readers writers

Review Platforms: Take my free books, please.

I have written several posts about reviews. It can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being an author. Many platforms are set up to guide readers to free review copies, and even though they say that reviews are not guaranteed, one would think that if someone downloads your review copy from a book reviewer site, there should be some expectation of a review. So, I have tried a few sites with limited success. More on that later.

I always sent out a welcome email, thanking the reader. Here is what I say:

To all reviewers,

Thank you for your interest in reviewing my books. As readers, you are so important to new independent authors as your reviews allow us to compete with the multitude of other authors, signed and unsigned. We have found each other through various book platforms. Some of my early subscribers are taking advantage of my free book offer for reviews. 

Reviews do not have to be long. Even one or two sentences can attract new readers, and at the very least, a star rating would be appreciated. As for the timeline, I’m hoping that they can be done within 4 weeks of receiving your review copy. (Note: I don’t think 4 weeks is unreasonable)

For some of you, that 4 weeks is getting close. Let me know if you need more time. If you had any difficulty downloading a book, please email me with your preferred format: PDF, ePub, Mobi.

When you have completed your review, please let me know so that I can link it to my website. If you choose not to leave a review for any reason, could you please inform me, and I will remove you from the list.

Here are the review links. Please leave a review on any (or all) of the sites. As my science fiction book is only available on Amazon at the moment, that would be my preference if you are just going to post on one.

I put direct links here to make it easy!

Final Note: Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so if you enjoyed the books, please tell your friends and family and share the review on your social media!  

End of letter.

I think that it covers my expectations and empowers the reviewer to submit whatever form they wish. I added the part about not leaving a review because it is frustrating to not hear from them and I don’t want to keep sending reminders. I appreciate honesty over being ‘ghosted’.

Here are the results:

Platform A: Voracious Readers
Round One - Free trial
20 readers = 3 reviews

Round Two - 6 week promo, now pay/reader
30 readers  = 2 Reviews so far

Platform B: Booksprout - Free
3 readers = 1 review

Platform C: StortOrigin - Free Beta version, transitioning to paid
8 readers = 3 reviews

Platform D: Library Thing  -Free
12 readers = 3 reviews

Platform E: Sandra’s Book Club - Free
3 Readers = 0 review

Platform F: Reedsy - Paid
1 review

Platform G: Goodreads – Free
7 readers = 5 reviews  - GRs takes a lot of work, finding the review groups and threads.

I suspect that most readers are in it for the free books (as you can see by the stats), which is disheartening, as it does feel like you are getting taken advantage of.

What has your experience been?


Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free book!

Pick me!
C’mon, science fiction!

Thursday Thoughts: Book Bub Ads

Last week I complained a bit about Amazon ads, so to be fair, I’ll give BookBub some airplay.

BookBub operates in much the same way as Amazon does, it that you have to win bids to get your ad shown, and if someone clicks on your ad, you get charged that amount. So, you have to know what your profit margin is for each book and price your bid accordingly-you don’t want to pay people to read your book. But if you don’t bid high enough, your ad doesn’t get shown. Also in the mix is that if someone clicks your ad, the likelihood that your ad gets shown goes up.

Their ad design is straight-forward and there is no vetting like Amazon does, so once you create your ad, it’s live. There are many variables for the ads, so it’s difficult to compare one author’s ad to another. If your ad is not doing well, they email you and suggest that you either up your bid (of course) or redesign. I’ll show the ad that BookBub uses as an example of a successful ad, along with the one I created.

One of the suggestions was to use BookBrush to create ads. I suspect they are owned by BookBub. What is nice about it is the ad is the correct size (300 x 250), so no tweaking required, and you can layer text and images for a professional look.

They give you a chart to show how well- or poorly- your ad is doing:

The best I achieved was 5 clicks on ~2000 impressions. Not great. As you can see, this is ad #14.

There are many variables for success. The popularity of the genre, bid amount, etc. The one controllable variable in all this is the cover. People do judge a book by its cover. Since I like my cover, it’s hard to step back and critique, so what do you think? Let me know.

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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readers thoughts writers

Newsletter Success: Benchmarks

Earlier, I wrote a post about paring down my email subscriber list (The Purge). I went from 97 subscribers to 48. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it. That’s half my list. So yeah, it Is a lot. I started my newsletter to keep my readers entertained between my writing projects and to give them some insight into my writing journey. It’s both personal and professional.

How do I gauge success? I have a few benchmarks:

  1. When my subscriber list had more non-friends and relatives – Check.
  2. 50% opens – Check
  3. Subscriber engagement (comments, clicks, purchases) – Check. (This doesn’t count my mom who always replies to my newsletter, “I really enjoy your newsletters. I look forward to them every week.” Thanks, Mom. Love you too.)
  4. 100 subscribers – Almost…there…until…

I hope my subscribers look forward to my emails. I went with a weekly newsletter because is I think that once a month is too long between updates. For daily engagement, I turned to this blog. I hope that you enjoy my thoughts, ramblings, and humor.  


Curious? Lines by Leon Newsletter January 6

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of two books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. Visit

humor readers thoughts writers

More on Reviews: I Didn’t Like Your Book This Much, She Said.

What did you call me? Ohh, More – on.

Most book rating sites will include a rubric-or classification scale-to tell the reader how to rate a book. These rubrics can vary from site to site:

I didn’t like itBadReally, not good1 StarBlaah
It was OKDisappointingNot so good2 StarMeh
I liked itOKGood3 StarHmm
I really liked itGoodVery good4 StarSweet
It was amazing!ExcellentVery, very good5 StarWowsers

Does this kind of remind you of something? Bingo! School!

Rubric 3 – Consistently meeting grade level expectations 2 – Needs some help to meet grade level 1 – Needs ongoing help to meet grade level expectations N/A – Not applicable at this time

Most students will fall in the 2 category. That’s just the way life works. There are some that excel at everything (20%?), some that constantly struggle (20%?), and the rest (c’mon, do that math) will hang out in the middle. Google “bell curve” if you want a visual.

With so many authors out there, this has to hold true as well, doesn’t it? We can’t all be writing bestsellers-it doesn’t hurt to try, and some authors will just not make it for one reason or the other.

Do I like every book that I read? Of course not. No one does. Does that mean those books are terrible? Written badly? Confusing? Just plain boring? Sometimes, but often it is just a difference in opinions. There are best-selling books out there that don’t resonate with me.

I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. If you don’t like poetry or science fiction, you probably are not going to give my book a chance, or if you do it may warrant a 1 or 2-star rating in your mind. Some reviewers won’t publish a review lower than a 3 star, which I think is fair for both the author and the reader. If someone does not like my books, I do however, like to know why. Feedback always improves a skill. Which reminds me of a true story…

If you are offended by mild profanity, don’t proceed. I’ll say bye to you now.

In my first year back at university, after many years of being in the “real world”, I was sitting in the Intro to Really Hard University Math 101. I don’t think that it was called that, but if you consider all the algebra and calculus high school seniors have to do to graduate, then the next step is the aforementioned course.

Now, I like math. I suck at it, but numbers are fascinating. But that’s beside the point, and I digress. Here is the dialogue that took place on the last day of class:


 “I am handing out the instructor evaluations. I would appreciate if you filled them out and hand them back before you leave.”


Do we have to?”


No, but it is important for me to know what I am doing well and what I can be doing better in order for me to improve as an instructor. If you think I’m a douchebag, I’d like to know.”

[spattering of laughter]

After a few minutes of students writing, the instructor said:

I’ll write my name on the board so that you know how to spell it.”

As he turned around, I knew what I needed to say:


How do you spell douchebag?”

I have never made that many people laugh-including the instructor-before or after. In hindsight, I should have done a mic drop and walked out.

BTW, I got an A in that course. He wasn’t so douchy after all.

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of two books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. Visit

readers thoughts writers

Thursday Thoughts: Writing

I’m going to take a few days off from writing here-I think. Unless something inspires me to craft something spectacular, I am going to spend some more time on my current project, a yet unnamed novel (or novella) based on a short story from my most recent book, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Most of my stories are short-some very short, less than 100 words, but I plowed away at this new project during NaNoWriMo. I didn’t make the 50000 word goal (their goal, not mine), not that I thought I would, but nevertheless, I wrote more than I would have and would like to finish.

Interested in reading some of my writing? I have some free sample eBooks on my book pages. If you are interested in reviewing any of them, let me know.

So, if you celebrate anything during this time-or do not, stay safe, be happy, and reach out to those who can’t be physically present. See you in a few days.



The Importance of Reviews

(The Ongoing Journey of a Writer)

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What’s going to make you pick it up?

How do people choose the books they read? Some will stick to the authors they like to read, an interesting cover can make you choose a book-or at least read the blurb before deciding “Meh.” But the driving force behind the success of books are positive reviews.

How do you get reviews? Get your books in the hands of readers. How do you get readers to want to read your book? Get reviews. Hey, wait a minute! That’s a Catch-22. You bet. I think of it like a new restaurant. You might be wary to give it a try until someone says that the food is good/amazing.

Here’s another restaurant analogy: If you don’t know about it, you are not going to go, are you? So, businesses advertise. It is important for new authors to advertise. to say, “Here I am! Check me out!” (I don’t know why I’m shouting…no one likes to be yelled at.)

Word of mouth is the least expensive form of advertising. If someone likes your book they will probably tell one of their friends, because we all get asked the question, “Read any good books lately?” And if we have, we will reply, “Yeah, you have to read [insert name of awesome book here]!” There was a commercial in the 80’s that had the line: I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on. Want to do the math? You should, its pretty cool. (I might do a math post in the future)

There are many sites that feature reviews of books, each having its merits and loyal followers. It’s easy to picture readers scrolling through books and not stopping on books with no reviews, but those 4 and 5 stars really catch your eye, don’t they?

Reviews will drive sales, which is what authors want. But reviews also give affirmation that what we are doing as writers has merit and makes a difference in the lives of our readers. I want to share some of the words that have made me proud of what I have done:

Thank you so much for the beautiful poem, it was very touching and your words have a healing effect.”  

I have loved reading this book. It has given me what I needed the most. It is a very charming book!

A very charming, witty and entertaining book of short poems and pictures about… everything in life. It was fun to read and I believe it would make a great gift for poetry lovers.

I know I will reread this book as I do most of my poem collection because the simple act of reading poetry makes me grow and change as a person, so each reading is an unique experience.

This book of poems was very intriguing. It made me stop and think—and, sometimes, stop and laugh

To be honest, I found it a breath of fresh air and it was a joy to read.

And reviews also confirm that everything is subjective:

I thought the pieces in this collection were mostly okay. I’ve read much better but there are much worse collections out there.” (Well I’m glad I’m not the worst.)

I didn’t get it.” (OK, a little out of context, but kinda funny.)

Overall, I have neutral feelings about this poetry collection… Perhaps it just wasn’t for me.” (Exactly, I can’t make someone like my books.)

IF you have been following my writing, you know that I enjoy humor, so when I put together my free eBook with selected works, I decided to have some fun with it and put this on the first page:

There’s fake news, then there’s fake testimonials…
What people are saying about “Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures”

“Opening this book is like looking into the head of Leon. It’s a little odd…”
 -Noel Snevets

“It kept my interest and it keeps my coffee mug off the table.”
– Elon Ven Sets

“Just when you think you’ve had enough, you haven’t!”
 -Lone Vessnet

“I had to ask myself, where has this book been? I then realized it had slipped under the sofa.”
  – Olen Nessvet

“Wow. Just, wow. Wait, what was the question?”

  –  A. Prime

In conclusion (What? Am I writing a thesis?), as a reader, please don’t underestimate the power of your words. Reviews don’t have to to be long-just honest.


readers writers

Why I Write

One of my pencil sketches

I sent this to my newsletter subscribers earlier in October.

I want to thank you for taking part in my writing journey. Writers write to share their ideas, visions, and emotions, and I hope that you find my weekly rambles entertaining. I write in a lot of different styles, which may or may not be the best way to keep a readership.

I think about it this way: My writing is like a box of…(I’ll stop there to avoid copyright infringement). But it is. You know the one, that assorted box that you get at Christmas, the one with the candy map. You always go after your favorites, but sometimes you take a little nibble of the one with the chocolate squiggle. Maybe you discover that you like it, or perhaps it makes you glad you didn’t buy a whole box of strawberry creams.

What was the first thing that I wrote that wasn’t part of a school assignment? Probably a song lyric, but I always scrapped it because I was never happy with the result. When I decided to pursue classical guitar studies, I began to compose, letting the music provide the emotion instead of words. I wrote many pieces, some I wrote down, still others I forgot. I recorded some, but it never came out polished. I make too many mistakes, I can never play as close to perfection as I want, I get nervous performing in front of people or a microphone, so it takes a lot of takes to get something that I am OK with. The first piece that I wrote is called Riviera Galliard, which is an homage to the Renaissance composer, John Dowland. I hope that I can record it and share it with you. There is my incentive.

I wrote a few others in the same style before turning to acoustic guitar after hearing the Canadian guitarist Don Ross. Unfortunately, most of those pieces have been lost. Either I can’t find the scores that I wrote down, or my memory decided that I didn’t need to know those anymore. I can still dig up little snippets, but it is like reading a corner ripped out of a book.

Fast forward to my poetic journey. I ventured back into lyric writing to make sense of a difficult situation. The poems followed as some of the unused ideas became short poetic pieces. Most of my poetry is short and not too complicated. As one reader put it:

 “Lines by Leon is an eclectic mix of poetry and thoughtful, personal reflection. The ideas are straightforward with an understandable simplicity.

I wanted people to reflect on the poems and seek connections without having to try to interpret deep philosophical meanings or search for hidden underlying messages.

During my poetic journey, I started to sketch images that came to me. Some of these images evoked ideas that became my short, short stories-one or two paragraphs that tell part of a story that leaves the rest to your imagination. Some of my stories became longer, but still without conclusion, similar to waking from a dream and lying in bed thinking, what the…?

Enter science fiction: My forever favorite. If you have read my blog post, Returning to Roots (and I hope that you have), you will know that my father introduced me to this genre. We would watch science fiction T.V. shows, and he would read me stories. It was only natural that I would turn to this topic as my writing developed. I was able to cross my styles when I wrote a series of post-apocalyptic poems that are featured in my next book, The Knot at the End of the Rope.

I also want to keep a sense of humor in my writing. Some of my poems and stories will hopefully make you chuckle or smile. My blogs and newsletters give me a chance to poke fun at things, be cynical at current events, and showcase my odd sense of humor.

Some writers stick to the same formula, and their readers stick with them, which is perfectly understandable. A successful author wrote that to be successful, you have to write what your audience wants. I do want to entertain readers, but I’m not trying to make everybody happy. I’m trying to make myself happy, by hopefully providing material that can be enjoyed by others.

If you are here for my poetry, fear not, I continue to write and still have pages to revise. It took me three years to get to my first book, and I promise that it won’t take another three for the next. For my sci-fi fans, I am proud to share my short stories, which could not have happened if it wasn’t for my father. Let’s all gather to share to love of the written word—no matter the style.


Revised Nov 11 12:00

I almost forgot. When I get reviews like this:

It makes me happy and lets me know that I am on the right path.