An Author’s Perspective on Book Reviews

We all want to be loved. It is human nature. Love takes many forms. For an author, a key sign of love is seeing a reader enthusiastically embracing your stories.

Few things boost an author’s self-confidence and self-worth faster than seeing positive reviews praising your work pop up on Amazon, Goodreads, and other places. The flip side can create a polar opposite effect. Seeing a negative review attached to one of your stories can feel soul-crushing.

Negative reviews come with the territory if you want to be an author. If you expect every reader to sing your praises whenever you publish a story, prepared to be disappointed.

Reviews are for Readers

Working as a print journalist for more than 15 years has taught me firsthand that you will always have critics tearing down your writing, regardless of what you write. You quickly learn to develop thicker skin, learn what you need to learn to improve your craft, and ignore persistent critics for the sake of your mental and emotional health.

That doesn’t mean ignoring negative reviews is an easy thing to do as an author. I noticed a couple of 2-star reviews for Under a Fallen Sun on Goodreads that made me hot under the collar when I checked them out. One, in particular, got under my skin because it featured a laundry list of ridiculous complaints that showed the reviewer did not pay close attention to my novel when they read it. I felt tempted to defend my story and promptly composed a thorough rebuttal to the review in question. Fortunately, I stopped myself before ever posting my response on social media and I’m happy I did.

Book reviews are designed to help readers decide if they should read a book. They are not meant to support an author and build up their ego. That’s an important lesson to remember as an author.

Here’s a dirty little secret: your stories will never be universally praised. No two readers are alike – just like snowflakes. That’s why so many types of stories exist both in fiction and non-fiction. Even if you target a specific audience, some readers in that target audience will respond better to your stories than others. You can’t expect them all to fall in love with your writing and you better prepare yourself for the reality that some people will hate it.

You invite commentary on your art once you introduce it to the world. You can’t control where those opinions go, nor should you try to exercise control. Remember that art is subjective. Another person’s opinion isn’t automatically wrong just because it isn’t what you want to hear or read.

Approaching Reviews as an Author

When you get a negative review on one of your stories as an author, there are only two acceptable actions you should take:

  1. Learn from the criticism.
  2. Ignore the criticism.

That’s it. Attacking a reviewer will just earn you a reputation as a thin-skinned jerk who can’t handle criticism. Other readers will steer clear of your stories and you will end up doing serious damage to your writing career.

Some stories honestly deserve negative reviews. I’ve encountered a few indie authors on social media who publicly complain about one and two-star reviews their books received. When I’ve previewed their stories on the Amazon “Look Inside” feature, I quickly learned those critical reviews were warranted in many cases. These authors who were so desperate for praise had opening chapters littered with atrocious grammar, typos, stilted dialogue, and a rambling narrative crammed with awkward backstory information dumps. Their stories needed to go through at least two or three more drafts before being slush pile worthy and faced a long uphill climb to be publishable.

Authors should be committed to honing their craft and producing high-quality writing. A poorly written and poorly edited story does not deserve to be showered with five-star reviews just so an author can feel good about themselves.

Before going after a reviewer over a negative review, take some time to look in the mirror and examine where you can improve as an author. Your efforts to improve will shine through on the page and you will eventually get the praise you seek – in an organic way rather than an artificial one.

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Introducing Alien People

When I graduated from high school in 1997, I decided to sit down and write a novel over the summer before I went off to college. It counted as an ambitious project for a shy teenager.

Over the span of three months, I churned out a 400 page, 80,000-word science fiction novel about a team of alien astronauts that decides to make first contact with Earth after discovering a probe from our planet. I felt an immense sense of happiness from achieving my goal. I set the original manuscript aside during my college years, intending to polish and publish the story one day.

Two decades later, that day has arrived. My third novel will be published in mid-August and it will be this same first novel I wrote at 18 years old.

And the title of my new novel is …

ALIEN PEOPLE

Here’s an exclusive teaser for my latest novel:

Calandra has discovered more than a simple alien probe. She has opened the door to making contact with a previously unknown intelligent race.

Traveling among the stars has been an impossible dream for the alien astronomer. It all changes when a mysterious probe enters her solar system. Calandra feels driven to recover the probe and uncover its secrets. An expedition led by Xttra, a Stellar Guard master pilot, will help her uncover the biggest mystery of all.

The probe bears a message of peace while hailing from a forbidden region of space home to a planet called Earth. Calandra’s desire to make first contact cannot be quenched.

Space is organized chaos, Xttra tells her, and can leave you teetering on the edge of a cliff, ready to tumble down it at a moment’s notice. She and Xttra will soon learn that lesson firsthand as they uncover the true danger Earth presents to their people.

Amazon bestselling author John Coon returns to the fictional universe he introduced in Under a Fallen Sun with this captivating new science fiction adventure that explores the clash pitting hope and peace against fear and hostility.

Alien People serves as the primary cornerstone of my science fiction universe. All characters and worlds in past and future stories branch out from this point. I’m so excited to introduce Calandra and Xttra to the rest of the world and share their story with my fans. These characters have formed an integral part of my imagination for more than two decades. I hope you all will find as much joy in reading this novel once it is published as I have found in creating it.

I plan to distribute Alien People on a larger scale than any of my previous novels or short stories. I will keep you posted with more news as the release date approaches.

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Out of the Shadows

Experiencing the coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside down for countless people. I’m no exception. Normally, during March, I am spending much of my time reporting on NBA basketball and March Madness as a sports journalist. With sports grinding to a halt to contain the spread of COVID-19, it has given me an unplanned furlough from my usual day job.

I decided to make use of that extra time by crafting some short fiction for my fans. I usually have only enough time to work on my novels, given the busy nature of my schedule. Now I have a chance to expand on the fictional universes I introduced in Pandora Reborn and Under a Fallen Sun over the past two years.

My first piece of short fiction will fall within the paranormal horror genre. And the title is …

In Hell’s Shadow

Here is an exclusive teaser for my soon-to-be-released short story:

Trapped in an unfamiliar place far from home, Kate must confront anew a nightmare she thought she had buried long ago. Her plans for a weekend getaway take a frightening turn when she suffers a car accident during a blinding rainstorm on a canyon road. Hitching a ride with a stranger is the first step in a journey that will bring Kate into a cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious figure connected to the demons of her past.

In Hell’s Shadow will be available exclusively on Amazon with a planned release date of April 6th.

This will be the first of what I hope will be multiple short stories from me in 2020. Check back as I announce titles and release dates for other upcoming short fiction, as well as my third novel, in the weeks ahead.

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Finding Balance

Watching March Madness live in an arena became a goal of mine as a child.

You could say I was obsessed with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I filled out homemade brackets every Selection Sunday in elementary school. By the time I reached middle school, I made and won bets on games with my teachers (much to their chagrin). I loved the excitement and drama  the event brought every year.

One career highlight for me as a sports reporter has been covering March Madness. I’ve reported on several first and second round games over the years. Along the way, I’ve witnessed incredible upsets and fantastic finishes that created fun memories for me.

On the other hand, I experienced a downside to covering this event only a few years ago. I bit off more than I could chew during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Starting with Selection Sunday, I wrote a total of 30 articles over seven days for four different clients. I convinced myself that I could handle it because I loved March Madness so much anyway.

I could not have been more wrong.

I struggled with the onerous workload. I missed celebrating my birthday that year because I worked nonstop the entire week. By the time the second round games wrapped up, I straddled a razor thin edge of suffering a nervous breakdown, in part, because of one particularly demanding editor.

All Work, No Play

Balance isn’t a concept reserved for Anakin Skywalker and the Force.

Everyone needs time for themselves. When you try to be all things to all people, it becomes a sure formula for causing your life to spiral out of control.

I’m learning that lesson a second time.

I need to take balanced approach toward my social media activities or risk destroying myself physically and mentally. As 2019 progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly angry, stressed, and depressed over the workload I faced while seemingly watching my life waste away. I’ve tried to find ways to reduce my workload and decrease stress, but I found little success in those endeavors up to this point.

One major source of my unhappiness, I realized, is rooted how much time I spend on Twitter and Facebook. It isn’t a healthy amount. As soon as I started being honest with myself, I discovered I spend far too much time on these social media channels. Twitter especially has grown into a huge problem for me. I worry so much about sharing breaking news, analysis, stats, and related items around the clock that I’ve let it turn into a detriment to living a meaningful life outside of my job.

That changes now.

Turning a New Leaf

Going forward into 2020 and beyond, I will be dialing back the frequency of my tweeting and sharing on social media. This doesn’t mean that I’m quitting or shutting down my accounts. As much as I’d like to take such a final step, it isn’t a viable option in my current profession. That doesn’t mean I can’t take control in other ways.

I will no longer send out a large volume of live tweets during games that I’m assigned to cover. When I don’t have a reporting assignment for a game involving teams I cover, I may choose to not tweet at all. This will make it easier to carve out time to pursue interests outside of sports or simply enjoy a night off as needed. My time spent on Twitter will be significantly reduced, so I can focus on making my life happier going forward.

What will I tweet about when I do tweet?

  • Much of my sports content will focus on unusual or noteworthy stats, trends, milestones, quotes and fun facts. Sharing these items is an area of strength for me as a sports journalist.
  • Other content will consist of links to blog posts, book reviews, and my books; news on my fiction, thought provoking questions, and occasional funny quotes or jokes.

I want to create a better experience for myself on social media. I want to create a healthy balance between my online activity and my real life. Life is not designed to be frittered away on Twitter and Facebook.

Now I intend to resume living the bulk of my life offline rather than online.

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Under a Fallen Sun Audiobook is Here!

When I listened to an audiobook for the first time, I distinctly remember how it brought the story to life in a whole new way for me. It felt exciting.

As the narrator voiced specific characters, those characters felt much more like real people in the room talking to me. Their personalities came alive and I grew more invested in their fate. I couldn’t wait to devour the book each day until I finished it. I enjoyed hearing that book so much that I eventually listened to the entire series penned by that author.

Now I get to relive the audio experience for one of my own novels. Starting today, Under a Fallen Sun is available as an audiobook. You can get a copy to own at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Hear talented narrator Tristin Rutherford bring my characters and story to life in vivid and suspenseful fashion. Tristin does an excellent job of capturing what I envisioned while first bringing Under a Fallen Sun to life. She sets the right tone and atmosphere for each scene right from the opening page. It offers an unforgettable listening experience. 

If you do not have an Audible membership, have no fear. You can download Under a Fallen Sun absolutely FREE when you sign up for a 30-day Audible free trial. If you cancel the trial at any time during the 30-day period, you keep any audiobooks you downloaded at no cost to you. You can’t beat that deal!

Now is the perfect time to get your own copy of Under a Fallen Sun on audiobook. This will fling open a door into a broader fictional universe I plan to revisit and explore in many other novels and short stories down the road.

Join the ride while the journey is just beginning.

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Under a Fallen Sun Now Available

The wait is finally over. My second novel is officially published.

Under a Fallen Sun is now out in the world. The ebook is available to download starting today. The paperback will be released on July 24th. The audio book is currently in production with a release date to be determined in mid-to-late August.

Building a New World

I’m so excited to share this latest novel. Under a Fallen Sun is the culmination of an idea I first brought to life 17 years ago.  It started as a short story called Village of the Gargoyles that I wrote in college. The original story centered around four college students who become stranded in a cursed small town. They must find a way to escape before sunrise or else they will fall victim to the curse. The characters of Paige, Heather, Jason, Rich, and Todd all appeared in this early story, although they were not clearly defined beyond random stock characters.

My Mom had a chance to read Village of the Gargoyles a year before her death from cancer. She thought it had promise, but raised questions about certain elements that didn’t make sense to her. I put the story aside for a long time because life got in the way. Still, I came back to Mom’s feedback and mulled over the questions she raised. Over time, a much different story unfolded in my mind. I shifted genres from horror to science fiction. I developed firmer connections and relationships between the original five characters and developed subplots and additional characters that further fleshed out the story.

The end result is a science fiction thriller introducing a wider fictional universe that I plan to explore in subsequent novels and short stories. I’m not planning these future stories as direct sequels or prequels to Under a Fallen Sun. My vision is a web of interconnected stories and characters within the same fictional universe — in a similar vein to what you see with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Going Worldwide

All of the distribution channels that offered Pandora Reborn will also be used for Under a Fallen Sun. I am doing a targeted roll-out for each format.

Starting on Monday, you can purchase the eBook from AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, WalMart, GoogleApple Books, and other major booksellers worldwide. You can also request a copy for your local library through Overdrive. Under a Fallen Sun will also be available on eBook subscription services Scribd, Playster, and 24 Symbols.

This is just the beginning. The paperback will be distributed by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and IndieBound following its release on July 24th. Finally, sometime in mid-to-late August, an audio book version of Under a Fallen Sun will be distributed to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Please check out Under a Fallen Sun and add it to your bookshelf or to-be-read list. Share this news with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, pets, and random strangers. Trust me when I say that this book will give you something worth talking about!

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Capturing the Scenes

Whenever I buy or rent a movie or a season of a TV show, I always check out the DVD or Blu-Ray extras. I especially enjoy watching the deleted scenes. I’m always curious to see what the director left on the cutting room floor and how it impacted their final version of the movie. What scenes you leave to the imagination can influence the direction of a story almost as much as the scenes you choose to include.

Deleted scenes usually didn’t make the final cut for a good reason. These scenes often bog down pacing and don’t move the story forward as much as the director hoped. Authors face a similar dilemma when editing a short story or novel. What you take out and what you choose to leave in the narrative is crucial.

Making Tough Cuts

Discarding a scene you spent hours or even days creating isn’t an easy thing for an author to do. It would be so simple if these scenes were inferior in quality to the rest of the story. That isn’t always the case. A scene can contain wonderful imagery, witty dialogue, or intriguing character moments and still interrupt the pace and flow of the main story.

When I wrote the initial draft for Pandora Reborn, I envisioned a flashback sequence detailing how Casey and Christina became best friends before Ron connected with them in the story. It contained some cool imagery, fun dialogue, and a suspenseful moment or two.

Ultimately, I had to cut the scene. It did not fit organically into the flow of the main narrative as I envisioned it. The scene also did not present any new information that readers didn’t get elsewhere. It ended up being a well-written tangent that didn’t move the story forward.

I found myself making a similar decision for my upcoming novel Under a Fallen Sun. In an early draft, I wanted to include a scene that featured Paige skipping out on a college party to scour social media posts to see if anyone had leads on the whereabouts of her missing brother. This would have led into a flashback sequence involving a driveway basketball game between the siblings. While the scene as a whole included a nice character moment or two, it slowed down the pace of the story enough to cause me to brainstorm other ways to showcase their relationship within the narrative.

Scenes Left Unseen

Overwriting is a classic mistake some authors make. It doesn’t always refer to embellishing descriptive language in scenes to the point of turning your narrative into flowery word vomit. Overwriting can also pertain to adding unnecessary scenes and subplots.

Including scenes of any length that do not propel the story forward will only draw your reader out of the story. Authors must use just enough brushstrokes to paint a visual picture inside a reader’s mind. They should let the reader go from there and fill in the remaining details on their own.

As an author, you can build a character and make a world seem bigger than what’s revealed on the page by including references and allusions to unseen events and interactions. Maybe it’s contained within a line of dialogue or a fleeting thought from the main character. Perhaps something within the setting alludes to a past event.

Hinting at what occurs off the page can be more fun for your reader than including a superfluous scene, because it opens the door to their imagination. You invite them to collaborate, in a way, with you in building your fictional world.

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Attack of the Backstory

Building fictional worlds is so much fun as an author. One of the best parts is weaving backstories for each character and setting that appear in my story. I will fill page after page with character biographies and personalities, historical events, geographic settings, and other information relevant to that fictional universe.

Weaving these backstory threads into the main narrative can serve a useful purpose. It makes each character and setting feel more alive and real to both author and audience. Your plot feels more organic because the actions that your characters take are informed by important backstory elements like their histories and personalities.

Incorporating backstory elements into your main plot or key subplots requires a surgical touch. You want to draw your audience into your fictional world without engaging in information overload.

A significant percentage of traditionally published authors and indie authors alike struggle on deciding where to draw the line when including backstory material. These authors become too fascinated by their own creations and lose sight of what information is relevant to the story at hand. They cram backstory onto page after page until much of their novel reads like an unending series of Wikipedia articles.

Including too much backstory at one time bogs down a story’s pace. Readers aren’t dying to read lengthy information dumps on politics, history, culture, religion, and other topics tangentially related your fictional world. Doing it early and often runs the risk of driving them away.

Always ask yourself these questions when considering if you should include any backstory element:

  • Does it move the plot forward in a meaningful way?
  • Will it forge a better understanding of and deeper connection with a key character?

If including a backstory element enhances rather than detracts from the main story, always incorporate it organically in small amounts. You don’t want any element to interrupt the flow and pace of the narrative.

I created an extensive backstory for Pandora Reborn. It included sketches of all primary and secondary characters in the novel, a history of Deer Falls, a medieval legend related to the antagonist’s origins, and a broader mythology involving other supernatural protagonists and antagonists in that fictional world. Only a small percentage of what I jotted down in my notes made it into the actual novel. I sprinkled in whatever elements drove the plot and characters forward and simply left the rest of it to the imagination of my audience. I’m following the same path with my upcoming novel, Under a Fallen Sun, in introducing that fictional world.

Ultimately, that’s what backstory is designed to do. Backstory elements serve a purpose of offering a snapshot of a larger world than what is written down on each page.

That’s the key word. Snapshot.

Backstory details should never divert readers into plunging down a rabbit hole away from the main story. They aren’t likely to find their way back to the surface and, in the end, you end up with a bored, dissatisfied reader.

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Here Comes the Fallen Sun!

I’ve enjoyed seeing so many readers around the world embrace Pandora Reborn so enthusiastically since I published it nearly a year ago. The good news is that my fans won’t have to wait much longer for my next novel.

I’m officially unveiling the title and synopsis for my upcoming novel. First things first. My second novel will be called:

UNDER A FALLEN SUN 

 

Here is an exclusive teaser for Under a Fallen Sun:

A spring break road trip takes a wrong turn. Now Paige finds herself in a battle for survival against an adversary from across the stars.

Paige and her friends are put into dire straits when their car breaks down along a lonely Texas highway. They make their way into Travis, an isolated town seemingly deserted from all outside appearances. Paige is inexplicably reunited with her brother Todd, who vanished without a trace nearly a month earlier. An invisible barrier traps the group inside the town and they must unravel the frightening mystery behind what has happened in this small town if they hope to escape.

An enemy that they never imagined even existed is now on Earth. The fate of the human race itself may hinge on the survival of Paige and her friends.

John Coon, author of Pandora Reborn, delivers his newest pulse-pounding page turner with Under a Fallen Sun. This dark science fiction thriller is coming to you Summer 2019. 

Under a Fallen Sun will be available at major booksellers worldwide. I will announce a firm release date for the ebook and paperback in a future blog post.

This is a standalone novel. Under a Fallen Sun is not a sequel or prequel to Pandora Reborn and is not related to that fictional universe. I will continue to tell the stories of select characters from Pandora Reborn in future novels, but those projects remain in development for now.

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Pandora Reborn Book Trailer!

Everyone has watched a movie trailer at one point or another. Ever heard of a book trailer? Same concept, only used for novels. It’s pretty cool.

Pandora Reborn now has a trailer.

After watching it, and seeing how much I enjoyed it, I wished I had created one sooner.

I had not given much thought to creating a trailer for my debut novel when I first published it last summer. It seemed prohibitively expensive because I wasn’t sure I would get a good return on my investment.

Questions always popped into my head every time I saw a social media post about book trailers. Would a trailer really boost sales that much? Could it draw in potential readers that couldn’t already be reached by a well-crafted tweet or blog post?

Seeing my Pandora Reborn trailer offers a new perspective. I love it. The imagery and music in the trailer match up nicely with the eerie atmosphere I tried to create within the pages of my novel. It really gives a new feel to the novel for a reader deciding on their next book.

Credit goes to Claire Perkins from Book Talk Radio Club for creating such an awesome trailer. I’ll likely reach out to her to do a trailer for my second novel when it is ready to be published this summer.

Take a couple of minutes to watch it. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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