Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reviews

More and more people are relying less on newspaper and magazine articles and turning instead to the internet for information when deciding on what books to read and movies to see. Sites like Amazon, Facebook, GoodReads, LibraryThing and a host of independent blogs and journals are becoming more trusted than the New York Times. Reviews have always been notorious for their corruption. Some are paid for, others written out of obligation; publishers make deals, pacts are agreed on by mutual authors. But it is hard to control the opinions of hundreds of people posting on Amazon or on their own websites. Sure there are the “friends and family” posts you need to look out for, but how many of those can there be? With the proliferation of reviews on the Internet, the truth is impossible to suppress for long. There are a handful of intrepid bloggers that don’t receive a paycheck and all they have is their reputation.

Big publishers have resources and connections to roll out a title and ensure it is seen. Independents, don’t and are ignored by “reputable” reviewers and shunned out of hand, even by libraries (because they don’t have “reputable” reviews.) Readers buy the big titles, sometimes because it is all they know exists. Given this, reviews, even small ones posted by first timers make a difference. There are many books that have one review on Amazon, books that if you do a global search across the Internet turn up nothing. Potential readers mark this as a red flag and pass.

As it happens, my family is a bit on the older side and I’m certain they think there are evil spirits in computers, so they stay away from them. I’ve moved a few times, which limits the number of friends I can pressure. To date, there’s about three or four who actually wrote a review on Amazon for Crown Conspiracy—none for Avempartha. Since I am published through a very small, independent house, I shouldn’t stand a chance. My only hope is for people to notice me and spread the word, but am one guy waving my hand in a sea of millions—but you have helped.

Those of you who read Crown or Avempartha and took the time to post a review on Amazon, on LibraryThing, on GoodReads; who mentioned it on Facebook, in your online journal, on your blog or just nudged a friend and said, “read this, it’s good,” have done me a great service. And it isn’t just a matter of selling books. I am nobody at all. I’m not famous, I consider spending a hundred dollars on anything to be expensive. I drive a seventeen year old Camry—when I drive at all. I usually walk, bike or take the train, and not to be green, but because I hate traffic. I wear jeans and a t-shirt, most of which are many years old. I have a wife, three kids, a dog and a very small condo that I clean from top to bottom once each week. Instead of watching television I write books. For years, everyone gave me condescending smiles about my “hobby” and asked what I will do afterwards, as if I am suffering from an illness. It is easy to lose confidence, easy to second guess, easy to feel self-deluded. Sure, my wife says she likes my books, but it’s a whole different thing when people I’ve never met, never spoken to, never had any dealings with at all, come out unsolicited and make comments like these recent posts:

“I knew once I started reading I would not be able to stop. Saturday arrived. I put my phone on vibrate, sent the boys to the patio and sat back to read my precious, (Avempartha), cover to cover. I had high expectations and Michael Sullivan surpassed them. // Thank you Michael for such a wonderful series. I'm eagerly anticipating your next installment. I have it marked on my calendar and once again I'll be ordering it as soon as you release it.” –Sarah, GoodReads.

“The first thing that happened to me when I started reading The Crown Conspiracy was that I realized that I couldn't put it down. I tried prying it off my fingers and shaking my hands around like I'd just touched a hot pan but all to no avail. This book is that good. Even more amazingly, Mr. Sullivan manages to sustain this effect throughout the entire novel. // The Crown Conspiracy reminds me why I fell in love with the fantasy genre in the first place.” –Speculative Fiction Junkie

“Royce and Hadrian are two well-developed characters shrouded in mystery and written with a delightful dry wit that few veteran authors could emulate. You get hints about the duo’s past, but they are surprisingly small tidbits and yet they are strangely satisfying. Perhaps it is simply that the characters’ presence in the here and now is so fully-realized that everything else is merely secondary; regardless I’m excited to learn more rather than disappointed that I learned so little. // With the “big” publishers putting out any number of quality titles it is far too easy for independently published titles like The Crown Conspiracy to get lost in the shuffle. There isn’t a massive marketing push. The Crown Conspiracy and it’s sequel Avempartha are out there and garnering attention thanks mainly to Sullivan’s own work and word of mouth. It is a work and series that deserves attention.” -- Mike Ferrante, King of the Nerds

“I was quite eager to see if the book would live up to the expectations raised by Mr. Sullivan’s marvelous debut. I am happy to report that not only did “Avempartha” meet expectations, but it took the series to another level, ensuring that the future installments will be must-reads...//In short, “Avempartha” is highly, highly recommended and a novel that raises Michael Sullivan’s The Riyria Revelations to “major league” status...// I would not call "hype" the good buzz about Crown Conspiracy and the series in general. It's more that being an unknown small press release without the marketing push of the big houses, with little exposure in major bookstores and such, CC and Avempartha managed to beat a lot of what is pushed out there in both quality and entertainment value and they deserve to be much better known.” – Liviu C. Suciu, Fantasy Book Critic


I don’t know any of these people, and I can’t rationalize any reason why they, or any of you would lie, so I have to believe that you mean what you say, just as I hope others will. I’m sure most of you think, “what the heck, sure I’ll take a second to say I liked it. Why not.” But I doubt you truly realize how much I appreciate it. I actually have a few of these taped to my walls, and I re-read them, perhaps more than I should. You see, I’ve never been motivated much by money or false praise, but real recognition is like gas on fire—that makes me want to sit down and work. That makes me want to be a better writer.

So I want to tell everyone who wrote a review, mentioned the books on a forum, or told a friend—thank you so very much, you make my dreams come true.

Amazon reviews: Crown Conspiracy: 47, Avempartha: 11
Goodreads reviews: 132
Amazon UK: 3
Barnes & Noble: 3
Borders: 1
Shelfari: 6
LibraryThing: 6

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the reader's response and on the successful publishing of your books. I've read some excerpts, and I am looking forward to someday reading more.

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