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!

22 Types of Books on Your Bookshelf

The perfect, beautiful one that has a private shrine somewhere near the top.

The brand new copy you pull out just to sniff. 

The one that always finds a way to tip over.

The one(s) with the coffee stains. 

The one with the awkward height that stands out like a pink lemming.

The mass market paperback that never looks good anywhere. 

The one you haven’t read and never will but looks nice so you keep it.

The one with the ugly spine that you try to cover with a Funko Pop. 

The one that’s part of a magnanimously uniform series (sigh of satisfaction).

The yard sale classic that makes you feel more sophisticated because it has fancy squiggles on the spine. 

The series that has to go lying down because some nincompoop at the publisher decided to print them 1/4 inch taller than your bookshelf height.

That one installment in the series that you own in a different edition so it doesn’t look like all the rest and basically says ‘lol what’ every time you frown at it. 

The one you’re embarrassed to own but haven’t taken it off the shelf for some reason.

The one that’s the only book on the shelf of a genre you don’t read but you kinda have to keep it because it was a gift. 

The tome you keep handy in case you ever need to knock out a moose from a second story window.

The one that came late to the party so it has to lie awkwardly across the tops of the others. 

The one that you own only because Booktube hyped it (even though it sucks).

The Tolkien copy you’ve never actually finished but you pull out and dust off every time you need a classy Instagram filler. 

The one with the missing dust jacket that still looks good because it has shiny gold letters on the black spine.

The paperback you’ve read so many times that the spine looks like a 1:1000 scale model of the Himalayas. 

The one you’ve kept since you were a kid and now the pages are yellowed and it smells like good memories.

The one that’s missing from the series because cousin Gustav “borrowed” it three years ago and you hunted him down but gave up when you lost his scent in a cold mountain spring somewhere south of Zurich. 

I’m coming for you, cousin Gustav. 

December Giveaway Winners Announced!

Remember that time at the beginning of the month when I announced a Rafflecopter giveaway some indie-author friends and I were hosting? Well, we got hundreds of entries, and today I get to announce the pool of winners!

Here’s the Rafflecopter Giveaway Winner List of Utmost Glory and Ebookness.

Congratulations to Cory, Bailey, Jennifer, Raechel, Marrok, Rachel, Hailey, and Olivia! The giveaway hosts will contact you individually. I’ll also link to each book so the rest of you can check them out and pick up a copy if you didn’t win!

Where the Woods Grow Wild – Nate Philbrick

Song of the Sword – Hope Ann

Water Princess, Fire Prince – Kendra E. Ardnek

Be Thou My Vision – Faith Blum

Becoming Nikki – Ashley Elliott

Alen’s War – Hannah A. Krynicki

Befriending the Beast – Amanda Tero

The Wings of Antheon – Ellyanna J. Wenceslao

There’s a lot of variety there, so make sure you take a peek! In the meantime, have a great day.

My 2017 Multi-Genre Reading Challenge

I’ve hatched a reading plan for 2017. Now, normally I ready almost exclusively fantasy. As a matter of fact, the last book I (tried to) read that wasn’t fantasy was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park , and I couldn’t finish it.

So I got to thinking the other day (a rare occurrence), and I realized I need a bit of variety in my life. So I proposed the following to myself: what if I read one book each month in a genre that I normally don’t read? I liked the idea, so I drew up a plan and here we are.

My self-imposed rules:

  1. Once I start a book, I have to finish it.
  2. I’m not allowed to pick a book I’ve previously read.
  3. Each book must be read within the month.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be following this chart:

January – Historical Fiction

February – Young Adult

March – Crime/Mystery

April – Play/Script

May – Thriller

June – Science Fiction

July – Graphic Novel

August – Biographical

September – Dystopian

October – Non-Fiction

November – Romance

December – Young Adult

Now, you may notice there are some popular genres I haven’t listed, such as horror, paranormal, etc. While I want to try a variety of genres, I also have to draw a line somewhere, and there are certain genres or elements that I simply will not sample for personal reasons. (Genres aside, I won’t read anything with explicit content, or strong language.)

You may have also noticed that I included Young Adult fiction twice (February and December). I figured it was a broad enough genre, and includes enough subgenres, that I should pick from it twice. Also, I had an extra month and had to fill it with something.

I have some ideas for a few of the months, but I’ll definitely need suggestions for most of them, so feel free to drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter! And if you’d like to do this challenge, or something similar, then join the fun!

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.

 

What If My Published Book Isn’t Good Enough?

I’m going to think out loud a bit here.

If you could sit down with an author you admire or enjoy reading and could only ask them one question, what would it be? I know what I would ask.

“What do you do when your first published book doesn’t match the quality of your second or third?”

It’s no secret that writers are constantly learning and improving their craft. Their voice develops, their skills are sharpened, and they find little by little what truly works for them.

I self-published my first novel, Little One, in the summer of 2015. It wasn’t the first novel I had written, but at the time it was the best, and I felt I was finally ready to take it all the way.

Now, a year and two months later, I’m eyeing potential release dates for my second book, Where The Woods Grow Wild. It’s not a sequel to Little One, nor does it have anything in common in terms of tone or content.

Not only that, but the closer I get to publishing Where The Woods Grow Wild, the more I feel Little One just isn’t that great. Besides a slew of technical problems during its first weeks of life, I’ve improved so much as a writer in the last year that I’ve come pretty close to unpublishing Little One for good. I don’t want it to misrepresent me.

I’m also ridiculously pessimistic.

On the flipside, I’m probably being too critical of myself. Little One isn’t bad. It’s accumulated nearly 1000 downloads in 12 months (granted, most of those are free grabs), and it averages 4.7 stars on Amazon and 4.45 on Goodreads (and that’s after Amazon obliterated most reviews by friends and family). I’m frequently humbled by the glowing feedback I receive.

And yet, I know Little One could have been better. A lot better. I also know Where The Woods Grow Wild will be better.

Part of me wants to unpublish Little One and treat Where The Woods Grow Wild like a debut novel. Gotta put my best foot forward, right? Another part of me knows I should be proud of Little One regardless of its flaws and move on. After all, everyone improves over time. I never expected Little One to be my masterpiece.

Have those of you with published work ever felt this way before? If so, what conclusions have you come to? Give a brother some pointers here.

10 Annoying Things Fantasy Characters Do

Ever notice how fantasy characters have the same habits in a lot of books? I have, and I made a list. Because I like lists.

Note: please don’t take this post too seriously. I don’t mind these things that much. I think it’s amusing more than anything else (except for #1, #2, and #10. Those need to stop). 

#1 Sensing things

The classic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” scenario. George Lucas isn’t the only perpetrator. These characters sense everything three paragraphs before it happens. Meanwhile, I’m lucky if I sense my alarm going off in the morning.

#2 Eating bread, cheese, and apples

I get it. There aren’t a lot of foods that keep well during a long journey. But still…give the poor guy a bag of trail mix, at least (also…bread doesn’t stay fresh very long. And wouldn’t cheese stink up the whole travel pack?).

#3 Setting a watch at night

If you’ve got an assassin on your tail, setting a watch makes perfect sense. But fantasy travel buddies often “volunteer to take first watch” regardless of the danger level. Someone’s gotta keep the bears away, right? Should’ve kept the cheese in a tupperware…

#4 Drawing swords

If I had a dollar for every time a character “drew his sword” I’d quit one of my part-time jobs. I get it, okay? Drawing your sword makes you feel cool and threatening. Suggestion: save yourself the time and just punch the guy.

#5 Avoiding roads

Unless you’ve got Ringwraiths hunting you down, what’s the worst that could happen? A toll booth? Is dodging hypothetical bandits really worth all the briars and wet feet? Come on. If you do run into bandits, just draw your sword. Or punch. You should have set that watch, Jimmy.

#6 Running into bandits

Sorry. But there’s gotta be more ways to give your hero trouble before the real action starts. Have you tried bears? Bears are stinking terrifying. I’ll take bandits over bears any day of the week.

#7 Blasting things

I don’t like obscenities in fiction. Honestly, it just cheapens the prose for me. On the other hand, substituting every single moment of explicit frustration for ‘blast it!’ doesn’t really work either. Unless it involves bears and dynamite. In that case, by all means, blast them.

#8 Scanning treelines (or other landscape features)

He scanned the treeline. He scanned the ridge. She scanned the beach. They scanned the road. He scanned his passport. Seriously, can you stop that? Blast your scanning! There are easier ways to find bears.

#9 Holding council meetings

Because that’s the best way to make urgent decisions (bonus points if it takes an agonizingly long chapter of dialog). Once I even read a chapter about a council of bears. Not even joking. (The book was Father of Dragons, by L.B. Graham. A council of bears! Bless that man.) 

#10 Speed-learning skills

Whether your protagonist has to learn how to ride a horse, fight with a sword, punch bandits, scan treelines, or blast bears and their councils, she’ll probably do it on the road (or off it, because bandits and bears), under the sage guidance of some old fart, and it’ll only take her a week or two to master the practice.


Thanks for stopping by, reader. Subscribe/follow for more bears! In the meantime, have a great day!