Help Your Favorite Author…Even if It’s Not Me

Most readers don’t realize that authors have to do most–sometimes all–of the marketing for their books. Many–perhaps most–authors would prefer to spend their time writing the next book and feel very intimidated about marketing the current one.

I’m one of many authors who have read so much about marketing that it all runs together. Regardless of what anyone says, there’s no guaranteed way to make a success out of any book.

Word of mouth is supposed to be the best marketing tool. Too often, however, readers fail to share their opinions about a book with people who might benefit from reading what they think.

And by that I mean writing a review on Amazon and/or Good Reads.

Some readers feel intimidated when they look at other people’s reviews. They read a scholarly-looking review and think they can never match it. I’ve read a number of reviews that would make me feel that way!

The truth is, readers don’t need to write something like that. An honest sentence or two actually helps to balance out the lengthier, more professional-sounding reviews.

Here’s a simple four-star review for The Devil and Pastor Gus:
“Interesting to see how the devil gets into hearts and lives and humans try to play both sides. Pastor Gus was a fun character.”

Who wouldn’t be comfortable writing something like that?

A simple review can even mix the good and the bad: Here’s a three-star review for Pastor Gus:

“I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It made me think about how Satan is the real enemy, more so than people. Unfortunately, I think Satan smarter than this character portrayal.”

Many of my friends have read Rosa No-Name and raved about it to my wife or me, but only nine people have written Amazon reviews.

Five thousand copies of the original edition of Found in Translation were sold, but only twenty-seven people left reviews. The original edition of Lost in Dreams (we’ve renamed the new edition A Season of Pebbles) sold twenty-five hundred copies. Only seventeen reviews.

Can you imagine how much better those books might have done if their readers had been willing to share their opinions in a review?

Even bad reviews can help. Not every book is for every reader, and it’s good to point out what someone else might not like in a particular book.

Found in Translation and A Season of Pebbles are now available from Winged Publications, along with Overshadowed, the previously unpublished third book in the Altered Hearts series. I’m currently editing and revising The Flowers of His Field, which is not only the final book in the series but a sequel to Rosa No-Name.

The success of those books will depend largely on honest reviews. I’m not talking about financial success. My only concern is the lives my books will have a chance to touch.

If you’ve read one of my books and haven’t reviewed it on Amazon, would you take a couple of minutes to do it? Yes, I know it’s a nuisance. But just think of the hundreds of hours it took me to write and edit each of those books.

And if you haven’t read any of my books, I hope you will.

Not because I’ve suggested it, but because you look at the reviews and think, “Why haven’t I read this book before?”

Please keep what I’ve said in mind about your favorite authors, even if I’m not one of them.

Your comments are welcome.


Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

On Writing Book Reviews

Last weekend I was checking Amazon to see whether THE DEVIL AND PASTOR GUS had any new reviews. It had been stuck at forty-six for a few weeks, but had continued to enjoy a 4.3 star average rating.

When I saw that it had jumped to forty-seven, I was elated. My goal after reaching twenty-five had been fifty. Maybe I’d get there yet.

But then I looked at the review title, “Possibly the worst book ever written,” and the one-star designation; thank goodness Amazon doesn’t have a no-stars option! After the reviewer admitted being an atheist who’s read some good Christian fiction, she proceeded to give her opinion of everything she thought was wrong with the book, concluding with “Seriously, this story is worth skipping.”


As an author, I’ve grown increasingly thick-skinned over the years. After all, not every book is for every reader, and PASTOR GUS was obviously not the right read for this lady. I respect that, and I don’t even mind her leaving that kind of negative review, even though it lowered GUS’s rating from 4.3 to 4.2. Potential readers are probably too impressed by good reviews to pay attention to horrible ones.

Nonetheless, reviews like that–PASTOR GUS’s only other one-star review was written by a Christian minister–make me wonder. Not about the reviewers’ lack of interest in one of my books, but about the reason for writing such  almost-angry reviews. Did the book hit so close to home that it made the reviewers defensive?

In the case of the Christian minister, I had to laugh because Pastor Gus talks in one scene about the fact that a large number of preachers will claim Gus isn’t a Christian and ban the satire he’s writing about the devil (which is ultimately THE DEVIL AND PASTOR GUS), making members of their congregations start buying copies in record numbers.

Alas! The Christian minister reviewer didn’t recognize himself in PASTOR GUS.

Maybe I just have a different way of looking at reviews. Writing them, I mean. Although I really have to love a book to give it five stars, I don’t hesitate to go with four if I only just like it a lot. I may feel a little guilty if my four star review is the first for someone who has all fives, but I think that helps to give some legitimacy to the whole review process. Just as my one-star reviewers do.

If I really dislike a book, I may or may not finish reading it. But I’m not going to review it. Why should my opinions prejudice other readers who might perceive that book in a much more positive light?

When I write reviews, I try to find something good to say about the book. As many good things as I can think of without sounding like I’m gushing. If I feel the need to share something negative, I try to make it sound as inoffensive as possible. Like saying that the number of mistakes in the book must have resulted from the publisher’s poor editing and therefore aren’t the author’s fault.

One of PASTOR GUS’s best reviews was actually a three-star written by the wife of a minister who’d given it five stars; that man got it! What she did was to give a very balanced view of her likes and dislikes, along with examples. It was NOT an angry review. It was a helpful one. The kind I hope I write most of the time.

Authors depend on Amazon  and Good Reads reviews. Reviews help potential readers decide whether to make the plunge and buy their books. If you don’t regularly review books you’ve read, I urge you to start doing so. They don’t need to be lengthy or complicated. A simple “I liked this book because…” or “This book wasn’t really for me, but people who love (whatever) will probably love it.”

What do you think? How about leaving a review? Uh, a comment, I mean.

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

Why I Wrote: Rosa No-Name

Last week I shared with you why I wrote The Devil and Pastor Gus. Today I’ll give you the background on Rosa No-Name, which will release sometime in late April. Pictured above is a proof copy, used for catching final mistakes before it’s too late.

My daughter, Kristi, went on a short term mission trip to Mexico after graduating from high school. When she returned, certain facts about her trip struck my imagination:

  • She was eighteen at the time. Maybe not really spoiled, but in need of doing some more growing up.
  • She failed to pay attention to the directions she’d been sent about what to bring and not bring. Consequently, she paid for extra luggage to bring a number of things she didn’t need and failed to bring some of the important things she did need. Like a sleeping bag!
  • She was part of a house-building project.
  • That area had a lot of trash on the ground.

Struck my imagination? Ha! Fired it up!

One evening I sat down and roughed out the idea of a story involving all of those elements. That short story was the original “Found in the Translation.” You may read it here. I entered the final version in an online contest, and it placed within the top ten of seventy or eighty entries. That was encouraging!

Even while writing the short story, I knew it would ultimately become a full-length novel. The short story was just the warm up.

You wouldn’t believe the changes I made to the short story in writing the novel, but I was pleased with the outcome. Nobody seemed to want to publish Found in the Translation, though, no matter how my wife and I believed in its merit.

At a Christian writers conference I showed the first couple of pages to writing teacher and overall writing guru James Scott Bell. He advised me that I didn’t have a proper start.

So I cut the first fifty pages and wrote a new beginning. I shared a sample with an editor friend who then asked to see the whole thing and subsequently landed me an agent. Within a year Found in Translation–Barbour Publishing dropped the “the”–and its sequel, Lost in Dreams, were under contract. I was on my way!

But there were a number of things I hadn’t brought out in Found in Translation. I was especially fond of Rosa, the mother of the little girl whose right arm ended at the elbow. Why had Anjelita been born that way? And who was her father? Those are just some of the things the protagonist, Kim Hartlinger, didn’t learn during her time in Santa Maria because of the language barrier.

Consequently, I wrote Rosa No-Name as a prequel. But because it dealt partially with adult situations, I never considered it a teen novel. (I’d never considered the previous two to be Young Adult, either, but because the characters were eighteen, that was the only way my publisher could market them.)

Potential publishers weren’t interested in Rosa No-Name. So just as I’d done with the little play The Devil and Pastor Gus was based on, I stuck Rosa No-Name in a drawer and tried to forget about it. That was ten years ago.

But my wife and my daughter have always been especially fond of Rosa No-Name–they like it better than any of my other published novels and unpublished manuscripts–and five or six months ago I decided to reread it. I fell in love with it all over again, and I felt led to ignore the objections traditional publishers had expressed and go the independent route.

Amazon has a couple of amazing free book publishing facilities–the books aren’t free, just the ability to publish them–and soon I was on my way.

God didn’t whisper in my ear and tell me to publish Rosa No-Name, yet I believe this is what He wanted me to do. My prayers are for its success in blessing and entertaining a number of readers.

Do you think you have a book in you, waiting to be written? It may not be one the general public will be interested in, but perhaps one your children and grandchildren would benefit from being able to read. Is that you? How about leaving a comment?

Subscribe to Roger’s quarterly newsletter:

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

A Little Thing that Seemed Big

If you’re like me, you often take little things for granted. But this little tale–do you believe I’m capable of posting something short?–is about about something small that proved to be both elusive and fascinating. What you’ll think of it remains to be seen.

My wife knits and crochets, and she’s made three sweaters for me and two vests. All of them are really super.

But the vests didn’t have anything to connect them in front, and my tummy was getting chilly. So she bought some frogs. Not the green hoppity kind, but the kind that makes the  join my vests needed. She sewed them on.

Great! Wonderful. Uh, except the loop sometimes slipped off.

So we went to Michael’s. I knew just what I needed, but neither of us knew what they’re called. It didn’t matter. They didn’t have any. So we bought a bag of beads, since a bead could slide over one part of the frog and usually hold it shut. Of course, it could slip off while hanging in the closet.

That worked pretty well, but I hated to give up on what I really wanted–a spring-loaded mechanism you push the end button down on while moving it where it needs to go. When you release the button, the spring holds the mechanism in place. Does that sound familiar?

As hard as I tried to find it on Amazon, I couldn’t come up with the right words for a match. Fortunately, my wonderful son-in-law responded to my Facebook request for help. He’d not only found the name, he posted an Amazon link for a package of them. Less than $3.00, if I recall correctly.

I was elated. But when I went to that link, I found other products of the same kind. And one was not only under $1.50, it had good reviews and came with free shipping. So I went with that one.

Interesting how long it takes something like that to arrive from China!  The gadgets were just what I’d expected, though. Very sturdy so far.

This was one little thing that meant a lot to me, no matter how insignificant it would be to most normal people.

What are these things called? Ha! It wasn’t a simple name, and–frankly–I can’t remember it. Why don’t you tell me what YOU think they’re called.  I’ll post the answer next week. All comments are gratefully accepted.



Still available:                   Coming soon:   kindle-cover

Join the Facebook group Rosa No-Name Tribe to learn the latest about its upcoming release

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

To Knot for Naught or Not?

Okay. I admit it. I’ve never been fond of tying shoes, and the older I get, the more I actually hate it.

As a child, I didn’t mind. After all, tying shoes was a skill that had to be learned. So why would I mind practicing and perfecting it?

As a teen, I changed my mind. I didn’t have Bass Weejun penny loafers like most of my friends –far too expensive for our family budget–but at least I had a pair of dirty bucks with a mechanical, self-locking, external tongue. I hated outgrowing them and discovering that no one manufactured shoes like those anymore. I was stuck with lace shoes until I got old enough to (have to) buy my own shoes.

Loafers exclusively, I feel confident. And boots.

Now I have sandals, a pair of boots, and three or four pairs of loafers–mostly Sketchers. I know many shoes have Velcro now, but Velcro and I don’t get along ; I seem to wear it out faster than normal people do.

But I also have several pairs of walking shoes, and they have laces. I’ve always detested having to tie them, especially since that meant occasionally having to stop in the middle of a brisk walk to retie one.

That would’ve been more of a problem except for a trick my father taught me. I started trying to write down how to do it, but I decided a video would work better.

I can’t explain why that works or why it unties (when desired) just as easily as a regular shoe lace bow, but it does. If you end up with a knot when you pull the strings to untie it, you did something wrong.  Easy to do trying to follow even my video directions.

Even though it keeps strings tied quite nicely, I just quit using this method several days ago. In fact, I quit using regular shoe laces altogether.

When my wife requested a special set of elasticized shoe laces as part of her birthday present, I perked up and took a second look. They don’t require tying–at all!–and shoes  outfitted that way can easily be made as loose or as tight as the wearer desires…and slipped on and off just as easily.

ElaslticLace1     ElaticLace1a

Do they really work? Yes! But the ones I got for Kathleen have one elastic piece for each pair of holes and a plastic piece on both ends that lock together. I didn’t like that idea.

I checked Amazon and found something similar except for consisting of  a single long elastic lace and what I think is a more substantial mechanism for holding the two ends together.

So I ordered a package. Six pairs cost about the same as the single set I bought for Kathleen (she had four pieces left over–not enough for another shoe, much less another pair of shoes). The instructions for my laces were not elaborate, and the illustrations confused me at first. But once I caught on, I turned my walking shoes into comfortable slip-ons in just minutes.

ElasticLace2     ElasticLace2a

Did I make this switch because I’ve grown lazy in my upper years? Maybe. But who cares? For a small amount of money, I solved an irritating problem. (If nothing else, it takes less time and effort to get ready to go walking.)

If more important of life’s problems could be solved so simply!

Do you have a special way of doing something? Not necessarily something you dislike doing, but something you’ve learned to do more efficiently or found a good substitute for? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,