The Ideal 10 Star Rating System + Big Announcement!

At the end of this post I’ll be sharing an exciting announcement with you all, so be sure to get in on it!


I’ve always been pretty vocal about my dissatisfaction with Amazon’s five-star rating system for books, the main reason being that five stars seriously limits the flexibility I’m able to have while expressing my opinions. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and construct a template for a ten-star rating system.

Currently, Amazon suggests the following criteria:

1 Star = I hate it

2 Stars = I don’t like it

3 Stars = It’s okay

4 Stars = I like it

5 Stars = I love it

Yuck. So…basic. So pessimistic. It sounds more like one of those convenience YA protagonists monologuing about her crush than a respectable review system. Does anyone even follow those criteria? I don’t.

Allow me to propose the following ten-star reviewing method:

1 Star = I read two chapters, burst a blood vessel, and fed the book to my pet turtle Franklin II.

2 Stars = I read three chapters, got a headache, and shook my head disapprovingly in Franklin II’s general direction.

3 Stars = I finished the book, but frankly, Franklin II is more interesting. And he’s a turtle. He doesn’t do anything. And his food smells weird.

4 Stars = The book’s okay for some light entertainment if I’ve got nothing better to do. Unfortunately, Franklin II and I had a game of marbles scheduled for today, so I won’t be reading much. Franklin II is bad at marbles. This could take some time.

5 Stars = I don’t regret spending a few bucks on the ebook. I enjoyed the general story, but there wasn’t anything remarkable about it. I might recommend it to Franklin II, since, being a turtle, his literature standards are fairly low, but he’s more of a mystery novel chap.

6 Stars = It’ll probably find a spot on my shelf, assuming the cover looks nice. Franklin II is irrelevant now. He can’t even see the shelf.

7 Stars = I quite enjoyed the book. I tried to have a meaningful discussion about the character development with Franklin II, but he was chomping on a lettuce leaf quite rudely, so I got mad and left.

8 Stars = Hmm, impressive. This book really stands out, possibly enough to earn a spot near the top of the shelf, where over time it’ll acquire a Franklin II-esque aroma. Gross. Franklin II stinks.

9 Stars = I read this book out loud to Franklin II after I’d finished it. We both teared up at the end. I’ve never seen Franklin II get so emotional. It was a beautiful bonding experience.

10 Stars = This book is extraordinary. Franklin II and I built a shrine for it, and on the second Tuesday of each month, we spend ten minutes in contemplative awe in front of it. Sometimes we even split a potato chip.

I hope the King of Amazon sees this post and takes the necessary steps to make my method official. In the meantime, Franklin II escaped his tank again. Gotta go find him.


Okay, now for the big announcement!

After a week or so of careful consideration, consultation, and calibration, I’ve decided to start a Wattpad account and serialize one of my backburner novels. Whaaat? Yes. I know. I think the earth just shifted on its axis. Here’s a fancy shiny thing for you to look at and be amazed:

wattpad cover copy

A band of escaped slave children face a world that wants them back in chains…or dead. Their struggle for survival begins in the uncharted wilderness and ends in a city ready to tear itself apart.

Placeholder cover art by yours truly. 

So why take this project to Wattpad? Several reasons. I’ve been puttering away at the manuscript for the better part of five years now, never really prioritizing it, so I figure this will be a good way to stick with it and finish it. It’s also the only novel I’ve written that doesn’t follow a developed outline, so a weekly chapter system fits perfectly. Third, The Broken City of Crows is longer and more ‘traditional’ fantasy than what I usually write. Why not try something different for it? Lastly, I really like the idea of getting feedback from readers as we progress through the story.

The first two chapters of The Broken City of Crows are already posted on Wattpad. Go read them here and tell me what you think! Any shares, tweets, or promotional smoke signals are greatly appreciated as well.

From here on out I’ll be posting single chapters every Friday or Saturday (depending on which works better for potential readers). And yes, I’m still writing Where the Woods Grow in Flames, don’t worry!

Anyways, I’m really excited to try this out. I don’t have super high expectations, but I’m curious to see how far we can go! Any support from you guys means the world to me, so let’s get going. Come along, Franklin II. We’ll be late!


Have a great day, friends!

The 5 Big Mistakes I Made When Self-Publishing My First Book

A lot of people think Where the Woods Grow Wild was my debut novel. It’s actually not, but I’m totally okay treating it as such because my very first self-published novel was a bit (fine, a lot) of a fiasco in its inception. Some of you have read it: Little One, published just about two years ago and republished (with a lot of improvements) a few months later.

I’ve written about this in past posts and random tweets, but I decided to share the five biggest mistakes I made when first self-publishing Little One. Most of them were due to an utter lack of experience, so if you’re building towards your first release, maybe I can save you some trouble.

#1 Not asking for beta readers

News flash: beta readers are amazing. They should be an integral part of your self-pub journey. They’re the first eyes to see your work, and the feedback they provide is ESSENTIAL. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get by without that feedback. I probably don’t have to explain why. Suffice to say that your view of what works and what doesn’t will ALWAYS be limited by your investment in your own manuscript. Solution: ask for beta readers. I didn’t when I self-published Little One, and my story suffered because of it.

(Note: my beta readers for Where the Woods Grow Wild were the best, and I’m still super grateful! I feel like that story is wildly [pun intended] more successful because of them.) 

#2 Relying on self-proofreading

Freelance editors across the globe are already pulling their hair out. So did I when I realized just how many typos I had missed. To be fair, I was a broke senior in college. I couldn’t afford a vanilla coke, much less a professional proofreader. Still, my mistake was thinking that one or two quick proofreads would be enough. No…no. Can you successfully proofread your own work? Possibly, if you give yourself enough time. Do I recommend it? Definitely not. It’s not worth the anxiety of finding another spelling error or wrong word choice post-publication when people have already purchased the book.

#3 Settling for an okay cover

Some of you may remember the original cover for Little One. It was okay, as far as very basic designs go. But it really fell flat when inserted into the hyper-competitive world of Amazon thumbnails. I feel bad saying this because I’d hired an artist friend for that design. She did everything I asked her to (and did it well!), so the mistake was mine for not realizing how much the cover art mattered. Later on, I acquired a new design from a professional (and experienced, importantly) cover artist, but I’ll never be able to make up for that sub-par first impression. Mea culpa. 

#4 Not investing in a physical proof copy

If you’re publishing a print edition through a program like CreateSpace, do yourself a favor and BUY THE PROOF COPY. The shipping expenses are worth it in the long run. When I first self-published, I thought the digital review option was enough. Plot twist: it wasn’t. Not even close. When my first print copies arrived, there were chapter titles on the wrong page, awkward paragraph splits, and other glaring print errors. Some of those copies were for friends, and I had some pretty embarrassing explaining to do. Printer’s fault? Nope. Mine, for not wanting to sacrifice $25 and a few days to revise the physical proof copy.

#5 Rushing everything

I tweeted about this yesterday. Don’t rush. Don’t ever rush. Please, for your own sake, DO THINGS SLOWLY.

I think this point includes (and is the cause of) all the other mistakes I made as well. When I first self-published Little One, I was in a huge hurry. For several reasons. One legit reason was that I needed the project completed for college credit (English major perks). I needed those credits to graduate, so I had a tight deadline. The other reason, however, was a truckload of impatience on my part. I wanted the world to get my first novel, and I wanted them to get it assoonashumanlypossiblerightnowplease. I cut corners. I skipped essential steps. And the result was a mediocre product. Please, don’t make that mistake. Take the time to do things right, even if it means pushing back your intended deadlines. I want your first self-publishing experience to be one you can remember with pride.


I hope this post is of some help for those of you intending on self-publishing (or even if you’ve already got some books under your belt). Now I can look back on the experience and view it as a growth opportunity. My new books are worlds better because of what I learned from those mistakes.

At the same time, I still cringe now and then.


Thanks for stopping by today. I always like interaction, so add to the conversation in the comments or just say hi! Make sure to follow me here and on Twitter to receive your complimentary baby penguin.

In the meantime, have a great day!

Free Promotion: Where the Woods Grow Wild!

Hey, guys! Today’s post will be a quick one. I’ve got an exciting announcement. Starting today, from March 1st through March 4th, you can get a free Kindle copy of Where the Woods Grow Wild!

wtwgw-ebook-cover

A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tangle of fantasy, they discover more than animals roam where the woods grow wild.

What’s the occasion, you ask? Well, today marks the beginning of month #3, and 3 is my 5th favorite single-digit number, so there’s always that. Additionally, I suck at marketing, so I’m going on a tactical ‘I feel like giving away free stuff’ strategy.

And no, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to follow, subscribe, like, or sacrifice a naked mole rat (seriously, don’t do that). All you have to do is click *le fancy link* below and download your free copy from Amazon.

Where the Woods Grow Wild Free Download

Need some convincing? I understand! I’ll link to some fabulous writer/reader friends who were awesome enough to review Where the Woods Grow Wild on their blogs. (In this case, yes, you should go follow and subscribe to them, but go easy on the mole rats).

Constant Collectible’s Review

A Tea With Tumnus’s Review

Dragonthief’s Review

If you’re itching for a copy but don’t own a Kindle device, we can definitely work something out. Just let me know and I’ll get in touch! And if you do read Where the Woods Grow Wild, I’d be enormously grateful if you dropped a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are the fuel for an author’s success engine (crazy deep metaphor alert), but they can be hard to come by. Even just a quick rating goes a long way. You have my thanks and Gimli’s axe.


Thanks for taking the time to stop by! I truly hope you have a fantastic day.

Where the Woods Grow Wild – Available for Pre-Order!

That’s right, you heard it here first: my adventure-driven fantasy novel, Where the Woods Grow Wild, isn’t releasing until December 10th, but starting today you can pre-order it on Amazon for your ebook reader of choice!

This is…extraordinary. WtWGW is my baby, and I’m pushing it out into the world. It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. But I’m not here to talk about me, I’m here to talk about the book.

Where the Woods Grow Wild will be available for pre-order right until December 10th, the official release date. Pre-orders apply to ebooks only, so if you want to wait for a paperback copy, make sure to stamp your calendar!

Ready to pre-order your copy? Read no further (or do, I can’t stop you). Either way, click here to go straight to the Amazon page!

If not, here are some of the reasons why you totally should pre-order today (or tomorrow, if you really must):

  • You save money! The e-book will go up to full price once the pre-order period is finished, so grab it now and treat yourself to a snowcone with your savings. “But Nate, it’s too cold for-” Be quiet and enjoy your snowcone!
  • You’ll be the very first person to get your hands on a copy! Well, you and everybody else who pre-ordered. We can’t all be unicorns.
  • You get to wear a special badge! It’s a metaphorical badge, and all it says is ‘I pre-ordered this book’, but hey, it’s shiny. All that to say, if you pre-order and tell a friend, you get bonus points. And you feel good on the inside.
  • You help me out a lot! I only bring this up because the more pre-orders roll in, the more momentum we’ll have on release day. If you’re just deciding between now or later, do it now!

Also, I made this gorgeous thing. Look at the thing. Now do what the thing says.

A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tan.jpg

Pre-order Where the Woods Grow Wild

Now, let’s sit back and giggle over cups of hot cocoa until December 10th gets here. I know I’m excited, and I know a lot of you are as well. Thanks for coming along for the ride. We’re almost there.

In the meantime, have a great day!

Book Ratings: What’s Your Criteria?

Today’s post is a quick barfing of my thoughts on Amazon’s five star rating system, specifically when it applies to books.

I’ve finished a handful of books recently, and each time I go to review one of them on Amazon or Goodreads, I feel so limited by the five-star system. How can 1-5 stars accurately represent my reaction to something as complex as a novel, a novella, or even a short story?

I don’t think it can. I would much rather work with a 1-10 star system. I know Amazon will probably never do that, because, on a base level, their review system works. It’s just frustrating sometimes.

Here’s the criteria I follow when deciding how many stars to give a book I’ve recently read:

one-star-rating

One star reviews are harsh. I’ve never actually given a book a one star review before. To me, one star books are those that lack any sense of objective creative dignity. In other words, if I feel the author put any sort of effort into their product, I’ll be very reluctant to give it a one star rating.

Two-star-rating

I assign two star ratings to 99% of the books I simply don’t enjoy (I try to be objective. If I don’t enjoy a book for purely subjective reasons, I probably won’t bother reviewing it). My motives for giving a book two stars include consistently poor editing, subpar plot or character development, or if it’s just a boring story.

3-stars

Three star ratings are where I have the most issues, because I feel there should be a much bigger gap between two stars and three stars. To me, three stars mean I liked the book. I finished it and I was entertained. Maybe there were a few mistakes, and maybe it wasn’t my favorite book ever, but there were no glaring faults to make me quit.

I think writers generally get discouraged by three star ratings because they’re perceived negatively. But for a bit of perspective, on a ten star rating system, these books would earn 6-7 stars from me. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

four-stars_0

For the aforementioned reasons, I generally skip straight to four star ratings if I like a book (a ten star system would give me a lot more flexibility, though).

Four star books are properly constructed and edited, and they rise above the base entertainment factor. Maybe there’s a character I really like, or a plot twist that caught me by surprise, or a subplot I was genuinely engaged in. They may not be perfect: a few typos here and there, or the occasional weak character or plot point. Those are all relatively minor issues that I can overlook as long as the main plot and the protagonist keep me turning pages.

get-five-star-reviews

I give books five stars quite rarely. For a book to get five stars, it has to meet all the qualifications of a four star book (see above), but it also has to impact me. That’s the determining factor for me. Impact. Whether it’s emotionally, intellectually, or personally, a story has to really hit me hard for me to give it a full five stars.


I know rating books is an incredibly subjective process. I’m definitely not saying my criteria should be the rule.

How do you decide how many stars to give a book? Is your thought process similar to mine? Totally different? Let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, have a great Monday.

 

How to get clicks on your book (from a reader)

I’m not a marketing guru. I’m not a social-media expert. I can’t give a sure-fire way of improving your book marketing. But I am a reader, and I am on social media. A lot.

In other words, I’m the kind of guy you’re trying to get to click on your book links. So I’m going to help you out by listing five things that DO make me want to see more about your novel, as well as five things that DON’T.

(Disclaimer: this isn’t an always/never list. It’s just the general way I think and react to your marketing attempts as a reader. Don’t take my perspective as law. Also, when I say ‘do’ or ‘don’t’, I mean ‘probably will’ or ‘probably won’t.)

Things that DO make me click on your novel link

  1. An original cover: your cover is the first thing I see, so if it stands out from all the other covers in its genre, I’ll be curious.
  2. A reason to care about your protagonist: make me care about your protagonist and his/her friends (or enemies!) as quickly as humanly possible, and I’ll at least read your free sample. Guaranteed.
  3. A genuine person behind the link: I’m much more likely to be interested in your book if I’m interested in you as a person first.
  4. A title I can relate to: ‘The Chronicles of Mumbo-Jumbo’ is just too generic to grab my attention at all. Give your book a name that means something to potential readers.
  5. Creative marketing: think outside the box, and you’ll find yourself standing outside the box. If you’re outside the box, I’m more likely to notice you and your book.

Things that DON’T make me click on your novel link

  1. Discounts and free promotions:  I’m broke, but I’m willing to pay $2 for your book. But if I don’t want to buy it, telling me it’s half off probably won’t change my mind. Even if it’s free, I’m still investing time and energy by reading it.
  2. A super-cool plot tagline: ‘Ben finds himself in the fight of his life.’ ‘Everything Liz thought she knew is a lie.’ ‘Hank discovers the power he never knew he had.’ Look, I’ve seen all this before. These taglines are supposed to grab my attention, but they just don’t mean anything to me.
  3. Amazon ranking: these days, everyone and their cousin is a bestseller. With niche genre settings, it’s not that hard. Even my novel was #2 on Amazon’s free fantasy list for a few days.
  4. Reviews: okay, so reviews DO make a difference, but I prefer to formulate my own opinions. Besides, and I don’t mean to be rude, there are some pretty bad pieces of work out there with shiny reviews. It’s a subjective system.
  5. Attractive characters: I don’t give a gerbil’s fuzzy tuchus how good-looking your characters are. If all you’ve got to sell your book with are a couple of great bodies, I’m not interested.

That’s my feedback as a reader to you as a writer/marketer. But at the end of the day, do what works best for you. Try to think like a reader! They’re the ones you want clicking on your links.