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November 2012

5 Tips for Approaching Reviewers

I’m an Amazon.com Hall of Fame/Vine reviewer with over 1, 230 reviews to my name with over 28,000 helpful votes. Some of my reviews appear in print publications, and I was once on staff at a print magazine as a paid reviewer.

In short, I’ve been doing this a long time…and I’m rather good at it.

Woman readingSo here’s some tips for you authors and publicists who want to get a book, deck or product reviewed, from someone who actually knows.

First, keep in mind that most reviewers are volunteers. We do it because we enjoy providing a service to fellow consumers…or we’re just passionate about evaluating products. Usually both.

Some of us are also published authors, working on our own writing projects—often on top of being parents, homeschoolers and domestic gods/goddesses.

Meaning: we’re busy. In fact, I get multiple review requests on a daily basis and 80% I politely decline.

Here are some tips that will help you NOT waste our time or tick us off and, if you’re lucky, secure a review from us (especially if we’re a coveted Amazon Top Reviewer).

One: Don’t bait and switch. Recently, a publicist pitched a print book and meditation CD from an author, directing me to the product links on Amazon. The book and CD actually sounded quite good, so I replied with my physical address to send the products. She emailed back that she’d send me a eBook file and a mp3 via email.

Wait: You didn’t say anything about an eBook or a mp3 file. You directed me to a link describing a print book and a CD…not an eBook or audio download.

I told her this, she agreed that it was misrepresented…and snail mailed  me the print book and CD. She’s lucky I didn’t tell her “don’t bother”. Fortunately, the products look quite helpful and nicely produced, so the product “sold” itself to me despite the poor publicity effort.

Takeaway: Don’t try to lure reviewers into “biting” by pitching a print book, CD, physical deck or other “in hand” product…then, when they agree, offer digital versions. Feel free to say that the reviewer has the option of requesting the eBook, viewing the digital deck or downloading the mp3 instead…but don’t bait and switch.

Two: Don’t pitch via a blanket Tweet that says “Hello, I'm looking for someone to review my book. You can read about it on my website at ______. Thanks!” Yes, this is an actual Tweet I received recently. When I checked the writer’s feed, he had just pitched a dozen or so others…all within minutes. Do. Not. Do. This. Not only is it unprofessional (and I can’t believe I even have to mention it), but it will NOT garner a reputable reviewer’s notice. Be a professional. Pitch via email just like you’d pitch an agent or editor. Don’t be lazy.

Three: Don’t address your email “Dear Top Reviewer”. Would you query an agent “Dear Agent”? Use the reviewer’s name…and spell it right.

Four: Research the reviewer’s interests. Don’t pitch occult titles to a Christian reviewer. Don’t pitch erotica to a children’s book reviewer. Don’t pitch a sports book to a cookbook/food reviewer. You get the picture. Investigate the last dozen or two products reviewed on Amazon or the reviewer’s blog to find out preferred genres—or, better yet, read the reviewer’s bio. It will likely tell you exactly the kind of books and products he/she reviews.

Five: Don’t send an attachment of your book in your introductory email. Most reviewers are sensible and won’t open attachments from people they don’t know.

Here’s a hot-off-the-press example of a perfect email pitch from an author to a reviewer (me)...reprinted by permission:

Dear Ms. Boyer, (She addresses me by my name)

I found your name on the list of Amazon Top Reviewers and thought, given your interests in tarot and divination, you might be interested in a novel I’ve written. (She's done her homework and knows exactly the type of books I review and write)

It is Intaglio: The Snake and the Coins, a romance involving players in both the Modern Art scene and the graffiti subculture with links to past life experiences. 
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009Z5ULFA (She gives me a succinct and fascinating hook. Bonus points for providing a direct link to her book on Amazon.com)

If you think you might be interested in reading my book and posting an honest review of it on Amazon, either positive or negative, I would be glad to send you a complimentary copy. I’m happy to send you a pdf copy for Kindle, or, if you’d prefer, a paperback if you reply with your postal mailing address. (She gives me a choice as to what format I prefer for my review copy. Bonus: She says she appreciates an honest review--positive or negative. I love it when an author is so confident about her work!)

There is no obligation, of course. (Another bonus. This is code for "I won't bug the hell out of you after I send you the review copy, begging for you to post your review.")

Cheers!

Danika Stone

 

So there you have it, boys and girls. A perfect author pitch to a reviewer. Read and learn.

-- Janet


Live Like a Warrior

My husband seriously rocks.

We're in the car, he fires up his mp3 player, says "Hey, what do you think of this?"...and plays me Matisyahu's Live Like a Warrior. I get tears. Play punches on his arm. 

Needless to say, I've had it on repeat ever since I've been home.

I'm blessed to have a rock who helps me so I can fly. Do you have someone in your life who does that for you?

Enjoy the song. Be blessed. Don't be afraid. Live like you wanna.

Live like a warrior.

(Live Like a Warrior is from Matisyahu's CD Spark Seeker)

-- Janet


Dog Tarot

Dog Tarot Cover 300“How often have you wondered what your dog is thinking? Who hasn’t stared into Lily’s innocent eyes, questioning why she shreds your socks but ignores her fuzzy designer toys. Or why Duncan casually lifts his legs and glares at your new boyfriend whenever he walks into the house. If you’re still asking the eternal question, ‘When my sweet, loving, brilliant, messy-muzzled Canis familiaris grows and wags her tail at the same time, which end do I believe?’ then you need The Original Dog Tarot.”

Several stellar, quirky Tarot decks out there grace the Body/Mind/Spirit market, campy cards that manage to be funny, silly, outrageous and relevant—all at the same time. While not everyone’s cuppa, these decks have delighted both collectors and serious Tarot readers—among them, The Housewives Tarot and Zombie Tarot (both by Quirk Books).

There are also plenty of niche Tarot decks catering to lovers of cats, fairies, dragons, angels, aliens, spiritual paths, geographic locations, art styles and more. None, that I know of, has catered to dogs…until now.

Or, so I thought.

Thrilled to see—finally—a Dog Tarot, I pounced at the chance to buy one as soon as it hit the market. Because there’s no thorough description of this deck, The Original Dog Tarot, I assumed that I would be getting a bone-a-fido Tarot—78 cards (or close to it).

Imagine my utter surprise and disappointment to find out that The Original Dog Tarotcontains ONLY 30 cards—far less than the even average non-Tarot oracle decks (which usually contain at LEAST 44 cards).

Dog Tarot 3Not only that, there’s not even a full Major Arcana (22 cards)—and the numerical order doesn’t even follow a traditional Tarot deck. The Major cards are:


I      The Fool

II     The Magician (Nostradogus)
III    The Kibble
IV   The Hydrant
V    The Pack
VI   The Auricle
VII  The Moon
VIII The Sun
IX   The Cat
X    The Dogcatcher
XI   The Wanderer
XII  The Chariot
XIII  The Couch
XIV The Hangdog
XV  The Shelter
XVI  The Runt
XVII The Wheel of Fortune
XVIII Justice

And The Minor “Barkana” of The Original Dog Tarot? Only three cards to each of the four suits (bowls, bones, biscuits and leashes)—Ace, Three and Seven. These cards aren’t “animated”, only showing 1, 3 or 7 items of the suit. Supposedly, the Aces refer to the “human”, the Seven to the “canine” and the Threes a balance between them. Each suit, in its brief entirety, is described in the equivalent of one booklet page. Based on the brief suit descriptions, those who are familiar with Tarot will recognize the connection between bowls/cups, biscuits/wands, leashes/swords and bones/coins…but actual references to traditional Tarot correlations are non-existent. 

The author tries to be clever, but bears no resemblance to the knowledgeable, witty writers of the companion books to campy decks like the Housewives Tarot (who actually have a respect and familiarity with the history and traditional design of the Tarot).

For example, here’s an example of a One-Card Draw Reading from the companion booklet:

Dog Tarot 6“Jannie bought her enchanting Corgi mix, Bean, a dazzling Halloween costume but wasn’t sure she should make her wear it. Janine knew Bean would look fabulous in her flowered headdress and matching tutu, and would enjoy the resulting attention. But friends said it was ridiculous to dress a dog like a doll. Conflicted and confused, Janine asked the Dog Tarot, ‘How would Bean be impacted by dressing her for Halloween?’ She drew a single card: The Runt (XVI), the card of transformation. It suggested that every dog had a special gift waiting to be unleashed. For Jannie, the message was a sign to dress Bean and go trick-or-treating with the neighborhood children. In costume, Bean was beguiling, floating down the street, pleased and proud. People gathered in admiration, and soon she’d collected more treats than the children. At home, an exhausted and radiant Bean fell into a deep, happy sleep, sighing, dreaming of next year’s Halloween. A star had been born. The truth was in the cards.”

Okaaaay…

I firmly believe that tools like Tarot can be used to not only connect with our pets, but also to help “diagnose” behavioral problems or ways to enrich the lives of our furry companions. I believe that animals are sentient, and that pets are an incredible blessing to humans. 

Which is one reason why this Dog Tarot rubs me the wrong way. 

I almost get the feeling that the creator, Heidi Schulman, is mocking those who use Tarot cards for insight into animals…or any other situation. It’s clear that she loves dogs, make no mistake, but it appears she has little knowledge of traditional Tarot constructs. Granted, some of her Major “Barkana” interpretations, while shallow, do resemble their traditional Tarot counterparts…even if the numbering system deviates wildly from usual decks.

And lest you think I take Tarot “too seriously”, just re-read what I’ve written. A Zombie Tarot? Hell yeah! Housewives? Love it! A Halloween Tarot with Frankenstein, a mad scientist and fire imps? One of my favorites!

But what each of those have in common is an intelligent reflection of familiar Tarot constructs, while still taking traditional ideas “out of the box”. Not to mention that those decks also contain 78 cards.

Dog Tarot 10Which brings me to the idea: What IS Tarot? MUST it be 78 cards? Personally, I don’t think so. I consider Lucy Cavendish’s Oracle Tarot a Tarot deck, even though she removes the 16 Court Cards. John Holland’s Psychic Tarot also is absent the 16 Court Cards, as well as the Minor Arcana 10s, and he adds 7 Chakra Cards to the mix. 

But I consider them both Tarot because they retain the 22 Major Arcana cards, as well as the majority of the Minor Arcana—with both containing over 60 cards. 

But a 33-card deck with a Major “Barkana” containing only 18 cards (most deviating a good deal from traditional numbering)—and a Minor “Barkana” of 12 cards?

No way.

This deck should be called the Dog Oracle, pure and simple. When you call a deck a “Tarot”, it comes with certain conventions and expectations. 

In short, I’m glad I only paid 10 bucks for this deck. I’ll be giving it away first chance I get. Heck, maybe my 14 year old will want it as a novelty. 

And, truly? I feel that’s the only thing this deck is good for in terms of Tarot collectors/readers: a novelty for dog lovers. The art is cute, especially for the Major “Barkana”, as is the card backing design. But for those who like oracle decks and canines, this "original" Dog Tarot may very well be just what the veterinarian ordered. 

To see 9 more images from this deck, click here.



Aeclectic Tarot Forums, Censorship, World Tarot Day...Oh My!

Censorship ATSo how's this for censorship?

My friend Tina Brooks starts a thread on the Aeclectic Forum, the largest Tarot Forum on the web, about my upcoming book Tarot in Reverse.

Just a mere, "I can't wait for this! I have friends who don't read reversals, and I'm hoping this book changes their minds" kind of brief post.

About ten hours later, when a Facebook friend wanted to visit the thread, she discovered it gone.

Deleted.

Just like that.

If you Google http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=171978 you'll see part of Tina's post come up (if you click on it directly, it shows a "password" type screen...which means it was deleted).

So what do you guys think of censorship in this day and age? Now do you believe that some parts of the "online Tarot community" are seriously factured, censoring, marginalizing and/or harrassing? Or maybe you need to read this bitter, brittle, paranoid rant about me from "Den Elder" the founder of "World Tarot Day" (that I just happened to stumble upon a few hours ago) to be convinced.

You know...the the woman who couldn't keep World Tarot Day together, so she handed it over to Marcus Katz and "Tarot Professionals"?

Whacked. Just whacked.

-- Janet


Two Things You Need BEFORE You Launch a Book

Authors (and deck creators) you need to have two very important things in place before your book launches:

  1. Relationships
  2. Content-Rich Blog

Sounds easy peasy, right?

Well, from the looks of wannabe (and already-be) authors yammering at me on social media to BUY MY BOOK or SUPPORT MY KICKSTARTER or GET MY EBOOK FREE ON KINDLE or PURCHASE MY DECK…apparently not.

Not to mention the oblivious author who has no idea how to create buzz for an upcoming eBook launch…and actually posts her fuzzy, clueless admission on a blog! ::wince::

Well, here’s some good news that will fix all that. And it’s free. (That’s right: You don’t even have to buy it “in a box” from me with serious coin.)

One: Relationships should be in place BEFORE your book or Tarot deck arrives. Otherwise, you will come across as a butt-kissing sycophant. Most of us aren’t stupid: we notice that you’re suddenly following those of us who are industry/niche leaders, chirpily trying to get our attention via “Hi! How are you?” tweets.

All we need to do is look at your Twitter stream: you have a dozens of tweets, all in a row, broadcasting that you’re a suck-up who has something to peddle. Or worse, you’re constantly posting about your “new baby” (see my post Don’t Whore Your Baby) and why we should fete it with Amazon purchases presents.

Two: A content-rich blog/presence should be in place BEFORE your book or Tarot deck arrives. Why? Unless you’re super famous, you need a following. You know, people who will (you hope) eventually buy your book or deck—or hire you for a service.

Let me paint you a picture: a complete stranger starts elbowing his way into your Twitter feed, Facebook page, Google+ presence, etc. If you’re kind, you’ll be tolerant…at first. But then you notice that ALL he does is broadcast about his NEW book or NEW deck or NEW “business in a box”. This is the equivalent of a carnival barker vying for your attention. Irritated, you dismiss him at best or get a restraining order at worst. 

Why would you bother giving him the time of day? He’s a perfect stranger, right? So ask yourself, what WOULD make you listen to a perfect stranger?

I’ll tell you right now:

  1. He says interesting things
  2. He provides information you need and/or want
  3. He stands apart from “the others”

The first two are self-explanatory. The third? A bit more nebulous. A few traits that make an author, speaker, artist, personality or “brand” stand out include:

  1. Uniqueness – That is, doing something or saying something totally different from his peers
  2. Charisma – Enchanted, you just can’t look away
  3. Provocative – He’s not afraid to point out the Emperor’s “New Clothes”
  4. Independence – No one “owns” him, so he says/does what he wants
  5. Intelligence  – The breadth and depth of his knowledge dazzles
  6. Polyannaish  – Most individuals want to feel good. Pols (since he’s male, we’ll call his ilk Pols) do that for people
  7. Cynicism – Not my cuppa, but some people like the snark shtick
  8. Friendliness – He reaches out, replies and engages

Red Cog
So here’s how perfect strangers like yourself can get listened to, put into three short commands:

  1. Don’t be boring. Entertain.
  2. Be an information whore (on your own turf). Put out.
  3. Be original. Don’t try to copycat or be someone you’re not.

 But back to why you need a content-rich blog: you need to position yourself as an expert on your niche. You know, the topic of your book or the theme of your business service? Having a book to push is only the endgame (surprise!).

You have to get your chess pieces ON THE BOARD first. Otherwise, you’re just putting your King on the board thinking you’ll win the game. (And if you know anything about chess, you know it’s impossible to win a game when you only have a King on the board—especially when the opposition still has most, or all, pieces in play).

You need to be discoverable (search engines!), you need to appear that you know your stuff and you need to offer value to people BEFORE you try to get them to buy anything. You need a bunch of content to link TO first…BEFORE you roll out stuff with price tags. Those are a part of your “chess pieces” arsenal. Content can be how-tos, Top 10 (or 100) lists, reviews, Did You Know? pieces, interviews, book profiles, bios of industry captains in your field, news items releated to your niche, link roundups, etc.

Chess
For example, I know that a big reason I'm now a traditionally published author is because I spent years of obscurity writing book and deck reviews on Amazon.com. I didn't have a book to peddle. I was just passionate about posting honest reviews because I got tired of being stuck with crappy products based on deceitful online puff pieces guised as reviews. 

In short, I offered valuable content to readers. Unknowingly, I became an industry expert and a trusted resource...which then led to a book deal (that, and making friends in the industry as I pusued my passion). I was doing the "right thing" before I knew what I was doing...and, more importantly, before I had something to sell.

Now, if you’re a New Age type like myself, you believe that we don’t REALLY have competition with others—we’re just competing against ourselves to be the “highest version” of our self…our personal best.

That may be true metaphysically and energetically, but guess what? The earth still employs laws like gravity. Thus, even though we might trust in a Higher Power or karma or our pre-ordained life path scripted with our angelic guides…there’s still this little thing called “reality”.

The “reality” I’m talking about? The web is clogged. There are more writers than ever, especially with the dawn of easy technology, social media, free blogs and self-publishing venues.

Traffic Jam

So while you may trust that the Big Gal in the Sky "has your back"--assuming that, via Divine Oversight, your “fans” or readers or clients will somehow “find” you—you still need to get your chess pieces ON the board for the Universe to work its magic.

Otherwise, you’re like the drowning guy in the joke who waves away God’s three attempts to help via “ordinary” means because “you’re waiting for God to save you”.

Or, in this case, waiting for readers, buyers and clients to magically appear…without doing any of the grunt work that invites success.

Like God says to the newly arrived denizen of heaven when he asks “Why didn’t you save me?”—I sent three boats, you idiot.

CluelessOh, and some advice for that clueless “author” I spoke about? Your public blog isn’t the place to admit you don’t know what you’re doing as a writer (although your other posts sorta reveal this anyway…). Study those who have traditional publications under their belt, who have a large following (hint: over 2,000 Twitter followers, Facebook “likes” or Networked Blog followers) and read posts from people like Seth Godin, Jeff Bullas, Chris Brogan, HubSpot, Copyblogger and Kristin Lamb (just to name a few)...and apply what they advise.

Before that, though, you may want to brush up on your actual writing skills (because, let’s face it: it’s easier to take an author/blogger seriously when they write clean, succinct, intelligent copy that’s free from grammar and spelling faux pas).

Another bonus tip, this one for the clueless independent publisher: using Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to crank out links to “newest reviews” of your publications (still) isn’t social media…and it sure ain’t content marketing. Get a clue. Otherwise, your author’s royalty check will stay at the $3 mark.

-- Janet


Snowland Deck Pre-Order Special - Metal Bookmarks and Leather Bracelets!

7 of Cups 250
7 of Cups (7 Emoting) Card from the Snowland Deck

As we enter holiday time (gosh, is Thanksgiving really just two weeks away?!), all things Snowland become even more special here at Chez Boyer. We love the winter holidays, so the images Ron paints and the words I craft seem to contain an extra sparkly vibe this time of year.

Ron's recently completed the 7 of Cups (7 Emoting) card and is now hard at work painting the 8 of Cups (8 Emoting) based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen (The Snowman, our Knight of Cups aka Quester Emoting card). 

If you follow us on Facebook, you know how much I love giving gifts to our followers and doing free drive-by Tarot readings. In fact, Stephania Ebony just won a $25 Etsy Gift Card (congrats, Stephania!). 

I'm working on a free Snowland Deck reading program with my friend Ashley Drake Gephart, so that should be available soon here and on JanetBoyer.com. I'll just keep adding the newest cards as Ron finishes them (only 10 more to go, plus 4 special significator cards!)

But you're wanting to know about Snowland metal bookmarks and leather bracelets, am I right?

Right!

Bookmark and Leather Bracelet
So here's the dealie: if you pre-order our full Snowland Deck (first edition print run limited to 100, signed and numbered) before December 1, 2012--any level, Silver, Gold or Platinum--you get a free metal bookmark with your choice of Snowland image imbeded in the dangly charm on the end (retail $19.99). 

If you pre-order at the Gold or Platinum level, you not only get a metal bookmark with your choice of Snowland image in the charm but also a leather bracelet with your choice of Snowland image, too (retail $22.99).  

How cool is that? Just let me know in your PayPal note what image you'd like on your bookmark and bracelet. If you forget, no worries: you can just email me!

Below are just a few mock-ups I've made. There's some more in our Facebook album at this link (scroll to the bottom). For the bracelet, the charm measures 11/16" in total diameter and the band measures 9 in x 3/8" but has adjustable fit of 7"-8". 

2 of Cups Bracelet
3 of Wands Bracelet
4 Wands Bookmark
9 of Coins Bookmark
Balto Bookmark
Moon Bookmark
Ace of Cups Bookmark
Carousel Bookmark
3 Swords Bookmark
Jesus Bookmark
Teaching Bookmark
Calling Bookmark

Please note: these are special order, limted edition items. I will not be making any more in the future. These metal bookmarks and leather bracelets are only available as special gifts when you order our full Snowland Deck before December 1, 2012. 

By the way: we still have a few of the very limited print run Life Themes Edition (Majors Only) version of our Snowland Deck (only 32, signed/numbered). It has a special snowflake backing that will not be the same as the full deck version. Once it's sold out, that's it. You can find out more about our Life Themes Edition deck at this link.

See ya in Snowland!

-- Janet


Autumn Confetti (365 Haiku #1)

365Incredibly inspired by the book 365: A Daily Creativity Journal (Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life) by Noah Scalin, I decided to embark on my own "make something every day" challenge.

Sure, I write all the time. But I wanted to complete 365 unique works that were beyond my normal writing scope. 

Being the overachieving firstborn that I am (ha!), I was going to write--every day--a haiku, a limerick and a short story. I know, I'm crazy! But I love pushing my creative boundaries. After all, innovation comes from stretching beyond the box.

Hell, come to think of it, innovation comes from blowing up the box and thinking in mobius strips.

But I digress!

So, yesterday was my 42nd birthday (meaning of life!)--and I decided it would be a perfect time to start my daily project (or, 365 projects in 365 day's time...just in case "life" interrupts the daily magic). 

Thus, 365 Haiku is born. You'll be able to read all my Haikus in the 365 Haiku Category. 

Here's Haiku #1 for my 365 Haiku project:

autumn leaves blowing
bright confetti in the sun
nature's papercraft

 

Autumn 350
Photo by Janet Boyer

Thanks for joining me on my 365 Haiku journey!

-- Janet