Episode 8: That Time I Got Book Reviews

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 8: That Time I Got Book Reviews

Welcome to 365 Dates of Travel with Fran. 

Hello. So I’m interrupting the normal broadcast yet again and talking about the process or what is happening with the publishing of my book. So I’ve talked about the background of self publishing, I’ve talked about the launching and some book sales, and now the reviews are starting to come in. It’s the moment of truth. That time I got book reviews.

NetGalley

So far, I only have reviews on a site that I specifically put my book on, called NetGalley. It’s a promotional website where booksellers, librarians, social media bloggers, educators and so forth can go to see what books are out there before they’re published and see if there’s anything they want to buy for their library, put into the educational reading list or make social media posts about and so forth. And the idea is to get reviews. It’s a review site. 

So you join up. I was very lucky. The only reason I joined is because I managed to get a double discount that I was able to put together, meaning I paid just over a quarter of the price that it would normally cost, and the normal cost is way too expensive and something I wouldn’t have done at this stage for my book. So, seeing as I had the good discount, I thought, why not? Let’s give it a go. 

Because I don’t have the full level of service, I only can access some things. I will get a report every month. It’ll be on the site for three months. So at the end of the month, which for me will be the 23 April, because I put it up on the 23 March, give or take a day or two, I’ll get the report. And that will tell me how many people have downloaded the book, how many people have read the book, how many people have given feedback, breakdown of the people who have read it, so how many were educators or librarians, and all sorts of data along those lines. 

Book cover 

Even without full access, I’ve been able to see the front of my book page and on there, people can give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the book cover. So even if they’re not interested in reading the book, if it’s from a different genre from what they read and those sort of things, they can at least vote on the book cover. 

To my wonderful surprise, within 24 hours of the book being on the site, I received three thumbs up for my book cover. Well, that was it. I was happy with that. But over the next three or four days, number three went up to number 13. So I had 13 thumbs up and no thumbs down for my book cover design. So if that was all I got out of the website, I was happy, because the book cover was the hardest part for me, and I have no cover design, graphic design, or any artistic talent. So to get confirmation that people liked my cover was absolutely massive, and I appreciated every single one of those thumbs up. 

I haven’t had any extra thumbs up since those first four days, but literally 13 is enough for me at this stage to feel like I made the right choice with the cover in the end. 

Star ratings

It wasn’t until a few days later I realised I could actually access the reviews that people were writing, and people had actually left reviews. I discovered it by accident, because one of the reviews had also been placed on Goodreads. It wasn’t a good review, it was a two star review. And Goodreads reminded me not to respond. And it’s okay to get bad reviews.  

I had been warned about NetGalley reviews in particular for being brutal. So this five star system that is also on other review sites, the people on this site are considered to be professional, not just your average reader. So they score, on average, lower than an everyday reader who’s reviewing a book that they’ve just read in their spare time on Amazon. And they don’t mince their words. They will straight out say things, and I can now say for sure that’s what happens. 

So this two star review was joined by two others the next time I looked to make three reviews. Another one was a two star review, and one a three star review, but that still made an average of the three a two star review. 

I was working on accepting the feedback, and then a fourth review popped up, and it was a three star review, so my average went up to three stars for the first time, which was very exciting. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a screenshot of that, and by the time the fifth review came in, I was back down to a two star review. 

Book concept 

So it appears that the format of the book is not agreeing with people. No one seems to understand that it’s a collection of stories. So I think the main issue is with how I’ve set it out. They don’t like the 365 dates and a story for every date of the year, which is a bit disappointing because, well, that was the only reason I started writing, because I had that idea, because it was so hard to come up with an idea of how to write 30 years of stories into one book. So that’s okay. They don’t understand how it works. And maybe that’s my fault for not explaining how it worked enough. 

I’ve never claimed it to be a year of travel. It is 365 dates of stories. Otherwise it would have been much easier to say “my year of travel” or “twelve months of travelling stories”. But it’s not twelve months or the same twelve months, and it’s not one year in time. It is lots of dates so that you can read one story every day of the year if you wanted to. It’s not a book necessarily that you sit down and read from start to finish. It was never written in that form. Obviously there are stories that follow through and some things at some point might not make sense if you’ve missed a story here. But I expected people to skip around potentially and miss bits and pieces. If you weren’t interested in a particular country, you could just skip it and move on. It really didn’t change the story as such because there’s not a transition. 

It’s not Eat, Pray, Love when I’m finding myself and transitioning my life. Travel is just part of my everyday life, it hasn’t changed anything in one enlightening moment. So if people were expecting that, then obviously it’s a disappointment. And I can understand if that was their expectations. I’m just sad that the concept hasn’t worked. 

People who don’t know me

And so far all the reviews are from people who’ve never met me. And previous to Netgalley, only people who had met me had read the stories. I can understand people knowing me having a little bit of extra invested interest, and they can picture me doing it and saying stuff, which gives them a whole different framework to work from. So I was unsure if people who didn’t know me would find them interesting. And so far it looks like people who don’t know me don’t find it interesting. So that’s okay, we’ll work with that. 

Making it a positive experience

I have a plan to make this a positive experience, and so look out for that on social media. When I make a reel on how to upscale or turn negatives into positives. I’ve come up with some really good positives based on the negatives. I’ll try and make a funny video about it and put it on social media. 

But I have to admit, even while I was reading the reviews, I was staying positive. Maybe not by the fifth one, but definitely the first three were taken in good stead. However, my stomach was reacting differently to what I was thinking, which shows my body was actually reacting in a negative way. There was the gut wrenching, churning, bottom falling out. All those things were happening in my stomach as I was turning the negatives into positives. 

So I was trying to be positive and like I said, you’ll hear that I have made some positive points from their feedback, but it absolutely has made me reconsider writing year two. Obviously, the second six months is 100% coming out and that’s what I’m working on at the moment. And fingers crossed it will be ready to come out in June and then that book will be a whole. I personally will feel much better once the whole book’s out. I don’t know if that will change any people’s opinions on anything. 

It does have a nice symmetrical ending. If you read the first post or the first story in the first six months and you read the last story in the second six months, there is a beginning and an end, which just happened coincidentally. It wasn’t planned, but that is one reason why I chose to start with that trip in America and write the full year. So I am sorry that I didn’t write it in one book. It definitely, like I said, it was a hard decision at the time and am I regretting it now? Potentially. But there’s nothing I can do about it now, and I will finish that book regardless. 

I know a lot of people who want to read the second six months, particularly because I didn’t put all of that on the website and I gave lots of teasers on the website about the full stories that were coming. So don’t worry, I will be finishing the second six months, guaranteed, not an issue. 

The future of Year Two stories

I won’t be rushing into writing any more of the second year. At the moment I’m thinking about writing more individual trips rather than spreading it out. So obviously the concept of a story for every date of the year is not working. So in a rework, I will do individual stories. So the America trip, the 1992 original one, which I think a lot of people do find interesting, which is great because it was my all time favorite trip. So I love that other people are enjoying it. That is almost finished in a complete book, so I could easily do that instead of year two.

Maybe I’ll do something along the lines of Fran’s Travels as the overarching series and then break it up into the America Series, the Africa Series, the Europe Series and have individual volumes of stories. 

In that case some of them won’t be big enough to write or be considered a book. And after all the paperback experience with this first book, I’m considering making everything into ebooks, which works if they’re a smaller or a shorter story. So yes, we’ll see what happens. But at the moment, after all this and some soul searching, I’m thinking potentially a lot more ebooks and they’ll be shorter with the complete story. So obviously then they’ll be cheaper.

Potentially I’ll put them on Kindle Unlimited, which means anyone who has a membership can read them quite easily and stop reading them if they’re not interested and it hasn’t cost them anything to buy the book. So maybe that is the future. 

Plans may change

Obviously I reserve the right to change my mind, but I have a backup option if I’m not going to be writing the year two full book. I have to admit, I’ve saved some good stories for the second year because I didn’t want to put all the good stories in first book and not have as good a stories in the second book. So I’ve definitely got some stories there that none of you have heard of as yet that I would like to tell. Whether I can write them all in individual books or not is a whole different thing. That’s why the process, or the concept, of having individual dates from different stories allowed me to tell stories where the rest of the trip is either not interesting or I just no longer remember what happened. And travel isn’t always interesting. Sometimes it’s just a boring old day and that’s just the truth. And particularly in a diary format, if you’re trying to do every single day, then that’s not possible. 

The Reviews legal stuff

On to the actual feedback reviews. Anyone can read the views and I have to credit the reviews back to the original people. I will be just quoting short excerpts. If anyone wants to read the full review and make sure that I haven’t made it up, they can be found at 

netgalley.com/book/285540/reviews 

I believe that takes you directly to my book and if you scroll down, the reviews will be there. 

My understanding is that I can give direct quotes from these reviews. It’s been tricky to find the information, but my understanding is as long as I refer people back to the full quote, which I’ve done by giving that website address, that legally I can quote the reviews. But if you know any different, then please let me know.

The reviews

Speaker A: This is a really odd book.

Fran: Thanks. I was aiming for quirky, which is the same as odd!

Speaker A: It should have stayed a blog.

Fran: Wow. You’ve read my blog! 

Speaker A: I enjoyed the synopsis more than the book. 

Fran: She liked the blurb!

Speaker A: Some technical issues. 

Fran: Good to know. Please tell me more. 

Speaker A: There is no index to look up places you might want to read about. 

Fran: Good idea. I’ll add one to the ebook version.

Speaker A: Details you don’t need to know, like the exact seat number on the plane, the prices at McDonald’s.

Fran: Congratulations. You found some quirky data!

Speaker A: A memory test for the author.

Fran: Yes, I learned a lot about memories while I was writing this. 

Speaker A: There are funny stories, alarming stories, and stories that highlight the many strange and wonderful experiences that people encounter when they travel.

Fran: Thanks for that.

Speaker A: There are some fun stories in the book and some that brought back memories of what it used to be like to travel before mobile phones, WiFi, and the abundance of ATM machines. 

Fran: Somebody is starting to get it.

Speaker A: If you love to travel, you will enjoy this book.

Fran: Yay. Finally some nice stuff. 

So even in two and three star reviews they will say nice things. It is hard to gloss over the bad things, but at least I’ve had some feedback and I’m looking at it from a positive perspective and adjusting my expectations as time goes on. I understand not everyone will get the book concept, like my stories, or enjoy me as a character. That’s normal. I’m proud of what I have achieved and produced. No regrets or disappointments. For me, this book is just the beginning of my writing career. So watch this space. 

Oh, and would I do Netgalley again, you ask? Absolutely. 

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed my little take on what it’s like to get book reviews. It’s easier not knowing who these people are, but I thank them for their time and effort in one, reading, and then reviewing. And I’ve definitely learned a lot, so I’m happy with everything that they’ve done. 

That’s the episode for this week. I hope you’ve found something interesting or something to laugh about. 

And if you have read my book and you did enjoy it, then please write a review. It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

I wish you an interesting day.

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