I love hearing from my readers but…

This is one of those phrases I never thought would end in the word, “but”.

And even though I have said those words, the “but” is a soft one. Still, it is important to explain why I have caught myself saying those words on more than one occasion.

As a writer I love hearing how people are enjoying my work. As a writer who is trying to make a living writing, hearing this doesn’t help as much as you might think.

While it does serve to motivate me to write more, the unfortunate truth of the situation is, me knowing you liked something I did doesn’t spread the word. It doesn’t let other readers know you like my work and why.

That’s where reviews become so very important.

For example, Scouts of the Apocalypse has earned me several emails of praise and more than a few verbal comments. Unfortunately, there is only one solitary review up on Amazon (as of this date) and none on Goodreads (unless you count my own).

That means anyone who stumbles upon the book will likely pass right on by never knowing how good (or bad) the book may be.

I think it was Paul E. Cooley who said, reviews are the only real way to get new readers. I would agree with that, at least where Amazon, Kobo, and other online retailers are concerned.

That is why so many authors are willing to give away free copies of their books in exchange for reviews. The review is much more valuable than a single sale; it might actually generate more sales. And if those folks who purchase the book also leave reviews it can make even more sales happen.

And so on.

So, please. Go out right now and write a review for whatever books you have read recently (whether they are mine or not although I hope mine are included). The review doesn’t need to be long and in-depth. A one line review saying you liked the story, characters, setting or whatever along with your number of stars helps immensely. (*Note, reviews that are not helpful, e.g. “Book sucked.” are not really wanted. If you didn’t like something explain why, please.)

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As I was writing this, it occurred to me that part of the reason people don’t write reviews is they may not know what to say. For those people I have created a short, sweet review template (see below). Fill in and pick the thoughts that work best for you.

I recently read BOOK TITLE by author name and loved it/liked it/was okay with it/disliked it. I found the characters to be interesting/boring/two-dimensional/well-rounded. The storyline drew me in/didn’t engage me/was lacking/was totally submersive and I couldn’t stop reading/couldn’t keep reading it.

I recommend you read it too/avoid it like the plague.

You can mix and match any of the above, add your own or simply finish with a comment about what was special about the book.

I hope this helps and please, for the love of all that is holy, put reviews up! :)

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Same Idea, Different Story

I have had several people reach out to me over the past weeks about an upcoming movie titled, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Some have asked if it is based on my book, Scouts of the Apocalypse. Some have asked if I’m going to go after the studio for stealing my idea.

SotA-finalIn both cases, the answer is NO!

I have long known that ideas were the easy part of the story. Everyone has ideas about things all the time. It is the execution of the idea that makes it both unique and valuable.

Since I first told the story of Scouts of the Apocalypse around the campfire and then podcast it I have seen evidence of several similar ideas. Scouts having zombie camps seems to be a popular one. In fact, during the World Scout Jamboree I traded one of my books for a Zombie Camp t-shirt.

Are these copycats of my book? Are they inspired by my book or are they simply coincidental?

For the sake of my ego, I’m going to believe my book inspired them all. :)

Now, back to the movie.

I’ve seen a trailer for the movie. A first glance it has nothing in common with my book…except Scouts and zombies, of course. In fact, and this has nothing to do with sour grapes, I’m not sure this is a movie I want to see.

The Scouts are presented as the outcast element of society – misunderstood losers who everyone hates. Not the Scouts I know to be sure. Then there is the gratuitous nudity and violence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. But this is nothing more than another in a long line of movies where the outcasts save the day and become heroes. Think about The GooniesRevenge of the Nerds and so on.  Just with Scouts this time.

Is one take on this idea better than the other? I would say, “No.” Some people will prefer one and some will prefer the other. My only suggestion is to try out both to decide for yourself. At the very least the exercise will show you how much a simple idea can be executed differently.

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Adventure Doesn’t Always Equal Danger

I have come to the realization that having an adventure doesn’t necessary mean being in danger.

Case in point is my trip to the World Scout Jamboree in Japan. At no point in the trip was I ever really in danger although attending the jamboree along with the pre-camp and stay with a Tokyo family was definitely the adventure of a lifetime.

(You could argue, I suppose, that being on an airplane for 14 and 12 hours respectively constitutes danger, but really?)

Granted, some adventures ARE dangerous. Climbing Mount Everest is most definitely dangerous AND an adventure. Going up and then down a slide for the very first time is also an adventure (and possibly dangerous if child has no adult supervision).

This realization has led me to change my definition of danger somewhat. Now (and this applies to writing and to life) adventure is, some activity that causes a person/character to see or do something new wherein they learn something new.

Simple enough, I think. Again, using the child as the example, going to the grocery store alone to buy milk for the very first time is an adventure. The child may or may not be confident/afraid/uncertain/whatever. That is beside the point. The experience is a first and the child will learn something; his or her world will expand ever so little. Is it dangerous? That depends on the neighborhood. For example are there mean dogs or thugs or sinkholes or venomous critters in abundance? May child needs to cross a busy road. Regardless, the trip doesn’t need danger to be an adventure.

My son surprised me just the other day asking how to get to a certain park we’ve been to many times. The difference this time is, he is driving there without me. Surely an adventure for him although he probably wouldn’t think it was much of one. :)

A story can be exciting without that element of danger too. Perspective plays a huge part in the equation. If you are telling it from the child’s point-of-view, you can bring to play any fears he or she might have. What things are new or different? How has their world changed. All of these things will improve the experience.

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