How To Tell A Great StoryGreat StoryTelling Network Newsletter
Volume 14, Issue 6 – 15 June 2018

In today’s edition, Rohi writes about getting reviews for your books and asks the question, ‘What system do you use to gather reviews for your books on Amazon or other platforms?’

As it happens, I’ve managed to secure the first review for ‘The Age of Smiling Secrets’. Padma Shri Datuk Ramli Ibrahim wrote such lovely words that I decided to have some of what he said published/printed on the cover. I am sharing his words with you.

A riveting tale of tragic destinies that dares to expose the flaws in our concurrent Civil-Syariah Laws. Lives unravel in a worst-case scenario when loopholes in the law, exacerbated by corruption and unscrupulous characters, combine to destroy the very fabric of lives of simple and honest folks.

In today’s edition, I’m sharing a story I wrote a while ago about Ramli called ‘Tapestry of Dance’.

As I go through the process of self-publishing the novel, I realise one thing: I loved writing the novel and I love reading it even more.

Hopefully, by the time I send out the next edition of the newsletter, I’ll be able to share the cover design with you. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy all we share.

Happy storytelling.
Aneeta Sundararaj


–> Tapestry of Dance by Aneeta Sundararaj

–>A Foolproof Way to Get Reviews For Your Kindle Book by Dr. Rohi Shetty

Guest Blog: Editors: what makes them the way they are by Sreelata Menon


It’s the 1980s and in Stadium Dato’ Syed Omar, Alor Setar, a man performs an Indian classical dance at the invitation of the Sultan of Kedah (our present Agong). In the audience is a little girl who eagerly explains to her astounded father every single one of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu that the dancer is depicting. At the end of the performance, the little girl lets out a contented sigh. She prays that one day, she will be given the chance to see him dance again. Today, the stadium no longer exists, the little girl’s all grown up and the dancer is now a celebrated icon known to all as Datuk Ramli Ibrahim. When I tell him that the little girl in the story above was me, Ramli responds with, “But darling, that was more than thirty years ago!”

With a broad smile, the multiple award-winning artiste insists that my story is another example of how well he connects with children. As the Chairman of Sutra Foundation, he’s keen to create a strong bank of new talent and is involved in an outreach programme which offers dance training to children outside Kuala Lumpur. An initiative of Sutra Foundation, this programme is supported with funding from Yayasan myNADI and ECM Libra.

Straightening the kurta he’s changed into to perform a short piece for us, Ramli steps onto the ‘stage’ in the garden of his home in Petaling Jaya. He winces when his feet touch the sun-soaked platform in the middle of a large fish pond and says: “Right in the middle here is a piece of granite I brought back from the Himalayas. I went to the base camp on 9 September 1999.”

As he begins to dance to the tune of ‘Lalitha Lavanga’ by Skikil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan, there is a sudden breeze. The palm fronds, leaves of the bougainvillea and surrounding bushes all rustle, as though Mother Nature appreciates this impromptu performance.


When it’s over, with a refreshing drink in hand, 63-year-old Ramli sits down to discuss his interest in developing talent amongst the younger generation. He complains that many urban children today are weaker and poorly coordinated. They are clumsy and when he asks the parents why, most confess that their children hardly go out to play. Shaking his head, he laments: “It’s a pity since Nature is the greatest teacher.”

Describing performances as a ‘tapestry of things that happen’, Ramli believes that Indian classical dances have the power to transform and are capable of empowering youths physically, emotionally and spiritually. Echoing the thoughts of Dr. Dinanath Pathy, Ramli also believes that dance doesn’t just happen on stage, but emerges from a cultural tradition. Dr. Pathy is a literary and visual consultant to Sutra Foundation and is credited with conceiving the theme and visual images for the recently completed performance of ‘Ganjam’ by the Sutra Foundation.

The branch of Indian classical dance that Ramli chooses to teach his students in the outreach programme is mainly Odissi. A classical dance form from Eastern India, he feels that it exposes students to life-long virtues such as discipline, commitment to self and also as participating members of a group or community. Lessons are held during the weekends: On Saturdays, Ramli goes to Kuala Selangor and Ladang Sg. Choch to teach there. On Sundays, he goes back to his hometown, Kajang, to teach at a school.

“This is the only time when they [his students] are allowed to make mistakes,” he says, his tone instantly hard, indicating the level of discipline he demands from his students. In fact, he expects the established dances of his Sutra Dance Theatre to be part of this endeavour. When he detects a reluctance on their part to give of themselves to these under-privileged children, he admits to feeling nauseated. He is quick to add: “I tell my dancers that since dance has given them so much, they must give back. These are their own people. Other Indians.”


There are two major philosophical and literary principles from Greek mythology that underlie Ramli’s approach to dance – the Apollonian and Dionysian principles. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysius were the sons of Zeus. Apollo represents order, predictability and stability. “Look at university. It’s symmetrical and has to give an idea of stability. But with Dionysian, nothing is symmetrical,” explains Ramli. Dionysius is all about chaos, instability and surprise. Throughout his work a creative director and dancer, Ramli tries to strike the balance between these two principles.

Sighing, he leans back and says: “I’ve been reading Jung lately and I’m starting to think about my childhood again.” Admitting that he’s a born performer, Ramli’s parents left him alone for most of the time, which allowed him to explore his surroundings and be creative. At that moment, a Labrador retriever and a cat, two of the many pets that roam freely in Ramli’s house, make an entrance and seek his attention. Duly petted, they move away and Ramli tells of his compassion for animals and an innate desire to observe nature: “I would wake up early in the morning just to see how a flower develops.”

As the youngest in the family, Ramli was a precocious child. Cheeky grin in place, he says: “If my mother told me not to do something, that was exactly what I’d do.” And since Ramli’s mother (Kamariah) told him not to swim, he did precisely that. But he excelled at it during his time at the Royal Military College and when he went to Australia in the 1970s, he took it one step further and learned to surf.


The sense of freedom he experienced in Australia meant that less than two months after his arrival in Perth to complete a degree in Engineering from the University of Western Australia, Ramli bought a VW and drove all over. After his studies were over, he followed his heart and pursued dance. Ramli explained the conviction to turn his back on a supposedly ‘steady career’ and follow his passion when he wrote the following passage in a coffee-table book called ‘Quintessential Sutra’:

Dance is not just a craft. It is a passion – and more than that, it is a calling. I realised long ago that the gift of talent is a golden opportunity to fulfil one’s reason for being. I love to quote Martha Graham who said – ‘I did not choose to dance. Dance chose me.’

Having been based in Malaysia since the 1980s, this life-long performer still ‘speaks the language of dance’ which he calls ‘rasa’ and gives a somewhat profound explanation of what he means: in simple terms, the lyrics for Indian classical music can be called a ‘shloka’ (a couplet of Sanskrit verse). “In dance, learning what the shloka means is not as wonderful as learning what the shokla is imagined. [When I dance], I identify with my own spirit first, then the audience.” In so doing, the audience, be they a little girl or even the Sultan himself, becomes secondary to Ramli’s dance.

Not willing to be specific about his future plans, Ramli’s concluding comment is perceptive indeed: “I try not to be too specific about the future. I can set a goal and destiny will look after itself. If the endurability of the human spirit deserves it, it’ll happen.”

STILLNESS AND FLOW: A Foolproof Way to Get Reviews For Your Kindle Book by Dr. Rohi Shetty

Once you have published a book on Amazon, it is crucial to get as many book reviews as you can. No one will buy your book if it doesn’t have any reviews.

Reviews are important because:

  • they provide social validation for your book.
    If your book has no reviews, no one is likely to buy it.
  • they boost your rank within Amazon’s search engine.
    If your book has more reviews, it is more visible to potential readers in Amazon.
  • they help to get featured on book promotion sites.
    You will need at least five reviews for most sites.

So aim for at least ten reviews soon after the launch of your book. Ten reviews is the bare minimum. However, getting even ten reviews can be a challenge, especially if you are a new author with zero followers. However you can do it if you follow the system given below and are willing to put in the work.

Make sure you plan well in advance and give people sufficient time to post their reviews. They have to read your book first, which can take quite a while depending on the size of your book. Then they have to organize their thoughts and actually write the review. So you will need to follow up and remind them gently.

Avoid fake Amazon reviews
Amazon does not want customers in the same household to post multiple reviews of the same product. Though reviews are important, don’t antagonize Amazon by using these three ways to get reviews:

  • Reviews by friends and family

According to Amazon’s terms of service, you should not ask your relatives, close friends, business associates and employees to review your book.

  • Offering compensation of any kind

Compensation includes free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements. Amazon has started deleting reviews containing this line (commonly seen in the past): “I was offered a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.”

  • Swapping reviews with fellow authors

Amazon has started tracking review swapping so don’t do it. It is no longer worth the risk. Instead of swapping reviews on Amazon, you can request fellow authors to post their reviews on Goodreads, their own blog or on social media. You can then add their reviews to your book description through your Amazon Author Central page

If you get reviews from family, friends and other authors, Amazon may delete their reviews. Worst case scenario: your books may be deleted and your Amazon account suspended. It’s not worth the risk.

How to Gather Genuine Reviews for Your Kindle Books
You need a systematic process to find potential reviewers on Amazon and then follow up with them until they review your book.

1 Find Potential Reviewers on Amazon
Find other books that are similar to your book within the same genre and click on customer reviews. Focus more on the 5-star and 4-star reviews but check out all the reviews. Make a separate list of the titles of these books.

Click on names of the reviewers, which are listed immediately below their star rating to go to their Amazon profile. (Hold control and left-click to open their profile in a new tab on your internet browser.) Look through the profiles for a link to their website or social media platform so that you can find a way to contact them. If you can’t find any relevant information, move onto the next profile.

Collect the following information in a table or spreadsheet:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Name of the book reviewed by them
  • Amazon Profile URL
  • Review Promised
  • Personal information (which you can use to personalize your email to them)

Continue this process until you get at least 100 email addresses and then move on to the next step of this phase.

2. Create a review tracking system
Use a table or spreadsheet to track all those who promise a review, which should include the following:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Did they agree to review your book?
  • Date of sending your book to them
  • Date of first follow up
  • Date of second follow up
  • Date of review
  • Date of thank you note sent after getting review
  • Additional remarks

3. Follow up with potential reviewers
As already discussed, getting reviews is difficult because people have to read your book and then write a review. So follow up is crucial because most people are busy and are not likely to respond to your very first email. Even after they read your book, people may forget to post a review. So a gentle reminder or two is essential to get book reviews.

The focus in this process is building relationships with potential reviewers. Also, make sure that you don’t send follow up emails to anyone who has already posted a review.

4. Use GMass for tracking
First, add GMass to your Gmail account. GMass is free for 50 emails per day but the premium version with automatic follow up costs $12 USD a month. If you plan to publish your books on Amazon, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment and you can cancel your account any time.

GMass helps you to:

  • send mass emails to a group of people with a single click. Each person gets a personalized email.
  • send automatic follow up emails to people that do not respond to your initial email. GMass automatically resends emails to each person that doesn’t respond after a predetermined number of days.

Check out this detailed post by Archangel Ink on the automatic follow-up system using GMass, including email templates and a video tutorial: Need Book Reviews for your Kindle Launch? This is How you do it


  1. Book Review Banzai: The Unknown Author’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Amazon Reviews by Jason B. Ladd

FREE when you sign up for Jason’s newsletter at

In this book, Jason B. Ladd reveals the secret to getting book reviews on Amazon even if you are an unknown author. Book Review Banzai uses a laser-focused approach with free web tools and effective marketing tactics to get high-quality book reviews on Amazon. He describes the same strategy given above.

By the way, I requested Jason for a free review copy of his book and he was kind enough to send it to me. You can read my review here or click on

If you want to read his e-book, you can do request a free copy here:

  1. Transformational Author Experience Online Summit

You can get free access to the entire summit from 18 to 22 June 2018 where more than 30 best-selling authors, publishing experts, and industry leaders will reveal their best strategies to write, publish, and promote your transformational book.

(More than 70,000 people have attended this free training so far over the past few years.)

When you register, you’ll also get a free PDF copy of the Transformational Author Playbook by Christine Kloser.

To register, click here or copy this link into your browser:

Join the conversation:
What system do you use to gather reviews for your books on Amazon or other platforms? Let us know.

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