Book Review: Make What You Say Pay!

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 at 11:43 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 2 comments

Make What You Say PayAs a writer, one of my goals for this year was to use more stories and real-life examples in articles. The challenging part was coming up with a story or example that tied in with the rest of the article. One of the pros at this is Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development and I’ve been studying his weekly newsletter to learn from him.

We hand out candy on Halloween. Sounds boring with no chance of becoming a story in an article? Michael did it. The funny thing was this Halloween was the first time I didn’t have to do the running-to-the-door-and-grabbing-the-candy-bowl on the way business. My 11-year-old son shocked us when he said he was too old for trick or treating. This guy loves candy more than his older sister who was trick or treating with her teen friends long pass age 11.

Not only that, but my seven-year-old had the flu, so my husband was home to help, too. Between them covering the door, I had the whole Halloween night off for the first time since we moved in our house.

I grew up in a neighborhood where most kids were the same ages as my 10 years older  siblings, so few kids came to our door. Our neighborhood made my childhood neighborhood look like country living (Fort Worth) as the doorbell rang too many times to count. During the early years, I loved standing by the door ready to open it to see what surprises appeared on the other side of the door. Creative costumes, creepy costumes and teens faking it costumes.

In the past few years, my enthusiasm dropped. The doorbell’s constant interruption left me with little I could do between ringings except for reading magazines. When you do something long enough, it turns into a bore that all the costumes — good and bad — blur.

That happens to business professionals, too. They call, they present, they meet. They can do everything right and fail to capture interest from the party on the other side of the phone call, table or desk. Like answering the door on Halloween and losing interest in the costumes, they have heard and seen it all before.

Metaphorically Selling BookAuthor of Metaphorically Selling Anne Miller shares over 50 stories using metaphors, stories and examples to shake resistance and close deals in Make What You Say Pay! The diverse examples in the book cover speeches, greeting cards, elevator speeches, new concepts and more. The book has a simple layout: the story followed by Miller’s short commentary on the story and why the metaphor worked.

Not only does the short, fast read offer examples from different situations, but also uses a variety of metaphors. So no expecting a book filled with the oft-used sports metaphors. Because of the diversity of situations and metaphors, most people can benefit from the book. A developer can get ideas on how to explain technical concepts. A small business can get ideas on how to thank clients for their business.  A finance employee can get ideas on how to convert lifeless numbers into meaningful ones.

Miller sorts chapters by topic to simplify finding the right stories that fit your situation. Need to grab attention? Convince them to get on board? Stand out from the crowd? Miller includes all of these and more.

The only slight weakness is the commentary. First, all of it is in italics. Italics aren’t meant for paragraphs. Its job is to highlight short points, book titles and the like. Some feels forced, like you have to include commentary, but the story says it all and any commentary would be just repetition. The commentaries are one or two paragraphs, so they don’t take up much space. The value is in the stories. In fact, I wish there were more stories and examples. Miller invites readers to submit their stories and she plans to publish them as long as they keep coming.

Make What You Say Pay! belongs in the professional’s reference library. Almost every business professional can punch up business with a story or metaphor. Miller’s book will help find that metaphor so you’re not stuck using the needle in a haystack analogy again.

Title: Make What You Say Pay! The Language That Opens Minds, Closes Deals & Wows Crowds
Author: Anne Miller
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-10: 1450583873
ISBN-13: 978-1450583879
Date: July 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 164
Cover Price: USD: $14.95 Amazon: $13.45

FTC disclosure: Reviewer received copy from publisher, which had no influence on the review.

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans

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Book Review: Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months

Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at 10:26 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 5 comments

Become Your Own Boss in 12 MonthsFew people can think of all aspects of starting a new business and know how to do each one. In Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works, Melinda Emerson outlines all the key things to do and provides support with questions to ask, activities and resources to help you. And she does it with an honest, straight-forward approach.

Emerson has been through the good and the bad of starting a business, and shares her experiences and mistakes. She covers everything. Having family support, quitting your job too soon, creating an online strategy, marketing and more. The month-by-month plan built around the six-phased Emerson Planning System works like a step-by-step list so you’re won’t get stuck wondering what you need to do next or if you’ve omitted a step. Every chapter ends with an action steps checklist for easy referencing.

Most start up businesses tend to be conscious about money. Emerson gives options and resources for saving money. For example, you have three choices for hiring an accountant: bookkeeper, accountant and certified public accountant (CPA). She explains the differences, lists questions to ask when hiring one and offers suggestions for which one to hire as each has different hourly rates. What about leasing office equipment? I wouldn’t have thought of that or know how to decide if it’s the best option. Emerson guides you through all that.

Even if you’ve already started your business, you can gain value in this brimming guide as you may have areas that need addressing or improvement. Though my business is a one-person business and doesn’t have the complexities of hiring people, I uncovered some useful tips and information to strengthen parts of my business or to fill an overlooked gap.

The only nitpick is the formatting. Some pages have inconsistent content formatting in terms of paragraphs, spacing and bold text. Numbered and bulleted lists also feel off and take away some readability. Italics — hard to read when there’s too much of it — appear a little too often.

Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is a fast and easy read because of Emerson’s casual writing style that stays away from dull, corporate-like business talk. For those starting out, I suggest reading the entire book on the first go-round to grasp the whole picture. Then, reference it often as you work on specific activities.

No one can guarantee your business will succeed. However, Emerson’s solid and organized plan makes good business sense. Her guidance will put you on track to do it right and increase your chances for long-term success.

FTC disclosure: Author received copy from publisher, which had no influence on the review or the affiliate link.

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Book Review: Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 1 comment

Don't Just Talk, Be HeardDavid L. Levin, co-author of one of my favorite books: QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, sets out on his own with Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Closing the Gap Between What You Say and What People Hear. He shares his experiences of helping people with communication gaps in his job as a communication coach.  The short, fast read includes real-life stories (with names changed, of course) of people with different issues and at different stages of their careers. Most of them are strong employees that could be better or have weak areas that need fixing.

Levin doesn’t offer your typical advice for listening and communicating. He delves into the communication problems using the examples. Think about a conversation you’ve had with someone. Does that person make a statement and you respond by changing the topic? You can improve communication with the “hand-off” by responding with something relevant (a question or comment) to what the person said before making a transition to your topic. It changes the direction of the conversation showing that you “heard” the other person.

In reading the case studies, you can identify potential areas that might affect you or someone who reports to you. At the end of the case studies, Levin presents questions and steps to take to correct the problems. However, we’re not aware of some of the communication habits that we have. Obviously, you can’t apply the book’s advice if you don’t know what these are. So Levin encourages working with someone who can provide effective feedback on these unconscious behaviors.

The Appendix lists actions and questions based on what someone needs to work on such as facilitating, using “we” and “us” more, working with disconnects and dealing with negative assumptions. The short book makes it easier to share with a team or colleague so you can help each other take yourselves from good to great or great to stupendous. This book is a good partner in helping you close the communication gaps.

Take a look inside of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Closing the Gap Between What You Say and What People Hear.

What communication gaps have you encountered? How did you fix them?

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Book Review: The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 7:29 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 4 comments

The Last Will of Moira LeahyTherese Walsh’s debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, opens with Maeve Leahy remembering losing her twin “on a harsh November nine years ago.” So it’s obvious why she has struggled with every November. That is, until now. On a whim, she attends an auction to bid on a keris, a Javanese-style dagger that launches her extraordinary journey where her past and present collide.

Though Maeve becomes a successful professor of languages at a university in Bethany, New York; it’s no surprise that she feels incomplete without her twin. So the keris reminds her of happier days in her youth when she played with her keris pretending to be Alvilda, the pirate queen. She lost the original keris in the bay near her childhood home in Castine, Maine.

Soon after the auction, she finds a pocket-sized book on weaponry in an envelope nailed to her office door. The book provides details about the keris. This anonymous message is the first of handful she receives regarding her keris, which leads her traveling to Rome bringing her near to someone she loved, Noel Ryan. He had left New York for France to track down his mother and Maeve’s childhood friend makes sure the two reconnect during her stay in Rome, Italy.

The two have an uneasy reunion in Rome, but they take the time to explore the city while searching for an empu who can unlock the secrets of her dagger. The author provides intricate details of the scenes in Castine, Bethany and Rome while blending them into the story in a masterful way.

Even good novels sometimes lag in getting the reader up to speed on specifics, but this suspenseful story never dawdles. Walsh grabs and holds the reader’s curiosity from the first page to the last as she explores girls’ past, Maeve’s relationships and the intriguing history of kerises. The author also effortlessly transitions the story back and forth between Maeve’s present time and “out of time” during the twin sisters’ childhood and adolescent years. The main characters make unpopular decisions adding more authenticity and less predictability to the story.

The secrets, travels, fantasy and humor will trigger your craving for answers to all of your questions from what happened to Moira to what makes the keris so important. The Last Will of Moira Leahy may be Walsh’s first novel, but she took risks by using multiple narrative modes, flipping between past and present and avoiding the easy route. The result is a gripping and rich story that will linger in readers’ minds for a little while.

You can feed the need for more of the story by checking out the extras on Walsh’s web site.

Watch this blog for a chance to win a copy of The Last Will of Moira Leahy when Therese Walsh stops by on her book’s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour.

A disclaimer today to keep the FTC away: I received a copy of the book from the publisher.

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Book Review: Thirsty: A Novel

Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 8:23 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 3 comments

Thirsty: A NovelI first heard about Thirsty from Christina Katz. Author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe and I connected, and she’ll be stopping by this he’ah blog on November 18 in her book’s blog tour with WOW. You’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book.

I admit I was apprehensive about reading the novel when its description mentions abuse, steel town, a depressing place, heartbreak. I know there’s a lot of sadness in our world, but we hear enough so why read a story for more? Because Thirsty tells a lyrical story about the unbendable spirit of Klara, an immigrant from Croatia.

The story begins in 1883 in Croatia where Klara contends with an abusive father. Her eventual and equally abusive husband, Drago, enters the picture as a likable guy who romances her the old-fashioned way. However, that doesn’t last long. Soon after arriving in the dark town of Thirsty, a town outside of Pittsburgh, Drago changes for the worse.

Klara feels let down as she thought America was supposed to be colorful, full of meadows and an uplifting kind of place. Her depressing beginnings of her life in America compel you to keep reading when you meet the locals consisting of her best friend and her husband, the town drunk and a black man with his own store.

She has three children during the Thirsty‘s 40-year journey of her life. O’Keeffe’s writing arouses the reader’s curiosity. The author also doesn’t take the easy way out, so the story never turns into a predictable one. O’Keeffe doesn’t dwell on Klara’s abuse. Instead she touches it — just enough to give you an idea of what she lives with — without wallowing in it.

It’s Klara’s relationships with the town’s people that add helping of color in her dark world. Her neighbor, Katherine doesn’t put up with Klara’s abusive husband. Drago’s dislike of blacks scares Klara into staying  away from BenJo, the shopkeeper whom Klara befriends in spite of her husband’s threats. Klara has strange encounters with Old Man Rupert, the drunk.

Katherine tells captivating stories to Klara, one of which explains how “amen” came to be. This 200-paged novel packs a lot of emotions, events, discoveries, sadness, hardship and growth to keep you intrigued while learning about the times, the working-class, the mills and the traditions.

O’Keeffe tells the enthralling story with amazing eloquence. She takes a reader on a journey of good and bad surprises worth discovering that ends on a fulfilling note without an ounce of predictability.

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Book Review: You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 7 comments

You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the MorningThe You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning title gives you a very good idea of what you get from reading the book. It shows “Fun real-life stories” and lives up to it. This is my first Celia Rivenbark book and she has a fan in me now. (No, I’m not stalking her. Well, she’s not on Twitter yet for me to do that.) You can’t help but feel like you’re buds with her as you read real-life southerner stories from the gal from North Carolina. We southerners (Texas is south. Southwest… eh… well, food-wise yes..) love our cookin’, so she ends every chapter with a recipe that will “slap-yo-mama-fine.”

I read the book speedy quick (I’ve been reading too much Junie B. Jones to my youngest) because those funny stories keep wantin’ more and they have you swallowing ’em up. I seriously  laughed out loud (not cliche!) a few times causing my kids to think I was deranged. The best way I can describe her book’s content is that  it resembles Dave Barry’s. They both share personal observations of life except she tells stories in her own style not Barry’s. Besides he’s from “Flow-ride-uh” and it doesn’t count as the South. It’s a place where people go on vacation and where mature people go to escape the cold.

She tells it like it is and with a humorous and southern twist. Perhaps, the  table of contents will give you a better idea of the kind of style you can expect from Rivenbark.

  • Poseable Jesus Meets Poser Ken
  • Gladys Kravitz Would’ve Lover Her Some Facebook
  • No TV? I’ll Put My Carbon Footprint Up Your Behind
  • Strapped for Cash? Try Cat Whisperin’

A title like You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning raises our expectations and she meets ’em! No, no she’s not an alcoholic, although I’m sure she considered drinking a bit after a few of the things she writes about like shagging (no, not that kind). She also talks about Jon and Kate of the Plus Eight Fame (or infame. Is that a word? It oughta be.). Boy, I could hear Rivenbark’s jokes in my head because they hadn’t broken up when she wrote the book.

I don’t recommend following the book’s title advice. First, if you are gonna drive, it’s dumb to drink (alcohol, that is!) right before you drive. Second, like everyone says reading the book will have your drink going everywhere except down your throat.

Guess what! Celia is stopping by here on Tuesday, October 6 and I’m giving away my copy of You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning. I hate to give it up, but I love to do things for you.

Weird observation: If you switch the N and R in her last name, you get Riverbank. Just sayin’.

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Book Review: Get Known before the Book Deal

Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 10:14 AM | Category: Books, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews, Writing 2 comments

Get Known before the Book DealDon’t assume my reading Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform in any way hints that I want to be known or that I am planning on getting a book deal. In fact, every writer and business expert will benefit from reading the book because it helps with marketing your work by building a platform.

“Platform?” you say? “But I’m not entering for Miss (or Mr.) America and I am sure you’re not talking about that thing speakers stand on.”

You’re right that those are platforms, but writers and experts need another kind of platform in between the speaking they do. Christina Katz’s definition of platform follows:

A platform communicates your expertise to others. It includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership.

Many people write because they enjoy the work and love the thrill of seeing their work published. They don’t do it because it means fame. Smart writers know they need name recognition to lead to bigger and better assignments. Writers who plan to publish a book soon or in 10 years need to build a platform starting now. It’ll increase your chances of landing a book deal with publishers if they know you’ve established yourself and did your own marketing and PR.

Katz outlines everything you can do to build that platform of yours. The book splits into three parts: Defining platform, marketing and putting everything together. She offers actionable ideas and assignments on how to identify your platform. Once you figure that out, she goes on to show you how to capitalize on your platform with a variety of activities and exercises (not the floor kind) with some you already know and others you might not have considered.

Before I finished reading the book, I took steps to pinpoint my platform (still am). Some how to books overwhelm the reader and don’t identify a clear place to start or they throw too much at the reader. Though Katz lists a diversity of things for writers to do, she does it in a manner that compels you to take one action at a time rather than make you feel overwhelmed. And that’s the sign of a successful how to book.

If you like online and blog writing, you’ll love Katz’s first-person, easy-going and straight-forward writing style that comes across like a teacher or mentor who cares about your success. I recommend reading the book all the way through the first time and start doing her suggested activities while you read the book. Then refer back as you complete activities to find the next thing to do in building your platform.

Platform building never stops even if you become a best-selling author with a solid platform. You still have to make sure it stays standing. This book applies to anyone who wants to be an expert on a topic while landing new opportunities whether it’s a authoring a book, keynoting or being the go to expert for a specific topic.

How did you pick your platform? Or if you don’t have one yet, how will you identify your platform?

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Book Review: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 6:15 AM | Category: Books, Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 2 comments

Toilet Paper EntrepreneurBeware The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur has a potty mouth, but that’s what makes it endearing and an engaging read. Author and TP entrepreneur (TPE) Mike Michalowicz uses it as his brand. Anyone who doesn’t like potty mouth is probably not his ideal audience anyway. While potty humor — especially in the movies — tends to gross out, Michalowicz uses the humor well without disgusting the reader.

Michalowicz advice comes from his experience. In fact, he has lived in a retirement village because it was all his family could afford while he was trying to start his business.

The book gives you the playbook for your business whether starting out or already going. With less than 200 pages and plenty of examples, it’s a fast and engaging read thanks to the simple conversational writing style. He doesn’t do framework, concept or academic talk (read: boring) — at least not much. Instead, he tells you what you need and urges you to go do it plus throws examples to show how to put the idea in action.

He gives you idea how to get something for very little or nothing. That’s what it means to be a TPE: making the most of the little bits of toilet paper left on the roll with no full roll within reach.

Throw away the business plan. It’s useless. I agree with him because I’ve seen businesses grow and succeed without a business plan. However, he encourages cobbling together a one-paged prosperity plan that makes you cry and hits home along with a quarterly plan and daily metrics.

The book makes an effective first step for anyone thinking about or diving into entrepreneurship. It contains most everything you need to know including what you stand for, focus, marketing and financial management.

No. B.S. Just what you need to get off the pot and make the most out of what you already have.

I’ve added The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur to my list of short and powerful reads.

  • Title: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur
  • Author: Mike Michalowicz
  • Publisher: Obsidian Launch, LLC
  • ISBN: 0981808204 / 13: 978-0981808204
  • Date: 2008
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 199 (my copy shows 175 making it a short and powerful read)
  • Cover Price: USD: $24.95

Book Review: Tuned In

Monday, March 9th, 2009 at 10:30 AM | Category: Books, Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews 1 comment

Tuned In“Tuned in” explains the difference between Apple Newton’s failure and iPod’s success. Apple wasn’t tuned in when it created Newton, but when it promoted “1000 songs in your pocket,” Apple solved several problems: giving people a way to carry their songs in something small, making it easy to get songs from computer to iPod and creating a product that is easy to use.

Not all stories in Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs come from big and innovative companies like Apple. In fact, we learn about a tuned in magician (one-person business), niche camera (not a well-known brand), StubHub and a company’s newsletter.

Many companies fail to ask prospects what problems they need solving. Instead, they create a problem and a solution that they think people need. An excellent example comes from Magnavox. Did the company think people needed more features on their TV sets?

No. Instead, Magnavox interviewed customers to find out what problems they had with their TVs. Sometimes customers don’t know that answer and it’s up to the tuned in company to help them figure it out. Through this process, Magnavox stumbled on a problem we all have (including my own household) — we lose our remotes on a regular basis (as hard as I try to teach my kids to put things back, they conveniently forget to do it).

So what does the company do? Added a button on its TV sets to locate the remote. Now I wish I knew about this before I bought my last TV. And this feature should become a standard for ALL TV-related products that come with a remote.

Some employees think talking to friends and family helps them tune in. But really, it doesn’t. They can’t always be the dream customer for a company’s products and services. Here’s where knowing customers enters the picture. When a company knows its customers well enough, it knows where to find them and interview them to tune in.

The book could use more examples especially of one-person or very small business stories like the magician who found his niche. The start of the book captivates, but then it drags by the middle as it falls in the trap of what some business books tend to do and starts spending too much time on its framework. The examples draws the reader in more than anything else.

For the most part, the Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs is a fast and breezy read offering valuable insight into the six-step process for tuning in by using real-life examples.

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Hey! Your Book Review Sucks!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 7:59 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews, Writing 7 comments

Slippery Art of Book ReviewingHaving just read two great articles about book reviewing, it felt appropriate to make this the next, “Hey!” blog entry.

Joanna Young and Joyful Jubilant Learning ask what do you look for in a book review and Lillie Ammann reviews The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Bad Quotes

These quotes tell the story of what not to do in a book review:

Now that this book is here, I can’t imagine not having it. My copy will be worn out before long.

We could easily insert this in almost every book review

A simple (and great) way to show that the choice of being a leader just depend on us.

This is the ENTIRE book review!

I read the book prior to its release. It’s a really interesting and informative read.

We don’t care when you read the book. (Puts on Freud hat) So, tell me why you feel that way?

This book is really badly written.

Tell me why you feel that way? The rest of the review doesn’t back up this statement.

A Book Reviewer’s Template

I agree with Joanna that I like Tim Milburn’s template:

When I read a book review, I want the following:

  1. Thumbs up or Thumbs down.
  2. Tell me what the four, five, six, or twenty one main points are in the book.
  3. Tell me how the book helped you grow, get better, or left you wanting.
  4. Give me some quotes that capture the author’s intent in writing the book.
  5. Tell me one thing the author could have done to improve the book (this helps me know the reviewer actually read the book).
  6. Show me a picture of the cover.
  7. Give me a link to Amazon or Barnes & Noble so I can quickly click through if I want to purchase (or read other reviews).

Ultimately, I read book reviews because I want to make an informed decision about investing in a book or bypassing it. A good review will pique my interest in a book or throw up red flags.

Me, the Book Reviewer

I admit that as a book reviewer, sometimes I feel pressured to produce a “good” review especially when connected with the author or to do a review of a book I don’t want to review. I’ve turned down email requests for book reviews directly from the author or publicists, but some manage to compel me to do it anyway.

When I write reviews, I think of readers first. My words could help them to decide to buy or not to buy. I don’t want to waste their money any more than I don’t want other reviewers wasting mine.

Obviously, I’m not a perfect reviewer as my Amazon reviewer ratings have plenty of “not helpful” votes.

Readers’ tastes and mine won’t be the same. Therefore, I need to give an overview of the book and its style (without rehashing the publisher’s summary), so readers can judge if it meets their tastes. I identify strengths and weaknesses.

An Example

A great example is 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die (1,000 Before You Die). Read the reviews and you’ll see comments such as “not enough (genre)” or “how can the author forget (song)?” The better reviews discuss a missing genre and why it needs to be included. One reviewer made an excellent point of how some songs won’t have the impact alone as it’s the reviewer’s experience with another one of a composer’s songs that made a difference to one of the songs listed in the book.

Some reviewers list the table of contents, which is silly because most online book stores provide that. Now, if they provide a summary of the major chapters — that’s a different story. It’ll get boring fast to list every chapter title followed by a brief comment.

Long reviews don’t mean better reviews. I’ve seen one- or two-paragraph reviews blow away eight-paragraph reviews.

Feel free to share your thoughts about good and bad reviews — even if it’s my own.


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