Well, after having the cover to my book as my phone background since November, I finally changed it earlier this week.  I tend to change phone backgrounds pretty frequently, so my dedication to the book cover background was unusual.

I switched to the image above, a sketch by the artist Nick Derington.  A quick perusal through his website – especially the sketchbook section – was pretty inspiring and impressive.  I love the guy’s art style.  Reminds me quite a bit of Chris Samnee or Darwyn Cooke.

And his stuff makes me extremely jealous.

I mean, that Batman image is a rough sketch he did with a ballpoint pen.  My finished art has never looked that good.  Never will.  Part of me is so envious of his talent.

It’s the same way with lots of authors, too.  I read their work and I’m jealous of their talent, their skill, their ability to craft a story or a character or even just a line of dialogue.  “I’ll never write anything that good,” I say to myself, discouraged and deflated.

Here’s the thing, though: everyone who does anything creative or artistic feels that way at some point.  When someone as talented and well-regarded as Neil Gaiman can still experience impostor syndrome, you know it’s a worry that weighs heavily on all of us.

So I constantly have to remind myself that someone else’s skill does not detract or reduce what I do.  I think back to a thing I heard, years ago, about music: every song is someone’s favorite.  By correlation, every book or comic must be someone’s favorite, too.  So, while there’s folks out there who absolutely love that image of Batman up there (like I do), there’s probably someone out there who prefers something I’ve drawn.  For every fan of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, there’s someone out there who loves some other book more (maybe even my book, though I’m not so full of myself to think that’s actually true).  Hell, there’s probably even someone out there who likes the “song” (and I use that term loosely) “Revolution #9.”

Am I still jealous of Nick Derington’s skills?  God, yes.  Am I going to let that stop me from creating my own stuff?  Hell, no.

What Makes A Good Review?

Many of you (hopefully) have had a chance to purchase and read The Invisible Crown by now. You’ve probably heard me (and other authors) say that reviews are really important: they help drive sales, encourage readers to take a chance on an unknown author, and feedback helps us grow as writers.  But maybe you’re not sure what to write, or think writing a review is a painstaking, time-consuming process.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case!  You can write a review in just a minute or two, really, even if you type like my father (who has never evolved past the hunt-and-peck-with-his-index-fingers method of typing).  Below are all the important elements you’ll need to write a great review for any book!

  1. Keep it simple.  No reason to explain the whole plot or provide bios for all the characters.  The readers will get that stuff when they read the book.  On the other hand, you should…
  2. Be specific.  What did you really like?  What did you really dislike?  What is the one thing about the book that really jumped out at you?
  3. Be constructive.  It’s okay if you didn’t think it was the best book you’ve ever picked up.  Sometimes readers and books just don’t gel.  I had one of my self-published books disparaged because the reviewer found the book to just be, “too weird.”  Which is fine, if that’s how you feel, but it doesn’t really help, y’know?
  4. Be positive.  This isn’t saying you can’t voice legitimate criticism or talk about what you didn’t like.  You can totally do that.  But there are positive, constructive ways to do that.  One reviewer for TIC said they had a difficult time connecting with Hazzard because he was just too mean and drunk most of the time.  But he also couched it in a larger discussion of the things that the reviewer enjoyed in the book, and how he thought the book fit into a larger genre of fiction.  Plus, this is the first book in a series: gotta leave myself room for character growth (and improved sobriety).
  5. Be honest.  If you liked it, say so.  If you didn’t, still say so, but don’t be a jerk about it.

Ultimately, a short, honest review that is specific and constructive is much better than a long, rambling review that tries to do too much.  Happy reading and reviewing!