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Support your favorite authors without spending a dime

Pale Yellow Lettering and illustrated books stand out on a red background. The text reads: Support Your Fave Authors, Give Them Nice Reviews, Swipe for instructions

Wanted to support your favorite authors somehow beyond just buying their books? We all have a favorite author or artist, someone whose work we love and would like to support. However, sometimes, times are tough and we just don’t have the spare cash to buy a book right away. Or our favorite author may not have a new book for us to buy in the first place.

What can we do to support them so that they can still afford to write the books we enjoy?

#1: Leave reviews.

This is true for any business today, and that is what writing is–a business. Products with higher star ratings and a larger number of reviews tend to sell more, and in this, the era of Amazon, more reviews makes them more likely to be seen. Amazon and Barnes & Noble (the two biggest marketplaces for books in the United States) both require a minimum of at least 30 reviews before they will start to feature a product in a customer’s “recommended” section on their websites.

A lot of people feel overwhelmed at the idea of leaving reviews–especially on books. Our theory is what we like to call PTECD (Post Traumatic English Class Disorder). Don’t worry, this is an E for Effort classroom. Something as simple as “I liked it” is immeasurably helpful. We don’t require full book reports to pass. 😉

#2: Request copies at your local bookstore or library

Despite common misconceptions, authors and (indie) publishers love libraries, because they make their books readily available in an otherwise financially blocked market. By requesting a library stock a book from by your favorite author, you are helping that author and his or her publisher to earn an income while you gain access to the book at no cost to you (as long as you don’t accrue late fees–tsk, tsk!). You are also making the book available to other people who might enjoy it and who may also write a review for it (full circle).

I want to write a review, but I don’t know how!

Here are instructions for writing reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and our own Madville Publishing (the website you’re on right now).

It is important to note that there are many other places where you can leave reviews such as Goodreads (owned by Amazon) and StoryGraph. Our list is not exhaustive, but it will get you started. Every little review (the more stars the better) helps.

Amazon

After making sure you are logged in to Amazon (or Amazon Smile to also have a portion of any proceeds from your purchases go to a charity of your choice), look up the book you would like to review and select it. In the sample image, I have searched for What Magick May Not Alter by JC Reilly which already has two (wonderful) reviews. It does not matter whether you choose the paperback or kindle edition of a book, they both go to the same place.

Once you have selected the book, scroll down to the bottom of the page. In the sample image I have prepared here, you can see a lovely 5 star review from Linda Austin. There is a grey button labeled “Write a review.” On mobile, it is under the other reviews. On Desktop, it’s to the left of them.

Once you click on this button, you should be taken to a new page with several blanks to fill. 5 star ratings are obviously the most helpful rating for an author and publisher. You can add an image if you’d like. Then, of course, the written review itself. As I said before, this can be as simple or complex as you’re comfortable with. “I liked it” is good, “I couldn’t put it down” is better, and a full essay is simply spectacular. Either way, we are eternally grateful.

Barnes & Noble

Much like Amazon, the first step to leaving reviews on Barnes & Noble is to login or sign up for an account. Then, search for the book you want to review.

In my sample image, I’m searching for Stand In The Traffic: A Himalayan Adoption Story by Kate Sauders.

As with Amazon, it doesn’t matter whether you click on the Nook version or the paperback version in the search results. They both take you to the same page.

The review link isn’t obvious if you are the first reviewer for a book.

If there are no other reviews, there will be green text beneath 5 blank stars that reads “Click here to be the first to review this product.” If there are other reviews, there will be a blue button labeled “review.” Click on whichever one you see.

Just like Amazon, B&N wants a star rating, a title for the review, a photo if you feel like it, and a review itself.

“Great Read!” is still very much appreciated.

B&N also has a few optional boxes to tick. These help their search algorithm put the book in front of people who would actually be interested in reading it–boxes to tick like, “Would you recommend this book to a friend?” or adding tags that you feel describe the book (tearjerker, laugh out loud, feminist, inspirational), whether or not your review contains spoilers for the book, and what kind of reader you would describe yourself as (casual, literary, book club reader, etc.)

MadvillePublishing.com

All publishers appreciate reviews on their own websites, as well. We are no exception.

Say it with me, kids: Make sure you’re signed into the website first!

To sign in or sign up for an account on Madville, click either “Sign Up” or “Account Details” on the black menu bar at the top left of the screen. If you can’t see the black bar, it might be hidden behind the dismissible purple banner at the top of the page. Click “dismiss” and the black bar should be made visible.

Once you are logged in, the process begins to sound familiar. Navigate to the book you’d like to review. In my example image above, I’m using Mistakes by the Lake by Brian Petkash. A little less than halfway down the page, you should see three tabs: Description, Additional Information, and Reviews. Click on “Reviews”.

When the tab loads, you should see any existing reviews as well as stars for a star rating, a text box for your review, and a submit button. Fill these out, please and thank you!

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Madville’s Blue Moon Novel Competition

Madville's Blue Moon Novel Competition

$1000 advance + publication for the winning novel.

Madville's Blue Moon Novel Competition

Publication for the runner(s) up.

$35 entry fee

Accepting submissions from October 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. 

Winners will be announced May 1, 2021.

We’ve called it The Madville Blue Moon Novel Competition in honor of the last blue moon we’ll see until August 2023, but don’t think of the moon or the blue moon, for that matter, as a theme. We hope to receive submissions in various styles and on various themes.

Judge, Clay Reynolds

Clay Reynolds Will Judge This Year

Successful entries in this contest are typically those that do one thing: they tell a simple story well, without the garnish of fashionable trends, fancy experimental styles, or attempts to write abstractly rather than directly. I look for great characterization, natural and credible dialogue that fits the speaking characters, accuracy and vividness of setting, consistency in point of view and technique, and above all else, a well-written piece of fiction that is free of misused words, contemporary slang and jargon, grammatical and mechanical error, and stylistic flights of fancy. I am not interested in work that appears to be argumentative or tries to sell me on a particular perspective or point of view, that is trendy or that tries too hard to be fashionable. I also shy away from work that imitates some other contemporary, popular writer, either in style or content. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Be original. I look for honesty and directness in the writing, something that entertains and holds interest and gains admiration, even envy for its creativity.

Clay Reynolds

Award-winning novelist Clay Reynolds is a retired professor of Arts and Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he taught creative writing and literature and humanities. He previously served on the faculties of the University of North Texas, Villanova University, The University of South Dakota, and Lamar University. He holds academic degrees from UT Austin, Trinity University, and the University of Tulsa, where he took his PhD in Modern Letters. He is the author or editor of twenty books, ranging from novels to short stories to essays to scholarly analysis, as well as more than 1500 other publications including hundreds of book reviews and essays on education and culture, and well academic and scholarly articles. He lives with his wife, Judy, in Lowry Crossing, TX.

Read the submission guidelines on our Submittable Submissions page:

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Halloween Giveaway 2020

A promotional photo of the 2020 Halloween Book Bundle. From left to right: A goblet with a dragon for a handle has whisps of vapor trailing down its side. Next to it is a little green bottle, also dripping vapor. A gold skull and small red bottle sit on top of a stack of books that are in the bundle. Next to that is a gold statue of a cat. All of this sits infront of white wood panellin with a grey cheese cloth artfully draped across it. Candy corn is sprinkled around the image.
A promotional photo of the 2020 Halloween Book Bundle. From left to right: A goblet with a dragon for a handle has whisps of vapor trailing down its side. Next to it is a little green bottle, also dripping vapor. A gold skull and small red bottle sit on top of a stack of books that are in the bundle. Next to that is a gold statue of a cat. All of this sits infront of white wood panellin with a grey cheese cloth artfully draped across it. Candy corn is sprinkled around the image.

In celebration of spooks, frights, and pumpkin spice, Madville Publishing is running a Halloween giveaway!

You could win five of our spookiest, darkest books including The Memoir of the Minotaur, No Evil is Wide, Fairview Chronicles: A Wayward Propisition, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein, and What Magick May Not Alter.

“How do I enter to win?”

-you

STEP 1:

Follow @madvillepub on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

STEP 2:

Tell us your favorite Spooky Season Book to read.

STEP 3:

Tag and share this contest with your friends and followers so they can enter as well.

STEP 4:

Have a very Happy Halloween!

Want to cut out the middle man and just buy the 2020 Halloween Giveaway Bundle outright? Order the bundle here.

Winners will be announced Monday, October 26th, 2020.

We have extended the entry period to Halloween Night!

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Contributors Announced for Being Home Anthology

Being Home Front Cover

Editors Sam Pickering and Bob Kunzinger have announced their final choices for inclusion in Madville Publishing’s 2021 essay anthology, Being Home.

And here they are:

CONTRIBUTORS:

• Johnnie Bernhard “Ignorance or Innocence” • Rick Campbell “Celibacy and Ancestry” • Maryah Converse “Becoming Bedouin” • Susan Delgado Watts “Being Home” • John Flynn “Living Between the Leaves” • Debra Frank “The Accident House” • Karin Hedetniemi “Inheritance” • Anndee Hochman “2 Rms, Family View: The Ones We Call Home” • Richard Holinger “Cornwall Village” • Jamie Hughes “Making Room” • Robert Iulo “The Neighborhood”* • Kyle Ingrid Johnson “The House and Its Moments”* • Judy Johnson “My Brothers” • Deb Liggett “Marking Our Place” • Mel Livatino “Going Home Again” • Geoffrey Martin “Birdland” • Robert Miltner “Into the Bargain” • Vicky Oliver “Alice in Motherland” • Lea Page “Everything and the Kitchen Sink” • Rhonda Ray “My Rock” • Claude Clayton Smith “Blue Heaven” • Marsha Lynn Smith “4 Generations of Black Hair Matters” • Bill Stifler “Not From Around Here” • Elizabeth Templeman “In Place” • Elaine Terranova “Being Home” • Lee Zacharias “On a Rocky Inland Coast” • Madelaine Zadik “Triumph”

* asterisks indicate the judge’s favorites.

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Under the Cover—Mistakes by the Lake

Mistakes by the Lake cover

Book covers are amazing things. They can lure readers in, jolt their imaginations, prod them to, perhaps, pick up a book and read it. And during the reading of a book, its cover can be revisited, prompt additional exploration as to what the cover means vis a vis the contents, the characters, the story.

So, I’m not sure Bo Diddley (and Kelly Bell) are right (although their music sure isn’t wrong): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWvPZXLDUU

While any best-of lists will inherently miss some great book covers, when I reflect on covers that stuck with me, these are a few that come to mind:

The Great Gatsby: The painting by Francis Cugat is haunting and captures so much of the book’s vibe.

Jaws: Yeah, that image says it all.

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone: The image is arresting and creepy. The extra warning—“YOU TELL ON ME YOU’RE DEAD”—when the book’s held at a certain angle, heightens the creepy.

1Q84: I probably could’ve posted only Chip Kidd covers—he’s that good. I just happen to be reading this particular book now.

The Nickel Boys: Its stark design captures devastating heartbreak and loss.

When I signed with Madville Publishing to publish Mistakes by the Lake, Kim Davis, Madville’s Publisher/Director, sent over her first cover idea:

Initially, I liked it. It has the skyline of Cleveland in the background. And the viewfinder symbolically captures the many and varied views of the city that my stories themselves attempt to capture. I liked how the full image would serve as a nice wraparound cover, too:

We discussed playing with the font; I thought, perhaps, it’d be cool to mimic the font used on the Cleveland script signs (https://clevelandtraveler.com/cleveland-script-signs-guide/) that populate the city. But that didn’t look as cool as I thought it would:

And then I decided I wasn’t in love with it. You know, this might be—I hope not, of course!—but this might be the only book I ever publish. I wanted to love the cover.

One thing I appreciate about Madville is how involved their authors can be. So, with Madville’s blessing1, I went a little nuts.

From April through September 2019, I tried out different ideas. A ton of different ideas. I played with different Cleveland skylines, I played with various Cleveland maps, I played with overhead shots of the city, I played with iconic landmarks, I looked at (and even emailed) a few well-regarded Cleveland artists and photographers (Paul Duda [http://www.pauldudagallery.com/] and Jim Lanza [https://www.foundrywoodprints.com/], both of whom were kind enough to work with me should I find a piece of art I liked). As I stated, a little nuts.

One of the challenges, in my mind: Since my collection spans numerous decades of the city’s history, how could we get a cover to capture that timespan?

Here’s just a smattering of what I did. As you can see, I am in no way a designer, but it was exciting when, later on, I learned how to knock out a picture within the title (see the last two). You’ll also see a few early versions of what, ultimately, became the cover.

Madville patiently waited for me to work through my issues. And, finally, I sent six or so for their review.

They really liked the last one. (I liked that one a lot, too. I love how the old 1796 map explodes into the modern skyline. But, it was mildly problematic: as near as I could tell, the Western Reserve Historical Society owned the rights to that map and I had not yet worked out if we could use it or not. But after some back and forth, WRHS kindly agreed to let us incorporate the map in the cover. Also, it was an old map. The best reproduction of it I could find had elements that were roughed up and lost to wear or folds or both. So, I spent far too many hours digitally touching up and redrawing portions of the map to make it whole.)

Then it was in the capable hands of Jacqui Davis, Madville’s graphic designer: “I take the images and fonts the author likes, then, from the images, I establish a color palette. Ideally, this palette contains no more than six colors … three is better. For Brian’s book, the pinks came from a sunset picture he sent—then there’s the black, beige, and white from the map.”

Jacqui sent this back:

I liked it. A lot. And I loved what Jacqui did with the sky and the words and the overall composition. We thought my name might get lost in the busyness of the map, so that was one element to change. Plus, none of us were sure about the sky. We tried it in blue:

We all agreed the surreal pink was a better choice. (I should note that both sky pieces were photographs I took while living in Costa Rica. To not only have such a big say in my cover’s design, but to also use artwork of mine was all very cool.)

A few more tweaks: Could we see more of the map (so “Cuyahoga” was visible)? How would the map look using a parchment color? Could we try a different font? How would “by the” look in a slightly different and subordinated arrangement? From there, Jacqui made additional tweaks. “I chose this font because the letters are imperfect with a slightly organic feel that matches the lettering on the map and the splotchy ink blot textures of the skyline.”

Yes, I loved it. My publisher loved it. And, nearly a year later, I still love it.

1“Madville handles the cover design process a little differently from most traditional and indie publishers in that we involve our authors in the cover design process. This collaboration happens in different ways. We always ask our authors right up front to give us some idea of what they imagine for the cover. Their responses run the gamut from no idea what they want to some who have the artwork picked out and rights secured to use it. From there, the design process goes back and forth with the author allowed to give their input all the way up to the point where I step in and make the final decision, and I’m never going to pick a design the author doesn’t like!” —Kim Davis, Director, Madville Publishing


Brian Petkash Headshot

Brian Petkash was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Tampa and his stories have appeared in Midwestern Gothic and Southword, among other publications. He currently lives in Tampa, Florida, where he remains an avid fan of Cleveland sports.