“What’s that book you’re reading?”

Have you ever wondered if you should pick up a certain book?

If so, you’re not alone. People turn to others to ask, Is that book any good?”

Have you ever wondered why (or otherwise, been frustrated that) your favorite bookstore or neighborhood library doesn’t carry the book you want?

Many factors go into book buying decisions for these places. And it’s the reviews that count! Every single review, even the critical review stacked next to the 5-star reviews is a powerful and positive influence in the book buying industry. Ultimately, these reviews keep the author writing based on readers’ needs and gets books out into the world.

Have you ever read a book and then thought, “That was great!” or “Gee, I want to tell the author what I think.” (??)

There is a way. It’s called Posting a Review.”

Writing a review for a book is not rocket science. (Trust me, it’s not.)

Tip 1: Say something about the story line without revealing spoilers.

For example, Author Richard DeVall says in his full-length review “Elle Mott is like Marilyn Monroe, men want to rescue her, and women want to be her friend.” (How is she like Marilyn? Rescue—how, why? Women? Who? Tell me more.)

Tip 2: Add your feelings. Could you resonate with the story, even if the details are different? If so, say how and why. Or did you experience that too? If so, say so.  A library worker put this in her review:  “Elle Mott’s chaotic journey makes one appreciate who we have in life and how we get through both trials and victories.”

Tip 3: Keep in mind that stories and memoirs are subjective, and just because it didn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to someone else. If it didn’t grab you, explain in your review why you didn’t like the story. That’s what reviews are for. (But) remember that the author put their heart and soul into this piece of work and a lot of time. If you did not like something in the book, be constructive.

An example from my reviews: “Difficult to read at times, but like a train wreck, just couldn’t walk away for long. I found myself back in the pages, rooting for this woman. As the title suggests, she really does make it out of chaos.”

Tip 4: Keep it sweet and simple. A paragraph—your definition of a paragraph—is great. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. More so, think of it as sharing your input with someone. “Elle Mott doesn’t sugarcoat. Instead, she gives us an intimate, unflinching look….” (Emily Hitchcock).

Tip 5:  An author-to-author comparison or the like can be a fun and easy way to give that review. When at my recent author presentation, one reader came up to me and said “It’s like the Ocean 11 movie, only it’s the Ocean 8 movie.” More than once I’ve heard it’s like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

In the replying comments found below this post,  a comparison is made with Down And Out In Paris And London by George Orwell.

You may ask, “Where do I post my review?”

Amazon is the leader when it comes to answering that question. However, it is not the only place to shout out your review. Goodreads, which is a community of readers, is another great place. And more simply, where you purchased your book (Barnes & Noble.com or Walmart.com for Kobo and more) is like-wise perfect. If you got it at the library, tell your librarian.

You may say, “Is there another way?”

Comment: “I don’t want to open an account on Goodreads or anywhere else.”

Message me your review and I’ll handle it from there.

Comment: “I don’t want to give my name.”

No problem. If where you post your review lets you do so anonymously, go for it. Another option is to message me your review and let me know not to include your name. I’ll take it from there, respecting your privacy.  It’s the review which counts.

Comment: “Amazon won’t let me.”

It’s true, our industry giant has rules and regulations and restrictions and oh my! If Amazon is a no-go, jump to Barnes and Noble.com or any of the other places mentioned.

Comment: “I’m really not that good at computer stuff.”

No worries—skip the logistics and shoot me a message. I’ll take it from there.

All-in-all, I hope I’ve shared well with you that reviews are ever so important and how to offer a review. For me, as an author, it will help leverage my current debut book and will help me as I write my next book.

Please review “Out of Chaos.”

I write to share not only my story but to hopefully touch you, making a difference in your life; a kindly one. As reviews filter in, you help me, and I help you. It’s a community thing. And I am so glad you are in my community.

Conclusion:

With any book you read, please know that your review is paramount.

In the comments, as a reader, please let me know how have any of the above questions affected you and have any of my answers helped you? If so or if not, share with us, as a community of writers and readers who hope to change our world for the better.

Helpful Links:

Post your review on Amazon. (Link here.)

Post your review on Goodreads. (Link here.)

Post your review on Barnes and Noble. (Link here.)

Message me.

See reviews for my debut book, a memoir, “Out of Chaos.”

-Elle-

*This post was revised on October 2, 2018.

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Memory Lists by Denis Ledoux & the Memoir Network Team

This guest post comes to you from Mr. Denis Ledoux.

I first met Denis in a teleconference when I was learning to write my own memoir. I’ve since stayed tuned to his invaluable tips. I’ve also personally referred him to two of you—one, a friend, Brad, who as an older gentleman is writing his life story for his grandson. My other friend, who has seen hard times in losing loved ones wants help in writing her story—here too, I suggested Denis.

It is for you if you like to:

  • Write about your personal experiences
  • Write about your family history
  • Would like to leave a written legacy to your family
  • Enjoy exploring who you are through the creative art of writing.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Please note: The following post, MEMORY LISTS was developed by Denis Ledoux and the Memoir Network team at www.thememoirnetwork.com

It is being used with their kind permission. 

Memory Lists

People who attend Turning Memories Into Memoirs® workshops will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back?”

I spent a whole week making lists! Was that lifestory writing?
—Turning Memories Into Memoirs® workshop attendee.

There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of lifewriting successful. That tool is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of lifewriting as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of the Memory List. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.

Memory Lists Are the Backbone of Writing Memoir

In this lesson, I will talk about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories), the Extended Memory List (its widest, most all-inclusive version) and the Core Memory List (the list refined to the ten most important memories).

Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your Memory List again and again as you write your lifestories.

The Extended Memory List 

The Extended Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things–anything–from your past. The list is usually random and always uncensored. Each line lists a different memory. When you write a different memory, start a new line. Do not feel compelled to write in full sentences. (In fact, I urge you not to write in full sentences!)

I’ve never been a very observant person. Things just happened around me, and I didn’t really notice them. So, what do I write about?
—Workshop writer

  • Let the logic of creating a Memory List be internal. Do not force yourself to be chronological (“everything I did when I was sixteen”) or thematic (“my father”), and do not strive for
    cause-and-effect relationships (“because this happened, that followed…”) unless the memories come that way spontaneously.
  • Do not censor your memories. As soon as you find yourself thinking something like “Is this
    really important enough?” you are censoring your memory and compromising your Memory List. Censoring can result in a list that is less comprehensive—and therefore, less useful to you as a lifewriter–than it would be if you allowed yourself to be free-flowing and uncensored. Let yourself go where your imagination takes you.
  • A Memory List includes both big items and small ones. Any of the following are “on target” for a Memory List:
    • brother Stan died
    • green wallpaper
    • stage coaches and buttes
    • Sister Marie Gertrude fell on stairs
    • my parents divorced
    • blue Schwinn bicycle
  • The list is for you, and you’re the only one for whom it needs to have meaning. No one else will see it unless you share it. Include enough data to make the notes understandable to you at some future time. Don’t fall into the trap of writing something cryptic like “cap.” In a month’s time, you may not remember which “cap,” or whose, you were remembering. But, if you wrote “Bob’s Red Sox cap/1970,” it is likely you will have enough of a cue to recall what you meant.

Your stories are waiting to be told. Your task is to let them emerge from the depths of your memory.

  • The Extended Memory List ought to be fairly long. It is not unusual for a writer to spend two or three weeks or even months compiling it. You will find yourself adding to it regularly in the months ahead as more and more memories come to you. This Extended Memory List will go in your three-ring binder. It will serve as your source of writing inspiration and be a tremendous time saver. Whenever you sit down to write, you won’t need to spend time coming up with a topic. All you have to do is pick an item on the list and write about it. (Write everything you remember about the “blue Schwinn bicycle” you mentioned on your list.) With your Memory List, you need never again have writer’s block. With an extensive list of memories to pick from, you will always have a ready prompt.

We offer much in the Memoir Education area, but if you want even more, check out the our Learning Memoir Writing programs: Write Your First Memoir Draft and Writer’s Time: Management That Works.
[Denis Ledoux offers this, found on his website at  www.thememoirnetwork.com.]

The Core Memory List

The Core Memory List is a list of the crucial relationships and events which have shaped your life. It contains just ten or fewer items.

 

This is because Core Memory Lists are about the relationships and events which, had they not occurred, your life (or your mother’s or father’s, etc.) would have taken a different turn, and you would absolutely have become a different person from the one you are.

If life teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t have inexhaustible energy and time. It is perfectly possible to run out of both before we get all our stories written. With this in mind, because you have compiled the Core Memory List, you can identify your most important lifestories—the ones about the prime relationships and events of your life—and concentrate on writing these first. These few core memories serve well as the backbone of your longer lifewriting project. The peripheral stories can be dealt with later–as time and energy permit.

What kind of items will appear on the Core Memory List? The answer is: only big items. Here are a few Core Memory List possibilities:

  • a major illness or a death in the family
  • the arrival of a sibling
  • the community
  • the town or neighborhood, the ethnic, religious or social
    group you grew up in
  • a significant fire, flood, car accident or historic event
  • a formative relationship with an older person or a peer
  • a failure or success at school
  • scholarships, sports or arts awards, a decision to go or not go
    to the university
  • conflict with a teacher, having to leave school for work
  • boyfriends/girlfriends, deciding to marry or to not marry
  • marriage and relationships
  • children and family life
  • career choices and changes, successes, failures
  • religious and spiritual quests and experiences

Limit your Core Memory List to ten items. Limiting yourself to ten—admittedly an arbitrary number—forces you to evaluate and select the most significant material to start writing about.

The items on your Core Memory List are almost never splashy events: not the time when you met someone famous briefly and superficially (e.g. Elvis Presley kissed you goodbye on the cheek when you both happened to be at the same airport in 1965!) but something essential like deciding (or deciding not) to move away or marry, or like winning a scholarship and going to the university instead of going to work at the mill (or vice versa).

One way to create a Core Memory List is to analyze the Extended Memory List you have already compiled. You may notice that a number of seemingly separate items are really part of a single category and might be grouped together into one story.

Instead of scattering, or listing separately, the names of the men (or women) you dated from your eighteenth to your twenty-fourth year, you might cluster these relationships under a Core Memory List heading like “Getting ready to meet my husband/wife.”

In this category, you might make a sub-list of the more significant relationships you had. This would create a natural occasion for you to write about how your understanding of what you needed in a mate matured over those years as you dated each of these people until you were finally ready to marry. By grouping extended Memory List items, you can discover core stories and make it easier for the reader to understand or evaluate your experience.

Compiling a Core Memory List will make it easier for you to organize your material early in the writing process and assure that you write your most important stories first.

By identifying core influences in your life, you can focus on them quickly in your lifewriting. In this way, you will develop a body of stories that depict the person you are and have been. If your time and energy is limited, you will not squander either one on writing about secondary events in your life. Perhaps you and your friends were impressed, at the time, that Elvis kissed you at the airport, but how has this influenced your development as a person?

If you have the interest and the time, later on, you can write about the secondary events in your life. Otherwise, you may find yourself having “run out of wind” on the unessential stories before you commit your core stories to paper.

Action Steps 

Start Your Memory List Now!

Write down at least twenty memories to start off your Memory List (fifty would be better, and a hundred preferable).

  • Place these pages in your three-ring binder.
  • Every day, continue to add memories to your list. Do not stop until you have five hundred items. (Yes, five hundred!)
  • Take your time to mull over your Memory List. Add or delete, combine or expand until you have a list that represents your life.

In conclusion…

Whatever you do today, write a bit on your memoir.
Denis Ledoux and the Memoir Network Team.

A NOTE FROM ELLE:

Thank you, Denis. As you taught me, I like to remember, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.”

 

Friends, please share in the comments below of your writing journey with memories. If this post has helped, please share how.   And I believe Denis would enjoy it if you’d visit his website.  -Elle-

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“I Remember”

This writing warm-up is adapted from Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.” (Granary Books 2001).

A few excerpts from this author’s book are:

  • I remember how much I used to stutter.
  • I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas, she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.
  • I remember shower curtains with angel fish on them.
  • I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.

Details from our memories often evoke more than mere facts. Reading that his fish died, I felt sad for those fish and sad for this author as a little boy. I feel he wanted to do good only for it to be the wrong thing to do. I want to know more about these fish. How long did he have them? What color where these fish? Were they goldfish?

From this list of “I remember” choose one.

  • Focus on details of these memories while recalling them.
  • Describe what is happening.
  • Show feelings during the unfolding event.
  • Was there any reaction to the event?

The “I remember” is a way to dig into the experience. We don’t want to just scratch at the surface. We want this memory to pop so that it affects our readers. By developing our own take-away from this event, our description will help us avoid clichés and blanketed statements.

Joe Brainard’s I Remember is a literary and artistic cult classic. As an autobiography, his method was brilliantly simple. He shared specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain “I remember.”

Like Brainard’s pieces in his book, we can keep each “I remember” piece short, at a few sentences. We can also expand further, treating this as the start to a longer piece.

Yesterday, I participated in the Community of Stories through the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati. Under the guidance of a writing mentor, and in a group setting, the above warm-up was one of our writing exercises.

Here is my “I remember” list from yesterday:

  • I remember being alone in the dark without my candy.
  • I remember being proud of a woman going into space. Sitting on the hardwood floor, I watched my TV, seeing the rocket go up. Then, the next moment I was devasted when the Challenger exploded.
  • I remember the sensors wrapped on my fingers seemed to tighten when the needle moved further than before, displaying a peaked line on the graph paper which kept spitting out of the machine.
  • I remember the stranger who walked up to my tent on a Tuesday morning. He told me of terrorist planes hitting the Twin Towers. My kindly stranger was as puzzled as me.
  • I remember Andrea’s firm handshake was warm when I was hired for my library job.

This “I remember” warm-up reminds me that memories are not as fixed as we might assume. Memories are more fluid and then become fixed when they are recorded and supplemented with details.

Which “I remember” memory will you write about? -Elle-

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7 Steps to a Super-Spicy Title

Today’s tip for my writer friends is how to come up with a title. Okay, I admit, this post is as much for me as for you.

Seven Steps to a Super-Spicy Title

MIND MAPPING

1. Look for key words and names.

My keywords and names are:

  • Nana
  • Secrets
  • Yikes!

 

 

 

 

And themes. My themes include:

  • Earning my nana’s praise and my place in the family lineage
  • Homelessness
  • Overcoming insurmountable life difficulties
  • Reparation
  • Repetition

 

2. Consider subtitles. Include the category or genre in the subtitle. This will help readers when randomly searching for their next book.

My categories and genres are:

  • Memoir
  • Venture
  • Wanderlust

 

3. Consider length. One-word titles are popular and catchy. On the flip side, one word and only one word can leave a reader clueless as to what it’s about.

 

4. Thinking about keywords and names, themes, subtitles, and length, make a list of possible titles.

 

This is my list. It comes from what some of you have told me and from my publishing house, along with my idea or two.

  • From Nana’s Girl to Elle: A Transformational Memoir
  • Nana’s Girl
  • One Was Never Enough: A Wanderlust Memoir
  • One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough: A Memoir of Secrets
  • Secrets: One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough

 

(Okay, I know, I broke a couple rules in coming up with that list. So, moving on–)

 

WHITTLING DOWN

 

5. Eliminate misleading titles.

 

My editor suggests not to use a title with the word “secrets”. He says this could cause my book to be miscategorized.

 

I have a problem with “Nana’s Girl”. I’m fifty years old.

 

Many of you have told me you like “Secrets: One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough.” Problem, being, this is an awfully long title for an e-book cover.

 

“One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough: A Memoir of Secrets” could be better–it has the category in the subtitle. Again, though, it is long.

 

6. Any titles left over after scratching out what could be misleading, Google these titles. If a title is already in use with popularity, eliminate it. Then, look at the title options which have made the cut. Hopefully, one of these will be a great title.

 

Nana’s Girl. An Etsy shop comes up on Google.

 

STILL STUMPED?

 

7. Let readers choose the title. Okay, my friends, as you follow my writing journey, what is your vote for my title?

 

And if you’ve written a story or poem, what worked for you to name it?

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Choosing Your Publisher

My friend asks me, “You’re publishing with who?”

I tell him.

“Who?” he asks again, with a squinted wrinkle protruding from his left eye socket.

What he isn’t hearing is that there are countless publishers – than just The Top 5 for publishing our manuscript into a book.

Publishers come in all sizes and shapes. It’s our responsibility to vet these publishers before choosing who can vet us. ———-

There are plenty more publishers than Simon & Schuster, which Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, and Mary Higgins Clark are published by.

Notice I didn’t say “published with” but “published by”. This is one of many differences among the varying types of publishers.

Luckily, there is an easier way to think about this. Publishers can be divided into categories, each with “pros” and “cons.” What these pros and cons are can vary from author to author. The key is to determine which is likely the best fit for you.

Breaking it down, these are the categories:

 

COMMERCIAL PUBLISHERS

 

Traditional

Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hatchette, and MacMillan.

This is like winning the lottery—but we hear of lottery winners nearly every day. To win the lottery, you have to first get a lottery ticket. To try your luck with these big name publishers, you have to first get an agent to represent you.

Like with other publishers, a vetting process is used by these top 5, yet based on platform and not just merit. These publishers buy exclusive rights to the author’s work with advanced royalty payments. Rights go beyond who owns the books; rights include all facets of decision making in the process to create the published work and then market it. Hence, an author is published “by” and not “with” these publishers.

Of interest, author’s royalty rates after publication are low, at an average of 9%.

Much like being patient in playing the lottery, so is the process with these publishers a lengthy one. Authors wait a year or more for their acceptance letter, then a year or more for their book publication.

Traditional Small Presses and Publishers

Hundreds (if not more) of these publishers exist, many with a broad range of genres, and some which specialize in genres.

But a few are Brandt Street Press, Ink Smith Publishing, and Melville House.

There are also subcategories to small traditional publishers, including:

Boutique Presses: Specializing in a narrow subject, commonly with expertise, and limited marketing demand.

Business-Collaborative Publishers: Here, two or more businesses work together to produce a published work. They hire a publisher, much the same as they hired their legal team or their marketing consultants. All parties work together to benefit the businesses.

Regional Publishers: Specializing in a narrow geographic interest, again often with expertise.

Textbook Presses: Focused on publications for educational institutions. Convergent Publishing is one.

University Presses: Sometimes this is the same as a small publisher, but handled by a university, making it different from a Textbook Publisher. Sometimes, these are scholarly reviewed, and sometimes marketed solely to educational institutions; sometimes not.

These small publishers work much the same as the above Top 5. Often times, but not always, an agent is a must. Again, the publisher owns the rights to the published works and the author receives royalties. Rather than years of waiting, though, an author can usually see their book published in about a year, on average.

 

HYBRID PUBLISHERS

(Also called “Indie Publishing”)

 

This is a class all on its own, and gaining momentum in only the last five years.

Built on a traditional model, from manuscript vetting to publication, makes it by definition traditional publishing. Publication rights revert to the author, which by definition classifies it as self-publishing. These two publishing criteria create an anomaly, thereby deeming it a Hybrid Publisher.

Hybrid publishers tend to cater to and favor the unknown or emerging writers. Publishers take a risk on these unknown writers, but alleviate this risk through the author’s investment—usually at a flat fee. Extras or ancillary items not required to publish the works may incur extra fees. The financial investment on the part of the author offsets the royalty rates, driving rates up from the average 9% to an average of 70%.

The time spent from querying the publisher up until publication date can vary greatly on several factors, but the turn-around time is normally quicker than with Commercial Publishers.

Essentially, it is a vested interest by both the publisher and the author. At times, an agent is involved to help the hybrid publisher and author meet. Whereas, some hybrid publishers don’t require an agent.

A few Hybrid Publishers to choose from are Boyle & Dalton, Hugo House Publishers, and She Writes Press.

 

SELF-PUBLISHING

(Also called “Indie Publishing”)

Vanity Publishers

No manuscript vetting is needed because the author is hiring the publisher rather than the publisher accepting the author.

Essentially, this is self-publishing with someone (the publisher) doing the work for the author. While a flat fee may be incurred, the expense is usually a pay per service, from editing to design to marketing, and everything else—each to-do-item comes with its own price to be added to the bill of sale.

Dog-Ear Publishing is one Vanity Publisher.

Self Publishing

In this case, you, the author is the publisher. You are in control and responsible for managing everything. There is no publisher to hire or to accept an offer from, other than yourself.

I hope this helps you build upon your knowledge. Alongside writing my manuscript, I’ve invested time, energy, and even at times money (classes, webinars) to become as informed as I possibly can. I’ve also gained friendships among writers, editors, and those in the publishing industry through this investment.

As an informed writer, I am confident in my choice of which type of publisher to enter into a relationship with. How about you? What could be your best fit out of the wealth of choices afforded us?

xxx

 

This post has been revised and was first published on 10/29/17 at Blogging my Writing Journey, found at NovElle.blogspot.com.

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