Sunday, July 24, 2011

ROW and How I Write Reviews...

First, just to get it out of the way, word count for Aeris is now at:  86,786.

A big topic of discussion, one that I've talked about many times, is reviewing.  More specifically, reviewing other authors and how I continue to do it, even though NOW I have my own books, that could be reviewed in return.  
I'm going to address that today and hold on, it will be a LONG entry. 

First, pretty much all my ratings and reviews are on Goodreads, so let's take a look at the Goodreads star key:
1 = Didn't like it
2 = It was okay
3 = I liked it
4 = I really liked it
5 = It was Amazing

I'm a generous reader, probably because I love to read and I'm always up for a good story.  A book has to be pretty bad for me to give it what would be considered a poor rating (2 stars or less).  Thus far, I have given two books a one star rating: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Alice in Wonderland.  There are 7 books on my 2 star list.  This is out of 156 books that I've taken the time to label as read and given a rating to.  (The actual number of books that I'd read before 2008, when I joined Goodreads, is in the thousands.  I've also read FAR more than 156 books since 2008, but I don't put every book I read on there, just books that I thought were worth talking about.)  I also want to point out, that I don't rate or review books I don't finish.

My percentages go like this: 1 star 1%, 2 star 7%, 3 star 17%, 4 star 33%, 5 star 40%.  So as you can see, most of the books I read I really liked or thought were amazing(73%)!  And those are honest ratings.  One of the reasons is because, by the ripe old age of 32, I've figured out what I like.  Which isn't to say I never try anything new, I just tend to read a lot of what I like.  I'm also pretty careful what I pick.  I don't usually pick up just any old book on the street.  I read reviews, I get recommendations, I take my time in getting to a book.  I read the cover blurb, I pick authors I've read before.  All these factors have led me to a mostly successful reading journey.

I think the confusion comes in when I give my reviews.  I give honest reviews.  Just because a book has a 4 star rating, doesn't mean I found it to be perfect.  Heck, even my 5 star reviews come with pros and cons.  That is just who I am.  I'm a reader, and there are always parts of a book I like and dislike.  I just try to give my honest opinion.

That is me, as a reader.  It's how I've always worked, as a reader.  Go back and look at my reviews by date.  I did it before, I do it now, and I will do it again.  So now we come to the nitty gritty.  

In December, I released a debut novel, Six Keys.  In April, I released the first book in a YA fantasy series, Compis (soon to be followed by Aeris, hopefully in Sept, but definitely next fall).  Now I'm an author too, and I'll be lying if I say that it hasn't effected my review style.  This blog is something I use, both as an author and a reader, so I post authory things and readery things on here.  I vent my frustrations about both on here.  I post a few reviews on here.

To answer the questions specifically:  I have yet to give an indie a poor review.  Not because I'm afraid that an author will give me a bad review in return -though several authors I know have that fear- but because thus far I've been fortunate to only read the good books.  But let me be CLEAR: I have not EVER been asked to give a book a review by another author (or publisher for that matter).  I would NEVER give a review to a book (any book) where I felt I had an obligation to an author or a publisher.  That would compromise the integrity of my reviews and my reading experience.

I've seen it both ways, to be frank.  There are book bloggers I've stopped reading because it's obvious they give good reviews to everything because they get free books out of it, from the publishers.  I'm also sad to say that I've seen "review" exchanges on some of the lesser known author boards.  I openly despise this practice and I think it's misleading to the people we share our reviews with.  I think of the people on Goodreads as my reader friends.  I give them reviews that I give my own family and friends.  I wouldn't lie to someone in my family about liking a book I didn't like, what would be the point?  Nor would I do that online.  Period.

On the opposite side of that, I have never and WILL NEVER ask another author to review my work as some kind of publicity or as a deal for both of us.  If someone enjoys my book, and takes the time to tell me, I encourage them to post their feedback online.  I never ASK authors to read my work, either.  Every single author who has read my books has done it because they chose to, without prompting, and generally it was to my pleasant surprise.  I don't expect it and I don't ask for it.  

I don't promote myself around author's pages.  I've never done a guest blog.  I've never asked someone to do a guest blog and I don't think I would.  This blog is about me, not anyone else.  Although, if George R. R. Martin emailed me and was like, "Hey, Kate, you have a seriously cool blog, can I post something on it?" I'd probably faint, squeal, and say "YES!!!" instantly. hahaha

Sometimes it IS uncomfortable for me to review on my blog, or on Goodreads, for that matter.  I have done two recent indie reviews, which were both 4 stars -indicating I really liked their books- where I had the authors comment on my reviews.  Which always make me blink, because I think, who in the heck cares what I have to say??  :)  Both of the authors were super cool -as most indies are- but it makes me dread the inevitable crap book I read.  Argh.  And like I said, I AM frank, probably to a fault, about what works for me and doesn't work for me in a book.  Even when I really like the book.  So I'm not sure how people feel about that.

As for my own reviews... well, I just look at authors who I consider to be far superior to me: George, Orson Scott Card, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Austen... look at their reviews on Amazon. I'm bound to (and have gotten) some interesting commentary in my reviews.  Some of it make me glow with happiness and some makes me wilt.  I'm going to get my fair share of ones, twos, and threes.  Also, I'm a new author, so I have a lot of growing to do in my storymaking.  That can only come with time and experience.  Some of Tamora Pierce's early stuff, while among my favorites, are still pretty raw.  But that's okay.  Hopefully, along my journey as a writer, I will find my audience.  Those are the people I write for.  People like ME, who like strong female protagonists, love stories that take more than a minute to happen, non vampire, non love triangle, non first person present tense.  :)  

Not everyone will like what I write, it's a big world.  Heck, judging by my taste in books compared to others', there are a HELL of  LOT of people who will probably hate what I write.  Thems the breaks, kid.  The people who DO get what I write are the ones who make it worthwhile to me.  Because I think that's all writers really want —the chance to tell a story that other people will enjoy.  :)

And speaking of stories people enjoy, Smashwords is having a HUGE indie sale until the 31st of July.  I just picked up the rest of the Demon books by Penelope Fletcher FOR FREE(Also, quick note, just checked and Demon Girl is still free on Kindle, too.  So you can read the whole series)!!!  I urge you to get over to their site and get yourself some free goodness!!!  I also picked up another Stacey Wallace Benefiel(She calls herself S.W. Benefiel in that one) book, since I liked the last one.  Very exciting, indie readers!!!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Look, I'm useful! ROW Check-in.

Sooo... my car is still limbo and I'm getting a ride back to my house with my sister, who is going to stay for a few days.  Our only other vehicle besides my husband's work car is a GIGANTIC van that we use to haul our trailer around.  As you might imagine, it's a joy to drive.  Anyway, hopefully we can get it fixed soon and I will be saved from the beast. hahaha

Writing was about as successful this week as it was last week, with no respite in sight.  I have busy mornings next week, busy afternoons next week, and busy evenings.  I'm now hoping, hoping, hoping I will have this book finished in the next two weeks.  I mean, I still have editing to do, for heaven's sakes!  At this point in time I basically keep the file open on my computer and write in it whenever I get a free minute to write.  I'm at 80,000 words for Aeris right now, and I've got at LEAST 30,000 to go.  Good luck to me! :)

And now I have to go pack, but being my useful self, I wanted to leave you with a couple of links from around the internet that I found interesting this week.  Nothing too dramatic this time. :)

The first is a link to some videos on formatting for a POD novel (like Createspace) using Open Office.  I'm a big fan of OO, because it's FREE and open source(for you geeks).  I also highly recommend the blog it's linked to, for its usefulness to anyone who is a writer.

So here is the link:

The next link is one I found interesting because it's an honest discussion with traditionally published writers who are making the move to self publishing.  It's one of the better conversations I've seen, since there is no anger or derision toward EITHER option.  The pros and cons of each are discussed with an honesty that I find refreshing.

Link here:

That's all for now.  Sorry it's short, but that's all I've got for now.  Maybe Wed. will be better.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sucky Sunday, ROW Check-in and 5 Favorite Book Blogs

Without going into too much detail, drove down the four hours to my parents' house, my fan on my car broke, my car overheated, and I had to get towed the rest of the way there.  This did not for a good Sunday make, to say the least.  I'm slightly more cooled off now, but for a while there I was hot, cranky, hungry and MAJORLY had to pee. hahaha

To top it all off, the in-laws invaded last week, and while they are delightful people and I highly enjoy spending time with them, they (and my husband) have no clue what proper bedtimes and naptimes are for toddlers (and pregnant women for that matter) consequently, my writing schedule was TOTALLY thrown off and instead of being close to 80,000 words for Aeris, I'm still stuck at 70k.  Unhappy face.  Hopefully, I can get a lot done while I'm here at the folks' and bring myself closer to the 90ish I want to be at.

On to happy things.  I get asked all the time about which book bloggers I like and which I don't.  I don't want to pass out negativity, because I love book bloggers and I value what they do (much like librarians), so I'll refrain from commenting on book blogging practices I do NOT admire and instead give you a short list of the best bloggers I've come across thus far.  I can't pretend you've heard of all of them, but I've read and appreciated their blogs, and follow their reviews on goodreads.

  1. The top of my list is Cuddlebuggery, otherwise known as Kat Kennedy.  The reason I like her so much is that she's like me: not afraid to tell you how she sees it.  She bashes books if she doesn't like them, or if she sees a weakness in them.  It makes me terrified to ever have her read one of MY books, but on the other hand I don't think she does indies, so I'm probably safe! :)  I just get tired of reviewers that ALWAYS have something positive to say about a book.  I like seeing pros and cons.  Kat does pros like a pro and cons with a healthy dose of humor.  She's also an aspiring writer and I hope she finishes her book soon, because I would LOVE to see what comes out of her brain!
  2. Next up is The Well Read Wife, Mandy Boles.  Her reading covers such a wide array of genres that I can't help loving her blog. She is always insightful and honest about her reviews, and I trust them, even if I don't always agree with them.  (We agree to disagree about Jane Austen, for instance. hahaha)
  3. If you're an indie reader like me, then Red Adept Reviews is the place for you to go.  Feeling tired of books that are full of grammar errors, bad characters, holey plots?  The professional reviewers at Red Adept will lay it all out for you, honestly, and without prejudice.  I know that if I'm considering a certain indie, they are the place to go to find a review on it.  Each book is categorized and rated based on: Plot/Storyline, Characters, Writing Style and IF it applies, grammar.  Then they are given an overall rating.  Excellent site, couldn't do without them!
  4. Another blogger who reads both traditional and indie books is one of my favorites: The Book Faery.  WRW is always my first stop, and Kristi is always my second, when I'm looking for new reviews.  Her book blog is more like the others I've seen, with giveaways and questions, and blog hopping, but she manages to do it in a way that is FUN and not tiring.  She'll read anything she is interested in, but mostly YA.  
  5. Finally, I have one last stop, and a new discovery for me: The Modge Podge Bookshelf.  Just discovered her by happenstance on goodreads when I saw that like myself, she is a cover lover.  Not sure if she reads indies or not, yet, but I've read several of her reviews and even though there are some I don't agree with her on, they are all honest and give good and bad things about the books she reads.  She also has many insightful observations about books, covers, and the industry that I found myself nodding along with. Oh, and she's having a one year anniversary giveaway, so sign up for it, if you can.
Happy Reading!