and executive producer.

Orest was born to Ukrainian immigrants in Connecticut and speaks four languages. He’s a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Chicago Booth School of Business. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he managed international investment portfolios. He lives with his wife and cat on Cape Cod.

Nelle Harper Lee – 1926 – 2016

Anyone who knows me is aware of my favorite book of all time. I even list it in my ‘about’ page. To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that has resonated with me at different times in my life. Today, the author of that book, Harper Lee, has passed away.

The past couple of years of Ms. Lee’s life have been interesting and maybe a bit controversial. The so-called prequel/sequel to her most famous work was ‘discovered’ and rushed to publication. There was much speculation over her feelings about this work being published. Like any follow-up to a momentous work, there wasn’t much hope that it would eclipse the first one. After joining scores of others who read it, I can only say that it did not diminish my love for the first book, nor did it approach that feeling as its own work.

Harper Lee lived the experiences that she so eloquently wrote about in her first book. It was a masterpiece, in my opinion, and will make her immortal. Rest in peace.

In tribute, I am linking to a review that I did of To Kill A Mockingbird about a year ago as I reread it for probably the 5th time in anticipation of Go Set A Watchman. 

Your thoughts and comments are welcome:

https://donmassenzio.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/a-review-of-to-kill-a-mockingbird-in-anticipation-of-go-set-a-watchman-to-kill-a-mockingbird-2/

 

Behind the Story of Blood Orange

I remember reading an interview with Stephen King where he said that the single most hated question that he receives from fans and critics is, “where do you get your ideas?” His snarky answer, after being asked the question countless times was, “I have a big box in the basement labeled ‘ideas’ that I go to every time I write a book or a story.”

Blood Orange is my fourth book. My previous three books were detective novels. The ideas for those books mostly came from my imagination with specific real life people forming composites that became each character. With Blood Orange, the story came to me from a different source. A good friend of mine from high school who may or may not admit to being in the marching band with me, but would definitely admit to a long and distinguished career in the US Navy, reached out to me after reading one of my books. He had a story idea rattling around in his head for a while. He went as far as contact Clive Cussler to see if he was interested. He received a handwritten note back from Mr. Cussler telling him that the story idea was a good one, but he did not take unsolicited story ideas and was quite busy with many works in progress.

I was intrigued by my friend, Brian Fogarty’s idea. It appealed to me on two levels. First, we are from the same hometown, Syracuse, New York. Syracuse is known for two things, snow and college basketball. I moved from Syracuse to Florida 20 years ago and I miss one of those things, but the other, not so much. College basketball was a passion that got us through the long winters. We lived and died with our team. The premise in the book, from which I published an excerpt in my previous blog, describes the Syracuse basketball fan’s ultimate dream; Syracuse playing Duke in the championship game which miraculously takes place in the Carrier Dome, the iconic Syracuse Basketball arena. The book builds up this dream and then shatters it.

The second aspect of the story builds upon a factual historical event that took place in Syracuse nearly 100 years ago. At that time, World War I was nearing its end. The manufacture of munitions and gun powder in the U.S. was extremely important to the war effort. In July of 1918, a horrific tragedy took place at a munitions plant called Split Rock in what is now the Camillus area of Syracuse. Brian’s brilliant idea was to take that tragedy and turn it into something more sinister and conspiratorial. Without giving away the premise, we did this and then tied the original, factual tragedy to the modern day potential tragedy.

It involved taking something very positive that occurred in a community and turning it into an unspeakable tragedy. It was both an interesting and painful journey to take. While researching many of the terrorist aspects of the book, I waited to hear the knock on the door from the NSA looking to seize my computers. It was also concerning how much information is readily available on the Internet regarding terrorism tactics.

For all it’s worth, Blood Orange was a very personal journey that was rewarding because I got to collaborate with a distinguished veteran who also happens to be a friend. I also was able to write about my hometown and hopefully jinx any kind of tragedy from happening there by writing about it.

If you want to read an excerpt, just check out my previous blog for one of the early chapters.  If you want to read the reviews and check it out on Amazon, just click here.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

About Don Massenzio:

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian-American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series was released on April 24th, 2015 and is available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

Independent Publishers – Outsource Your Marketing to Save Yourself Time

One of the recurring themes in my blog is the time-consuming nature of marketing your book if you are an independently-published author. You’ve heard me talk about my day job, time management, and producing more ‘product’. You might ask, where does marketing and PR come in when trying to increase exposure for your book.

This is the one aspect of independent publishing where I turned to a professional for help.  As an independent author, I had no difficulty navigating Amazon, Create Space, and Barnes and Noble to publish print and e-book versions of my book. I had an editor, beta readers, and a cover designer. What I didn’t have is market research to tell me things that I needed to know and to help me build my network. The collective knowledge of a marketing professional that handles many authors can be a huge help. Here are some of the areas where outsourcing my marketing gives me an advantage:

Key Word Research – Amazon and other publishing platforms allow you to select key words. These are terms that make your book appear in certain searches that readers might run looking for books to read. All of the marketing experts recommend changing these words frequently to keep your work popping up on the latest searches. My marketing professional is able to regularly give me keywords. Updating them on a regular basis is easy and effective if you know what words to use. Because of exposure to multiple authors and search trends, the keywords that I’m given have more credibility than just guessing at what words to use.

Participation in Blog Tours – Because a book marketing professional presumably handles many authors, they have a group that can be called upon for blog tours. Every independently published author should have a blog to increase exposure. When we utilize each others blogs, it opens up an entirely new list of followers that will exponentially increase that exposure. Book marketing professionals can help you increase your network and help other authors in the process by sharing your own blog followers.

Interviews – In addition to blog tours, my book marketing guy helps me by frequently circulating interviews about me and my writing on different venues. These venues can be independent author web sites and blogs, online magazines, and other similar vehicles that I might not have access to on my own. He is able to spin interviews from a pool of questions that I have responded to and time the interviews with upcoming events such as book launches, cover reveals, etc.

Third Party Validation – It’s one thing to post links to your book on hundreds of groups on Facebook or to your twitter followers, but having someone else do it for you increases your credibility. If a respected third party is telling their multitude of followers that your book is worth a look it goes a long way. In addition, most marketing professionals have many more groups and platforms for this information to gain traction.

Cafeteria Style Services – The marketing person that I use has everything from full-service book PR packages down to single reviews and interviews that are very reasonably priced. You can pick and choose the services you want. If you need a third party review, a podcast interview, posting on Facebook, or something similar, you can pick just these services and pay a one time or monthly price accordingly. I like this arrangement because it allows me to ramp up or down and then measure the results. This is an important aspect of using outside marketing, make sure you can measure the results and adjust your marketing choices accordingly.

Now that I’ve talked about outside marketing/PR services, I want to stress that you use caution in selecting them. Here are some guidelines to help you select the one that’s right for you.

Beware of Full-Service Only – I mentioned the cafeteria-style arrangement that I have. For independently-published authors that don’t have unlimited funds, this is probably the way to go. If you lock yourself into full-service, you may be throwing money away and the results of what worked and what didn’t may be murky. Make sure you are focusing your marketing dollars.

Talk to Other Authors – Before outsourcing my marketing, I talked to other authors that were further down the path that had marketing campaigns that I admired. I found that they were usually very forthcoming about what and who they had good experiences with and what and who to stay away from. I try to share this information as well. If anyone is interested in my experiences with my outsourced marketing, you can email me at don@donmassenzio.com.

Don’t be Afraid to Try Something Different – One thing I’ve learned through outsourcing my marketing is that it isn’t just the books that are being marketed when you are independently published. It is the author, the author’s thoughts, and the author’s image that get marketed as well. Be prepared to do podcast interviews, written interviews, giveaways, and other things that might take you out of your comfort zone.

Be Opinionated – If you are not happy with a particular aspect of your marketing or you feel that something is damaging your image, say so. You are paying for a service so you have a right to express your own ideas and input. Don’t be forced into a cookie-cutter marketing approach that is contrary to your vision.

I hope that these tips have been helpful to you. I have found much more success and have freed up time by outsourcing certain aspects of my book marketing. That being said, I try to keep my spending limits within the boundaries of the profit that I’m making on my writing. Someday, like all of us, I hope that my profit greatly exceeds what I’m spending, but until then, I want to keep these expenses in line. My marketing person understands and respects this. It has been a mutually beneficial arrangement thus far and I am hoping to gradually outsource more of my marketing chores so I can spend more time writing. I’m sure that is a goal for most of us.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series will be coming out in April, 2015.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

Self-Publishing – Your Fellow Authors are not Your Enemies – Let’s Help Each Other

If you are like me, you are aware of the thousands of other authors that are in the self-publishing universe on social media platforms. We all belong to groups on Facebook and we promote our books, blogs, giveaways, and events. We start to see the same names over and over relentlessly touting our work.

As I first entered the self-publishing world, I viewed all of these authors as people that were competing for my readers. I wanted to out-promote and out-sell all of them. Over the past year or so, however, my view has changed. Instead of viewing my fellow authors as competitors, I have come to think of them as fellow pioneers. I selected the word pioneer purposely. Early American pioneers didn’t compete against each other. The amount of land and natural resources available were abundant. Pioneers worked together to build houses and cultivate crops so that they could all survive. If they had competed against each other, it is likely that none would have survived.

Like these early settlers, I believe it is important for self-published authors to work together. Besides writing, I have made it my goal to help authors as much as possible. We are encumbered with a stigma from those in the traditionally published world who perpetuate the notion that our work is not up to the same standard as the work coming out of publishing houses. In many cases, this is not a valid assertion. In some cases, unfortunately, it is true.

So how can we, as self-published authors, help each other? Here are some of the things that I try to do in my quest to pay it forward.

1) Share the lessons I’ve learned – I’m about to publish my third book. The experience of publishing the first book was one that was very daunting. I had no idea how to format my book for the Kindle and paperback platforms. I knew nothing about marketing. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. I read some books (by self-published authors) on how to get started, but a lot of the things that I tried were done on a trial and error basis. I made note of what worked and what didn’t. When it came time to publish my second book, I used some of the techniques that I picked up publishing the first one and it was a much smoother process. I felt like I wanted to share this information with other authors. That is the reason I changed this blog into a weekly post that seeks to help others with their writing and publishing. Starting a blog like this is simple. I highly recommend that other authors do this and occasionally share tips so that we can all improve the craft that we obviously love.

2) Read each other’s work – It is important to read the work of other self-published authors. The first self-published author that I read was Hugh Howey. For those of you that have been under a rock in the self-publishing world, Hugh Howey is the extremely successful standard model for self-published authors. He has made millions with his self-published works and, now that he has gained fame and respect, has doggedly refused to go the traditionally published route. While Hugh Howey is the standard, I make it a point to read work from other self-published authors. I have been pleasantly surprised in some cases and have offered advice in others. On the whole, I think that the assertion that self-published work is of a lower standard is greatly exaggerated.

3) Share your resources – There are certain tasks, as self-published authors, that we should concentrate on. Editing, marketing, cover design, etc. are just a few of the common tasks that we all must undertake to ensure the quality of our work. Everyone has different approaches to these things. Some work very well, and others have mixed success. Let’s share our techniques and tools that we use to handle these tasks. We can all benefit. If you have a great cover designer, for instance, there is no benefit to you to keep their identity and talent a secret. Share their name with other authors. Your cover designer will appreciate the work and the growth in reputation and fellow authors will benefit through having nicely designed covers. This same principle is true for sharing editors, beta readers, and outsourced marketing. I now have all of these things that are traditionally provided by publishing houses in place, and I am more than happy to share with other authors.

4) Make friends with as many authors as possible – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are excellent forums for you to make friends with your fellow self-published authors. You should trade reviews with them, share tips, and promote their work and interviews through your own social media network. Your readers will thank you for introducing them to other work that they may enjoy and you will all benefit from the combined strength of your networks. There are those short-sighted individuals that will yield their limited power and seek to trash your work. It’s just part of human nature. Like bitter movie or restaurant critics, those who disparage your work are just reflecting their own failures in many cases. The trick is to parse their criticism looking for things that you can act on to improve your work. If you find nothing, then acknowledge the uselessness of their critique and move on. Never, ever respond to a negative critique publicly. All this will do is give validation to the negative review and will make you look defensive.

5) Help other authors one-on-one – I recently had the pleasure of returning to my hometown. I had the chance to meet with one of my fellow high-school graduates who is also a self-published author. We traded some tips and agreed to read each others books. It was very enjoyable for me to discuss the things I had gone through face-to-face with someone with common experiences. Additionally, I am participating in my first group author event in April. It will involve networking and book signing. I have received a great deal of help from other authors that have gone through these events before in terms of what I need and how I need to prepare.

The bottom line is, we are all in this together. To use a sports analogy, when Michael Jordan played basketball, his presence on the team raised the game of all of his teammates. He wasn’t selfish in using his talent to help others improve their game. We have people like Hugh Howey who can be compared to the Michael Jordan of self-publishing. He is very willing to share his information and help us all raise our game. We should also seek to share our good information. There are plenty of readers willing to consume our work, so we should seek to provide them with the best quality product possible by working together.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

The Importance of an Editor and Beta Readers for Independent Authors

My blog this week focuses on the importance of using an editor and enlisting beta readers if you are an independent author.

Let’s start by comparing/contrasting independent and traditional publishing. In traditional publishing, an author receives an advance (if he or she is lucky). This advance is usually a fairly small amount. The author may then receive royalties for books sold after a certain number. The royalties can vary from pennies per book to dollars if you are a bestselling author. In exchange for allowing the traditional publisher to publish your work, you receive editing, formatting, publicity, and marketing services. The quality and effectiveness of these services can vary depending on how much the publishing company believes it can make from your book. In the end, very few published authors make a living wage from traditionally published books.

Independent authors know that their world is a different one. All of the services mentioned for traditional publishers are either do-it-yourself or individually purchased from the many service providers out there. Future blogs will talk about which of these services make sense for independent authors, but I want to focus on the two that I believe are the most important and what you should look for in each.

The first, and perhaps most important, service that an independent author should look for is editing. What is editing with respect to a book? There is no simple answer to this. I suppose that editing, in its purest form, is checking your work for punctuation, spelling, usage, and grammar errors. These things are important. You may think, as an author, that you are an expert on these things. You may very well be very proficient in these areas, but over the course of a 70,000 word manuscript consisting of your own work, you are going to miss something. Having a fresh set of eyes with some expertise can help save you embarrassing typos and spelling mistakes.

I am very fortunate. My editor is a dear friend, but not the type of friend that will tell me something is good when it is not. I mentioned before that, in my opinion, editing services can vary. The qualities that set my editor apart is that she is an avid reader and has writing ability of her own. She spots weak story elements and plot inconsistencies and is excellent at documenting them.

If you are using a friend, or anyone, as an editor, you must be able to take criticism and be willing to implement the suggested changes. It is rare that I disregard or disagree with the changes my editor suggests. Your mindset should be that your editor is the first reader of a particular work. If they have issues with elements of your work, this will be multiplied exponentially once you publish your work if you do not change them. You need to trust your editor and develop a working chemistry with him or her to be effective in producing quality work.

Finding an editor can be a challenge. There are, however, various services out there such as eLance and Fiverr. I have provided services on eLance and they do have a decent screening process where you can vet potential editors. I have used services on Fiverr, most notably for my cover art and trailers. Services on Fiverr are inexpensive, but you have to carefully vet your service provider or you might get what you pay for. Of course, I am always willing to share my editor. She is very good at what she does and has bandwidth to take on other clients.

The second focus of this blog is the use of beta readers. Beta readers are early previewers of your book that read through it after the editing process is complete. They look for story element inconsistencies and other elements of your book from the perspective as a fan and a reader. It’s a good idea to pick a couple of readers that are big fans of your writing, but are not afraid to give suggestions.  This process is like having a focus group or preview audience for your product that gives their opinion to you on a small scale before you release it to the relentless general public. Beta readers will spot things in your book that you and your editor missed such as inconsistencies in character traits, likability of your characters, and other intangibles. This is especially importance if your characters span more than one book in a series. You don’t want to publish a book in a series that has continuity issues with previous books.

One famous example of this, and he actually points this out in the forward of his second book of the series, is from David Morrell’s Rambo series. In the first Rambo book, John Rambo dies. When the book was made into the Sylvester Stallone movie, the studio had the dollar signs associated with sequels in their eyes. Since zombies weren’t in fashion back then, Rambo’s fate had to be changed in the movie. The interesting thing is that Morrell had the novelization rights for the sequel and had to right the second book in the series despite having killed off his main character in the first book. In his forward, he tells this story and basically says that he ignored Rambo’s death in the first book and just wrote the sequel. Of course, Stallone went on to make other sequels and Rambo eventually turned into a parody of the original character.

You might ask why, as an independent author, I am focusing on editors and beta readers. To answer that question, download some works from your fellow authors and look at the quality. There are some books of excellent quality in the world of independent publishing. And then there are some that are…not so much. Independent authors have a stigma, mostly perpetuated by traditional publishing, that the quality is lacking in their work. Those authors, such as Hugh Howey, that have survived and thrived in independent publishing have debunked this perception. In my work, I am trying to publish work of high-quality as well. I personally don’t believe this is possible without strong editing and beta readers.

I want to see independent publishing evolve into a force that overtakes traditional publishing. I don’t think that a group of corporate publishing wonks in an ivory tower in New York should decide what books should and should not be published. The recording industry has gone in the independent direction, and movies and television are following. Let’s work together as authors to make our quality stand up against the traditionally published work. Editing and the use of beta readers are a big step in that direction. If you use them wisely, you will recoup and exceed every dollar that you invest in your writing.

If you have questions about these topics or you want to be put in touch with my editor, please let me know at don@donmassenzio.com

Thanks again for making this blog a success. The viewership increases each week and I am happy to keep helping my fellow authors by publishing it.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

Reacting to Feedback as a Self Published Author

As you dive into the world of self-publishing, one of the biggest fears that you must overcome is the unknown reactions that you will get from those that read your work. For me, I had written a short story and kept it to myself for months before I finally shared it with my wife. I knew I could count on her for honest feedback. I knew she was aware of my writing ability from many of the business and personal documents I had either written or helped her with at home. Also, when I was an independent consultant, she often looked at the documents I produced.

This was different, however. I had invented my own story with characters, settings, and emotions. If she hated it, I would have probably quit going down this path. Luckily, she liked it and I continued on and gradually expanded the circle of people that I let read and comment on my work.

I became very lucky with this path. I have a dear friend who is an avid reader and is very detail-oriented. She agreed to become my editor. In this capacity, she not only caught all of my careless punctuation and grammatical mistakes, she also looked at my story objectively and told me what parts worked and didn’t work. My first two short stories were published by an online literary magazine. My first book, Frankly Speaking, went the independent publishing route through Amazon.

Once the book was published, the iterative process of receiving feedback began. It started with family members that bought the book and posted five star reviews on Amazon. After a couple of those, the initial excitement wore off because they were, after all, family members. The excitement really began when I started to receive reviews from people I didn’t know. Those five star reviews really validated what I had done.

One day, after the first book was out a couple of months, I received a two star review, the first that was less than five stars after about 12 reviews. I quickly looked to see what valuable feedback I had received from this reviewer and there was only a single word in the review, “Boring”. I felt a few different emotions, one of which was anger. I looked to see what other brilliant reviews this person had posted and only found two other book reviews that were just a stellar for gardening books.  My initial reaction to this review was to reply to the reviewer on Amazon. I wanted to ask why they found the book boring and what I could have done to make it better. I also wanted to chastise the person. I had written 70,000 or so words and this only merited a one-word review. I actually went as far as writing a response and then I came to my senses and deleted it. I had seen other independent authors respond to negative reviews and I promised myself I wasn’t going to be “that guy”. After this one word review, several additional four and five star reviews came in and this one bad review became an anomaly.

I also publish a newsletter and I correspond with readers via email. One of my readers, a former English teacher, wrote me to let me know that she thoroughly enjoyed my book but she had found some additional typos, grammatical issues, etc. in the book and would I be insulted if she sent them to me. Part of the flexibility in independent publishing is being able to go back and improve upon your product once it’s published. I could have left it alone, but I felt that future readers deserved the best product possible. I corrected the book and I then proceeded to enlist this person as a beta reader on my future books. This is definitely a suggestion that I would make to my fellow authors. Find those detail-oriented, voracious readers out there and let them preview your books. They will find things that you and your editors missed and it will make your book a better product.

So, what is the bottom line of reacting to feedback. Take it all in. Qualify it. Use what is useful and discard what is not. In the end, you will have a better product and if you publish a better product, that improves the playing field for all self-published authors. There is a stigma in some circles regarding self-publishing. The quality of the product is viewed as less than that of published works. In some cases, this is true. There are self-published authors that self-edit or don’t bother to edit at all and their product is lacking. Don’t be one of those. Treat your self-published work as something you wish to be proud of. Don’t be afraid of feedback. Qualify both the positive and the negative feedback so that you can find the useful stuff and discard what is not going to help you.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com