One of the many great benefits of winning the romance contest was that Assent gave me a year’s membership to Romance Writers of America. I probably wouldn’t have joined on my own—after all, $100 a year seems pricey. But the membership led to many good things. There’s a local chapter of RWA, and I’ve started attending their meetings. Many of these have been entertaining and helpful. I’ve met new friends, made contacts, and learned about the book business. So far, however, the day I learned the most was the day we were visited by Sarah Wendell.
Sarah runs the blog “Sexy Bitches, Trashy Books.” Obviously, she doesn’t hold back! But I expected some curmudgeon to be giving us a boring speech that day. Instead Sarah was brilliant! She was funny, charming, and down-to-earth. She’s the ultimate reader because she’s passionate about what she reads and everything about reading.
But what helped me the most was learning about reviews. When I got a lukewarm review for Thai Twist, I was mortified! It seemed like the end of the world. Sarah put me straight, however. She explained to all of us that bad reviews can be useful. They show a number of things, including the fact that there’s dissent about your book. That’s actually great because as it turns out, readers love dissent. They love to think, “Well, that reviewer panned the book, but I might like it.” Then they go out and get your book!
Over and over Sarah brought home the point that a review on the Internet is a good review no matter what it says. People depend on reviews to help them through the sea of books. They need help, so it’s only natural that they turn to reviews. A book that’s reviewed is a book that just got a lot of attention. What could be better than that? In fact, Sarah explained that the very best kind of review, the one that sells the most books, is a funny, negative review. For example, she told us, let’s say someone wrote, “Good plot but too much sex.” That, she said, is an example of the best kind of bad review possible.
Actually, it makes sense. Some people like to read books with hot scenes and others don’t, but I’m finding that a surprising number do. My own book is practically PG, and yet I had an interesting experience with this issue as well. A friend gave a copy of my book to a woman she met on a cruise who had run out of reading material. The next day, the woman was indignant because of all the sex! She must have been reading with binoculars—no, a microscope. In my book, she would have had to have looked pretty hard to find anything. At any rate, she complained to my friend, gave the book back, and went off to find something to read.
I’m reminded of an anecdote about Billy Joel. When he released the album that included the song Only the Good Die Young, he was doing all right, but he wasn’t making great sales at the time. Then a Catholic priest in St. Louis banned the song. This was wonderful! Billy Joel’s sales shot straight up. The more the priest said not to listen to the song, the more people ran out to listen to it.
So now I need to find the woman that went on the cruise and thought my book was too hot. I’ll beg her to write a review, no matter how negative! (If she can’t be found, perhaps I can find someone similar. I’ll have to try.)
At any rate, if it hadn’t been for Assent, and RWA, and the Saguaro RWA, I would have never heard Sarah Wendell’s smart talk about getting reviews. I still might cringe if I get a negative review, but then I’ll snicker. I’ll thank Sarah and Assent Publishing all over again for setting me straight. Then I’ll get back to my daily writing!
(Sarah has also written a couple of books, including the useful Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels.)
Thai Twist is the winner of the 2013 Assent Publishing GREAT Romance Contest.