5 Star Average Rating! (my foot)

I am probably the worst nightmare of other authors: click on all their links — not because I’m curious about their book — but because I’m curious as to why someone would be interested in their work. I like to troll around on Amazon and see what people are buying, read a few reviews, and just get an overall sense of what’s out there.

Of course, in doing so, I often find myself shaking my head at the types of books and types of hype which is used to sell books.

I saw on Twitter someone advertising a book which had a “5-star rating average.” My first thought was, wow, it must be some book. My follow-up thought was that there must be something wrong with this picture – no book with any amount of stars maintains a 5-star rating. I had to find out, so I clicked on the link, found myself on their amazon page, and sure enough, the book had an average 5.0 star rating. Here’s the break-down:

1 Review = 5 Stars

That’s it. Now it was a verified purchase review, so that’s at least something.

But come on, are we fudging the facts just a bit? I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable in saying that in an advertisement. It worked, in that it at least got me to click on the link and look at the author’s book, but …

Hey, I understand. Advertising is tough. The market is saturated and you want to use every trick available to grab someone’s attention. But still – is that the best you can do? Even if I was interested in the topic of the book (which I wasn’t), I wouldn’t have bought it because of such an underhanded tactic.

I’ve been advertising my latest novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, at 4.8 stars on 22 reviews. In my opinion, that’s enough independent reviews to get a sense of how readers are accepting the work. I’m comfortable in promoting that. But 1 at 5?

Come on, authors, we can do better than that.

Image has Nothing to do with Love.

Image has nothing to do with love.

When was the last time that an “unattractive” woman was the subject of a Hollywood love story?

I suppose it happens. But very infrequently.

Hollywood is obsessed with image, as is TV, the Internet, and just about every person who is honest with themselves.

It’s not often that you have an obese heroine. It’s not often you have a grotesque protagonist with which the audience is supposed to sympathize.

It happens, but infrequently.

We all know the drill – thin bodies, hard bodies, six packs, big breasted, tight chested, photo-shopped bodies – that is what appeals and that is what the people crave. But, of course, it isn’t real. And the public doesn’t care.

It’s like we like to live out our fantasies vicariously through Hollywood dribble. And we plop down good money to do so.

But here’s a shocker to think about: a beautiful woman’s love is no different than an obese woman’s love. A six-pack ab love is no different or no better than an “ugly” man’s love.

We could easily blame Hollywood and the media for perpetuating this lie, but that would be grossly disingenuous.

We, the people, perpetuate this lie. We think that hard bodies and glamour, brilliant sex, and glossy bodies on the screen constitute love – but we all know better. It has nothing to do with it.

Love is a human emotion – perhaps the greatest of human emotions and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the shape of one’s body.

And so I am using this blog post to let it be known that all love is valid, regardless of body shape and image.

I would like to see Hollywood and TV try something different: show real love from real people who have real bodies.

Of course, TV and Hollywood is driven by profits. Profits driven by image. There lies the dilemma.

No one wants to see the love of an obese couple on screen. They want to see sleek, slim, hard bodies. That’s the honest truth about our society.

But don’t let the screen fool you. Love is love. It has nothing to do with image or body shape, and if we can get that into our consciousness, we’d all be better off.

My Book Advertising Dilemma

I am not a great marketer when it comes to promoting my books. I’ve learned a lot over the last year a half, but in some ways it feels like I haven’t made any progress.

I understand that book advertising, especially for new independent authors, is a long process. There’s a lot of hits and misses along the way – mainly misses. I understand the patience that’s involved whether promoting on blogs, twitter, facebook, Goodreads, etc … I’m in the for the long haul.

But my problem stems from the fact that I don’t know what kind of books I write. I’m kind of serious here. They don’t really fit into any genre that I know of and I have found that if a writer isn’t writing to a certain niche or audience, it’s more challenging.

I’ve even done some research into my kind of writing. I’ve asked some trusted readers how they would describe to others the type of writing I do. The responses were telling. Most said things like well I would say this but not really because of this but also perhaps this. Perhaps one of my recent reviewers said it best, “Sasse has done it again. He continues to write books that defy categorization.”  In a review, that line sounds awesome. It sounds like the writing is unique and not to be pigeon-holed here or there. I absolutely am flattered by a comment like that.

But it creates a problem with advertising. So many of the blogs or sites where I want to advertise make you choose specifically a genre so they know how to best market your book. Well, hmmm, okay, I’m now at a lose of how to proceed.

Now here’s the last line that the reviewer from The Kindle Book Review wrote about The Reach of the Banyan Tree: “I absolutely recommend this book to all readers; it is truly an experience you don’t want to miss!”

What an awesome thing to say! Now how do I communicate that to the many readers out there who would enjoy this story?

That’s the incredibly hard part.

I will continue on, learning from others and trying new things. I know I need to sharpen my descriptions of my books. I’m going to keep working at it.

I’d also love to hear from others who have had a similar experience as mine, not fitting comfortably in any one particular genre.

Much thanks!

The Break You Deserve: Ice skating, ice cream, and more!

Groupon sent out the following advertisement to me. “The break you deserve. Ice skating, ice cream, blah, blah, blah.”

Why exactly do I deserve to go ice skating? Have they seen my skills in the rink? I went once when I was in 6th grade and I ended up walking on pins and needles with sore ankles for three days afterward. I deserve that? OK, perhaps now I see their point. Oh wait, they said, “The break you deserve” – they must mean the broken leg I’ll get on the ice. Now I see.

I deserve ice cream? Have I saved a puppy from drowning or have I completed all my assignment on time? Perhaps then I would deserve ice cream. Does anyone ever deserve ice cream? One eats ice cream to splurge or pamper oneself, but hardly because they deserve it.

I can’t understand how anyone would deserve or be entitled to ice cream. Or ice skating. Advertising plays into the “whoa is me” mentality. Your boss or teacher was a pain this week so this weekend you deserve ice cream. Your deal with so much junk in your life each day that you deserve some “me” time. You deserve a little reward for yourself. You are the most important person in the world, in case you haven’t noticed.

It’s a tired scheme to ponder, probably because its a philosophy that so many of us have bought into. We are the entitled generation, but we can’t really articulate why we are entitled to anything. Most likely it’s because we’ve been given everything we need and much more, so therefore we are always supposed to have what we want when we want it.

I’m going to use this simple advertisement to remind myself of a few things. It’s better to give than to receive. It’s better to consider others more highly than ourselves. I don’t deserve anything, but I should look for those who do and try to bless them how I can.

I’m sure that someone does deserve to go ice skating.

I’m sure that someone around you is clearly deserving of a huge heaping helping of Baskin Robbins. My job is to figure out who that is and invite them out for ice cream.

If we all did that, the world really would be a more deserving place.

Advertising is Selling Lies

Just thought I would give everyone a quick reminder today of the purpose of advertising.

I was on my motorbike the other day and went under a raised walkway over the street that had a large, full-color billboard of a new condominium complex.

In the photo, two westerners were sitting by the pool in perfect contentment, each with a fruity adult beverage in their hands. They were smiling with their perfect teeth and beautiful bodies. It was a picture of paradise – a rich man’s dream. Luxury and happiness all wrapped up in photoshop.

If someone purchased a condo there, could they replicate that picture? Yes. For about five minutes. (until the kids jumped into the picture and set the table umbrella on fire, or something like that)

What advertising tries to do is to sell a few minutes worth of happiness as if it is a lifetime worth of happiness. Advertising shows you a glimpse, not the reality. Advertising doesn’t show the debt, the extra-marital affairs, the horrible boss, the exhausting bickering, the kids and their affect on sanity, the divorces, the bankruptcies, the lying, the backstabbing, the complaining, the mundane, the abuse.

Those perfect people with perfect teeth are not real.

If we keep that in mind, perhaps we will all be a little wiser in spending our money on things we think will bring us happiness. Because we can’t buy happiness. Happiness has to be grown. Remember all those things which you once said “I have to have this”? How many of them have become insignificant in our lives? My guess is most of them. (I remember when I was recently married that I tried to talk my wife into going into debt so I could buy some DJ equipment. Luckily, she’s the sane one. What was I thinking?)

So don’t try to find truth in advertising. It doesn’t exist.

(Full Disclosure: Yes, I advertise my novels. But I make no claim that my novels will make your life happy. I do hope they can make you forget your miserable existence for a short while. OK, that was a joke. I hope your existence is not miserable. And if it is, I hope you will start to grow happiness in your life. I truly do!)