Last week I had a terrible epiphany. Well, it probably wouldn’t have seemed terrible to most people, but it hit me like a concrete block. Lying awake one night, it dawned on me that nowhere on the cover or within the pages of The Realm Below does it tell the curious reader that it’s the second book in the Space Between series. Nowhere. How in the world did that slip by me?
Even worse, if it weren’t for one thing, I probably still wouldn’t have noticed the omission. What one thing? A really terrible review. It came from a reader who didn’t seem to know she was reading the second book in a series and who clearly had not read the first. The Realm Below left her so lost that she said she couldn’t get through it. Which, in my unbiased opinion, was a tad harsh.
The reason I know all this is not because I read her review. I didn’t. I don’t read my reviews at all unless I know in advance how they turn out. Instead, I got the tactfully edited highlights from people who did read it.
There didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it. Amazon is notoriously insensitive to an author’s cries of pain over bad reviews. Heck, they’ll even delete the good reviews for no apparent reason. (But please keep sending those to Amazon anyway!) So I spent a couple of wakeful nights, stewing over it and asking myself if it was too late to revisit a decades-old impulse to pursue archaeology instead of writing. (In case you’re wondering, I gave up on that idea long ago after deciding I wasn’t cut out to do the field work. I like my creature comforts. Two, in particular: flush toilets and blow-dryers.) It was during this angst-y period that I had the aforesaid epiphany and realized the series information must be added to both books. Immediately.
To the rescue came my editor/publicist and all-around Wonder Woman, Danielle Hartman Acee of The Authors' Assistant. I’ve told you about her many talents before. She swiftly made changes in the books’ descriptive texts at various websites, starting with Amazon, and enlisted my terrific artist, Heidi Dorey, to add a line to both book covers. Now it would be obvious which was which. But what about the two dozen print copies of The Realm Below already in my possession, most destined for local bookstores? Danielle designed a sticker to apply to the cover. Here’s one in action:
While I was waiting for the stickers to arrive, I wrote to my wonderful advance review authors, five very gifted women: Diana Conces, Salina B. Baker, Tonja Drecker, Maureen Turner and Amy Elizabeth Miller. Each had read the book prior to publication and written a smashing review that I could use for blurbs and promotional purposes. As a thank-you, I had promised to mail them each a print copy of The Realm Below, but I wasn’t going to send the books out sticker-less. So I wrote and explained the reason for the delay. Terrible review and all.
And then, Dear Readers, something miraculous happened. Amy, you’ll remember, is the Oklahoma writer who devised the fun, out-of-the-box interview questions that I shared in my previous blog post. She’s an unstoppable force, a grab-the-bull-by-the-horns sort of person. (Which I, obviously, am not.) And God bless her, she saved the day. Within minutes of receiving my email, Amy went to Amazon to see the review with her own eyes. And she realized at once that it was never intended for my book at all. She then did a little further sleuthing and discovered which book the review was meant for. The one the reviewer had actually read and given the rating of a single, lonesome star. Amy emailed her findings to me immediately. And, long story short, a few days later the ghastly review was removed from my Amazon page.
This has been an extreme couple of weeks; lows and highs can both be exhausting. In this case, the low that kicked it all off led to an important lesson about marketing books that are part of a series. I’ll never make that mistake again (though I’m sure there will be many others). The high that capped it was a huge relief. I hadn’t realized how heavily that one star was weighing on me. The relief is still tainted with uncertainty, though. I’ll never know how many people may have glanced at that star and decided to pass on my book. And heaven forbid, if Amy hadn’t dug a little deeper, it might have stayed on my page forever. Thank you, Amy, for saving me from my wimpy self! Of course if I had read the review when I first came across it, instead of covering my eyes and exiting Amazon as quickly as possible, I probably would have realized it wasn’t meant for me and avoided the subsequent days of anguish. But . . . I didn’t. Fact-facing isn’t my strong suit. I’m just lucky there was a happy ending.
Now that the dust has settled, it’s back to writing book 3, so I’ll see you here at the end of February. But before I go, Happy Valentine’s Day! Glen and I are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary today. To mark this milestone, I think we’ll open a bottle of nice champagne and raise a glass to 35 more. Cheers and love to all!