The Baby Boomer Reviewer?

I’ll drink to that!

This post started out as a whiney, complainy, bogged down piece of crap-writing that I started weeks ago and then decided never to publish. And I keep whittling it down, taking out the Poor Me stuff until this is what remains.

I’ve been on this marketing project for several months now, and not getting anywhere with it. As a matter of fact, it’s downright discouraging. Many of the new writers I have come to know are having a lot more success than I am. I am beginning to suspect that there are a lot of folks out there who have no interest in what I write, which is fine. Not everyone likes the same thing.

However! It might be time to ask, “Hold up a minute here! What’s the problem?”

So far I can’t figure out what the problem is. Whether I am not reaching my target audience or whether my target audience really would rather read the Twilight series or Fifty Shades of Grey.  

Photo by saratogajean

Where did everyone go?

Recently, I did a free giveaway of the Kindle version of Perigee Moon and got less than 200 downloads and no reviews out of it, the reviews being the main point of the giveaway. So what good did the whole exercise do? I went to all the book free day sites and made the announcement. I don’t see any positive results in doing any of it, although maybe it will take time for reviews to come in. The more good reviews a book has, the better it does. 

On a more positive note, I believe I have learned a lot about the writing craft in the last decade or so. I know what I perceive is good writing. I know whose voice I love and whose I don’t. I can recognize good writing, believable characters, and excellent stories. So I am thinking very seriously of becoming an “official” book reviewer.

I wrote a post recently about trying to find sites to get my own book reviewed, about the criteria I used to determine if a site would be a good fit. I wrote about the overabundance of people willing to review books about vampires and monsters and other foul creatures, but there were very few, make that none, that I could be absolutely positive would be a site that would want to review books about baby boomers finding their way at last, determining who they want to be later on in life, finding love.

One thing I have always believed, and still do, is that our generation is one of readers. We didn’t have video games and computers and other electronics to distract us when we were growing up, we had television and books. And while many of us have embraced the technology that makes our lives more connected and more interesting, we still basically love to read. As we start to retire, we have more time to read, and what better subject to read about than our own generation?

What if I become the Baby Boomer Reviewer? Books by and/or about that generation? They wouldn’t all have to be in my exact genre, but if they are written by baby boomer authors who just want to get reviewed then I’d be willing to do it. Hell, you don’t even have to be a baby boomer. Just a new author trying to get a start. And, of course, these reviews will be given with no currency exchanging hands.

If I can help to spread the word, help a new author, then why not?

Here’s the catch. I’d have a very hard time telling an author that I didn’t like his work. I’d have to be really honest and that will be hard for me, but a review isn’t worth anything unless it’s genuine. And who’s to say, I might not like it but someone else might love it? I’ve sure noticed that all people don’t like the same thing myself.

I’d be reluctant to give 5 star reviews. I have given them in the past, but really, I think 5 star reviews are reserved for truly great pieces of literature. Prose where I marvel at the beautiful sentences, and the exquisite phrasing. You all probably know by now how I feel about Scott Spencer and Jonathan Franzen. These men have both written books I would consider 5 star quality. But for the rest of us, well, we can’t all be authors of that caliber. We just can’t. It isn’t possible.

I’ve written quite a few reviews lately. Few of them were 5 star, but some of them were really, really good books. I’m including a link here to my Amazon reviews.

I’d post each review on a new My Reviews page as I do them, with a link to Amazon (or wherever the author would like the review directed). Here are some of the genres of books I would review:

  • General Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Baby Boomer Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Mystery/Thrillers
  • Short Story Collections
  • Non-fiction (as long as I have some knowledge of the topic)

No genre romance, no inspiration, no erotica. No urban fantasy, no vampires, werewolves or drudges. No steampunk — and if anyone can explain to me exactly what this is, would you please comment? None of these interest me and I wouldn’t be able to give a satisfactory review of that material.

I’d love to hear if there are any new authors who would be interested in having me review their work.

34 thoughts on “The Baby Boomer Reviewer?

  1. Well Lynn, what can I say? Maybe: I feel your pain? By the way, I reviewed your book and am waiting for the favour to be returned, unless you posted it somewhere that I don’t know about. yes, I agree, every review needs to be an honest review, otherwise it’s not of any value in my view.
    The advice I always seem to get from more successful authors is to keep writing and after your fourth book you might see some success. So that’s what I am doing. My next book is in the pipes.
    Johanna

    • Johanna – Did we not communicate about this? I reviewed your book a few weeks back. I posted it on Amazon and Goodreads too I believe. Is there any other place you would like me to post it?

      http://www.amazon.com/review/R2DYRWBFOL4N5V/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

      I do have my fourth in the works. Am taking a very different path with it. It’s all about the writing, and not the commercial success, I keep telling myself that. But then sometimes I fall off that wagon.

      • Thanks so much and my apologies, I should have checked periodically.
        I saw it now and thought it was a fair and thoughtful review. Yes, you might want to pursue being a reviewer as a new avenue, as many authors are looking for honest reviews.
        I would very much appreciate it (if not too much trouble) If you would also put your feedback on the IBookstore , that would be great as Apple does not transfer Amazon or Goodreads reviews to its titles.
        So success is eventually coming, I am rooting for you. Your blog posts are great, I enjoy them.
        Johanna

        • Johanna, I had not heard of iBookstore so I went there, looked up your book, and there were all the Amazon reviews, mine included. Was there something else I should do? I’d be happy to do it, since I didn’t know about this site and would like to check it out for my own books. Thanks for the kind words about the blog posts! I take it pretty seriously and try to think of interesting topics so your encouraging words are much appreciated!

  2. Lynn, I don’t think writing ability has a lot to do with success or failure in this hodge podge mess of self published books flooding the market. As I’ve said in the past, you are a great writer, so keep on doing it in whichever area you find pleasure. As for your reviews – I have 11 Amazon reviews of which six are five star. You were kind enough to give me four stars yet your review is my favorite. Yours was truthful and insightful. You picked up on a point which I had agonized over. No-one else did. You also gave a brief mention of things to be improved ( which I knew and am still working on). I once told my writing group that if they could not give me some constructive criticism, I was wasting my time. In that group, we assessed each others work. Everyone said flattering words or else nothing at all. At my insistence, they now hesitantly GIVE constructive help to each other. Keep on writing girl – and blogging – and reviewing.

    • June, it is so good to hear you say this. I feel the same way about reviews. At this point, I want to hear some bad stuff. Anything!

      It takes a lot of luck to be the one in a hundred thousand (or more) self-pubbed books to make it big. Who would have ever thought erotica would go mainstream? But it did, because it was different. If you are the first to have a unique idea, it might fly. Like 50 Shades.

      I’ll keep on plodding along here. It’s my new vocation!

  3. I think you will quickly be innovated with requests if you go this route. I wish you well. Sounds like a great idea.

    Marketing is tough and is a full-time job. It’s hard to know when to back down a bit in order to focus on new work. I’m in that situation presently.

    • Carrie, you seem to be succeeding very well with marketing. Book signings and making the Best Lists. You’re doing something right!

      See, you were one of those authors enjoying more success that I referred to.

      I’ve been thinking about this review site for a while. It seems no one is too much interested in reviewing books about old people. Maybe that should tell me something.

      • Well, I don’t know if my “success” translates to actual book sales. It’s hard to know from Amazon rankings alone, since it doesn’t take too many books sold to sway it. I’m not exactly expecting much come my first royalty check in February. 🙂

  4. A SECOND COMMENT. You see, I’m still mulling over your blog. Have you thought about changing your book title? Or better still – keeping your title and adding a sub-title. I added my sub title later, only two words -‘Vietnam War’ and it made a difference. I hope this suggestion has not offended you. But while your title must have some meaning to you and others, it tells ME nothing about what is inside the book. Maybe I am ignorant – I sometimes think so – but exactly what or where is ‘Perigee’? It must have meaning because I just looked up your title on Amazon again and there is ANOTHER book with the SAME title, written by Tara someone and costing much more money than yours. I see that you have good reviews, averaging better than four stars. I just added a ‘like’ , bringing your number of ‘likes’ up to 5. I added the ‘like’ without reading it because I know your writing is good.

    • And now I am mulling over your comment here. It has given me something to think about. It’s weird, I always thought my chapter titles were pretty good, yet when it comes to a book title, I am lost. I got the idea for the title during the Perigee moon cycle 2011. It’s something that happens every eighteen years (I think), when the moon appears much larger because it is closer to earth. The whole point was that the main character has his life-changing revelation on the night of the “Perigee Moon”. When I first decided on that title, no one had used it. By the time I had published it, there were three of us! One if a fantasy I think and one a book of poems.

      Thanks for this. As I said, it has given me something to think about. I am certainly NOT offended!

  5. This is an creative idea and perhaps even a way to further explore your own writing goals (and audience). I wish you the best with it.

    One of the reasons I avoid reviewing (aside from time constraints) is exactly what you’ve described — I’d have a hard time being critical. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out for you….

  6. I am currently writing a memoir, I’m not due to complete it till later next year but this is one aspect that worries me – the whole marketing route you need to go down. This sounds like a good idea of yours because, obviously, we all need to know what our readers think of our work, good or bad.

    • For me, the writing is a joy, and the marketing is – if not a nightmare, then at least a pretty bad dream. I get bogged down in it, trying to figure out what to do and spin my wheels a lot. It helps to be thinking about it now, while you are writing, and maybe blog about it, gain some readers who will be interested to read your book when it comes out. Only after that will you get the much sought-after reviews. Some say reviews aren’t important, but I don’t agree.

      • I agree with you that the writing part is the joy of it, unfortunately this is tempered by the knowledge of what will come when we attempt to market our ‘product.’ I’m going down the blog route hoping to gain some followers who will be interested enough to read the finished product but – it’s still a major worry. Oh well – onwards and upwards, with a positive attitude 🙂

  7. Wow, do I relate.
    on marketing – I am just starting the self-pub process, editing, buying ISBNs, cover and interior design,e or paper or both, launch, reviews, marketing–so many decisions and so little time–daunting.

    on reviews – I have learned a lot writing reviews for New York Journal of Books , including the opportunity to work with a professional editor. I totally agree that a reviewers job is to be honest – and also find the strength of the book. Every book, even the ones I do not love (or even like) have strengths. I try to find a balance between highlighting the strength and other areas I, (and other readers) find lacking. It’s at times a difficult balance between being honest, generous, and kind
    My link is http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/reviewer/carol-brill

    • Wow, I just read your (fiction) reviews. Well done. You seem to have mastered that art. I did pick up on some things which affected you negatively, yet it was done in a subtle manner. I agree that your balance of honesty, generosity and kindess was all there. It is something I hope to achieve in the reviews I do for others.

  8. It’s hard to reach your target audience, let alone anyone, when you’re doing it on your own. But don’t despair, keep it [the promo stuff and your attitude towards it] as light as you can, and reconnect with the reason you came to it – because you love to write

    • Right. It is hard to reach your target audience. I hope to attract them with my blogging about current events, and BB issues. It’s the only thing I can think of. Little by little it seems to be growing, my blog readership, and I’m happy with that. I really like blogging. I get such a feeling of accomplishment pressing that “Publish” button!

  9. Hi Lynn ~ I hear you about book marketing. Selling books is like walking up a 5-mile hill to get one sip of water. I do a ton of marketing for a few sales. I guess the market is so saturated with novels readers don’t know what to buy. I did download your book and I can’t wait to read it. It’s on the agenda to read this weekend and I’ll write a review next week. If I send you a copy, would you review “A Stop in the Park.” It fits under the category of general fiction. Looking forward to visiting this blog more. ~ Peggy

  10. It is an interesting idea and worth a shot. You raise an interesting point about what constitutes a five star worthy review. I could see an argument for fives stars because the book was a great read, and had you thinking about it, or more straight afterwards. The language might not be the highest quality, but the book connected with you. But your points are also valid. It is just a question of what criteria is most important, and unfortunately in many book reviews, that is not clear.

    Maybe you book downloads went into a reading list pile. I have a big pile of books to get through and no where near enough time. It could be a while before I catch up.

    • Just noticed I hadn’t responded to your comment. Gah, how rude. I try to respond to all comments, especially yours because you usually alert me to something I hadn’t thought of before. If the writing is great, but you don’t like the story, does that warrant a five-star? I don’t know. I’d probably bypass the five-star.

      Maybe you’re right, maybe me book is on everyone’s To Do list. I hope so.

  11. Lynne, Have I got a book for you to review! Mags and the AARP Gang. I usually write mysteries with a Realtor protagonist (cozy style with a female amateur sleuth of a “certain” age) but decided this older woman character keep wanting me to tell her story. You and your readers can catch the first chapter at http://www.goodreadmysteries.com I would love you to review the book. Thank you.

  12. Great post, Lynn, and a very interesting thread of comments! I completely agree with you, marketing is (largely) a nightmare! I was stuck exactly like you for my Baby Boomer novel, or BB novel, A HOOK IN THE SKY and I knew that ONE THING I didn’t want to do was to make it free: I did that once last year for a New Adult novel (the first in a series of 3) and I got thousands of downloads (last year one still did because it was relatively new) but NO impact on sales!

    No giving it free is not (in my humble opinion) the way to go. Book discoverability seem to be a function of reviews. How to get them? Exchange of reviews with authors is of course a standard procedure but, alas, it is not viewed well by Amazon. I’m sure you’ve heard of the scandal that exploded in September, including when John Locke confessed that his big sales (one million books in 5 months) was not due to “loyalty transfer” marketing as he had claimed but instead to the fact that he had paid for…300 reviews!! Result? Amazon has been taking down reviews (Konrath says he lost about 50 reviews he’d done for “author friends” – and I lost a couple).

    The way out? I’m not sure but I believe that the way to go for any and all of us who have written BB novels is to talk about it and make publishers realize that with the immense wave of boomers hitting the market (some 75 million in the US alone), the time has come to recognize the BB genre. Hence my establishing a group in Goodreads to discuss the genre – did that a month ago, and immediately got some 50 members, twice as many “friends” and the group is growing by leaps and bounds. Now we’ve got nearly 20 BB titles on our bookshelf and we’re running a poll every month to read and discuss a new BB novel – we should go through 12 titles in one year! Anyone with a BB novel should come and join us! Add your title to our bookshelf and pitch us your work so we include it in our next poll (there’s a discussion thread for that purpose alone). There are also many more subjects related to boomers and boomer movies, so please all of you come, the more the merrier! Here’s the link: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/81261-baby-boomer-novels-a-new-genre

    And Lynn, of course, I’d be happy if you would review my book but easier still, come and discuss it in public…though I don’t know whether my book will make it this time…perhaps next time. It’s a very pleasant, honest bunch of people in our group…after all, we’re all baby boomers! The point though is this: if we manage to attract enough attention tothis new genre, the publishing industry will wake up, and we’ll all get our chance! After all, Hollywood has already noticed, e.g. RED, The Best Marigold Hotel, the King’s Speech, Taken 2, Breaking Bad etc etc So there’s hope!

    But much depends on everyone pitching in!

    • The only thing giving a book away might do is get the reader interested in your other work, or if it is the first in a series, I think. Otherwise, I don’t see the point.

      Interesting that you mention John Locke because I spent several hours researching this issue a few days ago and the fact that Amazon is pulling reviews, rather arbitrarily it would seem. Some people have their review “rights” taken away and a lot of it is for no reason. I think I’m going to blog about that although there is certainly a lot of information out there about it. But if I review on Amazon and my rights get yanked, there won’t be anything I can do about it. It will definitely hurt that effort.

      Amazon needs to pull it together and figure out how to determine which are sock puppet reviews and which aren’t. Amazon has all sorts of strange requirements about the exchange of money, how if the author gives you a free copy that is okay but if he gives you a gift card so you can buy his/her book that is NOT okay. Stuff like that. Their guidelines are hazy and they are overreacting to the paid-for review problem that caused such a scandal.

      Back to the BB issue, I like that you have started up this group in Goodreads. The more interest we can generate, the better off we BB authors will all be. And the more time goes on, and the more people retire, I think it will happen for us. We just need to keep plodding and be patient.

      A lot of my blog readers are baby boomer authors. I will link to the group and discuss in my next Monday post.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  13. Hi Lynn
    I am so pleased to have found you! I have been reading all your comments and all the replies and finding myself nodding my agreement!
    I write because it’s fun, it’s what I enjoy doing. Marketing? Well I know NOTHING about marketing!
    I only started writing novels in 2010. although I have written on and off all my life – poems, articles etc. A small incident in my life triggered an idea for a book and that was it – I was off, the bit between my teeth.
    My friends and family were all amazed that I had completed a book – where could they buy it? Ha ha. I tried all the usual routes of literary agents – from some I got a form letter rejection, from most I heard nothing at all which to my mind is just plain rude! I even signed up with someone, only to find he was not really an agent, just someone who fancied that idea and he had actually no more idea of how to get a book published than I had. Eventually I just gave up, after offering my (by this time three) books around – I deicded I was just too thin skinned for this circus anymore. So I just gave up the whole business for over a year, just writing odd poems which I filed away under ‘my poems’ on my computer.
    Then a couple of months ago someone spoke about Amazon (I had looked earlier but abandoned the idea – on the grounds of ‘if you self publish who buys your books?’ ) again and I decided to get my completed novels up as eBooks. One of my daughters, the one who had been talking about Amazon, told me of her friend who had published an eBook and was doing a free Kindle promo. So I tried that. Both my daughter and I put it on our Facebook pages (though I don’t have many friends she has) and I emailed everyone I could think of and told them. I also put notices on all the free websites I could find, though I did note that most of their other fiction was of the YA variety.
    I didn’t know what I was doing so used up all my 5 free days at once with the first two books. There were quite a lot of downloads but not very many sales, just a the odd drip drip. And no reviews, apart from a couple by a friend.
    I also decided to knuckle down and finish my two incomplete books. I now have five complete and am working on number six.
    Up till now I had thought my novels were Women’s Fiction/General Fiction but only about two weeks ago did I discover that I was writing predominantly (well 5 out of 6) Baby Boomer novels. I personally hate labels but I suppose it helps in targeting a readership – here comes that dreadful marketing aspect again!
    I am even wrting two blogs – my daughters and my son-in-law seem to think they will help with marketing but I have no idea of anyone reads them. I started with a general one but when I found out I was writing baby boomer novels I started one called babyboomerfictionwriter. Can’t do any harm. I’m such a newbie I don’t know how to write a blog either so I just jot down a few thoughts intermittently and press publish. Can’t do any harm, I suppose.
    I would love a review or two!
    I’m sorry this is so long!

    • Thanks for this! It’s not too long at all, I like to hear how I’m not the only one with marketing woes. I have three books, all self-published. I tried the traditional route too, but will admit to not having the patience it would take to get anyone to notice them. I kept reading articles about how traditional publishing was being squeezed by self-publishing. And for some, especially those authors who had books traditionally published in the past, they could take their backlists and publish them and because they were already well-known, it worked well for them. But how to get a start in the business when no one knows your name?

      I really dislike marketing and I’m an introvert so I don’t push for book signings or interviews or anything where I would have to actually (gulp) speak to strangers. But online I can say whatever I want so I concentrate on doing all marketing from the safe confines of my home office. I think you have to pick some tools that work for you. I chose a Facebook page, and Twitter (although I don’t really get how that works too well as a marketing tool) and my blog. I concentrate on the blog and I watch the stats and am trying to build its readership. It has grown steadily for two years. The only thing I can think of to do is concentrate on that and hope that some day my books my take off.

      I see that you are a member of the Goodreads baby boomer group. You should put your books on the group bookshelf and get in the next month’s poll where they’ll pick one to read and dissect. I think that’s a great idea, I’m looking forward to it. The first book will be chosen 12/14 and then for the next month, the readers comment on a separate thread for each group. An excellent way to get some critique as I’m sure some will be very honest.

      I look forward to reading your novels Pieces of a Puzzle sounds very interesting to me.

  14. If you would like to review The Crone Club I would be delighted. It is about a group of friends from the 60s – reunited in their sixties so very much fits into the babyboomer genre.

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