Coming Author Events

“We’re Dying Out Here”
That was the subject line of a recent email sent from a reader who’s dying for my next Jackson mystery and was speaking for everyone who’s been waiting all year. It made me feel warm and fuzzy to be wanted, but I also feel guilty about the long wait. This is a one-time delay because my new publisher is producing all new versions and the covers take time.

But Rules of Crime is scheduled for release on Feb. 26, and I believe you can pre-order it from Amazon now. Advance review copies are going out soon, including ebooks to lots of faithful early readers (who write reviews ☺).

In other news: I’ll be telling a funny Holiday story at Planned Parenthood Fundraiser, Friday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at Cozmic Pizza, downtown. The event is $15, and other funny ladies and writers will tell stories as well. In addition, I’m selling print copies of The Sex Club (featuring a PP nurse) for $5 each and all proceeds go to the fundraiser.

Local readers can also see me at the Holiday Market again this year. It’s held Saturday, December 8th, from 10 a.m. to 6 pm. in the atrium at the Fairgrounds in Eugene. If you haven’t seen me since the last holiday market, I’ll have copies of Liars, Cheaters, & Thieves, which came out after the event last year. I may have a few advance copies of Rules of Crime, but I’m not holding my breath. If I get them for sure, I’ll let you know. Lots of other authors and artists will be there too, so come on it and do some holiday shopping.

The next day, December 9th, I’m driving to Portland with Carola Dunn to attend a holiday party at Murder by the Book in Portland (3210 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) I’ll bring whatever books I have left from the market with me. We’ll be in the bookstore from 12:30 to 3, so if you’re in the Portland area and would like to meet me, please stop in and say hello.

Beyond that, I’m signed up for Left Coast Crime in March in Colorado Springs, so put it on your calendar too. It’s a great convention. And I’m working up the nerve to attend Crimefest in Bristol next year!

Catch 22 of Great Reviews: Thanks, John Locke!

This week we learned that John Locke—one of the first indie authors to sell a million books—paid for hundreds of reviews at a now-defunct paid-review site that didn’t require its reviewers to read the books, just to crank out the stars. Because the story made the NY Times, one expert estimates that a third of all Amazon reviews are fake.

This pisses me off, breaks my heart, and makes me—and the other terrific and honest indie authors on this site—look bad. That is, if we have too many great reviews.

GalleyCat weighed in on this issue with this blog post, listing several bestsellers that each have more than 150 one-star reviews. The point of the short piece is that real bestsellers have lots of bad reviews as well as many good ones. The unspoken point is that books with too many good reviews and few bad ones must not be a real bestsellers, that those reviews must have been paid for or written by marketers or friends.

I resent this! Without good reviews, you’re treated like a hack and can’t sell books. Too many good reviews and not enough dogs, and you look like a phony. Obviously some authors—and publishers—resort to these tactics. But many of the books on Amazon’s bestselling and top-rated lists come by their reviews honestly.

I know I did. Dying for Justice is the top-rated novel on two Amazon’s lists—police procedurals and mystery series—with 54 five-star reviews, 8 four-stars, and 1 one-star (idiot). Not one was paid for or written by a marketer. My sister claimed she wrote a review, but she loves my work. And I can’t find it, if she did. And I have many great reviews in print magazines—Mystery Scene, Crimespree, Spinetingler, and RT Reviews—to support those online “amateur” reviews.

Yes, I gave away the book on Goodreads, with the idea that readers would post reviews, but I took my chances that they would be in my favor. And yes, I asked readers in a blog to post reviews for the book—but always with the caveat “if you read and enjoyed the story.” I don’t want or need fake support.

Here’s a question for GalleyCat: If a book with a lot of fake five-star ratings wasn’t good, wouldn’t a lot of honest readers start to give it bad reviews? You can’t fool everybody forever. No author has that many loyal friends or fake online IDs—except maybe Stephen Leather, another example of how some big-name indie authors are making the rest of us look bad.

And I have to throw in one more issue. The site that Locke used was clearly corrupt. Reviewers were directly paid to crank out good blurbs without even reading the books. But what about sites like Book Rooster? For a $60 admin fee, the site lists your e-book internally, then their unpaid reviewers sign up to receive and read books of their choosing. In exchange for free books, they write honest reviews.

This process seems fine to me, and I used the site for The Suicide Effect, my least-read book, just to get some reviews. But there was no guarantee of how many reviews or what they would be. It was just an opportunity for exposure, and I got lucky, mostly. But now I’m wondering if that was a mistake, just because the exchange of money (for the administrative fee) might make people lump the service into a paid-review category—even though no money goes to the reviewers.

What do you think? Have you read John Locke’s work? Does he deserve his success? Are you skeptical of any books with almost entirely good reviews? Do you think Book Rooster is a legitimate service? Should Amazon take Locke’s work down to show it’s serious about the trust factor for customer reviews?

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers


Writers as Salespeople

sales chartA question from my ex-publisher stimulated me think about the pay structure in traditional publishing. The question she asked was: Why couldn’t you sell all those books when you were still under contract? Many factors came into play at the same time to quickly boost my e-book sales. Pricing strategy, volume of books, and massive effort all played a part. But one of the biggest issues Read more

Does Prison/Capital Punishment Work?

CJ West and I both explore social issues in our novels, but often from different ends of the political spectrum. CJ is launching The End of Marking Time, a novel that follows Michael O’Connor as he pleads to a futuristic jury to spare his life. The book is a fascinating look at how the penal system might operate in the future. So we thought it would be fun (crazy) to hold a forum on capital punishment and our penal system. A homicide detective joins us anonymously and gives his perspective.  Read more

Platform Pitfalls

The buzzword in promotion is platform. Agents and editors want their authors to have a brand, a tagline, an expertise that sets them apart from everybody else. For nonfiction writers, this concept is fairly straightforward. If I’m writing a book about training cats to line dance, then I must establish myself as an expert cat trainer—by blogging, giving talks to cat therapy groups, and writing articles for publications focused on all things feline. But how does a fiction author establish a platform/brand?

Read more

Personal Versus Promotional

I’m not having as much fun online as I used to. When I first got serious about social networking, I had a core group of people that I interacted with very regularly on Facebook and Twitter. It was personal and it was fun. I made a lot of real friends. When I met some of these people at Bouchercon, it was as if I already knew them. Read more

I've Moved

Thanks for following me to WordPress, home of my new blog and website combination. I’m excited to finally make this happen. I still have a little (okay, a lot) of work to do, but I’m slowly learning this program  and building pages.

The point of doing this was simplification and branding. Pulling readers to one website instead of two made sense to me. As for branding, I only have one label: L.J. Sellers, mystery/suspense novelist. I don’t use any nicknames online anywhere. Every time you see my presence, you see L.J. Sellers. I believe it’s the only way to get known. Nicknames are fun, but … Read more

Do You Podcast?

The first time I was asked to do an interview on BlogTalkRadio, I turned it down because I was leery about the host and not impressed with the quality of the production. Then I felt guilty and wondered if I’d missed a great opportunity.

Recently, I was invited do an audio podcast with another host, so of course I said yes. Why not? It’s more exposure—another opportunity to get my name and book titles out there to the public. Every time a reader hears your name, you’re one step closer to a sale. But then I started to wonder: How much time would it take? How much exposure would I get? Podcasters likely keep stats, but what do those numbers really mean?

I’ve been invited through various venues to listen to other author’s audio podcasts, and the sad truth is that I rarely participate. I try to be as give and take as I can. I want people to buy and read my book, so I buy and read theirs. I want people to read and comment on my blog, so I read and comment on other blogs. So I have tuned in to a few podcasts, but they usually don’t hold my interest for more than a few minutes. I think it’s partly because I’m not someone who normally listens to the radio. People talking without having a face or expressions to focus on don’t seem to grab my interest. Watching a video podcast is a different—and better— experience, but few podcasters who are interviewing authors are doing those.

What I want to know is: How many readers/internet users regularly listen to audio podcasts? What do you like to hear about from an author? Personal stories or information about his/her books? Has a podcast ever motivated you to buy an author’s book? Have you done a podcast and what did you get out of it?