By Sheila Lowe, forensic handwriting analyst and author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries
What She Saw, my suspense novel about a young woman with amnesia who wakes on a train, not knowing who she is or where she is going. Leaving the train, she walks into town and meets someone who seems to know her. He takes her home, where she is further confused to find two IDs, both with her photo, but different names and addresses. The only certain thing she knows is, she cannot contact the police.
Over the four free days, the downloads totaled 117,083, which amazed me. Along with the downloads came (as of now) 115 reviews. On the high end, 102 of them gave 4 and 5 star. On the low end, 5 are 1 and 2 star, and in the middle, 8 have 3 stars. In reading the highest and the lowest, I had to ask myself, “Are these people reading the same book?”
One of the lowest reviewers admitted she had not actually read the book, but was turned off by the four-letter word in the excerpt. She thought it sounded like a good story, but she didn’t like having to read those words. As someone who never claimed to write cozies, I understand that those who take issue with a bit of profanity are not my readers. Still, I think people should actually read a book before publishing a review. Another low score reviewer didn’t like it because it wasn’t what she expected. The middle of the road people complained that it wasn’t part of the series and they were looking for more handwriting analysis from Claudia Rose (What She Saw is a standalone novel of suspense and my series characters appear in a secondary role).
Just for kicks, I looked at what readers were saying about Michael Connelly’s latest Mickey Haller book, The Gods of Guilt. Out of 2565 reviews, 25 were 1 star and 48 were 2 star, so I’m in excellent company. I find it endlessly fascinating to see how one person filters what they read through their own set of experiences and end up with a polar opposite view from someone else who read exactly the same words, same plot, same dialogue.
The reason why I did the aforementioned promo was because my new book, Inkslingers Ball, was released last week. I figured that of the folks who accepted the free download, some would like the book well enough to buy my series. It seems to be working, at least in sales of Poison Pen, the first book. I won’t know about Written in Blood, Dead Write, or Last Writes for a while, as they’re published by a traditional publisher who only sends royalty statements twice a year.
I’m most curious to see the response to Inkslingers Ball, which is the fifth book in the series, but the first not written entirely from the point of view of my main character, Claudia Rose. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Claudia’s LAPD detective lover, Joel Jovanic, which makes it closer to a police procedural than the others. Early reviews are favorable.
I just checked Amazon. There’s a new review of What She Saw. “Manofsixties” gave it 3.5 stars—that’s a new one on me! He liked the beginning and the middle, thought the characters were interesting, but the ending was weak. Others said they loved the ending. Go figure. Many of my author friends refuse to read what people write about their work, but as a handwriting analyst, I’m a student of human nature, so I always want to know what others are thinking. I guess that means I’ll keep checking.
Like her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in handwriting-related cases. She holds a Master of Science in psychology and is licensed to provide continuing education for marriage and family therapists. She also authored the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous, as well as the Handwriting Analyzer software. Sheila lectures around the country and is sometimes seen in the media, analyzing celebrity handwritings for Teen People, Tiger Beat, Us, Mademoiselle, numerous Bar Association magazines (that’s legal, not drinking!), and many others.
You can learn more about Sheila and her novels at her website.